Friday, November 21, 2014

Catechism Series, Part 11: The Sacrament of the Altar

In this latest installment of our Catechism Series with Pr. Joe Abrahamson, we continue discussing the Sacrament of the Altar. Pr. Abrahamson shows us how Jesus’ new covenant meal fulfills the old covenant, and we smack down the false teaching that the Lord’s Supper is only a symbol, or reminder, of God’s salvation.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wachet Auf, P. Nicolai, Guitar Transcription

This is a transcription of J.S. Bach's setting for P. Nicolai's Wachet Auf.

This particular setting is used for Hymn 544 in the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary "Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying."

A slightly less complex transcription of Wachet Auf is used for ELH 518 "Rise! To Arms! With Prayer Employ You."

Lilypond file
Tuxguitar file
Midi file.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Five-Two, Casual Blasphemers

Luther on the Second Commandment in his Large Catechism wrote about how God's name is misused:
54] But, the greatest abuse occurs in spiritual matters, which pertain to the conscience, when false preachers rise up and offer their lying vanities as God's Word.
55] Behold, all this is decking one's self out with God's name, or making a pretty show, or claiming to be right, whether it occur in gross, worldly business or in sublime, subtile matters of faith and doctrine. And among liars belong also blasphemers, not alone the very gross, well known to every one, who disgrace God's name without fear (these are not for us, but for the hangman to discipline); but also those who publicly traduce the truth and God's Word and consign it to the devil. Of this there is no need now to speak further. 
 To claim God said something when He did not, or to deny that God said something when He did is to take the Name of God in vain. To present things as godly and beneficial for the faith which have no promise or word from God is also taking God's name in vain. This happens when people try to demonstrate that something they think is good, so God would like it, and since God likes it it must be good for you.

All of this misuse of God's name and reputation is what the word blasphemey refers to.

And it is frightening how casually it is done and how sincerely it is meant. The FiveTwo network has fallen into this kind of casual misuse of God's name.

As one example among many: a recent post from the FiveTwo network made the claim
"Influence doesn't simply come from position or title, start being in relationships with those around you."
This was above a visual of a pier at sunset with another motivational phrase:
"Leaders, if you want influence, start with relationship."

Perhaps Confessional Lutherans are not familiar with John C. Maxwell, but most of the rest of Mainline American Evangelical Christianity is. Maxwell is a widely established pop-Christian/Business author with more than 60 published books. A large portion of those books deal with leadership. He was a frequent guest preacher at the Crystal Cathedral on Schuller's Hour of Power.

The point is that it is not hard to look him up--AND most evangelicals wouldn't have to, they would recognize his words right away.

I did recognize Maxwell's influence and pointed it out:
Me: That would be John C. Maxwell.
What is astounding in the above exchange is not that FiveTwo denied that there was influence by Maxwell. Whatever, maybe the FiveTwo guy didn't really remember which person it came from. But then again, FiveTwo has a history of making statements that come from others as if they are original.

What is astounding in the above exchange is what FiveTwo said was the source of those words:
FiveTwo: Actually, that's Jesus.
Really!?? I've seen all kinds of this junk in Evangelical Free circles. They generally have no problem attributing their thoughts to Jesus. But FiveTwo was claiming to be a Confessional Lutheran group--well, maybe saying that is a stretch. They actually are removing the word Lutheran from most of their stuff. And they have taken the focus off the Means of Grace and placed it on the individual Christian as an embodiment of Christ to the world. What they call a "sacramental entrepreneur." We've looked at how they cobbed that title from the failed efforts of the Emerging church and the Social Entrepreneurs in a previous article.

Back to the issue: FiveTwo claims Jesus said the words or taught the meaning of the words in the motivational poster and around it!

Which translation of the Bible is that in? What passages, which context?

After all, if one is to claim God said something, one actually ought to be able to go to the written word of God and show where He actually said it.

But FiveTwo couldn't. They deflected the question and went to the Emerging Church method of Bible interpretation.
  • Take something in the Bible that is descriptive, find some principle embedded in it, and tell people that if they do this then they are following Jesus.

Notice how FiveTwo misused God's Word:
FiveTwo: Joe, Jesus spent time with people, building relationships with them, demonstrating His love for them. That love and presence definitely influenced their lives.
 There is no direction toward any specific context of Scripture. This is just a vague appeal to the general knowledge of the reader. And people maybe want to think that Jesus would want to spend all kinds of time building relationships with them. But aside from a few, very few people, Jesus didn't really spend a lot of time with a whole bunch of individuals. He didn't spend a lot of time getting to know them or any such thing.

Tim Wood's response is direct to the point. He is right. The consequence of FiveTwo's words here is promoting a false doctrine of justification by relationship. FiveTwo has fallen into the Reformed false doctrine of Faith and salvation as a relationship rather than God's verdict on account of Christ's life, death, and resurrection.

But did you notice that FiveTwo didn't answer my question? They merely diverted attention away from the question.

So I tried to bring the question back into focus.
Me: I'm still missing the connection, sorry. Your quotation is designed to appeal to leaders who desire to have influence with others. The quotation makes no reference to Jesus, his life, or his preaching. Jesus had all kinds of interractions with people through His ascension, not just the slow-relationship-building kind. And he didn't need to have relationships built up in order to influence people. He just spoke "be clean" "arise" "be opened" and it was done. So where is the biblical mandate for that the OP claims?
OP=Original Post.

 Another reader: Letetia Marie pointed out another Bible example that showed the OP was not really what Jesus taught.

Notice the time stamps above: 34 minutes ago down to 4 minutes ago.

That brings us to the next. Note the time stamps: 17 hours ago.

After the big lapse in time I posted the references to John C. Maxwell's works where the words and sentiments in the OP were to be found.

Shortly after demonstrating what the real source was the FiveTwo network banished me and expunged all my comments from their Facebook Page.

This link will take you to this post on their FB page

It is their FB page. They can choose what goes on it and what does not. But it is important for the wider audience to be able to know what kinds of things they are deleting.

The pattern of deletion shows a casual disregard for the Word of God, the consciences of those who wonder whether FiveTwo's claims come from God or are just human, and a serious rejection of the use of Confessional language.

If, as they claim, FiveTwo's goal is actually to get people involved in the Sacraments, be Baptized, and attend the Lord's Supper, they hide these goals pretty well from people reading their website and facebook page.

FiveTwo doesn't have much patience for people who ask where in God's Word the FiveTwo philosophy or methods are taught. They have two responses: divert to some other issue, or delete.
Comment Deleted by FiveTwo within minutes of posting.
Comment Deleted by FiveTwo shortly after Randy Yo posted.

FiveTwo doesn't have any patience for people who bring up the Lutheran Confessions in an effort to correct or understand what FiveTwo is claiming.

Comment Deleted by FiveTwo.

All Deleted by FiveTwo

Not supposed to ask this question. Comment deleted.

Can't ask about the Lutheran Confessions. Comment Deleted.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Patrologia Orientalis volumes online

Volumes of Patrologia Orientalia available at the Internet Archive.

Patrologia orientalis (Volume 01)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 02)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 02)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 03)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 03)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 04)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 04) Editor: v. 1-27, no. 2, R. Graffin; v. 27, no. 3- F. Graffin
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 05)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 06)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 07)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 07)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 08)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 08)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 09)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 09)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 10)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 10)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 11)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 11)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 12)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 12)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 13)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 13)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 14)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 14)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 15)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 15)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 16)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 16)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 17)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 18)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 19)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 21)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 22)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 23)
Patrologia orientalis (Volume 25)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Redeeming Holy Days from Pagan Lies: All Hallows' Eve in the Mediaeval Church and the Reformation

On All Hallows' Eve 1517 a monk named Martin Luther posted a list of points for discussion and debate at the University of Wittenberg campus church. The campus church is named All Saints' Church. The regular bulletin board for such announcements was the front church door. All Saints' Church was the largest repository of relics of the saints outside of Rome. Many of those relics would be put on display on All Saints' Day. Indulgences would be granted to those who came to the Church to view the relics of the saints on that day.

The location, the date, the practices: all of these helped focus the issue on and ensure a wide audience to the topic of Luther's posted points.

The topic of the points for discussion: The Saints of the Church, and whether paying for a Papal Indulgence benefits the Saints, whether dead or living.

These points are called the Ninety-Five Theses. You can read them all at this link. As a sample we give points 27-37:

  1. In They preach man who say that so soon as the penny jingles into the money-box, the soul flies out [of purgatory].
  2. It is certain that when the penny jingles into the money-box, gain and avarice can be increased, but the result of the intercession of the Church is in the power of God alone.
  3. Who knows whether all the souls in purgatory wish to be bought out of it, as in the legend of Sts. Severinus and Paschal.
  4. No one is sure that his own contrition is sincere; much less that he has attained full remission.
  5. Rare as is the man that is truly penitent, so rare is also the man who truly buys indulgences, i.e., such men are most rare.
  6. They will be condemned eternally, together with their teachers, who believe themselves sure of their salvation because they have letters of pardon.
  7. Men must be on their guard against those who say that the pope's pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to Him;
  8. For these "graces of pardon" concern only the penalties of sacramental satisfaction, and these are appointed by man.
  9. They preach no Christian doctrine who teach that contrition is not necessary in those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessionalia.
  10. Every truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without letters of pardon.
  11. Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has part in all the blessings of Christ and the Church; and this is granted him by God, even without letters of pardon. 
So, on the Eve of All Saints [Halloween], at All Saints' Church, among the relics of the saints, during the veneration of the saints, and probably the reciting of the Litany of the Saints.

From late antiquity the cult of the saints grew within the ChristianChurch. It was lucrative--kind of like a circus side-show where the prize for the price of admission was not just to see the relic of a saint, but also to get some time out of purgatory or some grace to do good works to keep from going into purgatory.

In short, the Christian Church was a mess: plugged chock full of prayers to dead people that were declared by officials of the Church to be saints; overflowing with relics of dead people which were to be venerated, adored, and even prayed to in some cases; teaming with pilgrimages to these relics, artifacts of a nominally Christian Church that had abandoned God's grace through faith in Christ and turned to salvation by other means.

The Church had adopted innumerable pagan practices. And no particular festival day showed the fact more clearly than All Saints' Day. No particular church building could have been a clearer example than All Saints' Church in Wittenberg, the largest focal point for pilgrimage to venerate the relics of the saints outside of Rome.

So it is instructive to see what was done by Luther and the Lutheran Reformation.

All Saints' Church was not torn down. Some of its statuary were removed, but not all. Some of its art was changed, not just to get rid of particular saints, but to add some as well. One in particular was buried inside the church with a visible sepulcher and an image of the deceased.

The Litany of the Saints was not abandoned, but cleaned of its false worship. In fact, the Litany of the Saints is the basis for the Lutheran Litany found in most Lutheran hymnals today.

The observation of All Saints' Day was not prohibited. Rather, it was expanded to include the teaching of God's Word on what a saint truly is through faith in Christ alone. The abuses imported by the Church for the worship of the saints through the ages were rejected. But the value of remembering them, how God preserved them, and what God worked through them is retained, celebrated, and taught.

The attitude of Luther and the Lutheran Reformers was not to throw away everything that the Roman Church had done. Rather the purpose was to retain as much of the historic Christian practice as could be without violating the central teaching of Scripture: that we are Justified by God by His grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone as taught only in His Scriptures.

We retain All Saints' Day, All Hallows Eve', the honoring and remembering of the Saints who have gone before us--who pointed to Christ alone as their and our salvation. We confess in the Augsburg Confession of 1530:
Article XXI: Of the Worship of the Saints.
Of the Worship of Saints they teach that the memory of saints may be set before us, that we may follow their faith and good works, according to our calling, as the Emperor may follow the example of David in making war to drive away the Turk from his country. 2] For both are kings. But the Scripture teaches not the invocation of saints or to ask help of saints, since it sets before us the one Christ as the Mediator, Propitiation, High Priest, and Intercessor. 3] He is to be prayed to, and has promised that He will hear our prayer; and this worship He approves above all, to wit, that in all afflictions He be called upon, 1 John 2:1: 4] If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, etc.
   5] This is about the Sum of our Doctrine, in which, as can be seen, there is nothing that varies from the Scriptures, or from the Church Catholic, or from the Church of Rome as known from its writers. This being the case, they judge harshly who insist that our teachers be regarded as heretics. 6] There is, however, disagreement on certain abuses, which have crept into the Church without rightful authority. And even in these, if there were some difference, there should be proper lenity on the part of bishops to bear with us by reason of the Confession which we have now reviewed; because even the Canons are not so severe as to demand the same rites everywhere, neither, at any time, have the rites of all churches been the same; 7] although, among us, in large part, the ancient rites are diligently observed. 8] For it is a false and malicious charge that all the ceremonies, all the things instituted of old, are abolished in our churches. 9] But it has been a common complaint that some abuses were connected with the ordinary rites. These, inasmuch as they could not be approved with a good conscience, have been to some extent corrected.
We thank God not by trashing all the heritage of Christian liturgical practice, but by learning it, appreciating the lessons of those who have gone before to shape this practice into a reflection of the bare truth of God's Word.

The Apology XXI states in part:
4] Our Confession approves honors to the saints. For here a threefold honor is to be approved. The first is thanksgiving. For we ought to give thanks to God because He has shown examples of mercy; because He has shown that He wishes to save men; because He has given teachers or other gifts to the Church. And these gifts, as they are the greatest, should be amplified, and the saints themselves should be praised, who have faithfully used these gifts, just as Christ praises faithful business-men, 5] Matt. 25:21, 23. The second service is the strengthening of our faith; when we see the denial forgiven Peter, we also are encouraged to believe the more that grace 6] truly superabounds over sin, Rom. 5:20. The third honor is the imitation, first, of faith, then of the other virtues, which every one should imitate according to his calling. 7] These true honors the adversaries do not require. They dispute only concerning invocation, which, even though it would have no danger, nevertheless is not necessary.

There are many today who, like the church of late antiquity and the middle-ages are tired of the testimony of the Saints who have gone before us. They also reject historical liturgical practice and with it the historical confession of the faith. All in favor of newness and a self-satisfied feeling of genuineness in their own expression of worship. So they add, they tweak, they abandon not for the sake of clear biblical teaching, but for the sake of the audience. Whatever gets them in the door. Whatever can attract them to keep them coming.

That is, in part, how the cult of the saints started and twisted the observation of All Saints' Day off its course before the Reformation.

Blessed Halloween to you all.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Redeeming Christian Holy Days: All Saints' Eve and Day

All Saints' Eve, All Saints' Day: Origins and Samhain-ization

Today it seems that everyone knows that Halloween is originally a Celtic pagan holy day named Samhain [pr. Sow-in] which the Christian Church supplanted for the sake of forcing pagans to convert to Christianity. Obviously, in this line of thought, Christianity has nothing of it self to offer and must co-opt, adopt, adapt, and use non-Christian sources for the sake of gaining converts from the world outside of Christianity.

A read through the Old Testament will show that the people of God have many times adopted religious practices and celebrations from the pagan nations around them: Sometimes in an effort to gain peace with those nations, sometimes to attract members, sometimes so they could fit in better with surrounding nations, sometimes in outright rebellion to God. The Acts of the Apostles, their Epistles, and the book of Revelation also show various ways that the Church adopted the cultural and religious practices of the pagans around them. The writings of the early Church Fathers contain many, many documents against the adoption of pagan practices and writings against those false teachers who adopted aspects of pagan worship and faith.

So, it is not like it would be unusual for the Church to do something like stealing a pagan holy day, claim it for its own, and use this to attract those outside the Church (pagans) by making them feel more comfortable—or by coercion. Both have happened.

Some might wonder what the point is of trying to establish which came first: pagan or Christian. Indeed, one website described this kind of effort as a “pissing match” to establish who's holy day is older. That attitude misses the point of doing the history. The issue is that Neo-Pagans and Wiccans, in an effort to discredit Christianity have made many assertions about the history of these holy days that are patently false. Most of their claims are based on an intellectual heritage that comes through the Folklorists of the 19th and early 20th centuries—which itself was deeply influenced by the wealth of philosophy, arts, and literature from the Romantic movement (particularly Gothic fiction).

When one looks at individual claims about the supposed antiquity of the Neo-Pagan/Wiccan holy day of Samhain one finds the actual historical evidence lacking.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Then You’ll Have a Clean Room

From Steadfast Lutherans
October 16th, 2014
Post by T. R. Halvorson
When I was a kid, my next door neighbor was my best friend. He was a good kid. He excelled at sports and did well in school. But when his mother told him to clean up his room, he asked, “Why?” His mother said, “I’ll give you a dollar.” It was a lot of money. So he cleaned his room and she gave him the dollar.
Like an idiot, I tried that at home. Dad told me to clean up my room. I asked, “Why?” He said, “Because then you’ll have a clean room.” “Well, yeah,” I thought, “but that doesn’t say anything.” Though I could not follow his answer, I cleaned my room. There was no dollar.
Later, I heard my friend’s mother telling him to do his homework. He asked, “Why?” She told him he’d get five dollars for every B and ten dollars for every A on his report card. He did his homework. He got nothing but As, Bs, and one S in a Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory mark. He was rolling in dough.Koraaga_Repairing_Net
Still the idiot, when my Dad told me to do my homework, I imitated my friend and asked, “Why?” Dad said, “Because you’ll learn something.” At first I still was back at that, “Well, yeah …” reaction.
As I put the two instances together, it came to me. Dad believed in intrinsic motivation. He believed in doing things for their own worth, not for some side reason. He believed in upfront, straight ahead appeals. Clean your room to have a clean room. Do your homework to learn something.
The church should act like my Dad. It should use upfront, straight ahead appeals based on intrinsic motivation. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” Acts 16:31. “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin.” Acts 2:38
It’s great to feed the hungry, treat the sick, visit the imprisoned, <read the rest at Steadfast Lutherans>