Vocation at Home

It gives me joy to read Fr. Gassalasca Jape, S. J. at The New Pantagruel. In the current issue, he discourses on, among other things, bathrooms in a megachurch and “worldviews.” But I am most intrigued by “A Mighty Blast of the Trump Against the Monstrous Rule of Evangelical Women.” To wit:

To this Barnhill adds the conclusion that Christian “stay-at-home” moms lead lives of loneliness, boredom, and depression because they have “been taught that this is the life God wants for us, that to want something more is selfish and worldly.” Drawing Barnhill’s ire in particular is Debra Bendis whose article, “Stressed-Out Mothers,” in Christian Century Barnhill quotes:

While [young professionals] have been able to achieve much in a professional world, which supplies a social life as well as a career, they seem not to have developed the capacities for family life. They seem never to have learned about sewing, gardening, cooking or puttering—the soft activities that can make a home a comfortable and welcome place instead of a prison of isolation. … Without a habit of being at home, the mayhem of a toddler lunchtime or the tedium of a rainy day makes a day at work look like rescue—while home is only a punishment.

What Bendis is talking about here is what has been referred to in this journal as “practicing the discipline of place.” It is the idea that to suffer one’s place and one’s people in the particularity of its and their needs is the only true basis for finding love, friendship, and an authentic, meaningful life. This is nothing less than the key to the pursuit of Christian holiness, which is the whole of the Christian adventure: live in love with the frailty and limits of one’s existence, suffering the places, customs, rites, joys, and sorrows of the people who are in close relation to you by family, friendship, and community–all in service of the truth, goodness, and beauty that is best experienced directly. The discipline of place teaches that it is more than enough to care skillfully and lovingly for one’s own little circle, and this is the model for the good life, not the limitless jurisdiction of the ego, granted by a doctrine of choice, that is ever seeking its own fulfillment, pleasure, and satiation. The Puritan heritage of America has long chafed against this discipline as it necessarily limits one to a small field of action in a world with seemingly little hope for eschatological fulfillment. Thus have American Evangelicals historically pined after their great mission of “giftedness” and “calling,” forsaking that foolishness of the Gospel of our Lord which has ever lain at their doorstep, in need of nurturing care.

Apart from the Catholic nuances, is this not what Lutherans mean when they speak of vocation?


Sasse on Inerrancy

I commend to you Pr. Joel Humann’s post reproducing part of an essay by Hermann Sasse (have you guessed that I admire Sasse?) on inerrancy and inspiration.
Sasse had originally argued (around 1950) that the inerrancy of the Scriptures extended only as far as theological matters (“Brief Nr. 14”, of his letters to Lutheran pastors). However, he soon realized that the consequences of such a stance were far-reaching. I see it as the equivalent of the arguments of some people in the LCMS today who argue that the Bible “contains” God’s Word; guess who gets to decide which places in the Bible are God’s Word? Yes! The very people who argue for that position! I think Sasse saw that, and he retracted his arguments in Letter 14.
A good essay on this by Prof. Jeffrey Kloha of the St. Louis sem. is found in the volume Pastor Humann cites. For what it’s worth, I recommend it.
My only question is, why did I have to discover Sasse on my own? Why isn’t he more read in the Synod, and by Lutheranism in general? Not to make use of his theological acumen is a travesty.

(via Here We Stand)


“You Don’t Want to Mess With Midge Decter”

From the March issue of First Things:

…[T]he right to marriage, fought for with every weapon at their command by homosexual men, would–or I must say “will”–be largely acted on by lesbians. Why, then, are these men fighting so hard for it? The answer is, the right to legal marriage that they are demanding is not about them–it is about the rest of us. It is, and is meant to be, a spit in the eye of the way we live. … It is not compromise that the homosexual rights movement is after. Nor do they even want the standing in the community that heterosexuals have. They are radicals. What they want is not a room of their own; they want to bring the whole damned house down.
So if the lady tends to be against a constitutional amendment and opposes unequivocally the idea of civil union, what does she want? The answer is, I want us to stick up for ourselves and the way we live, be as mighty a force in the culture as we are entitled to be if nothing else by virtue of our sheer numbers. I want us to resist all attacks on the way we live, whether from our kids, our grandkids, their momentary culture heroes, or from the overpaid, mindless, sheep-like followers of fashion in the press and academic community who make so much noise in the world around us every day. In other words, let’s take back our country. Let us be decent, civil, and even loving to our homosexual fellow citizens; but draw the line on what they stand for and on everything else that makes light of our existence. For the privilege of living in the most nobly founded, the freest, and the richest country in the world we owe nothing less, not only to ourselves but also to the oncoming tide of generations. We are given the choice of leaving them with a blessing or a curse. Not so many people in the world have that choice. I hope we can go down in history as having deserved it. (p. 71-72)


Closed Communion

It seems to me, and, I would guess, to many other people, that close/d Communion is a (the?) major issue in the LCMS right now. It cannot, of course, be isolated from any number of other issues, but it often comes to the surface. Therefore, I would like to get the following comments out of my brain and onto “paper”.

1. Those who argue for open communion, or some variation thereof, very seldom allow anyone at all to come to the altar. For example, most groups, except those I would hesitate to apply the “Christian” name to, allow only baptized Christians to commune. Thus, they draw the line regarding who can commune somewhere. Is this not “unloving” to our “pre-Christian” “brethren”?

2. There are essentially two positions other than the Lutheran one. The first is the Catholic position, which (our Roman friends are free to correct any misstatements) is that the bread and wine are completely changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus by the proper actions and words of the priest (with the congregation?) in the Mass. The second is what Lutherans have commonly called the “Reformed” (not a very exact title in any case; similar correction is invited) position, which is either: (1) there is no physical presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus at all, thus being merely a symbolic remembrance of what Jesus did two thousand years ago on the cross; or, (2) there is a “real” spiritual presence of Jesus, but certainly not of the same physical, human Body and Blood that was crucified on the cross.

3. With reference to closed Communion, this means that if Lutherans were to invite anyone who believed either of the above doctrines, they would be insulting what that person believes since neither is the Lutheran belief on the Sacrament of the Altar.
More importantly, what thinking and believing Catholic would take Communion at a Lutheran altar when they do not believe that Lutherans really have the Sacrament (not being ordained according to Catholic practice) and since Lutherans believe that the bread and wine are still present (admittedly, less of a barrier than the first)? What thinking and believing Presbyterian or Baptist would come to a Lutheran altar when they know that we believe we are giving and receiving the very physical, very human Body and Blood of Jesus? They certainly cannot agree with us in that, and it would not be loving (in the true sense) to invite them to commune with us.

4. If a Catholic, Presbyterian, or Baptist did agree with the Lutheran position (which is the commonly cited exception to “the rule”), why, in the name of all that is true and good, would they continue to associate themselves with a church that teaches the opposite? Is the fact that I really like my church more important than what they teach? That’s a problem of integrity.

5. Which is unloving? To invite everyone who comes to the table, thereby highlighting and deepening the rift that actually does exist between Lutherans and other churches? Or not to invite them, recognizing the difference of belief and working toward unity of doctrine before unity of practice? As Sasse has written, fellowship in the Sacrament of the Altar is the goal of Christian unity, not its means.


Pope Back in the Hospital

News reports indicate that Pope John Paul II is once again receiving treatment for flu symptoms.

I question why the major networks and cable news always jump on this story. Do they really care? Of course, it is news. But are the media executives that concerned over the pope?

I wish the pope would issue a statement such as the following: “I appreciate your concern but urge you to show comparable concern and provide coverage for the true Lord of the Church, the Savior Jesus Christ.”

It is a Mainstay

Every day, I drive by and read the following words on a sign. You may remember my earlier post concerning these words.

“Live Truth Instead of Professing It”

I am not sure why “instead of” has to be in the sentence. I am tempted to ask the business if they will replace those words with “and.” Of course, then they would have to drop off the “-ing” from “profess.” That may be asking too much. But I can always ask.

(Re-)Visiting an Old Heresy

My wife and I decided to visit some different congregations’ services on Sunday nights. I have no doubt that this will only reinforce my opinion that Lutherans just about* have everything right! My wife comes out of a non-denom background, and so she misses the clapping and raising hands. (I don’t really have a problem with either of those things, they’re both Biblical. It’s the songs with which they’re associated that are problematic!) To be clear: we’re not church-shopping, just getting first-hand experience of different denominations.
So anyway, we decided to visit this huge church, First Pentecostal, just off the highway here in Little Rock. If you ever come into Little Rock via Highway 40 east, you cannot miss it.
I thought it was going to be very strange when we came in. The lights were down and there was a large group of people standing down in front kind of humming and making other noise. I’m still not sure what that was about. After a little while, they turned the lights on and some children’s choirs began singing songs like “Soon, and Very Soon.” Nice and cute.
I was looking around at the church, and on one of the arches in the ceiling it said, “Repentance, Jesus Name Baptism, Holy Ghost.” That’s when I knew what kind of Pentecostal church this was.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, how about this line from one of the songs, called something like “Let me tell you who Jesus is”: “I know Jesus is the Father, I know Jesus is the Son, I know Jesus is the Holy Ghost, and all these three are one!”
Later, before another youth choir began singing, the director “testifies” about a wedding of one his friends. During the wedding, “the priest, or whatever he was” was apparently attempting to get the groom to say “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” This was making the choir director “mad.” But the testimony was that the groom finally said, “loudly,” “In the Name of Jesus!” That got everyone going.
There were some other weird, non-theological, things: like, after one guy testified about being healed, some guys started running around and down the aisles. Anyone know what that’s about?
If you didn’t know, United Pentecostalism/Oneness/Jesus’ Name is simply a reworked heresy from the second and third centuries called modalism (more info than you wanted; see number II. Some of the leaders of various forms of this heresy are here and here). It has the twist of Jesus being the one God rather than the Father, but it’s basically the same.**
As far as I can tell, from here, Jesus is the one God and he presents himself as the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Ghost at various times. (Although, First Pentecostal is not associated with the UPCI, I cannot tell that there is any difference.)
The whole experience was kind of surreal, actually experiencing an openly heretical church. It is sad that they believe they are worshiping the real Jesus, but, then, so do Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I put my name and address on a visitors’ card (they were very friendly); perhaps they’ll call. I did not, however, mark the box that said, “Would you like to study the Word with someone?”

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Goddess Worship in the Denomination Formerly Known As…

“Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you?” (Ps. 139:21)

I realize that this type of garbage has been going on in other denominations, as well as the elcA, but it makes my stomach churn. (There is a faithful remnant–for example, here–attempting to beat back the tidal wave in the elcA, but I fear that they will not be able to keep from getting wet.)
The leaders of this congregation and that denomination will answer to God for those they have led into judgment. God have mercy upon those who have been misled.

(via Bunnie Diehl)