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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Justification through faith

Posted below is the initial translation I have recently undertaken. I am working through Francis Peiper's Christian Dogmatics, Vol. 2, which is the second volume of a three volume set of systematic textbooks used at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. Pieper's original volumes were in German and used extensively, but as the seminary transitioned from German to English as the primary language, an English translation was needed. Work began in 1944 as Dr. Theodore Engelder began the daunting task of translation. Engelder died before he completed his work, but others finished the portions remaining in Volume 2 and a completed English translation of all three volumes was available by 1951. 

In search of a new German translation project, I decided to tackle Pieper's Dogmatics. We were always told that various paragraphs were not translated but summarized by combining them together. So it will be interesting to learn if this is indeed the case and, if so,  how much was paraphrased rather than translated. I have noted already in the three pages undertaken that Engelder did paraphrase together sentences to make the paragraphs shorter. 

Pieper's Dogmatics has copious footnotes (page 606 begins with footnote 1404!). I have omitted the footnotes for the blog post (which makes the pages seem rather short, but many times the footnotes take up half of the page in Pieper's volumes), I have translated most of his Latin phrases into English (I kept the Latin phrases intact where they are used as the Latin translation for Pieper's German phrases) and I also numbered the paragraphs (which were not numbered in the original or the translation) as I find it makes referencing easier in papers and essays.

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Justification through faith. 
concerning justification
1. Justification is accomplished through faith, without the works of the law. 


1. At the very moment in which a person believes in Christ or in the gospel, that is, in the acquired Christ and proffered in the gospel forgiveness of sins, that believer is justified by that faith before God. This is the so-called subjective justification, as distinguished from the so-called objective justification that exists for the faith. Concerning the relationship between objective and subjective justification is later pointed out. From the subjective justification that occurs through faith, as Romans 3,28 says: »For we hold that man is justified by faith.« But Scripture is not satisfied arbitrarily to say that we are justified „by faith“, because this Divine method of justification well contradicts human intuition that looks and expects a justification by the works according to their natural terms of religion —, so the Scriptures are zealous to hone that every work of the law is completely excluded from justification. Romans 3,28: »For we hold that man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.« Galatians 2,16: »yet we know that man is not justified by works of the law.« Namely, every form of human works are excluded form of the justification. Excluded are 1. all external good works that people do and those done before faith such as the works of the Pharisees; 2. all spiritual good works  

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flowing from faith, such as the works of faithful Abraham. Scripture also indicates reasons why God chose this strange manner of justification, namely He has completely detached justification from the law and the works of the law. God has chosen this method of justification: 1. thus giving people the certainty of the forgiveness of sins and salvation; 2. so that the object of human boasting is not man himself, but is God’s entirely unmerited grace in Christ. 
2. It is useful that we remain aware of what confronts us in the Scriptural doctrine of the justification through faith, namely, that it is a wonderful method of justification by faith. We may easily lose sight of its wonderful character, so that it fades into the background, because we’ve heard about justification by faith from our youth. But Luther was right when he says: „It’s a great thing that I should grasp and believe with the heart that all my sins are forgiven, and that through such faith 

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I am righteous before God. That is certainly a wondrous justice and it is different from the justice found among all the intelligent and wise lawyers in this world (St. Louis XIII,2495). But a requirement for this „wondrous righteousness“ by faith is the „wondrous“ fact, that God reconciles all people unto Himself through Christ’s vicarious satisfaction, that is, in His heart He has forgiven their sins and this forgiveness or justification in the word of the gospel. This is to constantly point out the further exposition of the Biblical doctrine of justification. 
3. In the Scriptural proclamation of Romans 3,28: »one is justified by faith apart from the works of the law« is the article or clause through which the orthodox Church refutes the various errors over time that attempt to redefine the Christian doctrine of justification. Justification is „by faith without the deeds of the law“, and it is not based upon the „infused grace“ (gratia infusa), but is based upon the „gracious disposition of God in Christ“ (gratuitus Dei favor propter Christ), it cannot be found in man, but is found outside of man, namely, in the objective word of the Gospel (the means of grace are the means of justification), thus it is the act is not medicinal, but forensic, that is, one who is in himself unrighteous is declared righteous so it has no grace (does not allow fluctuations), as justification occurs by faith alone, and thus faith in justification can only be construed instrumental, not as a moral achievement, an ethical principle, etc., it is not a subject of conjecture (certainly is conjectural of the Romans), but the poor sinner is certain because it is precisely by faith in the gospel and completely separate from the law and its works occurs. All these clauses are articles, as I said, are already contained in substance in Romans 3,28: »by faith apart from the works of the law.« As we discuss each of the following particulars in more or less detail, we see the contrast to the various errors that confront the central article from outside the Christian faith. Also, we must never forget that we still bear our flesh,

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with the opinion of the law, that is, we are afflicted with a tendency to believe that justification is by the works of the law. 
4 The 4. Article of the Augsburg Confession contains a simple but comprehensive description of justification: „Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight, as St. Paul says in Romans 3 and 4.“ 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Löhe devotional for 10. January

Perhaps those involved in the events surrounding February 19, 1974 should have read more Löhe and less Elert. 


The following is from the blog "Wilhelm's space" http://kwaweber.org/2014/01/10/lohe-on-2-timothy-316/


All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. (2Ti 3:16 NAS)

The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament  are like the starry skies at night. Whoever lifts up his eyes from the dark earth up to the bright stars above sees the shiniest first – the big ones and those in the milky way. Yet as the eye is accustomed to the sight, it begins to see more and more. Finally even the dark blue of the night seems to be interwoven with light and shining brightness. So it also for the reader of the holy Bible. At first you perceive the strong and catchy verses, which are obviously clear and impressive at first sight. Yet as you continue reading more and more verses light up until you don’t just get the flow of the story, but rather comprehend the perfect harmony, which makes up the whole entirety.
So it’s not just a wise crack to get over the difficulties of some parts, if it is suggested to let the light and insight of the clear and main parts, which make up the rule of faith and guide all exegesis, light up the obscure and darker passages.
Holy Scripture has always proven itself as comprehensible and clear. All supposed obscurity and darkness is not so much its own drawback, but rather rests in the eyes and heart of the reader. All misconceptions, contradictions and heresies projected into God’s Word – and even the most drastic lie, that God’s Holy Spirit did not reveal his truth aptly and comprehensibly in the holy Bible – are not to be blamed against God and his Holy Spirit, but rather fair and square at the doorstep of our human blindness and sinful rebellion, which impede our insight into God’s will and prompt us to disobey his clear commandments and doubt his gracious promises. The holy Word of God suffers the same predicament as the Son of God himself: For the faithful it is faithful and true, for the holy it is holy and sanctified, with the pure it is pure and salvific; yet with the wrongful it is wrong and for the children of darkness it is utter darkness and obscurity. Praise be to God, the Lord, who is the living source of goodness and in whose light we see the light + Amen.
Lord, our God! We thank you for your most holy Word, which shows us the way to you and can save us eternally. Grant that we respect, honour and love your holy Word in such a way, that we trust and believe it, gladly hear, read and learn it and thus be guided from one truth to the other until we see you from face to face, hear you yourself and thus come to the blessed peace you have promised us. Amen.  
God’s Word is our great heritage And shall be ours forever; To spread its light from age to age Shall be our chief endeavor. Through life it guides our way, In death it is our stay. Lord, grant, while worlds endure, We keep its teachings pure. Throughout all generations. (Nikolai F. S. Grundtvig, 1783-1872 tr Ole G. Belsheim, 1861-1925)
This is a rather free translation of Wilhelm Löhe’s devotion for the 10th January during the high holiday of Epiphany. It is found on Pg. 51 in Lob sei Dir ewig, o Jesu!   (Eternal Praise to you o Jesus!) edited by A. Schuster and published in the Freimund Verlag, Neuendettelsau 1949.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A paragraph from Löhe on Matthew 9 for Trinity 24

With all the snow we've been getting lately, I have had more time to devote to translating. I undertook a project several years ago to translate from German the sermons of Wilhelm Löhe on the Holy Gospels. I completed that project over a year ago, minus two Trinity sermons that rarely occur in the long season of Trinity. Honestly, I was worn out translating Löhe and needed a break. I had intended to finish the last two sermons at some point, so I am thankful for the rejuvenation and opportunity to tackle those last two sermons now.

One is now finished, and the other is near completion. Thankfully, Löhe's last few sermons in the Trinity season are briefer than his others.

Here's a sample from the last sermon I'm translating. The Gospel Reading is Matthew 9,18-26 for the 24. Sunday after Trinity. Löhe preached this in 1859.



1. (489) 1. So there were still some good people among evil Capernaum. The nobleman, who comes to Christ in Cana to gain his son's recovery — the paralytic, proved the Lord's power to heal and thus also forgive sins, — in today's Gospel of the chief teacher, the ruler of the synagogue and the woman with the issue of blood were found in Capernaum. Like many others, the heart beat for the Lord in "His city!" Yet it was enough for the Lord and we hear once again from His mouth a mighty woe spoken against Capernaum on account of their spiritual resistance, for they were opposed to His miracles and sermons! To whom much is given, of him much is required! The more seeds sown, the more bountiful harvest is expected! For what is much for one, is little for someone else, and and as the case may be God gives gifts, as the case may be He expects sacrifice! But nevertheless, the souls adhering to them believed the Lord in Capernaum, and they have been praying and sighing to God in addition to the Divine forbearance is the reason why the temporal punishment of God does not befall Capernaum, which had once befell upon Sodom and Gomorrah, and in other ways come across Tyre and Sidon. After all, the meek are considering ​​Jesus' judgment and woe right rightly upon Capernaum, which may be something not unlike a huge debt, even if they cannot be completely proven from the Gospel. A debt so blatant that it brings the Lamb of God to utter woe and measure such great threats from the wrath of Almighty God have challenged that a strong arm belonged to withhold God's abolished arm. But this strong arm — I find it in the faith and prayers of those mentioned above and indicated by the small flock of Jesus, and it has urged me to point out the strength of their faith and prayer, because I can prove to you a spoken example of the fact that sometimes only a few in a village and a city intercede for God's patience and long-suffering, perhaps  an unknown supplicant thanks the Lord, and may He also grant our congregation such a crowd faithful intercessors and protect us in mercy! 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

In Memoriam: Janice Dager

My dad told me this morning that Miss Janice Dager, my 5th and 6th grade teacher, had fallen asleep in the Lord Jesus Christ a few days earlier following a lengthy battle against cancer.

Jan taught at the Lutheran grade school I attended from 3rd through 8th grade and for many years attended the same Lutheran church I did. She spent her entire teaching career at St. Paul's Lutheran School in Kingsville, MD. She taught the same grades during her long tenure.

Jan was an awesome teacher. She encouraged us to read, and many of her homework assignments involved reading assignments. Every year she picked a few books and set aside about 20 minutes each day just reading to us. She introduced me to The Chronicles of Narnia, and thus is responsible for my avid interest in C.S. Lewis’ books to this very day.

Part of our class schedule involved religion, and each morning we began our day with devotions. I do not recall the exact specifics of her devotions, but I do recall her piety and knowledge as she taught us the Lutheran faith and reinforced what we learned through Wednesday chapel services and for many of us in class who were members of the St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church that supported the school.

One of Jan's talents was singing. For many years she sang in our church choir and in a four-person harmony quartet.

Even after teaching me for two years, she remained a positive influence in my life. She would ask how things were going in high school and college.

I know she touched the lives of thousands upon thousands of students like she did me, and her compassion and zeal for reading and singing must surely have influenced the many of us who passed through her classroom.

At our school, the 5th and 6th grades were responsible for the spring pageant. I recall that one year we focused on American history and sang many songs about Native Americans, national folk songs and patriotic songs. The other year was European history, and we sang French, English and German songs and anthems (among other nationalities). I was brave enough to dance at these pageants, and still remember learning the Charleston and the Maypole dances. The 7th and 8th grades were responsible for the Christmas pageant, and the 5th and 6th grades were the choir for the play so we learned many Christmas songs and lead the audience in singing them.

The spring also brought with it the President's Physical Fitness test. I never was able to earn the award and patch, but I tried my best and had much fun in the activities. Jan always cheered us on and encouraged us to work hard and never give up.

These are fond memories shared with a beloved teacher. I mourn her death, but know one day we will be reunited again in Paradise as we await the return of Jesus and the resurrection of our bodies.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Luther's 95 Theses

Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences
by Dr. Martin Luther, 1517

Published in:
Works of Martin Luther
Adolph Spaeth, L.D. Reed, Henry Eyster Jacobs, et Al., Trans. & Eds.
(Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Company, 1915), Vol. 1, pp. 29-38.


DISPUTATION OF DOCTOR MARTIN LUTHER
ON THE POWER AND EFFICACY OF INDULGENCES

OCTOBER 31, 1517
         
Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.  
In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.  
1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said poenitentiam agite [“Repent”], willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance. [Matthew 4,17] 
2. This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.  
 3. Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no inward repentance which does not outwardly work several mortifications of the flesh.  
4. The penalty [of sin], therefore, continues so long as hatred of self continues; for this is the true inward repentance, and continues until our entrance into the reign of heaven. 
5. The pope does not intend to remit, and cannot remit any penalties other than those which he has imposed either by his own authority or by that of the Canons. 
6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring that it has been remitted by God and by assenting to God’s remission; though, to be sure, he may grant remission in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in such cases were despised, the guilt would remain entirely unforgiven.  
7. God remits guilt to no one whom He does not, at the same time, humble in all things and bring into subjection to His vicar, the priest.  
8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to them, nothing should be imposed on the dying.  
9. Therefore the Holy Spirit in the pope is kind to us, because in his decrees he always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity. 
10. Ignorant and wicked are the doings of those priests who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penances for purgatory.  
11. This changing of the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory is quite evidently one of the tares that were sown while the bishops slept. [Matthew 13,25]
12. In former times the canonical penalties were imposed not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.  
13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties; they are already dead to canonical rules, and have a right to be released from them. 
14. The imperfect health [of soul], that is to say, the imperfect love, of the dying brings with it, of necessity, great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater is the fear.  
15. This fear and horror is sufficient of itself alone (to say nothing of other things) to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near the horror of despair.  
16. Hell, purgatory and heaven seem to differ the same as despair, fear and the assurance of salvation.
17. With souls in purgatory it seems necessary that horror should grow less and love increase.  
18. It seems unproved, either by reason or Scripture, that they are outside the state of merit, that is to say, of  increasing love.  
19. Again, it seems unproved that they, or at least that all of them, are certain or assured of their own blessedness, though we may be quite certain of it.  
20. Therefore by “full remission of all penalties” the pope means not actually “of all,” but only of those imposed by himself.  
21. Therefore those preachers of indulgences are in error, who say that by the pope's indulgences a man is freed from every penalty, and saved;  
22. Whereas he remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to the canons, they would have had to pay in this life.  
23. If it is at all possible to grant to any one the remission of all penalties whatsoever, it is certain that this remission can be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to the very fewest.  
24. It must needs be, therefore, that the greater part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of release from penalty.  
25. The power which the pope has, in a general way, over purgatory, is just like the power which any bishop or curate has, in a special way, within his own diocese or parish.  
26. The pope does well when he grants remission to souls [in purgatory], not by the power of the keys (which he does not possess), but by way of intercession.  
27. They preach man who say that so soon as the penny jingles into the money-box, the soul flies out [of purgatory]. 
28. It is certain that when the penny jingles into the money-box, gain and avarice can be increased, but the result of the intercession of the Church is in the power of God alone.  
29. Who knows whether all the souls in purgatory wish to be bought out of it, as in the legend of Sts. Severinus and Paschal.  
30. No one is sure that his own contrition is sincere; much less that he has attained full remission.  
31. Rare as is the man that is truly penitent, so rare is also the man who truly buys indulgences, i.e., such men are most rare.  
32. They will be condemned eternally, together with their teachers, who believe themselves sure of their salvation because they have letters of pardon. 
33. Men must be on their guard against those who say that the pope’s pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to Him;  
34. For these “graces of pardon” concern only the penalties of sacramental satisfaction, and these are appointed by man. 
35. They preach no Christian doctrine who teach that contrition is not necessary in those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach unchristian doctrine.  
36. Every truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without letters of pardon.  
37. Every true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the Church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.
38. Nevertheless, papal remission and blessing are by no means to be disregarded for they are, as I have said [Thesis 6], the proclamation of the divine remission.
39. It is most difficult, even for the very keenest theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the abundance of pardons and [the need of] true contrition.  
40. True contrition seeks and loves penalties, but liberal pardons only relax penalties and cause them to be hated, or at least, furnish an occasion [for hating them].  
41. Apostolic pardons are to be preached with caution, lest the people may falsely think them preferable to other good works of love.  
42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend the buying of pardons to be compared in any way to works of mercy.  
43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than buying pardons. 
44. Because love grows by works of love, and man becomes better; but by pardons man does not grow better, only more free from penalty.  
45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and gives [his money] for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God.  
46. Christians are to be taught that unless they have more than they need, they are bound to keep back what is necessary for their own families, and by no means to squander it on pardons.  
47. Christians are to be taught that the buying of pardons is a matter of free will, and not of commandment.  
48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting pardons, needs, and therefore desires, their devout prayer for him more than the money they bring.  
49. Christians are to be taught that the pope's pardons are useful, if they do not put their trust in them, but altogether harmful, if through them they lose their fear of God. 
50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the pardon-preachers, he would rather that St. Peter’s church should go to ashes, than that it should be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep.  
51. Christians are to be taught that it would be the pope’s wish, as it is his duty, to give of his own money to very many of those from whom certain hawkers of pardons cajole money, even though the church of St. Peter might have to be sold.  
52. The assurance of salvation by letters of pardon is vain, even though the commissary, nay, even though the pope himself, were to stake his soul upon it.  
53. They are enemies of Christ and of the pope, who bid the Word of God be altogether silent in some Churches, in order that pardons may be preached in others.  
54. Injury is done the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or a longer time is spent on pardons than on this Word. 
55. It must be the intention of the pope that if pardons, which are a very small thing, are celebrated with one bell, with single processions and ceremonies, then the Gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies. 
56. The “treasures of the Church,” out of which the pope grants indulgences, are not sufficiently named or known among the people of Christ.  
57. That they are not temporal treasures is certainly evident, for many of the vendors do not pour out such treasures so easily, but only gather them.
58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, for, even without the pope, the latter always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outer man.
59. St. Lawrence said that the treasures of the Church were the Church’s poor, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.  
60. Without rashness we say that the keys of the Church, given by Christ’s merit, are that treasure.
61. For it is clear that for the remission of penalties and of reserved cases, the power of the pope is of itself sufficient.  
62. The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God.  
63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last. [Matt. 20,16]
64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.  
65. Therefore the treasures of the Gospel are nets with which they formerly were wont to fish for men of riches.  
66. The treasures of the indulgences are nets with which they now fish for the riches of men.  
67. The indulgences which the preachers cry as the “greatest graces” are known to be truly such, in so far as they promote gain. 
68. Yet they are in truth the very smallest graces compared with the grace of God and the piety of the Cross.  
69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of apostolic pardons, with all reverence.  
70. But still more are they bound to strain all their eyes and attend with all their ears, lest these men preach their own dreams instead of the commission of the pope.  
71. He who speaks against the truth of apostolic pardons, let him be anathema and accursed!  
72. But he who guards against the lust and license of the pardon-preachers, let him be blessed! 
73. The pope justly thunders against those who, by any art, contrive the injury of the traffic in pardons.  
74. But much more does he intend to thunder against those who use the pretext of pardons to contrive the injury of holy love and truth.  
75. To think the papal pardons so great that they could absolve a man even if he had committed an impossible sin and violated the Mother of God – this is madness. 
76. We say, on the contrary, that the papal pardons are not able to remove the very least of venial sins, so far as its guilt is concerned. 
77. It is said that even St. Peter, if he were now Pope, could not bestow greater graces; this is blasphemy against St. Peter and against the pope.  
78. We say, on the contrary, that even the present pope, and any pope at all, has greater graces at his disposal; to wit, the Gospel, powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written in 1. Corinthians 12[,28].  
79. To say that the cross, emblazoned with the papal arms, which is set up [by the preachers of indulgences], is of equal worth with the Cross of Christ, is blasphemy.  
80. The bishops, curates and theologians who allow such talk to be spread among the people, will have an account to render.  
81. This unbridled preaching of pardons makes it no easy matter, even for learned men, to rescue the reverence due to the pope from slander, or even from the shrewd questionings of the laity.  
82. Such as: “Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church? The former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial.”  
83. Again: “Why are mortuary and anniversary masses for the dead continued, and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded on their behalf, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?”  
84. Again: “What is this new piety of God and the pope, that for money they allow a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God, and do not rather, because of that pious and beloved soul’s own need, free it for pure love’s sake?”  
85. Again: “Why are the penitential canons long since in actual fact and through disuse abrogated and dead, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences, as though they were still alive and in force?”  
86. Again: “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the riches of the richest, build just this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of poor believers?”  
87. Again: “What is it that the pope remits, and what participation does he grant to those who, by perfect contrition, have a right to full remission and participation?” 
88. Again: “What greater blessing could come to the Church than if the pope were to do a hundred times a day what he now does once, and bestow on every believer these remissions and participations?”  
89. “Since the pope, by his pardons, seeks the salvation of souls rather than money, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons granted heretofore, since these have equal efficacy?” 
90. To repress these arguments and scruples of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the Church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christians unhappy.  
91. If, therefore, pardons were preached according to the spirit and mind of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved; nay, they would not exist.  
92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace! [Jeremiah 6,14]
93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Cross, cross,” and there is no cross! 
94. Christians are to be exhorted that they be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths and hell,

95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven rather through many tribulations, than through the assurance of peace. [Acts 14,22]

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Importance of a Confessional Faith

This week, the Church of Sweden elected Antje Jackelén as the new archbishop of the 6.5 million member Lutheran Church. You can read an article about it here

This is a historic election for the Church of Sweden for a number of reasons. Jackelén is Sweden’s first female archbishop, and she joins the ranks of other female presiding bishops like those in the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. For Sweden, this is not a bold move as they have had female bishops for a number of years. While Lutherans of a conservative strain bemoan her election on the basis of gender, there are even more serious concerns raised by Lutherans both in and outside Sweden. 

Jackelén has said things that are clearly out of step with the historic confession of the Church for the past two thousand years. 

On 1. October the candidates for archbishop were asked a number of doctrinal questions. She was asked if she thought Jesus presented a truer picture of God than Muhammed. With her evasive answer, Jackelén was seen as someone who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) choose between Jesus and Muhammed. 

She also said that the Church of Sweden has more in common with other religions than with other Christian churches, that the Virgin Birth must be understood metaphorically, that hell doesn’t exist and that the Biblical texts should not be taken as truth.

While not listed in the articles I’ve read, I suspect she also rejects the validity of the resurrection of Jesus. The rejection of the resurrection is usually the first doctrine jettisoned by liberal Christians, and it would be hard to believe that someone who views the virgin birth Jesus as a metaphor does not hold the same toward the resurrection on Easter. 

Rejection of one of these doctrines would raise red flags among Christians, but this whole domino effect of rejecting doctrine after doctrine raises serious doubt regarding Jackelén’s confession of the faith and those who elected her to the office of archbishop. 

Corners of the 21. century Church have slid far down the slippery slope. Those like Jackelén who toss aside the historic confession of the Church to be culturally sensitive and politically correct appear spineless when compared to the first Christians who were persecuted and martyred for their faith in such things as the Divinity of Jesus and His resurrection on Easter. 

The Church faces many cultural and religious challenges around the world. She still faces persecution and martyrdom for her faith in Jesus. It would be easy to take the route Jackelén and others take, for it is a path of comfort and little conflict. The rough path is the path that follows Jesus; it is a path that leads to suffering and the cross, but ultimately a path that arrives at the resurrection and eternal life in God’s presence. Those who follow Jesus do not reject the Church’s doctrines for any reason but remain faithful to them, to Jesus, in good times and bad. Jesus will not forsake us and that is why we stand faithful to Him and the confession of our Christian faith. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Christ the Victor


The Rev. Dr. Norman E. Nagel was one of my professors at the seminary. He continues to be one of my mentors to this very day. I share something he preached on Matthew 6,28 in 1954: 

„Sin brought the world into such a cursed mess that only the Son of God could rescue it. This He did by becoming part of our sin-cursed world, making Himself our brother and subject to the curse. Jesus stake Himself with us. If He is crushed by the curse, there is no hope. If He overcomes the curse, then death cannot have its way with us. The fate of Christ and the fate of me are one. I can only be destroyed by death if Christ can be destroyed by death. Christ did die, but He rose again. His resurrection means my resurrection…. When I come to die, I can now die … quietly and without complaint“ (Select Sermons of Norman Nagel 216). 

In this paragraph, Dr. Nagel is, in part, referring to the Apostle Paul, who wrote: »Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His« (Romans 6,3.5). 

Christianity is a religion (and a theology) grounded in historical facts: Jesus was born, lived and died. His tomb was empty three days later. These are verifiable facts attested to in the Bible, the historians of the time and even those opposed to Jesus (like the scribes and Pharisees). The point of contention is: what happened to Jesus’ body? 

Without the resurrection of Jesus, Christianity loses its unique claim and joins the rank and file of every other religion out there. Without the resurrection, Christianity has its teacher and a set of virtues by which a person may order his or her life, and that is about it. 

The apostles, however, contend and preach that Christianity is something far and above all the other religions and philosophies that clamor for our attention. The heart and soul of Christianity is the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The apostles proclaim that Jesus is the Lamb of God sacrificed on the cross as payment for our sin, and His resurrection is the evidence that His sacrifice is accepted by God the Father and that Jesus has triumphed over death, hell and the devil. 

Our fate is, therefore, linked to Christ’s. His victory is our victory. His death is our death. His resurrection is our resurrection. His life in heaven is our life in heaven. Sin, death, hell and the devil cannot have their way with us or over us, for Christ has conquered them. 

For those who mourn the loss of loved ones on September 11, 2001, we commend them to the mercy of the Triune God. For those in Christ who died that day, they are in His blessed presence, free from the trials and sufferings of this world. On the last day, they and all who die in Christ will be reunited in heavenly glory with a resurrected body.  Amen.