8/30/13

Why Lutheran? Objectivity.

Lutheranism is objective. From assurance of salvation to the means of grace, to Christ crucified, it's objective. I don't think Reformed Theology or Arminianism, let alone Roman Catholicism, has the level of objectivity that Lutheranism does. I'll explain.

In Lutheranism, the means of grace are objective. We are baptised into Christ and Christ is truly given to us in baptism. Not only some people receive Christ in baptism, but everyone does. If Christ is rejected in baptism, it is all on the person rejecting, not because they did not receive an inward call or because they didn't make their own baptism effective by their own free will. This also applies to the Sacrament of the Altar. Christ is truly and objectively given to you - this means to everyone who receives the Eucharist. The Reformed claim that Christ is only received by the elect in the Eucharist. Therefore, He is not received by the non-elect. In Arminianism, the Eucharist is usually just a memorial.

The atonement of Christ is also objective in Lutheranism. In Lutheranism, Christ died for you. Thus, we know He died for us because He died for everybody. Not only that, but Christ universally objectively justified the human race at the cross (Rom 5:18). This, of course, must be received through the means of grace. But, Christ's atonement is perfect and justifies; a work already done that only need be received as a free gift. In Calvinism, it does the same thing, but is limited to the elect alone. Therefore, the question comes up repeatedly: How do you know Christ died for you? In Arminianism, Christ's death is not penal at all. It's all dependent on the will of man to make it effective. There are worse theological problems with that, but that is for another time.

This all brings us back to the assurance of salvation. In Calvinism, which of course is another Reformation tradition, they have grace alone through faith alone. Rock on. However, this faith alone is not a sure thing because of the lurking question of did Christ die for me or not? They could be baptised and not receive grace; hear the Gospel preached and not receive grace; and receive the Eucharist and not receive grace. All of these are dependent on the mysterious sovereign inward call of the Spirit. Thus, assurance of salvation generally comes back to less sinning. In Arminianism, assurance all revolves around holy living; sometimes salvation itself. This is not to say that Calvinists and Arminians cannot have assurance of salvation. But it is to say that they have less objectivity in that realm that the Lutheran doctrines teach.

In Lutheranism, we know we are justified because a) Christ justified us on the cross, outside of ourselves, and b) we have received Christ in baptism, the Word, and the sacrament as a free gift, by God giving Himself to us. Both of these are outside of ourselves and the means of grace actually work faith in the recipient (cf. Eph 2:8-9). Thus, God gives us Christ on the cross, for everyone - and then Christ is given to us via Word and Sacrament, as a free gift, apart from our willing or doing (Rom 9:16). Both Word and Sacrament are to be received by faith alone; which they themselves bring! All of it is completely outside of ourselves. All we contribute is the sin that made it necessary. These means of grace give forgiveness of sins and faith and the Holy Spirit is there all the time. Not because we believe the Spirit can be manipulated, but because God has said He will come to us in grace in these ways.

Thanks be to God.

Predestination: Lutheranism vs. Calvinism

One of the most difficult jumps for me to make coming from Calvinism to Lutheranism was the Lutheran Confessions views on predestination. To the Calvinist, the Lutheran position seems to be irrational and contradictory; as it did to me as well at one time.

To sum up the positions before going to the confessions of faith, we will say this: The Calvinist view emphasizes the sovereignty of God in everything and concludes that God has predestined not only the elect to glory, who alone receive grace - but also the non-elect to perdition, from whom God withholds His grace and the Spirit never gives the inward call. These people then reject Christ out of their own will, since grace is the only thing that would ever cause them to receive Christ.

The Lutheran view is heavily tied to the means of grace. Election to salvation is itself a cause, yet God works this through the means of grace (Calvinists do not deny this). However, in the Lutheran view, grace is truly conferred in the Word and the Sacraments. Persons who are unregenerate truly receive what is conferred in the Word and Sacraments, which is grace. It is by their own rejection of those things that they are condemned. Therefore, the Lutheran view rejects predestination to damnation.

Calvinist Confessions and Statements:

WCF, III, 3: By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.

WCF, III, 7: The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy, as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice.

Belgic Confession, Art. 16: We believe that all the posterity of Adam being thus fallen into perdition and ruin, by the sin of our first parents, God then did manifest himself such as he is; that is to say, merciful and just: Merciful, since he delivers and preserves from this perdition all, whom he, in his eternal and unchangeable counsel of mere goodness, hath elected in Christ Jesus our Lord, without any respect to their works: Just, in leaving others in the fall and perdition wherein they have involved themselves.

John Calvin, Institutes, Book 3, Ch 21: Of the eternal election, by which God has predestinated some to salvation, and others to destruction.

John Calvin, Institutes, Book 3, 21.5: By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.

Lutheran Confessions and Statements:

Solid Declaration, XI, 4-8:
 First, the distinction between the eternal foreknowledge of God and the eternal election of His children to eternal salvation, is carefully to be observed. For praescientia vel praevisio (foreknowledge or prevision), that is, that God sees and knows everything before it happens, which is called God's foreknowledge [prescience], extends over all creatures, good and bad; namely, that He foresees and foreknows everything that is or will be, that is occurring or will occur, whether it be good or bad, since before God all things, whether they be past or future, are manifest and present. Thus it is written, Matt. 10:29: Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. And Ps. 139:16: Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in Thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there were none of them. Also Is. 37:28: I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against Me.
The eternal election of God, however, vel praedestinatio (or predestination), that is, God's ordination to salvation, does not extend at once over the godly and the wicked, but only over the children of God, who were elected and ordained to eternal life before the foundation of the world was laid, as Paul says, Eph. 1:4. 5: He hath chosen us in Him, having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ.
The foreknowledge of God (praescientia) foresees and foreknows also that which is evil; however, not in such a manner as though it were God's gracious will that it should happen; but all that the perverse, wicked will of the devil and of men wills and desires to undertake and do, God sees and knows before; and His praescientia, that is, foreknowledge, observes its order also in wicked acts or works, inasmuch as a limit and measure is fixed by God to the evil which God does not will, how far it should go, and how long it should last, when and how He will hinder and punish it; for all of this God the Lord so overrules that it must redound to the glory of the divine name and to the salvation of His elect, and the godless, on that account, must be put to confusion.
However, the beginning and cause of evil is not God's foreknowledge (for God does not create and effect [or work] evil, neither does He help or promote it); but the wicked, perverse will of the devil and of men [is the cause of evil], as it is written Hos. 13:9: O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in Me is thy help. Also: Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness. Ps. 5:4.
The eternal election of God, however, not only foresees and foreknows the salvation of the elect, but is also, from the gracious will and pleasure of God in Christ Jesus, a cause which procures, works, helps, and promotes our salvation and what pertains thereto; and upon this [divine predestination] our salvation is so founded that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it, Matt. 16:18, as is written John 10:28: Neither shall any man pluck My sheep out of My hand. And again, Acts 13:48: And as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.

Solid Declaration, XI, 15-23:
 1. That the human race is truly redeemed and reconciled with God through Christ, who, by His faultless [innocency] obedience, suffering, and death, has merited for us the righteousness which avails before God, and eternal life.  2. That such merit and benefits of Christ shall be presented, offered, and distributed to us through His Word and Sacraments.  3. That by His Holy Ghost, through the Word, when it is preached, heard, and pondered, He will be efficacious and active in us, convert hearts to true repentance, and preserve them in the true faith.  4. That He will justify all those who in true repentance receive Christ by a true faith, and will receive them into grace, the adoption of sons, and the inheritance of eternal life.  5. That He will also sanctify in love those who are thus justified, as St. Paul says, Eph. 1:4.  6. That He also will protect them in their great weakness against the devil, the world, and the flesh, and rule and lead them in His ways, raise them again [place His hand beneath them], when they stumble, comfort them under the cross and in temptation, and preserve them [for life eternal].  7. That He will also strengthen, increase, and support to the end the good work which He has begun in them, if they adhere to God's Word, pray diligently, abide in God's goodness [grace], and faithfully use the gifts received.
8. That finally He will eternally save and glorify in life eternal those whom He has elected, called, and justified.

And [indeed] in this His counsel, purpose, and ordination God has prepared salvation not only in general, but has in grace considered and chosen to salvation each and every person of the elect who are to be saved through Christ, also ordained that in the way just mentioned He will, by His grace, gifts, and efficacy, bring them thereto [make them participants of eternal salvation], aid, promote, strengthen, and preserve them.

Solid Declaration, XI, 26, 28

And of this we should not judge according to our reason, nor according to the Law or from any external appearance. Neither should we attempt to investigate the secret, concealed abyss of divine predestination, but should give heed to the revealed will of God. For He has made known unto us the mystery of His will, and made it manifest through Christ that it might be preached, Eph. 1:9ff ; 2 Tim. 1:9f.

Therefore, if we wish to consider our eternal election to salvation with profit, we must in every way hold sturdily and firmly to this, that, as the preaching of repentance, so also the promise of the Gospel is universalis (universal), that is, it pertains to all men, Luke 24:47. For this reason Christ has commanded that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations. For God loved the world and gave His Son, John 3:16. Christ bore the sins of the world, John 1:29, gave His flesh for the life of the world, John 6:51; His blood is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, 1 John 1:7; 2:2. Christ says: Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, Matt. 11:28. God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all, Rom. 11:32. The Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, 2 Pet. 3:9. The same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him, Rom. 10:12. The righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe, Rom. 3:22. This is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one that seeth the Son and believeth on Him may have everlasting life, John 6:40. Likewise it is Christ's command that to all in common to whom repentance is preached this promise of the Gospel also should be offered Luke 24:47; Mark 16:15.

Thus far, we can see clearly that the Lutheran confessions affirm election to salvation as a cause, not as an effect of the human will. We also see that the Lutheran confessions just as strongly affirm the indiscriminate preaching of the Gospel and offer of salvation to everyone. So far, the Lutheran confessions are roughly on the same page as the classic Reformed confessions.

Here is where it gets different:

Solid Declaration, XI, 78-82:

But the reason why not all who hear it believe, and some are therefore condemned the more deeply [eternally to severer punishments], is not because God had begrudged them their salvation; but it is their own fault, as they have heard the Word in such a manner as not to learn, but only to despise, blaspheme, and disgrace it, and have resisted the Holy Ghost, who through the Word wished to work in them, as was the case at the time of Christ with the Pharisees and their adherents.

Hence the apostle distinguishes with especial care the work of God, who alone makes vessels of honor, and the work of the devil and of man, who by the instigation of the devil, and not of God, has made himself a vessel of dishonor. For thus it is written, Rom. 9:22f : God endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory.
 Here, then, the apostle clearly says that God endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath, but does not say that He made them vessels of wrath; for if this had been His will, He would not have required any great long-suffering for it. The fault, however, that they are fitted for destruction belongs to the devil and to men themselves, and not to God.
For all preparation for condemnation is by the devil and man, through sin, and in no respect by God, who does not wish that any man be damned; how, then, should He Himself prepare any man for condemnation? For as God is not a cause of sins, so, too, He is no cause of punishment, of damnation; but the only cause of damnation is sin; for the wages of sin is death, Rom. 6:23. And as God does not will sin, and has no pleasure in sin, so He does not wish the death of the sinner either, Ezek. 33:11, nor has He pleasure in his condemnation. For He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, 2 Pet. 3:9. So, too, it is written in Ezek. 18:23; 33:11: As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.

And St. Paul testifies in clear words that from vessels of dishonor vessels of honor may be made by God's power and working, when he writes thus, 2 Tim. 2:21: If a man, therefore, purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work. For he who is to purge himself must first have been unclean, and hence a vessel of dishonor. But concerning the vessels of mercy he says clearly that the Lord Himself has prepared them for glory, which he does not say concerning the damned, who themselves, and not God, have prepared themselves as vessels of damnation.

The Lutheran confessions just as strongly reject the Reformed doctrine of reprobation, even in an active/passive sense.

Compare:

WCF, III, 3: By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death. (Calvinist)

SD, XI, 81-82: For all preparation for condemnation is by the devil and man, through sin, and in no respect by God, who does not wish that any man be damned; how, then, should He Himself prepare any man for condemnation? For as God is not a cause of sins, so, too, He is no cause of punishment, of damnation; but the only cause of damnation is sin; for the wages of sin is death, Rom. 6:23. And as God does not will sin, and has no pleasure in sin, so He does not wish the death of the sinner either, Ezek. 33:11, nor has He pleasure in his condemnation. For He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, 2 Pet. 3:9. So, too, it is written in Ezek. 18:23; 33:11: As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.

And St. Paul testifies in clear words that from vessels of dishonor vessels of honor may be made by God's power and working, when he writes thus, 2 Tim. 2:21: If a man, therefore, purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work. For he who is to purge himself must first have been unclean, and hence a vessel of dishonor. But concerning the vessels of mercy he says clearly that the Lord Himself has prepared them for glory, which he does not say concerning the damned, who themselves, and not God, have prepared themselves as vessels of damnation. (Lutheran)

Therefore, in the Lutheran system, God truly desires all to be saved, He truly gives grace to everyone who is baptised, hears the Word, and receives the Eucharist. There is no foreordination to perdition, only election to salvation, which keeps salvation by grace alone.

We as Lutherans tie this election to the means of grace very closely. This is not to say that the Reformed do not do the same. However, it is somewhat different. Due to their doctine of irresistible grace, the grace given is only given to the elect and no one else. This is to say, in Calvinism, God may or may not give grace to a person through Word and Sacrament. In Lutheranism, everyone who receives Word and Sacrament is truly given grace. If they reject that grace, their condemnation stands on themselves alone. This is a big difference, and one that gives the Lutheran a very steadfast objective assurance of their salvation.

Hope this helps.

Pax

8/28/13

The Landauer Altarpiece: About The Banner I Chose For My Blog

I chose the Landauer Altarpiece for the banner on my blog. Here is some info on the painting.

"This work was commissioned by the Nuremberg metal trader Matthäus Landauer. Also known as the Landauer Altarpiece, it was ordered for the chapel of the Twelve-Brothers House, which he endowed for a dozen impoverished artisans.  In the centre of the painted panel at the top is the Trinity. God the Father is shown as emperor, holding Christ on the Cross and surmounted by the dove of the Holy Ghost. Around the figure of God are two rings of angels. Below them, to the right, are Old Testament figures and, to the left, followers of Christ bearing palm branches. Nearer the base of the picture are the slightly larger figures of the living, led by the Pope (with a blue tiara) and the Emperor (with a golden crown). The grey-haired figure of Matthäus Landauer, the donor, is depicted on the left, being welcomed into the throng by the outstretched hand of a cardinal.  The landscape at the bottom of the panel stretches into the far distance. A lone figure stands on the land - the artist, who has depicted the earthly community being reunited with the realm of heaven. His hand rests on a panel which is inscribed: `Albrecht Dürer of Nuremberg made this 1511 years after the Virgin.'  Dürer also designed an ornate frame for the altarpiece. An early drawing for the frame and panel is dated 1508 and shows that they were a carefully designed ensemble. The frame still survives in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, although unfortunately it has long been separated from the painting. (The frame shown in the reproduction is an exact replica of the original.) Made of carved and painted wood, the top of the frame has a sculpted depiction of the Last Jjudgment, with God enthroned and surrounded by the kneeling figures of the Virgin and John the Baptist. An inscription on the base of the frame records: `Matthäus Landauer has finally completed the house of worship of the Twelve Bretheren including the donation of this panel. After Christ's birth, the year 1511.' Dürer's workshop also designed stained-glass windows for the Twelve-Brothers Chapel, but these were removed in 1810 and were destroyed in Berlin during the Second World War."

From: http://www.wga.hu/html_m/d/durer/1/07/landaue.html

So, why did I choose this? First of all, I love the Trinitarian aspect of the painting. The Father, Son, and Spirit are all present here, along with many saints of old. I also think the image of the crucifix is something that is important since it shows us what God did to take care of our sin. God had to die on a cross. The painting is also a very beautiful piece of Christian artwork from the Reformation era. Albrecht Durer, a Roman Catholic, was very sympathetic to Luther and the Lutherans as well.

Draped around the picture and in the accents of the blog, I chose to use the liturgical color of the church season. On the outside borders, I inserted an oil painting of the sky and clouds that closely matches the center of the altarpiece.

The banner itself was created by a friend who knows how to do those sorts of things. Raise your hand, Jennifer!

Grace and Peace

Mornin' Grasshoppers.

It's a beautiful morning of what appears to be a hot and humid day ahead.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I thank You, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life would please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.

This morning I rejoice that my entire family is baptised into Christ. As of Sunday, myself, my wife, and all four of my daughters are baptised. We can rejoice in this sure gift that God has given to us by making us His children through the waters of Holy Baptism.

Without more explanation, we'll pass this one off to Pr. Jonathan Fisk and Worldview Everlasting to talk about Holy Baptism.


 
And then we'll go ahead and let him exegete 1 Peter 3:21 for us. You know, because Baptism now saves you.

 

And on that note, I'll close this blog entry. How is that for random morning bloggage?

8/27/13

Reprobation. All On You.

The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord gives one of the most in-depth, if not the most in-depth, treatment of the doctrine of predestination and election that you will find anywhere. Within the Solid Declaration, the doctrine of reprobation is also addressed.

"The reason why not all who hear the Word believe, and some are therefore deeply condemned, is not because God had begrudged them them their salvation. It is their own fault. They have heard the Word in such a way as not to learn, but only to despise, blaspheme, and disgrace it. They have resisted the Holy Spirit, who through the Word wanted to work in them, as was the case at the time of Christ with the Pharisees and their followers. Therefore, the apostle distinguishes with special care the work of God (who alone makes vessels of honor) and the work of the devil and people. By the instigation of the devil, not God, a person has made himself a vessel of dishonor. For it is written, "[God] endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy, which He has prepared beforehand for glory" (Romans 9:22-23).

Here, then, the apostle clearly says that God endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath. But He does not say that He made them vessels or wrath. If that had been His will, He would not have required any great long-suffering for it. The reason that they are fitted for destruction belongs to the devil and to the people themselves, and not to God.

All preparation for condemnation is by the devil and a person, through sin. In no way does it come from God, who does not want any person to be damned. How, then, should He Himself prepare any person for condemnation? God is not a cause of sins. He is also not the cause of punishment or damnation. The only cause of damnation is sin. "For the wages of sin is death" [Romans 6:23]. Just as God does not will sin and has no pleasure in sin, so He does not desire "the death of the wicked" [Ezekiel 33:11], nor has He pleasure in his condemnation. He is not willing "that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). So, too, it is written in Ezekiel 33:11, "As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live." St. Paul testifies in clear words that from vessels of dishonor, vessels of honor may be made by God's power and working. He writes, "Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work" (2 Timothy 2:20-21). A person who should cleanse himself must first have been unclean and a vessel of dishonor. He says clearly about the vessels of mercy that the Lord Himself has prepared them for glory. He does not say this about the damned. They themselves, and not God, have prepared themselves as vessels of damnation."

Solid Declaration, XI, 78-82

This is all to say, as strongly as the Lutheran Confessions affirm the doctrine of unconditional election in a positive sense; the elect are predestined to heaven by God alone, they just as strongly reject the idea that God predestines persons to perdition, whether actively or passively. This is to say, that Scripture does not equate election or predestination with anyone other than those who are elected and predestined to glory. We do not deal in terms of the 'non-elect' or 'predestined to damnation' as Calvinism does. Lutherans are certainly not supra or infralapsarian Calvinists. There is no "double predestination" in Lutheranism. Although God does indeed predestine His elect alone to glory, He also fully desires that everyone come to repentance and His grace is universal. In this way, God truly desires and offers to everyone salvation, but He does not predestine persons to damnation, only His elect to glory. In this way, nobody will be able to stand at the judgment seat and claim that God did not predestine them to glory or that God predestined them to hell. Much more, they will not be able to claim that Christ did not die for them. And on this paradox we shall stand. Scripture behooves us to stand here.

It's All About Jesus. Really, It Is.

The Gospel reading from the three year lectionary Sunday came from Luke 13:22-30. Here is a portion of it.

Luke 13:24-25: Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’

In Luke 13:22-30, Jesus speaks about striving to enter through the narrow door. When we look at this text, it becomes clear that Jesus is not telling people they can strive to the point of earning righteousness; much less salvation.

What is Jesus' point? It's really pretty simple. He IS the door (cf. John 10:9). There have been many people in history striving to enter the door, but only One has done so. Jesus. He is the door and He is the only human who has ever entered the door by His own merits.

Therefore, since Christ alone has entered the door, we must be in Christ. How can we enter the door as well? Only by being in the One who is the door. That is the only way. Only Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). Jesus Christ Himself is the end of all self-justifying activity. Every mouth is stopped and every deed is a filthy rag.

He washes us, sanctifies us, and justifies us. (1 Corinthians 6:11) So take and eat, this is His true body and blood given for you for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:28)

It really is all about Jesus. Really.

O Almighty God, whom to know is everlasting life, grant us without all doubt to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life that, following his steps, we may steadfastly walk in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Amen.

8/26/13

Nightly Family Worship

Our family does a liturgical nightly prayer and Scripture reading. I sort of came up with an order of prayer on my own to an extent, although some nights we do the Compline Prayer from the outstanding Lutheran Brotherhood Prayer Book, of which I own the 2004 edition. Here is our order of nightly prayer. Comments and critique are greatly welcomed on this, especially if you are a Lutheran pastor. Here it is.

1. Opening Prayer. We begin in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and then proceed with an opening prayer, taken from The Lutheran Book of Prayer. We generally use the prayer for whatever night of the week it is, although sometimes we will use specialized prayers; such as one after the birth of our daughter.

2. Old Testament Reading. We will then proceed to read a chapter from the OT. Right now we are in 1 Samuel.

3. Psalm. We then read a Psalm. We use Psalm 4 and 91 a lot, but will occasionally use another one.

4. Gloria Patri

5. Catechism. We will then proceed to the Small Catechism with Explanation and read a couple sections from that.

6. Gospel. Next up is a reading from one of the Gospels. We are currently in Luke.

7. Gloria Patri

8. Family Prayer. This is where we allow each other to all pray aloud and bring our petitions to the Lord. I guess you could call this extemporaneous prayer.

9. Creed. We then confess our faith in a creed. We usually use the Apostle's Creed, but will occasionally use the Nicene. On rare occasions, we will use the Athanasian Creed.

10. The Lord's Prayer.

11. Closing Prayer. In this we always use Luther's standard evening prayer, found on p. 13 of the Lutheran Book of Prayer.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands, I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.

The resources we use for our family prayer are these...

Brotherhood Prayer Book

http://emmanuelpress.us/our-books/the-brotherhood-prayer-book-second-revised-edition/

Luther's Small Catechism with Explanation

http://www.cph.org/p-1771-esv-luthers-small-catechism-with-explanation-1991-edition.aspx?SearchTerm=luthers catechism

Lutheran Book of Prayer

http://www.cph.org/p-118-lutheran-book-of-prayer-5th-edition.aspx?SearchTerm=lutheran book of prayer

And of course, a Bible.

Any thoughts?

8/24/13

Forward to the Font!

Luther's Small Catechism with Explanation

244. Who is to be baptised?

"All nations" are to be baptised, that is, all people, young and old.

245. What distinction is to be made in baptising?

A. Those who can receive instruction are to be baptised after they have been instructed in the main articles of the Christian faith. (Acts 2:38-39, 41, Acts 8:26-39, Acts 16:25-33))

B. Little children should be baptised when they are brought to Baptism by those who have authority over them. (Mark 10:13-15)

246. Why are babies to be baptised?

Babies are to be baptised because

A. They are included in the words "all nations"; (Matthew 28:19, Acts 2:38-39)

B. Jesus especially invites little children to come to Him; (Luke 18:15-17)

C. As sinners, babies need what baptism offers; (John 3:5-6, Ephesians 2:3)

D. Babies also are able to have faith, (Matthew 18:6)

248. What great and precious things are given in Baptism?

Baptism

A. Works forgiveness of sins; (Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16)

B. Rescues from death and the devil; (Romans 6:3,5, Galatians 3:27, Colossians 1:13-14, Colossians 2:11-12)

C. Gives eternal salvation; (Mark 16:16, 1 Peter 3:21, Titus 3:5)

Tomorrow, my newborn daughter, Anastasia Hope Taylor, will be baptised into Christ at 8:30 AM EST.

Praise to You, O Christ, for your gracious gifts.

8/23/13

Faith Alone Means Baptism Can't Possibly Do Anything! Bzzz. False.

When you come to two groupings of Scriptures that are both very clear, they're both true.

Keep that in mind as we move on. I will grant that there are passages in Scripture that are unclear and/or difficult to interpret because they do not give us a full picture for one reason or another. Yet, there are many very clear passages of Scripture. And those clear passages of Scripture say what they mean, mean what they say, and usually are repeated in one form or another numerous times and places.

What am I getting at here? A very common evangelical argument that is leveled at the Lutheran doctrine of baptismal regeneration is that it adds works to our salvation and denies justification by grace through faith, apart from works (Eph 2:8-9). But here is the problem: Lutherans firmly hold to the solas of the Reformation. So, unless you're not listening to the Lutheran stance (and the Bible!), you may just be erecting a false dichotomy and a strawman. Since nobody wants to do that, let us examine the passages. I will group the passages into two groups. Group #1 will be a group of passages that clearly teach justification by faith. Group #2 will be passages that clearly teach that baptism unites us to Christ, saves, regenerates, and so on. The lists will not be exhaustive, but I will post enough for the picture to become clear.

Group #1:

John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Romans 10:9-10, 13: because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.  For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Acts 16:31a: And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved

Ok, so there are some passages that teach that we are saved by faith. Along with this all-important one:

Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Group #2:

Acts 2:38-39: And Peter said to them, “Repent and come forward to the altar call and say the sinner's prayer be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Romans 6:3-4: Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Colossians 2:11-12: In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

1 Peter 3:21: Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ

Titus 3:4-7: But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

So there is group 2, and they're all pretty clear. I'll even grant the evangelicals Titus 3:5 because it doesn't use the word 'baptism' or 'baptized.' Yet, it's pretty clear that it is talking about baptism.

So here is the thing. You have group #1 of passages that are very clear regarding faith. You have group #2 of passages that are very clear regarding baptism. Group #1 is clear that faith justifies and we are saved by faith. Group #2 is clear that baptism unites us to Christ, saves us, and regenerates us.

Instead of using group #1 as a hammer to make group #2 untrue or to reinterpret all of the group #2 passages to mean something other than what they mean at face value - we have to determine how both of these groups can be true. In other words, we must stop pitting clear Scriptures against other clear Scriptures, when God's Word is all true. So when the evangelical surmises that since faith saves, baptism cannot, they are in effect creating a false dichotomy. The two are not mutually exclusive. To pit faith alone against baptism is to pit faith alone against grace alone. You just don't do that.

This brings us back to Ephesians 2:8-9, which is very clear that we are saved by grace through faith, not of works. The evangelical interjects here: "See! See! Baptism is a work, therefore it cannot save!" But this interjection and argument rests on a false assumption in the first place. Where does Holy Scripture say what the evangelical says about baptism? Namely, where does it say that baptism is an outward sign of something that already occurred inwardly and that in order to be baptized a person must be able to confess their Christian faith and know what baptism is? Where does Scripture say that? Perhaps it's in the lost book of 2 Apollos, chapter 7. I don't know. But once you see that this interpretation of baptism is foreign to God's Word, well, then it becomes much more clear.

But what about the thief on the cross? He wasn't baptized! Ha! Got you! Well, crapnuggets, I never thought of that. You got me now. I have to retract this whole thing.

The problem is, this is not a good argument at all. Just because the thief on the cross was not baptized does not mean that baptism doesn't save or that baptism is not the normal means by which we are united to Christ. Baptism is a Word of promise from God that saves us. The thief on the cross got one of those too. There was some guy on another cross next to him. Not sure who He was, but I think His name started with a J. And this other guy gave the thief on the cross a word of promise that he would be saved and be with Him in paradise that day. Logic destroys the thief on the cross objection. More importantly, Scripture destroys it.

So, how can group #1 and group #2 both be true? Let's look at Ephesians 2:8-9, which states that we are saved by grace through faith, not of ourselves and not by works. Solely by God's gift. Grace is a gift, faith is a gift, and salvation is a gift. The whole thing is a gift.

If baptism does what Holy Scripture says it does, the solution to the problem is quite simple. Only Christ's work saves us, and it is given to us by grace alone, not of works. If baptism regenerates us, unites us to Christ, and saves us, it cannot be a work, and it has to be grace (Rom 11:6 is pretty clear). Only grace saves. If baptism is grace, it must do something to us that delivers the work of Christ to us personally and objectively. And if it is grace, it also must bring the gift of faith with it; per Ephesians 2:8-9, since this is what grace does. It delivers to us Christ and faith.

So, if baptism is grace and delivers faith, there is no contradiction at all. Baptism is simply a means of grace. It is God's work done to us, not our work done to God out of the pious purity of our heart. It is one way in which Christ is delivered to us. In fact, it is the usual way in which we are united to Christ. The norm, as it were.

Baptism unites us to Christ (Rom 6, Gal 3). Why? Because God baptises us in baptism. It's all Him and none of us. We are baptized, not active workers to save ourselves by works.

We are washed, sanctified, justified (1Cor 6:11), reborn (John 3:5, Tit 3:5), and saved (1Pet 3:21) in baptism. Why, because we are just so obedient, that's why. No, no. These things occur because God delivers His grace through means, of which baptism is one of them; just as the Lord's Supper and the preaching of the Gospel. In short, it is the Word of God with these Sacraments that do these things. Not just water in baptism, but being washed with water and the Word (Eph 5:26).

Baptism is the normal means that God grants us faith. It is pure grace, delivering the crucified Christ to you, personally and objectively. We are saved by grace through faith and we are justified by faith alone. But this faith comes by grace and this grace is delivered through means. We receive it through light rays when we read the Word, sound waves when we hear the Gospel and receive absolution, water in baptism, and bread and wine in the Eucharist.

What most evangelicals are actually against is the idea that baptism can do anything, especially to infants, because it's against their sovereign right to choose. In short, they're against divine monergism, because baptizing an infant (especially an infant) violates their free will because they haven't chosen to be baptized and haven't made their own personal confession of faith. The majority of them won't ever be able to see or consider the biblical stance of baptismal grace which imparts faith because to them faith = choice. This plays off of a false dichotomy as well that equates faith with free will choice and not a gift of God. They've sadly missed the point that we are passive receivers of God's good gifts. Pastor Matt Richard has aptly pointed that out over at Steadfast Lutherans. The article can be found here:

http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=28761

And Pr. Richard's excellent blogwork can be found here:

http://www.pastormattrichard.com/

Baptism is in no way contrary to faith alone. Baptism is grace that delivers faith to us. God set it up that way. He saves the natural world by connecting His supernatural and eternal Word to natural means. You know, like water, bread, and wine. And stuff.

8/22/13

Why Lutheran? Baptism.

Baptism is one of the biggest hot button topics in Christianity. There are churches who consider it a sacrament and others that consider it an ordinance; churches that believe that it does something and God works through it and churches that believe it does nothing and is a bare sign of obedience; churches that believe baptism belongs to the Gospel and churches that believe it belongs to the law.

To determine what baptism is and what baptism does (or doesn't do) the place we have to go is Holy Scripture. To do so, we go mainly to the didactic epistles of Sts. Paul and Peter as well as the book of Acts, penned by St. Luke.

The baptism debate gets off on the wrong foot far too often by people wrangling about the meaning of the Greek words. The fact of the matter is, the Greek word(s) used for baptism have a wider range of meaning than some people would like to admit. One camp, namely baptists, sometimes claim that the word only means to immerse. Others (rightly, imo) say that the emphasis in the word baptism is on the washing with water, which certainly can be done by immersion. The symbolic stance doesn't even have a washing involved. A washing is something done to you that actually accomplishes something. There is nothing in baptist theology other than 'I went and got myself dunked but nothing actually happened other than I professed my personal relationship with Jesus.' Oh that they would see the gracious gift that baptism is and what it accomplishes!

Here are some of the didactic texts that deal with baptism and use the word baptism:

Romans 6:3-4: Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Galatians 3:27:  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Ephesians 4:4-7: There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.

Colossians 2:11-12:  In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

1 Peter 3:21: Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ

Here are a couple of the passages from Acts that speak about baptism:

Acts 2:38-39: And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Acts 22:16: And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

And here are some passages from the didactics that talk about washings:

Ephesians 5:26: that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word

Titus 3:5: he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,

1 Corinthians 6:11: And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

This is not an exhaustive list of course. The reason I chose these passages is because they either directly say or hint at what baptism does and what baptism is. There are many other examples of people being baptised in Scripture with no description or hint of what baptism does or does not do.

To make a long story short, how can baptism possibly be only an outward sign for professing believers alone done out of obedience if baptism does all the things that Scripture says it does? Romans 6 and Galatians 3 say that it unites us to Christ. If baptism is a work of obedience, then St. Paul here is pretty clearly teaching works righteousness. Colossians 2 says that it not only buries us with Christ, but also raises us in faith. There is only one thing that works faith in persons, and that is the grace of God (Eph 2:8-9). We are saved by grace through faith, and faith itself is even a gift of God. St. Peter is so blunt as to say that baptism now saves you. St. Peter again, in Acts 2:38-39, says that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins and in it we receive the Holy Spirit. St. Paul puts the efficacy of baptism on God's Word in Ephesians 5, just one chapter after he gets done saying that there is one baptism. (See also the Nicene Creed on this) He also refers to baptism as the washing of regeneration in Titus 3 which closely parallels Jesus' statement in John 3:5.

None of these passages make much sense at all if baptism is noting more than an outward sign of an inward reality, as our baptist brothers like to say. If the things Holy Scripture says about baptism are true, and baptism actually means baptism, then baptism cannot be a work of obedience, unless one is willing to claim that we are saved by works, regenerated by works, united to Christ by works, and so on.

If we are to be biblical and cling to the words of Scripture, we have a much different picture than gets painted by all stripes of evangelical decision theology. Baptism is a means of grace God gave to us. In it we are united with Christ (Rom 6), regenerated (Tit 3), saved (1Pet 3), born again (John 3), raised in faith (Col 2), and forgiven of our sins (Acts 2).

Baptism can do these things precisely because the efficacy is in the Word of God. It is a work of God done to us, not a work of us done for God. We are passive receivers of a divine promise in baptism, not workers showing God how serious we are. Evangelical decision theology, to put it bluntly, has no sacramental theology, and what they call the ordinances are nothing but works, plain and simple.


So instead of trying to explain away all the baptism passages based on presuppotions of what baptism is because that's what you've always been taught - a better idea would be to allow Scripture to dictate to us what baptism is. And Scripture is clear, it's something that does a whole lot for us in s salvific sense. If it raises us in faith as Colossians 2 says, it is a means of grace. Only the grace of God can work faith in us; not our works or obedience. We do not create our own faith. God gives us faith, sustains our faith, and strengthens our faith. But He does this through specific means. Namely, Word and Sacrament, of which baptism is one of these means.

At the end of the day, we as Christians must allow Scripture to dictate to us what is true. Baptism saves us. That is true.

8/21/13

From Calvinism to Lutheranism

After some thought, I have decided to resurrect my old blog. I owe my Reformed friend Andy Underhile a debt of gratitude for digging the blog up. I thought I had deleted it and it was gone for good. I did this in light of my conversion to Lutheranism from Calvinism. I am glad Andy found it, however.

I will leave all of my former Calvinist blogs up on the site and indeed I will stand behind much of what I have written in the past. If you're interested in where I stood on things as a Calvinist, just peruse my old blogs. I'll leave them there. For instance, as a Lutheran now, I remain a presuppositionist in the apologetics area. I'll still stack the late Dr. Greg Bahnsen up against anyone in an apologetics debate.

So why the conversion from Calvinism to Lutheranism? (LCMS to be precise) I'm not going to go into a ton of detail here, but I will offer up my main reasons for doing so. Without further adieu, here are my reasons; and no, I'm not going to just post a picture of Holy Scripture!



1. The Christocentric hermeneutic of Lutheranism. The hermeneutics of Lutheran theology I do believe to be correct in light of Scripture. It really is all about Jesus. I know this sounds snarky, and I certainly do not mean to imply that my Reformed brothers are not Christ-centered! But Lutheranism sees all theology through Christ, as opposed to Covenant Theology (which is a pretty solid system, for what it's worth).

2. The sacraments. I found Calvin's views on the sacraments to be untenable and not in-line with Scripture. I find the memorialist views on the sacraments to be crass and out of line with Scripture. The Lutheran views on them are simple, to the point, and take the words in Holy Scripture at face value. Not to mention, the Lutheran views on the sacraments have historical continuity to a much greater degree than the Reformed views.

3. Assurance of Salvation. Limited Atonement in Reformed Theology locates assurance in the individual, whether it intends to or not. Most Calvinists I know will cry foul on this one and I get that. I really do. But where else are you to look if Christ only died for some? You look to your fruits and your changed life. In Lutheranism, we look to objective monergistic gifts that God has given us that deliver Christ crucified to us. That is to say, we know Christ died for us and we know that He has given Himself to us in Word and Sacrament.

4. The Divine Service. I am a huge traditional liturgy homer. It's based in Scripture and centered on Christ, every week and every service.

I would also throw out that reading Scripture and studying church history are two other reasons. But for now, this will suffice.

Grace and Peace