Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Little Something for the National Day of Prayer - May 2nd

The day after tomorrow is the National Day of Prayer in the U.S. This is different than the World Day of Prayer, held on the first Friday in March, which is supposed to be a Christian observance. Wikipedia describes this occasion on the first Thursday in May this way -

 "The National Day or Prayer is celebrated by Americans of many religions, including Christians of many denominations, such as Baptists and Catholics, as well as Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, and Jews. On the National Day of Prayer, many Americans assemble in prayer in front of courthouses, as well as in houses of worship, such as churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples.Luncheons, picnics, and music performances revolving around praying for the nation are also popular observances. Traditionally, the President of the United States issues an official National Day of Prayer proclamation each year as well."

As a service to orthodox, confessional Lutheran Pastors and congregations, below is an explanation you may use when asked by folks in your communities to participate in the National Day of Prayer.
You're welcome!

Pastor Spencer

Prayer Is Worship, and That's a Fact!

Once and for all people need to understand that prayer is a form of worship. There really shouldn't be any argument about this fact. The very first words in Webster’s dictionary to define "worship" are “a prayer . . . showing reverence or devotion for a deity.”

Now, Jesus Himself said that those who worship Him must do so in truth. (John 4:24). And God teaches us very clearly that truth and false teaching are not to be joined together in His church (Romans 16:17, First John 4). Thus, it is obviously not pleasing to God for people who accept the full truth of His Word to join in worship and prayer with those who hold to any false teachings. For what indeed does truth have to do with falsehood? They are opposites!

How much clearer could anything possibly be!? But it seems most people reject this very obvious Bible teaching. Why; because they don't like it. It doesn't fit with their warm, soft, gooey-sweet concept of Christianity. But it is still God's own truth, whether anyone likes it or not.

Therefore, this Pastor and this congregation will never take part in any non-denominational, inter-denominational, multi-religion prayer-fest. We will say very clearly and firmly, “No!” We must refuse to offend and insult our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by our participation in any such mixture of truth with falsehood!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Yes, the Rumours are True... Intrepid Lutherans is going South.

Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America (ELDoNA)South to Texas, for a conference, that is. The week of April 29th, is the time scheduled for the 2013 Colloquium and Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America (ELDoNA). The first three days comprise the Colloquium part of the week's agenda, and is open to visitors. I will be in attendance.

Intrepid Lutherans has tried to have a presence at least at some of the confessional Lutheran conferences around the nation: like the Lutheranism & the Classics Conference in October 2010, at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN; the Emmaus Conference in May 2011 in the Pacific Northwest; the Lutheran Free Conference in November 2011, at Martin Luther College in New Ulm, MN; the Symposium on the Lutheran Confessions in January 2012, again at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN; and, of course, our own Conference of Intrepid Lutherans in May of 2012.

Since ELDoNA has always, and especially recently, been an object of our curiosity, we thought that this year's Colloquium would be of interest. It is known that several WELS laymen will be in attendance, and, perhaps, maybe even some WELS clergy. As I understand it, there will be seven papers delivered on Tuesday and Wednesday that week, following which I plan to post some sort of description of, or reaction to, my experience.

Stay Tuned!

Monday, April 15, 2013

UPDATE: A Deceptive Pamphlet from Bethany Lutheran College (ELS)

UPDATE:  Please note Rev. Moldstad's apology in the Comments below the post.

HT: Ecclesia Augustana

Maybe these things shouldn't surprise me anymore, but they still do.  The graphic below was posted last evening by Ecclesia Augustana.  It is a copy of a pamphlet being handed out at Bethany Lutheran College by their chaplain, Rev. Don Moldstad, for a presentation he was making on the papacy.

It's bad enough that this pamphlet misrepresents the Scriptural and Lutheran doctrine of justification.

But equally disturbing is the deceptive manner in which these statements have been presented.  They are listed under the column entitled "The Lutheran Confessions."  They are directly listed, in quotation marks, under "Luther's Small Catechism."  But they are not found in Luther's Small Catechism.  Anywhere.  They come, instead, from the ELS's explanations of Luther's Catechism.  A pastor who cannot distinguish between the Lutheran Confessions and the writings of his own synod is inept.  A pastor who knows the difference and still presents his synod's writings, in quotation marks, under "The Lutheran Confessions," is being deceptive.

If Rev. Moldstad is led to recognize his error, at very least his error of misrepresenting the words of Luther's Small Catechism, we will welcome his public apology and gladly publish it here on Intrepid Lutherans. 

Under the column entitled "The Lutheran Confessions":

From Luther’s Small Catechism:

“I believe in the forgiveness of sins because the Bible assures me that God the Father has by grace forgiven all sinners and declared them righteous.”

“God can declare sinners righteous because, (sic) on the redemptive work of Christ, He has aquitted (sic) all men of the guilt and punishment of their sins, and has imputed to them the righteousness of Christ. He therefore regards them in Christ as though they had never sinned.”

“I receive this justification when the Holy Ghost through the means of grace, leads me, the sinner, to believe that God has forgiven all my sins for Christ’s sake.”

The Average Layman is Defenseless!

Dr. Walter R. MartinToday, we reprise a lecture we featured twice in 2011 under the title, 'non rockaboatus' is an organizational disease: Lectures by Dr. Walter Martin, but with a different emphasis. After the facts exposed in last week's post, Do any Lutherans want to be Dresden Lutherans? Meanwhile, the Groeschelites continue their agenda..., it is abundantly clear that our Synod is wracked with division and, as a consequence, is in steep decline right along with the rest of the visible Church. And with the Church, so goes Western Civilization itself, whose political, legal and educational structures were built upon the framework of Christian teaching.

Stating as much in our conclusion to that post (the section entitled The Collective Descent of American Lutheranism), we submitted that the time of inaction, the time of armchair lamentation over the state of our Synod and of American Lutheranism, the time of complacent Synod watching as if it were a mere spectator sport, has come to a close. Yesterday was the time to act. Today is the time to do so feverishly. Tomorrow will be too late. After tomorrow, it will be time to separate and start over. The following will suggest one of the more potent actions laymen can take, but the reader will have to read to the end to discover what it is, and why it is among the most potent forms of action.

Dr. Walter R. Martin (d. 1989) was an expert on the occult, and from the 1960’s onward, disseminated countercultic and apologetic information through his organization, Christian Research Institute (CRI). At least one of Dr. Martin’s works, The Kingdom of the Cults, remains a very valuable resource, one which I consult with semi-regularity as need arises. An associate of Dr. Rod Rosenblatt and Dr. John Warwick Montgomery, Dr. Martin was, like they, an influential Christian intellectual, a man with the courage and ability to engage in public debate with his opponents, and, as a fierce defender of Christian orthodoxy in the face of truly diabolical liberal Christianity, more than equipped to defeat them.

Over the past three years, several of Dr. Martin’s lectures have been featured by Chris Rosebrough on his internet radio show, Fighting for the Faith – a daily program in the lineup of Pirate Christian Radio (PCR). I remember these PCR features, since I am of about the same age as Mr. Rosebrough, and remember Dr. Martin’s voice and manner of teaching from my youth, in a way similar to Rosebrough’s reminiscences. We confessional Lutherans would be mistaken if we should think that our struggles are unique to us. Others have already gone through the struggle that is now hard upon us. We would be fools not to learn from their experience and take their advice.

Dr. Walter Martin on the Cult of Liberalism


(lecture begins @~58min, 30sec)

A Cue to Theological Change: A Change in the Terms used by the Church
“Any person who does not know that today in the United States, and in denominational structures worldwide, we are in an accelerating apostasy, does not know, I repeat, does not know what is going on...” (1hr 12min)

“They were using all of our terminology... What you have to understand is very hard... the major denominational structures on the United States today have pumped all of the meaning out of Christian terminology, and have nothing but a hollow shell. And people are attracted by the shell...” (1hr 28min 50sec and following)

  1. What happens over the course of a generation or two when the church begins to use old familiar terms with subtly, though increasingly, different emphasis?
  2. Or, what happens when entirely new words, words previously unfamiliar in Church usage, words with less precise meaning, words with less established theological meaning, replace the old, precise, established and familiar terms? Is the deprecating declaration, “these terms are synonymous,” a sufficient explanation?
  3. What happens when well established ecclesiastical terms, having widely understood meaning, are simply dropped from use?
  4. What ecclesiastical terms can you identify which meet the above three conditions?
  5. If we are to heed Dr. Walter Martin's warnings, ought laymen to be suspicious whenever pastors or theologians use the authority of the church to push their language games as authoritatively binding on the laity?

The Average Layman is Defenseless!
“You can see these people in the cults and the occult if you have any degree of discernment at all, because they are outside the church. But how do you see the Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Episcopalian professor of theology? How do you get him in a place where you can find out what his theology really is? The moment you question him, he reverts to orthodox terminology, and then if you press him for the definitions of his terminology, he claims that you're being suspicious, bigoted and unloving. The average layman is defenseless! He's got to take what comes from behind the pulpit and recommended by his church authority because the moment he opens his mouth, he's accused of being divisive in the church, unloving, and disturbing the fellowship of the faith! When it is the devil behind the pulpit, not the victim in the pew, that's responsible for it!...” (1hr 36min 12sec)

“That is why I am concerned about the cult of liberalism as never before. We can identify the other cults, but how do you identify somebody that looks like you, acts like you, sounds like you...? Do you want the answer? ...1 Thessalonians 5:14ff ...put everything to the test, cling tenaciously to what is good...” (1hr 38min 30sec)

  1. Is it proper for the layman to assume that ALL pastors who may serve him, or that ALL theologians who may serve his church body, are orthodox on every point of Scripture teaching?
  2. When St. Paul commended the Bereans for verifying his teaching by searching the Scriptures, what was he commending if it was not a cautious reception of his words? Was he commending an open and uncritical reception of his teaching?
  3. How can a layman identify potential theological corruption in his pastor or his church's theologians? Unfamiliar terminology, or unfamiliar use of familiar terminology, perhaps?
  4. How then does the layman examine a pastor or theologian who, by definition, by virtue of the Office he holds, is not allowed to wrong, about anything, ever?
  5. How does a layman examine a Minister of the Word, whose operating assumption is that he is always orthodox and that laymen always need guidance and correction? Will a personal conversation bring about correction in the Minister's theology? Will writing a letter suffice?

Theological Language Games and the Destruction of Orthodoxy
“British theology was corrupted by German theology – Friedrich Schleiermacher, Albrecht Ritschl, David Strauss – and finally [it came] to America... Where do you think we got the God is Dead Theology from? From historic Christianity?... We did not! We got it from a good solid Baptist theological seminary, known as Colgate Rochester in New York, which was absolutely orthodox, but which sold out to liberalism! And when it did, they embraced the theology of Paul Tillich, and ended up with God is Dead. It was called at the time, The Gospel of Christian Atheism – did you ever hear such linguistic nonsense in your life!?” (1hr 40min 30sec)


This is at least the third point in Dr. Walter Martin's lecture where he emphasizes the language games of theologians as evidence of changing theology.
  1. How can changes in the use of language possibly result in changes to one's theology, if one's use of language doesn't change the way he thinks about theology?
  2. What is the potential threat to the Christian when his pastors and theologians defend dramatic changes in the language he ought to use when contemplating and expressing his Christian convictions?
  3. From what primary source might Christians be most vulnerable to subtle, or even overt, changes in language use and the threat of its impact on their theology?
  4. Why is it safest to stay with historical and well-established terminology of the church?
  5. If the concern is that our "contemporary generation" doesn't use historic ecclesiastical terminology in everyday conversation and therefore doesn't understand it,
    1. Was there ever a time when ecclesiastical terminology was in such wide use in everyday conversation that it was understood on the basis of its everyday usage?
    2. How might catechesis have helped people understand the church's use of language in the past?
    3. How might catechesis help in the same way, today?
Dr. Walter Martin also makes the strong suggestion here that not only can "orthodox" seminaries go liberal, but gives evidence that they have done so.
  1. Is it possible for an orthodox Lutheran seminary to go liberal?
  2. How can a Lutheran layman know, or even suspect, that his seminary is going liberal?
  3. What can the Lutheran layman do to correct problems in his Synod's seminary, if he suspects, or if it is confirmed that such problems exist? Will a personal conversation bring about the desired correction? Will writing a letter suffice?
Finally, Dr. Walter Martin singled out three Germans – European liberal theologians from the era of 19th Century European Evangelicalism – as having ruined British and American theology. Surely, these German theologians had no impact on 19th Century American Confessional Lutheranism... did they?

A Declining Regard for the Scriptures: Spiritual Death and Social Destruction
“[Liberalism] is a cult because it follows every outlining structure of cultism. It has its own revelation, its own gurus, and its denial, systematically, of all sound systematic Christian theology. It is a cult, because it passes its leadership on to the next group, that takes over either modifying, expanding or contracting the same heresies, dressing them up in different language, and passing them on. It is theologically corrupt, because it is bibliologically corrupt; it denies the authority of Scripture and ruins its own theology. And, it ends in immorality. Because the only way you could have gotten to this 'homosexual,' morally relativistic garbage, which is today in our denominational structures, is if the leadership of those denominations divide the authority of the Scriptures, and Jesus Christ as Lord. That is the only way we've gotten there.” (2hr 28min 50sec)

  1. How does the Christian's view of the inspiration, inerrancy and perspicuity of the Scriptures impact his theology?
  2. How does the teaching of the church impact society in general – that is, apart from its immediate impact on the people who sit in the pews and hear it directly?
  3. How might false doctrine, therefore, in addition to destroying faith, also become a social evil?
  4. Given that most liberal churches have abandoned orthodoxy, and have embraced the "social gospel" in place of the "Gospel of Jesus Christ," can their fixation on issues of "social justice" be classified as precisely the opposite? Not as the "good" they would have it to be, but as an unmitigated evil perpetrated by liberal churches, which result, rather, in gross injustice?

Immunizing Christians against Theological Poison
“Every major theological seminary that has turned from orthodox Christianity began with disbelief of biblical doctrine... Corrupt Bibliology led them to the next step. Theology began to be touched by it... And finally they had emptied the Gospel of all its content, and simply were using the outward shell so that they could go on collecting money from the people and the churches, because they knew that if the people in the pews knew that they were apostate they'd throw them out. So the strategy was: hang on to the trust funds, hang on to the money that we've got, hang on to the properties we control, we will gradually educate the laymen into this new approach to theology. And then, finally, we will take control of everything. This is the gradual process of feeding you theological poison, until you become immunized enough so that you don't know what is happening to you. And when you wake up to what is happening to you, it's too late. They've got everything...” (1hr 26min 10sec)

“Look what happened... Look at the votes. We were very subtly, systematically, squeezed out. All of the positions of leadership were given to people who denied the foundations of the faith...” (1hr 30min 35sec)

  1. The fixation of liberals is what:
    1. Preserving sound teaching? ...or
    2. Preserving the organization as an institution?
  2. The process of changing theology while maintaining the organization requires that liberals retain the laity while retraining them "gradually" – through a use of familiar terms with subtly, though increasingly, different emphasis, by introducing foreign terms and dropping common ecclesiastical terms.
    1. Why do they need to retain the laity? What does the laity offer them?
    2. Why is the change gradual?
    3. Why is changing the organization's language the best way to change the thinking of those in the organization?
  3. Is it possible for an orthodox Lutheran Synod to go liberal?
  4. How can a Lutheran layman know, or even suspect, that his Synod is going liberal?
  5. If sound teaching is not valued by a liberal Synod as highly as the organization itself, what does the Lutheran layman have that would be so sufficiently valuable that a corrupt organization would pay heed to the orthodox advice of a layman?
    1. Merely his orthodox advice? ...or
    2. His money?
  6. Can organizational change which laymen must purchase with their money be relied upon as genuine?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Do any Lutherans want to be Dresden Lutherans? Meanwhile, the Groeschelites continue their agenda...

Those of you who have been following us on Facebook and Twitter probably could have seen this coming, as you've recently been fed a steady diet of links to some of our older posts reprising topics like Pietism, Sectarian Worship, Lay Ministry, along with a few links featuring the advice of orthodox Lutherans from previous eras regarding genuine Lutheran practice that also does the job of confessing our separation from sectarians.

But they are just a bunch of old dead dudes, and who really cares about ancient history anyway. Yeah, they said stuff. So what. We say stuff, too, and what we say is what matters today.

Meanwhile, an email rather circuitously made its way to our inbox yesterday. It was initially sent to the pastors of an entire circuit in the WELS SEW District, and included a passel of attachments for their review ahead of their meeting of this Friday. They will be discussing the opening of an INTERDISTRICT MULTI-SITE CONGREGATION. The congregation, Hope Lutheran in Oconomowoc, WI (Western Wisconsin District), had been planning a multi-site effort since 2010, and, with the encouragement of their District President, had been communicating their plans with WW DMB throughout this time. In July of 2012, a conversation with Wisconsin Lutheran College (WLC) President Dan Johnson resulted in his offer to use the facilities of WLC as a "cradle to launch the second location of Hope" – in the Southeastern Wisconsin District (SEW).

Click here for the documentation.

Multi-site Congregations? Whence comest thou?
Craig GroeschelIn a previous exposé on the teaching of Craig Groeschel, entitled Pietism and Ministry in the WELS: A brief review of Craig Groeschel, we critiqued the thirteen points of his Vision and Values document. Point one, along with our response to it, reads
    "1. Since Christ is for us and with us, we are a fearless, risk taking, exponential thinking church. We refuse to insult God with timid thinking or selfish living.

    "Interpretation: We like to tempt God.

    "There is nothing laudable in casting Christian Stewardship aside, to openly take 'bet-the-farm' risks with resources God has given to us, which he expects us to wisely invest. 'Betting the Farm' is not wisdom, but foolishness."
Compare this, the FIRST POINT of Groeschel's Vision and Values statement, with THE FIRST POINT listed in the Mission Vision Values statement of Hope Lutheran, from the documentation packet linked above:
    "Since Christ is for us and with us, we are a fearless, risk taking, exponential thinking church. We refuse to insult God with timid thinking or selfish living."
Already we see, Craig Groeschel is their guide – they have adopted his Vision for Ministry and made it their own, quoting from it verbatim. But it doesn't end there. Here are points four and seven from Craig Groeschel's Vision and Values document:
    "4. We give up things we love for things we love even more. It's an honor to sacrifice for Christ and His church.

    "7. We will lead the way with irrational generosity. We truly believe it is more blessed to give than to receive."
You can read our 2010 exposé on Craig Groeschel to see our responses to these points. But compare these points to POINT SIX listed in Hope Lutheran's Mission Vision Values statement, again from the packet linked above:
    "We love to give up things we love for the things that God loves."
We did a post or two on plagiarism, did we not? Yes, I think we did. Here is the series we posted in 2010 on the sin of plagiarism. Craig Groeschel makes an appearance in this series, as well – commenting on those who do not give credit to their sources:Re-read these old posts, and read the rest of our 2010 exposé on Craig Groeschel and his connection to the WELS. What we said then still applies today, and that application is most assuredly expanding.

Recently, Craig Groeschel wrote an editorial for FoxNews.com, which was titled, Christians, here's why we're losing our religion. Aptly titled, his objective is, in fact, to lose religion. He writes:
    "You see, religion alone can only take a person so far. Religion can make us nice, but only Christ can make us new. Religion focuses on outward behavior. Relationship is an inward transformation. Religion focuses on what I do, while relationship centers on what Jesus did. Religion is about me. Relationship is about Jesus... religion is about rules, but being a Christian is about relationship."
Compare Groeschel's statement, above, to POINT SEVEN in the document Mission Vision Values, again, in the packet linked above. It reads:
    "We will not let our behavior or church culture create a barrier between Jesus and a person he died for."
The relationship between statements like this and Evangelical leadership emanating from the likes of Craig Groeshel is obvious. Yet, such leadership is Scripturally incompetent – a clear example of allowing an enemy of the Christian AND the Church (i.e., the World) to dictate our terms. In reality, those who separate religion from Christianity, as Groeschel suggests, have no idea what either religion or Christianity is. Sure, Christianity is a relationship between the individual and Jesus, but Scripture's testimony on the matter is clear and abundant: for as much as it is a relationship between the individual and Jesus, it is also a relationship of confessional unity between fellow Christians AND a relationship between the congregation and Christ. Christianity is NOT strictly a matter between the individual and God, in its visible manifestation, it is principally corporate in nature! One cannot separate the idea of "religion" from Christianity! To even suggest it is nonsense.

Craig Groeschel continues in his editorial:
    "But in order to reach the current generation and generations to come, we must change the way we do things. That's why we like to say, 'To reach people no one is reaching, we have to do things no one is doing.'"
He is repeating, here, the sixth point of his Vision and Values statement – which we commented on in our previous exposé. Hope Lutheran echoes this thought in POINT FIVE of their Mission Vision Values statement, contained in the documentation packet linked above:
    "We are committed to reaching people that churches are not reaching."
But is Hope Lutheran, or anyone else who copies Craig Groeschel, really living out this vision statement? Hardly. Following the model of those 'who are doing what no one else is doing', those so doing such only succeed in doing what everyone else is doing. It's called a bandwagon. The fact is, it is on the basis of his multi-site church model that Craig Groeschel's LifeChurch.tv was recently named the most innovative church. Those who copy him aren't at all "doing what no one else is doing to reach those no one else is reaching," but are simply doing what everyone else is doing, as they climb on board the bandwagon to do what has apparently been "successful" for Craig Groeschel. Everyone without a shred of creativity of their own, that is. Professor John Schaller has better advice for Lutherans. Read what Schaller writes, to see what he says about doing what everyone else is doing, instead of what Lutherans, alone, can uniquely do.

Craig Groeschel continues further:
    "[A]s churches, we don't have the liberty to change the message, but we must change the way the message is presented. We have to discover our 'altar ego' — and become who God says we are instead of who others say we are."
Note that by "we", Groeschel is not referring to the Church anymore. By this point in his editorial, he has already separated corporate religion from the individual. The "we" he is referring to is individual Christians, and nothing more. Thus, the change he is calling for is not change in the Church, but change in the individual Christian, beginning with the separation of the individual Christian from the Church, and continuing with a change in his focus, calling the Christian to dwell on his own behaviour. Not only is this rank Sanctification oriented Pietism (which we detailed in our post, Lay Ministry: A Continuing Legacy of Pietism, and highlighted as a problem with Craig Groeschel in our 2010 exposé), it is a "change in the message." It is a manifestly duplicitous perspective on Christianity. All he is saying here is, "We must change the message to eliminate "religion" from Christianity (yes, change), we must change the message to eliminate "labels" from our identity (i.e., to eliminate a Christian's public confession from his Christianity), we must change the message to focus on what Christians do for God or what Christians do for man in the name of God instead of what the Holy Spirit does for man through His appointed Means, and we must change the message in these ways to accommodate the demands of the unregenerate who won't listen to us otherwise (who, the Scriptures tell us, are at war against God and don't want to listen to Him anyway). Moreover, we must change the message the way others say we must change the message, we must change the way they say we must change, and become who they say we must be." Who are these "others" but Craig Groeschel and similar Evangelical leaders! Separating the Christian from his religion and from his confession, they insert themselves to take over for the visible Church.

The Collective Descent of American Lutheranism
In our post, C.P. Krauth explains how orthodox Lutheran Synods descend into heterodoxy, we quoted Charles Porterfield Krauth as he identified the Course of Error in the Church, well-known since the time of St. Augustine and operating as well as it ever had in his own time:
    "When error is admitted into the Church, it will be found that the stages in its progress are always three. It begins by asking toleration. Its friends say to the majority: 'You need not be afraid of us; we are few and weak; let us alone, we shall not disturb the faith of others. The Church has her standards of doctrine; of course we shall never interfere with them; we only ask for ourselves to be spared interference with our private opinions.' Indulged in for this time, error goes on to assert equal rights. Truth and error are balancing forces. The Church shall do nothing which looks like deciding between them; that would be partiality. It is bigotry to assert any superior right for the truth. We are to agree to differ, and any favoring of the truth, because it is truth, is partisanship. What the friends of truth and error hold in common is fundamental. Anything on which they differ is ipso facto non-essential. Anybody who makes account of such a thing is a disturber of the peace of the Church. Truth and error are two coordinate powers, and the great secret of church-statesmanship is to preserve the balance between them. From this point error soon goes on to its natural end, which is to assert supremacy. Truth started with tolerating; it comes to be merely tolerated, and that only for a time. Error claims a preference for its judgments on all disputed points. It puts men into positions, not as at first in spite of their departure from the Church’s faith, but in consequence of it. Their repudiation is that they repudiate that faith, and position is given them to teach others to repudiate it, and to make them skillful in combating it."

    Krauth, C.P. (1871). The Conservative Reformation and its Theology. Philadelphia: Lippincott. (pp. 195-196).
For almost three years now Intrepid Lutherans have been warning of this danger, educating our readers on the differences between heterodox sectarianism and orthodox Lutheranism, and demonstrating those differences along with giving evidence of its incursion into our Synod. Some have joined us by lending us their names; though some have been threatened for this, many remain. But these few do not account for the nearly 1500 daily page reads we see on average. Many folks read our essays and informational posts, and are confronted with the stark reality: our Synod is deteriorating right along with the visible Church everywhere, which almost unanimously now invites the World and worldly influences to abide with her in determining doctrine and practice. If they would aspire to be Dresden Lutherans of any sort, it is high-time for our readers to do more than just read. It is time for them to assert their Confession, to begin acting on their convictions in a way that will bring an end to this sort of thing.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Brief Explanation of Lutheran Hymnody: For the Lutheran who asks regarding the Beautiful Hymns of His church

The Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal, 1942 Three weeks ago, we published a lengthy post entitled, An Explanation of Lutheran Worship: For the Lutheran who asks the Meaning of the Beautiful Liturgy of His church. The body of that post contained a full Explanation of the Common Service — the order of Divine Service beginning on “page 15” of The Lutheran Hymnal which was published by the Synodical Conference in 1941. An English-language harmony of sixteenth century Lutheran liturgies published in 1888 by the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, it still serves as a benchmark of liturgical excellence. Indeed, in our recent post, Lutheranism and the Fine Arts: Dr. P.E. Kretzmann and the Necessity of Continuing Catechesis, we quote Dr. Kretzmann referring to the Common Service as unsurpassed in the entire history of the Christian Church.

The Explanation we published two weeks ago was taken directly from catechetical materials developed by the General Council for the distinct purpose of educating Lutherans regarding the doctrinal integrity and catholicity of genuine Lutheran worship. Indeed, this Explanation of the Common Service, published in 1908, was dedicated to the “Young Lutheran who asks the meaning of the beautiful liturgy of the Lutheran Church.” In our introductory remarks preceding the explanation, we marveled at this. Lutherans these days don't educate their youth about Lutheran worship, and if they do, they don't do so in a way that extolls it's beauty as a work of Fine Art, nor do they do so in a way that reinforces its doctrinal integrity, nor do they do so in a way that embraces its catholicity. One of the bright shining exceptions to the lamentable reality that contemporary Lutherans no longer value their heritage of worship enough to bother passing it down to their youth, is the LCMS-affiliated organization, Higher Things. Outside of this organization, the best one can hope for is a one- or two-lesson explanation of Lutheran worship which neither extolls its beauty nor places value on its doctrinal integrity and catholicity, but uses the opportunity to deride our heritage by vaunting its status as “an adiophoron” and setting it on equal footing with just about any form of Sectarian Worship imaginable – as long as one wears the appropriate set of blinders as he goes about imagining. Yeah, sure, you can do it, but why would you want to? In answer to this one needs but a “reason,” and in the world of adiaphora that merely means “opinion.” Thus one “reason” is as good as another, and anything one can “justify” has open license attending it.

But we further asked the reader to notice the use of language this Explanation employed. It was not written for functionally illiterate Lutherans who find reading and understanding anything written above the sixth-grade reading level to be a hopeless struggle. On the contrary, being dedicated to the “Young Lutherans,” it was written to Lutheran Youth, and plainly assumed that they had command of their own language. If it was written above their level, then it served the noble purpose of lifting them out of their immature literacy and colorless task-oriented-use of language, through the rich vocabulary and precise grammar employed in the distinctive and enculturating language of the Church. Contemporary Lutherans, it seems, no longer value the uplifting qualities of higher literacy, either.

Regardless of what the so-called wise-men of contemporary times insist upon, I am not ready to succumb to such disrespect for others that my operative assumption is that they are all functionally illiterate. I don't think all, or most, or even a significant minority of educated Lutherans are just a bunch of dumb-dumbs who can't read. Some very-well may refuse to read anything more complex than a comic book, but that is a separate matter – a matter of sinful obstinacy, and perhaps even rebellion. It is not a matter of literacy. So today, we are going to continue our use of materials having high-literary quality to provide a brief explanation of Lutheran hymnody.

What is a Hymn? A Canticle? A Carol? An Anthem?
We begin with the source pictured at the top left: The Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal, by W. G. Polack – who was the chairman of The Lutheran Hymnal committee. This work first appeared in 1942, essentially accompanying the publication of The Lutheran Hymnal, and went through several revisions thereafter. It is a book which catalogs all of the hymns used in The Lutheran Hymnal, identifying their authors and sources, providing a history of the circumstances under which the hymn was written (if notable), reproducing the hymn in its original language alongside the English version which appeared in the hymnal and identifying (sometimes justifying) alternate readings from the original composition. It is considered a classic in the field of hymnology.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

“Who do You Say that I AM?” What do the Scriptures Say?

Christ Our SaviourMost assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.

If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true... I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved... I have a greater witness... for the works which the Father has given Me to finish — the very works that I do — bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me. And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me... How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?
(John 5:24-44, NKJV)

The bile which dribbles from the lips of His enemies is no different now than it was when Jesus walked the earth. Though man’s search for Meaning and Truth, and his desire for Eternal Life continues unabated, the Life and Message of the Man Who is also God – Jesus Christ, the Messiah and the World’s one and only Saviour from Sin – is reviled, and those who follow Him, despised. The World along with man’s own Fleshly Nature remain as much the Christian’s enemy as the Devil himself, to tear us away from the Only Way to the Father: Jesus (Jn. 14:6, Ac. 4:12). The words above are those of Jesus in response to His enemies.

But, who is Jesus? How do we know about Him? How do we know He is Who He said He is? In the text above, Jesus Himself names for us the two coordinating witnesses which answer these questions:
  1. I do not receive testimony from man... I have a greater witness... for the works which the Father has given Me to finish — the very works that I do — bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me

    That is, the historical facts of Jesus life, death and resurrection are ample testimonies of Jesus' claims.

  2. And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.

    That is, the Scriptures themselves – and in this case, Jesus was referring specifically to the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the Messiah, numbering on the order of 300, which in Him alone are exactly fulfilled – written by God through the pens of His appointed prophets (2 Pe. 1:20-21,Is. 59:21; 2 Ti. 3:15-17; 1 Co. 14:37,2 Co. 13:10,1 Pe. 1:25; 2 Pe. 3:2,2 Pe. 3:15-17; Mk 16:15-18,He. 2:3-4), also give ample testimony concerning Jesus.
These are the two witnesses who testify of Jesus: the events of Jesus’ life and the words of Scripture. And it is only upon two or three witnesses that testimony concerning a man is to be received (De. 19:15, Matt. 18:16, He. 10:28). And these are the witnesses against whom the Beast has waged war, and which the World around us has long left for dead, whose carcasses they “rejoice over and make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth” (Rev. 11:1-14).

According to the very words of Jesus, God’s Message to all of mankind about the work of Jesus, the Message against which all of mankind is naturally opposed, cannot be divorced from the actual historical facts of Christ’s life. Indeed, such facts are as important to us today as they were to the disciples who witnessed the events of His life firsthand, who on the basis of what they had seen and heard “could not help but speak of it” (Ac. 4:12-21), even in the face of persecution by the Jewish, and later, Roman authorities. Already before the close of the Apostolic Age, on the basis of their witness to these events and the Message of Jesus Christ which attended them, the Good News had become known as that which was “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:1-7). No, the Message of Good News cannot be divorced from the historical events of Jesus’ life as Scripture records them, from His birth to His death by crucifixion, and especially His bodily Resurrection. For “if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching in vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ... If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Co. 15:11-23). The facts of history concerning Jesus, as they are recorded in the Scriptures, establish the Christian religion; and this is why, as facts, they are important: for if the Messiah had not actually come as God in the Flesh, if He had not died on the Tree as propitiation for the sins of the World, if He had not risen bodily from the grave, all in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, then the Christian religion is a myth – the same as every other religion on the planet which rests on false or unverifiable historical claims, or on no claims whatsoever.

So it behooves every Christian to make these facts his own, as facts and not only as articles of faith (which by definition any worldly religion can claim regardless of the facts), and be prepared, as St. Peter and St. Paul adjure us, to assert them as such as part of our defense of Christianity: “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” and “Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (1 Pe. 3:15 & 2 Ti. 4:2, NKJV). With this in mind, the following brief explanation for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, according to the facts recorded in Scripture, is produced.
    The First Part focuses on the facts of the person of Christ – beginning with man’s need for a Saviour, God’s promise that He would send a Saviour, the prophecies concerning His coming, and the facts of His life demonstrating that Jesus was this promised Messiah, both God and man.

    The Second Part focuses on the facts of the crucifixion of Jesus – His arrest, trial, torture and death.

    The Third Part of this post focuses on the facts reported in the Gospels regarding Jesus’ bodily resurrection, the accounts themselves impressing their truthfulness upon even the most ardent of skeptics, if he not already be overcome with the rebellion of irrational prejudice.
These facts are vitally important for the Christian to understand, as they are fulfilled in the historical person of Jesus, and served as a primary basis on which the Message of the Early Evangelists was proliferated throughout, and beyond, the Mediterranean. They must continue to serve as such, lest our own irrational prejudice against historical fact increasingly rob the Good News of the Person Who gave it. They impress upon us, and all who would hear us, that the events of Christ’s life as recorded in the Scriptures, as important as they are to the Christian religion, aren’t just religious truths, aren’t the product of an desperately profound hopefulness willing to jettison reality: they are also, and just as importantly, legitimate history – the same sort of legitimate history by which we learn of Pope Gregory VII, Martin Luther, George Washington, Napolean Bonaparte, Queen Victoria, or Winston Churchill – a history which has not lost integrity as historians and archeologists have studied the historical claims of the Bible, but a history whose credibility remains established as those claims have become verified as fact.

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