Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Reconfiguring the Lutheran church

I have so appreciated the faithfulness and tireless efforts of Bob Benne and others (including Gerry McDermott) as they have sought to keep Lutheranism true to its biblical foundations.

Bob wrote this after the CORE meeting in Indiana to chart a new course for conservative Lutherans. I was especially moved by the last paragraph.

My Interpretation of the CORE Assembly at Fishers, Indiana, Last Weekend

I haven’t been so excited about church life beyond the local parish for a long time. The camaraderie, the singing, the hospitality, the powerful talks, the affirmation of biblical and confessional truth, the focus on the future……all were expressed in almost overwhelming portions. The 1,200 souls present were full of life and determination. The CORE assembly was quite an experience.

For the first time in 25 years I felt liberation from the arduous struggle for the soul of the ELCA and freedom for the shaping of a future church life in which I could joyously participate. I had hoped for such a constructive turning toward the future at Fishers and my expectations were more than fulfilled.

When retired (?) Bishop Paull Spring—a very sober and churchly man—pronounced on Friday evening that the ELCA had fallen into heresy and that we must—with the Spirit’s help—engage in a process that will lead to a reconfiguration of North American Lutheranism, one could feel a surge of energy and excitement that propelled the assembly forward. His speech was preceded by two other powerful addresses by retired Bishop Ken Sauer and CORE leader Ryan Schwarz, both of whom encouraged the
assembly not to get hung up with bitterness and anger toward the ELCA, but turn our attention to a new and unprecedented future.

Saturday was the day for more practical concerns, especially the forging of a Constitution that would allow us to organize and to guide our life for at least a year, at which time we hope for a more conclusive definition of who we are to be as a church body. We changed our name from Coalition for Reform, which described our earlier role within the ELCA, to Coalition for Renewal, which indicates our independence from the ELCA. The new Constitution defines us provisionally as “a free-standing synod, taking on those ministries that synods typically carry out,” with no doubt a bishop-like figure to lead us. Indeed, I will consider the “Bishop” of CORE to be my interim bishop until the dust clears and we have a sharper notion of what sort of body CORE will become. Such a leader will oversee CORE’s effort to take seriously its Confession of Faith, which recovers and reaffirms the orthodox faith of the Great Tradition, from which the ELCA has departed in many ways, not least of which is its acceptance of homosexual conduct.

Self-definition is particularly difficult because of the complexity of kinds of membership. Congregations, reform movements, individual laypersons and pastors, networks of churches, perhaps even Synods, will become members of CORE. Significant among the joiners may be the large network of African and Hispanic churches. Many of these persons and bodies will remain within the ELCA, some for a time and some permanently; many will leave. How to accommodate and support each member will provide CORE’s challenge for the coming year. Even so, there is little doubt that CORE will become a synod or churchly body that will harbor and provide missional opportunities for those of us whose loyalty can no longer be affixed to the national ELCA and many of its Synods.

One of the first actions of CORE will be to hold a major theological conference in the early fall of 2010, probably in Columbus, Ohio. The point here will be to project a biblical and theological vision of what Lutheranism at its best can be. We want CORE to proceed in accordance with such a vision, and we are also wagering that such a vision will be attractive to Lutherans currently in many Lutheran bodies. In due time, perhaps, North American Lutheranism will be reconfigured. Along the way CORE intends to do foreign and home missions, to cultivate ecumenical relationships that have been sorely wounded by the actions of the ELCA, and to attend to theological education.

For me the assembly ended on a touching note. I spotted a friend with whom I had grown up in our home church in Nebraska. He is the son of that congregation who himself became a pastor, now retired. Further, his father was my pastor, who confirmed me and from whom I had taken the bread and cup for many years. Some nearly providential happenstances allowed me to be the first in line to take the bread from my friend who was helping in distribution. When our eyes—his uncannily resembling his father’s—met and he offered me the bread and words of Jesus, time seemed to disappear and an unbroken connection from his dear father through him to me seemed to take place. But this was not just a human encounter, it was also an encounter with the living Christ who binds us together now and in eternity. Moreover, what brought us together humanly speaking was the love for an orthodox Lutheran church we used to know and hope to recover in the coming years.

--Dr. Robert D. Benne, is on the faculty of Roanoke College, in the Department of Religion/Philosophy and is Director of the Center for Religion and Society.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

shocking... hear Whoopi Goldberg's take on sexual ethics. Is this how the film industry protects one of its own?

See "Whoopi Goldberg on Polanski Crime".

Thursday, September 24, 2009

briz & his boys at thompson field

Looking forward to taking in the VT men's soccer game v. NC State on Sunday afternoon. Great field; great coach; great team.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sheaffer Snorkel

Finally finished restoring this fountain pen, one of the most complex made, but one of the coolest. First the parts, then the finished product. Fills perfectly with a tube that extends when you twist the cap. And it writes like a dream -- a Sheaffer Statesman with a Triumph nib made of Palladium/silver. Made sometime between 1952-56. I picked it up from a flea market for $3. Worth much more than that now.

Monday, September 21, 2009

do you pray?

Came upon this good quote today, from "the bishop" (of Liverpool)...

This I do say, that not praying is a clear proof that a man is not yet a true Christian. He cannot really feel his sins. He cannot love God. He cannot feel himself a debtor to Christ. He cannot long after holiness. He cannot desire heaven. He has yet to be born again. He has yet to be made a new creature. He may boast confidently of election, grace, faith, hope, and knowledge, and deceive ignorant people. But you may rest assured it is all vain talk if he does not pray.

From J.C. Ryle, “A Call to Prayer.”

Saturday, September 19, 2009

On the Trinity

Wayne Grudem gives the simplest description of the Triune God:

“God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God.” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology)

Berkhof gives a little more, adding the important distinction that Person is not an Individual, but persona (Latin). This may be more in the direction of Karl Barth's eternal semi-modalism. (Not to be confused with old Modalism.)

“The Bible teaches that, while He exists in three Persons, called Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, these are not three persons in the ordinary sense of the word; they are not three individuals, but rather three modes or forms in which the Divine Being exists. At the same time they are of such a nature that they can enter into personal relations. The Father can speak to the Son and vice versa, and both can send forth the Spirit. The real mystery of the Trinity consists in this that each one of the Persons possesses the whole of the divine essence, and that this has no existence outside of and apart from the Persons. The three are not subordinate in being the one to the other, though it may be said that in order of existence the Father is first, the Son second, and the Holy Spirit third, an order which is also reflected in their work.” (Louis Berkhof, Summary of Christian Doctrine, 2:7)

Friday, September 18, 2009

St Patrick's breastplate

Sometimes people think the doctrine of the Trinity is a speculative and irrelevant formula, far removed from daily life.

But here's how Patrick (aka St. Patrick), missionary to the Irish in the fourth century, applied God's Triune nature at the beginning of the day. Very realistic and practical...

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pleasure reading

Man, I just love sitting down with a volume of Martyn Lloyd-Jones sermons!

No printed sermons feed me like his. In fact not many other books, period. I can even hear the words in my mind with his Welsh accent.

This is the first volume of his series in Acts, preached at Westminster Chapel in, I think, the mid- 1960s. Here's timeless presentation of the gospel and biblical truth.

Highly recommended.

I have many biblical and theological works I need to read, but this is what I read for sheer pleasure. It's soul-searching, but so very enriching. With such a large view of God, Lloyd-Jones puts all human pride and problems in their place.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Another reminder

As I plan for another year of ministry I need reminders of what it is I'm called to do. There are soooo many needs and opportunities for Christian leaders. I go back to passages like this:

"But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." (Acts 6:4 ESV)

And Psalm 23, describing to us God's ministry as a Shepherd who 1) feeds, 2) guides, 3) protects, and 4) cares for the flock.

Banner of Truth posted this today, a pastoral charge by John Murray, where he summarizes our calling:

You have been called as minister in this congregation and you have been ordained in pursuance of that call. There are many functions which devolve upon you in that particular capacity, but I want to draw your attention particularly to two of these functions because I believe they are the two main functions which devolve upon the minister of the gospel. And these two functions are the preaching of the Word and pastoral care.

Read the rest of the charge here.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Remembering Beslan, Sept 3

Last year we spent three hours at church one afternoon with Russian representatives from North Ossetia, talking on the subject of faith in the aftermath of tragedy.

Many of these delegates were psychologists or social service professionals who had dealt with the aftermath
of the Beslan School Hostage crisis, September 1-3, 2004.

At the end of this siege on September 3, there were nearly a thousand casualties, including the death of 334 hostages, of which 186 were children.

These workers had come to Virginia Tech a year after our 4.16 to dialogue with us. Most of the representatives were Russian Orthodox and spoke freely of their faith and relationship to the church.

It was a precious and intensely moving time.

One of them, a social worker, said that there is no problem for mental health professionals to advise their counselees to seek God and attend church, something not usually allowed to American mental health professionals.

They said, "There is no possible answer in this life for these ki
nds of tragedies."

I told them we would remember the anniversary of their loss.

And it is very important to remember.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

One way or many ways?

"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going."

Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?"

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

(John 14:1-6 ESV)

"You know the way to where I am going," Jesus said. Thomas, the really honest disciple, said, "we don't even know where you're going, so how can we know how to get there?"

Jesus called our ultimate destination his "Father's house." Heaven? The new creation, the new heavens and earth? "My Father's house" suffices, emphasizing not the location but the relationship. What is amazing is that the way to that personal place is also a Person. He himself is the road. And he is the only road.

Those outside the household of faith find this very troubling and intolerant. Yet, if the way back to the Father means a perfect human must act as a substitute for us all, being as it were, a champion or representative for this condemned human race... then how many candidates are out there? If he must be human, sinless, and somehow divinely powerful in order to bear the full responsibility of people before a holy God, then who else has done this? Who else has said, "I and the Father are one" and fully demonstrated it with his life? Who else said, "I came to give my life a ransom for many"? Who else was vindicated by the victorious resurrection?

No one else -- no other religious leader or government or saint -- can do what Christ did to reconcile us to the Father. That's why there's no other way. If religion is just having another road for us to follow, a set of rules or disciplines whereby we might work our way to God, then perhaps there are many roads to God. But if God himself must do it, if he must make the road come to us, then that's different.

What a joy to hear the many testimonies on Sunday, from so many different backgrounds -- Jewish, Buddhist, nominally Christian, and atheistic. And this shows that -- though there is only one way to God, there are certainly many different ways to get to Jesus!