Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Core Issue of the ELCA Decision & Saint Paul’s Response

Let me start this post by saying that I really didn't want to devote another post to the conflict at Saint Paul's regarding the ELCA's decision. My two previous ones concerning it have dealt extensively with all that is involved.
This said, the other day I came across an old article in the Anglican Theological Review written by my former professor Paul Zahl that pointedly expresses just what is at stake in the blessing of unrepentant "publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships." This being the case, I felt compelled to share it with you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Luther Quote

This fall I've been going through the book of Romans with a group of High School students.  In preparing for last week's discussion on Romans 7 I came across this insightful quote from Luther's commentary that I just have to share.  The verse that he is exegeting is 7:14 which reads, "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin." Concerning this Luther writes:

"That is the proof of a spiritual and wise man.  He knows that he is carnal, and he is displeased with himself; indeed, he hates himself and praises the law of God, which he recognizes because he is spiritual.  But the proof of a foolish, carnal man is this, that he regards himself as spiritual and is pleased with himself" (Muller 112).

One of the things I love about Luther is that he says things that seem completely out of line with our natural tendencies.  It's natural to think that we should be pleased with ourselves if we "behave" properly.  For Luther this is precisely the point where we are most lost. 

This is why we need the law to constantly thrust us to Christ even after conversion.  The second I believe that I've got my stuff together is when I'm most vulnerable.  Is this a depressing way to look at life?  I'll let Luther answer this one:

"Nor does speaking in this manner give cause for despair, but for arousing the desire to humble oneself and seek the grace of Christ...  Yearning for grace wells up when recognition of sin has arisen" (Lull 56).

Lull, Timothy (Trans.) "Martin Luther's Basic Theological Writings"

Mueller, Theodore (Trans.) "Commentary on Romans"

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Antinomianism and Legalism vs. the Gospel: Is it Legalistic and Ungraceful for Saint Paul’s to Leave the ELCA?

This blog post is a response to a variety of questions and statements regarding Saint Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church's open criticism with the Evangelical Lutheran Church's (ELCA) decision in August. In case you're unfamiliar with the decision here is the denomination's official statement:
Resolution 1: "RESOLVED, that the ELCA commit itself to finding ways to allow congregations that choose to do so to recognize, support, and hold publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships"
Resolution 2: "RESOLVED, that the ELCA commit itself to finding a way for people in such publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of this church."
Saint Paul's, the church in which I serve, does not support this decision given its implications on Scripture and the Gospel (some of which I've outlined in a previous post: "No Law, No Gospel: Some Thoughts on the ELCA's decision"). Along with this, she has also been openly critical with this decision even going so far as requesting to withdraw from the ELCA.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Emil Brunner, the Holy Spirit, and Ministry

If I were to name one of my biggest blind spots in faith besides my uncanny ability to keep sinning and a persistent fear of death, I think my understanding and faith in God the Holy Spirit rank near the top. All my life I've struggled with this mysterious entity and what he means for my life in the here and now. There have been times where I've apprehended, or should I say was apprehended upon, by a greater understanding of the Holy Spirit and other times where I have restricted my belief in the Spirit's activity because of fear or an encounter with a crazy charismatic (Crazy charismatic is not an insult to anyone who considers him/herself a charismatic, but rather someone who is by all diagnostic principles is crazy. I consider myself comfortably charismatic). So like the tides in the ocean, there are times when I'm overflowing with a faith and knowledge in the Holy Ghost and there are other times where he seems so foreign to me that I don't know how to even acknowledge him in my life.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Labor with Mike Yaconelli

For those who regularly read my blog (Jay being the only one I think), sorry it's been so long since my last post. Who knew having a baby would not only be a time suck, but also a destroyer of any reflective thinking. So with this in mind, today I'm just going to offer you a quote.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

No Law, No Gospel: Some Thoughts on the ELCA’s Decision

Hi my name is Shawn and I'm a sinner in complete need of a Savior. How do I know this? Well, two reasons. First, I have this nagging existential guilt that presents itself in the oddest of ways. Unless alleviated it robs me of any sense of wellbeing and really twists my insides into a knot. As Freud says, guilt is the, "most important problem in the evolution of culture" (Fitzsimmons 11). This guilt is a universal problem that we need release from.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Some thoughts on local stores, Walmart, and Megachurches.

This is sort of an unorganized little rant, but it's just something that's been happening again and again and I just sort of felt the need to vent a bit.

Everyone knows the plight of the local store since Walmart has exploded. The local store cannot compete with Walmart's prices, selection, and 24 hour convenience and eventually closes.

I used to work for one of the big churches in Pittsburgh PA. There's nothing wrong with that. It was an awesome place, doing the work of the Kingdom in drastic ways.

Now I work for a smaller church in Maumee Oh. Not a small church by any means of the imagination, just smaller than my old church. One of the most discouraging things about ministry in this setting has been the constant critiquing of our ministry with that of the larger churches in town.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Predestination Part VI of VI: “Zahl’s View”

If you were to take Martin Luther's "Bondage of the Will," marinate it in Sci-Fi imagery, mix it together with Tyler Perry movies, and sprinkle it with Lord of the Rings references you would end up with Paul Zahl's understanding of predestination. Although this is the case, I think Zahl (former dean of Trinity School for Ministry & Recently Retired Rector of All Saints Church) would argue that he doesn't want to offer any theology of Predestination; but rather a Theology of Everyday life.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Aaron Reed: Dead at the age of 18

I hesitated to post this, but I just need to let feelings out. It's all part of the grieving process.

About 5 years ago I meant a 7th grade student (The one pictured far left) who would change my life forever. I had just begun working with Allegheny Center Alliance Church's (ACAC) Student Ministries in the North Side of Pittsburgh. At the time I was a lost soul still recovering from a violent and tragic ending to my ministry in inner city Atlanta. I had no idea where God wanted me.
Working with the students at ACAC was itself proving to be rather difficult. I had no idea how to relate to them what-so-ever. Me, a skinny (I know hard to imagine isn't it) white kid who loves British rock trying to minister to inner city kids. I just couldn't find a connecting point. That was until I met Aaron Reed.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I've never really been into poetry but...

I was unpacking from my move and I ran into a book of poetry (The Norton Anthology of Poetry) from a class I took in undergrad. Upon finding it I started to look at a couple poems. One of them that spoke to me was a poem called "Hymn to God my God, in My Sickness" by John Donne. In it, as the title suggest, he beautifully pours out his heart to God in his sickness.

One line in particular stuck out for me. In a few words I thought it gave a great description of the Reformation concept "simul iustus et peccator" (At the same time righteous and a sinner). In it Donne gives a description of how the two Adams are present in his suffering. The first Adam being the man through whom sin entered the human race and the second Adam being Christ who healed us by his blood shed on the cross.

Here it is:

"Look, Lord, and find both Adams met in me;
As the first Adam's sweat surrounds my face,
May the last Adam's blood my soul embrace."

I just thought this was pretty cool. In few words Donne beautifully illustrates what theologians have been struggling to write describe since the Apostle Paul. It's a perfect picture of everyday life here on earth.



For the poem in full click here.

Predestination Part V of VI: “Whitacre’s View”

We now jump from Calvin to the present by looking at Rod Whitacre's understanding of Predestination. Whitacre is Professor of Biblical Studies at Trinity School for Ministry and author of numerous books/articles including an excellent commentary on the Gospel of John and "A Partristic Greek Reader." He was also my professor a plethora of times during Seminary.
The reason I chose to look at Whitacre's understanding of Predestination is this: the man has a passion for every word of Scripture. He never intentionally places one part of Scripture against another. Thus, you can be certain that any understanding he offers on the subject is based on the complete testimony of Scripture. Because of this, Whitacre has had to deal with those places in Scripture that seem to contradict one another. It is from this that his understanding of Predestination is birthed.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Predestination Part IV of VI: “Calvin’s View”

John Calvin is often one of the most misrepresented theologians in Church history. If you walk into most evangelical churches today bring him up you will receive an earful. J.I. Packer writes, "It is really staggering to observe how persistently, from his day to ours, Calvin and his teaching have been misrepresented and traduced" (Packer). This is all the more true when considering Calvin's doctrine of predestination. Again, walk into most evangelical churches and you will get the idea that Calvin made God into a divine chess player, destroyed human responsibility, and abolished missions of any kind. I've experienced this first hand.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Predestination Part III or VI: “Luther’s View”

Where Augustine's understanding of predestination was shaped by his refutation of the teachings of Pelagius, Martin Luther's theology of predestination was sharpened in response to the writings of Catholic humanist Desiderius Erasmus. In the fear that Luther's teachings on freewill would abandon, "the Gospel to the passions of men," Erasmus penned "Discussions, or Collation, Concerning Free Will" (Packer & Johnston 37).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Predestination: Part II of VI “Saint Augustine’s View”

To understand Augustine's (354-430 AD) view of predestination we must first look at his view on Grace. For Augustine, Grace is God's generous and quite unmerited attention to humanity. Because of original sin Augustine believed humanity as a whole to be frail, weak, and lost; a mass perdition of fallen individuals who cannot help themselves. Because of this we are totally dependent on God for faith from beginning to end (Augustine Ch. 51). According to Augustine it is only because of God's gracious intervention that we have any chance of being healed from original sin.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Predestination: Part I in a VI Part Series

One of the High School students from my youth group recently posted a note on Facebook concerning predestination and it has generated abundant conversation amongst the students on her friend list. This has inspired me to begin a blog series on the subject.
The reason predestination keeps on coming up in our youth group discussions is this: if you believe, preach, and, teach grace you're going to eventually have to deal with predestination no matter what the outcome.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Karl Barth on faith

At my church we're going to be doing a sermon series on Paul's letter to the Philippians so in preparation for this I picked up Karl Barth's commentary on the letter. Now this commentary isn't like you typical reference that should be consulted for whatever verse your preaching on, rather it is more like your typical book that should be read from front to back. In doing this I have been rather moved. His reflections on Philippians have made that letter come alive to me like it never has before.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ah, Holy Jesus

This song was played at my church's Good Friday service. Loved the words (especially the the third verse), thought I'd share them with you...

Friday, April 3, 2009

God bless Gerhard O. Forde!

"To the age old question, 'What shall I do to be saved?' the confessional (Augsburg Confession) answer is shocking: 'Nothing! Just be still; shut up and listen for once in your life to what God the Almighty, creator and redeemer, is saying to his world and to you in the death and resurrection of his Son! Listen and believe!'"
-Gerhard O. Forde "Justification by Faith: A Matter of Death and Life"

Friday, March 13, 2009

Response to a Question

An old friend of mine asked this question in response to my last post. It's an important question so I figured I'd let you all in on this one (sorry the response is so long I'm not smart enough to say things in one sentence)...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Christless Youth Ministry

At my church we recently hosted the Youth Specialties (YS) "One Day" conference. Although the conference itself and the speaker had helpful and important things to say (this year's focus was getting students in the Bible which is always a good thing), I found some elements of YS' message somewhat skewed and even dangerous from a Christian perspective. Before I dive into this, I must admit that I already had some misgivings about the product that YS often puts out. This conference just confirmed those misgivings.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Depression & Hope

My friends at http://mockingbirdnyc.blogspot.com/ just posted some excerpts from a wonderful article by Kathryn Greene-McCreight that focused on depression. Being one who suffers from panic disorder and depression I believe it offers a true to life description of what it feels like. It also offers some hope too. If you know someone who suffers from mental illness or you do yourself this will definitely speak to your heart. Here are those excerpts that they picked out of the article. For a full description of the article check out their blog (It's an awesome blog site by the way)...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ren, Stimpy, & Romans 7

Sorry there hasn't been much bloggery this month. Things have been crazy at work. With this said, here is a little clip that I came across a couple years ago that I think exemplifies the law/temptation/humanity struggle that Paul paints in Romans 7. So read the following quote of Scripture and enjoy the clip!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

wow... really good book so far...

I came across this book in "Modern Reformation" mag and decided to order it right away. It's really the book I wish I had the smarts and stones to write. It's "Christless Christianity" by Michael Horton. In it he shows how the gospel message has been watered down, taken captive, and even eliminated by what he calls "Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Another Cool Quote

Sorry it's been awhile. Things are really crazy at work right now. Because of this all I got is a simple quote a came across in Don Everts' work "God in the Flesh." He writes:
Jesus has always been beautiful. He is, after all, the image of the invisible God. God in the flesh. And seeing him clearly, staring at him and all that his life and death reveal, changes us. That's what the church has always been—simple folks who star at Jesus and are changed because of what they've seen. (Italics mine)