Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Fun Picture

A clash of cultures? I took this picture at the Tour of Missouri. Those bikes the gentleman is looking at are featherlight machines, weighing in at well under 15 lbs, made by an American bicycle company, but ridden by a team of Italians. Does he suspect their retail price of each bike could push close to five figures? He doesn't care. He's just here to see a professional bike race in his hometown.

The Feast of St. Michael & All Angels

Chemnitz: “From antiquity the church year, for very good reasons, has been divided into certain festivals, in order that the chief articles of the Christian doctrine can be taught to people in a definite order and inculcated by annual repetition. Thus the festival of the holy angels has also been established…For just as a certain day of the year was set aside for a consideration of the exodus from Egypt, so that it should never be forgotten, so also our ancestors have instituted the same practice regarding the angels, so that we should never overlook this doctrine and its benefits. But because Scripture has spoken of certain angels by name, such as Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, we have a feast called the feast of the angel Michael, in order that by this very name itself we should be instructed in the most important things to be learned in this life about angels and what we ought to believe and know about them” (Loci, v. 1, p. 172-3).

LSB 521 "Christ the Lord of Hosts Unshaken"


Christ, the Lord of hosts, unshaken
By the devil’s seething rage,
Thwarts the plan of Satan’s minions;
Wins the strife from age to age;
Conquers sin and death forever;
Slams them in their steely cage.


Michael fought the heav’nly battle,
Godly angels by his side;
Warred against the ancient serpent,
Foiled the beast, so full of pride,
Cast him earthbound with his angels;
Now he prowls, unsatisfied.


Jesus came, this word fulfilling,
Trampled Satan, death defied;
Bore the brunt of our temptation,
On the wretched tree He died.
Yet to life was raised victorious;
By His life our life supplied.


Swift as lightning falls the tyrant
From his heav’nly perch on high,
As the word of Jesus’ vict’ry
Floods the earth and fills the sky.
Wounded by a wound eternal
Now his judgment has drawn nigh!


Jesus, send Your angel legions
When the foe would us enslave.
Hold us fast when sin assaults us;
Come, then, Lord, Your people save.
Overthrow at last the dragon;
Send him to his fiery grave. © Peter M. Prange

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Consistent Life Ethic

This post from Anthony Esolen got me thinking about the Consistent Life Ethic. The idea is largely attributed to Cardinal Bernadin, who argued that life issues are to be considered and treated as a "seamless garment." That is, if you tear one piece of the garment out, you've irreparably damaged the entire garment. If you're pro-life when it comes to abortion but not when it comes to other life issues (euthanasia, war, poverty, death penalty, contraception, etc.) your pro-life garment is ruined.

The criticism of Bernadin is that his approach has been misused by pro-abortion politicians to justify their support of abortion. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, for instance, can justify spending federal dollars on "family planning services" because reducing the number of poor people (by keeping them from being born, presumably) has an economic payoff.

But that approach is indefensible using Bernadin's logic (and, no matter what Pelosi says, not Catholic). If you tear opposition to abortion out of the "seamless garment," your position on poverty, global warning, or whatever is ruined. If you don't care about the life of an unborn child, your defense of the lives of the poor is diminished at best, destroyed at worst.

The Jerseyville Ministerial Alliance has a book club. We were exiled from the monthly meeting because not everyone wanted to allot part of our 2 hour meeting to discussing a book. Nevertheless, a few of us continue to meet to discuss an agreed upon book between regular meetings. Most recently, we read Pope Benedict's encyclical Caritas in Veritate.

The encyclical deals with the global economic crisis, but it does so with what seems to be a "seamless" approach to life. Central to any discussion about human development, economic recovery, environmental protection, business ethics, etc. has to be an openness to life. "Openness to life is at the center of human development," argues the pope.

While Esolen's warning about missed opportunities is well heard, the misuse of a consistent life ethic doesn't make it invalid. It only makes those who misuse it look foolish.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What is Marriage?

This article from Touchstone is incisive, cutting like a surgeon's scalpel through the cultural mileu surrounding marriage to expose the cancer beneath.

The premise of the article is that marriage, in addition to being the union between a man and a woman, is two other things that have largely been forgotten today: procreative and indissoluble. Because the church has forgotten these things--that marriage is life-long and that it ought to be fruitful--and has instead allowed couples to marry who hold onto the option of divorce (even if looked at diaspprovingly) and who use contraception so as to avoid God's gift of life through their one-flesh union, she has already lost the debate on same-sex "marriage."

If Christian couples can separate marriage from having children, there is no socially defensible reason to exclude same-sex couples from having a culturally recognized marriage.

Is the Church willing to say that divorce is just as sinful as adultery or that contraception is as sinful as divorce? Is she willing to admit that divorce and cohabitation are cut from the same cloth, just as contraception and and abortion hail from the same anti-birth, anti-child mindset?

The article concludes:

If we are truly to defend marriage in this country, and not the contractual couplehood that has for some time now been disguising itself as “marriage,” then it is imperative for us to recover the full meaning of that beautiful covenant whose embodiment is now clandestine and highly countercultural. This will, I think, have to be done from the ground up, and it will take generations to succeed, if in fact it succeeds at all. It will have to be lived out first in small communities that embrace and support the self-giving, procreative, and indissoluble nature of that union, and who do so not as an unjustifiable exclusion, but as a positive commitment to protect such an important, difficult, and beautiful undertaking.

Don't take my word for it, go read the whole thing.

The History of Education and the Value of Lutheran Schools

Dr. Veith looks at what Lutheran education used to be, what it lost, and what it could become again:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Thoughts on the Reliquae

The reliquae is the leftover consecrated bread and wine from the Lord's Supper. Lutherans have long struggled with what to do with these leftovers. Are they still the Body and Blood of Jesus?

If yes, then they should be treated with the reverence due the holy Body and Blood of Jesus. They must not be mixed with unconsecrated elements (i.e. put back with other hosts or poured back into the bottle of wine). They may either be consumed (eaten) or reserved (stored apart from unconsecrated elements).

If no, then they may be treated as normal bread and wine.

It is the Word of Jesus alone, not my faith, nor my lips, nor my receiving the elements, that effects the presence of Christ's true Body and Blood. "The word of the Lord endures forever" (1 Peter 1:25). What Jesus says goes. His powerful, creating Word brings about the real presence of His Flesh and Blood. Why would we assume that our action (our singing the Nunc Dimittis or otherwise "ending" the action of the sacrament) would be powerful enough to terminate Jesus' presence?

So, yes, what has been consecrated is and remains the Body and Blood of Jesus in, with, and under bread and wine until Jesus' command is carried out completely. That is, until everything consecrated has been eaten and drunk ("Take, eat;" and "Take, drink.").

Therefore, it us unLutheran and indefensible to mix consecrated bread and wine with unconsecrated.

When Luther heard about the scandal that had arisen in Eisleben over how the consecrated bread and wine should be treated after the Supper, he wrote this to Lutheran pastor Simon Wolferinus:

We do not have it from you, but you from us that the sacraments are actions, not stationary objects. But what is this singular temerity of yours that you do not refrain from so evil an appearance—which you ought to know is scandalous—namely, that you mix what remains of the [consecrated] wine or bread with unconsecrated [Latin: prior] bread and wine? On the basis of what example are you doing this? Do you not clearly see how you will arouse dangerous questions, if, ‘‘convinced in your own mind’’ [cf. Rom. 14:5], you contend that
the Sacrament ceases when the action ceases? Perhaps you want to be called Zwinglian? I believe that you are afflicted with the insanity of Zwingli, you who so pridefully and contemptibly incite [matters] with your singular and glorious wisdom.Was there no other way to avoid suspicion being sown among the simple and our adversaries that you are a despiser of the sacrament, than by your giving offense with the evil appearance of mixing and confounding the
remains of the sacrament with [unconsecrated] wine? Why do you not imitate other churches?Why do you want to be held to be the only, newand dangerous author [of this practice]? I write these things in this manner with deep sorrow, so that you may know that you have offended me and profoundly saddened my spirit.

The dispute was not so easily settled by Luther's correspondence. In 1543, he wrote a second letter to Wolferinus, saying

Therefore, we shall define the time or the sacramental : action in this way: that it starts with the beginning of the Our Fat her and lasts until all have communicated, have emptied the chalice, have consumed the Hosts, until the people have been dismissed and [the priest] has left the altar. In this way we shall be safe and free from the scruples and scandals of such endless questions. Dr. Philip defines the sacramental action in relation to what is outside it, that is, against reservation of and processions with the sacrament. He does not split it up within [the action] itself, nor does he define it in a way that it contradicts itself. Therefore see to it that if anything is left over of the sacrament, either some communicants or the priest himself and his assistant receive it, so that it is not only a curate or someone else who drinks what is left over in the chalice, but that he gives it to the others who were also participants in the body [of Christ], so that you do not appear to divide the sacrament by a bad example or to treat the sacramental action irreverently. This is my opinion and I know that it is also Philip's opinion too.

Martin Chemnitz, one of the authors of the Formula of Concord, in refuting the Roman Catholic Council of Trent argues similarly: It conflicts with the Words of Institution when the bread which has been blessed is not distributed, not received, not eaten" (Examen, v. 2, p, 281).

Jesus' words are clear: what has been consecrated is for eating and drinking. To fail to consume the reliquae, which is and remains the Body and Blood of Jesus, is to do violence to His Words of Institution.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Write your own Dan Brown Bestseller

The folks at Slate have this brilliant Dan Brown sequel generator. You pick a city and a group to carry out the conspiracy and the program fills in the rest of the Dan Brown plot.

Non-Lutheran Thoughts on The Lutheran Study Bible

Rave reviews for the new The Lutheran Study Bible from CPH. This one comes from Michael Spencer, the Baptist blogger otherwise known as the InternetMonk.

If you haven't ordered your copy of The Lutheran Study Bible yet, do it. You will not be disappointed. You can get one here from CPH or order one at Hope to save on postage.

If I sound like a commercial for CPH lately, it's only because the stuff coming out of CPH lately is brilliant. Even Spencer agrees the burgundy bookshelf is indespensible. C'mon, if a Baptist thinks TLSB is worth having, even in spite of the name, it ought to be a daily resource for every faithful Lutheran. Period.

Saturday, September 12, 2009