Monday, June 1, 2020


I am the Lord; there’s no other. I form light and create darkness, make prosperity and create doom.  I am the Lord, who does all these things.  Isaiah 45: 6b-7 (CEB)
        Yesterday, Jon Steingard, lead singer for the Christian Contemporary Music band, Hawk Nelson, shared with the world that he no longer believes in God.  This follows the “coming out” of one of the young writers for Hillsong music, who made the same “confession” last year.  Years ago now, a member of Five Iron Frenzy left the band for the same reason.  After the Hillsong bombshell, John Cooper, lead singer of SKILLET made a careful, thoughtful response, which I will not repeat here.  In all three cases the loss of faith came down to failing to answer the question: If God is all-powerful, and all-loving, then why is there so much evil in the world?  The conclusion is that since there is evil, there must not be God.  I addressed this question at some length in my last blog post, so I will not repeat it here.  But I have a couple of observations regarding the recent disclosure.
        I am not Jon’s judge.  But I firmly believe he has One.  As a Christian, I believe that he (along with everyone else) will stand before a Holy Judge (“He will come again to judge the living and the dead”) and will give an account for his public testimony and then his public recanting of his faith in Jesus Christ.  So, if I were sitting with Jon over a pint or a latte, as I have with students over the years, I would have some questions to explore with him on his new-found lack.  Here are a few of the questions I would try to walk through with him.
Have you carefully reviewed the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus?  Have you come across counter evidence that has led you to now believe that Jesus did not rise from the dead as a historical fact? 
See…here’s the thing.  I am convinced that asking about evil to determine the truth of God’s existence (and sovereignty) approaches the issue the wrong way around.  Here’s what I mean.  There is a large amount of evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.  I have listed this information in my presentation on The Resurrection, but I refer the reader to “Evidence that Demands a Verdict”, and “The Case for Christ”, both of which were an important part of my research.  Evil in the world has nothing to say about the historicity of Christ’s resurrection…but… The Resurrection of Jesus has much to say about the existence of God.  Do you see?  The issue is much more fruitfully presented: Since there is very good evidence that Jesus rose from the dead, and that therefore, clearly, God exists and is both loving and powerful, what are we to make of evil in the world?
Are you aware of the discovery by an atheist microbiologist that the DNA molecule cannot form by random chance?   Have you thought through the implications that the foundational building block of life is engineered, designed, created?
        There is actually quite a bit of scientific evidence in multiple fields that point to “intelligent design” – a creator.
Have you had the opportunity to read the work of great Christian thinkers who have thoroughly delved into this difficult question from a Christian perspective and answered the concerns you raise at some length?  Wouldn’t that be worth your time?
C. S. Lewis; Ravi Zacharias; John Lennox all have works on this very question.  I find one point by C. S. Lewis particularly helpful.  If the neo-atheist is correct; thought itself is merely a combination of electrical and chemical stimuli in the brain.  If reasoning is not reliable because we are essentially talking animals controlled and determined by our genetic code, without free-will and without mind to exercise it, why would you bother making an argument that is random electrical and chemical stimuli and expect me to accept that it is true?  According to you I don’t have the power to accept or reject.  It’s all determined.  So why bother writing your book?
Share the application of this on the rest of your life as you have now “discovered” that you are an “accident of the universe” and that your life, all life, is without meaning or purpose or value.  How will that “knowledge” shape your life moving forward?
        For instance, along with meaning and purpose and value, we lose love.  Love also is supposedly just a different combination of electrical and chemical stimuli.  It’s not real.  A world with no love, and no hope? 
I don’t know Jon Steingard.  I don’t know if he has worked through all of this information in careful consideration of the position that he is now taking that will affect not only his spiritual eternity, but the spiritual eternity of so many others who have followed his mission to make Christ known for two decades.  But if not, why not?  I am in no position to put these questions to him.  But his band members are.  They have shared with him, as have many other Christian artists, that they love him unconditionally.  Well and good; so they should.  But “live and let die” is not a loving position. 
        I don’t know what to make of the verse I opened with.  That is why I chose it.  I don’t know how to explain that God said God brings catastrophe.  Now, in the original context, God was sharing to Isaiah to pass along to God’s people that mythology is wrong.  There are not a group of gods battling it out for dominance.  God needed God’s people to know that God is real, and all-powerful.  No one is competing for honor or glory.  But that’s as far as I have gotten.  There are other passages of The Bible that I don’t understand.
An interviewer asked Mark Twain if he was bothered by the verses in The Bible that were hard to understand.  He responded, “Actually, I am much more bothered by the verses that are quite clear.”  So I teach the relatively simple principle that when we don’t understand, we should always fall back on what we do understand.  God is – because Jesus rose from the dead; and, we have very good evidence for that; it is not blind faith.  And, God is Love – because Jesus died on the cross for us; God the Son felt that we were worth it.  With the rest we do our best.

Friday, January 17, 2020


"It is God's will that men should hear his Word and not stop their ears...

Accordingly, we reject and condemn all the following errors as being contrary to the norm of the Word of God:
8. Likewise, when these statements are made without explanation that man's will before, in, and after conversion resists the Holy Spirit, and that the Holy Spirit is given to such as resist him purposely and persistently."
Formula of Concord; Epitome II Free Will

"7. This Christ calls all sinners to himself and promises them refreshment.  He earnestly desires that all men should come to him and let themselves be helped.  To these he offers himself in his Word, and it is his will that they hear his Word and do not stop their ears or despise it."
[Here rejecting double predestination: editorial note]
Formula of Concord; Epitome XI God's Eternal Foreknowledge and Election

If God is both all powerful and all loving there would not be evil in the world.
There is evil in the world.
Therefore God is either not all powerful or not all loving.
This is the syllogism set forth in Harold Kushner's famous book, "Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People?"  Of course, this argument has existed for a very long time.  But it is still raised today.
Rabbi Kushner is Jewish.  Some years ago a response was written by a Christian author, "Why do Bad Things Happen to God's People?"

These questions raise issues of God's SOVEREIGNTY.  What does it mean when someone says, "God is in control" (the title of a song years ago by Twila Paris)?  Now, the Bible is replete with references that God is "All Mighty" (all powerful, omnipotent).  And the Apostle John wanted there to be no mistake in his letter: God Is Love.  So to teach that God is either not all-loving or not all-powerful, is basically to teach that Scripture is wrong about the nature of God.  By now you know that I will not go there.  But I have heard this very thing taught to pastors.

I share two anecdotes from my second call.
That little Norwegian country church was one of four pieces of shrapnel from the explosion of the Mother Congregation in 1892.  The explosion occurred when a speaker from Europe came to lecture on the controversy of Predestination in The Lutheran Church.  In an oversimplification the argument that ensued between the speaker and the local pastor (in a planned debate format) was: Does God's Love predominate over God's Sovereignty, or does God's Sovereignty trump God's Love?  Does God want everyone to be saved, but in some cases God does not get what God wants?  Or, does God NOT want everyone to be saved and God saves the ones God chooses to save?   This debate ended up not just splitting the congregation, but exploding it into four pieces.
In my last post, last month, I shared on God's Love.  So I promised to follow with this post on God's Sovereignty.

NOTE: For my Master's Thesis from seminary I wrote 80 pages on the human role in justification from a Lutheran perspective as an argument against universal salvation.  This is a complicated issue that I cannot explore fully here.  I risk oversimplification to raise the sign posts or guide markers.

While serving that congregation, I arranged for a then well-known Christian band to come and play a concert in town for our area young people.  We received the support of the community and we booked the date. The band was RAZE DANCE, and our young people were excited that the band was coming.  But a couple months before the date set, I was contacted by the band representative and informed that the band had decided that they wanted to open the tour in their home town of Oklahoma City.  As a result, they were moving all early dates forward to accommodate this.  I explained to them that unlike their other venues, we were a tiny site without the flexibility of bigger venues.  They graciously cancelled our date, returning our earnest money.
On opening night in Oklahoma City, the group's lead male vocalist was arrested by FBI following the performance for sex with minor, namely, a 15 year-old dancer, with whom he had had sexual relations on tour (across the country) for about two years.
One of the financial sponsors shared with me that God is Sovereign and all things happen according to God's will.  God had protected us from bearing the brunt of this scandal through the events resulting in cancelling our date.  I stopped him.  While the latter part of his conclusion may very well be the case.  God may have protected us from the scandal by the new arrangement.  But clearly, not all happens according to God's Sovereign Will.  I can confidently state that it was not God's will that this adult engage in sexual relations with a young teenager for almost two years on tour.  Now, someone might doubt that what I just typed is justified; and sadly, our culture may be reaching that point at some time soon.  But the important point is this: a common definition of SIN is that which humans do that is against God's will.  Sin, acting against the sovereign will of God, has been going on since the beginning.  This is part of the answer to Kushner's Syllogism.  Could God prevent all sin.  Well, since God is all-powerful, certainly.  But what would that mean?  It would mean a world without choice, without free will on any meaningful level.  If human beings are allowed to choose at all, they must be allowed to choose badly, i.e., things that are against God's will.  We would not be human at all.  I think that many people would very happy in a world where they could do whatever they wanted to and yet somehow everything bad was somehow God's fault; a world without responsibility or accountability.  But that is not the world in which we live.  So the problem with the syllogism that has caused so much consternation and confusion for so many for so long is that the first premise is flawed.  It places us in the position of God.  So point one is: the persistent existence of sin demonstrates that God has placed a limit on God's own sovereignty.  It is a self-imposed limit.

Point two is this: the reality that people reject God, reject God's love and grace, reject God's existence at all, demonstrates that God has placed a limit on God's own sovereignty.  It is self-imposed.  It is for this point that I chose the quotes from Formula of Concord.  The Lutheran position is that it is God's will that everyone be saved, receive eternal salvation and eternal life.  But God does not get God's way, God's will.  God gives human beings the freedom to reject: "to stop their ears" to God's call of Love.  The conclusion of my Master's Thesis is that this must be so.  Faith that is compelled is not faith.  Obedience that is compelled is not obedience.  Love that is compelled is not love.  God created a world, and a redemption in that world, so that faith, obedience, and love can be chosen or rejected.

We have a King.  Jesus is The King of the Universe, who astoundingly wants to be our Dearest Friend.  But like earthly kings, this King can be disobeyed and rejected.  By God's own Sovereignty, God limited God's sovereignty.  But God is still Sovereign King, the King of Love.

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28 (NASB)

This does not mean that God makes evil into good.  Evil is evil.  Evil happens in our fallen world.  God is nonetheless both all-powerful and all-loving.
Sovereign God works the miracle of bringing good from evil.  God's promise.

Monday, December 23, 2019


Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Philippians 2: 5-11

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.... I John 3:16a

It's been awhile.  But there has been a change.  As I type this I have resigned from my current call and am not seeking a call.  Instead, I am exploring the possibility of interim ministry at the end of my career as a Minister of Word and Sacrament.  I am listening to sermons on the Incarnation as all the world prepares to celebrate what C. S. Lewis called "The Grand Miracle."  What I share in this post are two insights into God's love that occurred very many years apart.  They reflect the unfathomable depth of God's love.  I believe that this is what eternity is for, an eternal exploration of the depth of God's love.  Here are two insights into that Love.  Notice in the passages above, God the Father did not force God the Son to submit to death.  Jesus walked to the cross, and more.

In April of 1975, I had only been a believer for one year.  Faith had come to me in April of 1974 during the Resurrection season.  In August of 1974 I had joined the Lutheran Church my high school girlfriend attended by Affirmation of Baptism, before leaving for college at Wittenberg University.  I was back on spring break, and my high school girlfriend and I were invited to the women's circle group meeting led by our pastor.  In the middle of the meeting, with no warning, the pastor turned to me and said, "Bob, tomorrow is Good Friday.  What does Good Friday mean to you?"  (That's why I mention I had been in the church only a year.)  This is what I received and shared as that 18 year-old kid.
Jesus, was and is eternal God the Son.  He was in heaven with God the Father, and was omniscient as God.  God the Son was "in all times at all times."  To Him, all of time is present.  (There is a longer explanation of what it means to be in all times at all times that I share with students to bring them on board.)
I see what that means.  God the Son was watching Himself be flogged and crucified.  God the Son saw all that we did to Him; what we would put Him through.  And He came anyway!  That is the depth of God's love.

It was only about 10 years ago as an ordained pastor at St. John's Lutheran in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin that I took the next step.  That is a lot of years in between.  Again, the revelation of The Incarnation came not at Christmas, but during Holy Week and The Resurrection.  I shared what I came to understand the following Christmas Eve.  It builds on what came previously.  God the Son was in heaven with God the Father and God the Spirit before time began, sharing all the attributes of God: omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent.  God the Son was pure spirit as part of having these attributes.  Pure Spirit.  Not just in all times at all times; but also, in all places at all times.  Everyone gets that what happened in Nazareth and played out in Bethlehem is that God became Flesh; God took on a body.  (C. S. Lewis pointed out that God didn't just become a baby.  God became a human zygote!)  OK, so far so good.  Now, jump with me from Luke 2, and John 1, to Luke 24: 36-43: 
36 As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them. 37 But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.  
Jesus went to great lengths to help them understand that He had risen BODILY.   When He ascended, He ascended bodily.  He sits "at the right hand of the Father" bodily.  (This was a central point in Zwingli's argument against Luther when He denied that Christ was "in, with, and under" the bread and the wine.  Luther did not deny this, but took it a step further through the representation of the Holy Spirit.)  The implications of this are staggering to me.  Jesus was raised with and ascended with a glorified body, to be sure.  But it is a BODY.  What that means, as far as I can tell and reason, is that Jesus gave up being Pure Spirit, not just during his 33 years on earth - but - FOREVER!  Jesus will never again through all eternity be Pure Spirit again.  He surrendered that status, that privilege forever!  "Sometimes, it causes me to tremble...."  He made THAT sacrifice willingly, pouring Himself out (emptying / kenosis) because I needed Him to; because you needed Him to.  God loves you that much!  (Yes, I get that by and through the Holy Spirit, Jesus can still in a way we can't understand be everywhere and always - ubiquitous.  Luther argued as much.  I get that we can't ever fully understand the implications of that.  But to me, for me, it is still an incredible, awesome sacrifice of Love.)

That is what The Incarnation means to me.  "For God loved the world so much..."  We have all of eternity to explore together the unfathomable depths of that little two-letter word - SO.

Sunday, April 15, 2018


This is a sermon I wrote this week.  This Easter Season I have been preaching through the Gospel of Mark as suggested by materials created by Dr. Phil Ruge-Jones, rather than the traditional Easter Lectionary Texts.  Thursday night, actually about 1 a.m. Friday morning, I woke and was unable to sleep after trying for an hour.  So about 2 am I decided that what I was supposed to do was get up and work on my sermon for Sunday (today).  I made a pot of coffee and worked on the manuscript from about 2 am to almost 5 am.  But with the coffee in me, it was 6 am before making my way back to my bed.  Then...winter storm hit and I made the call to cancel worship (which I have never done in 20 years as an ordained pastor).  So my middle of the night sermon didn't get delivered.  A colleague copied and pasted her sermon in a Facebook post.  And I decided after talking to colleagues more tech savvy than I am, that the cleanest way to share this sermon (which hopefully is worth reading, or maybe preaching at a later time) that I wrote in the middle of the night is on my blog (even though it has been inactive).
The Mark Gospel text is Chapter 2, verses 13 to 17.  Last week's sermon was on the first 12 verses of chapter 2.  The Second Epistle Lesson is 1 John 3: 1-7, which is helpful to know because I reference it in the sermon.  Thank you for reading it.  I am open to constructive criticism.  A couple last things.  The prayer is from the movie "First Knight" and we use it when we hold a Knighting ceremony for our youth.  The song we were going to sing following the sermon was "Just As I Am."  As you can tell, there was a baptism scheduled.  Here it is.

Please pray with me: May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be holy and acceptable to You, King of the Universe, and Dearest Friend.  Amen.
      Jesus called the strangest people.  Last Sunday morning I mentioned that in the early part of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus had been very busy.  Our lesson this morning follows immediately after our lesson from last week, the healing of the paralyzed man.  But first Jesus had called four fisherman to be disciples: Andrew and Simon (who we know as Peter), and James and John.  Fishermen.  Now, I love fishing; I’m just saying that they make an interesting (translate strange) first choice.  Now, immediately after healing the paralytic, he went back to the lakeshore – the same place where he had called the four – and he taught the people. 
      Now the sermon is over, and Jesus and the four are walking back into town.  As he’s walking back into town, Jesus approaches the tax booth where Levi is sitting, assessing and receiving tax money from the people of Capernaum.  And Jesus slows.  It’s like in a horror movie, where you want to yell at the screen, “Don’t open that door!”  But then she inevitably opens the door.  Walking with Jesus we want to warn him, “Don’t do it Jesus!  Not Levi!  For the love of God, not Levi!”  And he stops.  You shake your head.  “He’s going to do it.  I can’t believe he’s going to do it.”  And he does.  “FOLLOW ME.”
And Levi stands up, pulls the curtain, and immediately follows Jesus.  So strange.  Jesus calls Levi precisely “for the love of God.”  But…
“He’s a tax collector!”  Of all the people to call.
      Tax collectors in Judah (the southern half of what was Israel) were Jews, hired by the Romans to collect taxes for Rome.  So, first of all, they were collaborators with the enemy, the occupying army.  Second of all, the way they became rich was to impose rates much higher than the Roman tax, collect it with armed Roman soldiers at their back, and keep the difference.  Today, we have a word for that.  Extortion.  Tax collectors were slime.  Tax collectors were not allowed in the Temple in Jerusalem.  They were not allowed in the synagogues, the churches.  They were more than excluded.  They were hated.
      You know that one of the things I love about studying the Bible is that I continue to learn new things as I read it and prepare to preach it.  I am enjoying using The Gospel of Mark during the Easter season instead of the assigned Gospels this year.  I shared with you three years ago my characterization of The Gospel of Mark.  MARK IS STARK!  But I’m seeing how strange it is in places, like this one this morning.  What’s strange?
The story doesn’t end with Levi following Jesus.
Levi “follows” Jesus…to Levi’s own house!  That’s strange.  The next scene is Jesus reclining at table with Levi and his friends.  Not surprisingly, the tax collector’s friends are, well, tax collectors.  So now we’re up to our armpits in tax collectors!  I say “reclining” because people back then did not sit in chairs at the table to eat.  They leaned on pillows on the floor with a low table in the middle.
      Now the church leaders are upset: the scribes and the Pharisees.  They are experts in The Hebrew Bible, what we have as The Old Testament.  They also feel called.  They are called to keep and impose The Rules.  Now notice, they don’t go to Jesus with their complaint.  They take their complaint to the disciples: 
“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
“Tax collectors” in this complaint is redundant, because they are the worst of sinners. 
      I shared last Sunday evening the influence that the work of Dr Leonard Sweet has had not only on my preaching, but on my understanding of the culture in which we live, and where this is heading.  He has a pretty great summary of The Gospels: Jesus ate good food with bad people.  There you have it: our lesson today from The Gospel of Mark.  Eating is actually a bigger deal in The Gospel of Luke.  I like to think of Luke as The Lutheran’s Gospel.  There is always food involved in Luke.  But in our Lesson today from Mark, Jesus is eating good food with bad people.  Why?  He told them.  “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
Now this is as strange to Levi as it is the church people.
“Jesus wants me?”  ME?  It is a strange and wonderful thing to be called by Jesus.
      But…it’s at this point that commentators and pastors are tempted to get warm and fuzzy.  This morning, let’s take a closer look at The Call.  First, what were they called FROM?  Peter and Andrew left their business, their livelihood, their future security, and followed Jesus.  James and John, fellow fisherman, did the same.  They left the security of the family business.  Remember, the call of the disciples is eerily similar to the call of God to Abraham.  Abraham was called by God.   “Go that way.  Not telling you where you’re going.  Not telling your when you’re going to get there.  Not telling you what you’re going to do when you get there.  That way.”
And the Apostles?  “Come this way.  Not telling you where you’re going.  Not telling you when you’re going to get there.  Not telling you what you’re going to do when you get there.  Come follow me.  This way.”
      Levi was hated, and excluded from the synagogue and Temple.  But…he was rich.  He left it all.  He left with nothing but The Call.  Over a three-year period he would come to learn what that meant.  Jesus taught them:
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
      And what were they called FOR?
Some of us are old enough to remember Paul Harvey.  Hear now, “the rest of the story.”
      Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Lutheran pastor and martyr in Germany in World War II wrote the powerful book, “The Cost of Discipleship.”  The subtitle of the book I have shared with you before: When Christ calls a man, He bids him, ‘Come and die.’   Christ called Levi and Levi did.
Levi is better known to us as Matthew.  Matthew wrote the Gospel which appears first in our New Testament.  Only Matthew shared the Marching Orders Jesus gave before ascending into heaven at the right hand of the Father:  “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus called Matthew and chose him.  Matthew went, and taught, and died sharing the truth of Jesus.  He was executed for following Jesus’ call.
Why did Jesus call such a motley crew?  Again, I have gained direction and focus from Dr. Leonard Sweet.  Jesus did not call leaders.  Jesus did not call them to be leaders.   Jesus did not call me to be a leader.  He wasn’t looking for leaders.  He’s still not.  Then, as now, Jesus is looking for followers.  Dr. Sweet makes this point in his book, “I Am a Follower.”  He leads.  I follow.
      Jesus came to establish a kingdom.  It is a kingdom where all are loved; all are welcome; all are included.  But it is a kingdom with a King.  Following includes leaving.  It is and will always be Good News, that Jesus wants us as His subjects in the new kingdom.  He chooses us.  But when we answer the call, we become MUCH more than Jesus’ subjects.  We never stop being subjects of the King.  But we receive much more.  We become His brothers and sisters, adopted into the family of God.  This morning God adopted Jerret into that family.  As he grows in years, we the family of God gathered as Eleva Lutheran Church, will help place in his hands The Holy Scriptures and help to provide for his instruction in the Christian Faith.  That is from the Rite of Baptism in the Green Hymnal: The Lutheran Book of Worship.
God brings us into the family of God. 
The choice for us – is to live in it.
Just as we are – we come.  But God does not leave us as we are.  Love works.  Love works on us. 
We offer not only what we have, but what we are, in grateful devotion for all that He is making us to be. 
We are his subjects.  We are his children.  WE ARE HIS.
Did you hear it as Alyssa read it?  The amazing promise?
See what great love the Father has for us, that WE should be called “children of God.”  And we are God’s children now.  It does not yet appear all that we will be.  But this much we know.  When he returns, and he will come back, we will be like him, for then we shall see him just as he is.
Let us pray: God grant us the wisdom to discover the right, the will to choose it, and the strength to make it endure.  Just as we are – we come.  Amen.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

"Come quickly, Lord."  Revelation 22: 20

I come and check on my blog from time to time.  I am grateful for all of you who took the time to read through my posts, whether you agree with me or not. My purpose in this blog was not to offer yet another opinion online, but rather to lift up The Creeds and the Lutheran Confessions, and comment upon them as authority in The Lutheran Church.  I think this is a particularly important time to do that as the 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther presenting the 95 Theses is upon us.  I am beginning Dr. Martin Marty's book, "October 31, 1517: Martin Luther and the Day that Changed the World."  

Long introduction to say that the other reason I am posting is to let each of you know that this entire blog (absent this post) is available now in WORD document form as a whole.  If you would like the WORD document, you can contact me at, and I will gladly send it to you.  As the 500th approaches, I am reading through my blogs 30+ posts in my morning devotional time, along with "Martin Luther: Day by Day We Magnify You", daily readings from the works and sermons of Martin Luther, which I have been working through since Advent last.  Blessed Reformation to you all.

"I thank my God in all my remembrance of you..." Philippians 1: 3

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Formula of Concord, Part II, Solid Declaration:
10 For that reason necessity requires that such controverted articles be explained on the basis of God’s Word and of approved writings in such a way that anybody with Christian intelligence can see which opinion in the controverted issues agrees with the Word of God and the Christian Augsburg Confession, and so that well-meaning Christians who are really concerned about the truth may know how to guard and protect themselves against the errors and corruptions that have invaded our midst.
The Summary Formulation, Basis, Rule, and Norm, Indicating How All Doctrines Should Be Judged in Conformity with the Word of God and Errors are to Be Explained and Decided in a Christian Way
1. We pledge ourselves to the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments as the pure and clear fountain of Israel, which is the only true norm according to which all teachers and teachings are to be judged and evaluated.
2. Since in ancient times the true Christian doctrine as it was correctly and soundly understood was drawn together out of God’s Word in brief articles or chapters against the aberrations of heretics, we further pledge allegiance to the three general Creeds, the Apostles’; the Nicene, and the Athanasian, as the glorious confessions of the faith—succinct, Christian, and based upon the Word of God—in which all those heresies which at that time had arisen within the Christian church are clearly and solidly refuted.
3. By a special grace our merciful God has in these last days brought to light the truth of his Word amid the abominable darkness of the papacy through the faithful ministry of that illustrious man of God, Dr. Luther.
Book of Concord: Preface:
6 Mindful of the office which God has committed to us and which we bear, we have not ceased to apply our diligence to the end that the false and misleading doctrines which have been introduced into our lands and territories and which are insinuating themselves increasingly into them might be checked and that our subjects might be preserved from straying from the right course of divine truth which they had once acknowledged and confessed.
I have read quite a few articles lately sharing opinions about how it is that Donald Trump became the President of the United States.  Several of those articles claim to take us back to the beginning.  They don’t.  To go back to the beginning, we need to begin with Truth.  I have sort of been studying, in the sense of trying to understand and come to grips with, the implications of Postmodernism since it first smacked me in the face on the campus of a Lutheran University in the Sociology Department in 1975.  I began reading the works of C. S. Lewis at almost exactly that same time.   In C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, he began from the trend he was seeing already in WWII 40s.  He began by addressing the concept, the philosophy, of relative truth.  He began his lectures (which became the book) by addressing the fallacy that there is no such thing as objective truth.  (Anyone with philosophical training recognizes immediately that the statement that there is no such thing as objective truth, is itself a truth statement claiming objectivity.  It is self-refuting.  Yet the snow ball got ever bigger as it rolled down hill.)  Later, in The Abolition of Man, he took it further, taking on the concept directly as it spread across academia in England.  Lewis predicted the end of culture as we know it if the trend went unchecked.  Finally, in his Epilogue to The Screwtape Letters, “Screwtape Offers a Toast”, he applied this trend to politics (false understandings of democracy) and education, through the lecture of a Lieutenant in the Infernal Organization of Hell.  For those who want the end at the beginning: Truth Matters.
The progression goes something like this.  What I believe is true, is true, because I believe it.  If you do not believe it, then it is true for me, but not true to you.  What you believe is true, is true for you.  Most of you already see how we got to where we are.  Younger generations are beginning to see: If everything is equally true, then everything is equally meaningless.  What C. S. Lewis predicted in Abolition, is that truth, so defined, cannot stand against propaganda, rhetoric, manipulation.  The better the manipulation, the better the control. 
Five Iron Frenzy wrote at the turn of the Century: “truth has been abused.”  Switchfoot wrote well before the Facebook craze of “fake news”, “We’re Selling the News.”  The bridge of Switchfoot’s powerful song is particularly enlightening: When nothing is sacred, there’s nothing to lose.  When nothing is sacred, all is consumed.  We’re still on the air, it must be the truth.  We’re selling the news.
The sad irony is that the postmodern mindset was promoted by what is generally understood to be liberalism.  (It goes by many different names now.)  It was open and tolerant.  It never judged between true and false, right and wrong.  UnChristian found that the new favorite Bible verse among young adults was Jesus’ statement, “Judge not.”  (Totally taken out of context, of course.) Even George Lucas pointed the way in “Return of the Jedi”.  “What I told you was true, from a certain point of view.”  But what C. S. Lewis warned was that no one could predict who would be the best at manipulation; who would be the best at rhetoric.  But someone would be.  Eviscerated truth, thus weakened, could not stand.
Can you see how pointless “fact-checking” is in such a system, such a culture?  It’s true because I believe it.  And if social media is actually flooded with “fake news”, who is equipped so sift?  The issue is Truth.

C. S. Lewis, in his conclusion, saw hope in the possibility of a redeemed Science that would reach the mature conclusion, “Because something can be done, does not mean that it ought to be done.”  But that assumes that “ought” and “ought not” have meaning.  Perhaps our hope is in young adults who have recognized that if everything is equally true, then everything is equally meaningless?  I want to give credit to Dale Beran for his article, 4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump.  He takes us back to the beginning of 4chan and the young adult males who began it.  They responded in desperate nihilism, or anarchy.   My point in this post is that it goes WAY back before that.  But what if instead, young adults began to question whether there is in fact something that is “really true” and thus, “really false” as well.  What if the search for that which is objectively and universally true became a “thing”?

I close with two Bible references.  For St. John, Truth began as a Person.  Jesus is referred to as such in his Gospel account.  But over time, as false teachings entered The Church, truth came to be understood also as true teaching, true doctrine.  In St. John’s first letter he used the words truth or true eleven times!  His second and third letters are quite short - only one chapter each.  Yet in these two chapters he mentioned truth six times and true teaching two more!
John 17: 17-19: (Jesus prayed) 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

Truth matters.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Updating "About Me"
I have recently gone back over my blog posts.
As I have mentioned, the blog is not active anymore because my purpose was to promote "Mere Christianity" (C. S. Lewis) through The Confessions, and not focus on what makes Lutheranism distinct from other Christian denominations.
I went back to my "About Me" first post, and decided to post a short blurb announcing that as of January of 2015 I have been serving Eleva Lutheran Church, in Eleva Wisconsin, part of the Northwest Synod of the ELCA.  I was introduced to Eleva by a colleague in ministry who grew up in the congregation when his father was pastor here.  I am grateful that many have continued to come to my blog post as a reference on Christian issues I covered over the year and a half that I was actively posting on The Lutheran Confessions.