In Scranton, they had unusually exasperating patients. Scranton had been saved by a number of other evangelists before their arrival, and had become almost anesthetic. Ten nights they sweated over the audience without a single sinner coming forward, and Elmer had to go out and hire half a dozen convincing converts.
He found them in a mission near the river, and explained that by giving a good example to the slothful, they would be doing the work of God, and that if the example was good enough, he would give them five dollars apiece. The missioner himself came in during the conference and offered to get converted for ten, but he was so well known that Elmer had to give him the ten to stay away.
His gang of converts was very impressive, but thereafter no member of the evangelistic troupe was safe. The professional Christians besieged the tent night and day. They wanted to be saved again. When they were refused, they offered to produce new converts at five dollars apiece–three dollars apiece–fifty cents and a square meal. By this time enough authentic and free enthusiasts were appearing, and though they were fervent, they did not relish being saved in company with hoboes who smelled. When the half dozen cappers were thrown out, bodily, by Elmer and Art Nichols, they took to coming to the meetings and catcalling, so that for the rest of the series they had to be paid a dollar a night each to stay away.
Tags: Elmer Gantry, Steven Furtick
Tags: church and state, concealed carry, government, guns, love
That’s a lot of Cs.
Having recently obtained a permit to carry concealed, I often think about the consequences of actually having to draw a firearm and pull the trigger. For a Christian, what is legal (and the legality of firing a gun that will likely kill another person has nearly as many gray areas as there are possible dangerous situations) is not always right–and sometimes vice-versa. I suppose the following could be taken as an exercise in self-justification. Nevertheless, besides the legality of carrying concealed weapons (firearms, specifically)–which vary from place to place, and the law of the particular jurisdiction ought to be obeyed: can Christians in good conscience carry a firearm which, if it is used for protection, will possibly or even likely result in the death of another human being?
The lines of disagreement are probably set out in advance. I would guess that those who are opposed to the death penalty or to war (“just” or not), or who identify themselves as pacifists, are unlikely to grant the premises from which I am working, and so also the conclusions. These lines have been drawn since the Reformation (at least), and are summed up in Augsburg Confession XVI:
Of Civil Affairs they teach that lawful civil ordinances are good works of God, and that it is right for Christians to bear civil office, to sit as judges, to judge matters by the Imperial and other existing laws, to award just punishments, to engage in just wars, to serve as soldiers, to make legal contracts, to hold property, to make oath when required by the magistrates, to marry a wife, to be given in marriage.
So if you’re an Anabaptist or one of their heirs, you’re probably not going to grant the first premise about the good of secular government and its protective abilities, let alone the later premises of an individual’s love for his neighbor.
But the state of the facts for Christians is that we have, on the one hand, the command not to murder and, on the other, we have the principle that the government has been given the sword to defend citizens against evil and punish the evildoer (Romans 13:4, particularly). But Romans 13 is not an isolated treatise on the role of government; it belongs within the wider context of “love each other” (13:8), which begins in 12:1 and goes to, at least, 14:23. The love of God for people is exercised through the governing authorities; that is, God protects His creation and His creatures by means of the ruler(s) of a given nation. Obviously, a particular ruler may not rule according to God’s will, and may in fact be the agent of wrongdoing. Even so, the intention of God for government remains. The abuse does not nullify the use.
There is also no room for the individual to exercise revenge. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” God says (Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30).
The Gospel forbids private redress [in order that no one should interfere with the office of the magistrate], and Christ inculcates this so frequently with the design that the apostles should not think that they ought to seize the governments from those who held otherwise…Therefore private redress is prohibited not by advice, but by a command, Matt. 5:39; Rom. 12:19. Public redress, which is made through the office of the magistrate, is not advised against, but is commanded, and is a work of God, according to Paul, Rom. 13:1 sqq. Now the different kinds of public redress are legal decisions, capital punishment, wars, military service. It is manifest how incorrectly many writers have judged concerning these matters [some teachers have taught such pernicious errors that nearly all princes, lords, knights, servants regarded their proper estate as secular, ungodly, and damnable, etc. Nor can it be fully expressed in words what an unspeakable peril and damage has resulted from this to souls and consciences], because they were in the error that the Gospel is an external, new, and monastic form of government, and did not see that the Gospel brings eternal righteousness to hearts [teaches how a person is redeemed, before God and in his conscience, from sin, hell, and the devil], while it outwardly approves the civil state. [Apology of the Augsburg Confession XVI:59-60]
But defense of those under your care (according to your vocation) is not, in itself, vengeance. It could certainly become that (see Taken). Instead, self-defense, broadly construed as protection of your family (and perhaps, in particular circumstances, as defense of those who are being attacked in, let’s say, a movie theater or school), falls under the principle of love your neighbor. Your neighbor is whoever is in need of your help at a particular moment. If you are in a position to render aid to someone, you should do so.
Here is the reason why you should do this: In such a case you would be entering entirely into the service and work of others, which would be of advantage neither to yourself nor your property or honor, but only to your neighbor and to others. You would be doing it not with the purpose of avenging yourself or returning evil for evil, but for the good of your neighbor and for the maintenance of the safety and peace of others. For yourself, you would abide by the gospel and govern yourself according to Christ’s word [Matt. 5:39–40], gladly turning the other cheek and letting the cloak go with the coat when the matter concerned you and your cause.
In this way the two propositions are brought into harmony with one another: at one and the same time you satisfy God’s kingdom inwardly and the kingdom of the world outwardly. You suffer evil and injustice, and yet at the same time you punish evil and injustice; you do not resist evil, and yet at the same time, you do resist it. In the one case, you consider yourself and what is yours; in the other, you consider your neighbor and what is his. In what concerns you and yours, you govern yourself by the gospel and suffer injustice toward yourself as a true Christian; in what concerns the person or property of others, you govern yourself according to love and tolerate no injustice toward your neighbor. The gospel does not forbid this; in fact, in other places it actually commands it. [Luther, AE 45:95-96]
For myself as a Christian, for the sake of property, for the sake of money or anything else like that, I ought to be willing to let it go, and I see no way to use violent force to prevent the taking of those things. But I do not live only for myself; I am a husband and a father. I have a wife and children. I would be forsaking my God-given vocation if I allowed someone to come into my house and violate my family or if I allowed a person to accost my family on the street. In that case, it is necessary to choose which love and which neighbor I will honor. God forbid that it should come to this, but I will choose to defend those whom God has given to me, and not the one He has not given to me. Murder is murder, and fear of what might happen is not provocation enough to pull a trigger. But if it comes down to it, my particular vocation as husband and father demands that I love my wife and children as my closest “neighbors” and not fail to do what God has given me at that moment–not in order to murder someone else, but to defend my family.
This is just a beginning of thinking things through, not from the legal perspective but from the Christian perspective. Thoughtful comments welcome.
Tags: Christmas, Jesus, nativity, St. John Chrysostom
I see a strange and novel mystery: shepherds sound all around my ears, not piping a barren tune, but singing a heavenly hymn. Angels are singing, archangels are dancing, the cherubim are hymning, the seraphim are glorifying, all are celebrating, since they see God upon the earth, man in Heaven. [I see] the one who is on high lower because of His plan, the one who is below on high because of His love for humanity. Today Bethlehem resembled Heaven: in place of stars it received angels hymning, in place of the sun it contained the righteous One without confining [Him]. And do not ask how: for where God wills it, nature’s order is overcome. For He willed it, He had the power, He came down, He saved – all things follow upon God. Today, He who Is is born, and He who Ιs becomes what He was not. For being God, He becomes human, though He did not cease from being God. For He hasn’t become human by separating from His divinity, nor again has He become God by advancing from a human. But, being Word, because He could not suffer [as Word], He became flesh, His nature remaining unchanged. But when, on the one hand, He was born, Jews denied the strange birth, and Pharisees misinterpreted the divine Books, and scribes spoke what was in opposition to the Law. Herod sought the [child] who was born, not in order to honor Him, but to destroy Him. For today they saw [that] all things [were] opposed [to them]. For the psalmist says, “it was not hidden from their children for another generation.” For kings came, in astonishment at the heavenly King, for He had come upon the earth without angels, without archangels, without thrones, without dominions, without powers, without authorities, but walking a foreign and untrodden path, He came forth from an uncultivated womb, neither leaving His own angels deprived of His authority, nor having ceased from His own divinity in His incarnation with us. But kings came to worship the heavenly King of glory, while soldiers [came] to serve the commander-in-chief of power; women [came to see] the one who was born from a man, in order that He might change the woman’s grief into joy; the virgins [came to see] the child of the virgin, because the Creator of milk and breasts, who makes the fountains of breasts to produce naturally flowing streams, received a child’s nourishment from His virgin mother; the infant [came to see] the one who became an infant in order to furnish praise from the mouths of infants; the children [came to see] the child who produced witnesses because of Herod’s madness; the men [came to see] the one who was incarnated and healed the woes of slaves; the shepherds [came to see] the good shepherd, who lays down His life for the sheep; the priests [came to see] the one who became the high priest in the order of Melchizedek; the slaves [came to see] the one who took the form of a slave in order to honor our slavery with freedom; the fishers [came to see] the one who makes hunters of people from among fishers; the tax collectors [came to see] the one who appointed an evangelist from among the tax collectors; the prostitutes [came to see] the one who offers His feet to the tears of prostitutes; and, that I may speak but briefly, all sinners came to see the lamb of God who takes upon himself the sin of the world, Magi accompanying, shepherds praising, tax collectors speaking the good news, prostitutes bearing perfume, Samaritans thirsting for the fountain of life, the Canaanite woman with undoubting faith. [St. John Chrysostom, "2nd Homily on the Birthday of Our Savior, Jesus Christ", transl. Bryson Sewell]
See the rest here.
Merry and Blessed Christ-mass!
Tags: All Saints, Hermann Sasse, William Walsham How
Hermann Sasse on “Fathers of the Church”:
Patriarchs of sacred story
And the prophets there are found;
The apostles, too, in glory
On twelve seats are there enthroned
All the saints that have ascended
Age on age, through time extended,
There in blissful concert sing
Hallelujahs to their King.
Thus the old funeral hymn of our church speaks of the church of all the perfected in heaven (cf. Heb. 12:22-23). And this thought of the fathers of the church who have preceded us into heaven rings through the centuries down to Wilhelm Loehe’s hymn on the Sacrament, where it says of heaven: “There the angel host stands inflamed in Your light, and my fathers gaze upon Your sight.” All the saints from the beginning of the world who have died believing in the Redeemer, whether he was yet to come or had come in the flesh, all members of the people of God of all times to the present day–in this sense, all are fathers of the church. Whether Christians have found themselves in the loneliness of a Siberian prison camp or the isolation of the diaspora or suffering inner alienation within the great secularized “churches” of our century, it has become ever more the consolation of those who have suffered for the sake of the church and whom God has led on a “lonely path” to know that they are not alone in the one church of God. They who have been removed from every error and sin of the earthly church stand with us in the seamless fellowship of the body of Christ. No one can understand the “comforting and highly necessary” article of faith regarding the church, as the Apology calls it, who does not know that the fellowship of the church is a fellowship with the saints of all the millennia. There is not only a spatial but also a temporal catholicity of the church. The Lutheran confession speaks of this everywhere it confesses the faith and the doctrine of the church of the fathers, the faith of the apostolic church and the doctrinal decisions of the ancient councils. This consensus of the church not only binds together the living, but also the living generation with those who have believed and confessed before us. …
Bishops as such or pastors as such are not “fathers in Christ” unless they proclaim the pure Gospel. …
It is always a sign of a deep spiritual sickness when a church forgets its fathers. It may criticize them. It must measure their teaching by the Word of God and reject whatever errors they have made as fallible men. But it must not forget them. … It is always a certain sign of the decline of a church when it reviles the fathers and wants only to be a “young church.” And it is, according to Luther, a sign of the true church and the real fathers when they must bear the cross. …
We sincerely rejoice over every sign of a new awakening of Lutheran theology, where ever it may be… But there is one thing we long for from those who call themselves Lutheran. We demand that they take the confession of our church just as seriously as it was taken by the fathers at the time of the Reformation, and by the fathers of the nineteenth century. Where one departs from it, let it be demonstrated that it is not scriptural, that its interpretation of Scripture is false. We will be the first to give up whatever does not accord with the Word of God. But we cannot confess the church’s confession with our mouths and deny it with our deeds. We have learned this from the fathers of our church.
[Hermann Sasse, "Fathers of the Church," The Lonely Way, 2:223-236.]
Oh, blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blest.
But, lo, there breaks a yet more glorious day:
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of Glory passes on His Way. (LSB 677:4-7)
I think I’ll have the people at my funeral sing this hymn twice (and then Lord, Thee I Love With All My Heart twice). My favorite day in the Church calendar, after the Vigil of Easter, and this hymn has the clearest confession of the Resurrection of any in our hymnal. There are very few hymns that go beyond “paradise the blest” to the “yet more glorious day.” Whoever William How was, he had a better sense of the true hope of the Christian Faith than most American Christians today. For all the saints, and for all the fathers, thanks be to God.