Friday, July 31, 2009

Promo Video for Issues, Etc.

Found this promo video at promoting their Christ-centered, cross-focused commentary on historic and current events.  I'm always amazed at how incisive they are.  Thought you might like to see the promo and look over their website.  I think this link will work.  If not, go to and click on "promote."

A Study in Luther's Pastoral Theology

Krispin, Gerald S.  "A Study in Luther's Pastoral Theology."  A Reader in Pastoral Theology. Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 2002.  54-59.

In Luther's theology consolation goes hand in hand with resurrection.  When we are pressed by a realization of our mortality, our greatest consolation is the hope of the real bodily resurrection from the dead.  This is a great  encouragement to the believer.  As we have been baptized into Christ's death and raised with him to eternal life, we will also suffer our bodily death and become eternal partakers of Christ's resurrection.  

Krispin cites numerous examples of Luther's encouraging words to people who are suffering or who have experienced the death of a loved one.  He also cites some of Luther's words in response to the death of his daughter, Magdalena.  In personal letters and sermons, we consistently see Luther looking to the hope of the resurrection to bring comfort in this world.

It is not uncommon for modern Christians, at least in the United States, to fear death.  It is also not an uncommon view that the resurrection is sort of a spiritual bodiless situation.  I often wonder if these views go hand in hand.  I think there's a reason our Lord and Savior revealed himself as the firstfruits of a bodily resurrection.  Even people with bodies like mine - lumpy, saggy, wrinkly, and prone to illness - like our bodies.  The only life we know is a bodily life.  And that's exactly the kind of life we will see in eternity, just without the lumps, sags, wrinkles, and illnesses.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

From Nazareth to Lake Wobegone

Schoessow, David. "Sin, Sickness, and Salvation from Nazareth to Lake Wobegone." A Reader in Pastoral Theology.  Fort Wayne: Concordia Seminary Press, 2002.  46-53.

Regardless of time and place we see we are living in a world which struggles with sin and its fruits, including sickness and death.  But Jesus came in true physical humanity to break the bondage of sin and death.

Schoessow gives us a brief exegesis of Luke 4.31-5.32 and 7.11-17, illustrating how Jesus' work is very concrete and physical.  He reaches into our society touchingthe needs of hurting people.  As we look at these people Jesus touched we see a broad spectrum of suffering.  Jesus, in fact, can address the full scope of human need.

Schoessow goes on to give an historical summary of the Church and particularly Christian families as the locus of healing, charity, and nurture in society.  In the context of the divine service we also see prayers for healing and provision, exhortation to charity and mercy ministries, and biblical teaching about doing good for our neighbors.

Where should hurting people turn for help?  Historically God's people have worked tirelessly to care for this world.  May the Lord enable us to take up that task again with confidence.  Our help is in the Lord.

Dave Spotts
blogging at and

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Coming to God from Below

Green, Lowell C. "Martin Luther on Coming to God from 'Below' in its Implications for the Church Today.  A Reader in Pastoral Theology. Fort Wayne: Concordia Seminary Press, 2002.  42-45.

Luther "referred to the law as man seeking God above...and the gospel as God seeking man below" (p. 42).  This concept has broad application in faith and practice.  In law, God hides himself to protect us from the consuming fire of his presence.  We know God is there bt cannot see him.  In gospel, God reveals himself to us, revealing that the consuming fire of his wrath against us in our sin has been poured out on Christ.

Green asks how we respond when we suffer from persecution and hatred. If we rejoice because we are participating in Christ's suffering we are probably rejoicing in the Gospel.  If we wonder why we are "unsuccessful" we are probably guilty of trying to "come from above" through the law.  How does coming to God from below influence the worship service?  We see we have come to receive bringing nothing of value, as opposed to coming to give of our merit to Christ.  How does it influence evangelism?  We see that people are saved by Christ, not by our persuasive message or by their decision.

This brief article brings a very positive perspective to our Christian walk, urging us to see all we do as Christians as part of walking in the gospel.  We are indeed undeserving recipients of God's favor in Christ.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Externum Verbum: Testing Augustana V on the Doctrine of the Holy Ministry

I continue walking through A Reader in Pastoral Theology with an article by Norman Nagel, "Externum Verbum: Testing Augustana V on the Doctrine of the Holy Ministry."  

Dr. Nagel assumes his readers would be quite familiar with the Augsburg Confession, article 5.  Here it is.  Article V: Of the Ministry.
                   That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the          Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For          through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the          Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it          pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God,          not for our own merits, but for Christ's sake, justifies those          who believe that they are received into grace for Christ's          sake.                     They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the          Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word, through          their own preparations and works.  

Now that we've read that, where is Dr. Nagel going with his article?  At the time of the Reformation there were many radical reformers setting themselves up in ministry.  They were not called in a recognizable manner, asserting that all believers are ministers of the Gospel.  And many of them were not receptive to training or corrective discipline.  This sounds remarkably similar to many situations we hear about today.

We observe that not only does the Augsburg Confession state what is right, it also says what is wrong.  To simply say what is right is inadequate.  It fails to issue correction.  The result is that some people can hold contradictory points of view and not see that they are contradictory.  For instance, a believer may think that God works through his external word (externum verbum) and also calls some without that.  A believer might think that God saves those who live a godly life as well as some who didn't live a particularly godly life but believed.  Without stating a right doctrine and a wrong doctrine, there will be some who hold to their wrong doctrine while purportedly embracing the right doctrine.

Nagel points to the supernatural work which is engaged in by the minister of the Gospel.  He is called and ordained appropriately, receives training and discipline, and works knowingly.  And when he proclaims the word of Christ it is not he who speaks, but Christ.  God accomplishes His will through his Word, both the spoken word, and the living Word, Jesus Christ, present in the Sacraments.  And he accomplishes this will not through out goodness, not through our willingness to hear and obey, but by his mercy and grace, working in us though we are dead and bent toward sin.  There we who find we cannot perform enough of our own preparations or works find hope and confidence.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Office of the Holy Ministry in the Life of the Church: A View from the Parish

We continue in A Reader in Pastoral Theology with an article by Roger D. Pittelko, "The Office of the Holy Ministry in the Life of the Church: A View from the Parish."  

Pittelko gives a brief historical survey of views of the ministry.  He observes that historically we have not considered that people engaged in the pastoral ministry are equated with those engaged in other areas of Christian service.  In former days people often referred to people in the ministry as priest, minister, then pastor.  Now, however, we have avoided the term "priest" out of a fear of equating the minister with the Levitical priest who makes sacrifice.  Our avoidance of that term tends to make it difficult for us to see that the minister does in fact lead people in their worship.  

As far as leading people in their worship is concerned, the minister is responsible primarily for serving in Word and Sacraments, doing what he has been divinely ordained to do.  This is the service which the Church needs and to which the Lord has ordained the minister.  Although there may be ministers in different leadership roles, such as bishops, pastors, assistant pastors, etc., all are to be concerned with Word and Sacraments.  That's the divine ministry in a nutshell.

I wonder what would happen if our pastors gave up their committee meetings, their ecumenical prayer breakfasts, even their counseling, and focused on proclaiming God's Law and Gospel, words of absolution, and administering baptism and communion?  I wonder how much more belief we might see among people in the pews when we saw that the pastor really does believe in the sufficiency of Scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit?  I wonder how much less counseling the pastor would need to do when he focused on wielding the mighty Word of God?  I wonder if we'd find that the public saw the Church shaking up the world then?  May the Lord grant that we have opportunity to see this.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Review: Church & Ministry Part 2: Systematic Formulation ...

Let's keep moving through A Reader in Pastoral Theology with the second article by Jobst Schone, "Church & Ministry Part 2: Systematic Formulation."

So what is "ministry"?  While every Christian has a role of service within the body and extending to the world at large, historically we have referred to "the ministry" as service within the Church as a pastor, priest, or sometimes a monk of some sort.  So we'll continue to use that handy label.  I won't say that someone with a "ministry of airplane mechanic" isn't serving his neighbor for Christ.  I'll just say that I'd rather call that his vocation and rejoice that he does it well.

Schone observes that the ministry is a divine institution.  Christ gives this ministry to the church, linking it to the original apostles who designate other people whom they consider Christ is calling.  Christ himself is the Lord of the ministry.  His servants do not get to choose what to do or say.  They only work within the bounds he has established.  And the ministry is always related inextricably with the church.  It would not exist without the supernaturally created institution of the Church.  We remember that the Church is not a human gathering.  It is a gathering of humans called and assembled by the Holy Spirit.  It is not of our own choice any more than salvation is of our choice.  

The ministry, like any other subgroup of the Church, is something with a distinctive role.  This does not indicate superiority or inferiority within the body.  It is simply a designated role that Christ has given some people and not others.  Ministers historically, ever since the New Testament,  have been recognized and ordained in a particular way so others will know who is serving in this role.  This idea has been eroded, particularly in American Christianity over the past 200 years or so, as people have engaged in self-ordination and have taken on roles which may not have been given them following a biblical pattern.

What are ministers to do?  Obviously, they are called to proclaim the Gospel and administer the sacraments.  They have also been given the responsibility of hearing confession and proclaiming absolution (John 20.21-23), judging doctrine as scholars of theology, acting as the executive in cases of excommunication, presiding over churches, ordaining other ministers, and leading in missionary activity.  

This is a busy life!  There are some responsibilities a minister has which may make many people cringe.  In fact, they should make the minister cringe.  I have noticed in the last few years that whenever I am selected to preach in a church, though I look forward to it because I love proclaiming God's Word, I am fearful because I have it in my power to lead people astray and run afoul of sound doctrine.  It's quite a burden to guide people well, to serve as a good shepherd for believers' souls.

May the Lord bless those who are ministering among us!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Review: Church & Ministry Part 1: Exegetical and Historical Treatment by Jobst Schone

The first two articles reprinted in A Reader in Pastoral Theology are by Jobst Schone, entitled "Church & Ministry."  Schone kicks off his two articles with an historical treatment of the ministry distinctives of Lutheran views of church and ministry.  Counter to Calvinists, Lutherans do not speak of an "ordo, quo Dominus ecclesiam suam gubernari voluit" (an order by which the Lord wishes to govern his Church).   Lutherans have historically allowed for various types of ecclesiastical order to coexist, side by side, realizing that the Lord has not imposed a clear structure on the church.  

In the New Testament, people involved in what we would call "the ministry" are "those who preach the Gospel, shepherd Christ's flock by the means of grace and administer the holy Sacraments" (p. 12).  This kind of distinctive work, indicated in the New Testament by the words λειτοθργία or διακονία, seems to be primarily a work of service to Christ's people rather than a role of leadership and political power.  However it does appear that not all believers are in the same role of service.  There seem to be various offices in the church, conferred by God, which are used to serve the gathered believers.  

Prior to the Reformation the ministry began to be considered as comparable to the Levitical priesthood, a role of making actual sacrifices and advancing in merit beyond that of the average believer.  This had a net result of moving some clergy away from day to day pastoral care and toward political and social influence.

Luther spoke to these issues, trying to strike a balance between the decay of ministry under papal authority and rejection of the distinct role of people in ministry under the radical reformers.  His practice, as was common among the first Lutherans, was to look to ancient Christian tradition, observing that in the earliest days of the Christian Church, the bishops, elders, pastors and teachers would have the role of teaching, preaching, and administration of the Sacraments.  They were not political and judicial figures.  They were actively engaged in serving Christians with the Word of God.  While all Christians are part of a royal priesthood with Christ, there are certain Christians who have a vocation which specifically engages them in teaching, preaching, and administration of the sacraments for the benefit of the whole body of Christ.

Within the radical reformation, those who considered all believers to be in the same type of service before Christ have tended to erode the view of a distinctive group of bishops, elders, pastors and teachers, to the point where the nineteenth century saw a proliferation of people essentially ordaining themselves to ministry and groups which affirm that all believers are equally authorized to lead in preaching, teaching, and administration of sacraments.  

The natural outcome of this point of view is that every individual believer becomes a law unto himself.  Everyone speaks with the same authority, even when misinterpreting Scripture.  There are no checks and balances.  There is no definitive way of identifying those whose teaching is understood to be orthodox and those who have not been thoroughly tested.  In contrast to this, Lutherans worldwide have attempted to guard the distinctive role of the minister.  Have they succeeded?  Sometimes.

We'll look at the next part of Schone's article another time.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Review: JECS 17:1 Augustine Accused

BeDuhn, Jason David. "Augustine Accused: Megalius, Manichaeism, and the Inception of the Confessions" in Journal of Early Christian Studies 17.1 Spring 2009, pp. 85-124.

This article, though it follows typical patterns of "bold" and "ground-breaking" scholarship, brings up some interesting ideas.  Often when we look at Christian authors we think of them as mature believers who are always at the pinnacle of their theological acuity.  We know perfectly well that Augustine was a Manichaean, that he was an unbeliever until he was an adult, and that he subsequently converted to Christianity, became a priest and then a bishop, and spent many years living in and writing from Hippo, a town in northern Africa.  I recently heard someone make a comment about the young, idealistic Augustine setting out to discover his new prospects in Rome.  It made me chuckle, since Augustine was in fact 39 years old when he went to Rome and apparently departed to Rome in order to hide from death threats issued against Manicheans.  

The content of the article is a summary of Augustine's movement from Carthage to Rome and back again, analyzing some of his possible motives, which ranged from self-preservation to career advancement, and finally to the opportunity as a new Christian to return to his native land, where he was elevated to the role of bishop, with his ordination approved by Megalius, an older bishop in Africa.

The question raised about Augustine's motives pertains to part of his ordination hearing, in which there are conflicting reports.  The report which Augustine wrote indicated that when asked about his Manichaean past he responded fairly promptly that he had a solid Christian testimony to which Megalius would attest, and that the hearing moved along in short order.  The official transcript talks about Augustine hesitating, making some statements which were fairly defensive, indicating that in fact he was a Christian regardless of what others said, and that he was going to maintain that stance.  He had been baptized and in fact was a Christian believer.  There was apparently some dispute and possible cause to question Augustine further, though it is not clear what the dispute was.

How do we view these instances of conflicting information found in the lfie of a notorious believer?  We need to realize that they, just like we, have a past.  Augustine did not believe Christ at a young age.  He was elevated to the priesthood and the bishopric rather quickly after his conversion, with maybe almost enough time to allow a modern-day believer to join a confessional church, be catechized, study the Scripture, and make it through a seminary.  Did his theology develop overnight?  Was he consistent in his understanding of Scripture throughout the rest of his adult life?  Not at all.  He had a past.  He had regrets.  He made false statements.  He had to backpedal on things.  Don't we all?  

Augustine is a patristic author well worth reading.  He shows a genuine pastoral concern for believers.  He writes clearly.  Great Latin writing which I find much more understandable than a lot of the Christian authors.  And reading this article reminded me that Augustine was a work in progress just like the rest of us.

I had previously said I would post comments about a few articles, but as I looked back that was really the only one I wanted to comment on.  Really, time to think about a different journal or other reading.

Dave Spotts
blogging at and

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What's on the Reading List?

So what's on the reading list?

Talk about "summertime reading" - unfortunately I don't have enough rocking chair on the front porch time for all of this.  Here's what I've got waiting for me.

A Reader in Pastoral Theology: Articles from LOGIA, A Journal of Lutheran Theology July, 2001, Concordia Theological Seminary Press - thanks to Jason Braaten, who sent me this book too long ago.

Dying to Live: The Power of Forgiveness by Harold L. Senkbeil, 1994, Concordia Publishing House - this one from Paperback Swap, on the recommendation of Pastor Braaten.

All Theology is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer.  2000, Concordia Theological Seminary Press - thanks to Dr. Wenthe, who gave this to me last year when we met briefly.

An Introduction to the Old Testament by Raymond B. Dillard and Tremper Longman III. 1994 Zondervan - this one a present from Dr. Robert Jones (Pastor Bob to me for years).  This is on one of the reading lists for the pre-seminary people at Concordia, so I figured I should find it and read it at long last.

The First Seven Ecumenical Councils: Their History and Theology by Leo Donald Davis. 1983. The Liturgical Press: Collegeville, Minnesota.  This one given to me by the family of a student.  It's also on one of the seminary class reading lists I was able to dig up.  I'm pretty interested in early Church history.

Early Christian Doctrines by J.N.D. Kelley  1960.  Harper Collins.  I've had this for years and look forward to giving it a read.  I wouldn't read it if it were buried on my bookcase.  I'm pretty interested in early Church history.

The Early Church by Henry Chadwick 1990, Penguin.  I found this being given away as a clipped not-for-sale book. I'm pretty interested in early Church history.

A Short History of Christian Doctrine: From the First Century to the Present by Bernhard Lohse  1985. Fortress Press.  We found this at the Concordian bookstore in St. Louis last summer.  It's hefty reading but I'll be ready for it by the time I get through the books higher up on my list.  I'm pretty interested in early Church history.

Looks like I have a few pages to cover.  

Caught up on JECS

Okay, I've finally caught up on reading the Journal of Early Christian Studies issues I've received.  Frankly I'm not really enjoying the series that much.  Rather than dealing with the orthodox literature of the early Christian period, the journals tend to be very interested in the various purveyors of heresy.  While a study of the writings of those who are not within the mainstream of Christian belief and practice does have its merits, it seems these publications almost always take an approach to the literature which indicates it was valid, insightful, and presented good doctrinal positions to counter the prevailing, often bigoted and oppressive views of orthodoxy.  Really kind of disappointing.  I'm interested in genuine early Christian literature.  What about the real patristic authors? 

Alas, it seems that the academics who write articles for this journal want or need to launch out in those same old boring new and bold trajectories which everyone's been using for the past forty years.  One does have to wonder how long "cutting edge" can stay cutting edge when it all goes down the same pathway.  But that seems to be the pattern in classics scholarship, as it may be as well in the realm of early Christian studies.

I'll write a few summaries of some articles but then gladly put those issues of the journal away.

Dave Spotts
blogging at and