Monday, February 28, 2011

Let the "Flattergeister" go, someone told me, but...

I commented here.

Our precious CBC radio programming (and I am a fan) presented us with this lovely thing on Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Wasting Time?

I spent too much time today commenting at the Globe and Mail regarding the Pope's statement on doctors counseling for life not abortion.

The overwhelming critique of, not to say hatred toward, the Pope and the RC church still has me somewhat incredulously stunned.  It becomes hard to promote pro-life views in this climate.  The hushed up pedophilia, the top-down structure, the impossibility for change, and things we as Lutherans would criticize in addition combine to quite a flood of bitter complaints and angry taunts. 

(picture stolen from Steve's Old Adam blog)

I am "simul" and commented in about four different places.  I got a ton of thumbs down's.   Somehow, it strikes me as ridiculous in the end.  I feel very sorry for the victims of the paedophilia and other abuses.  It is hard for them to trust anyone, including God, and what a sad situation.

I  wasted my time, possibily, on trying to get a spell checker for Window's Explorer, downloading an add-on which seems to do nothing.  Maybe it will kick in somehow still or may I'll read some instructions, or something.  Meanwhile forgive all the mistakes.

Oh, well.  God bless everyone's Sunday.

A little Brecht for the Weekend

We have made it to page 284, where I underlined this regarding the call to be a pastor.

In view of the unregulated way in which enthusiasts were forcing their way into congregations, Luther was already convinced in the fall of 1524 that ordination to the ministerial office was necessary.  For himself, as before, his ordination to the priesthood had this significance.  But he had to convince the congregation that ordination was not a sacrament that set the minister apart from the priesthood of all believers, but a human election and commission to the church's service.  It was not only the congregation, but the minister as well, who had to be convinced of his great task, one which could bring him to despair.  For Luther such Anfechtung was part of a pastor's existence.  When Spalatin wanted to resign his Altenburg pastorate in 1528 because he felt unqualified, Luther interpreted these misgivings as evidence of a divine call;  in contrast, he was suspicious of a minister who felt confident.
Whereas everywhere else Luther seems to want consciences to be sure not only in their forgiveness and salvation in Christ but also in that what they were doing was the right thing, here the minister needs to live with a certain dissonance.  Part of being a theologian, and this would apply to the rest of us, too, was to suffer Anfechtung.  But especially the pastor charged with the most holy office and care of souls would have to suffer doubts about himself, his ability and his work, since it is too high and difficult to perform always correctly.  And to him also, or even more so, the battle is given against sin, death and devil.  As always, he needs to rely on God, on his mercy and on an external call (for the sake of his conscience).

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Curried Chicken Soup--Winter Comfort Food

As per request:
(sorry the ends of the lines are not correct in the printing)
1/4 cup butter
2 onions, chopped
1 small turnip, cut into small dice
(I use a large yam and cut it into not
so small pieces)
2 carrots, sliced
1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped
2 tablespoons mild curry powder
5 cups chicken stock
juice of 1/2 lemon
6 oz/175 g cold cooked chicken cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra to garnish
( I never put this in because I don't like cilantro and never have any)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup cooked rice, to serve

Note from me:  this is soup, so you really can alter it how you
like. Mostly I leave out the lemon juice because I have no lemons. I use yam
instead of turnip because of availability. The butter and the onions to start
with, I do consider essential for most soups.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the onions, and sauté
gently, until soft but not brown.

Add the turnip, (yam), carrots, and apple and continue to cook for an
additional 3-4 minutes.

Stir in the curry powder until the vegetables are well coated, then pour in
the stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes. Season well
with salt and pepper to taste and add the lemon juice.

Transfer the soup to a food processor or blender. Process until smooth and
return to the rinsed-out saucepan. Add the chicken and cilantro to the saucepan
and heat through.
Place a spoonful of rice in each serving bowl and pour the soup over the
top. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Something else about Erasmus, Luther and a Roman Catholic Assessment

James has an excellent excerpt here from a Roman Catholic source explaining how Erasmus was wrong in his argumentation and definitions regarding the so-called "free will".

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


We are still reading and quoting from from Martin Brecht's book:  Luther, Shaping and Defining the Reformation.

From pages 236 to 238 one finds a section on Erasmus' "Hyperaspistes" written in response to the Bondage of the Will.

"In September 1527 the second part of Hyperaspistes appeared, continuing the exegetical controversy with Luther, and it was a lengthy ponderous, and dry work. Most of the Bible passages had already been dealt with in the Diatribe and Erasmus now deliberately buttressed his position even more strongly with references to the church fathers. He particularly attacked Luther's allegedly exaggerated position--derived from Paul--that the law brings only the knowledge of sin and thus is not really intended to be fulfilled. While Luther had decided in favor of the Pauline position, Erasmus had smoothed out the controversial points in the biblical tradition with his combination of grace and free will. Because of their different methods, as well as their different anthropologies, there could be no agreement here. Erasmus just did not understand that Luther based his certainty of salvation on God alone and not on his own abilities. In the lengthy concluding restatement of his position, he joined with the preponderance of the ecclesiastical tradition, although he was not fully able to integrate Augustine. He accepted his closeness to Pelagius. Unlike Luther, he did not make his position normative, but submitted it to the judgment of the church.

Erasmus's intensive occupation with Luther had required a great deal of effort. He expected that his book would set off the Lutherans, and therefore he asked duke George of Saxony for protection. However, George was unimpressed by the heavy-handed methods of Erasmus and expressed his opinion that he was baked "from the same meal" as Luther. At the beginning of October, Melanchthon, after reading part of it, characterized Hyperaspistes as a long and confused disputation which not many would understand. ... Justus Jonas, who was still sympathizing with Erasmus, finally changed his mind about him after reading Hyperaspistes.... Erasmus's continuing opposition was not occasioned by the subject, but was simply an end in itself. It is clear from a letter of May 1529 that Luther was unwilling to participate in any further discussion with Erasmus unless Erasmus were to take up some significant themes, although he had no definite plans to do so. There were deep personal reasons for this. For him, Erasmus was a totally frivolous man who utterly sneered at religion, and that was how he had depicted him in De Servo Arbitrio. This was a verdict that was not objectively justified, as long as one understood religion as something other than man's total dependence on God. Whenever Luther and Erasmus are mentioned, one generally thinks only of their controversy over free will. However, when Erasmus in his fashion again attempted to mediated between the religious parties, another controversy erupted in 1534, one that, on Luther's side at least, did not take a back seat in vehemence when compared with the earlier one."

There are a few things that come to me from this, in random order:

1.  Erasmus, though famed for his lovely style, or so Luther perhaps overly humbly confesses regarding him-- could write some very nasty satire (banned by the Catholics), the weak-kneed Diatribe, and apparently this nasty, unreadable piece, the "Hyperaspistes".   He should obviously be thanked for the Greek New Testament that served all the translator so well.  I am also guessing that his mediating position was at times helpful and preserved Luther from some harm, advancing the Reformation.  (Yet, by his vacillating he became a stumbling block.)

From this, however, I get not a little mad at those who keep harping on Luther for his vehemece of speech.  He was not always right and he would admit that he was often too vehement.  But this is of no interest whatsoever.  We need to know what is being said, not how it's being said.  And let us here note!!!  Erasmus, too, had a nasty mouth and pen, and when we look at Thomas More, we find the same thing.  The only ones really offended seemed to be the Dukes of Saxony, and now all those who do not want to be saved by faith alone.

2. "He particularly attacked Luther's allegedly exaggerated position--derived from Paul--that the law brings only the knowledge of sin and thus is not really intended to be fulfilled." 

We talk very often about Christ being the end of the law and so he is, and then Christ says he has come to uphold the law and we also know that we should live upright lives.  So how does that fit together? 

Luther is pretty clear about the law.  The ceremonial law and the laws for the national order are over with.  Even the 10 commandments per se are done with, except that they are from God a nice summary of the natural law, which we are indeed indebted to follow.  Hence we teach the Ten Commandments to the children. And we also, and Luther includes himself, though a Dr. of Theology, need to exercise ourselves in the commandments, not least because if we do not follow God's moral law we will inevitably establish laws of our own.  These human made laws end up serving to establish our own "holiness" toward God and man;  --which will never do.  We naturally are inclined to want to keep silly man made rules which we can keep, rather than God' moral law which we can't keep. 

Still, having tasted God's goodness and mercy, desiring to please our gracious God in our living, we come back to his commandments daily.  If they were not meant to be fulfilled, then forgiveness of sins makes no sense either.  This is where the antinomian controversy comes in.  See also how the Book of Concord deals with this.  We often have debates over the supposed "third use" of the law, but essentially the moral law is meant to be kept otherwise sin and redemption, repentance... make no sense.  But even as a redeemed Christian I cannot keep the law anywhere near perfectly as required and I have nothing whatsoever to boast about.  Mea culpa.  Mea maxima culpa.

3.  "...he was not fully able to integrate Augustine. He accepted his closeness to Pelagius. Unlike Luther, he did not make his position normative, but submitted it to the judgment of the church."

--He cannot integrate  Augustine and accepts his closeness to Pelagius and does not make it normative and submits to the judgment of the church. ???  (Emotional reaction).  What kind of hogwash is this.  Has not the church condemned Pelagius?  He is going to waste so much paper and make nothing "normative"?  He is going to be so boring and offensive and evasive all at the same time, that he is losing his sympathisizers and YET not have "normative" position?  We know Luther prayed for him. This is what he meant that Erasmus "sneers" at religion;  he is just playing with the subject.

But we constantly hear that it's Luther who writes such intolerable things.  Yet, he is still read today for content, honesty and style, not to mention comfort, hope and faith in God.  Erasmus--I don't know who reads him.  Salvation is either from God, or if it is from God and me, then I have to rely on myself.  We know and assert that it comes entirely from God.

Bloodlands: Europe between Stalin and Hitler.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the CBC, gets a lot of criticism for being liberal and so on.  However, I find many of their documentaries, interviews and lectures very enlightening, even if I don't always agree.  Someone might try listening to something on the evening program "Ideas".

(I know only one other person who listens to CBC radio.)
The link below is for an interview with the author of a new book about the second world war titled:  "Bloodlands:  Europe between Hitler and Stalin."  I haven't read it but put it on my Amazon wishlist.

Here is the interview:

Here is the book.  It already has 49 superlative reviews, it seems.

Paul Gerhardt: "Du bist zwar mein und bleibest mein." In English translation.

Here is a link to the version I provided myself.  Today, fixed it up a bit since someone would like to include it in a newsletter for deaconesses.

In comparison, one may read the translation by Catherine Winkworth, posted to Pastor Stuckwisch's blog, which is the much more beautiful version, in my opinion.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Luther on Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon/Brecht

In the Brecht, "Luther, Shaping and Defining the Reformation", we have now landed on page 259.  It's taking time but there is lots to read and ponder.

This quote regarding Luther's commentaries on Ecclesiates and Song of Solomon interested me today. From pages 247 to 250.

From 30 July until 7 November 1526, Luther lectured on Ecclesiastes.  Because of linguistic problems the task proved to be so difficult that he almost lost interest and patience.  Therefore he interrupted his lecturing between 5 September and 25 September.  To that point Luther had had no commentaries on Ecclesiastes he could use.  Presumably it was because of this that he had selected this particular book fo the Bible.  According to Ecclesiastes, existing circumstances had to be accepted in and despite their "nothingness."  But this was not to be understood in the previous sense of a monastic despising of the goodness of creation in itself, but as a criticism of the way human beings dealt with it.  Thus Luther, for example, expressly approved of research into nature.  It was fear and dissatisfaction that made the world empty and void.  Ecclesiastes' theme was the false and senseless efforts of men.  Luther was thus able to understand this book of the Bible as instruction for political life.  Here he was not looking at specific individual rules--they came from human common sense--but at continuing distressing circumstances.  Ecclesiastes taught a liberating acceptance in the world, analogous to the freedom of conscience that the gospel brings.  Such acceptance did not keep one from taking action in education or polictics;  however, one should trust in God while attempting it.  Thus the two sidetracks of presumptuousness and despair might be avoided and what was right could be done.  This expressly contradicted the misunderstanding--one that frequently arises--that there was a moral quietism among the evangelicals.

...  Luther rejected the current interpretation of the Song of Solomon as a love song or as an allegory of the relationship between Christ and the church.  He understood it, analogously to Ecclesiastes, as a hymn of praise and thanksgiving over politics, which could be pursued properly and peacefully only in connection with God.  As unique and interesting as the idea may have been of a prince who ruled in accord with God, as one did in Electoral Saxony, it was mistaken;  the text, which Luther characterized as courtly language, did not permit this incorrect interpretation.  Love and political affairs were not the same thing at all.  It is unfortunate that Luther the exegete did not want to accept the erotic sense of the Song of Solomon.  At any rate, however, he was not entirely confident of his own interpretation.  At the conclusion of the work, which was not printed until 1539, he mentioned the possibility of error, and he hoped that people would have patience with his efforts, for the commentaries of others appeared far more unsatisfactory to him.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Final Judgment, Elert

p. 47-49  (Italics and bolding are mine.)

The question of how a person's judgment "according to works" is to be reconciled with the evangelical doctrine of justifiacation by faith can be discussed only from this point of view.  This question has occupied many simple and also many learned Christians.  Justification is acquittal by God, and this fact is accepted by faith.  This acquittal remits all sin.  It sanctifies;  it removes the conflict between God and us.  If we are justified, we are justified completely and not merely in one segment of our life.  And how could it be different in the last Judgment, since also this judgment is executed by "God in Christ"?  However, numerous statements in the New Testament seem to contradict that.  Jesus Himself stated that the final Judgment will be decreed in accord with one's words and works, that He Himself will separate mankind on the basis of the performance or nonperformance of good works.  In line with that, also the First Letter of John assigns eternal significance to doing the will of God and to the committing of sin.  Indeed, also St. Paul, the great teacherof the doctrine of justification, speaks of a judgment that depends on works, both in a good and in a bad sense...  Does all of this have merely a dialectical--in this instance, rhetorical--meaning, as Albrecht Ritschl opined?  Are these "Jewish remnants" which cannot be reconciled with the "Christian concept of God"?  Or conversely, does not the evangelical doctrine of justification founder on this fact, as the Romanists maintain?

This seeming contradiction stems from an incorrect conception of justification.  It fails to realize that justification, understood forensically in the sense of the New Testament, is a real judgment of God.  By it justice is meted out to each individual.  It really treats every personas a sinner.  It compels him to stand mutely before the Judge.  His sin is unsparingly uncovered.  His sin is not ignored, but it is remitted.  It is not the sin that is justified but the sinner, that is, when he is ready to submit completely to the judgment of God.  The sinner is declared righteous;  but sin is never declared to be righteousness.  For that very reason we must formulate differently the question of how judment "according to works" relates to justification by faith.  It must read:  Why should justification be different in the last Judgment?  For here "the secrets of men," "the things now hidden in darkness," "the purposes of the heart" are disclosed (Rom. 2:16; 1 Cor. 4:5).  The difference between this and the judicial act of justification, which is passed on us during our earthly life, consists only in the fact that now there is absolutely no longer any  escape from the final disclosure of all secrets, and that we can no longer decide whether or not we want to declare ourselves guilty.

This final and complete disclosure of sin is punishment.  It brings home to man his lifelong opposition to God and thus also his remoteness from God and from the life of God.  What other punishment could we imagine to equal this?  The seriousness of this judment inheres in the fact that it is God's judgment, that it reveals the true relationship of man to his Judge, and that it at the same time executes this judgment.  Just as sin is not an objective defect but personal opposition to God, thus the penalty too is not an objective misfortune but the painful experience of personal remoteness from Him.  Together with the discolsure of all sin, this remoteness too becomes an element in the judgment.  It is in keeping with these terms that every person receives his measure of punishment.

Self-evidently something corresponding to this applies also to the works which "are done in God."  These are the works which Christ's disciples perform, works which also Christ perfoms as He fulfills the will of the Father, indeed works which the Father dwelling in Christ Himself performs (John 14:10).  The disciples deal with each other as Chrsit deals with them (John 13:15).  These are the works of love.  By these works, by this proof of love, Christ's disciples shall be known to all men (John 13:35).  This thought, which finds a number of parallels also in Paul's writings, in reality expresses nothing other than Christ's announcement in the Gospel of Matthew, namely, that He will separate mankind at the end of time on the basis of the performance or the non-performance of works of love (25:31 ff.).  This pericope in Matthew can be isolated just as little as can the corresponding passages in the Fourth Gospel that we have considererd.  Further, the Gospel of Matthew is aware that the personal decision of man for or against Christ constitutes the criterion for the final separation (10:32).  The judgment pericope warns against an eudaemonic, happiness-producing morality whose purpose is to bring pleasure to the doer.  Works of genuine love are performed exclusively for the sake of others.  Paul declares that love does not seek its own.  It would destroy itself if it were to perform good works for the purpose of its own bliss.  Genuine love can thrive only when man breaks out of his self-centered position in life.  Love is the criterion of the transformed life, and thus it is the proof that God abides in us and we in Him (1. John 4:13).  It bears its own reward because it springs from the fact that "He first loved us."  Also in the last Judgment it can find no greater reward than is there revealed and put on record forever.

But neither the preserved records of sins and of good works nor the corresponding punishment or reward executed on them can form the basis for the final separation of all men.  This results, as already stated, from a judicial sentence which is a divine act of absolute freedom, as all acts of God are.  It is inconceivable that God might act under the constraint of deeds performed by man  in one way or another during his earthly life.  On the other hand, God's freedom is never tyrannical arbitrariness either.  In the side of His personality, (or being), turned toward us, His free act manifests iself by the fact that He can pardon us despite His wrath over sin.  He gives expression to this freedom inasmuch as the judgment takes place "before the judgment seat of Christ."

We can conceive of that only as we conceive of justification.  Man is summoned before God's judment;  there he stands mute.  All he can do is to listen.  The decisive question during his earthly life is whether he listens or whether he closes his ears.  Readiness to listen is readiness to die--readiness to hear the condemning sentence.  We cannot face the last Judgment with a different attitude.
However, this attitude alone does not yet constitute our justification.  If we are justified "by faith," we are not justified because of the subjective attitude of faith but because of the objective content of faith, that is, because this faith is faith in Christ.  The fact that we must appear before the judgment seat of Christ in the last Judgment tells us that the final decision rests with Him who is the content of our faith--with the Christ in whom we believe--because He is our righteousness.  But it also tells us that the final decision rests with Him who cannot pardon him who refuses to lend an ear to His Word.  But in the last Judgment even the most obstinate ear will be opened, not to give man a chance to reconsider his decision but to shut the door to that possibility forever.


Commentary in German.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

While I was gone...

While I was gone a 19 year old male from the sister congregation died in a car accident.

This leads me back to the Elert on "Last Things" of recent reading.
To be sure, there is a death which we regard as premature.  The literatures of all nations are replete with lamentations over death in life's springtime.  Indeed, death often enough plays the role of the despoiler.  It shatters what was still incomplete.  It thwarts life's last great undertaking.  Like a mischievous young lad it wantonly decapitates the sunflower and keeps its seed from ripening.  However, we must ask whether this universal lament really understands--or purports to understand--death's meaning for the dead person himself.  Death which prematurely creates a gap in the family circle entails pain for the survivors.  A child's death is most painful for its mother, not for the child itself.  To speak plainly on the physical side, the stench of decomposition is nauseous not for the dead but for the living.  Particularly the Christian, who seeks to view death from the perspective of God, will hesitate to cite God's judgment in support of man's opinion about death's untimeliness.

For the Christian, physical death relates only partly to the question of God's providence, which is posed to him by his entire life.  But this question also places us inescapably into the antithesis of law and gospel.  the Law attests the judgment of god.  It reveals that our entire life is "judged" in a twofold sense:  It is subject to the erdict of God's judgment, and it pursues an irreversible course toward death.  Under the Law, death has teleological significance for all of our earthly life.  The earthly way is a way to death.  whatever it may be that constitutes life itself, it cannot prevent death, and it is simultaneously a disintegration of life because it consumes the time of life which is delimited in advance by death.  Under the Law the earthly way is the way of death and nothing else.  The apostle's statement that the law of God is inscribed also into the hearts of the heathen is confirmed by nothing so much as by the wisdom of the Greeks, which declares that the happiest man is he who was never born.  Since he does not live, he also need not die.  To live means to have to die.

But all of this is not the evangelical faith.  Faith derived from the Gospel is faith against the Law, against appearances, against the God of wrath and of judgment, because it is faith in God's freedom in the God of life, in the God who keeps His promises.  This faith breaks every earthly hold and casts itself unreservedly into the arms of God.  Faith can exempt nothing from this surrender to God, neither the biological nor the ethical content of its earthly existence.  Nor can it differentiate here between temporal and eternal life.  Nor can it exempt from it the necessity to die a physical death.  If I believe that God has created me, that He preserves my earthly life "out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, " as the catechism states, how could I then believe that this fatherly, divine goodness and mercy suddenly ceases to operate when He lets me die?  If physical death signified God's judgment to faith, it would also be His judgment on faith.  If the apostle had conceived of it thus, how then could he have a veritable desire "to depart" (analysai, Phil. 1:23)?  No, physical death has lost its terrors for faith.  Faith receives death from the hands of a merciful God exacly as it receives life.  As has been said, "Death has become my sleep." pp. 14,15.

I have not written here about the pain, and I don't think I ever will.   The gap is not just in the family circle either.  This pain and this helplessness over and against such death calls forth a huge response, either deep anger or faith. 

The pain continues, even if it may abate.  Again and again, faith is needed, faith to the very end.

I sometimes "cite God's judgment in support of man's opinion about death's untimeliness."  But this is completely beyond our knowing.  I will worry about myself, and today, and my own repentance and faith.

"Yet, in my flesh, I will see God."

P.S.  In looking at the Google images on burial of a child, one finds that most of them are of non-caucasians.  This denies the reality of death of children in the developed world, even at peace.   We lose multitudes to accidents, drug overdoses, suicide and abortion.  There are many, many mothers out there.  There is death and there is pain--even in suburbia.  Life is never so neat, that it is not lived at the edge of death.  We just often think that it is not.

Back from a lovely trip to California

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Conference Talks

I've never heard of this conference before, but want to listen to the talks.

The North Texas Free Conference is held every year at Faith Lutheran Church in Plano, Texas. The conference addresses theological issues of the day from a biblical and confessional viewpoint. Many pastors and laymen from across Texas and beyond attend each year. The following recordings and videos are for the edification of the church at large and for the sake of the Gospel.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"the line of battle passes directly through the hearts of the believers"

From Werner Elert "Last Things", which I discovered among our books. (CPH 1974).  It must have belonged to my father-in-law.

I've been pondering this section, see below,  from p. 44 and 45, chapter 7 "The Last Judgment".

But the parousia of Jesus has a deeper and more decisive meaning for the last Judgment.  "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ"  (2 Cor. 5:10).  Why before the judgment seat of Christ?  Why not before the judgment seat of God?  First of all, we are here expressly reminded of the fact that the expectation of the last Judgment is an expectation of faith.  As all else that we preceive in faith finds its basis in "God in Christ,"  so does also the expectation of the last Judgment.  God without Christ is only the God of wrath whose judgment would be nothing but death and final destruction for us.  On the other hand, "God in Christ" confronts us with the call of the Gospel, with the Spirit's exhortation (paraclesis):  "Be ye reconciled to God."  It is this "God in Christ"  whose final judgment we are expecting, the God who established the Word of reconciliation in our midst, the God who offers us reconciliation through the Paraclete.  The expectation of our appearance before the judgment seat of Christ is but the eschatological conclusion of the judgmental mission which Christ fulfills for the entire cosmos since His incarnation.  The Gospel of John speaks of this Christ-effected judgment as both present and as in the future (12:31; 5:21ff).  Wherever we encounter the judgment of God in the sense of this Christ-induced crisis, it is preceded by the coming of Christ.  It was so during His earthly mission;  and it is so also during the entire course of history after Christ.  And so is also His last coming the presupposition of the last Judgment.

It is its finality which distinguishes the last Judgment from the permanent, ongoing judgment of post-Christian history.  After the final Judgment there is no more chance.  That is why unbelief is pursued by the Gospel invitation (paraclesis) to the very last moment in the hope that unbelief might recognize that the twelfth hour is approaching.  And on the other hand, faith is threatened by apostasy to the very last moment.  The last Judgment marks the end of every possibility to make pro and con decisions.  Judgment Day takes for granted that there is a Last Day, a day which terminates history as the conflict between belief and unbelief.  But since it is also preceded by Christ's parousia, it not only ends the possibility of decisions but it is also a separation of believers from unbelievers, and that separation is final.  The final appearance of the Son of Man silences the last doubt as to His person and His mission.  Now the Judge over all reveals Himself.  Up to that time mankind is urged to make a decision.  In the last Judgment He commands silence.  How it is He who now makes His decision.

The decision of the last Judgment involves, first of all, a final separation .  The historical struggle between belief and unbelief is not a conflict between clearly defined groups of men, or even between two tangible worldly societies.  Most generally, he line of battle passes directly through the hearts of the believers.  Therefore a well-known theologian is correct when he states that "the christian faith never leaves the fear of judgment totally behind it, but it can certainly rise above it."  That is not only a psychological fact;  that is something inherent in the essence of faith and hope.  Appearances run counter to both;  and death is the most obvious factor to oppose them.  This very faith, which learn to understand death from God's perspective, therefore always faces the haunting question of whether physical death (since it is also a condemnation) is not after all only the beginning of the final condemnation.  That is, of course, a temptation which faith fends off.  But it can fend it off only as it adheres to the promise which is contradicted by appearances.  Viewed in that light, the last Judgment is the fulfillment of God's promise, because it removes the contradiciton between faith and appearances.  In that way the final Judgment becomes a separation also for a Christian.  Now faith and temptation (Anfechtung), doubt and hope no longer exist side by side in the same person.  Only faith and hope--not their opposites--remain.

What is more, while the historical conflict between belief and unbelief is waged within an individual person, the final Judgment is a separation of persons.  In this respect it is an actual judgment and an actual last judgment.  It cannot be anticipated or analyzed in any way.  We do not know which predominates in us, the hours of faith or the years of doubt, for both often dwell side by side in the same heart.  We know that still less with regard to our future life here on earth, and least of all do we know if of others, no matter whether these are--as judged by appearances--fellow believers or advocates of unbelief.  To achieve final clarity in this matter requires a judicial verdict pronounced by Him to whom not only the totality of our earthly life is known but who also alone can judge what has become of everyone of us with regard to belief and unbelief. 

So much for today.  It strikes me the most that "the line of battle passes directly through the hearts of the believers".  I pause at the "decision" statements, but I read them as whatever the response is to that call of "be reconciled to God" (who offers you his pardon).

As someone has as her tagline:  "Lord I believe; help my unbelief!"

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Pope commands and Karlstadt forbids.

I was very wrong, when I said a lot of the stuff in Martin Brecht's Luther biography I knew already.

We are presently a little stuck in the time leading up to the Peasants War.  We got a thorough analysis and summary of various things written against Karlstadt including "Against the Heavenly Prophets", (which we read almost entire but a bit in skim-like fashion just several days ago). 

The business with Karlstadt is very important.  Luther put his foot down and some think very hard.  All the little details and what Karlstadt exactly taught are important to examine properly.  The echo of this departure still reverberates in the world. 

I liked this little summary of what Luther thought about it all:

(Or I would say:  The pope commands and Karlstadt forbids.)

Brecht says: 

"both of them bind the conscience.  In this regard they were cousins.  In contrast, Luther would follow a middle course and let ceremonies be free."
(p. 161, Martin Brecht, "Martin Luther;  Shaping and Defining the Reformation.")

Also for James, I read the Heidelberg Catechism and I want to finish reading the Formual of Concord.  I am going on a short trip which involves many airports.  Since the BOC is too big, I will just bring the Brecht.

Here is a picture of Karlstadt.  There do not seem to exist very many.

"The pope commands what is to be done (Gebot), Dr. Karlstadt what is not to be done (Verbot)".

Thursday, February 3, 2011


You can watch Egypt on Aljazeera here.

I do find myself praying about this quite a bit.  I hope that more freedom not less will result.

"Christians protecting Muslims during their prayers in Tahrir yesterday. Their turn to repay the favor after Muslims turned up to protect Coptic churches on their Christmas Mass after the Alexandria bombing. In the darkness, we find the meaning of light..."

Facebook Mobile Upload by Maryam Ishani

A little Brecht and "To the Princes"

Regarding Muentzer and the Allstedters, p. 152.  Advice to the princes regarding rising heretical and violent groups.

"He gave specific advice to the princes:  the preaching of the Allstedters should not be suppressed.  Sects are manifestation that accompanies the Word of God.  "Let the spirits collide and fight it out."  The truth will triumph.  That some will be led astray is something that must be expected.  The government should not take action.  Here the crucial limits of Lutehr's political theology were not violated.  Thus, To the Princes is an enduring statement that one must suffer divergent religious views.  Wherever they lead to violent acts, however, the princes must step in and expel from the country those holding such views.  The battle can never be anything but a spiritual one.  That was how Luther once again justified his own reformatory action.  Hearts must be won, and then churches and monasteries will fall by themselves, but the goal will never be attained by external force.  Luther would not accept the Old Testament examples of destroying idols, for that would ultimately lead to killing the godless.  On this point Luther had astutely sensed the consequences of Muentzer's theology of judgment.  Offenses could be overcome only by God's Word, and any use of force beyond this that induced the people to revolt had to be prevented by the princes.  Christians who possessed the Holy Spirit did not use their fists, but were prepared to suffer." 

So in spiritual matters there must be freedom.  The Word will do all the work.  No one shall be coerced or suppressed.  On the political front, however, those who foment unrest or incite revolt or commit violence, must be dealt with. Apparently the solution for getting rid of this unrest is "expulsion".  

This expulsion business is something to wonder about.  In Europe whole peoples were moved around, deported, brought back, etc. on mass, not only Jews.  My husband's grandparents were once deported from Poland to the far end of the Ukraine and then back again.  My father, of course, was a displaced person. 

In any case this document  "To the Princes" would all still be in prelude to the Peasants' War.

Busy with reading and other stuff

In the Brecht, we've got to page 150.  It's interesting but starting to feel a little bit like labor.  A good chunk I know about already and I'd rather read Luther's pamphlets than read about them, if you know what I mean. 

During the move I found a little book by Elert on "Last Things".  I've just about finished it.  I've only ever heard about Elert and not read any. Some seemed to blame him for an antinomian tendency in certain circles.  Others thought that was an outrageous thing to say.  I can't see any of that in this booklet.

At some point we want to critique the treatment of Luther in Volume 9 if the Christian History project;  probably this will happen after I finished my current stack of Luther biographies.  I did enjoy rereading the Kittelson and watching the movie again.

But today I am busy otherwise.  Have to get a move on.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

False Dichotomies: prayer from the heart vs. prayer from a book

In one of the sermons in the Lenten postil of 1523 Luther said:
"You will never pray well from a book.  You may certainly read it and learn how and what you should pray for, and it may kindle the desire in you.  But prayer must come freely from the heart, without any made-up or prescribed words, and it must itself form the words that are burning in the heart." 
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his booklet on Psalms has this introduction:
"'Lord, teach us ot pray!'  So spoke the disciples to Jesus.  In making this request, they confessed that they were not able to pray on their own, that they had to learn to pray.  The phrase 'learning to pray' sounds strange to us.  If the heart does not overflow and begin to pray by itself, we say, it will never 'learn' to pray.  But it is a dangerous error, surely very widespread among Christians, to think that the heart can pray by itself.  For then we confuse wishes, hopes, sighs, laments, rejoicings--all of which the heart can do by itself--with prayer.  And we confuse earth and heaven, man and God.  Prayer does not mean simply to pour out one's heart.  It means rather to find the way to God and to speak with him, whether the heart is full or empty.  No man can do that by himself.  For that he needs Jesus Christ.  The disciples want to pray, but they do not know how to do it.  That can be very painful, to want to speak with God and not to be able to, to have to be speechless before God, to discover that every call to him dies within itself, that heart and mouth speak an absurd language which God does not want ot hear.  In this need we seek out men who are able to help us, who know something about prayer.  If one among us who is able to pray would only take the other along in his prayer, if we could pray along with him, then we could be helped!  Certainly experienced Christians can help us in this way a great deal.  But they can do it only through him who must himself help them, and to whom they direct us if they are true treachers in prayer, namely through Jesus Christ."

Only superficially can we discern a discrepancy between these quotes. Jesus obviously indulged his disciples in giving them a prayer to pray.  He was not against prescribed words.  They have their place and Bonhoeffer does explain so well what it means to pray with someone God's own words, Christ's words.

Still, we can hide behind that practice.  We need to learn to pray from our own spirit, with Christ's.   This way we can care for our neighbor also, by praying with him or her in their times of need.  It would be very lazy of us, not to try to put these into our own words.  Someone else said:  "God only hears those prayers which have passed through our mind."  When we form our own words, it passes through our mind more, can be more authentic and more loving.

In the end, because of our tendency to neglect the first commandment, we neglect to pray either way.  This is the worst scenario.

I don't quite like when Evangelicals and such people are put down for their stammering:  "O Lord, I just want to thank you..." prayers.  Yes, "just" comes up a lot.  But these pleople have been neighbors to me with their prayers, however poorly formed. 

To speak badly of liturgy or a beautiful, pre-written prayer is just as foolish.  This prayer can carry us to unimagined depth, height, riches and gives us ground under our feet.

In any case we know that it is not about show or length or outward piety. 

God knows us.

"When you pray, don't ramble like heathens who think they'll be heard if they talk a lot.  Don't be like them.  Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:7-8)."

We should pray with few words but with deep, meaningful thoughts.  The fewer the words, the better the prayer.  The more words, the worse the prayer.  Few words and deep meaning are Christian.  Many words and little meaning are heathen.  That's why Christ says, "When you pray, don't ramble like the heathens who think they'll be heard if they talk a lot" .  Similarly he says to the Samatitan woman, "Those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth"  (John 4:24).  The Father looks for worshipers who pray this way.  To pray 'in spirit,' or to pray spiritually, is very differernt from a prayer that comes from our evil desires.  To pray 'in truth' is very different from a fake prayer.

For the showy prayer that comes from our evil desires is pointless mubling and babbling.  It shows no respect for God.  To those who are watching and listening, it looks like prayer.  It may be spoken with words but it isn't spoken in truth.  The spiritual and true prayer, however, comes from within.  It comes from the sighing and yearning of the depths of the heart.  Unspiritual prayer produces hypocrites and a false sense of security.  Spiritual prayer produces true believers and reverent children of God.

("Through Faith Alone, CPH, March 9)
(I'm reading the Giertz and am getting to know him, but I always fall back to Luther.)