And the Winner Is….

…Chaz. Yes, you are correct. And Ben, you get a round of applause as well. (Chaz and Ben played “Church Trivia.”)

John H. Tietjen wrote those words in an article in the Concordia Theological Monthly in 1969. It was in that year that he was elected to be the president of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. Under this leadership, the Walkout of 1974 at the Lutheran seminary in St. Louis took place.

Church Trivia

Are you ready to play?

Name the seminary president who said the following.

“But must we begin with justification at all? In fact, do we begin the theological task with some basic thematic expression of the gospel?…No! Not if we want to assure a relevant proclamation of the gospel! For theology to be relevant, the theological task has to begin not with the gospel but with the situation to which it is to be addressed. The first step in theology formulation is to analyze the conditions of the world for whose sake the gospel is to be proclaimed. ‘The world writes the agenda,’ we are being told these days.”

Stay tuned for the answer.

“Sin Boldly” in Context

That phrase is so often quoted out of context and contrary to Luther’s intention, that I thought I’d post the entire context of the phrase. It’s from a letter he wrote to Melanchthon in 1521.

If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness but, as Peter says, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day [that’s not a recommendation! T.W.] Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly–you too are a mighty sinner. (Luther’s Works, 48:281-282)

UPDATE: Here is another translation of the above passage (thanks to Caspar Heydenreich of Beggars All).


Christ-Idolatry, Moby, and Mormons

A friend of ours at church gave us a copy of the most recent Relevant Magazine, which contains an interview with Moby. Now I (along with every other person) bought Play. The incessant playing of the songs on that album made me want to own it (one of the few of which that is true). However, Moby’s understanding of Christianity has always been a bit suspect to me, not to mention his ignorant ecclesiology.

I think what the article proves is that Moby is actually a Mormon. You will look in vain for any mention of the cross of Jesus in the interview. You will, instead, find many mentions of living the life Christ wants us to, and doing what Christ told us to. He says, “My understanding in [sic] what it means to be a Christian is to, in our own subjective way, recognize Christ as being God, and recognize our shortcomings and our failings, and try and live according to the teachings of Christ as best we can.” That is the Mormon understanding of being a Christian, not the Christian understanding. Mormons and Moby worship Christ as an idol, because they do not worship Him as He wishes to be worshiped, but as they choose. Whoever attempts to follow Christ on his own initiative and without having been made a new creation is following a Christ made in his own image.

Moby’s Jesus is the typical, American-liberal Jesus: no judging other people for what they believe and do; “born-again” Christians are evil; we shouldn’t “force” anyone to believe what “we” believe.
But most shocking, and really, saddening, is this: “The thing that has always boggled my mind is when someone feels confident that they’re saved. … I don’t even think that you can be a follower of Christ and be assured of your own salvation, because it’s not our place to say that.” Why? Because “You can never be a follower of Christ and be smug and self-satisfied. You can never be a follower of Christ and think that you’re doing a great job.”

Because Moby thinks that “being saved” equals “being a good follower of Christ”, it logically follows that a person cannot be sure that he or she is saved. This is true. But what if that’s not what Christianity is primarily about? Sure, we’re supposed to obey God and follow Christ; but is that what saves us? The answer is clear, at least for Christians who hold salvation by God’s free grace in Christ at the center of everything.

The quote that closes the interview? “And if God made the universe and if God made us and if God made the world, it just makes sense to invite God into our lives and ask Him, ‘You made me-what should I be doing?'” Makes sense, but that’s not Christianity.

Finally, Moby’s is the ecclesiology of every dissatisfied “I follow Christ, but I don’t want to be called a Christian” in America.
This is the arrogance Moby and others (e.g., David Bazan) claim to dislike in the “institutional” Church. Steve Taylor’s words ring true: “They’re [Christians] hypocrites, they’re such a bore; well, come on in, there’s room for one more.” Sure, there’s arrogance and hypocrisy (in American Christianity, especially), but it is a false understanding of the Church to expect Christians to suddenly be perfectly Christ-like. I like it as little as them when other Christians say or do things that reflect badly on Christ (or me!), but what have I done to make the Church look like Christ’s Body? Probably less than I’ve done to make it look like a synagogue of Satan.
If we take Moby as a member of the Church, the question is, will he take us? The old dictum is still true: extra ecclesiam nulla salus, because it’s Christ’s Church and He’s chosen to bring people into His Kingdom through the Church. Outside of Word and Sacrament, there is no Christianity, and there are no Christians.


Book Tag II

Okay, here we go…

Imagine that a local philanthropist is hosting an event for local high school students and has asked you to pick out five to ten books to hand out as door prizes. At least one book should be funny and at least one book should provide some history of Western Civilization and at least one book should have some regional connection. The philanthropist doesn’t like foul language (but will allow some four-letter words in context, such as expressed during battle by soldiers). Otherwise things are pretty wide open. What do you pick?

1. Funny: A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving. The last book at which I laughed out loud.

2. Regional (doesn’t every book have some sort of regional connection?): Complete Stories (“A Good Man is Hard to Find” is at the top of the list), Flannery O’Connor (the American South). She always gets to the heart of sin and salvation through the disturbing and the shocking.

3. Western Civ.: I suppose this is kind of cheating, since I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m going with Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law, J. Budziszewski. I think any arguments in the Public Square for legislation or public policy have to be based on Natural Law. Here’s a good one I have finished: The Domestication of Transcendence, William Placher. Among other things, a good argument against using theodicies.

4. While others probably already have included this one, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis. Helpful for general arguments on behalf of Christianity. Otherwise, The Weight of Glory, or Miracles.

5. More literature: The End of the Affair, Graham Greene. One of the most powerful literary arguments on the power of baptism that I’ve read (the movie with Julianne Moore screwed it up).

6. Lutheranism: Here We Stand, Hermann Sasse. As clear and straightforward as it gets.

7. Sanctification: The Quest for Holiness, Adolf Koeberle. If everyone would read this book, we could be free of the Purpose-Driven Life/Church for good.

8. The Ninety-Five Theses and The Bondage of the Will, Martin Luther. What ignited (set Ablaze?) the Reformation; and the book Luther considered his best work. This is a major piece of the history of Western Civilization.

9. Just another favorite of mine: Selected Stories, Andre Dubus (“A Father’s Story” is how I was introduced to him, after a review of his work in First Things, following his death.)


The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, June 25, 1530

“Sire,” said Margrave George the Confessor, one of the signers of the Augsburg Confession, when Emperor Charles V demanded that the Protestant princes participate in the Corpus Christi procession at the Diet of Augsburg, “I would rather kneel down on this spot and have my head chopped off than give up the Word of God.” (quoted by Hermann Sasse, Here We Stand, 18 )

Of those times in which the life of the church was not very much disturbed by concern for pure teaching and by alarm concerning false teaching, it may be said that they do not belong to the great ages of the church. On the contrary, the church is always in danger of dying when it ceases to wrestle for truth and to pray that the Lord may guard it against the devil’s wiles and false teaching.

If this is true of all ages in the history of the church, how much more must it be true of an age like the Reformation! …
Doctrinal and confessional formulation began anew. And out of the struggle over doctrine, which had become unavoidable, a new kind of church developed: the confessional church. …

The first of these new confessional churches was the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Making its first appearance in 1530 as the church of the Augsburg Confession, it was the confessional church par excellence. It came into existence suddenly, not as an organization, and yet as a church. It was still without a form of government. It had no episcopal or synodical organs to represent it. The imperial estates had to represent it before the political world, and a few theologians, like Melanchthon, before the ecclesiastical world. It possessed no legal existence, and a superficial observer travelling through the Electorate of Saxony and the other evangelical territories would perhaps have said that it actually had no existence at all. What did exist, however, was the teaching, the Confession. And this did not begin with the words Lutherus docet [“Luther teaches”], but with the words, Ecclesiae magno consensu apud nos docent “Our churches, with common consent, do teach”–or, “The churches among us teach with complete unanimity,” Latin (Kolb/Wengert transl.), AC I:1].

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Collect for The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

O Lord God, heavenly Father, who through Thy servant John the Baptist didst bear witness that Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world, and that all who believe in Him shall inherit eternal life, we humbly pray Thee to enlighten us by Thy Holy Spirit that we may at all times find comfort and joy in this witness, continue steadfast in the true faith, and at last with all believers attain unto eternal life; through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.