Stay Tuned

I’ve had a couple of requests for the J.A.O. Preus essay “The Interpretation of Scripture.” It’s a great essay. And it’s on paper. Paper that is older than I am.

The nice thing about technology is that some of those old paper resources can easily be turned into quickly-sharable electronic resources. Because of much more persnickety copyright laws at the time, this particular essay appears to be in the public domain. That means that, Deo volunte, the Preus essay will soon be available for download. I even know someone who can host the file for me, so this may all work out.

The funny thing is, I’ve had this essay since before my children were born. On the shelf it has sat for many years. And I would occasionally look at it and think, “Glad we’re past all that nonsense.” There truly is nothing new under the sun. And hard-fought gains in the “Battle for the Bible” are now again in contention. I have heard – from those considered otherwise “Confessional” Lutherans – that we really can’t use the Bible as a Science book; it was never designed for that. And yet, the Preus essay makes quick work of such a foolish argument. We can not ignore that scripture deals in matters historical (and yet is more than mere history) and scientific (and yet is not a science textbook). We must remember that the Creator ordered the creation. Real science (historically until Darwin) is nothing more than an attempt to discern that order, and utilize it for our benefit and the benefit of our neighbor, to the glory of God.

So, the time has come to crack open long-disused books on the library shelf. Preus, Preus, Surburg, Klug, Scaer, Marquardt, (along with many others) and occasionally even Bohlman (like Melanchthon, he was better early than late),  had important things to teach the church in these matters. They already picked apart the arguments against Scripture. If we go back to them, we will find the heavy theological lifting already done. And it can stand as a corrective to our own laziness and lackadaisical attitude toward these things.

I don’t think we are facing a renewed “Battle for the bible” like we had during Seminex. But we’ve gotten lazy about how we consider scripture. We assume fidelity in short phrases that summarize long arguments. But we no longer understand the arguments, or the heresies they were written to refute. We have the shorthand of faithfulness without knowledge of the issues. And we have allowed in a lot of dangerous ideas that should be  considered false teaching, “not to be tolerated in the churches”. Battle? More like a skirmish. Satan is testing around the edges, at battlements that have been left to decay somewhat. Time to rebuild and reinforce. We will be better for it. And the church will be better able to confess the entire truth regarding the Holy Scriptures.

“Let’s Go!” (Mark 1:38)


PS. In a different vein, “Evolution: A Defense Against” is now at the copy-editor. I should be receiving it in the next few weeks, and will have it to press soon afterwards. It doesn’t address these issues directly (Not really the same topic) but it does stand as a help against the crumbling culture and the constant indoctrination we receive from our culture regarding the origin of the creation. It should make a lovely valentine’s day gift!


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Quote of the Day

From J.A.O. Preus, “The Interpretation of Scripture”.

It is sometimes argued that Scripture is authoritative in matters of religion, but in matters of science and history it is not authoritative–in the same sense that Euclid’s Geometry is authoritative for mathematics but not for the history of the Greek Empire. Unfortunately perhaps, the Bible is not a Book that is limited to one sphere. How is one, for example, in reading the first three chapters of Genesis to say that he will accept the religious truths therein as authoritative, true, infallible, inspired, but the scientific matters are wholly erroneous and false? How can we separate them? Or take the matter of the resurrection of Christ. No one will deny that this too is one of the cornerstones of the Christian religion, yet here too, there is a mixture of science and religion. It is simply not scientific for dead bodies which have lain in the grave three days to rise from the grave. Yet we are asked to believe it, to base our salvation upon it, to renew our lives and conduct because of it, to go out and turn the world upside down because of it. Yet is it just as contrary to the canons of science as is the idea of a six-day creation, or man in a fish’s belly or an axe which floated, or water turned into wine. All of these matters enter into the realm of science, and can we deny them as being unscientific, while insisting on the other hand that the Bible is wholly authoritative for our religion? The whole thing becomes flat and watered out if we delete the historical and scientific elements from Scripture. God is the God of history and the God of Creation. His Bible is set in the world of history and deals with the created, scientific world. History and science are part of the warp and woof of scripture. We cannot make this separation.

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Credit Where Credit is Due

I suppose it was practically fated to happen. My Jeep isn’t working, and today is my family day – which means today is Jeep fixing day.

Instead, I wake up to find that President Harrison has written an excellent – well, even beyond that – article in the latest edition of the Lutheran Witness, in which he explains why we confess a six-day (day means day) creation.

But before I dash off to fix my Jeep, here is a link to that article. A little taste:

Or as Luther said elsewhere regarding Genesis 1: “We assert that Moses spoke in the literal sense, not allegorically or figuratively, i.e., that the world, with all its creatures, was created within six days, as the words read. If we do not comprehend the reason for this, let us remain pupils and leave the job of teacher to the Holy Spirit” (Luther’s Works, vol. 1, page 5).

What about our faithful scientists and others who struggle with these issues? There will always be a struggle between faith and reason. In matters of clear teaching of the Bible, I must hold to the Scriptures.

President Harrison is a positive guy. He constantly talks about the blessings God has given to him and to the church. Well, today, I am thankful for the blessing God has given to the church in a President who clearly confesses the truth. That is a great blessing to all of us.

And, like President Harrison, I’m also thankful for the blessing of my Jeep. Off to work on it!


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To kick off the new year, I’ve been reading an old essay by J.A.O. Preus called “The Authority of Scripture.” I’ve also been working my way through the more recent “God’s Word Forever Shall Abide”, a joint statement of some of the leaders of the LCMS, NALC, and LCC (Although the LCC reps didn’t actually show up for the meetings because they were smart.)

On FB I said that comparing the two was like comparing a fine wine to my dog’s vomit.

But that doesn’t quite comprehend all of the beauty of the J.A.O. Preus work, nor plum the depths of the badness of the joint statement. So, here are several other comparisons to help you fully grasp the difference between them:

It is like the difference between driving a Ferrari in the south of France, and driving a dogsled manned entirely by Chihuahua’s through the the Alaskan wilderness.

It is like the difference between reading Luther’s Small Catechism while sitting in a La-Z-Boy recliner and reading The Communist Manifesto while in an Iron Maiden.

It is like the difference between having Morgan Freeman narrate your life story, and having it narrated by Gilbert Gottfried.

It is like the difference between soaking in a nice hot bath, and clinging to Rose’s door that she just can’t be bothered to share with you as you descend to the icy depths.

It is like the difference between a cool drink of water on a hot day, and a scalding cup of McDonald’s coffee burning your nether regions.

It is like the difference between a hot ooey-gooey chocolate chip cookie fresh from the oven, and licking said oven.

It is like the difference between sending your 5 year old child to visit grandma for the night, and sending your 5 year old child to Paris Island.

It is like the difference between heading to the shooting range with your best friend, and being dragged to the target range by Kim Jong Un.

It is like the difference between a Bach Cantata performed by professional musicians on period instruments, and my cat fighting in the yard with another cat.

It isn’t a Top Ten list, but perhaps one more to make it an even ten…

It is like the difference between the Theology of Luther, Gerhard, Walther, Pieper, and Preus, and the “theology” of Schleiermacher, Seminex, and the ELCA.


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Sermon for Sunday After Christmas

NOT yet New Years Eve/Circumcision and Naming of Jesus. Today is the Sunday after Christmas. And here is my sermon. A few typos, but I said them right.

Go anywhere today and people will wish you a happy New Year. Here, we still wish each other Merry Christmas. We are on the seventh day of Christmas, on our way to day 12. The twelve days of Christmas. Then Epiphany. Today, however, we still get to sing Christmas Carols. We still have the trees, and the wreath with candles. The proper preface is still Christmas. And the readings are about the baby Jesus. No longer in the manger, today he goes to the Temple. We’ve actually skipped 40 days. That was when babies were brought to the temple, and a sacrifice was offered. Jesus is presented at the temple. Every first-born male was called “Holy to the Lord”. This was in the Law which God had given to Moses. Remember back to when the children of Israel were still slaves in Egypt. God sent the ten plagues. The last was the death of the firstborn across all the land of Egypt. The only ones to be spared would be those who had the blood of the lamb on their door posts. The angel of death would pass over those houses. God spared the first born of all the children of Israel. When he gave the law to Moses, he said that the firstborn belonged to him. Not as a sacrifice. God despises child sacrifices. Rather, the firstborn were to be redeemed by means of a lamb. Or, if they could not afford a lamb, two turtledoves or pigeons.

Of course, Jesus need not offer the sacrifice. He already belongs to the Lord. He is the Lord. The Son of God, very God of very God, begotten not made, of one substance with the father, by whom all things were made. And he will be sacrificed himself. He will become the first-born of all creation. Sacrificed into death so that the angel of death would pass over all those who are baptized into his death. Jesus is not just any baby. He is the son of the most high God. And he is not subject to the law. And yet, he willingly places himself under the law. So that he can fulfill the law. Continue reading

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Sermon for Christmas Day

In the classic movie “A Christmas Story” Ralphie notes that the entire kid year revolves around Christmas. True. What I want for Christmas, what I got for Christmas, and what I want next Christmas. As we grow into adulthood we learn the joy of buying gifts for others. Seeing their faces light up as they tear – or very carefully and slowly remove – the wrapping. The tree is the thing – it’s where the action is. The Christmas tree is actually a Lutheran thing. In the early days of our nation, some places actually forbid taking today off work. Christmas was looked down on. It was the Lutheran immigrations that brought most of what we think of as Christmas traditions. The first Christmas tree in America was at Zion Lutheran Church in Cleveland Ohio. Pastor Heinrich Christian Schwan introduced it. He was a missionary in Brazil, and would go on to be President of the LCMS. He also edited the Small Catechism what later became the German-English edition. The symbolism of a tree that is always green – never going through that period of death that we see with leaf trees. Evergreens in a sense, can not die. We light them because our Lord Jesus is the Light of the World. That’s our Gospel reading today – Jesus as the light of the world. “In him was life and that life was the light of men. The light shines in darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. The true light which lightens every man was coming into the world.

Jesus brings light into darkness. Darkness is not its own thing. It’s the absence of light. We are told in Revelation that in the new creation there will be no night. There will be no need of the sun, for the Lord will give them light. Darkness exists where God is not.

This time of year is marked by a lack of light. The cold is because we just don’t see enough of the sun. Darkness. The darkest day of the year was a few days ago. Now, just as the cold arrives, we are already on the way out of winter. More light each day. And in the manger, our light. Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

The twinkling lights on the tree, beautifully lit, stand as testament to the light that shines in the darkness of our hearts. We were made in the beginning to serve God. But instead we chose the darkness. We chose sin and death. Jesus comes to redeem us, to lighten the darkness of our hearts by his gracious visitation.

All of this in the Christmas tree. We see symbolized for us the promise of the savior fulfilled. The light shining, even in the darkness. Historically, light is not that easy to come by. We just flip a switch. But if you look at things historically, it wasn’t quite so easy. What about candles? You’d have to work about 6 hours to earn enough to get one hour of candle light. Actually only the well off likely had them. You could cut down a tree – no chainsaw – and dry the wood, and light a fire from that. That would give a bit of heat. Still a lot of work. The lightbulb changed it. Now, an hour of work would get you a bit more than an hour of light – the new technology is always expensive. Today, with LED’s lasting so long, and using so little electricity, and electricity being so cheap, you can run a light bulb for years on one hour’s work. Light is a lot easier than it used to be. Perhaps we don’t appreciate it so much as we should. Last night, we turned off the lights, and sang by candle light again. A novelty. But one that reminds us of the importance of the light of the world.

All of this sounds so ethereal. Trees symbolizing life vs death. Strands of light symbolize the light vs darkness. For children – the tree is where it is at. There is a very specific and real thing that the tree gives. Wake up Christmas morning, you look at the tree for the gifts. You don’t look under the bed, you don’t look outside in the garage. The tree. That’s where you go. Because that’s where the goods are given.

Today’s Gospel reading would be easy to dismiss as a lot of high-minded philosophy, a lot of out there thinking, if not for one phrase that brings it all crashing to earth. The word was made flesh and dwelt among us. It is the presents-under-the-tree moment. The moment when all the talk about light and darkness and cosmic things beyond our understanding become real. A baby. A real baby. Little fingers and toes. The baby would grow. The baby – now a man – would teach, heal, preach the good news to the poor. And then he would die. Jesus is the baby, as you know. And he really is God come to earth for your salvation.

On the one side we have high-minded rhetoric about eternal things, about struggles between light and darkness, between life and death. We have that symbolic tree. But on the other side we have Word made flesh. Now one of us. The hard reality that this is where salvation is found. Christmas can be the celebration of hearts and wishes and thoughts and intentions and dreams – right up until the moment that word becomes flesh.

Now, Jesus is where it is at. And Jesus promises to come to us through the washing of water and the word, through the preaching of the Word. Through the Body and blood, given and shed for your for the forgiveness of your sins. The hard reality of God coming to you with forgiveness and with life. You are no longer trapped in your sin, trapped in a dying world, in a dying body, with a heart that is already dead to God. Now, Jesus comes and lightens the darkness with his Holy Word. He calls you out of this world through Holy Baptism – that is where you are joined to his death on the cross. That is where you are given a new life. He has promised it. He has done the work himself. He baptizes. And then, he feeds – yes with his own word as we gladly hear and learn that word. But also with his body and blood. Where do we find Jesus this Christmas day?

Not in thoughts and intentions and wishes and dreams. We find him where he promises to be – the hard reality of his body and blood for your to take eat and take drink as he has promised.

On Christmas morning the kids know where to look – under the tree. That’s where the promise of presents is fulfilled.

In the church we go where God has promised to be. In the water and word. In the Bread and wine – joined to word so that Jesus is really present for your to eat and drink and so be strengthened and given the life that he is, and to have your heart enlightened by that life. We don’t need to go other places – we know where the promise is. And God keeps his promises.

The patriarchs and prophets waited for thousands of years. They did not get to see this day. We do. We have seen, we have heard. The reality of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins – given to you this day in the body and blood. Where there is forgiveness, there is also life and salvation. Come, receive the gift of life from the one who is life. Enlighten your hearts with the one who is the light. Not just pie in the sky talk. The Word who was made flesh for you. The Son of God come into the world.

Rejoice, Rejoice this happy morn, a Savior unto us is born!



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Funeral Sermon for Martha Lenz

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.

Based on the Gospel reading, John 11:20-27

When someone dies suddenly, you often hear, “At least they didn’t suffer”. When someone dies after a long illness, you often hear “At least they are no longer suffering.” From the perspective of our mortal lives in this world, we look at things according to how easy or difficult it is – how much we enjoy it, or how much we suffer through it. This isn’t just a way to try to find some sort of comfort in our grief. We seek to avoid suffering. Our Lord Jesus himself asked that the cup of suffering be taken from him if possible. He did not want to endure the agony and bloody sweat, the cross and passion. Even he asked if their was a way to avoid suffering, crucifixion, and death. The answer comes minutes later when the temple guards arrive to arrest him. It is the only way. He submits himself to his father’s will. Not all suffering is inherently bad. But it is hard – and oftentimes impossible – to see its value from this side of eternity. And even when Jesus knew how important it was that he fulfill the will of his Father, it was not easy to face. Continue reading

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