The Lesser of Three Evils?

The question is, when there is no single presidential candidate that particularly excites you, for whom should you vote?  Besides the obvious anti-life consequences of electing a Hillary or an Obama, John McCain doesn’t get me too excited.  I think his strongest point would be his foreign policy, but here he is on life issues.  (Here’s Clinton and here’s Obama.  If you can’t protect the most vulnerable, I have my doubts about everything else.)  But say that Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama was elected president.  What could either of them do that could not be undone by a future president?  There is only one issue I can think of that would have such far-reaching consequences that it would be worth worrying about extensively, and that is the issue of the Supreme Court.  Even ignoring all their other deficiencies (such as Obama’s 100+ days of experience and Clinton’s socialism), both Clinton and Obama would have pro-death litmus tests for Supreme Court justices, of which there will be at least one, and maybe two, nominated during the next presidential term.  Here is McCain on judicial nominees.

The question is, do you want Obama, Clinton, or McCain making that choice?  Everything else is reversible.  Supreme Court justices serve for life.  Pres. Bush’s lasting legacy will clearly be connected to Iraq, but domestically it is his Supreme Court nominations that will determine what sort of country we have.


“Issues, Etc.” Q&A

I had not seen this before, and didn’t know it existed until Pres. Kieschnick mentioned it at a conference. Haven’t had a chance to read it, but I wanted to make sure people know about it.

“Issues, Etc.” Q&A [PDF]

UPDATE: My comments: there is very little else that can be said.  When the questions have been answered, even if not completely satisfactorily, what else can a Christian do but accept the answers at face value?  It is inappropriate, without actual evidence, to continue to accuse another Christian of doing something wrong simply because you or I may not like it.  Continue to pray for Pr. Wilken and Mr. Schwarz and for KFUO and the Synod.  God is still God.


A Couple of Links

Happy Mother’s Day, indeed.  Happy Mother’s Day to my mother and my wife.

I didn’t know that Dr. Nagel (Professor Emeritus at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis) was writing for CT.  That’s a joke, but do yourself a favor and listen to any or all of these mp3s in the “Issues, Etc.” archives.  Nagel deserves to be the most influential Lutheran theologian going now.  (Of course, he couldn’t care less about such a designation, but he has a knack for cutting to the heart of any question and hitting bedrock for the sake of the comfort of salvation.)


The Consequences of a Pseudo-Gospel

If anyone would like to see the future of the LCMS if we continue to deal with the Scriptures in a pure Law/Gospel way (i.e., Law versus Gospel), read this.

Gene Robinson is the product of a mainline American denomination that has clearly played Law against Gospel and is reaping the harvest of such an approach to the Scriptures. Other things have contributed to the chaos, such as picking and choosing which parts of the Scriptures are “God’s Word,” but behind it all is the idea that if someone says “no” to a particular behavior or lifestyle, that person is legalistic and anti-Gospel. Thus, the Gospel is turned into one big huggy-kissy “yes” to the perversion du jour.

“Jesus never says anything about homosexuality,” he says, the light tone in his nasal voice suddenly darkening, “but he says a lot about treating every person with dignity and respect. All the biblical appeals for a particular attitude to homosexuality can never quote Jesus.”

What, though, of Old Testament condemnations of “men who lay with men”?

“The Church isn’t the same yesterday, today and tomorrow,” he says.

“Only God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The Church has always been changing. The Holy Spirit is leading us into truth. And I believe we have learnt that about people of colour, about women, about those who are disabled and now about lesbian and gay people.”

In this system, Jesus is the Almighty Messenger of Acceptance, Dignity, and Respect (AMADR). Somehow “dignity and respect” are exchanged for love, and Jesus, the AMADR, has no words of condemnation except for those who condemn sin. What Robinson fails to understand is that this is not about “a particular attitude to homosexuality,” but about an attitude toward the relationship of men and women, and Jesus does have some things to say about that, including “at the beginning, God made them male and female,” with all that that entails in Genesis 2. We can talk all we want about dignity and respect, but there is no passage, not a single one, that expresses a positive attitude toward homosexual genital contact. The Law of God built into creation itself has been transformed into something that can mean whatever the individual sinner wants it to mean. Forget homosexuality; can Gene Robinson say a single prohibition to any form of conduct, sexual or otherwise?  And on what basis?  By what standard can he judge to be in the wrong those who think sex should be confined to marriage between one man and one woman?  Further, I challenge him to point to a single passage where Jesus says we should treat people with “dignity and respect.”

And can we put to bed (no pun intended) this ridiculous notion of the Holy Spirit leading us into some sort of nebulous “truth”? Why do these people always end in the middle of verse 13? The rest of the passage says,

“…for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13b-15, ESV)

The Spirit is not an independent god floating around bringing whatever notions of “truth” might fit with our own self-conceptions. If it doesn’t fit with the Trinity, especially the Gospel of the Incarnate Son, but also the creation of the world (God did that, remember?), then it’s not the Holy Spirit who gave that “truth.” How arrogant do you have to be to presume that your pet sin has been truthified by the Holy Spirit? This is more dangerous than any dictator claiming to have God on his side, because the dictatorship of the self over and against God is open to everyone. I’m not sure where, exactly, Gene Robinson would locate God and His revelation, since he seems to think that Scriptural prohibitions against having sex with other men is something the Church, and not God, has said. That’s freedom for you! Just claim that whatever sin you like to commit is not prohibited by God, but by the Church–St. Paul was a member of the Church, after all (the patriarchal, hierarchical, sexist, homophobic Church, at least).

But here is Robinson’s driving concern (sound familiar?):

“It is so sad to me that this issue has become so important to us,” he insists. “To raise any issue about the central issues that Jesus raised is idolatry. To focus on this issue to the exclusion of everything else is a kind of idolatry.

It makes the Church seem that much more hopelessly irrelevant to the culture for whom this is less and less of an issue all the time, and especially for people under 30. It makes the Church look so behind the times. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Church could lead for a change rather than bring up the rear?” [emphasis added]

It’s no longer loving someone who is “homo” to you that is narcissistic and idolatrous, but calling that sort of “sexual expression” wrong that is idolatrous! But seriously: who focuses on homosexual genital contact “to the exclusion of everything else”? There I agree with Robinson; such a person would have a problem.

But it’s all about relevance. There is perhaps not anything worse that the Church could be. Hey, whatever people want to do, we’ll say it’s okay. You want to beat your wife? We’re relevant to that. You want to divorce your husband for the cable guy? We’re relevant to that. You want to drink yourself into oblivion? Let us help you! Whatever your perversion, we’ll be relevant. In fact, we’ll lead the way, and beat your wife for you! We’ll give you and the cable guy a blessing! See how relevant and leading we are?

The only way the Church can be relevant to damned sinners is to be irrelevant to their individual wants and desires. Only the Law that condemns sinners and their pet sins is relevant. Only the Gospel that forgives and does not excuse their sins is relevant. Everything else is playing games and chasing fads. The Church does not exist to “accept” anyone (which means, in Robinson’s parlance, “letting them do whatever they want as long as they don’t tell me I’ve sinned”), but to destroy their pretensions. Making people feel better about themselves is the job of the self-help section. The Church exists so that God can kill sinners and raise them to a new life. Robinson wants them to go back to their old life feeling “dignified” and “respected.” That’s called Hell.

This is a pseudo-Gospel, and therefore a pseudo-Christ. In Robinson’s World, everything is inverted:

Given that he is not about to change his view, Anglicanism faces an uncertain future, I suggest. “I believe,” he says, giving every indication of meaning it, “that in the end the communion will win out and we will hang together. God calls all of his children to the table. We can disagree and even say a lot of hateful things, but what we can’t do in good conscience is leave the table. Or demand that someone else not be at the table.”

Which seems to be exactly what some of his fellow bishops are demanding of him. “They are,” he confirms, “and that is the worst sin. But by virtue of our baptism, Peter Akinola and I are brothers in Christ and one day we are going to be in heaven together, so we might as well learn to get along here because we will have to get along there. God won’t have it any other way.”

He’s the victim and the sinned-against, and not even God is going to remove that self-assurance. Thus, the one who begins by saying “yes” to everything to which God says “no” becomes the most legalistic with those who oppose him. Everyone will have a lex aeterna; the question is, does it match God’s?

Unless the Missouri Synod can escape a pure Law/Gospel polarization, following the Episcopalians down their well-trodden path is absolutely unavoidable. And unless there is something outside Law vs. Gospel (God’s Law and God’s Gospel, remember), there is no argument that can be made against Robinson’s form of Law-Gospel reductionism. In such a universe, sin will be definable as “whatever condemns my so-called sin,” and the Church will turn into the world, where discourse becomes a series of emotional assertions with moral labels attached. God help us.


“Worship from the heart”

Fads come and go in the Church. Anyone who tries to keep up with trends in order to attract people will inevitably fail. The Church is not built on or sustained by trends, not even in “style” (as if form could be divorced from content). Christianity Today has an article on how evangelicals are turning to liturgical churches for various reasons. Mark Galli explains what attracts him to liturgy, even though it’s not “relevant.” (By the way, the best book I have ever read on the irrelevance of liturgy is D.G. Hart’s The Lost Soul of American Protestantism. Do yourself a favor and read it. It will, like all good books, shift your view of the landscape.)

What interests me is the comments, especially this one:

I really don’t understand all of this.Quite a strange article.God help us all.I personally believe all forms of worship are acceptable to God if it comes from the heart and is centered round Jesus Christ,that’s what Christianity is all about.Having said that if worship is traditional,contemporary or liturgy,we as Christians should never loose sight of how the Chuch began and what the foundation was;Christ’s Ressurection,his Oneness with God and how we as Christians can our lives under God’s grace in a Christ-like manner,loving our neighbours as we love ourselves and giving praise and thanks to our Saviour King Jesus Christ for making us right with God.

I’m sure “Abby” is a nice girl/woman. I am not writing this to bash her. She says, “I personally believe all forms of worship are acceptable to God if it comes from the heart and is centered round Jesus Christ.”

The problem is with worship that “comes from the heart.” Does Jesus want what comes from my heart? Jesus says,

“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:21-23, ESV)

Only if you do not know yourself could you think that Jesus is speaking only of unbelievers. The problem is not that worship does not come from the heart and that makes it dry or boring or meaningless. The problem is that far too much worship comes from the heart. We are so bound up in ourselves that we even want our worship to revolve around our selves. I am not sure how worship could come from the heart and at the same time be “centered round Jesus Christ.” When I am in the midst of the Divine Service, I find that there is way too much of my heart already; I don’t need more, I need less. And, in fact, that is why I need the Divine Service after all. Because I need a new heart. I need a heart of flesh and not one of stone. I need a full body transplant, and we surely are not going to get it if we’re worried about whether we’re giving God our all or not. As much as we think we’re focused on God when we try to make sure we’re worshiping sincerely and from the heart, we are more focused on ourselves than if we just do what the liturgy does. Get out of your heart! Get out of your head! What do you think is actually worth saving in your heart or head?

The liturgy of the Divine Service is about changing the focus, and it is not something we can accomplish by trying harder or praying ex corde or getting rid of all formality and ritual. It is precisely the formality and the ritual that move us beyond ourselves.  If we have our way, the Divine Service will become our own private worship service. The consequences are enormous. If it’s my worship service, or even if it’s the worship service to which I am going to praise God, then there is no longer any Body of Christ, but only atomized individuals who are there to get what they can out of the service. It’s no longer about what God wants to give you in Jesus Christ, but about what affects you in such a way as to make it meaningful. Are we so arrogant as to think that what we put in or get out of the service can change what God wants to give us? Clearly, if you don’t think about what’s going on, the benefits of the service may be lost on you. But that’s the glory of the Christian liturgy! God is still there, giving out His gifts, and if you don’t realize it, that’s your loss. But your attention or lack of attention cannot inhibit God’s work in Jesus Christ. I would go so far as to say that if you have been given faith to trust Christ, even if you aren’t paying attention on a given Sunday, Christ still works in you by His Word and Sacrament. Only unbelief brings judgment. How easily we get caught up in worship works-righteousness by thinking God’s work in us depends on how clean our hearts are or how uncluttered our brains are.

These are only the beginnings of thoughts about what is going on in the Divine Service. All I’m really sure about is that God doesn’t want what’s in my heart a lot of Sundays, and He doesn’t need what’s in it the other Sundays. Thank God that He’s faithful when we’re not.


Who Said It?

I received an e-mail from the American Chesterton Society saying that Chesterton did not actually say this.

Here’s another one: can anyone tell me which Church Father said something to the effect of, “We go to the Sacrament as if to our death, so that we go to our death as if to the Sacrament”?  I know I’ve read it, but I can’t find the source right now.  Anyone want to do my work for me?