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>

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Wiki14 5/2 Cribbing From Social Entrepreneurs

FiveTwoTwoKaty, TX–Bill Woolsey’s Five Two explains Sacramental Entrepreneurship in an article titled 7 Marks That Say You’re A Sacramental Entrepreneur. The title is reminiscent of Martin Luther’s Seven Marks of the Church–which Luther drew from clear Scripture. One would expect that if being a Sacramental Entrepreneur is something that God desires it should be found in God’s Word.
But the sources for this idea come from a different arena. In the article Woolsey states:
You have to get out and do some new.
Biblically speaking, the Church needs to regain its apostolic focus.
So we’re looking for the apostolic folk who want to start sacramental communities of all sizes and shapes, generations and geographies.
We call that guy a sacramental entrepreneur.

Woolsey’s 7 Marks

So what are the “Marks” of this feature of his idea of church?
  1. I’m burdened for Jesus’ lost people.
  2. I’m tired of the status quo.  I am frustrated by problems that go unresolved and practices that need reforming.  Today is the day to start moving the ball down the field.
  3. I see “beyond” today.  I can see what the future would be like if we move beyond today’s changeable reality.  And while that future might move through pain, it is full of hope.
  4. I multiply growth.  More people, more groups, more impact, more cities, more whatever.  Somehow when God has me touch things, they increase.  Especially disciples.
  5. I see obstacles as opportunities.  Change is a resource.  Rules are made to be rewritten.  Not God’s rules, but man’s rules, of which there are an abundance.
  6. I attract like-minded, new-start people.  People tend to say “yes” to my invitations to follow, and we tend to have a good amount of unanimity in the journey.
  7. I start things without anyone telling me I should.  I’m talking clubs, ministries, groups, businesses….  Everywhere I go, I’m the guy or gal that launches new initiatives.  It just seems natural.  This characteristic is probably the most telling of your SE-ness.  And if this is really strong in you, years later those initiatives are still happening.
While one is able to understand point 1 as  a Biblical love for lost sinners, points 2-7 fit more closely with Ashoka, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Tom Watson of Forbes.
Watson’s Article “Are You A Social Entrepreneur” offers this list of five qualities (what Pr. Woolsey might call “marks”)
  1. Are you willing to bootstrap? Be willing to do it yourself.
  2. Can you look down the road? Stay patient, take the long view.
  3. Is failure an option? Prepare to fail, and grow from the experience.
  4. Do you know your limitations? Understand your talents … and limitations.
  5. Can you build a team? Be prepared to build a team.
Woolsey’s “most telling” charactaristic is #7, which corresponds directly to Watson’s point 1. Woolsey’s #3 matches Watsons #2. Woolsey’s #5 and #6 relate to Watson’s #5. Woolseys #5 corresponds to Watsons #3.
I am not certain that Woolsey was using Watson’s article. Rather, Watson and Woolsey are both based on a Social Entrepreneurship paradigm that derives from the work of Bill Drayton in the 1980s and following. Drayton worked together with others to establish Ashoka.
The Stanford Social Innovation Review describes the qualities of Social Entrepreneurship in the following way:
  1. The entrepreneur is attracted to [a] suboptimal equilibrium, seeing embedded in it an opportunity to provide a new solution, product, service, or process.
    [Woolsey's: I'm burdened for Jesus' lost people.]
  2. The entrepreneur is inspired to alter the unpleasant equilibrium.
    [Woolsey's: I'm tired of the status quo]
  3. The entrepreneur thinks creatively and develops a new solution that dramatically breaks with the existing one.
    [Woolsey's: I see obstacles as opportunities...Rules are made to be rewritten]
  4. Once inspired by the opportunity and in possession of a creative solution, the entrepreneur takes direct action. Rather than waiting for someone else to intervene or trying to convince somebody else to solve the problem, the entrepreneur takes direct action by creating a new product or service and the venture to advance it.
    [Woolsey's: I start things without anyone telling me I should]
  5. Entrepreneurs demonstrate courage throughout the process of innovation, bearing the burden of risk and staring failure squarely if not repeatedly in the face. This often requires entrepreneurs to take big risks and do things that others think are unwise, or even undoable.
    [Woolsey's: Relating again to "I see obstacles as opportunities"]
  6. [F]orging a new, stable equilibrium that releases trapped potential or alleviates the suffering of the targeted group, and through imitation and the creation of a stable ecosystem around the new equilibrium ensuring a better future for the targeted group and even society at large.
    [Woolsey's: Can you look down the road? and Can you build a team?]
The degree to which particular points overlap in meaning between Woolsey and Walton and SSIR could be refined and expanded. But there is a distinction that should be made between Woolsey and these other sources. The other sources admit that they come from the socio-philosophical presuppositions of Social Entrepreneurship. Woolsey appears to be presenting these ideas as if they are newly minted. There may be proper attribution of these ideas elsewhere in his writings, but his “7 Marks” post makes no clear attributions.  Woolsey’s presentation also implies, without explicitly claiming, that his “marks” are able to show us an “apostolic’ originality in our way of doing what-ever-it-is that he is doing under the name of Sacramental Entrepreneurship
If this is so, then we wonder, why?
Woolsey’s 4th point “I multiply growth” and his explanation are particularly troubling when one understands Paul’s response to the debate about ministry and growth in the Corinthian congregation:
Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 3)

Luther’s 7 Marks

Finally, the use of the term “7 Marks” is itself a disturbing issue. Confessional Lutheranism, that is Biblical Christianity, uses the term “marks” with reference to the Church of Christ in a particular way. Woolsey’s “marks” stand in stark contrast with Luther’s use and the use of the term “marks” of the Church in historical Lutheran theology.
Luther wrote On the Councils and the Church in 1539. It is found in volume 41 of the American Edition. In the third part of this work Luther describes “seven marks of the Church” through which a person can recognize the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church
  1. The Word of God is in use by the people and is an effective mean of grace
  2. Baptism is used as Christ instituted and through which the regeneration of the sinners is worked
  3. The flock gather around the Lord’s Supper to receive the true body and blood of Christ for their forgiveness
  4. The Office of the Keys is exercised publicly as well as privately.
  5. Pastors/Ministers are called to administer the Word and Sacrament in accordance with the qualifications in Paul’s epistles.
  6. Public assembly for the administration of Word and Sacrament, prayer, praise, and giving of thanks to God.
  7. The suffering they endure because they confess the name of Christ as God and Savior from sin, bearing Christ’s Cross.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Pastor Moves His Church into the 1980s!

Katy, TX--Pr. Bill Woolsey, favoring suits styled like those of Sonny Crockett and Rico Tubbs, expressed his contempt for the stagnation of his own church body, the LC-MS:
"The mainline, historical, sacramental church - a small slice of which I belong [sic.] - has been stumbling to the bottom since the 1960s," wrote Woolsey. 
The problem is clear. Woolsey says, "most of the mainline churches in my denomination spoke a language long gone." Not wanting to be out-of-date, he embraced a New terminology of "sacramental entrepreneurship:" a term that was already in use in the 90s with regard to Franscois Michelin; and was shaped by "theological entrepreneurs" among the Emergents like Mark Driscoll, Rob Bell, John Franke, Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt. Their terminology was in turn  leveraged from Bill Drayton's use of "social entrepreneurs" back the 1980s.

In order to keep things fresh with a sense of newness Woolsey founded a community with an utterly new and original name of "Crosspoint Community Church" in the late 1990s. It should not be confused with any of the following, which just by coincidence, happen to share the same name (without the "e" at the end):
 Woolsey stated: "My desire in starting CrossPoint was to create a congregation that not only spoke the language of the local lost person but also loved that person so much we could not help but speak their language and love their music and adopt as many of their values as possible."

In order to be as original as possible in adopting values of the lost persons, Woolsey has imitated Perry Noble's use of secular rock music with idolatrous themes to open his community church services.  The following list from Woolsey's church was collected by a reader named Randy (thanks)

Originality and Newness being the greatest desire Woolsey wrote: "We have become so focused on doing doctrine right that we shirk doing new."

So Woolsey's worship services are innovative and original, even Contemporvant:


Imperfect People Wk 7 (Bill Woolsey) from crosspt media on Vimeo.

At least keeping focused on doctrine won't be an issue keeping Woolsey from moving into the 1980s Emergent movement. We're glad someone is trying to keep up with the times.