Friday, August 23, 2013

Flat or Folded?

Thoughts from Thunder Mountain
["Huachuca" - A Chiricahua Apache word meaning "thunder."]

Flat or Folded?   

When I was home last week, I was happy to be able to eat at my favorite Mexican restaurant one more time before they closed their doors for good, after 53 years. While I was sitting there waiting for my meal in the same room I had sat when I was 8 years old, I was contemplating an interesting change in the nomenclature of Mexican food, at least here in Yuma, AZ, over those years. What we used to call a "flat taco," was now being labeled a "folded taco." I wondered why the change. Was folded more accurate than flat? Did it sell more tacos? Was the change mandated by some politically correct food critic? Or was it just change for change sake? Turns out it was because of the tourists. You see in Phoenix and California and other places, this item was always referred to as folded, so our little corner of the world had to change so we'd be on the same page so to speak. But really, it all depends on one's viewpoint. If you're talking about what is done with the tortilla, yes, it is folded in order to hold the filling. But if you're comparing it to the round, rolled variety, then it is indeed flatter. You say tom-A-to, and I say tom-AH-to, eh?!

So, as I enjoyed my tacos and green enchiladas, it occurred to me that this is much like the argument over liturgy in the confessional Lutheran church. Is liturgy "adiaphora" or not?

Well, yes and no. If you mean is the liturgy necessary for salvation; that is, you can't get to heaven unless you sing or chant the Gloria Patri, Gloria in Excelsis, Sanctus, etc.... then yes, liturgy is a matter neither forbidden nor commanded by God. It must be adiaphora since salvation is not dependent upon it. So, believers who want to worship in what might be termed a "freestyle" manner, can most certainly do so. And while doing so may involve some bad theology or even false teaching, as it very often does, their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior can and will still save them. However they may abuse their Christian freedom, they are, in the end, still Christians. We should never proclaim them anything else.

But, if you want to claim to be a truly confessional Lutheran church, in the sense of a proper historic, orthodox, and evangelical church in a direct line of succession with Dr. Martin Luther, and the Reformers around him and Confessors and Formulators who followed, then the liturgy, again, as in what we know as the Western Rite, is most certainly not adiaphora. Therefore, believers in Christ, who claim to adhere to the Bible as their only rule and norm for faith and life, AND also claim to follow the Lutheran Confessions contained in the 1580 Book of Concord, as their guide in things ecclesiastical, will make regular, good, and proper use of the Lutheran Liturgy whenever they gather for worship. This puts into visible practice the faith we have by God's grace, and the understanding of God's will for worship that we glean from our Confessions. This is not a matter of law, or something we have to do, but a matter of our true confession, and something that by faith we want to do, and will do, whether it is a rule in our churches or not. In fact, it is something we will allow no one to take from us - not now, not ever!  

This is also a matter of simple honesty. If you call yourself a "confessional" Lutheran church, then you should have and use the liturgy in your worship, and it should be easily comparable to the basics of the Western Rite. If you don't want to use the liturgy, or you want to make up your own, and change it so much that it barely even resembles anything the Reformers would even recognize, then you should not call yourself a confessional church. Let the shoe fit where it may. Of course, whether you should even call yourself Lutheran is another matter for another time.

But the point is one of truth in advertising. The Apology says it best, "At the outset we must again make the preliminary statement that we do not abolish the Mass, but religiously maintain and defend it. For among us masses are celebrated every Lord's Day and on the other festivals, in which the Sacrament is offered to those who wish to use it, after they have been examined and absolved. And the usual public ceremonies are observed, the series of lessons, of prayers, vestments, and other like things." (Article XXIV: Of the Mass) Certainly the Mass includes the liturgy, as does the term "other like things." This is what WE do. Others may do as they will. And if they will, let them do so somewhere else! We will still call them Christian believers, but, let's be honest, they are simply not confessional Lutherans. And that's the name of that tune!

Deo Vindice!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Treating the Symptom

Thoughts from Thunder Mountain
["Huachuca" - A Chiricahua Apache word meaning "thunder."]
Treating the Symptom
BJ: "You treated a symptom. The disease goes merrily on." (M*A*S*H, season seven, episode 22, "Preventive medicine")

Of course, in a very real sense, this is the way of the Gospel ministry. Pastors, Elders, Deacons, and Christians in general deal with the symptoms of sin every day; some at times much worse than others. But, try as we might, with ourselves or others, we can't get rid of the disease - sin itself. That won't happen until we die or Jesus returns, whichever comes first.

But this is not just true of the conflict between the New Man, created through faith in Jesus Christ, given by the Means of Grace, and the Old Adam, created at our conception. This is also true of many problems in this all too human institution called the visible church. Look at the issues that IL has been raising the past few years: the spread of contemporary worship, use of Reformed and/or Arminian songs and sermons, denigration of the visible Sacraments, felt-needs approach to outreach, giving in to feminist tendencies in Bible translations so as not to offend certain segments of the population, and so forth. How would we sum up all these items and others like them? What's the common denominator?

In this reporter's opinion, it is - once again - a kind of fear. This time it is fear of growing smaller and smaller; of getting so small as to pass into insignificance; fear of becoming a mere footnote in the history of Lutheranism in America; fear of getting so small that full-time positions in the church body can no longer be funded; fear that schools can't remain open, or even fear that churches will grow so small that many Pastors will end up selling shoes in a department store or driving an ice crème truck in order to put food on their tables. But isn't this shrinkage exactly what Jesus Himself predicted of the Last Times? Did He not wonder out loud that if the Last Day was put off beyond the time set by His Father, would there be any believers left on earth at all? See Luke 18.

So what happens? All too often it seems - and maybe it's only an impression I have - but it seems that Pastors and leaders will grasp at anything to fill the chairs, and worry about whether what they grasp is true orthodox, Biblical, confessional Lutheranism later. Thus, we get five-man-electrical-bands cluttering up the Chancel, churches with no public celebration of the Lord's Supper, "relaxed" worship with very little awe and reverence for a transcendent God. In short, congregations following the latest fad in church work. Very often these tricks pull in lots of people, that's true. But there used to be an old adage my seminary professors taught me, "If you get people for sociological reasons, you will also lose them for sociological reasons!" And so we often see these same "successful" churches with a kind of revolving door, as people come to be entertained for a year or two, if that, then leave out the back door once they've become bored with the "show," and go looking for something more fun and exciting.

Therefore, what is happening is that we end up treating the symptom - trying to make the Gospel "real, relevant, and relational," while the disease; rejection of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, goes merrily on. And all the time, God has given us the antidote to this disease; preaching the Law to show people their sin, and preaching the Gospel to show them their Savior; calling people to repentance and faith in God's Son for the forgiveness of their sins and the salvation of the souls; and bolstering this preaching with the tools God has also given, Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, and Holy Communion. True, even this will not stop sin from occurring again and again, but it can and it will keep the disease in check and bring comfort and peace to hurting souls. That is the kind of "operation" that God has given us to do.

As a classmate back in seminary used to say when studying the latest Church Growth gimmicks, "Tricks are for kids!" Let's all get back to the serious business of battling Satan and the disease he brings, using only the best medicine of all, the Word and Sacraments!

Deo Vindice!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Afraid to Drink

Thoughts from Thunder Mountain
["Huachuca" - A Chiricahua Apache word meaning "thunder."]

Afraid to Drink

It has been said, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink." This is usually meant to express the thought that one can point a person or group of people to a correct and beneficial course of action, but you can't force them to actually carry it out. This is true enough, and has been demonstrated frequently throughout history.

But do you know why a horse sometimes refuses to drink? The answer is - fear. That's right, fear. I have a couple of horse experts in my congregation out here in the West, near the old Cavalry post of Fort Huachuca, and they tell me that this is very true. You see, they reminded me that horses are "prey" animals, they must always be aware of their surroundings and on guard against being eaten! So, when they come upon an unfamiliar water hole they are sometimes very afraid. Perhaps it's the movement of the water, or the reflected light from the surface that scares them. Sometimes it can simply be their own reflection that they're afraid of! That's right, they're afraid of themselves! How silly, huh!?!

OK, what does this have to do with Intrepid Lutherans? I bet you can guess. For three years now we have been trying to lead Pastors and laypeople of the WELS who object to the Church Growth elements of our synod to stand up and speak out against these traits: entertainment worship, sermons plagiarized from Arminian preachers, "felt-needs" based outreach programs, and much more. We have provided plenty of information and documentation regarding these matters. We - mostly Mr. Lindee; thank you, Douglas - have even pointed out how much of this trend comes from anti-Christian and anti-Biblical Post-modernism. I personally don't believe anyone can seriously deny that these things aren't taking place in the WELS. Yet, there hasn't exactly been a great rush by confessional Pastors and laypeople to publicly and passionately attack these trends. Why not?

I can only conclude that the reason is - fear. Yes, fear; fear of being "eaten!" Fear of laypeople being preyed upon by their pastors, and fear of pastors being preyed upon by their leaders; and in the case of Pastors, especially fear of being "blackballed" from Call Lists for the rest of their ministries. Perhaps it is time, my friends, to stop being "prey," and instead become "predators!" Can we put away our fear; can we trust in our Lord; can we follow the example of Luther and the Reformers, and confront the opponents of confessional Lutheranism? I certainly hope so. Just do it!

 Deo Vindice!

Pastor Spencer 


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What the Bible Teaches about Baptism - Chris Rosebrough

(Posted with permission of and thanks to the author. Here is a link to a PDF copy.)

What the Bible Teaches About Baptism
& How the Earliest Christians
Understood These Biblical Texts

— by —

Chris Rosebrough


On my radio program I regularly point out the fact that the scriptures nowhere teach the popular American Evangelical belief that baptism is a “sign to the world that you’ve made a decision to follow Jesus.” As a result, I receive a lot of emails asking me about and challenging the Lutheran doctrine of baptism.

Recently, I received an email from a fellow who boldly asserted that there are no Biblical passages that teach the Lutheran doctrine of baptism. I promptly sent my critic an email containing the clearest passages in the New Testament regarding Baptism along with a note that said, “Here are the clear passages from scripture regarding Baptism. You tell me what baptism does (its purpose) according to these scriptures and who it is for. I believe exactly what these passages say.” The Biblical texts I sent him are as follows:

Acts 2:38–39: “And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Romans 6:3–5: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Colossians 2:11–12: “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

Acts 22:16: “Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.”

Titus 3:4–7: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

1 Peter 3:21–22: “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

John 3:5: “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

Upon receiving these verses, my critic promptly sent me a response in which he attempted to demonstrate that none of the texts that I sent him are actually speaking about water baptism but instead about something else. To this I responded by sending him a lengthy email containing quotes from the writings and sermons of the earliest Christians and how they understood these Biblical texts. It is important to note that these citations were written long before the usurpation of the Bishop of Rome and the corruption of church’s doctrines that occurred during the Middle Ages.

Upon receiving these excerpts from the ancient church fathers my critic pronounced every one of them to be heretics. When I pointed out the fact that none of them were heretics, and that all of them are considered to be orthodox preachers and apologists of the Christian faith, and that some of them were martyred for their confession of Christ, I received one final email. In it, my critic amended his criticism. He no longer claimed that there are no Biblical passages to support the Lutheran doctrine of baptism. Instead, he said that my problem, and by extension the problem of the earliest Christians, is that we take these Biblical passages literally.

The document you are about to read was created in order to share with you the clearest passages of scripture regarding baptism and what the earliest Christians understood these passages to mean. In so doing, it is my hope and prayer that you too, along with the ancient church and the Lutherans, will take these passages literally and will learn, in the words of Ignatius of Antioch written in 110 A.D. to, “Let your baptism be your armor; your faith, your helmet; your love, your spear; your patient endurance, your panoply.”

Chris Rosebrough

Pirate Christian Radio, August 2013

Monday, August 5, 2013

WELS Resolution on Bible Translations

As requested by one of our Intrepid subscribers, we are posting below the resolution regarding Bible translations that was adopted at the 2013 convention of the WELS.  The original document can be found here.  The original resolution instructed NPH to choose from among the NIV2011, the ESV, or the HCSB.  That resolution (b) was amended to remove the limitation to those three translations, allowing NPH literally to choose from any and every translation, as "it deems best."

Floor Committee 21: Translation Evaluation Committee (TEC)

Subject: Option 2
Reference: Book of Reports and Memorials, pp. 69-78; 211-215 (memorials 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 29, 30)
Resolution No. 1

WHEREAS 1) we strive to follow the direction found in Ephesians 4:2-3, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" and in Philippians 1:27, "Stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel”; and

WHEREAS 2) the TEC evaluation of the "Review of the 102" noted that each of the three translations (NIV2011, ESV, HCSB) "has some generally recognized strengths" but also "some generally recognized weaknesses" (BORAM, p. 73); and

WHEREAS 3) the TEC concluded that “As a committee we are convinced that all the precious truths of our faith are clearly taught in all the translations we have considered” (BORAM, p. 77); and

WHEREAS 4) the TEC has produced a four-part Bible study for congregational use to help lay people become more familiar with translational issues; and

WHEREAS 5) it is apparent that no consensus has developed in the synod for the use of a single translation, as is evident from the memorials submitted to the synod from a broad sampling of the districts that dealt with the translation issue; and

WHEREAS 6) Northwestern Publishing House (NPH) will be able to use NIV84 for current published products and may be able to continue to use it for some future products; therefore be it

Resolved, a) that the synod in convention adopt the second option of the TEC report, that WELS does not adopt a single Bible translation for use in its publications at this time but use an eclectic approach; and be it further

Resolved, b) that we encourage NPH to choose whichever translation it deems best for a particular publication; and be it further

Resolved, c) that all the congregations in the WELS be encouraged to use the four-part Bible study that the TEC produced; and be it finally

Resolved, d) that we, as members of the WELS standing firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel, fix our hearts on this one unshakable truth: the Word of our God endures forever.

Pastor Joel Gaertner, chairman
Pastor Mark Gabb, secretary


Let's Turn a Non-Decision into a Good Decision!

Dear Readers,

I encourage each and every one of you this morning to sit down and write a letter in your own words to our Synod President regarding the issue of Bible translation.

I urge you to tell him that you supported his effort to have our synod produce a truly Lutheran Bible in English, and that you very disappointed that the recent convention was persuaded by other leaders not to pursue this very worthwhile project.

In addition, please tell him of your total and complete dissatisfaction with the so-called "New" New International Version, aka NIV 2011, and that you desire that our Northwestern Publishing NOT use this translation in any publication of any kind ever.

If you want to, go ahead and make a suggestion as to which other translation you would like to see used.

Please copy the VP of Publishing at NPH, Rev. John Braun, and your own district president. Indeed, if you are so inclined, copy ALL the district presidents.  All addresses you will need are copied below directly out of the WELS Yearbook.

If you would like to share your letter with other readers, email a copy here to us at Intrepid Lutherans, and we'll publish them on the blog as we get them.

Please to this TODAY, so you don't forget!

Thank you and God bless you all!

Pastor Spencer


Rev. Mark Schroeder
N16 W23377 Stone Ridge Dr.
Waukesha, WI  53188

Rev. John Braun
1250 N. 113th St.
Milwaukee, WI  53226

Rev. Jon Buchholz
1821 E. Apollo Rd.
Phoenix, AZ  85042

Rev. Charles Degner
326 N. 9th St.
St. Peter, MN  56082

Rev. Douglas Engelbrecht
249 E. Franklin Ave.
Neenah, WI  54956

Rev. John Guse
716 Song Bird Way
Woodstock, GA  30188

Rev. Theodore Lambert
6027 Peregrine Ct.
Bremerton, WA  98312

Rev. Peter Naumann
620 9th St. W
Mobridge, SD  57601

Rev. Donald Patterson
1719 Fort Grants Dr.
Round Rock, TX  78665

Rev. Herbert Prahl
S8441 Michael Dr.
Eau Claire, WI  54701

Rev. David Rutschow
527 63rd St.
Downers Grove, IL  60516

Rev. John Seifert
907 Mattes Dr.
Midland, MI  48642

Rev. Donald Tollefson
40 Coleman Rd.
Long Valley, NJ  07853

Rev. Earle Treptow
2610 S. Wadsworth Blvd.
Denver, CO  80227


Thursday, August 1, 2013

2013 WELS Convention and the Endorsement of NIV 2011.

The following discussion was held on the Facebook Wall of Daniel Baker -- who was a delegate to this year's WELS Convention -- and is reproduced here with his permission. There are several points in this discussion worth consideration, and worth responding to -- sooner being better than later.
  1. Even though the 2011 Synod Convention called for the TEC to educate the laity so that they would be prepared for the task of choosing a translation, can anyone say there was much evidence that such had happened? Did the delegates display evidence suggesting they were prepared to thoughtfully deliberate the issues?
  2. What does it really mean to decide that "All translations are equally deficient, so we will use them all"...?
  3. What does it really mean when it is said that "All translations are equally God's Word, so it is a disparagement of God's Word to cast doubt on any of them"...?
  4. What does it really mean when it is said that "All translations are equally God's Word, isn't it wonderful that we have God's Word in so many forms"...?
  5. How crippling is the division in our Synod?
  6. Why is it that the "New Method Lutherans," in addition to harangue-ing everyone to become relevant by absorbing pop-culture into the church, also seem to be the one's pushing post-Modern linguistics?

  7. What do you think about endorsing a given translation (NKJV was suggested below), and mounting an education campaign targeted at the laity, with the specific purpose of warning about the dangers of "Dynamic Equivalence" and "Functional Equivalence" and identifying their roots in post-Modern philosophy, while building up the virtues of Formal and Optimal Equivalence?
  8. Knowing that the CoP and the entire faculties of MLC and WLS, along with what appears to be a majority of WELS Administrators, are on the side of the "New Method Lutherans," what would you think of such and effort knowing that it would come from outside those sources, and probably rely on scholarship from outside WELS?
Be assured, the "New Method Lutherans" see the endorsement of NIV 2011 alongside all other translation as a big opportunity to drive forward with the next big NIV release. They'll be better organized next time. And they are always better funded.

What other options or considerations may there be?

Daniel Baker at 2013 WELS Convention
Daniel Baker
Here's a summary of the WELS Convention's translation issue:
  1. We approved all translations of Holy Scripture for use in our publications (the "eclectic approach").
  2. We gave NPH sole discretion to decide what translations to use.
  3. An overwhelming majority (over 3/4ths) voted against a Confessional Lutheran translation.
Some general observations:
  • Opposition to a "Confessional Lutheran Translation" seemed to be overwhelming. There were even a number of speakers and a proposed amendment to strike "Confessional Lutheran" from the Resolution.
  • The outgoing editor of NPH was on the TFC, which supported and recommended NNIV.
  • NNIV is clearly on the list of NPH options, and prior to an amendment was the first on a short list of three options for their use.
  • Sem. Profs made it clear that the result of the "eclectic approach" would be settling on just one translation - by "herd" decision, as one pastor and televangelist delegate put it.
As such, it seems clear to me that we are far from out of the NNIV woods.
1Like ·  · 
  • Angela Gawel Al's not here to translate anymore. I think I get the gist but sometime I will have to have someone explain it:) just one question ... What would Alfred think of the outcome?
    5 hours ago via mobile · Like
  • Daniel Baker He would probably have mixed feelings like the rest of us.
  • Paul Rydecki More like, you are deep in the heart of the NNIV forest.
    5 hours ago · Like · 5
  • Intrepid Lutherans Been thinking about this for several minutes after Committee 22 completed (and I posted this, below, too). Initially hopeful after last night's vote on Resolution 1 from Committee 21, the defeat of Resolution 1 from Committee 22 makes Resolution 1 of Committee 21 merely an acknowledgement of the fact that (a) all translations are equally deficient, and (b) we're really okay with that. No one could bring themselves to reject, say, the Watchtower as a translation to be avoided, the Douay-Rheims as a translation to be avoided, or even the "LOL-cat" translation of the Bible as a translation to be avoided. In the words of Seminary Presidents Wendland and Cherney, "They are all equally God's Word! Isn't it a wonderful thing that we have God's Word in so many forms?"

    It is apparent to me, however, that there are really two, and only two, reasons the WELS faculties opposed this -- and neither has anything to do with money or time. 

      (1) There is a stark division in WELS regarding linguistic philosophy, which impacts our fundamental understanding of the nature and function of language, and consequently, the nature of that which was Breathed by God, and thus also, the appropriate Christian principles for translating God's Word into English or any other language. This division is exposed now, yet we are led to believe that we can live with this division as if it does not impact our working together. Yet, a WELS translation effort will fail to progress beyond merely starting on this very point -- and that failure WILL EXPOSE HOW TRULY CRIPPLING THIS DIVISION IS.

      (2) Even though we most certainly do have the *technical skill* to translate the Bible, we simply do not have the *literary talent* to produce an excellent translation. Like it or not, the KJV is *still* the standard of literary excellence, and they know that the product of any translation effort we would undertake would be compared to the KJV, and failing to measure up, would simply land somewhere in the plethora of *equally flat and deficient* translations we already have to choose from, none of which really distinguish themselves. A general rejection of our translation as an excellent one, on such grounds, would likely represent a general indictment of our school system, which is so highly respected.

    That's my take on this. -DL
    Blessinz of teh Ceiling Cat be apwn yu, srsly. This is the lolcat Bible Translat...See More

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License