Luther on God’s use of means

Communion

In our day, in the time of the New Testament, God has given us Baptism, the Sacrament of the Altar, and absolution to bring Christ very close to us, so that we can have Him not only in our heart but also on our tongue, so that we can feel Him, grasp Him, and touch Him. God did all this for the sake of those shameful spirits who seek God according to their own pleasure, with their reason and their own ideas and dreams. To make it possible for us to recognize Him, God presents Himself to us perceptively and clearly in signs. But we do not accept these; nor are we concerned about the divine Word, although Christ the Lord Himself says: “The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own authority, but the Father who dwells in Me does His works” (John 14:10); again: “He who hears you hears Me” (Luke 10:16); and again: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation; he who believes the Word of God and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:15–16). But we utterly disregard such words of the Gospel as well as absolution. Thus we perceive God not only with our hearts but also with our eyes and our hands, for He gives us a tangible and visible sign of Himself. At all times God has so governed His people that He could also be recognized visibly by them, lest they say: “If it were possible to find God, we would roam to the ends of the earth in search of Him.” If you had ears to hear, it would be needless to wander far in search of God. For He wants to come to you, plant Himself before your very eyes, press Himself into your hands, and say: “Just listen to Me and take hold of Me, give Me eye and ear; there you have Baptism and the Sacrament of the Altar. Open your mouth, let Me place My hand on your head. I give you this water which I sprinkle over your head.”

Martin Luther, LW 22:421

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the problem with Forde, Paulson, et al (link)

There is a fantastic post over at Ded Orthodox Zeppelin that should be mandatory reading for Lutherans (or our sympathizers) of any ilk. The discussion centers on man’s participation in sanctification…can’t you already hear the cries of “Pietist! Pietist!” before you even click the link?! Here’s a summary of the post:

For simplicity’s sake, I will say that justification deals with dead people. The spiritually dead cannot choose to obey God. An unregenerate man cannot regenerate himself, and what’s more, he doesn’t even want to: his will is enslaved to sin. He is passive, like a drowning-victim receiving CPR.

But in sanctification, we are not talking about dead people. We are talking about live people, converted people, born-again-through-Water-and-the-Word people. God has done something to us ontologically. He has given us hearts of flesh (cf. Ezek xxxvi, 26). To put it bluntly, we’re “saved.” Period. We cannot add to or augment our justification. To suggest otherwise is to affirm the cardinal heresy of Papism. No one here is doing that.

Because we are alive in sanctification, we are able to co-operate with the Holy Spirit. Because our wills have been freed, we are able to obey God’s commandments, which — to the New Man, at least — are not burdensome.

Go here to read the entire post. It’s lengthy but worth every minute spent on it.

(H/T @RevChuckHuckaby)

hey, Crossway, thanks for being awesome!

crosswayIt’s no secret that the HCSB is my favorite bible translation with respect to the its combination of translation equivalence with well-written English…with that in mind, however, I must admit to having a love affair with the ESV for over a decade now. It’s not that I absolutely love how it renders every verse into clear English–because sometimes it’s just plain difficult (though some of the worst passages have been markedly improved through the years). It’s not that it’s a sweeping update to the venerable and magnificent RSV–it’s a much-needed but rather minor one. It’s not even that I care about the ‘rock star’ endorsements it has garnered over the years–I had my first one pre-ordered in 2001 before anyone had ever really heard of the ESV and could care less about the endorsements (especially the neo-Calvinists, since I’m Lutheran [grin]).

So why do I love the ESV, use the it regularly, have multiple copies of multiple editions on my shelves,and suggest it to folks as a bible they should consider purchasing? Simple. Aside from being a solid translation in a field of good ones, Crossway is an awesome publisher. Seriously.

From before the first ESV was released, those involved in the project never hesitated to answer my emails and address my questions, concerns, etc. I was a lay-person then and a simple Air Force chaplain now–no one of consequence. Still they have always been responsive. Since then, Crossway has demonstrated an unparalleled loyalty to their clients–resulting in a myriad of incredible editions of the ESV that fill a lot of very specific niches even if they fail to sell zillions of copies each. Unlike any other bible publisher today, they have responded to requests for single-column bibles, heirloom quality bibles, Greek / Hebrew parallel bibles, the incredible Gospel Transformation Bible…you name it. And, in all honesty, I have most of these editions either in print or electronically. (The new Psalter that is coming out shortly looks absolutely gorgeous, in case you haven’t seen it, BTW.) You should go check out all they offer right here. These are very different page layouts taking tons of editorial time to create and produce, not merely a series of kitchy, bedazzled covers in all manner of cool colors slapped on a generic text block and cranked out as fast as possible to try to increase sales volumes.

I’ve contacted several other bible publishers through the years and asked about similar editions to those Crossway is putting out. The response has always been the same. Minimal marketability equals no support from corporate equals no luck. Nuts. I’ve always thought that was the wrong answer, and I still do. If Crossway (a non-profit) can routinely do it, you big boys can too. End of rant.

So anyway, all of this is to say simply this: Crossway, thanks for being awesome.

A loyal fan,

T.C.

P.S.–they didn’t give me any free stuff to write this, just in case you were wondering if I’m a sellout!

moral trauma in today’s combat operations

The Intensity of PTSD

Many are quick to label (informally) or diagnose (formally) military members struggling with the aftereffects of their service as suffering from PTSD. As a result, one of the major emphases of commanders (and consequently chaplains) is on resiliency. Resiliency, commonly understood, is the individual’s ability to ‘bounce back’ or ‘spring back’ after experiencing some traumatic experience. While resiliency is a logical approach to deal with PTSD, the current state of affairs with veteran suicides over the past several years at a sustained nearly-all-time-high leads me to believe that PTSD is not the entire problem and, therefore, resiliency training is not the complete solution.

We need to look beyond PTSD to find the real problem and right solution. My suggestion is that the root problem is not the psychological injury of traumatic stress but the moral injury suffered as a result of a never-before-seen level of lethality and efficiency in today’s combat operations. The feelings of guilt and horror suffered by today’s veterans are not primarily a reaction to traumatic stress but are the result of the primarily ethical and moral (over against psychological) problem of killing in combat. As a result of protective rules of engagement adopted to protect against IEDs, suicide bombers, etc. today’s fielded troops sometimes kill civilians who ‘broke the rules’ by approaching too closely, not yielding to shouted orders, or making gestures interpreted as threatening or hostile. Remotely piloted aircraft operators watch over potential targets from places of complete safety isolated from the combat zone, sometimes for days or weeks, before being given the order to shoot and kill an individual or group of people whose sole ‘problem’ was fitting a profile of behavior that our experts associate with terrorists.

Prior to our day, combat generally took place between uniformed armies in the field. Today’s military operations look nothing like those of the past. In a war where the enemy has no uniforms, every man, woman, and child is a potential enemy combatant and, hence, a potential target.

All too often, our soldiers come back physically wounded–sometimes beyond repair. At the same time, they often come back morally wounded–beyond the repair of PTSD-focused treatments and their amoral approach to traumatic stress.

Without exception, all our current combat operations fall outside of the bounds of what would historically be considered morally defensible according to the Just War tradition. While our citizenry seems uninformed about this reality and our politicians either live in a world of denial or vain self-interest, the reality of this moral judgement cannot and does not escape our warriors. Any combat, no matter how ‘just,’ will unavoidably result in at least some immoral actions. Today’s combat operations, however, are morally indefensible. And our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines–many of whom come to the military with deeply held religious convictions–cannot escape the resulting moral wounds.

Moral trauma requires moral treatment. Guilt without forgiveness continues to fester and hurt more and more over time. Left alone, time does not heal all wounds. The role of the chaplain today is more important than it has probably ever been. Healing from moral wounds comes not at the hands of a doctor, nor at the chair of the psychiatrist, but only through the words of absolution and pardon spoken by the chaplain in the name and in the stead of Christ Jesus.

(NOTE: This is a continuation of my thoughts from an earlier post.)

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prayer for Good Friday

INRI

And they crucified him…

– Mark 15.23a (ESV)

Almighty and everlasting God, You willed that Your Son should bear for us the pains of the cross, that You might remove from us the power of the adversary:  Help us to remember and give thanks for our Lord’s Passion that we may obtain remission of sin and redemption from everlasting death; through the sames, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Prayer for Good Friday by Veit Dietrich (friend of Martin Luther), Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary

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on the Lord’s Supper

Christ Institutes the Eucharist

When you wish to go to the Lord’s Supper listen to the words spoken, and be assured that they contain the whole treasure on which you are to stand and rely, for they are really spoken to you. My body is given, my blood is shed, Christ declares. Why? Just for you to eat and drink? No; but for the remission of sins. This is what strikes you; and everything else that is done and said has no other purpose than that your sins may be forgiven. But if it is to serve for the forgiveness of sins, it must be able also to overcome death. For where sin is gone, there death is gone, and hell besides; where these are gone, all sorrow is gone and all blessedness has come.

– Martin Luther

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a calm and quiet Lent

Ossessione

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.

(Ps 131, ESV)

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the most remarkable thing about Francis

The most remarkable thing about the Pope is that what he is doing should not be remarkable.  He is simply doing what Popes and Christians should do – care for the poor, critique inequity, interrupt injustice, surprise the world with grace, include the excluded and challenge the entitled.

– Shane Claiborne

Shane Claiborne strikes at the root of much of the clamor about Pope Francis (read the rest of his post here). Regardless of whether you agree with all of his theological positions (as a Lutheran, I honestly don’t), there is no looking past the fact that this Pope is almost daily engaging in exactly the sort of things Christ called us, as his followers, to engage in. It is a sad reflection on the state of Christianity that his actions are perceived as radical, remarkable, or anything other than ordinary. Woe to those of us on the right (vs left) side of the theological spectrum who spill much ink about all the things wrong with Pope Francis. We would do well, in Christian humility, to emulate the many things he is doing absolutely right.

on the power of Christ

El Ángel caido

It is plain that if Christ were powerless, He could not be expelling demons and despoiling idols, for the spirits would not have obeyed a powerless man. But if they are manifestly expelled by the naming of His name, it must be evident that He is not powerless. This especially true because spirits, seeing even what is unseen by men, could tell if Christ were powerless and refuse to obey Him at all. Now what unbelievers do not believe, the spirits see: namely, that He is God. Therefore, they fly and fall at His feet, saying just what they uttered when He was in body: ‘I know who You are—the Holy One of God’ (Luke 4:34), and, ‘What have You to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure You by God, do not torment me’ (Mark 5:7)

St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 32.4-5

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Luther on living by faith

Living solely by faith is a difficult way of life.

– Martin Luther