First Baptism?

This coming Sunday, I will, God willing, pour water over a tiny girl’s head and speak God’s Word. And she will be delivered from sin, death, and the devil. This will be the first baptism since I was ordained and installed at this church.

God has been doing this saving work for some time now. I am now just getting in the long line of pastors who have been really close in witnessing such a great event.

The NYT Finally Has Some Idiots at the Editorial Desk

After reading Bernard Goldberg’s Bias (highly recommended, by the way), the New York Times no doubt has trouble seeing any humor in this section of Brit Hume’s Grapevine:

Times’ Definition of Terrorists

The New York Times has refused to print the Pentagon’s objections to an editorial asserting that the recent transfer of top Al Qaeda operatives means, “President Bush finally has some real terrorists in Guantanamo Bay.”

Pentagon spokesman Dorrance Smith asked The Times for a correction, saying terrorists at the prison camp have included Usama bin Laden’s personal bodyguards and Al Qaeda recruiters and calling the paper’s assessment, “unfortunate.”

But The Times declined to run the letter, much less issue a correction, explaining, “the phrase in question was meant to be somewhat lighthearted in tone.”

Oh, it was meant to be lighthearted? Go ahead, then.


God, Irrationality, and Violence

0915061214_M_091506_pope_protest.jpg [AP]

People just can’t seem to help it. Not even the Pope can avoid it. It? Offending Muslims and fomenting violence. Even though, superficially, the problem is at the latter point, the real issue is the former.

Who has “unleashed a torrent of rage”? Whose “provocation” could leave “even deeper scars”? Whose “derogatory” comments were an attempt to “revive the mentality of the crusades,” someone who belongs in the same category as Hitler and Mussolini? If you guessed, “The Islamic terrorists who are firebombing Orthodox[!] and Anglican[!] churches,” you’d be wrong. It’s the Pope, of course.

Nevermind that “his” comments weren’t his, but the comments of a Byzantine emperor in a debate with a Muslim. Nevermind that he was not approving or agreeing with the comments on violence, since his talk was on God and reason. Nevermind that the current violence and rumors of violence seem to bear out “his” comments (which, again, were not his comments). Nevermind all that. Say you’re sorry and we won’t assasinate you when you come to Turkey! (We’re a peaceful religion. Until the next time you make us mad.) Which explains (or not) the irrationality of the following comments by the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party:

“The world today needs all religious authorities to cooperate to curb the phenomenon of violence,” it said. “We urge all Christian religious authorities in both the Arab and Western world not to be involved in the confrontation against the Islamic world as it could lead to Muslim-Christian violence, God forbid.”

Shall we parse that? How about, first of all, cooperating to curb the “phenomenon of violence” of your own people? Who is the instigator of violence, the one who speaks or the one who firebombs? Surely they can’t really mean “Muslim and Christian violence”? When was the last time someone firebombed a mosque because Muslim clerics were preaching hatred of Christianity? Who is trying to revive the mentality of the Crusades, again? God forbid, indeed. (We’ll just have to check on which “God” forbids firebombing of those with whom you disagree.)

The real question is not why Muslims firebombed churches, but why don’t the Orthodox, psychologists, sociologists, and evolutionists blow up the Vatican, all of whom were addressed in a more or less negative way in the talk? Perhaps the Pope’s speech on rational behavior and its association with godliness has more to do with the outcome of his remarks than just a few quoted lines.


Conscience and Moral Honesty

In the public teaching of a Lutheran clergyman or instructor, he must interpret the Sacred Scriptures according to the Symbols [Lutheran Confessions] and not vice versa. This does not mean that he is in any way prevented from considering every possible legitimate interpretation that can be placed upon any given passage or group of passages of the Sacred Scriuptures. If in the process, however, he were to come to a definitive conclusion incompatible with the teaching of the Symbols, he would be bound in conscence and in moral honesty to withdraw from the church which imposes such an obligation upon him. On the other hand, the obligation to interpret the Sacred Scriptures according to the Symbols does not permit an individual to set forth as doctrine a position that merely reflects his understanding of the Symbols. (Arthur Carl Piepkorn, “Suggested Principles for a Hermeneutics of the Lutheran Symbols,” Concordia Theological Monthly, XXIX, 1 [January 1958])

If only all pastors in the LCMS felt themselves so bound in conscience and moral honesty.


Jesus Told Us To

You may have heard about Georgetown University’s Protestant Ministry kicking out all outside Protestant groups. There’s a number of stories here. There seems to be some confusion about the reasoning behind the decision.

Campus Ministry officials, meanwhile, have repeatedly assured students and alumni that the new policies are meant to bolster the university’s Protestant ministry within campus and make it less dependent on outside groups. Critics have accused Georgetown, which is Catholic, of quashing religious freedom by limiting the number of groups Protestant students may join.

Is there a difference between making the campus ministry “less dependent on outside groups” and “quashing religious freedom”? I don’t really know, and I don’t attend Georgetown, so I can’t tell you.

I just like the letter sent by the campus chaplain, “Rev.” Constance C. Wheeler. The best part is this: “While we realize this comes as a great disappointment, please know we are moving forward with this decision only after much dialogue with the Lord. We have enjoyed working with your ministries in various capacities over the years and will always keep your ministry in our prayers.” Now get out!

My question? What exactly was Jesus’ half of the dialogue?


Confirming Age

When I was growing up, it seemed that most 8th graders would go through the Rite of Confirmation. Today, some churches are confirming children earlier, some later, even in high school. They say that the high schoolers are more serious about learning the doctrine of the church. Is there a better time for this? Does it really matter?

“Faithful Democrats”

First of all, they either aren’t being faithful to the Democratic creed (“I believe that abortion must never be limited in any circumstance whatsoever, including twelve year-old girls, and in the right of homosexuals to do whatever they want, and that religion is only useful if it pushes a DNC agenda, so help me God/Allah/Nothing, Amen.”), or they aren’t being faithful to Christianity. Fine, you want to tell me that “Democrats can be Christians, too” and that “God is not a Republican or a Democrat,” go ahead. Good for you. You also are not being faithful to the DNC platform or to Christianity. Whatever it was that Republicans and Democrats historically stood for has long been glossed over and anesthetized by a politics of, well, politics.

Like I need a Democrat to point out to me that God is not a Republican or a Democrat–in an election year, no less. Come on, I can guarantee that the person who has that sticker on his/her Volvo will be telling you in the next breath what “Jesus” really stands for. Surprise, surprise, it sounds strangely like what that person believes.

I’m not going to disagree with you when you tell me that you’re a Democrat and you’re a Christian. But I will tell you this: you cannot serve two masters. You shall hate one and love the other. Which, of course, goes equally for Republicans.

By the way, my favorite part of this blog entry is this: “Through essays, blogs, comment threads, diaries, and a MySpace page, we will build a true community.” Ah yes, a true online community that never touches, never sees, never hears from its members. You try that, and let me know how it goes for you. “True community”! Nonsense. Worse: pathetic.


False Dichotomy

I am tired of hearing about “traditional” and “contemporary” worship. When did the church become such an enterprise which must categorize Christ’s work according to these terms?

When people ask me if I am “traditional” or “contemporary,” I like to respond, “I am a baptized child of God.” Of course, I go on to explain, but the intitial reaction is amusing.

I Love September

After a long and fruitless baseball season (and games I can’t watch, anyway), it is football time at long last! Notre Dame and Washington begin today and Seattle next week. What could be better?

We’ll see how my fantasy team works out. I’ve got Matt Hasselbeck, Tiki Barber, and Marvin Harrison, as well as Ike Taylor and Chris Gamble. I’ve also got Jerramy Stevens as a backup if/when he gets healthy (fingers crossed).

School starts this week. I’m looking forward to more in-depth study in the graduate program. I’ve learned a lot just in the three summer classes I took.

And it’s always good to get rid of the heat and humidity here in St. Louis.

Go Irish! Go Seahawks!