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Monday, June 30, 2008

Heilsgeschichte, Part 2

Johann K. von Hofmann (1810-77) coined the term ,,Heilsgeschichte”, but the principle or theme seems to have been used by all the prophets and apostles who wrote the Old and New Testaments (Francis Pieper derogatoratively called Hofmann an ,,Ich-theologe” – a theologian focusing on the Christian self). The Heilsgeschichte concept was used in Medieval Europe and the Reformation. In the 1950s, Heilsgeschichte was used in Old Testament studies as a theological principle, reading Scripture as the story of God’s redeeming acts in history.

Four theologians are credited with emphasizing various points that would eventually be collected under the Heilsgeschichte umbrella: Augustine of Hippo (354-430), Joachim of Floris (1135-1202, Italian mystic and theologian), Johannes Cocceius (1603-69, Dutch theologian), and Johann Bengel (1687-1752), a Lutheran pietist minister. Joachim presented the view of ,,three ages”: the ages of the Father (OT), Son (NT, specifically from Jesus to 1260), and Spirit (1260: when mankind was to come in direct contact with God, reaching the total freedom preached by the Christian message) [Wikipedia]. Cocceius developed covenant theology: before as much as after the fall of man, the relation between God and man was a covenant. The first covenant was a Covenant of Works. For this was substituted, after the Fall, the Covenant of Grace, necessitating the coming of Jesus for its fulfillment (Wikipedia). Bengel's contribution was his devotion to the historical-grammatical method of reading the Scriptures.

I am not sure what exactly Augustine's contribution was to Heilsgeschichte; perhaps it was just his overall theology.

The Heilsgeschichte concept developed in the Erlangen school, with its emphases on Biblical hermeneutics, confessional ecclesiology, our communion with Christ as a starting point, and Scripture as witness to God’s redemptive acts in history (The Encyclopedia of Christianity).
Hofmann coined the word ,,Heilsgeschichte” in 1841. Individual theologians like Adolf Schlatter (1852-1938) kept Heilsgeschichte prominent, as in the design of Gerhard Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (The Encyclopedia of Christianity). Oscar Cullmann (1902-99) brought Heilsgeschichte to its fullest expression and, with pupils and allies, its peak of influence in Biblical and ecumenical theology (The Encyclopedia of Christianity).

Still more to follow ...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession

On June 25, 1530, in Augsburg, Germany, the Lutheran princes signed their names to the Augsburg Confession. Thirteen years had past since The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther -- Augustinian monk, priest, theologian, and professor -- had nailed his 95 Theses to the church doors of St. Mary's Church in little Wittenberg.

Some Lutheran churches still set aside this day as the day when they confirm new members in the fellowship of the Christian faith. What a wonderful connection to be made between new confirmands confessing their Baptismal faith on the same day when princes confessed their faith before the Holy Roman emperor and the assembled state and Catholic representatives. Those princes, like Luther and other Reformers, put their lives on the line that day.

Tonight our weekly Bible study continued to read and work through the Augsburg Confession and its Apology. We've been at it for at least nine months now. We recently finished Article 4 on justification. We spent at least 3 or 4 months unpacking that article alone in the Apology. We are currently on Article 11: Confession (of sins).

I am truly thankful for the faithful band of Christians who come out week after week to study the Augsburg Confession and the Scriptural doctrines of the Church. God has truly blessed us with these confessional writings that even 478 years later focus our attention on Christ crucified for our sins and risen for our justification. Eternal life is ours through Christ alone!

May God help us to follow the example of the Lutheran princes, who at Augsburg put their lives, their finances, their citizens, their states, their reputation, and their faith on the line. They trusted in Christ alone, knowing that whatever happened to them in this earthly life it could not and would not separate them from the eternal life in heaven that Christ promises at His return when He raises our bodies from the grave to live with Him and all the saints forever and ever.

Happy Birthday Lutheran Church!

P. S. What a fitting day for the German national team to advance to the Euro 2008 Finals! Das is sehr gut!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I mentioned ,,Heilsgeschichte" (salvation history) in my sermon last Sunday. I thought I'd flesh out the concept a bit more, since I utilize it often in sermons.

I don't know a whole lot about the historical background of the concept. The basic premise I've seen is that the the term was used in Old Testament studies in the 1950s as a theological principle, reading Scripture as the story of God’s redeeming acts in history. That's a fairly decent understanding of the term, but I suspect there is more historical background, and I intend to do more research on it.

I found a website that had a few paragraphs on Heilsgeschichte, and I translated them from the original German. Here is a paragraph that gives a brief summary of the principle. It is from


,,The salvation history covers the Christian faith, and is centered (,,fullness of the time” Gal. 4.4; Eph. 1.10) spatially in the Roman province of Judea and temporally in the first decades of the Christian era in the life and deeds, the crucifixion and resurrection, of Jesus of Nazareth. The creation story of the Bible with the fall into sin are regarded as the announcement and preparation of salvation history, especially the story of Israel from Abraham to Moses (Exodus), David, the Prophets until the Babylonian Exile, and the rebuilding of the temple. The history of Christ is regarded as the ,,last time” or ,,end time,” for the gospel comes to all people until the number who are saved is fulfilled and the Christian Messiah Jesus Christ will come again in glory (Messiah, final judgment, eschatology, apocalypse)" (Geistige Nahrung).

More to follow ...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Father's Day +1

The best thing my father (and my mother) did for me was to get me baptized six weeks or so after I was born. I don't remember the event. I have a little picture from that day and my Baptism certificate that I have framed. I know who my God-parents are. On that day I received three fathers: my natural father, my God-father, and my heavenly Father. What a blessing, especially in a time in our society where fatherhood seems to be maligned by certain groups with an ax to grind.

Dr. Nagel once mentioned in a sermon that we are "chrismed, Christed, and christened". What a short, simple, and powerful declaration. Chrism is the act of putting oil on the forehead of the soon-to-be-baptized individual. Christening is another way of saying "Baptism". Both references to holy Baptism bracket Christ. He is in the middle and in our midst. I have pondered on this image and have realized how talented a wordsmith Dr. Nagel has been over the years. His words tell us that it's all about Christ and what He has done for us: the Sacrament of Baptism brings us to Christ and gives us forgiveness of sins, salvation, and eternal life. Christ is the centerpiece in God's salvation history and the means of grace point us to Him alone.

Luther mentions in his Large Catechism that it is the father's duty to bring his children to Christ by getting them baptized, teaching them the holy Scriptures, and the Small Catechism. Such an important responsibility God has given to human fathers. I am blessed and proud that my father did all this and much more for me and my siblings!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Euro 2008

Euro 2008 begins Saturday 7 June at 6:00 p.m. CZE (12 p.m. EST) with Switzerland and Czech Republic kicking off on the pitch! One of the ESPN channels will be televising many of the matches.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


I bought a little video camera for my computer. It works. Some day soon I hope to try it out more fully and figure out how to post videos to my blog.