Looks like Steven Furtick took a page out of Elmer Gantry’s playbook (and I can’t get over how much he looks like Boyd Crowder):

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.

Timotheos

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.

They condemn the Anabaptists who forbid these civil offices to Christians.

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. 5:39Rom. 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.

Timotheos 

Dear Friends: The Lord hath instituted His Holy Supper to be desired and received by His disciples. Therefore, also, the Church was formerly obedient to Him, and celebrated the Communion ever Lord’s day. Not only one or two individuals would then receive, but the whole congregation; even the sick always communed, the elements being carried from the altar to their homes. In our day, however, many of our members cannot be persuaded to come frequently to the Table of the Lord, nevertheless it should not often occur that the Communion is altogether omitted from the Morning Service; and much less should any refuse to come after the gracious invitation has been given, as has recently happened among us. The command of our Lord Jesus Christ: “This do, as oft as ye do it, in remembrance of me,” the heed of your souls while in this troublesome world, and the precious promise of the forgiveness of sins, should move all of us to desire this Bread and this Cup. But now we say, We are rich, and increased with goods, and we have need of nothing [Rev. 3:17]; therefore we do not receive what He offers, nor come when He invites. Hence it is not surprising that we are wretched, poor, blind and naked [Rev. 3:17], full of sin, burdened with an evil conscience, and without desire to do good. And the longer you delay, the worse your condition becomes, so that we must all exceedingly fear God’s wrath. I therefore exhort and beseech you, dearly beloved brethren, that you be more circumspect in the future, consider more earnestly the things that belong to your peace [Luke 19:42], and receive grace from the fullness of Christ. For He is rich toward all who seek Him, and those who come to His Table shall be satisfied with the abundance of His House. Nor ought any one to say that the frequent celebration serves to bring the Sacrament into contempt, for those who are rightly prepared will always hunger for this Bread and thirst for this Drink; and the more frequently they commune, the firmer becomes the persuasion that all of the earthly life is only a preparation for the celebration of the great Supper on high. “Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house, they shall still be praising Thee; Selah [Psalm 84:4].” God be merciful to you, and supplant your lukewarmness with heavenly earnestness. Amen.

Exhortation to the Sacrament, to be given especially on Sundays when the Lord’s Supper is not received, or when Communion had been announced the previous Sunday and none or very few come to receive it.  From Wilhelm Loehe’s “Liturgy for Lutheran Congregations.”

Timotheos

“[The itinerant (e.g., Methodist) preacher] uses the holy Supper as bait, as a means of luring the people into the net of his fanaticism and sectarianism. But do not many so-called ‘Lutheran’ preachers follow a similar practice! We have sadly experienced that not a few of the preachers who call themselves Lutherans, when they have prepared the holy table for the Sacrament, invite to this means of grace anyone who wants to come and admit them without any examination of their faith and life (in the opinion that this is truly evangelical). It is to be feared that many act this way for impure reasons, to be considered really ‘nice, broad-minded’ men and to be praised… There is hardly anything in all pastoral care [lit. “care of souls”] that gives a faithful minister of the church more trouble than if he wants to act conscientiously in admitting people to the holy Supper. If an orthodox Lutheran pastor takes over a new congregation and wants to admit no member to the Lord’s Table until he has spoken to each individual and learned from his mouth that he knows what the holy Supper is; that he acknowledges that he is a miserable sinner; that he in his heart believes in God’s Word; that he desires grace and the forgiveness of sins in Christ’s Blood; also that he earnestly intends to follow Christ in a holy life, unspotted by the world, and the like; what harsh resistance he usually meets right away! How many enemies he usually makes right away! How seldom it proceeds without divisions arising! How often he sees himself required to travel on right away and to hear it said that he wanted to lord it over the congregation” (Walther, Pastoral Theology, transl. John M. Drickamer [New Haven, Missouri: Lutheran News, Inc., 1995]), 108.

“Christendom should remain united, should have the same faith and doctrine. To assure this unity among Christians, these must not only congregate for the preaching service—in which they hear the same Word, whereby they are called to the same faith and all together adhere to the same Head—but they must also congregate at one table and eat and drink with one another. It may well happen that someone who is listening to my sermon is nevertheless my enemy at heart. Therefore although also the Gospel holds Christians together, the Lord’s Supper does so still more. By attending it every Christian confesses publicly and for himself what he believes. There those who have a different faith part ways, and those meet who have the same faith, whose hope and heart toward the Lord are one.

“This is also the reason why the Sacrament has been called Communio in Latin, a communion. And those who do not want to be of the same faith, doctrine, and life, as other Christians are, are called excommunicatis, people who are dissimilar in doctrine, words, understanding, and life. Therefore these should not be tolerated in the group that has the same understanding; they would divide it and split it up. The Holy Sacrament, then, serves as a means whereby Christ holds His little flock together” (What Luther Says 812:2521).

“It terrifies me to hear that in one and the same church or at one and the same altar both parties are to find and to receive one and the same Sacrament and one party is to believe that it receives nothing but bread and wine, while the other is to believe that it receives the true body and blood of Christ. And I often wonder whether it is credible that preacher or shepherd of souls can be so hardened and malicious as to say nothing about this and to let both parties go on in this way, receive one and the same Sacrament, everyone according to his own faith, etc. If such a person exists, he must have a heart harder than any stone, steel or adamant; he must, in fact, be an apostle of wrath….Whoever, therefore, has such preachers or suspects them to be such, let him be warned against them as against the devil incarnate himself” (WLS 813:2522).

[The Christ whom Matthew proclaims] will make disciples of us; He will make of us the holy, Christian, apostolic church.  It will not be a very brilliant church perhaps.  Perhaps we shall not be a large church, this church created by the Christ of Matthew; perhaps not a very successful church, not so well integrated in our communities, not so well accepted as we once were.  Perhaps we shall even be a persecuted church again.

But we shall be church, real church, His church; and we shall live forever.  We shall rise from our graves and break through the gates of death when He shall come and cry once more, “Follow Me!”

(Martin Franzmann, Follow Me: Discipleship According to St. Matthew, 226)

Timotheos

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!

Timotheos

If the muscle can feel repugnance, there is still a false move
to be made;
If the mind can imagine to-morrow, there is still a defeat
to remember;

As long as the self can say “I”, it is impossible not to rebel;
As long as there is an accidental virtue, there is a necessary vice:
And the garden cannot exist, the miracle cannot occur.

For the garden is the only place there is, but you will not find it
Until you have looked for it everywhere and found nowhere that is
not a desert;
The miracle is the only thing that happens, but to you it will not
be apparent,
Until all events have been studied and nothing happens that you
cannot explain;
And life is the destiny you are bound to refuse until you have
consented to die.
Therefore, see without looking, hear without listening, breathe
without asking:
The Inevitable is what will seem to happen to you purely by chance;
The Real is what will strike you as really absurd;
Unless you are certain you are dreaming, it is certainly a dream
of your own;
Unless you exclaim–”There must be some mistake”–you must
be mistaken.

–W.H. Auden, “Advent, IV (Recitative),” For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013 [ed. Alan Jacobs]), 8-9

“Rejoice, daughter of Zion!  Behold, thy King cometh unto thee!”  Again we hear the glad Advent-message and read how the King of mercy and of truth, our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, fulfils the age-old prophecy with His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and how the rejoicing multitudes welcome HIm as their King with loud acclaim.  “Hosanna,” they cry, that is, “Save now, O Lord!  Send now prosperity!”  And the Lord God did send prosperity.  David’s Son, yet greater Lord, finishes victoriously His divine work of redemption and forever sets His captive and mourning people free from their cruel enemies–Satan, sin, and death.  Now at His saving name every knee must bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  We have also vowed allegiance to Him, our only King and Savior, in life, in death, through all eternity.  But, alas, we must all confess with deep contrition that we have been most neglectful in our homage ever so often.  We need pardon for our sin, more faith, more love, more hope, more devotion in His sacred service.  And now the glad Advent-message tells us that “He comes the broken heart to bind, The bleeding soul to cure, And with the treasures of His grace To enrich the humble poor.”  Should we not sing our glad hosannas to such a faithful and unwearied Savior?”  [F.W. Herzberger, Family Altar, December 1]

[Timotheos]

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.

Timotheos

Requiescat in pace, Fr. Capon…

But if the salt of the earth becomes insipid–if a disciple of Jesus forgets that only losing wins, and a fortiori, if the apostolic church forgets it–where in the wide world of winners drowning in the syrup of their own success will either disciple or the church be able to recapture the saltiness of victory out of loss?  The answer is nowhere.  And the sad fact is that the church, both now and at far too many times in its history, has found it easier to act as if it were selling the sugar of moral and spiritual achievement rather than the salt of Jesus’ passion and death.  It will preach salvation for the successfully well-behaved, redemption for the triumphantly correct in doctrine, and pie in the sky for all the winners who think they can walk into the final judgment and flash their passing report cards at Jesus.  But every last bit of that now and ever shall be pure baloney because: (a) nobody will ever have that kind of sugar to sweeten the last deal with, and (b) Jesus is going to present us all to the Father in the power of his resurrection and not at all in the power of our own totally inadequate records, either good or bad.

But does the church preach that salty message?  Not as I hear it, it doesn’t.  It preaches the nutra-sweet religion of test-passing, which is the only thing the world is ready to buy and which isn’t even real sugar let alone salt.  In spite of all our fakery, though, Jesus’ program remains firm.  He saves losers and only losers.  He raises the dead and only the dead.  And he rejoices more over the last, the least, and the little than over all the winners in the world.  That alone is what this losing race of ours needs to hear, even though it can’t stand the thought of it.  That alone is the salt that can take our perishing insipidity and give it life and flavor forever.  That alone….  [Robert Farrar Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment, 183-184]

[Timotheos]