Coming from evangelicalism, to Reformed theology, finally to home in Lutheranism, one will notice very quickly that Lutheranism is all about pastoral care. As my colleagues and fellow contributors to this website have correctly pointed out, pastoral care looks very different in Lutheranism when compared to other branches of Christianity. In fact, Lutheranism is not academic, but pastoral through and through. It was birthed from Luther's struggles with assurance, particularly battling issues such as assurance he was of the elect.

One of the major means of grace God gives us for assurance of salvation is the Sacraments. These Sacraments are connected to universal grace and the universal saving intention of God in Christ, Who died for the sins of all who have ever lived. God wants us to know that He loves us and that Christ died for us. He wants us to know that His intention for the world is one of grace and mercy. This Gospel message, which is Good News, is one that is *for you*. Without the "for you", the Gospel is truncated and perverted. And God gives the Sacraments *for you* so you can *know* His kind and merciful saving intention toward you.

For these reasons, let us look at how messing with the Sacraments, then, takes away the "for you" of the Gospel, and therefore messes with the Gospel itself.


Most evangelical brethren will admit that Christ died for all, but usually mean this in a vague sense of "died for all so it can be appropriated when we believe." Evangelicals do not believe that Christ actually objectively reconciled and justified the whole world. (There are even some Lutherans that do not yet recognize universal objective justification, but perhaps that can be discussed in a future post.) This way of looking at the atonement inevitably leads a person to ask, "Do I have faith?" "Have I appropriated Christ?" This is why many evangelicals end up getting rebaptized, walking forward, or "rededicating" their lives many, many times. Baptism becomes something that they do for God, rather than something that God graciously does for us. Instead of it being an efficacious means of grace and regeneration and salvation, it instead becomes an act of obedience or "ordinance" commanded by God to show a sign that one already believed. This turns a person toward their own faith.

Because of this, if someone doubts that they have faith under evangelicalism, one must inevitably be turned back *to* their faith, hence rededication, rebaptism, etc. One will wonder if they have faith or not, or if they have enough fruit. The evangelical pastor, therefore, has no objective means to turn one to, other than ask them "do you have faith in Christ?" The poor soul is already doubting if they have faith, or if they have true fruit or enough fruit. To turn the doubter back to their fruit or their faith many times just makes things worse.


Although Reformed theology does talk about the sacraments as "efficacious", they mean it in a completely different sense than Lutheranism or the historic Church. For 1,500 years, the Church in all Her branches always believed, taught, and confessed that the Sacraments *objectively* work salvation and give the Spirit because of God's *universal* saving intention. However, under Reformed theology, Christ made an atonement *only* for the sins of the *elect*. The Spirit's intention in the sacraments under Reformed theology is only to be present for the elect, and only to be present for those who have faith. Ironically, then, the doubter is once again turned toward their faith.

Better forms of Reformed theology, such as the WSCAL brethren, will indeed tell a person to look to the sacraments--but they nonetheless confess that the Spirit may not necessarily be present there, except only for the elect. How does one know they are of the elect? How can they look to the sacraments if God's saving intention is only particular, and not universal? Further, the Reformed confess that it is possible that one may have false faith, even though they may have all the fruit that appears to be of "true faith." How, then, can one know? Ironically, just like the Arminian who denies the sacraments but confesses universal grace, the Reformed end up turning a person back toward their own faith.

So, we see that *both* universal grace *and* *objective* Sacraments are necessary for assurance.


In Lutheranism, we want to know that we have a gracious God. Even in other sacramental forms of Christianity--such as Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism--although they share with us objective Sacraments, they nonetheless do not keep the doctrine of justification and the forgiveness of sins as *primary*. For Rome, the sacraments are simply things we do for God to achieve merit before Him. For the East, the sacraments are simply vehicles to aid us in theosis and progress in sanctification. Unwittingly, then, they simply become aids or works. They become law. This turns a person back to their efforts.

But in Lutheranism, the Sacraments are all about the forgiveness of sins, humankind's greatest need. In Holy Baptism, God washes away *all* our sin, both original and actual, past, present, and future. Holy Absolution, therefore, is a return to our Baptism. We never get past our need for forgiveness of sins. We do not always "feel" forgiven. So God gives us these wonderful means of mercy and kindness for our assurance. These Sacraments are for us beggars. In the Holy Supper, Christ gives us His very Body and Blood to enjoy, to become one with us and with each other, for us, for the forgiveness of all of our sins. We never get past our justification. We are passive beggars who receive Gifts from God in Word and Sacrament. And because of this, we relate to humankind actively out of thankfulness to God, because our relationship to God coram Deo is always passive, completely righteous before Him because of what Christ has done, and because of His objective Gifts of grace and mercy given in the Sacraments. The Sacraments do *not* depend upon our faith. The Sacraments are objectively gracious because of God's universal grace.

So the Lutheran pastor counsels the doubter by pointing them to the objective universal grace, atonement, and justification given to them and for them on the Cross and in the Sacraments. The Lutheran pastor never turns a person back to his or her faith. God gives us the Sacraments to offset our speculative tendencies. To correct our doubting. To prove God is objectively gracious. As my pastor rightly said to the doubters, "The Sacraments say 'Shut up.' The Sacraments say 'Open up.'"


The King is for you.

Jesus died for you.

You are the saved, beloved, child of God, washed clean in the waters of Holy Baptism, granted forgiveness of sins in Holy Absolution, and given Christ's Body and Blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins in the Sacrament of the Altar.

This God is gracious. He is for you.


Contemporary Worship, and Law & Gospel

Debates about contemporary worship are plethora these days, both in evangelical, fundamentalist, and Reformed circles. The fundamentalist and evangelicalism have still not dealt with it beyond the ubiquitous "preference" argument. It is all a matter of preference, they claim. The Reformed have dealt with it by creating a "new law" - the regulative principle of worship - that essentially says that if it is not commanded, it is forbidden.

We Lutherans are not immune to these issues, and it has become a real problem in some Lutheran circles. Even congregations that are fully confessional have decided to abandon or water down the liturgy in favor or "CoWo". Adherents usually say that it would be legalism to forbid it, and claim that it is needed to keep the congregation from dying, or to liven up. Many Pastors, not wanting to be accused of legalism, have simply capitulated and have made the change-over. Or, they have been convinced of the CoWo advocate's arguments that we need to worship in the context of our culture (which is code for basically adjusting the worship to meet sinful man's desires).

I propose that this issue be best approached from a different angle: law and Gospel. "But" you say "we have already tried that. We cannot create a new law to forbid it." This is true. If we really admit it, it may run counter to what we have always done, but we cannot point to Scripture and deny based on "thus sayeth the Lord."

But Law and Gospel is how this thorny issue will finally be resolved. And here is why.

Contemporary worship advocates are basically saying, when all is said and done, "you must lift up your hands and hearts toward heaven and praise the Lord. After all, the Savior died for you. Don't you want to do that? You do want to please God, don't you? You do want to tell him how you feel about him, and that you love him. Right?"

Therein lies the problem: CoWo is law.

What the CoWo advocate won't tell you is that CoWo is a basic denial of total depravity. They posit that you MUST lift yourself - and your voices - toward heaven, rather than, as in the liturgy, passively and quietly place ourselves before God, asking for His forgiveness in Word and Sacrament. Why must we? Can we? This is eerily similar to the Arminian argument that we can simply choose God as our Savior, which, similarly, is a complete denial of total depravity.  What if we don't "feel" like praising Him in that way? What if we are depressed and cannot fulfill this "new law" worship requirement? 

It is rather ironic that CoWo advocates are the real legalists in this debate. They are pushing a law-based worship. Yet, they are the first ones to accuse the liturgist of legalism. The CoWo advocate needs to be reminded that we are totally-depraved, poor, and lost sinners in desperate need of forgiveness. We are not cheerleaders for God, nor can we be. The next time a CoWo advocate, however well-meaning they may be, tries to convince you of including CoWo in your worship, tell them "That is a new law. I cannot even fulfill God's requirements in Scripture, and I am unable to do so. I am only a poor, miserable sinner that needs His forgiveness. I don't need any additional laws. No thanks."

CoWo is law. Liturgy is Gospel. 


Luther and Zwingli - Miles Apart, Then and Now

The Marburg Colloquy of 1529 was an historic event in Church history. It was here that Martin Luther and Huldrich Zwingli squared off in a monumental theological discourse. Truth be told, Philip of Hesse called for the Colloquy in an attempt to unite Luther and Zwingli for political reasons, mainly in order to form a formidable alliance in defense against the Roman Catholic regime that sought to unify Christendom by force if possible. Theology was only a secondary concern for Philip.

Anyhow, the Colloquy did not achieve the desired result for Philip of Hesse. By all accounts, Zwingli was willing to extend the right hand of fellowship to Luther, but Luther refused. Why?

Well, anyone who has read anything about the Colloquy knows that the major point of disagreement revolved solely around the Eucharist, or Lord's Supper. In fact, Luther and Zwingli mainly came to agreement (loosely perhaps) on every other article of doctrine that was discussed. But not on the Lord's Supper.

The vehement disagreement came about regarding what exactly was received in the Lord's Supper. Zwingli and his theological offspring want to make the whole discussion about ubiquity (omnipresence of Christ...that monstrous phantasm, per Calvin), but that is not ultimately, at least for Luther, what the disagreement was about.

Martin Luther simply refused to concede that the words "This is My body" spoken by Christ meant anything other than they read. Despite Zwingli's appeals to philosophical ideas and other texts of Scripture that have nothing to do with the Lord's Supper, Luther would not be moved from the simple and plain words of Christ. This is My body. At it's core, the disagreement was about the plain words of Scripture.

But also for Luther, and for all of traditional orthodox Christianity, the Eucharist is a Christological thing. For Zwingli it was a mere symbol. However, even Zwingli's symbolic view was also a derivative of his Christology.

To put things quite simply, Zwingli's stance was that Christ in His deity is omnipresent but cannot be according to His humanity. Hence, Christ is not present in the Eucharist because His body is not there. his body, in fact, absolutely can't be there in Zwinglian Christology. Therefore, when Christ says "This is My body" He must be, by irresistible necessity, be speaking figuratively.

Luther, on the other hand, held that due to the communicatio idiomatum (communication of the natures), Christ can be present anywhere and everywhere all at once. And, not only according to His divinity. Christ is not a nature, nor is He two natures (even though He certainly has two natures), but rather Christ is a person. He is the second person of the Trinity, to be precise. Because Christ is God, Christ the person (both man and God) can be present bodily wherever He wants to be. Because Christ is man, Christ the person (both man and God) can die on a cross. Because Christ is God, a man can rise from the dead. Well, you get the idea. Hence when we receive the body of Christ in the Holy Supper, we receive the whole Christ, both human as well as divine.

In fact, Zwingli's Christology is an age-old Christological heresy called Nestorianism. The separation of Christ's human nature (stuck in one spot) from His divine nature (able to be everywhere) splits Christ the person into two. Thus Nestorianism.

It is also hugely telling that Zwingli was willing to extend fellowship to Luther and Luther would have none of it. This too is a theological outworking of both men's stances on the Holy Supper, although it was certainly true that Zwingli was far more concerned with political and military things than was Luther. If, according to Zwingli, the Holy Supper is mere bread and wine that symbolizes Christ's body and blood, it truly is no big deal to have fellowship with someone who believes in the Real Presence. In other words, if the Holy Supper is merely symbolic, it becomes something of a secondary doctrine. Certainly it is not as important as the Gospel or the article of justification, for instance.

However, if the Holy Supper is truly Christ's body and blood for us in grace for the forgiveness of our sins as scripture declares, then the Supper IS the Gospel in a very tangible, objective, and visible way. It is, to be clear, a means of grace by which Christ and all of His benefits are actually and truly delivered to us in and with the bread and wine.

Therefore, for Luther and all Lutherans to this day, the Lord's Supper is of primary importance. In fact, fellowship in the faith is, in Luther's world, altar fellowship. This is to say that because of what we actually are given and receive in the Holy Supper, we will not have communion with other Christians who deny that. For Luther, this is akin to a denial of the Gospel itself, because the Supper is the Gospel delivered to us in bread and wine.

If the Supper truly is this, it is a primary doctrine of the Christian faith, not a secondary one of lesser importance on which we can agree to disagree. Once we see the Supper for what it is, we truly recognize that it is our lifeblood. It is grace for the journey, grace to forgive us of our sins, and grace to strengthen our faith.

If the Supper truly is this, St. Paul's warning to the Corinthian church takes on a whole new meaning when he says, "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy
manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself." (1Co 11:27-29)

This is why Luther could not have fellowship with Zwingli. To Luther and all of the crazy Lutherans in the past and today, Zwingli, like his spiritual offspring today (Reformed, Baptists, Wesleyans, Pentecostals, etc), denied what the Lord's Supper is, and this was nothing short of a denial of a chief article of the Christian faith. This is why we will not commune at a Reformed or Baptistic church, and also why we practice closed communion and will not allow a member of a church who rejects the Real Presence to commune at our altar. In fact, closed communion was pretty much the universal practice of the church until very recent church history. Funny thing, it is the churches who reject the Real Presence and in some ways have been influenced by theological liberalism that are the champions of open communion. After all, if the Eucharist is but a pious remembrance, partaking of symbols, then why shouldn't we open it up to anyone and everyone who claims Christ is their Savior?

This is also why Martin Luther, who fought against the abuses in the Roman Church, could say, "It is enough for me that Christ’s blood is present; let it be with the wine as God wills. Before I would drink mere wine with the Enthusiasts, I would rather have pure blood with the Pope." (LW 37, 317)

And Luther also said, regarding the symbolic stance, "He thinks one does not see that out of the word of Christ he makes a pure commandment and law which accomplishes nothing more than to tell and bid us to remember and acknowledge him. Furthermore, he makes this acknowledgment nothing else than a work that we do, while we receive nothing else than bread and wine." (LW 40, 206)

In other words, this symbolic stance is a pure rejection that the Sacrament is a means of grace, and in fact is nothing more than an affirmation that the Lord's Supper is a work of man.

When seeing the colloquy in this light, it should be simple to see why Luther refused fellowship to Zwingli and his followers.

For a fabulous and complete treatment of this very topic, pick up a copy of "This Is My Body" by Hermann Sasse. You won't regret it!

Grace and Peace



Pastoring: Non-Sacramental vs Sacramental

I've been thinking a lot lately on how pastoring a church is so much different from a non-sacramental perspective vs. a Lutheran, evangelical catholic perspective. Being a former pastor in an SBC church, the subject is rather fascinating, actually. Here are some of my thoughts on the subject:

1 - The primary mission is different in preaching.

Scripture is seen, in a non-sacramental theology, as strictly a rule book, life guide, or proof-text machine. Preaching in this context always focuses on what the hearer needs to do, change, or be. It is a completely different paradigm, which tacitly tell us the hearer that the Bible was written to make you better. Whether it is preached therapeutically (wider evangelical) or law-based (Reformed and Fundamentalist), the effect is the same: you had better get better.

2 - The messages are typically longer.

When I first became Lutheran, it seemed quite odd that the pulpit was off to the side, and the sermons were typically half as long as I had experienced in my non-sacramental past. At first, I thought "something's wrong with this picture." Then, I realized that the entire service is geared around forgiveness, and the Gospel. Preaching was simply one component, and not the lager, main purpose of the service. The Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper loomed very large indeed.

3 - It is very difficult to be pastoral as a non-sacramental pastor.

Being Pastoral as a pastor in this tradition is sort of like jumbo shrimp. The two contradict. This is because being a Pastor s a Lutheran is all about leading with the comfort of the Gospel. And leading with the Law so much during the service each week - with no Sacraments to offer forgiveness - doesn't exactly lend itself to the development of a Pastor's heart. In a nutshell, pastoral theology is Lutheran theology.

4 - The non-sacramental pastor's job is mainly to transfer information to the hearer.

I recall the hours of preparation for a sermon while I was a Pastor. It was like preparing for a seminary exam than it was preaching the Word of God through a Gospel lens. Since the goal was information dump, lots of educational prep was needed. This is particularly true in the Reformed tradition. If the hearer understood the finer points of Reformed thought, I had done my job well. If not, I was a failure.

5 - The non-sacramental Pastor is lifted up as someone who should never sin.

My experience, similar to many Pastors', is that me and my family were living in a fishbowl. Every move was watched, and critiqued. You had better maintain the high standards that the congregation sets, or else! Pastors in non-sacramental churches are given the left-boot of fellowship for not living up to the congregation's human expectations, which were often unbiblical and unrealistic. Although I realize Lutherans are not immune to this, we, of all people, are down-to-earth about our sanctification, which has got to help in this regard.

I'm sure I have missed a few points. But if you have noticed the huge difference between Pastors in these two paradigms, these points may help you see why.

Augsburg Confession II: Of Original Sin

I will begin by first repeating what Andrew Taylor said in the first post of this series: “The original unaltered Augsburg Confession is, without question, one of the great Confessions of the Church.” In fact, I will go further and state that the Augsburg Confession is central to being Lutheran, it is the heart of our confessional documents. In essence it is our answer to what it means to be Catholic, or rather what the Catholic faith is. 


Augsburg Confession, Article II: Of Original Sin

Also they [our churches] teach that since the fall of Adam all men begotten in the natural way are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with concupiscence; and that this disease, or vice of origin, is truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not born again through Baptism and the Holy Ghost.

They condemn the Pelagians and others who deny that original depravity is sin, and who, to obscure the glory of Christ's merit and benefits, argue that man can be justified before God by his own strength and reason. 


This article is of utmost importance in controversies surrounding a great many topics such as justification, predestination, grace, etc. If one does not confess, teach and believe properly concerning Original Sin there is no telling what further errors they will encounter. It is for this reason that it is the second article of this confession, and precedes the article concerning Christ. Melanchthon was concerned with addressing two groups in particular: the Pelagians and the Romanists. 

The former wrongly taught that man can by his own strength and reason can be justified before God. However, while the Romanists agree with some of what we teach they reject two important points. First, that all men are born without the fear of God and without the trust of God. Second, they deny that concupiscence [our inclination to sin] remains after Holy Baptism. It is important here to understand that a lack of fear of God and trust is indeed sin, as is concupiscence which were both inherited to us through Adam. Our Original Depravity (or Natural Depravity) is a result of this fall, on account of which corruption all men are born guilty, children of wrath, and unable to obey the law of God.

Rome and the Pelagians in some respect are different sides of the same coin on the topic of works. Both see justification in terms of human strength and reason, but the Romanist sees this in terms of the sacrament of penance. The Romanist requires penance for all mortal sins (actual sins) that flow out of concupiscence. Penance (or absolution) is only granted by the priest to the penitent (the truly sorrowful). It is here that the Lutheran and the Romanist differ: for the former absolution is received by faith in believing they are forgiven, while for the latter, it is through penance. 

As we discuss other articles of the Christian faith it is important for the reader to remember that Original Sin is very important to understanding the others. When engaging other Christians (especially Roman Catholics) studying the Augsburg and the Apology will be of utmost importance for understanding Tridentine [Trent] Roman Catholic doctrines.

The next post in this series will be addressing our confession of the Son of God

Note: When I state that Roman Catholics see justification in terms of human strength and reason this is post-baptismal justification within their theological framework and modern Roman Catholics would understand such works as flowing from grace, but still a cooperative effort especially in respect to the sacrament of penance. Lutherans understand grace as a declaritive gift received from the cross while Roman Catholics see it as infused (at Baptism) where Original Sin is cleansed and our nature is changed making us more able to do good and overcome evil.

Be Perfect! Or Else...

St. Matthew 5:48: You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Jesus says here that we must be perfect. Interesting verse, this. Everyone knows we can't be perfect, right?

So what of it? Why would Jesus say this when He knows darn well we can't be perfect? Did He really mean it? Is it a mere suggestion?

Here are a few things we can learn from this, and in the process, we can solve this passage.

1. Jesus not only says we have to be perfect, He actually demands that we are perfect. There is no wiggle room here. We must be perfect.

2. We must be perfect because God is perfect and God will not demand anything less than perfection from us. To do so would be for God to lay aside His Holiness. Which He won't do.

3. Because God demands perfection, this also means that sin is *never* OK. God is not OK with us sinning, ever.

OK, so far so good right? Certainly all Christians agree that sin is not OK. After all, Christ died for that. And if you do think sin is OK, well, you're wrong, and I know a guy who hung on a cross that agrees with me.

The crux of the answer to this passage lies in who we are, who God is, and what we are capable of.

According to Holy Scripture, humans are not God (except Jesus). Keep that in mind. So then, what are we? Well, we are sinful. Romans 5:12-21 is a good place to start in showing that. Not to mention Romans 3:23.

So, if we are sinful, and Jesus demands that we be perfect...how does that work?

The answer is something completely foreign to our sinful self who loves to think we are good and can do whatever we want by ourselves.

The answer is that God Himself gives what He requires out of love because we cannot meet this demand of perfection.

His Name is Jesus, and He not only was perfect on our behalf, but also died and rose on our behalf.

And because of Him and His work, we are forgiven, because frankly, we need it. We aren't perfect. We are incapable of such. But Jesus was and is perfect and He gives that to us. He gave it to us in real time at Calvary, and He continues to come to us in grace and forgiveness in Word and Sacrament.

And what could possibly be better news than that?


Augsburg Confession I: Of God

The original unaltered Augsburg Confession is, without question, one of the great Confessions of the Church. It also happens to be the chief Confession in the Lutheran Church. With this in mind, we are going to go through the Augsburg part by part here at the blog. Our commentary will be kept to a minimum and the Augsburg will be allowed to speak for itself. We begin:


Augsburg Confession, Article I: Of God

Our Churches, with common consent, do teach that the decree of the Council of Nicaea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any doubting; that is to say, there is one Divine Essence which is called and which is God: eternal, without body, without parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things, visible and invisible; and yet there are three Persons, of the same essence and power, who also are coeternal, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And the term "person" they use as the Fathers have used it, to signify, not a part or quality in another, but that which subsists of itself.
They condemn all heresies which have sprung up against this article, as the Manichaeans, who assumed two principles, one Good and the other Evil: also the Valentinians, Arians, Eunomians, Mohammedans, and all such. They condemn also the Samosatenes, old and new, who, contending that there is but one Person, sophistically and impiously argue that the Word and the Holy Ghost are not distinct Persons, but that "Word" signifies a spoken word, and "Spirit" signifies motion created in things.


The Confession begins with a formal statement about God. What should be abundantly clear to any reader is that the framers of the Augsburg Confession were Catholic. Luther, Melanchthon, and the others who were influential in the Confession were not revolutionaries, despite what some people within Rome would have you believe. They had no desire to split the Western Church, nor did they leave joyfully.

The Augsburg Confession begins with a confessional statement regarding the Trinity. As you can see, the Augsburg is very Catholic in its formulation. To put it bluntly, the Reformers desired to show that they were not creating something new. Lutheranism, as it has come to be known, is not a new religion or sect within (or not within) Christianity. Lutheranism is nothing more (and nothing less) than the Catholic faith once and for all handed down.

Here in AC I, we see nothing less than classical Nicene Orthodoxy. We do not see any new Christology invented, nor do we see any support of any ancient heresies. Of course, the Evangelical Catholic Church (aka Lutheranism) fully affirms the three great ecumenical creeds. In fact, in the Book of Concord, the three ecumenical creeds are the first things in there, even before the Augsburg Confession.

So we begin by seeing the proper starting point, and by seeing that the Evangelical Catholic Church is nothing new, nor is it a sect that split the Church.

And so the framers of the Augsburg begin, rightfully so, with the Triune God.


Warning! There is but One Way!

Beware of inventing alternative ways of salvation, as many people within the church are oh-so-likely to do.

We Christians love to fill heaven (in our own minds) with all sorts of means of salvation. On one hand, this is not a bad trait to have. We love our fellow man. On the other hand, this might be the worst trait to have. We are flatly rejecting God's Word.

How many ways of salvation does Scripture tell us about? Just one. THE way of salvation is by grace through faith in Christ. Period. Plus nothing.

We are not saved by:

1. Innocence. The number one heaven-filler, if you ask most American Evangelicals, is innocence. The salvation by innocence dogma usually takes its form in the so-called "Age of Accountability." The problem is, the Scriptures do not teach this idea anywhere. On the contrary, the Bible says that everyone is a sinner. Yeah, that includes infants and young children.

Does this mean that all infants and young children are unsaved heathens who get to fan the flames? Well, of course not. God works faith even in them, and even in utero, if John the Baptist is any example.

2. Our Good Works. Many Christians have decided that living a good life is an alternate way to heaven. This is just as much nonsense as the innocence argument above. To think that a person can just do their best to please God and that will earn them heaven has numerous theological problems. First and foremost, it actually assumes that God is not holy. That's just a little bit of a problem...

3. Ignorance. Well, what about the bushman who has never heard the Gospel, someone may ask? Is he saved because he never heard? Well, no, unless you think he deserves to be saved. If this is the case, shouldn't we just not tell anyone about Christ?

We do our best to cling to the simple words of Scripture. By grace you are saved, through faith. (Eph 2:8-9)  How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? (Ro 10:14) Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)

The better question is why would we even want to go beyond what God's Word says about the topic?


Liberals, Becker, and the LCMS

It's taken me awhile to chime in on the Matthew Becker situation, namely because as a layman, I don't think it is necessarily my spot to say much. My thoughts on the situation are really quite simple, and I plan to keep this pretty darn short. I'm going to keep it really short, in fact.

1. Matthew Becker needs to go. There are plenty of churches out there that agree with his stances on ordination, evolution, and sexuality. Why he insists on sticking around and attacking the LCMS is beyond me. I can only assume it is because he views himself as a modern day Reformer who is going to Reform the LCMS at all costs. That's an assumption, but it's probably valid. An honest man would simply step on out and head on over to the ELCA or another church like it. We do not believe like you on these things, Mr. Becker, and you will not change our church. Stop trying. Heresy has no place here.

2. If our Synod cannot oust false teachers like this, something is wrong with our bylaws. To put it even more direct, something is wrong with our church structure; our ecclesiology. If we do not have steps in place to remove false teachers from the Synod, we have a major problem on our hands. If this is the case, we either need to change it now or give ourselves over to the culture, as Becker and his liberal ilk would have us to do.

Perhaps the bigger problem is that somewhere along the line, the Synod has allowed a plethora of error to creep in unchecked. The Becker incident is the latest one; even to the point of a panel absolving him.

Our polity stinks. Somewhere along the line we have not adhered to the proper checks and balances in our ecclesiastical structure to keep the major influx of liberalism from entering the LCMS.

I am LCMS by choice. The pure truth in Word and Sacrament is here. The Confessions are here. But unless the LCMS cleans house, the LCMS is going to eventually look like a mish-mash of the ELCA and the LCMC. We don't want that, because neither of them are distinctly Lutheran. And by that I mean, neither of them are distinctly Confessional or mimic traditional and orthodox Christianity in any sense of the word.

My advice is to hear out what the men in the ACELC are saying.

It's time we revamp our polity. Ecclesiology and polity are not adiaphora. We can and must do better in this realm. We must have better ways of rooting our error and eliminating the leaven. We had best do it soon, lest we allow the festering to continue and get even more out of hand than it is.


Confession Matters

Or, what I should say is, what a person or congregation confesses about Christ matters. There are certain things that are within Christian Orthodoxy and certain things that are not.

Now I grant that it's pretty hotly debated as to what constitutes said Christian Orthodoxy. In days of yore, Christianity took a very hard line to this question. Orthodoxy was a very narrow way found in one place. What that one place was depended on who you were asking. Of course the Pope claimed primacy and Rome claimed infallibility in doctrine. They still do claim those things, despite softening somewhat at the Vatican II council; declaring the possibility of salvation outside of the Roman Church, even going as far as to call Protestants "separated brethren."

Of course, the East claims the same. They are the Church. So do other churches and sects.

Ultimately, I am proposing a very deep question here. It is one that I am not going to be able to answer perfectly, nor will I even bother trying to answer it perfectly. In fact, I am not sure I'll be able to give one. But I will offer a few suggestions at the conclusion of the post.

The main thrust of this post is to look at what 20th and 21st century Christianity believes about this situation and how we have handled it.

I assert that 20th and 21st century Christianity has handled this situation in a very lamentable manner. When faced with the question: Who is a Christian? Postmodern Christianity answers in a very minimalist manner.

Now days, your average 21st century American Christian is willing to affirm anyone to be a Christian so long as they love Jesus, nothing further needed. It doesn't matter what they believe about Jesus and what they confess. This is evidenced by the complete foolishness of much of American Christianity going gaga over Glenn Beck's rally about morals and values in Washington. For those of you who do not know, Glenn Beck is a Mormon. To affirm that Glenn Beck is a Christian or that he speaks for Christian values is pretty much to reject everything that Christians have always believed. To be clear, Mormonism is just as far from Christ as the Jehovah's Witnesses, Islam, or Buddhism.

But we just seem to not care anymore. Heck, the JWs say they love Jesus, right? Glenn Beck says he does too, correct?

And that is just it. Much of American Christianity has abandoned confession, abandoned THE confessions, abandoned the creeds, and heck, abandoned the Gospel. All this in favor of replacing the Gospel with...with...with...yep, you guessed it: The Law.

The 21st century Gospel is not Christ crucified for the forgiveness of your sins. It's not even Christ for you. It's me for God. The 21st century Gospel is: Love God and love others. (Mat 22:37 ff.) It doesn't matter what you believe about God. It doesn't matter what you think Christ did for us. It just matters that you love God and love your neighbor, no matter what your god happens to look like.

This is NOT good news! This is, in fact, really BAD news. Because, as we confess, we have not loved God with our whole hearts and have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.

To be blunt: Much of 21st century Christianity, especially in America, is grounded in nothing. Well, unless you count our works as something. But it really doesn't matter what you believe most of the time.

What is the remedy? Who should be considered Christians? I have a few suggestions, but I'm certainly not claiming to have answered the question definitively.

The quick answer is, we need Confessional Christianity. We need to be catechized about the doctrines of the Christian faith. We need to know what constitutes orthodoxy, heterodoxy, and outright heresy. We needn't be afraid of offending someone by saying they are without reservation outside of the Christian faith, whether they be Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, Pelagian, or Word of Faith.

The fact of the matter is that there are *many* heretical congregations out there that claim the Name of Christ, and most 21st century American Christians say: Praise God! There are my brothers and sisters in another building.


So where do we begin? I suggest a few things. First, although we ought to confess Scripture alone as the only infallible authority, that does not mean that Scripture is the only authority. For instance, we have three ecumenical creeds (Apostles, Nicene, Athanasian) that properly summarize orthodox Christian teaching that is taught in the Holy Scriptures. Let's start there. Can a Mormon affirm those three ecumenical creeds? Heck no they can't. The Athanasian Creed in particular is completely wrong in their theology.

The Creeds are an excellent starting point, but they cannot be everything we confess, even though they certainly must be the core of what we confess. I suggest the next step is to check out the ecumenical councils of the early church. The councils tell us the orthodox positions on the person of Christ and give sharp definition to the doctrine of original sin, among other things.

Many people these days decry the church councils as well as the Creeds, and they do so with some really bad argumentation that betrays a functional Pelagian understanding of Christianity. They dismiss the Creeds and the councils in favor of sovereign individual interpretation of Scripture. Sorry Roman Catholics, this mindset is not a hallmark of Protestantism. It's a hallmark of people who have abandoned both Roman Catholicism as well as traditional Protestantism.

Me, my Bible, and the Holy Spirit is not at all what the Reformers meant by sola scriptura.

What we need to do is look to the entire history of the Christian church. Yes, Scripture is the only infallible authority (sorry Francis). But we are wise to look and see what Christianity has universally taught for 2000 years. Likewise, we are wise to look and see what Christianity has universally condemned as heresy for 2000 years.

And we're fools if we don't. We're fools if we think that we are the ones who have really arrived. We're fools if we think that we have nothing to learn from the great theological giants who have gone before us. We're fools if we think that we alone have the only proper interpretation of Scripture because after all, the Holy Spirit told us so in our own little personal reading of Scripture one night.

In other words, the Church must have authority too. Not on an infallible level like the inspired Holy Scriptures, of course. But the Church must have sway. After all, Jesus entrusted the Word and Sacraments to the Church, not as a bunch of individual interpreters, but as an institution that delivers a Kingdom through the means of grace.

I think that is a fair starting point. And I think if people would look into these things more, a lot of this "everyone is a Christian who says the words 'I love God' would disappear. You have to know who Christ is and what He has done for us.

After all, that is the Gospel.



Free Will. Scripture. Philosophy. Shenanigans!

What is our ultimate authority? Is it the Church (as Rome)? Is it philosophy? Is it Scripture?

I assert that one of these three has absolutely no place, or at least a very small place, in Christian theology. It is philosophy. Scripture has authority and so does the church. But philosophy does not.

Sadly, especially in America, philosophy is one of (notice I did not say the only) the driving factors in biblical interpretation for a vast amount of churches. These churches are ones that hold to the philosophical construct of libertarian free will. Who are these churches? Well, the Methodists, Wesleyans, *most* Baptists, the Pentecostals, and the seeker-sensitive mega-churches.

This is not a new idea, however. C.S. Lewis once said, "If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having." (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

Lewis is essentially arguing that free will is a necessity for any and all goodness, love, and joy. In other words, we must be inherently able to will those things in order for them to have any meaning.

I realize attacking C.S. Lewis is sort of like attacking St. Peter, but he is flat wrong here.

We must ask the relevant question here, however. Do the Holy Scriptures teach this? And our answer must come in two forms.

First, before the fall of man, we can say yes. Adam and Eve had free will. God created them good. This is to say, Adam and Eve were not sinful in the Garden of Eden as we are sinful today.

However, after the whole fruit-eating incident, something happened. We have what Christianity refers to as the fall of man and original sin.

Original sin puts our will in bondage. We are sinners not by choice, but by nature. Our original nature was not so, however, and thanks be to God, this will be removed at the Parousia.

Ultimately, the free will stance so prevalent today has two major problems per Holy Scripture. First and foremost, Scripture militates very clearly against this philosophical construct repeatedly. The free will folks insist on making decisions for Jesus and making the right choices, as if we, in our own power, can do those things. The problem is, the Bible says we cannot. Two quick quotes from St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans ought to clear this up once and for all. It won't, but it should.

Romans 3:10-12: it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Romans 8:7-8: For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

And there it is. The free will folks would exhort us to seek God, choose Christ, and submit to God. St. Paul flatly says we don't do those things and we can't do those things.

End of discussion. Or at least, it should be the end of the discussion.

The second problem is that the more extreme free will folks appeal to the Garden of Eden as their example. They opine that we are in the same situation as Adam. This is to say, we are in that same spot and are able to choose to disobey or obey. This, to put it bluntly, is sheer Pelagianism and puts a person outside of the Christian faith. Why? Because it denies the Gospel. No, I do not think Pelagians are Christians. When you reject salvation by grace as they do and get God totally incorrect, how can that be anything but another God?

[I am *not* saying that every professed Christian who believes in free will is not a Christian.]

Ultimately, the extreme logical-deduction free will folks flatly reject the fall of man and some even go so far as to throw ignorance on God (Open or Free Will Theism) in order to continue in their heresies. Thankfully, classical Arminian theology does not go to this level.

To sum it up, denying original sin denies the Gospel. Denying the Gospel denies Christ and Christianity, no matter how loudly one says the name of Jesus.

Free will in the libertarian sense is a sacred cow that needs to be burnt up.

Think about it. This stance is something different than salvation by grace alone, and as such, it's something different than what the Scriptures teach.

"If any man ascribes anything of salvation, even the very least thing, to the free will of man, he knows nothing of grace, and he has not learned Jesus Christ rightly." ~Martin Luther


Confessional Lutheran Or Not?

Philosopher Daniel Dennett once stated declared, "Postmodernism, the school of 'thought' that proclaimed 'There are no truths, only interpretations'". This paradigm, which eschews all definite declarations in the name of tolerance and getting along, has not only affected non-Christian thought, but Christian thought as well.

One area where this rears its ugly, unbiblical head is the world of polemics, especially the online variety. With the advent of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets, the democratization of ideas has reached its near-pinnacle. It is a great thing when people from all walks of life have almost equal access to the expression of an opinion, but it does have its interesting side-effects. One such effect is the advent of the "arm-chair theologian." He - or she, with no theological training except self-study, spots a theological error somewhere in social media, and all hell breaks loose. 1000-comment threads are not uncommon on Facebook forums and groups with a theological point the main topic. Things can - and do - get pretty ugly. Now, this is not in and of itself a bad thing: iron sharpens iron, no matter who has the knife.

These exchanges usually bring out the ubiquitous refrain equivalent to the Rodney King "can't we all get along" meme. Nothing good can come of arguing, so says the self-proclaimed peace-maker. "Agree to disagree" they cry. They are now elevated as a moral superior, causing the "mad polemic" to shrink back into the corner. Refrainers are now democratized, and anyone can be one at the click of a mouse.

This brings me to my main point: disagreements between the Reformed and the Lutheran. When I was Reformed, I heard - very often - that the Lutherans and the Reformed are "kissing cousins", and only disagree about the meaning of the word "is", in pure Clintonian fashion. So when I became Lutheran and spent more time in mother Church, I soon found out that assertion was pure poppycock: there is an eternity of difference between Reformed theology and Lutheran theology, and it all centers around the Sacraments. Those of you are theologically astute (you are if you're reading this - aren't you?) know that this controversy dates back to Luther v Zwingli in the early 16th century. Enter Melanchthon as Rodney King. But Luther would have none of it. And here we are, nearly 500 years later, at complete odds. Folks, I am here to tell you that is not a bad thing; it is a good thing. I thank God for that old, wild boar. He stood firm and risked far more than being banned from a Facebook group.

Now, if you are a confessional Lutheran, you know all this. You know what the Reformed would have us give up for the sake of "peace in our time.": the very Body and Blood of Christ. It is our food, and it is absolutely necessary. Because, without it, not only does Lutheranism die, but we die as well.

But wait.....we do need to be "Christ-like", aren't we? That is, in it self, a loaded question. Which Christ do you want to be like? The one who turned the tables over because His house was turned into peddling merchandise? Or the one who tolerated sin? The former really happened, but the latter....you won't find it anywhere but a cheesy Hollywood Jesus-flick.

This is not to say that we ought to put the best construction on what someone says, and exercise patience and humility. Those are indeed Christ's qualities. But doing so at the expense of tolerating error..... may it never be so.

You and I both know that Lutheranism is Biblical Christianity. It is evangelical catholic. It is what Jesus and the Apostles believed. So, the next time someone tells you to stop insisting on your mean, intolerant doctrine of the Real Presence.....kindly tell them that you would be glad to do so when Hell freezes over. That'll give them plenty of time to think about their error.

Carry on. Pax.


Epitome VII - The Real Presence and the Calvinists

If you have ever bothered to delve into the different stances that different theologies hold to regarding the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, you will find out a few interesting things as well as a wide spectrum of beliefs on the topic.

For instance, you don't have to look far to see that the Roman Catholic Church holds to a dogma called transubstantiation. In this dogma, it is held that the bread and wine is completely obliterated and that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ only. Clearly, Roman Catholicism, despite what we Lutherans see as a rationalistic error in going far beyond Holy Writ (i.e. St. Thomas Aquinas and transubstantiation), affirm the Real Presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper.

However, you will also find the opposite end of the spectrum represented as well. Baptists of all stripes completely reject the doctrine of the Real Presence in favor of the bread and wine (err...grape juice) being mere symbols of Christ's atoning death for us. As a former Baptist, I have been in communion services where the pastor actually states in the Words of Institution that Jesus said that "This is a symbol of My body." Far from ripping on Baptists here, I am simply relaying what was said. And to be sure, the pastor was doing nothing but being faithful to what that particular church believes about the Lord's Supper. Hence, as a symbols, the elements don't really matter much either, and oyster crackers and grape juice will do just fine.

There are, however, two other views of the Lord's Supper that are very common. One of them is the Lutheran view, which I am not going to delve into in too deep of a manner here. Simply put, we affirm the Real Presence. We receive Christ orally because He said so. This (the bread) is My body. To which we say 'Amen!'

The other big elephant in the room is the classical Calvinist stance on the Lord's Supper. To be fair, John Calvin attempted to resolve two different biblical teachings. First, he desired to uphold his view of the Ascension of Christ to the right hand of the Father. Second, he desired to hold to the Real Presence as well. Thus Calvinists will argue up and down that they hold to the Real Presence in the Lord's Supper. But do they? Well, not according to what has always been classified and defined as the Real Presence.

The Epitome of the Formula of Concord says this:

Epitome VII, 2-5

Chief Controversy between Our Doctrine and That of the Sacramentarians regarding This Article.

Whether in the Holy Supper the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are truly and essentially present, are distributed with the bread and wine, and received with the mouth by all those who use this Sacrament, whether they be worthy or unworthy, godly or ungodly, believing or unbelieving; by the believing for consolation and life, by the unbelieving for judgment? The Sacramentarians say, No; we say, Yes.   For the explanation of this controversy it is to be noted in the beginning that there are two kinds of Sacramentarians. Some are gross Sacramentarians, who declare in plain (deutschen), clear words as they believe in their hearts, that in the Holy Supper nothing but bread and wine is present, and distributed and received with the mouth. Others, however, are subtle Sacramentarians, and the most injurious of all, who partly speak very speciously in our own words, and pretend that they also believe a true presence of the true, essential, living body and blood of Christ in the Holy Supper, however, that this occurs spiritually through faith. Nevertheless they retain under these specious words precisely the former gross opinion, namely, that in the Holy Supper nothing is present and received with the mouth except bread and wine. For with them the word spiritually means nothing else than the Spirit of Christ or the power of the absent body of Christ and His merit, which is present; but the body of Christ is in no mode or way present, except only above in the highest heaven, to which we should elevate ourselves into heaven by the thoughts of our faith, and there, not at all, however, in the bread and wine of the Holy Supper, should seek this body and blood [of Christ].

Let us phrase this as simply as possible. The Reformed Churches, following Calvin, affirm a spiritual presence by faith. This is to say that Christ, being ascended, does not actually come to us in the Lord's Supper, because He is in heaven. We feed on Christ only by our faith through the working of the Holy Spirit lifting us up to heaven to receive Christ's benefits.

Despite the very common Reformed efforts to claim that the Lutherans and the Reformed aren't all that different, they are simply wrong. Zwingli was the first to try that at the Marburg Colloquy in 1529. Luther would have none of it. Even Calvinists to this day try very hard to distance themselves from the Zwinglian stance on the Lord's Supper. But in reality, how much different are they? If Christ is not bodily present in the bread and wine, there is no Real Presence. And if you would like to see what the Lutherans think about this, just read the section from the Epitome I posted above. But please, don't tell us how much we have in common and how we both affirm the Real Presence. We are not in communion and will never be in communion this side of heaven.

Even Dr. Martin Luther himself said, "I would rather have pure blood with the Pope, than drink mere wine with the Enthusiasts." (Luther's Works, 37, 317)

Let us be even more clear. The Calvinist stance, while giving lip service to the term Real Presence, explicitly denies it.

The Real Presence means that Christ and all of His benefits are there for us in the bread and wine. The bread is the true body of Christ. Likewise, the wine. In Reformed Theology, following Calvin, even the believer only receives bread and wine orally, although the believer receives Christ's benefits by faith, being lifted to the Throne Room of God the Father.

This is not an affirmation of the Real Presence. This is a denial of it!

It's simple: If Christ is not received in the mouth by every single person receiving the Lord's Supper, there is no Real Presence. The Real Presence means Christ is actually really there, according to what He Himself said in the Words of Institution.

Ultimately, even Calvin recognized this as seen here in a document (Consensus Tigurinus 1549) of which Calvin was the author.

The Real Presence, far from being an early church and medieval superstition, is something that the Church has always believed, because it takes Christ's Words at face value. Jesus said "This is My body." To say "it's a symbol of His body" is essentially to say "This is not My body."

Let us be clear. Reformed Theology denies the Real Presence while trying to say that they affirm it by redefining what "Real Presence' means. When they employ that terminology, it certainly does not mean that Christ's body and blood are truly present and we receive them in our mouth. It's devious in one sense. I get it, the Reformed are trying to uphold their catholicity, and they see clearly that the entire Church affirmed the Real Presence. But to redefine it to mean something it is not while simultaneously denying what it actually is...That's a pretty dangerous stance to take, wouldn't you say?

Grace and Peace



At one juncture in my life, I may have been one of the world's biggest proponents of OSAS (Once-saved always saved). In fact, I will admit that it probably was the driving force behind my theology. From there, it is only a short step to Reformed Theology, which is the only system where OSAS even makes sense. Of course, in Reformed Theology, OSAS is a term they do not like to use; instead preferring the Perseverance of the Saints. I am using Reformed Theology in a narrow sense here, referring strictly to the 5 points of Calvinism.

Now as a Lutheran, I reject this teaching. Truth be told, it was the hardest thing for me to give up as I transitioned from Calvinism to Lutheranism. There are indeed promises all over Scripture that Christ will preserve us and keep us unto salvation.

But there are also all sorts of warnings in Scripture about falling away, grieving the Spirit, willfully sinning, being disqualified, and so on.

So, how do we reconcile these? Actually, I think when it boils down to it, it is not too difficult. The promises are directed to the new man that is created in regeneration. In Christ, we are secure forever. By the means of grace, which give us faith and strengthen it, we are more than conquerors, as St. Paul puts it.

In Christ, we are heirs of glory. And the best thing is, that in Christ, He alone does the entire work. He did it at Calvary, and He does it by grace in our lives through Word and Sacrament. Salvation is pure monergism. God's work alone. We cannot add to it or cooperate with it to make it better or more full. We only cooperate insofar as God has made us partakers of the divine nature, and this cooperation does not ensure, add to, or enhance our eternal stance in Christ.

All of this is given freely and the promises belong to the new man; the regenerate man.

But what of all those pesky warnings? What of the unrepentant? What of falling away from the faith? What of St. Paul writing that even he could be disqualified?

Many theologies assume way too much when reconciling these texts. For instance, Reformed Theology sets up a distinction between the visible and invisible church (with varying degrees of validity), essentially saying that the warnings refer to people who did not persevere in Christ and thus were not saved in the first place, despite being part of the visible church. Arminianism implies the opposite. That is, since we can fall away and spurn Christ by our own free will, therefore we can be saved by it too. Not to mention, the most consistent would be Roman Catholicism in this regard, slinging cooperation in everything into the mix.

I think it's pretty straightforward though. The promises (Gospel) are aimed at the new man. The saved man with the imputed righteousness of Christ. The warnings and the falling away are aimed at the old man who still exists. That old sinful nature of ours.

We will carry that sinful nature around until the day we die. And if anyone says that our old sinful nature is not capable of the grossest sins -including completely rejecting Christ and His gifts after they have been received- then they are certainly underestimating our sinfulness.

God alone feeds us, gives us faith, and strengthens our faith. We alone push Him away.

It's not that's difficult.



Worship and What We Believe

How we worship says a lot about what we believe. Our practice always follows our doctrine. The worship wars have been going on for a while now. It seems that the newer cutting edge forms of worship are winning out. Contemporary worship has found its way into just about every (if not every) church body, while the old church liturgy has been jettisoned in many a church.

Whereas many churches are championing their contemporary worship, updated technology, and talented musicians and vocalists, other churches are bucking the trend and sticking to the old liturgy, while others (a very small minority) are jettisoning all forms of structure altogether, even arguing that the new contemporary forms of worship have too much structure, and that these forms of structure are not found in the bible. (See Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna)

As an aside, I highly recommend the long series Pr. William Weedon did on Issues, Etc. regarding the liturgy. It's well worth the listen.

What a church believes about what is happening in worship will drive how it actually worships. Numerous questions need to be addressed in this discussion. I will try to handle a few of them.

1. Is Christ present in the worship service?

a. If Christ is truly present in the service, our worship will take a different form than if he is not. If he is present, the focus will be on Christ addressing us first and only then do we respond to Him in thanksgiving. He leads and we respond.

b. If Christ is not present in our worship service, the focus and structure will change radically. Our worship will be centered on our acts of praise to God. We lead and we respond. This is not to say that these forms of worship are not about Christ.

2. What is the major purpose of the service?

a. If the main purpose is Christ objectively giving us His gifts of forgiveness and salvation through Word and Sacrament, then once again, the focus and structure of the service will be on Christ delivering these things to us.

b. If the main purpose is for us to offer up our praise to God (which certainly is part of any service), then the entire service will revolve around that. Yes, there will usually be a teaching session (sermon) and some exposition from God's Word. However, this belief makes the service more about our sacrifice for God and less about His sacrifice for us.

3. What does the church believe about the Lord's Supper?

a. If Christ is truly present in the Holy Supper, giving us His true body and blood, then our worship in this regard will take the form of receiving of a gift. Again, Christ acts first and gives us His gifts and we are but passive recipients of these gifts.

b. If the Lord's Supper is a memorial or a symbol of Christ's work at Calvary, the focus again shifts to us in some form. For certain, the memorialist/symbolic stance remembers Christ when they partake. But if there is no direct and objective divine giving involved in the Lord's Supper proper, then the Sacrament becomes a pious remembrance and not a direct giving from God for life, forgiveness, and salvation.

In summary, the points labeled with an a. represent the Divine Service or the Mass. These represent the old traditional Christian liturgy. The liturgy is structured as such for the reason that we are there to receive Christ and His gifts directly in Word and Sacrament, among other things. Churches use this liturgy precisely because of what they believe the Mass is. It is Christ present with us to deliver to us His gifts.

The points labeled with a b. represent the contemporary worship of American evangelicalism. Why are American evangelical churches structured in this manner? I posit that it is precisely because of what they believe regarding the presence of Christ, the purpose of worship, and their symbolic stance on Holy Communion.

What we believe about the purpose of worship and the Real Presence really do drive how we worship. If we truly believe Christ is present in Word and Sacrament for us and for the forgiveness of our sins, then there simply is no way the focus of our worship can ever be anything but that. He is there. And if we believe that, our pious praise and thanksgiving can never usurp the fact that Christ is our Prophet, Priest, and King, and that He is there to address us and give us His gifts.

This is why the contemporary worship structure of American evangelicalism simply does not work in a Lutheran parish. Why so many Lutheran congregations want to adopt this worship structure is beyond me. The structure itself is a tacit denial of the Real Presence of Christ in Word and Sacrament in the Mass. This structure of the service confesses that Christ is not present and that our worship is to be mainly about us giving back to God, as opposed to God still giving to us through the gifts that He has ordained for us. What we are unwittingly doing is adopting a form of worship that flows naturally from a particular Confession of faith. Namely, American non-denominational Baptist. We simply cannot be Lutheran in doctrine and Baptist in practice. As silly as it would be to walk into a non-denominational (Baptist) church and see the pastor dressed in vestments and beginning the service with the sign of the cross - it should be just as silly to walk into a Confessional Lutheran church and see a praise band of which the pastor is a part and that the pastor is dressed no differently than the other musicians. Why should we let Chuck Smith (Calvary Chapel) dictate how we worship?

Far from being a rant about different styles of music; what should concern us most is the structure being used. What we are confessing when we adopt the American evangelical worship structure is one of two things, whether we know it or not.

1. Christ is not present in our worship service and this is evidenced by us claiming that our acts for God are the primary focus. If people confess this, they are neither Sacramental in their theology and therefore not Lutheran. Why are they then trying to change the structure of the Divine Service? Or,

2. Christ is present in our service and our acts still should take precedence.

In the first case, we have adopted non-Sacramental -and thus non-Lutheran- theology. In the second case, well, how much more prideful and silly can we be?

Lutherans worship like Lutherans. This means that we confess that Christ is present among us in the Mass. We need to stop trying to be something we are not.