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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Infant Baptism in the First Five Centuries

Hippolytus: “Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them” (The Apostolic Tradition 21:16 [A.D. 215]).
This and many other testimonies from the early fathers are cataloged in the post from Gnesio: Online Magazine of Lutheran Theology.

Friday, December 24, 2010

How December 25th Became Christmas

Biblical Archeology Review does a thorough and convincing job of debunking the commonly heard assumption that 4th century Christians made up the birthday of Jesus out of whole cloth.
It’s not until the 12th century that we find the first suggestion that Jesus’ birth celebration was deliberately set at the time of pagan feasts. A marginal note on a manuscript of the writings of the Syriac biblical commentator Dionysius bar-Salibi states that in ancient times the Christmas holiday was actually shifted from January 6 to December 25 so that it fell on the same date as the pagan Sol Invictus holiday. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Bible scholars spurred on by the new study of comparative religions latched on to this idea.
More careful scholarship shows that the dating of Christmas had nothing to do with the Sol Invictus festival and everything to do with the dating of the crucifixion.
Around 200 C.E. Tertullian of Carthage reported the calculation that the 14th of Nisan (the day of the crucifixion according to the Gospel of John) in the year Jesus died was equivalent to March 25 in the Roman (solar) calendar. March 25 is, of course, nine months before December 25; it was later recognized as the Feast of the Annunciation—the commemoration of Jesus’ conception. Thus, Jesus was believed to have been conceived and crucified on the same day of the year. Exactly nine months later, Jesus was born, on December 25.

This also helps to explain why those churches which calculate the date of Easter differently than we do (read Eastern Orthodox) also calculate the date of Christmas to January 6 instead of December 25. But the bottom line is that original Christianity did not think in terms of competition with pagans. They rather thought in terms of the historical suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Read the whole article by clicking on the title of this post.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Martyrdom of Kristine Luken

Gene Vieth of Patrick Henry College writes of his personal aquaintance with the "American Tourist" who was recently stabbed to death in the wooded hills outside of Jerusalem.

Kristine was gentle, sensitive, and extremely devout. One account I read said that police were investigating if she had any sinister dealings of any kind, and I can assure them that she most certainly did not. I’d stake my life on that.

The first assumption was that she was killed by Muslim terrorists, but I’m not so sure. Judging from the detail about the Star of David necklace, recounted by another woman who survived the attack, I’m thinking it sounds like the two assailants might have been Jewish radicals who attacked her for evangelizing Jews. At any rate, I have no doubt that she was murdered for her Christian faith.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Lie Kills Nations...

The Lie is the death of man, his temporal and his eternal death. The lie kills nations. Through their lies, the most powerful empires of the world were laid waste. History knows of no more unsettling spectacle than the judgment, which comes to pass when men of an advanced culture have rejected the truth and are now swallowed up in a sea of lies. As was the case with fading pagan antiquity, where this happened, religion and law, poetry and philosophy, life in marriage and family, in the state and society, in short, one sphere of life after another, fell sacrifice to the power and curse of the lie. Where man can no longer bear the truth, he cannot live without the lie. Where man, even when dying, lies to him and others, the terrible dissolution of his culture is held up as a glorious ascent, and decline is viewed as an advance, the like of which has never been experienced.
Herman Sasse
Translated by Matthew C. Harrison

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

C. S. Lewis on Hopeless People

I suppose I may assume that seven out of ten of those who read these lines are in some kind of difficulty about some other human being. Either at work or at home, either the people who employ you or those whom you employ, either those who share your house or those whose house you share, either your in-laws or parents or children, your wife or your husband, are making life harder for you than it need be even in these days. It is to be hoped that we do not often mention these difficulties (especially the domestic ones) to outsiders. But sometimes we do. An outside friend asks us why we are looking so glum; and the truth comes out.

On such occasions the outside friend usually says, 'But why don't you tell them? Why don't you go to your wife (or husband, or father, or daughter, or boss, or landlady, or lodger) and have it all out? People are usually reasonable. All you've got to do is to make them see things in the right light. Explain it to them in a reasonable, quiet, friendly way' And we, whatever we say outwardly, think sadly to ourselves, 'He doesn't know "X".' We do. We know how utterly hopeless it is to make 'X' see reason. Either we've tried it over and over again - tried it till we are sick of trying it - or else we've never tried it because we saw from the beginning how useless it would be. We know that if we attempt to 'have it all out with "X" ' there will either be a 'scene', or else 'X' will stare at us in blank amazement and say 'I don't know what on earth you're talking about'; or else (which is perhaps worst of all) 'X will quite agree with us and promise to turn over a new leaf and put everything on a new footing - and then, twenty-four hours later, will be exactly the same as 'X' has always been.

You know, in fact, that any attempt to talk things over with 'X' will shipwreck on the old, fatal flaw in 'X's' character. And you see, looking back, how all the plans you have ever made always have shipwrecked on that fatal flaw - on 'X's' incurable jealousy, or laziness, or touchiness, or muddle-headedness, or bossiness, or ill temper, or changeableness. Up to a certain age you have perhaps had the illusion that some external stroke of good fortune - an improvement in health, a rise of salary, the end of the war - would solve your difficulty. But you know better now. The war is over, and you realize that even if the other things happened, 'X' would still be 'X', and you would still be up against the same old problem. Even if you became a millionaire, your husband would still be a bully, or your wife would still nag or your son would still drink, or you'd still have to have your mother-in-law to live with you.

It is a great step forward to realize that this is so; to face the fact that even if all external things went right, real happiness would still depend on the character of the people you have to live with - and that you can't alter their characters. And now comes the point. When you have seen this you have, for the first time, had a glimpse of what it must be like for God. For, of course, this is (in one way) just what God Himself is up against. He has provided a rich, beautiful world for people to live in. He has given them intelligence to show them how it can be used, and conscience to show them how it ought to be used. He has contrived that the things they need for their biological life (food, drink, rest, sleep, exercise) should be positively delightful to them. And, having done all this, He then sees all His plans spoiled - just as our little plans are spoiled - by the crookedness of the people themselves. All the things He has given them to be happy with they turn into occasions for quarrelling and jealousy, and excess and hoarding, and tomfoolery.

You may say it is very different for God because He could, if He pleased, alter people's characters, and we can't. But this difference doesn't go quite as deep as we may at first think. God has made it a rule for Himself that He won't alter people's character by force. He can and will alter them - but only if the people will let Him. In that way He has really and truly limited His power. Sometimes we wonder why He has done so, or even wish that He hadn't. But apparently He thinks it worth doing. He would rather have a world of free beings, with all its risks, than a world of people who did right like machines because they couldn't do anything else. The more we succeed in imagining what a world of perfect automatic beings would be like, the more, I think, we shall see His wisdom.

I said that when we see how all our plans shipwreck on the characters of the people we have to deal with, we are 'in one way' seeing what it must be like for God. But only in one way. There are two respects in which God's view must be very different from ours. In the first place, He sees (like you) how all the people in your home or your job are in various degrees awkward or difficult; but when He looks into that home or factory or office He sees one more person of the same kind - the one you never do see. I mean, of course, yourself. That is the next great step in wisdom - to realize that you also are just that sort of person. You also have a fatal flaw in your character. All the hopes and plans of others have again and again shipwrecked on your character just as your hopes and plans have shipwrecked on theirs.

It is no good passing this over with some vague, general · admission such as 'Of course, I know I have my faults.' It is important to realize that there is some really fatal flaw in you: something which gives the others just that same feeling of despair which their flaws give you. And it is almost certainly something you don't know about - like what the advertisements call 'halitosis', which everyone notices except the person who has it. But why, you ask, don't the others tell me? Believe me, they have tried to tell you over and over again, and you just couldn't 'take it'. Perhaps a good deal of what you call their 'nagging' or 'bad temper' or 'queerness' are just their attempts to make you see the truth. And even the faults you do know you don't know fully. You say, 'I admit I lost my temper last night'; but the others know that you're always doing it, that you are a bad-tempered person. You say, 'I admit I drank too much last Saturday'; but everyone else knows that you are a habitual drunkard.

That is one way in which God's view must differ from mine. He sees all the characters: I see all except my own. But the second difference is this. He loves the people in spite of their faults. He goes on loving. He does not let go. Don't say, 'It's all very well for Him; He hasn't got to live with them.' He has. He is inside them as well as outside them. He is with them far more intimately and closely and incessantly than we can ever be. Every vile thought within their minds (and ours), every moment of spite, envy, arrogance, greed and self-conceit comes right up against His patient and longing love, and grieves His spirit more than it grieves ours.

The more we can imitate God in both these respects, the more progress we shall make. We must love 'X' more; and we must learn to see ourselves as a person of exactly the same kind. Some people say it is morbid to be always thinking of one's own faults. That would be all very well if most of us could stop thinking of our own without soon beginning to think about those of other people. For unfortunately we enjoy thinking about other people's faults: and in the proper sense of the word 'morbid', that is the most morbid pleasure in the world.

We don't like rationing which is imposed upon us, but I suggest one form of rationing which we ought to impose on ourselves. Abstain from all thinking about other people's faults, unless your duties as a teacher or parent make it necessary to think about them. Whenever the thoughts come unnecessarily into one's mind, why not simply shove them away? And think of one's own faults instead? For there, with God's help, one can do something. Of all the awkward people in your house or job there is only one whom you can improve very much. That is the practical end at which to begin. And really, we'd better. The job has to be tackled some day: and every day we put it off will make it harder to begin.

What, after all, is the alternative? You see clearly enough that nothing, not even God with all His power, can make 'X' really happy as long as 'X' remains envious, self-centred, and spiteful. Be sure there is something inside you which, unless it is altered, will put it out of God's power to prevent your being eternally miserable. While that something remains there can be no Heaven for you, just as there can be no sweet smells for a man with a cold in the nose, and no music for a man who is deaf. It's not a question of God 'sending' us to Hell. In each of us there is something growing up which will of itself be Hell unless it is nipped in the bud. The matter is serious: let us put ourselves in His hands at once - this very day, this hour.

The Trouble with "X"
From God In the Dock by C S Lewis

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Cup of Water in the Name of Jesus...

"It all began a year and a half ago, with a quarrel over a bowl of water. A group of women farm workers were suffering in the heat near a village in Pakistan's Punjab province. Aasia Noreen, an illiterate 45-year-old mother of five, offered them water, but was rebuffed. Noreen was a Christian, they said, and therefore her water was unclean — sadly, a common taunt hurled at Pakistan's beleaguered Christians. But rather than swallowing the indignity, she mounted a stout defense of her faith.

"Word of the exchange swiftly filtered through the village of Ittan Wali, in Sheikhupura district. The local mullah took to his mosque's loudspeakers, exhorting his followers to take action against Noreen. In a depressingly familiar pattern, her defense of her faith was twisted into an accusation of blasphemy, according to her family and legal observers familiar with the case. As a frenzied mob pursued her, the police intervened, taking her into custody. But far from protecting her, they arrested and charged Noreen with insulting Islam and its prophet. And on Nov. 8, after enduring 18 months in prison, she was sentenced to death by a district court...

"...The Lahore High Court has taken the controversial step of saying that it won't allow President Asif Ali Zardari to issue a pardon, a move that legal experts have said is unconstitutional. Her family is now hoping that the higher courts will strike down the death sentence, or that she will eventually secure a pardon. And the fear doesn't end there. While no one has been executed for blasphemy yet, 32 people — including two judges — have been slain by vigilantes. At Friday prayers this week, Yousef Qureshi, a hardline cleric from the Mohabat Khan mosque in Peshawar, offered a reward of 500,000 rupees ($5,800) to "those who kill Aasia Bibi."

"Even if pardoned, Rehman notes grimply, Noreen will no longer be able to to live in her community. For her own safety, she will have to be moved — simply for defending her right to choose her own faith."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

An Interesting Article from Christianity Today

More than previous generations, 20- and 30- somethings are abandoning the faith. But why?

When I ask church people, I receive some variation of this answer: moral compromise. A teenage girl goes off to college and starts to party. A young man moves in with his girlfriend. Soon the conflict between belief and behavior becomes unbearable. Tired of dealing with a guilty conscience and unwilling to abandon their sinful lifestyles, they drop their Christian commitment. They may cite intellectual skepticism or disappointments with the church, but these are smokescreens designed to hide the reason. "They change their creed to match their deeds," as my parents would say.

I think there's some truth to this—more than most young leavers would care to admit. The Christian life is hard to sustain in the face of so many temptations. Over the past year, I've conducted in-depth interviews with scores of ex-Christians. Only two were honest enough to cite moral compromise as the primary reason for their departures. Many experienced intellectual crises that seemed to conveniently coincide with the adoption of a lifestyle that fell outside the bounds of Christian morality.
Excerpted from The Leavers: Young Doubters Exit the Church, by Drew Dyck. The rest of the article is just as interesting.

Bottom line for the faithful: "He that thinks he standeth, take heed, lest he fall." Playing around with adultery may seem like the exercise of adulthood. Overindulgence of the new-found privileges of coming of age may feel heady and grown up and may not appear all that threatening. But beware. Intentional sin always greives the Holy Spirit and often leads to the very sin against the Holy Spirit which cannot be forgiven. Take care, indeed, lest you lose the gift of faith that you were given at your baptism.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Asia Bibi sentanced to hang for blasphemy

Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother-of-five, denies blasphemy and told investigators that she was being persecuted for her faith in a country where Christians face routine harassment and discrimination.

Christian groups and human rights campaigners condemned the verdict and called for the blasphemy laws to be repealed.

Full Article

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

CrossTalk: Creator of Heaven and Earth

It is much more than mere Christian opinion that God created the heavens and the earth. It is simple reality. For whatever is the cause and creator of everything is by definition god. Every single person has such a god. Atheists, no less than the religious, firmly believe that something brought about the cosmos. Of this there is no doubt. The only real questions are: what? and why?

Stephen Hawking, a prominent atheist of our day, recently published yet another book denying the existence of God. In it he argues that there is no need for God to create heaven and earth because everything that exists could be brought about by the laws of gravity acting upon matter (The Grand Design, Random House, 2010). He never seems to notice that he is merely asserting that gravity itself is god. In his world, you need not obey the laws of the God who created gravity. But, by god, you had better obey the law of gravity!

Such was always the folly of the pagan mind: "[they] worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator" (Romans 1:25). Christians know better. By obeying the law of gravity, everything already is submitting to the God who created it. There are other divine laws as well. To disobey any of these laws will cause death and destruction just as surely as stepping off a cliff.

Thinking men throughout history have seen this to be the case in physical as well as moral laws. Hatred leads to death just as surely as cancer. A culture where stealing is permissible by law is a culture where everyone is poor. Cultures that kill the innocent undo themselves. Witness Carthage, the Incas and the Soviet Union.

We could go on with more examples, but we need not. For God, in His grace and mercy, has revealed to us these very laws which He built into the universe. They were boiled down to ten simple commandments and etched on stone at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5). You can defy them if you like just as you can defy the law of gravity--with similar results.

Christians know that, unlike Hawking's god, He who stands behind gravity and created it is a God of purpose and His purpose is to give life. God's first act toward gravity was to bring it about. God's first act toward the world was to bring it into existence. God's first act toward you was to bring you from the state of nothingness to the state of life. Life is not the result of gravity or anything whatsoever. Therefore, your creator is not a "what" but a "Who."

All of this leads to one inescapable conclusion: everything that exists, exists because God wants it to exist. More to the point. You are here because God wants you to be. Here is the answer to both questions: Who? and why? God, the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, is who created you, the source of your very being; and His desire for you to exist is the reason why you exist.

Think on that the next time you feel worthless--the next time you are told that they way you live doesn't matter. Think on that whenever you are tempted to believe that your life has no meaning. You have meaning to God, the Creator of heaven and earth. In a universe of His own making, He created you to exist, not to deny His existence. He created you to receive the life that He gives, not to hate that life and wish it away.

Moreover, His purpose for you is still that you might "have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). When you take to heart His purpose for you, you will be overwhelmed by how often you live contrary to that purpose. Do not give up hope. Come into His Church to be forgiven and restored by the life and death and resurrection of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. For in this, the Creator of heaven and earth is still giving life and fulfilling His deepest desire for you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Martin Luther, born: November 10, 1483

Today is the second of our trilogy commemorating Martins. Martin Luther never set about or intended to start a new church body -- much less to bestow his name upon any human organization!  Both of these things happened quite against his will.

But that is the way of the will of God. We are done to by One who is wiser, stronger and more merciful that we could ever possibly imagine. And in this "being done to" God re-recreates us after His own image. Reforms us into the form, image and likeness that we had been created to be.

From one point of view, Luther's enemies both excommunicated the reformer and tagged his followers with the mocking name "Lutherans." But from a divine point of view, Jesus Christ, the suffering One, was and is preaching His own eternal word in these humiliating events. And by that Word and suffering He is still bringing life to the world.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Martin Chemnitz, Teacher (1522-1586)

"In the Lord's Supper we do not receive ordinary flesh, not even that of a holy man, but the actual life-giving flesh of the Logos Himself. For sinse His life is in accord with His nature as God, and since He is one with his His flesh, He shows that His flesh is life-giving. Therefore, we do not regard this flesh as that of anyone among us. For how can the flesh of man according to its nature be life-giving? But it became the property of Him who for our sakes was made and called the Son of Man."
Martin Chemnitz, The Two Natures of Christ, CPH, p. 371

Here, Chemnitz is quoting St. Cyril of Alexandria's, Epistola Synodica ). His book "The Two Natures of Christ" has remained THE standard on the subject in all the world for four and a half centuries. Charles Porterfield Krauth describes Chemnitz thus:
The learning of Chemnitz was something colossal, but it had no tinge of pedantry. His judgment was of the highest order. His modesty and simplicity, his clearness of thought, and his luminous style, his firmness in principle, and his gentleness in tone, the richness of his learning and the vigor of his thinking, have revealed themselves in such measure in his Loci, his Books on the Two Natures of our Lord, and on the True Presence, in his Examen of the Council of Trent, his Defence of the Formula of Concord, and his Harmony of the Gospels, as to render each a classic in its kind, and to mark their author as the greatest theologian of his time – one of the greatest theologians of all time. (Charles Porterfield Krauth, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology [Philadelphia: General Council Publication Board, 1871], p. 310).

Today we mark his commemoration day of who it was said:

Si Martinus non fuisset, Martinus vix stetisset
"If Martin (Chemnitz) had not come along, Martin (Luther) would hardly have survived"

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Ninety-Five Theses

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.

In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1.Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.

2.This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.

3.Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no inward repentance which does not outwardly work divers mortifications of the flesh.

4.The penalty [of sin], therefore, continues so long as hatred of self continues; for this is the true inward repentance, and continues until our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

On October 31, 1517, Dr. Matin Luther posted these sentances and 91 more on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. Germany. His call for a formal debate of these theses was never answered and today the document is largely unknown. But it set off a chain of events which eventually came to be known as the Reformation.

To continue reading the other 91, click here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween: To Celebrate or Not to Celebrate

Rev. William Cwirla has a well-balanced and thoughtful article on this subject in the most recent Lutheran Witness. I quote just a bit here:
Love of neighbor and concern for his or her salvation will give us pause for a few questions. What will your neighbor, your family, your children, your brother or sister in Christ think of your Halloween celebration? Will it help or hinder their faith in Jesus? Does your Halloween fun witness to the victory and freedom of Jesus’ death and resurrection, or does it lift up the powers of darkness and death? Does it draw undo attention to the dark and demonic, or does it poke fun at those things that already stand defeated? Are you able to talk frankly about the reality of death and the devil with your children and tell them of the victory of Jesus?

Freedom in Christ is always tempered by love for your neighbor. You are completely free in Jesus to serve your neighbor in love (Rom. 14:1–23).
The whole article is worth reading.  Dancing on the Devil's Grave, by Rev. William Cwirla.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Reading the Holy Scripture

TRUTH, not eloquence, is to be sought in reading the Holy Scriptures; and every part must be read in the spirit in which it was written. For in the Scriptures we ought to seek profit rather than polished diction.

Likewise we ought to read simple and devout books as willingly as learned and profound ones. We ought not to be swayed by the authority of the writer, whether he be a great literary light or an insignificant person, but by the love of simple truth. We ought not to ask who is speaking, but mark what is said. Men pass away, but the truth of the Lord remains forever. God speaks to us in many ways without regard for persons.

Our curiosity often impedes our reading of the Scriptures, when we wish to understand and mull over what we ought simply to read and pass by.

If you would profit from it, therefore, read with humility, simplicity, and faith, and never seek a reputation for being learned. Seek willingly and listen attentively to the words of the saints; do not be displeased with the sayings of the ancients, for they were not made without purpose.

Thomas á Kempis - Imitation of Christ

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

When Fads Turn to Fixtures...

"Fads still receive scrutiny; fixtures remain largely unquestioned.  The following are ten fixtures that I find particularly harmful not just to evangelicalism but to evangelism..."

Joe Carter looks at the fads of yesterday which have become fixtures in the modern christian mindset and continue to negatively influence popular christian thought.

1. Making Converts
2. The Sinner's Prayer
3. "Do you know Jesus as your personal savior?"
4. Dispensationalism
5. Testimonies
6. The Altar Call
7. Witnessing
8. "I just wanna" prayers
9. Church Growth Movement
10. Chick Tracts

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

CrossTalk: LIfe in the Midst of Death

These days of lengthening darkness and falling leaves, especially in northern latitudes, have a deep impact on our emotions. Many, these days cannot help but think on matters of life and death. If this describes you, rejoice with me that Jesus has not left us alone in our reflections. Rather, He gives us good news that is both simple and clear to help us through every dark day.

Let’s consider just one event that happened early in Jesus’ ministry. “He went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.” (Lk. 7:11-12) A young boy has died. The natural order is reversed and the mother is forced to bury her own son. Here is a jarring reminder that death knows no boundaries.

Young people tend to live life as though death is too far off to consider seriously. But so do adults. When our youth flies away, we attempt to reclaim it by exercise, diet and medicine. Adults and youth tell themselves the same lie. We each feel we can somehow control death. We are both wrong.

The fact is that you have absolutely no mastery over death. Neither the strength of youth, nor caution, nor religion, nor any amount of worry can add a single hour to your life (Lk. 12:25). Death is your master and tyrant. Media vita in morte sumus. “In the midst of life we are in death.”

So, the best thing to ask God is: “teach us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Ps. 90:12) It is a gift to know our mortality — a gift of God. Jesus lovingly answers your prayers for wisdom by surrounding you with reminders: wars, deadly accidents, funerals, falling leaves and waning sunlight. He even gives you illnesses and injuries to be reminders.

Take them to heart. Make the most of them. For they give you a heart of wisdom. They teach you to quit thinking that you can control death.

Then, look again at what Jesus did when He encountered death. “He came and touched the open coffin: and they that carried the boy stood still. And He said, ‘Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.’ And he that was dead sat up.” (Lk. 7:14-15) A touch of Jesus’ hand, a word from Jesus’ mouth and death is utterly undone.

Our entire human experience teaches us: “In the midst of life we are in death.” But now Christ declares something utterly new: “Even in the midst of death, I Am your life! You need not fear death when I am near.”

Just as there is nothing that you can do to stay alive—no amount of precaution or exercise or healthy diet or earthly medicine—so there is nothing that death can do to take away the Life that Christ gives. No disease, no threat, no violence can undo Christ’s work. When you are in Christ’s life, death becomes nothing but a Halloween ghost—a mist that dissolves at the wave of Jesus’ hand.

So take to heart the lessons of the fall. You have no mastery over death. But Jesus does. Attend to His voice in the Church’s preaching (Lk. 10:16). Avail yourself to His life-giving touch in the Font and at the Altar. Fear death no more. Rejoice in Jesus’ life-giving touch and voice.

Prudence in Action

DO NOT yield to every impulse and suggestion but consider things carefully and patiently in the light of God's will. For very often, sad to say, we are so weak that we believe and speak evil of others rather than good. Perfect men, however, do not readily believe every talebearer, because they know that human frailty is prone to evil and is likely to appear in speech.

Not to act rashly or to cling obstinately to one's opinion, not to believe everything people say or to spread abroad the gossip one has heard, is great wisdom.

Take counsel with a wise and conscientious man. Seek the advice of your betters in preference to following your own inclinations.

A good life makes a man wise according to God and gives him experience in many things, for the more humble he is and the more subject to God, the wiser and the more at peace he will be in all things.

Thomas à Kempis - Imitation of Christ

The Fundamentals of the Christian Religion

from Blaise Pascal - Pensees

556.... Men blaspheme what they do not know. The Christian religion consists in two points. It is of equal concern to men to know them, and it is equally dangerous to be ignorant of them. And it is equally of God's mercy that He has given indications of both.

...they take occasion to revile the Christian religion, because they misunderstand it. They imagine that it consists simply in the worship of a God considered as great, powerful, and eternal; which is strictly deism, almost as far removed from the Christian religion as atheism, which is its exact opposite. And thence they conclude that this religion is not true, because they do not see that all things concur to the establishment of this point, that God does not manifest Himself to men with all the evidence which He could show.

But let them conclude what they will against deism, they will conclude nothing against the Christian religion, which properly consists in the mystery of the Redeemer, who, uniting in Himself the two natures, human and divine, has redeemed men from the corruption of sin in order to reconcile them in His divine person to God.

The Christian religion, then, teaches men these two truths; that there is a God whom men can know, and that there is a corruption in their nature which renders them unworthy of Him. It is equally important to men to know both these points; and it is equally dangerous for man to know God without knowing his own wretchedness, and to know his own wretchedness without knowing the Redeemer who can free him from it. The knowledge of only one of these points gives rise either to the pride of philosophers, who have known God, and not their own wretchedness, or to the despair of atheists, who know their own wretchedness, but not the Redeemer.

...All who seek God without Jesus Christ, and who rest in nature, either find no light to satisfy them, or come to form for themselves a means of knowing God and serving Him without a mediator. Thereby they fall either into atheism, or into deism, two things which the Christian religion abhors almost equally.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Having a Humble Opinion of Self

EVERY man naturally desires knowledge; but what good is knowledge without fear of God? Indeed a humble rustic who serves God is better than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study the course of the stars. He who knows himself well becomes mean in his own eyes and is not happy when praised by men.

If I knew all things in the world and had not charity, what would it profit me before God Who will judge me by my deeds?

Shun too great a desire for knowledge, for in it there is much fretting and delusion. Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be called wise. Yet there are many things the knowledge of which does little or no good to the soul, and he who concerns himself about other things than those which lead to salvation is very unwise.

Many words do not satisfy the soul; but a good life eases the mind and a clean conscience inspires great trust in God.

The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely will you be judged, unless your life is also the more holy. Do not be proud, therefore, because of your learning or skill. Rather, fear because of the talent given you. If you think you know many things and understand them well enough, realize at the same time that there is much you do not know. Hence, do not affect wisdom, but admit your ignorance. Why prefer yourself to anyone else when many are more learned, more cultured than you?

If you wish to learn and appreciate something worth while, then love to be unknown and considered as nothing. Truly to know and despise self is the best and most perfect counsel. To think of oneself as nothing, and always to think well and highly of others is the best and most perfect wisdom. Wherefore, if you see another sin openly or commit a serious crime, do not consider yourself better, for you do not know how long you can remain in good estate. All men are frail, but you must admit that none is more frail than yourself.

Thomas à Kempis - The Imitation of Christ

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Imitating Christ and Despising All Vanities on Earth

"HE WHO follows Me, walks not in darkness," says the Lord. By these words of Christ we are advised to imitate His life and habits, if we wish to be truly enlightened and free from all blindness of heart. Let our chief effort, therefore, be to study the life of Jesus Christ.

The teaching of Christ is more excellent than all the advice of the saints, and he who has His spirit will find in it a hidden manna. Now, there are many who hear the Gospel often but care little for it because they have not the spirit of Christ. Yet whoever wishes to understand fully the words of Christ must try to pattern his whole life on that of Christ.

What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.

This is the greatest wisdom -- to seek the kingdom of heaven through contempt of the world. It is vanity, therefore, to seek and trust in riches that perish. It is vanity also to court honor and to be puffed up with pride. It is vanity to follow the lusts of the body and to desire things for which severe punishment later must come. It is vanity to wish for long life and to care little about a well-spent life. It is vanity to be concerned with the present only and not to make provision for things to come. It is vanity to love what passes quickly and not to look ahead where eternal joy abides.

Often recall the proverb: "The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear filled with hearing." Try, moreover, to turn your heart from the love of things visible and bring yourself to things invisible. For they who follow their own evil passions stain their consciences and lose the grace of God.

Thomas à Kempis - The Imitation of Christ

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Holy Cross Day

The President of our sister synod, The Lutheran Church-Canada, shares some words of wisdom:

I remember the days of my youth when I felt so strongly opposed to a crucifix on that familiar ground that it was somehow “Roman Catholic”. One day a wise, gentle old Estonian pastor talked with me about it on the way home from our circuit meeting. “Don’t ever forget,” he observed, “it’s not the cross that saved you, but rather the One Who hung on the cross.” Things became clearer to me in that moment. Ever since then, I’ve had a crucifix on the wall … at home, in my office, and in the rooms where I taught . . . to try to remind myself and others of my Saviour Jesus.
Robert Bugbee, President
Lutheran Church-Canada

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

What does this mean?
God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.

Pray like this:
Three temptations or trials confront us: the flesh, the world, and the devil, hence we pray: Dear Father, grant us grace to overcome the fleshly lusts. Help that we may withstand excesses in eating, drinking, sleeping too much, idleness, and laziness. help us to make constructive use of fasting, to be moderate in food, dress, and sleep, keeping alert in our doing and working. Help us, with Christ, to crucify and put to death the evil desire and inclination of the flesh [Rom. 6:6] so as not to yield to any temptations of the flesh or to follow them. Help that when we look at a beautiful person or picture or any other creature, that this may not bring us into temptation but rather be an occasion for cherishing chastity and praising you in your creatures. Help that when we hear or feel something pleasant and pleasurable that we do not seek to indulge our lust in this but rather to seek to praise and glorify you for it.

Protect us from the great vice of avarice and covetousness with regard to the riches of this world. Protect us from seeking honor and power in this world, or from even being inclined in this direction. Protect us that the deceit, delusion, and enticement of this world may not stir us to seek after them. Keep us that we be not drawn into impatience, vindictiveness, anger, or other vices by the world’s evil and unpleasantness.
Help us renounce and forsake the world’s deceit and delusion, allurements and fickleness—all its good or evil, as we vowed to do in Baptism. Help that we may remain steadfast and grow in [the promise of our Baptism] from day to day.

Protect us from the devil’s whisperings so that we do not give in to pride, and our own pleasure, and a contempt for others to gain wealth, high rank, power, skill, beauty, or any other blessing of yours. Preserve us from falling into hatred or envy for any reason whatsoever. Protect us against being governed by religious doubt and despair, now and at our last hour.

Heavenly Father, may all who work and struggle against these great and manifold temptations be committed to your care. Strengthen those who are unbowed, raise the fallen and the defeated. And in the wretched insecurities of this life, grant us all your grace that we, being surrounded by so many foes, may do battle with a firm and valiant faith, and may obtain an eternal crown.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Who Do You Say that I Am?

Two years ago this month we started a monthly event called "Conversations on Christ." This project is the product of a self-conscious recognition that the Person of Jesus is the central reality of Christianity. It has always been my hope and prayer that these conversations can lead to true Christian unity by keeping all eyes focused on the Person who is Himself the union of God and man.

Rev. Larry Beane, recently blogged about the brouhaha concerning the religion of the president. In his remarks, he concisely states the point. I highly recommend it.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Terrible Price of Freedom from God

C.S. Lewis, in his book, Mere Christianity, points out that whenever people quarrel with one another using arguments about what is right and what is wrong, they are, by this very fact, conceding the existence and reality of God. For without some ultimate authority, such categories simply have no meaning.

More recently, Professor Thomas Nagel, himself an atheist, candidly addressed the question: “why are atheists afraid of religion?”

I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God, and naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that." (Thomas Nagel, The Last Word, New York, Oxford University Press, 2001)
Reacting to this open admission, Mr. Peter Hitchens, observes that such absolute and utter freedom comes at a tremendous price.

If they [atheists] know, or are reasonably certain, that there is no ultimate authority and no judgement issuing from some unalterable law, they are instantly quite extraordinarily free. But this freedom is also as available to monsters and power-seekers as it is to advanced intellectuals dwelling in comfortable suburbs... If atheists or anti-theists have the good fortune to live in a society still governed by religious belief, or even its afterglow, they may feel free from absolute moral bonds, while those around them are not. This is a tremendous liberation for anyone who is even slightly selfish. And what clever person is not imaginatively and cunningly selfish?

Oddly enough, very few atheists are as delighted by this prospect as they ought to be. At least they are not delighted openly or in public. Could this be because they really do not grasp this astonishingly simple point, based as it is on their own insistence that the most plausible external source of law and morality does not exist? Why create such a difficulty for themselves at all? Might it be because they fear that, by admitting their delight at the non-existence of good and evil, they are revealing something of their motives for their belief? Could it be that the last thing on earth they wish to acknowledge is that they HAVE motives for their belief, since, by doing so they would open up their flanks to attack?" (Peter Hitchens, The Rage Against God, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2010)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Mortality, Thrash Metal, and the Church

Rev. Gregory P. Alms from incarnatus est blog has written a beautifully relavent and insightful article for Lutheran Forum online.

“Martin Luther once wrote a hymn that asked the question: In the midst of earthly life, Snares of death surround us; Who shall help us in the strife? It is the eternal question but it is one that cannot be answered if it is not asked. Churches today must hear this question in the experience of those they seek to serve and answer. It is, finally, the only question worth answering.”
To read the whole article, click here or, on the title above.

Friday, July 30, 2010

God the Crucified - The Trinity in Action

(part 4 of 9)

What about the Holy Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Mightn’t our singular focus on the crucifixion of Jesus cause us to forget or diminish the Father and the Holy Spirit and thus undermine our confession of the Holy Trinity?

It would, indeed, be a grave error to deny or diminish the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. The United Pentecostal Church has done this, and in the process become altogether non-christian. Their rejection of the Holy Trinity, for instance, leads them to insist that anyone who has received a Trinitarian baptism should, instead, be baptized in the name of “Jesus only.” But, perhaps surprisingly, this heretical Christo-monism did not come about because of an over emphasis on the crucified Lord. In fact, it is unlikely that you could find the crucified Jesus depicted anywhere in their church building. Instead, this anti-trinitarian heresy is the end result of an isolated focus on the Holy Spirit—as the name “Pentecostal” implies.

Similarly, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, for all it's emphasis on Jesus, cannot bring itself to look at the crucifixion — or even upon the cross — substituting a bare spire in its place. This is only the most visible manifestation of their own particular brand of anti-trinitarianism which has much to say about “heavenly father” but nothing about the cross.

It would certainly be an evil thing if we were to do the same. If our emphasis on the cross of Christ were at fault, we should immediately dispose of it. But the cross is not at fault. Rather, the anti-trinitarian evil is avoided only by viewing each distinct Person of the Holy Trinity in proper relationship with the other Persons. Jesus’ words from the cross teach us this in the very moment of the crucifixion.

Jesus’ first word from the cross is, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Here we see the forgiveness won by Jesus on the cross as the Father’s own gift to the world. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.” (John 3:16). Also, by drinking the cup of suffering which the Father gives Him, Jesus becomes the only One who truly submits to the Father’s will.

Jesus’ last word from the cross is also addressed to the Father, “Father, into your hands I commit My Spirit.” With these words, Jesus commits the Holy Spirit back into the hands of the Father in order that the Spirit might convey the fruits of Jesus’ crucifixion to the entire world.

The evils of denying the Trinity are not avoided by making sure we give equal time to looking at and talking about each of the three Persons separately. (For this, activity—in itself—denies the unity of the Trinity and sets one Person over against another Person causing us to see not One God but Three Gods.) Quite the opposite, we extol Father, Son and Holy Spirit most especially as we see the Father giving His only-begotten Son into death for the whole world and the Son giving His Holy Spirit from the cross that we might believe and be saved.

That is why Christians believe in the Holy Trinity—because the crucifixion is the Holy Trinity at work for our salvation.

Where is the True Church Found?

Martin Luther addresses this question not by looking for marks of success but by pointing to the seven marks of Jesus' presence.

“First, the holy Christian people are recognized by their possession of the holy word of God. ...wherever you hear or see this word preached, believed, professed, and lived, do not doubt that the true ecclesia sancta catholica, “a Christian holy people” must be there, even though their number is very small.
“Second, God’s people or the Christian holy people are recognized by the holy sacrament of baptism, wherever it is taught, believed, and administered correctly according to Christ’s ordinance.
“Third, God’s people, or Christian holy people, are recognized by the holy sacrament of the altar, wherever it is rightly administered, believed, and received, according to Christ’s institution.
...don’t be led astray by the question of whether the man who administers the sacrament is holy… Wherever you see this sacrament properly administered, there you may be assured of the presence of God’s people.
“Fourth, God’s people or holy Christians are recognized by the office of the keys exercised publicly. That is, as Christ decrees in Matthew 18 [:15–20], if a Christian sins, he should be reproved; and if he does not mend his ways, he should be bound in his sin and cast out. If he does mend his ways, he should be absolved.
“Fifth, the church is recognized externally by the fact that it consecrates or calls ministers... Wherever you see this done, be assured that God’s people, the holy Christian people, are present…

“Sixth, the holy Christian people are externally recognized by prayer, public praise, and thanksgiving to God. Where you see and hear the Lord’s Prayer prayed and taught; or psalms or other spiritual songs sung, in accordance with the word of God and the true faith; also the creed, the Ten Commandments, and the catechism used in public, you may rest assured that a holy Christian people of God are present.
“Seventh, the holy Christian people are externally recognized by the holy possession of the sacred cross. They must endure every misfortune and persecution, all kinds of trials and evil from the devil, the world, and the flesh (as the Lord’s Prayer indicates)...”

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Holiness of Christ’s Church

Ubi Christus, ibi ecclesia, “Where Christ is, there is the church.” With this saying one of the oldest church fathers spoke of the mystery of the church. The saying also sums up Luther’s faith in the church. It is not the power of our faith, nor the holiness of our life that constitutes the church, but rather that “Where Christ is, there is the church.” When the church is called a holy people, a communion of saints, it is not to be understood in the way it has often been understood in the history of the church: “the church should be a holy people, therefore only the holy shall belong to her. Away with all the unholy! The honour of Christ demands it!” When the worst of sinners must be excluded from the fellowship, one must then begin to classify sins in order to determine which ones lead to exclusion. How often has not that been attempted, both in the past and more recently. How imposing was the strictness of the ancient church, when people sought to create a holy and pure church (as also happens now). Or consider the Donatists, who demanded that at least the clergy should be free of mortal sin. Whenever the attempt has been made to create an ideal church, the end result has always been bitter disappointment. The community of saints turns into a community of Pharisees.

— Hermann Sasse

(Brought to my attention by Rev. Paul T. McCain)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Legalism Under the Guise of Freedom

As a congregation, we are often puzzled by the decisions that other church bodies have been making over the past several years. Professor Steven Paulson (author of Luther for the Armchair Theologian) has some insights which might help you understand what is happening in the contemporary church scene.
...Fanatics are a specific type of infiltrating and clandestine false prophet. They are self-righteous. They are on a mission. They believe that they hold the key to the future. They are decidedly *not *antinomian, in fact they believe in the law alone. The trick is that the law is held by them with a twist.
They believe they are the messengers and purveyors of a *new and higher law* than had ever existed before in church and world—even laws given by God himself. Furthermore, this new and higher form of law comes in the person of the Holy Spirit who gives them new spirit-led revelations that are not in Scripture but are supposed to be part of God’s hidden plan.

Plan for what?

For making the church a more righteous, perfect group of saints who will then be a light to the nations by living out the love the law requires. Fanatics are never very creative. Fanatics think that God has communicated the new law through them (such as in a new ecclesiastical vote at a churchwide assembly).

They believe they are enlightened. This is why the issue of homosexuality has been taken up as a matter of rights or righteousness along with the supposed movement of the Holy Spirit to “do a new thing.”

Fanatics think that the Holy Spirit has given them a new word not found in Scripture that approves of homosexual acts because a higher righteousness has now been revealed to them than has ever existed in history.

They know, even though they have no word from God to stand on.

To read the whole article, see Against the Holy Blasphemers by Steven D. Paulon.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Christian Unity and Holy Scripture

Gnesio Lutheran Blog posted the following from Franz Pieper. It says well what we have been talking about here for the past several years.

“Thus our precious Lutheran Church confesses: There is no teaching in the Christian faith which is not revealed in passages of Scripture with clear and unambiguous words. In these Scriptures all articles of the Christian faith have been revealed in a way which is accessible to both the learned and unlearned, as St. Augustine early affirmed. You should be grateful that God has led you to a church body which adheres to this scriptural position, a church body which takes very seriously the truth that Holy Scripture is a lamp unto our feet, and a light upon our path.

Perhaps you are wondering if this is not a position taken by all Protestant churches. By no means! If we look about us today, we must unfortunately conclude that their signature is one of despair about the clarity of Scripture – including that of modern Lutheran theology. Today they attempt to build unity in the church by disregarding unity in doctrine; indeed, they have declared it impossible to achieve unity in the church by means of doctrinal agreement. But why do they make such a declaration? Well, simply because they do not trust in Holy Scripture; they do not believe that God has provided us with clear Scriptures, and that by them all Christian teaching can be established with surety. Hence, they wish to bring unity by means of externals and “fundamentals,” but not by ‘all articles’ of Christian doctrine.

This is apparent nowadays also in that the churches allow not only a varied selection of beliefs but also a diversity of “opinions.” We, however, who maintain that our beliefs are not opinions but based on clear Scripture, are decried as romanizers with “infallibilist” tendencies…

But by the will of God you must not permit Holy Scriptures to be placed in doubt for you by the modern theology and unionism which are inundating the church. By God’s grace, cling to the inspiration, that is, the divinity, of Holy Scripture and its perfect clarity. It is only then you can have proper joy in Scripture and read God’s Word with firm countenance and, by God’s grace, obtain a sure conviction. It is only by belief in the clarity of Holy Scripture that you are orthodox Christians, true Lutherans.”

Via Pieper’s “Modernists Seek Unity Through Fundamentals Only”

Friday, July 16, 2010

Conversations on Christ: Jesus in the Nazareth Synagogue

July’s Conversation on Christ discussed Jesus’s use of Isaiah 61:1-2 in the synagogue at Nazareth. Pastor Lange made the following remarks.

After Jesus was Baptized by John and the Holy Spirit had anointed Him visibly in the form of a dove, Jesus began His public ministry. Soon He journeyed to Nazareth with a purpose: to read to them from Isaiah 61. Whether by timing his visit to their lectionary schedule or by choosing the passage Himself, it was not by chance that these words are the subject of His first sermon in the town of His fleshly ancestry.

The Spirit of the Lord LORD (Yahweh / Kyrie) is upon Me because
The LORD (Yahweh / Kyrie) has anointed (Messiah / Christ) Me
to bring good news to the poor
He has sent (Shaliach / Apostle) Me
to bind up the brokenhearted
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, (61:1-2)

In these brief verses, Jesus Trinitarian Mission is stated plainly  and underscored three times.
1) The Spirit of the Father is upon Him (the Son).
2) He (Son) is Anointed / Christed / Messiahed by the Father Himself.
3) He (Son) is Sent as the Shaliach / Apostle / Ambassador of the Father Himself.

With this beginning, Jesus indicates that everything to follow in His earthly life, death and resurrection... is the full and complete revelation of the Holy Trinity Father, Son and Holy Spirit are acting subjects in all His preaching and healing.

Don't forget that these words are spoken in the town of Mary and Joseph, His parents according to the human nature. In fact, a more careful look at the context of Isaiah 61, reveals that His human nature is emphasized there also.

If you inquire, “who is the Me being anointed and sent in 61:1?” Isaiah Himself answers clearly, “I, the LORD (Yahweh) am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob...” (60:16)

The Mighty One of Jacob is the subject of this whole passage. (This Person is also named in Gn 49:24; Ps 132:2, 5; Is 1:24; 49:26) “Of Jacob” means that He is of the flesh of Jacob whose name was changed to Israel. And yet, this Man is clearly identified with the Lord (Yahweh). He is also called Savior (from Jeshuah) and Redeemer.

The Mighty One upon whom the Spirit of the Father rests, is none other than the actual man born of the lineage of Jacob. Here the clear teaching of the Holy Trinity is coupled with an equally clear statement of the two natures of Christ.

And this God/Man is Sent and Anointed for very specific work...
to bring good news
to bind up
to proclaim liberty
to open the prison
to proclaim the jubilee

And not only is His activity specified, but in each case, the object of His activity is specific. Jesus is Sent and Anointed to do all these wonderful things to ...

the poor
the brokenhearted
the captives
those in prison
all who mourn

As Jesus will put it in the following chapter (5:31): “they that are whole need no physician, but they that are sick.” (This saying ought not to be overlooked when you hear Jesus reference the proverb, “Physician heal thyself.”)

This means that if the Christ is to be for me, I must be numbered with the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the prisoners and the mournful. It means that if the Gospel is to be for my hearers, they too must be numbered with the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the prisoners and the mournful.

If the focus of my preaching directs my hearers to think only of monetary poverty, they cannot, by any stretch of the imagination be the subjects of Jesus' Gospel. If I am thinking of the captives and the prisoners to be in jail cells or in ghettos, I am exempted from Jesus' liberation. If I am thinking of brokenheartedness and mourning only in terms of social injustice, I am not the object of Jesus' bandaging and comforting.

But as I come to see and know...
my true poverty -- without Christ or His Word
my true brokenheartedness and sorrow -- over sin
my true captivity -- to the devil
my true prison -- of my fallen will
Then, the Christ's coming is most assuredly for me.

Thus, the Mighty One of Jacob, the Man from Nazareth has come to bring me good news, bind me up, set me free, and proclaim my liberty. And if it is the Man from Jacob, the human offspring of Mary and the legal son of Joseph who is doing these things to is the work of the Father Himself, who, through the Spirit sends and anoints His only-begotten Son to do these things through the flesh and blood of Jesus, the Son of Mary and Joseph, the Man from Nazareth.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Luther for the Armchair Theologian - Chapter 6

What Theology Is About: I, the Sinner; God, the Justifier

“One doesn't do theology in an armchair... One SUFFERS, is done unto—then theology, good or bad, will come out... Everybody has a 'philosophy of life' and is more than willing to unload when someone is listening. How will you ever decide whether you should really have been a Buddhist, or if Scientology is really more your thing? If Protestants or Roman Catholics are better off on the last day? If you should really be an atheist or create your own religion. But Luther's Theology doesn't start in the typical way...” (pp. 91-2)

Trust: An Involuntary Reaction
“Trust is not a light switch that you can turn on or off. You do not decide one day to trust someone or something... Like it or not, you are thrown into the world without asking to be born and have to place your trust somewhere." (p. 94)

Thus, we are never for a moment untrusting souls dispassionately seeking someone worthy of our trust. Rather, we are always trusting somebody or something from the moment we come into existence. The only question ever is “what?” or “who?”

“Luther understood from his own experience that God is dead set on revealing your trust to you. When God's preacher reveals a person it is unsettling, especially for people who are used to looking at their reflection in the pond like Narcissus and falling in love. Not only are humans “trusters” by nature, but they are terrible judges of charactor and frightened into putting their trust into the wrong people, places, and things. We are like bad serial daters, looking for love but falling for the wrong kind of man or woman, suckers for what looks slick and whoever heaps us with false praise.” (p. 95)

Hope, not Love — Waiting, not Striving
Augustine said, “Love changes the lover into the beloved.”

Luther changed this to, “What is hoped for and the hoping person become one through tense hoping.”

“Where Augustine says ‘love’ Luther says ‘hope’... This switches directions from what aims at to what one waits for in hope. The lover pursues; the hoper waits. In whom do you trust? Trust does not come out of thin air but depend on the word of promise that break in and change the normal course of events. Trust depends on another to arrive.” (p. 99-100)

Thus, you do not become a theologian by dispassionate study and deciding who to trust. you become a theologian by God revealing your false trust to you and placing you into a posture of waiting and hoping while clinging to nothing but His promise.

As my dear college mentor, Professor Charles Froelich, had us memorize:

Vivendo, immo moriendo, damnando fit theologus, non intellelgendo, legendo, aut speculando.

Translated: “By living, dying, [and] being condemned a theologian is made; not by understanding, reading or speculating.”

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Pope Within

An excellent article from the Brose family’s former pastor and the newly elected 5th Vice President of the Missouri Synod, the Reverend Doctor Scott Murray.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Thy Will Be Done

What does this mean?
The good and gracious will of God is done even without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.

How is God’s will done?
God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die. This is His good and gracious will.

Pray like this:
Compared with your will, ours is never good but always evil. your will is at all times the best, to be cherished and desired above everything else. Therefore have mercy upon us, O dear Father, and let nothing happen just because it is our own will. Grant and teach us a deeply based patience in times when our will is prevented from happening or comes to nothing or when someone contradicts our will by what he says or does not say, does or leaves undone. Help us not to become angry or vexed, not to curse, complain, protest, condemn, disparage, or contradict [when what we will is not done]. Help us to speak well of such adversaries, to bless them, and to do good to them as persons who are carrying out your best and godly purposes in contradiction to our own will.

Grant us grace to bear willingly all sorts of sickness, poverty, disgrace, suffering, and adversity and to recognize in this your divine will is crucifying our will. Help us also to endure injustice gladly and preserve us from taking revenge. Let us not repay evil with evil [Matt. 5:39; Rom. 12:19, 21] nor meet violence with violence, but rather let us rejoice that these things happen to us according to your will and so let us praise and give thanks to you [Matt. 5:11]. Let us not ascribe to the devil or evil persons anything that happens contrary to our will, but solely ascribe this to your divine will which orders everything that may hinder our will in order to increase the blessedness of your kingdom. Help us to die willingly and gladly and readily accept death as your will so that we do not become disobedient to you through impatience or discouragement on our part.

Grant that we do not give our bodily members—eyes, tongue, heart, hands, and feet—free rein for what they desire or purpose, but make them captive to your will, bring them to a stop, and subdue them. Protect us from any kind of evil will—froward, stubborn, stiff-necked, or obstinate. Grant us true obedience, a perfect, calm, single-minded composure in all things—spiritual, earthly, temporal, and eternal. Protect us from the horrible vice of character assassination, slander, backbiting, frivolously judging or condemning others, and misrepresenting what others have said. O hold far from us the plague and tragedy which such speech can cause; rather, whenever we see or hear anything in others that seems wrong or displeasing to us, teach us to keep quiet, not to publicize it, and to pour out our complaints to you alone and to commit all to your will. And let us sincerely forgive all who wrong us and be sympathetic toward them.

Teach us to recognize that no one can harm us without first harming himself a thousand times more in your eyes, so that we might thus be moved more to pity rather than to anger toward such a person, to commiserate with him rather than count up his wrongs. Whenever those who did not do our will or did us harm in their conduct or otherwise displeased us are struck with adversity, help us to refrain from rejoicing. Also help us not to be saddened by their good fortune.

To this petition belongs every psalm, verse, or prayer which petitions for help against sin and our foes.

Monday, July 12, 2010

God the Crucified - The Spirit of Jesus

(part 3 of 9)

Above, I said that Jesus of Nazareth is so completely God that we need not, and ought not, seek any knowledge of God outside of this man. As Luther summarized it in the Reformation hymn, “Ask ye, ‘who is this?’ Jesus Christ it is, of sabbaoth Lord, and there’s none other God” (LSB 656.3). We reviewed the Scriptures wherein God the Father Himself directs our entire focus to Jesus Christ. We learned from both the words of the Father and the words of Jesus that the Father glorifies Himself in the crucifixion of Jesus, His only-begotten Son. Now we speak of the Holy Spirit.

In the Creed, we confess the Holy Spirit as the One “Who spoke by the prophets.” Thus, we confess that all of the Holy Scriptures are the Holy Spirit’s writings. About these Scriptures Jesus told the Jews, “These are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39). Luther somewhere said, “stick a pin in any page of Scripture and out spurts the blood of Christ.”

In the Scriptures the Holy Spirit is never One who testifies of Himself. He is always and ever the One who testifies of Jesus. As Jesus promised on the night before His crucifixion, “When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” (John 15:26)

This is nowhere more clear than when we read the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In all canonical accounts of Jesus’ life, the crucifixion is the singular event that drives the story forward. Every detail that is provided from Jesus’ birth to His death is related to the crucifixion. Over half of the Gospel narrative is devoted to Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem to be offered as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. 48 chapters out of 89 total (54%) of the Gospel narrative covers only 3½% of Jesus’ Galilean life. Thus, the Holy Spirit Himself focuses our attention on the cross of Christ.

We are so familiar with this Gospel emphasis that it hardly seems remarkable to our ears. But this emphasis should not be taken for granted. Numerous counterfeit Gospels were set forth by anonymous authors to advance their own version of Christianity, but only those inspired by the Spirit of Christ have Jesus’ crucifixion as the central act in the history of the world.

This is what lies behind Paul’s statement to the Corinthian Christians,
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. ... For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified...That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 1:18—2:2)
Understanding the crucifixion emphasis of the Apostolic Scriptures; receiving the testimony of the Holy Spirit who is breathed forth at the moment of Jesus’ death; rejoicing that in this moment, the Father Himself is honored, glorified and praised; we are moved to glorify the Triune God by proclaiming the crucifixion of Jesus at all times and by all means.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Luther for the Armchair Theologian - Chapter 5

For God, to speak Is to Do: The Pastoral Care of Souls

The practice of confession and absolution provides an excellent case study to see what happens when God’s word of law and God’s word of Gospel are confused or inverted. Luther saw three fundamental problems...

Penance: Pride and Uncertainty
The  medieval practice of Confession developed to require an act of satisfaction to be performed after the absolution was pronounced. “Say ten hail Marys,” for instance.  The problem is that any satisfaction that I must do after the Absolution tends to teach that the Absolution is only a precursor to the real action of my satisfaction. When this happens, spiritual pride and spiritual uncertainty are the certain results. Pride, because I have done something to advance my spiritual state. Uncertainty, because I can never be sure I have done enough.

Pastor: Forgiver or Judge?
In the Church of Luther’s day, the pastor’s role was to determine whether the penitent had repented enough to merit the absolution. Thus, he became a judge. If he judged you were not fully repentant, he prescribed spiritual exercises to get you there. If he judged you were repentant enough (nobody is fully repentant, after all) then he would simply tell you that you were already forgiven.  Either way, his words had no real effect on your forgiveness. He could only judge and label what you had already accomplished on your own.

When Luther understood the thrust of the Gospel, he came to understand the pastor not as judge but as the mouthpiece of the creative voice of God. Just as God’s Word CREATED the entire universe just by speaking. So also God’s Word CREATES righteousness when it is spoken by Christ through the office of the Ministry. “Whosoever sins you forgive, they are forgiven them...” (John 20:21) means exactly what it says because of Jesus’ promise: “He who hears you, hears Me.” (Luke 10:16).

Jesus: Player or Spectator?
Closely related to the previous point is the question of what Jesus is doing during all of this. Is He sitting around and patiently waiting for you to get sorry enough to obtain what He won for you on the cross? That’s the way most Christians think about conversion and forgiveness.

Luther understood that Jesus is never a spectator in the forgiveness of sins. But He is always the player. Jesus’ work of forgiveness did not end when the atonement was completed on Calvary. There, the one sacrifice for the sins of the world was “finished.” But the work of creating faith and distributing His blood bought salvation is not left to the second team. After all, that’s why He rose from the dead bodily... so that He Himself might be the one who bodily comes through the preaching of the Church to create faith in you and to personally forgive your sins.

When Christ is no longer a bench warmer but is back in the game, our victory is certain even while our pride is moved from our own efforts to Christ alone.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Goose

On July 6th, 1415 Jan Huss was burned at the stake as an heretic. He went to his death predicting that 100 years hence, he would rise from the ashes unable to be cooked. On account of this prediction, Martin Luther was popularly depicted as a goose rising from the ashes.  One of our hymns about the Lord’s Supper is attributed to Huss.

Jesus Christ, Our Blessed Savior
1. Jesus Christ, our blessed Savior,
Turned away God’s wrath forever;
By His bitter grief and woe
He saved us from the evil foe.

2 As His pledge of love undying,
He, this precious food supplying,
Gives His body with the bread,
And with the wine the blood He shed.

3 Jesus here Himself is sharing;
Heed then how you are preparing,
For if you do not believe,
His judgment then you shall receive.

4 Praise the Father, who from heaven
To His own this food has given,
Who, to mend what we have done,
Gave into death His only Son.

5 Firmly hold with faith unshaken
That this food is to be taken
By the sick who are distressed,
By hearts that long for peace and rest.

6 Agony and bitter labor
Were the cost of God’s high favor;
Do not come if you suppose
You need not Him who died and rose.

7 Christ says: “Come, all you that labor,
And receive My grace and favor:
Those who feel no pain or ill
Need no physician’s help or skill.

8 “For what purpose was My dying
If not for your justifying?
And what use this precious food
If you yourself were pure and good?”

9 If your heart this truth professes
And your mouth your sin confesses,
You will be your Savior’s guest,
Be at His banquet truly blest.

10 Let this food your faith so nourish
That its fruit of love may flourish
And your neighbor learn from you
How much God’s wondrous love can do.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Luther for the Armchair Theologian - Chapter 4

The Simple Sense of Scripture: Letter and Spirit

As long as you are still laboring under the notion that religion is about progressing toward God, it remains impossible to take the Scripture in its simple and plain sense. This is the reason why so many Christians find it necessary to “interpret” Scripture. In this way, Scriptures can be wrested from God’s use to our own use and the reader remains at the mercy of our “interpretation” while we are never in any real danger of being challenged, chastened of changed.

But when we simply let the words of the Scripture stand as they are, we no longer are “interpreting” God’s Word. Rather, God’s Word is interpreting us. He is measuring us, not we Him. He is creating us in His image—not we creating Him in our own image.

In short, Luther’s slogan sola Scriptura, is simply the natural outflow of letting God alone be the Creator while we remain always His creatures. As Steven Paulson puts it:

Luther set about to rid the church of its long-standing form of Gnosticism that has tried to be rid of the Old Testament by turning Scripture’s “law” into something old and Jewish and “gospel” into nothing but better laws. That false step tried to make Christ into a better Moses than the Jews had. It made the church a superior form of the Jewish synagogue. It put final church authority in the papal office instead of in Scripture alone. It put laws where the gospel belonged, and its effect was to bury Jesus Christ under self-righteous motives to keep every Christians from becoming immoral. To the contrary, Luther came to assert that Scripture was not hiding mysteries, nor was the church improving on Moses’ laws.

Luther for the Armchair Theologian, pp. 65-66

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Luther for the Armchair Theologian - Chapter 3

Justification by Faith Alone

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law [is] the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God [which is] by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God ; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth [to be] a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, [I say], at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where [is] boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3:20-27)

Paul’s language here makes absolutely no sense whatsoever if we do not understand what He means by “the righteousness of God.” If we think that this is referring to God’s inherent righteousness that we are called to live up to, how can this be effected one way or another by our faith? Is God more or less righteous because we believe?  Certainly not!  No. The righteousness of God is not what God is but what God gives. This is the righteousness which God gives to us by Christ who gives us His Spirit who gives us faith.

This is the heart of the Gospel. This is God’s good news to man. This is the righteousness which those who reject Jesus miss out on. Paul makes it plain in the tenth chapter of this same book. “For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness , have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” (Romans 10:3)

Monday, June 21, 2010

God the Crucified - Honoring the Father

(part 2 of 9)

Christ is always the first Word in Christianity. The scriptures teach this from the very beginning according to Jesus words, “These are they which testify of Me.” This emphasis honors the Father.

The most famous occasion when God spoke to His chosen people was on Mt. Sinai with the giving of the Ten Commandments. There He was not the incarnate God wrapped in human flesh. There He was God clothed “in cloud and majesty and awe” (LSB 357.3). The people were so frightened by this that they begged not to hear God like this again. And, far from being angry, God agreed to this! He said,

They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. (Deuteronomy 18:17-19)
This promise was fulfilled in Jesus. He is the One who is flesh and blood, like Moses, and to whom God commands us to listen. In fact, one of the few times when God, the Father, speaks from heaven, that is all He has to say. On the Mount of Transfiguration, the Father said, “This is my beloved Son...listen to Him.” (Matthew 17:5). The point here, is that God the Father Himself commands us to give full attention to Jesus. Therefore, it can hardly be dishonoring to the Father when we do this.

This is more than sound logic. It is, in fact what Jesus tells us, as well. When Philip asked Jesus to reveal the Father, “Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father’” (John 14:9). Jesus is very clear here. The full revelation of the Father is seen in Jesus, and it is wholly unprofitable to seek out the Father apart from Jesus.

It is especially significant that this conversation between Philip and Jesus took place just moments before Judas went out to betray Jesus. The timing of this exchange shows that Jesus’ depiction of the Father is completely bound up in His suffering and death by crucifixion. After entering Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus said,

The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain... Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” (John 12:23-28)
Here, by another voice from heaven, the Father indicates that His glory, His revelation, His true face is known exactly in Jesus Christ and, particularly in His suffering and death. That is why I have said, if you want to know God the Father... if you want to honor God the Father and glorify God the Father, you can only do so by fixing your attention on Jesus Christ in His suffering and death.

That is why it is written in the Epistle to the Hebrews. “He [Jesus] is the express image of His [the Father’s] person” (Hebrews 1:3).

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Repentant Coin?

What woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’” (Lk 15:8-9)

This parable is simple and brief. It tells us of God’s nature. He diligently seeks out the lost and rejoices greatly when He has found you.  How comforting. How beatiful. How amazing. Nobody can possibly miss Jesus’ point here. But have you ever thought about how Jesus ends this parable?

Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  (Lk 15:10)

Jesus here emphasizes the heavenly joy of finding the lost. But He also says something else. He also equates this finding with repentance! This does not square very well with our notions of repentance. Perhaps that’s why this final point of the parable is rarely noticed.

In Jesus’ world, repentance means that He searches until He finds you. But where is our part in that?

If Jesus wanted to talk about repentance wouldn’t it be better to give the coin some free will? Maybe the coin should be like Frodo’s ring that “wants to be found.” Too bad Jesus does not understand repentance as well as we do. If He did, He would never have told such a ridiculous story of a repentant coin.



...He knows more about repentance that we do. Maybe we should learn from Him what repentance is. If we could learn to think like Jesus, repentance would no longer be the part of our salvation that we accomplish through the exercise of our free will. If we lived in Jesus’ world, repentance would be just as much as a gift from God as being found is a gift from God. And God would remain the One who seeks and saves the lost.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Luther for the Armchair Theologian - Chapter 2

Two Words from God – not One only.

In chapter 1 we reviewed the basic fact that God and His salvation do not come from inside us but from outside. Thus a preacher is necessary. As St. Paul says it, “Faith comes by hearing” (Romans 10).

This leads to a second point. Anything that is already inside of us and can be learned, accessed, or figured out without a preacher is not that preached word which creates us anew and gives life. God’s Word which gives life (the Gospel) says something more than God’s Word telling us how we are supposed to be and behave. This Gospel alone has the power to rescue from death and the devil and give eternal salvation to all who believe it.

Thus there are two Words that the Bible teaches – both of which are from God. First, there is God’s Law teaching us how we are supposed to think and feel and speak and do. Second, there is God’s Gospel which literally creates us into this kind of person by giving us Jesus.

Knowing about these two different Words, we are now equipped to guard against two different falsehoods: Legalism and Antinomianism.

Legalism is the opinion that we can be saved by trying harder and harder to measure up to the Word of the Law. This opinion can be found both within the Church and outside the Church. Legalistic Christian teachers emphasize the Ten Commandments as the way of salvation as though that is all you need to be saved. Legalistic non-christian teachers say that “all you need is love.” You don't need preaching or sacraments or Christ, just do the god things that your consciences tells you to do. Both deny that it is God's Word of Gospel – and that alone – which saves.

Antinomianism is the opinion that God's forgiveness is so radical that any and all references to the Ten Commandments are no longer true. They treat Christ as a different kind of God than the One who gave the Ten Commandments and talk about the Holy Spirit doing a “new thing” as though we are saved to follow a completely different kind of life than the one taught in the whole of Scripture. Thus they deny that the Word of Law is from the same God as the Word of the Gospel and treat our re-creation in Christ as though we are made into something completely different than anything that has appeared on earth before.

We, on the other hand, believe that God speaks two Words: the Word of Law which forever describes the thoughts, words and deeds of Adam (true humanity), and the Word of the Gospel which makes us truly human by bringing us Jesus who is the New and True Adam.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

God the Crucified - God Is Jesus

What follows is the first installment of nine concerning the title for this blog, the crucifixion and the crucifix.

Ask any Christian the question, “Who is Jesus?” Most likely you will get the same reply, “Jesus is God.” That is, of course, right. It reflects the very language of the Nicene Creed which confesses, Jesus to be, “of one substance with the Father... who...was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man.”

However, as soon as you say that Jesus is God, it begs a prior question; namely, who is God? Of course, this question could be answered in any number of ways. He is the creator of all things, the unmoved mover, the all-seeing eye, the almighty One, the life force, the one to Whom we owe absolute obedience. While, each of these answers is true in its own right, sensitive Christians can see a problem begin to emerge. God is defined with no reference whatsoever to Jesus Christ. Jesus enters the picture only at the second point.

To the extent that we put Jesus in second place, any ideas that we have about who God is and what He is like will be skewed and off the mark. It is only when we are thinking about God apart from Jesus that we can ask questions like, “How can God be so harsh as to condemn people just because they don’t believe?” or “How could God let Hitler and Stalin do such evil things?” “Doesn’t it make God an evil being if He can consign people to the pains of hell with no end ever?”

I’m sure that you’ve heard these kinds of questions before—you might have even raised them yourselves. They present vexing philosophical problems which have given rise to a great many heresies among those who attempt to answer them. But the simple fact that I want to point out here is this: These questions will simply never cross your mind while you are standing at the foot of the cross. It is impossible to look upon God as He hangs on the cross and say, “How can you be so evil as to condemn people to hell?” The reason is obvious. God is hanging on the cross for one reason and one reason only—to rescue people from that fate! While we are witnessing Him giving everything He is and has to rescue the world from death and hell, it makes no sense whatsoever to ask, “How He could be so mean as to put people there?” Those kinds of questions only make sense as long as we are thinking about God apart from Jesus on the cross.

For this reason, the Apostle Paul was determined to know and speak about nothing other than Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It is for this reason, also, that I believe a crucifix to be such a beautiful figure to have constantly before your eyes. It keeps you centered on the one and only revelation of God that makes you a Christian.

Every other monotheistic religion in the world can tell you all the logical things about God and then stand around and speculate how this almighty, transcendent Being might sometimes be merciful — and under what conditions. Monotheists who take the Christian angle will tell you that Jesus is also God, and that the merciful Jesus kind-of balances out the harshness of God. But true Christians of all ages have confessed not only that Jesus is one face of God; rather, we teach that Jesus is the only face of God. That makes all the difference.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Council of Nicea, 325

On this date in 325 A.D. the First Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church began meeting at Nicea—a suburb of Byzantium (Constantinople). At this council, three items were dealt with.

1. The doctrines of Arius of Alexandria were examined and answered with the Nicene Creed.

2. Questions about the authentic dating of Easter were dealt with. The Christian Church decided to stop relying on the Jewish community to provide the calculations and, instead, decided that the true date should always fall after the first day of spring.

3. Several universal rules for Church governance were agreed upon. Thus begining a discipline known as Canon Law.

Currently there are a few urban myths that make the Nicene Council into some heavy-handed Imperial power-grab which forever changed the course of “authentic Christianity.” These are exaggerations at best and calumny at worst. In any event, for the scholars who would like to see them answered, click here.