First Person Life


Nidal Hassan and Robert Bales - A Christian View of Swift Justice and Justice Delayed

I received the following in my inbox this morning:

From a friend of mind and I agree with him. After reading the headlines today about the US soldier who shot up Afghanistan civilians, I couldn’t help noticing an irony. There is all this clamor to try this guy quickly and execute him, never mind his having suffered a traumatic brain injury. Yet this Major Hasan, who shot up Fort Hood while screaming Allah akbar, still hasn’t stood trial, and they are still debating whether he was insane, even with the clear evidence regarding his motive: slay as many infidels as possible. So we have a guy in a war zone who cracks, and he must be executed immediately. But this Muslim psychiatrist who was stateside in a nice safe office all day murders 13, wounds 29 of our own guys, and they try to argue the poor lad suffered post-traumatic stress syndrome, from listening to real soldiers who had actual battle experience. Two and a half years later, they still haven’t tried the murderous @#$%^&*()_+- !

After a brief period of thought. I think perhaps there's another angle that Christians should consider that may not seem so obvious at first.

In one case, we have Nidal Hassan, a muslim extremist who shot American soldiers on a stateside U.S. army base. He did so under the influence of a demonic religion which was inculcated into him from birth. No doubt his parents regularly spoke against Christianity and His holy book calls Jesus Christ a prophet (a mere man, not the eternal Son of God) further claims that Jesus did not die (therefore, there is no forgiveness of sins or redemption of mankind) but was taken bodily into heaven. His religion predisposes him to reject those things necessary for him to believe in order to be saved.

Is it not perhaps by God's grace that he hasn't been tried, convicted, and hanged? Once he's dead, he can no longer hear the Gospel and is condemned to eternity in hell. Does God's mercy not extend to him? Did Christ's blood not atone for his sins too?

In the other case, we have Robert Bales - brought up in a country where there are churches and church bells on almost every corner. If hasn't heard the Gospel and been given every opportunity to convert it is because his parents and neighbors didn't love him enough to tell him about Jesus. In spite of our complete religious freedom, I wonder, was he even baptized? His parents were free to do so. His neighbors and friends were free to talk to him about salvation in Christ alone, talk to him about forgiveness and salvation through the blood of the Eternal Son of God who came down, was born of the virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, suffered, died and was buried and rose again from the dead on the 3rd day. They could also have encouraged him to be baptized when he became older if his parents refused to give him God's gracious washing of rebirth.

There was no hindrance to anyone doing these things - and yet the Christians who knew Robert despised God and Robert enough that they didn't open their mouths and teach him of God's mercy and grace in Christ.

Perhaps a speedy trial in this case is more an indictment on the Christians who should have loved and cared for Robert enough before all this happened. Should they not have loved him enough to give him Jesus? Should they not have loved him enough to speak to him and encourage him to live his Christian faith with integrity - receiving from Christ mercy and grace through the forgiveness of sins? Then, perhaps, God would have heard Robert's prayer, "lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil," and the Holy Spirit would have guarded and protected Robert from danger and temptation to carry out such a heinous attack.

Truthfully, I don't know if Robert professed Christ or not. I don't know if he had been baptized or not. I do know that as he undertook his actions, the Holy Spirit, if He was ever with Robert, was NOT with him and had fled him - leaving Robert to live the hate-filled life of the unbeliever as he murdered innocent civilians.

I can only pray that both Robert and Nidal both find comfort and solace in the forgiveness offered by Christ - that they repent of their wicked deeds, confessing the evil that they have done, and turn to Christ Jesus, who by laying down His life, shedding His blood upon the cross, has already paid the debt owed to God for these heinous acts. I pray that someone, in their hour of deepest despair over their evil, points them to Christ so that they may yet inherit eternal life.

NONE OF THIS is to say that justice should be delayed in hopes that they would repent - the Government bears the power of the sword by God's will and command - to punish evildoers and deter evil. It is not up to the government to slow that process out of some sort of misplaced "christian compassion". Such would be a terrible confounding of church and state.

IT IS TO SAY that we ought to consider carefully our own refusal to speak of God's mercy and grace in Christ to our neighbors. Such refusal has consequences. And as we live in a nation where we are free to proclaim the message of Christ Crucified for sinners - a Word that brings new life to people and brings the Holy Spirit to guard and protect us against carrying out such dreadful sin against one another - we too often fail in our tasks to speak that word to one another - and perhaps - just perhaps - these two cases should serve as a reminder of our responsibility to love and care for all those around us who need to hear this life-giving message.

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Because There are Women Pastors, Women Should be Ordained (?)

In a recent post, in response to the question, "So....why do you think that women should be ordained?," a proponent of women's ordination said,
Some women are pastors. To be a pastor in our church a person has to be ordained. Therefore, women should be ordained.

The problem is that this reasoning is backwards.

Let's take a different example - recently in my area, a 9 year old girl was pulled over driving a car. By the above reasoning, Michigan ought to begin issuing drivers licenses to 9 year old girls. After all, in Michigan, you need a drivers license to legally drive, it is provably true that there are 9 year old girls driving (and "pretty good" if you believe their own testimony), therefore, 9 year olds should be issued drivers licenses so they can legally drive.

I think it's clear that this line of reasoning simply doesn't work.

In a certain sense, it could be said that, if there are women pastors, there is already "women's ordination."

In the Lutheran Church, Ordination is simply the human rite by which the Church, in the name of God (in His stead, but not by His command), declares a one to be fit to hold the Office of the Holy Ministry and the candidate agrees to accept the responsibilities of that office and carry them out faithfully. The act of installing a pastor is the act of "ordination" if it is the first call that a candidate has received.

The fact that we use two different rites is because they perform different functions. "Ordination" occurs at the time of the first call (only) to mark the church's affirmation of the individual's fitness for the office of the Holy Ministry and for the church to hear the pledge to remain faithful to the responsibilities of that office. "Installation" is the act of entrusting the responsibilities of the office in a specific place to a specific person.

Note carefully that Augsburg Confession XIV states, "Of Ecclesiastical Order they (i.e., the Lutheran's) teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called."

It is the "call" of the church that makes a pastor. Ordination occurs at the time of a man's first call into ministry as a solemn act to (1) affirm the call is a "regular call" (i.e., is done in good order and is in accord with the will of God revealed in Holy Scripture) and (2) affirming the fitness of the called individual to fulfill the office to which they have been called (both their theological fitness and their personal fitness - the qualifications for which are also laid down in Scripture). Together, these affirmations declare that GOD has called this particular man as one of His representatives to the Church. Installation declares that God has called this particular man as His representative in a particular location/field of service.

Ultimately, the act of "ordination" merely signifies what God has already brought about. It is a public affirmation that the candidate is qualified to hold the position AND they have been rightly placed into that position. Without a "call", an "ordained" person is merely a "qualified layperson" who has committed to faithfully carry out the office should God see fit to entrust him with it. Another way to say it is, there is no pastor without an altar at which he serves. (There is a place here for whether or not theological professors and other synodical positions serve altars - and that's an ongoing debate, but it's not necessary to carry forward this particular conversation.)

The real question is, can the Church of God (or a local congregation which is the Church in a specific place) set aside the clear teachings of the Word of God in order to place someone into that office who (1) does not possess the qualifications which God has laid down and (2) whom God has clearly said ought not hold that office.

Those who oppose women as pastors say, "no, a congregation cannot claim that their actions are godly when they directly contradict the Word of God." The fact that there are congregations who have set aside Scripture and placed a woman into office does not mean that God approves. Ordination is the rite by which the church says, "God approves." God clearly reserves the responsibilities associated with the Office of the Holy Ministry to men. Therefore, women ought not be ordained. That is to say, the church has no right to over-rule God's express statements on the matter.

Those who oppose placing women as pastors oppose it on the grounds that God has clearly taught that one of the qualifications of that office is, in essence, a Y-Chromosome (before the advent of trans-gender surgeries, we may have been able to express this differently and less technically. However, even physical appearance, today, is not a sure marker...).

Finally, and this point needs to be very clearly understood: It is GOD who choses these men for His own reasons and his own purposes. It is not because of anything inherent in the individual but because of GOD'S CHOICE of that individual and GOD'S WORK in that individual's life to make him fit for the office to which he is called. Furthermore, it is GOD, working in the heart, mind, and will of His people who lead them to call a specific man to serve as THEIR pastor in a specific location.

It is not that the Y-Chromosome makes him fit for the office (as there are many, many, many, many men who are not qualified to fill the office) but it is one of several markers that God has given to us in order to discern that a particular person is one whom God has chosen to fill the office of pastor. There are others - including his knowledge of the scriptures and their teaching, his ability to teach the faith to others, etc. which are also laid down in Scripture.

Hope that helps!

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The Ordination of Women: A Threat to the Gospel

In a 2007 survey of youth in The LC--MS, only 43.7% of poll participants agree with the synod's position that women are not to be ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry.i

The topic has been debated among us for well over thirty years, most often centering around the Scriptural prohibitions against women speaking in churchii and the concept of "orders of creation". Advocates of women's ordination have dismissed these arguments claiming that the commands from St. Paul were historically conditioned and that men and women have been made equal in Christ (Gal. 3:28). Opponents have been unable to clearly articulate their position in a way that does not suffer from the charge of "legalism." Coming closer to the heart of the issue are the questions regarding the validity of churchly acts performed by women.iii But this too operates from a legalistic framework of "validity" and "invalidity" and therefore lacks the persuasiveness necessary to advance the discussion.

With many congregational members and many on our clergy roster unconvinced that the current position is tenable, it might seem reasonable to wonder if The LC--MS has too long maintained the position that women are not to hold the Office of the Holy Ministry.

The reason for the lack of persuasive force of the arguments of the opponents to women's ordination should be obvious. Certainly, historical-criticism or any method of interpretation that would make clear statements of Scripture "historically conditioned" is dangerous. But just as dangerous is a fundamentalist methodology that seeks legalistic prescriptions and proscriptions as the basis on which to resolve the controversy. While the law sets before us the immutable will of God,iv it is laid down for the ungodly who already oppose God and His Gospelv and the sinful flesh that still inheres in Furthermore, the law gives no power or ability to do those things commanded by God or avoid doing those things prohibited by Him.vii These realities apply to the current debate as much as they apply to the Ten Commandments.

Are we, then, at an impasse on this issue? Should those who favor the ordination of women become the majority decision-makers within The LC--MS, it is likely that the current "policy" will be overturned. But what is at stake is not "merely" the violation of the commands of God. What is at stake is nothing less than faith and the hope of the Gospel itself.

We believe, teach and confess that, "All Scripture should be divided into these two chief doctrines, the law and the promises."viii It is only through God's Word and promise that we have any hope, any security, and any comfort that we are forgiven for the sake of Christ.

The greatest of these promises was the promise of the Messiah who would come and redeem mankind from sin.ix But in service to this promise, God has given many other promises in order that we may comfort ourselves in the certain knowledge of our salvation for the sake of Christ's work. To act in any way other than in accordance with these promises is to act contrary to faith and to reject God's Word. It is to build upon the sand of self-determined piety and not the rock of God's revealed gracious activity. The consequences are nothing short of catastrophic.

To His Old Testament people, God gave clear commands regarding the animals to be sacrificed and their condition. In doing so, God was promising to work through those means which He had established. It was not that an unblemished lamb was inherently better than one that was outwardly imperfect. It was not even that a lamb was better than a camel. Their throats can be cut. Their blood can poured upon the altar and the meat can be consumed. Since they could perform the same function, was it permissible then to bring a blemished lamb or a camel to the altar? No! The difference between the lamb and the camel or the unblemished and the spotless lamb, was God's promise. A faithful child of Israel trusted that God would forgive his sins. He, therefore, brought the sacrifice that God commanded. Faith hears the promises of God and trusts God to act according to His promises. Then, faith obeys God's commands.

This is why we use water in Baptism and bread and wine in Holy Communion. God promised to work through water, bread and wine. Would we be acting in faith if we replaced the bread and wine with pizza and coke or sprayed perfume on the candidate instead of sprinkling water? God has not promised to work through these. Our Lord "Took bread...took the cup...and said: This do...".x He said, "Unless he is born again of water and the Spirit..."xi

What is true for the sacraments is no less true in regard to any other promise made by God. Faith in the promises of God, no matter how insignificant they seem, causes the one who believes the promise to seek God's activity where He has promised to act.

Moses and Aaron were denied entrance to the land of Canaan because they did not act in accordance with God's promise. After striking the rock instead of speaking to it, God said to them, "Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring the assembly into the land that I have given them."xii

Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, were placed into the priesthood. They were the ones who were to make sacrifices to God on behalf of the children of Israel. But when they "offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them," they were consumed by fire and they died. Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the Lord has said, 'Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.'"xiii

These examples should cause anyone who aspires to the Office of the Holy Ministry to pause. It is also of concern to the church at large. God has not simply given the Office to the church. He has also given the very men who are to fill that office.xiv Just as God created certain animals that He would later accept as sacrifices; just as He brings forth grain to be made into bread and grapes to be made into wine, He also raises up certain individuals to occupy the Office which He established.

To be clear, there is nothing in the individual which makes him worthy, it is God who raises him up to be His gift to the church. By His Spirit working through the Word He gives them the desire to serve. He trains them. And He identifies them to the church. In the letters to Timothy and Titus, God gives the criteria by which the church may recognize those whom God has chosen to carry out the Office which He has established.xv

This is not to be understood in a sacerdotal manner. We are not speaking of some permanent state from which it is impossible to fall. Furthermore, no claim is being made as to whether or not God does or does not work in any other manner. St. Paul is clear, for the Christian, "Everything is permissible," but we cannot diminish the phrase which follows immediately, "but not everything is beneficial." And it certainly is not beneficial to set aside God's Word and seek God's activity where He has not promised to work.

Just as He gave water to the Israelites when Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it, He may work apart from those means which He has revealed to us. But, we have no assurance that God will act in such circumstances. And where Scripture is silent, we must not presume to know. The warnings, however, are clear. God has shown the severest consequences to those who ignore or act otherwise than He commands.

What is certain is that He has promised to work through the Office of the Holy Ministry. He has promised to raise up those who are to fill that Office and He has given to us the marks by which we are able to identify those whom He has raised up.

It is only when one has rejected these promises and begins to impose his or her own thoughts and feelings upon God, insisting that He must act apart from where He has clearly revealed His activity do the questions arise: Can a woman hold the Office of Pastor? Are the churchly acts performed by women valid?

When such questions are asked, it is a clear that faith is no longer active. It is like Nadab and Abihu asking one another: Can we offer "strange fire" that the Lord has not commanded? It is like Moses asking Aaron: Will it be valid if I strike the rock instead of speaking to it? We do well to remember the words our Lord spoke to Satan in the wilderness, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test."xvi

In the case of women's ordination, God gives those who ask such irrelevant questions clear answers. But such prohibitions are necessary only when doubt and unbelief have already begun to triumph over faith. Faith has no need for such questions. Faith clings to the promises of God, diligently seeking God's gracious works where He has promised to bestow them.

The doubt and unbelief which causes us to ask questions in these seemingly small matters is this same doubt and unbelief which, as it grows, asks: Is Christ's merit truly sufficient to cover my sins? The doubt and unbelief that asks: Did God really say that only men can fill the Office? is the very same doubt and unbelief that ate the forbidden fruit and will question Christ's words, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."xvii It's leaven that leavens the whole loaf.

Through doubt and unbelief Satan works to turn God's children away from Christ and God's gracious promise of forgiveness, life and salvation for His sake. The question of women's ordination is not simply a "practical matter,"xviii it is a threat to faith and therefore a threat to the hope of the Gospel itself.

i Isenhower, Joe Jr., LCMSNews, no. 2, January 7, 2008,, accessed 3/9/2008

ii 1 Cor. 14:33-34,37; 1 Tim. 2:11-12

iii Scaer, CTQ, vol. 53, no. 1-2, January-April 1989

iv SD VI.15

v 1 Tim. 1:9

vi FC VI

vii SD VI.11

viii AP IV.5, Tappert

ix Gen. 3:1

x I Cor. 11:23-25

xi Jn. 3:5

xii Num. 20:1-12, ESV

xiii Lev. 10:1-3, ESV

xiv Eph. 4:11

xv I Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-11

xvi Matt. 4:7, Luke 4:12

xvii Jn. 14:6, ESV, emphasis added

xviii Schroeder, Edward H., "The Orders of Creation - Some Reflections on the History and Place of the Term in Systematic Theology", Concordia Theological Monthly vol. 43 no. 3, Sept 1972. pp. 165-178.

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Doctrine AND Practice AND Fellowship

I recently found myself engaged by a discussion over at Steadfast Lutherans on the topic of Doctrine and Practice. In the course of that discussion, my verbosity got the better of me (those who know me know this isn't a surprise).

Anyway, the following "essay" is a further response to that discussion (the post which prompted this reply can be found here). It's posted here mostly because I didn't want to post a 3 page comment in the comments section of the original post and also because this is actually a different discussion (about Fellowship) than the one started (about Doctrine and Practice). If there is a desire to repost on Steadfast Lutherans, I'd appreciate a heads up in case I want to rephrase anything before it goes up -- and, as with anything of this sort, this isn't intended to be the "Last Word" so if you have thoughts/comments, do share.

A reply to comments on Steadfast Lutherans

Previous Commenter:

I’d like to push this a bit further though: by fellowship, we mean specifically the fellowship that we have in Christ — this is not just earthly guys getting together and hanging out.

My Reply:

I'm not sure I can agree. In fact, it would appear that Ephesians 4:1-6 precludes this understanding.

We have been called in our baptism to ONE faith. Having been reborn by the ONE Spirit, the new man clings to this ONE faith, holds it perfectly and undefiled. Therefore, by virtue of our baptism and the faith received therein, all Christians (AS Christians - i.e., in the "new man") are already united and are, therefore, of ONE mind (even on all matters of doctrine).

The problem comes in when we recognize that this "new man" is born within the flesh of the old recitrant donkey that is the "Old Adam" and thus does not show forth this unity of faith. This occurs not only in various day-to-day interactions with others but even on Sunday morning when we all purport to worship this ONE God in the unanimity of the Spirit united under Christ the ONE head of the church [Just how many "liturgies" do you think exist in the throne room of God?]. Instead of seeking uniformity in practice and doctrine, the Old Adam wars and fights against the true faith and sets up "self-chosen worship" that acts and teaches contrary to God's Word and not only undercuts the faith but also the unity in the Spirit that God's Word creates.

I think FC 6.18-20 applies quite directly to the current discussion:


But since believers are not completely renewed in this world, but the old Adam clings to them even to the grave, there also remains in them the struggle between the spirit and the flesh. . . . as far as the old Adam is concerned . . . he must be driven not only with the Law, but also with punishments; nevertheless he does everything against his will and under coercion . . . So, too, this doctrine of the Law is needful for believers, in order that they may not hit upon a holiness and devotion of their own, and under the pretext of the Spirit of God set up a self-chosen worship, without God's Word and command, as it is written [in] Deut. 12:8,28,32.

If, according to the "New Man" born of water and the Word (what Paul calls the Spiritual Man), we are all of one mind - in concord with the one Faith bestowed upon us by the One God and Father of All, then it really is with relation to "just earthly guys getting together and hanging out" that the topic of fellowship finds its proper place. Our fellowship "in Christ" is a GIFT that is given by God and preserved by Him. It is our OUTWARD fellowship that is at issue because it gives witness to this inward unity (or lack thereof).

There are those who, according to the OUTWARD man, conform their practices and teaching to the doctrine (teachings/faith) held by the INNER man (although not even close to perfectly in this life). The INNER man received this ONE FAITH by virtue of his baptism (we are talking here specifically of all Christians - non-Christians have no "INNER MAN" in the Pauline sense). This "One Faith" is the same doctrine which is revealed to the whole world and can be seen also by the OUTER MAN through God's revelation in Scripture.

On the other hand, there are those who have been reborn and are Christian that do not seek to conform their practices and teachings to the "One Faith" (i.e., teaching/doctrine) bestowed through baptism and revealed in Holy Scripture. These do not seek to outwardly exhibit through teaching and practice this unity of faith which all Christians share by virtue of their being born anew from above. (For the moment, we will leave aside whether this non-conformance is from rebellion or ignorance. There is also the issue of those who break from an outward exhibition of unity in order to be more faithful to the truth revealed in Scripture which will be briefly touched on below.)

The unity of the Spirit which is a gift in our baptism SHOULD show itself forth in the unity of our thinking about all things spiritual (even the interpretation of the Good Samaritan) and even in our outward teaching and practice. This is what Paul means when He says, being diligent/laboring/striving (σπουδάζοντες) to keep/guard/treasure/hold fast (τηρεῖν) the unity/one-ness/*unanimity* (ενοτητα) of the Spirit in the bond/union (συνδεσμω) of THE PEACE (της ειρηνης) (REF EPH 2:14).

Notice it is "to KEEP the unity of the Spirit". The one-ness that we have is something GIVEN to us that can be lost, it is not something acquired by our effort. Yet it takes effort to maintain because without such effort, the Old Adam which inheres would overpower us and destroy that bond and separate us from the Peace made by God through the forgiveness won by Christ.

When and where the outward expression of this unanimity of the Spirit is disrupted, one or both parties (usually both, by the way) are permitting their sinful flesh which desires innovation, uniqueness, egoism, and the ability to hold our own "rightness" over someone else to hold sway over the unity prompted by the Spirit.

So, "How much wiggle room do we allow OURSELVES here?" The answer is "NONE!" Because "wiggle room" is what is desired by the Old Adam rebelling against the truth. Now, "How much wiggle room do we allow OTHERS?" The answer can be found (among other places) in Ephesians 4:1-3, "walk worthy of the calling ... with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love." The implication being, do this as you seek to retain -- or perhaps in our current context we would better say "acquire outwardly" -- the unity of faith bestowed and which is already yours according to the INNER MAN.

However, as for ourselves, we ought to adhere to Paul's words in 4:17-24:


". . . you should no longer walk as the rest of the gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them . . . But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and BE RENEWED IN THE SPIRIT OF YOUR MIND, and that you put on the new man WHICH WAS CREATED ACCORDING TO GOD, IN TRUE RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HOLINESS (emphasis added).


  • Unity/unanimity of the ONE faith is a gift of our baptism and is something held by the INNER man perfectly as the new creation born of the ONE Spirit.
  • The recognition of this inward unity/unanimity ought to result in its outward expression (eg., uniformity in teaching and practice).
  • Those things which disrupt the outward expression of this unity/unanimity (eg., non-uniform teachings and practices) mitigate against fellowship because such disruptions give witness to a disruption in the inward unity/unanimity that exists among believers by virtue of their possession of the ONE SPIRIT bestowed in Baptism (cxref EPH 4:4-6).

The obvious question is the one you raised, "where do we draw the line?" But I don't think it's a question of "where" but of "how". Is the disruption the result of ignorance or of rebellion? Ignorance should be dealt with patiently, according to St. Paul's admonition. Rebellion (whether it's against the established practices or against a right desire for greater faithfulness to what has been given to us) is evidence that true unity in the Spirit is already lacking. I would define rebellion as continued non-uniform teaching/practice without regard or concern for (a) its disruptive effects on outward unity AND (more importantly) (b) the standard of truth by which all teaching and practice ought to be measured (eg., Luther's disruption was in favor of greater fidelity to the faith given to us). Thus the breaking of the outward ties (i.e., fellowship) is simply a confirmation of the underlying disunity that exists because the Old Adam has won out over the New Man (eg., in the case of Luther, Rome confirmed it did not share the Scriptural faith of Luther by excommunicating him. In so doing, Rome confirmed its lust for power over fidelity to the Scriptural Revelation of the free gift of Grace by Faith in Christ).

NOTE: The above has different implications for the ESTABLISHMENT of outward fellowship where it does not yet exist, but I believe those implications are consistent with how the LCMS handles such matters. As always, I seek clarification or correction if I am wrong.

NOTE2: (Given the contentiousness of the underlying issues that give rise to this thread, this must be said explicitly) The above does NOT purport to answer the question of whether or not the varieties of worship practices within the LCMS necessitate the severing of outward fellowship nor does it presuppose whether any given practice is right or wrong - those things are outside the purview of this discussion. Given what HAS been said above, such determinations CANNOT be made in a wholesale manner, but can ONLY be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

-- Rev. Matthew Dent

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Still tech after all these years

I'm a techie... I admit it. But not for techie sake, but because technology is a TOOL.

During the last week, I've had the opportunity to brush off some old skills and force technology to bend to my will. This is what technology is supposed to do. It is our servant so that we can be servants to others.

The wife of one of my good friends has an AWESOME blog called "Bargains to Bounty" ( Unfortunately for her, it's become a little too awesome and the hosting provider she was using forced her to change hosting plans.

Let's just say, the move didn't go well.

She was completely down for nearly 3 days, and for about 10 days after that, she'd still be down almost daily for some period of time. She had enlisted the help of her WordPress consultant as well as the tech support of her hosting provider. Everyone was willing to spend her money to upgrade her plan, but couldn't tell her if/why that would work.

Well, after about 16 hours of diagnosis and 4 hours of actual configuration changes and another 4+ hours of testing and verification, I'm happy to say, things are humming along nicely. Most pages load in less than 4 seconds and the server has plenty of room for expansion.

Needless to say, I'm VERY happy! It's gratifying to know that I can still bend a system to my will and Tim Allen's motto notwithstanding, "more power" isn't always the answer. Sometimes, it just takes digging in to optimize the power you already have. And in this case, that's what we did, and its working GREAT!

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Back to Blogging

Ok, I know I've been away for quite some time... well, not away really, just been doing things in other venues. Now, I find myself with a lot of time on my hands and decided to get back into blogging.

So, here is where you'll find some general "comments on life" from a first person perspective as I see it. Of course, as a confessonal Lutheran pastor, this means you'll hear about life from a Christian perspective.

Have a question? Simply ask! I'm always looking for topics to blog about!

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Take care of me --- I don't want to get involved

It seems that we are reaping the profits of the "entitlement mentality." Through our democratic systems, we have turned almost absolute power over to others with the empty promise that they will "take care of us." When things happen with which we are unhappy, like children, we stomp and pout, kick and scream, threaten, shout, cry, whine, throw tantrums, anything we can in order to try to coerce those in authority to "do something about it!" We often spend time and great expense complaining as loudly as possible for SOMEONE ELSE to do something.

Take, for instance, the recent demonstrations around the world protesting the rising fuel prices. A couple of questions come to mind... (1) How will using fuel and time, snarling up traffic, driving from hundreds of miles away, spending your hard earned money to get to a protest, help these people's individual financial situation or decrease demand (and thereby decrease prices)? (2) What do they really expect to accomplish? Do they expect the government, who is running deficits year over year and racking up debt to just print money and issue them checks to decrease the burden? (err.... I guess that might work...)

Moving closer to home....

When I heard about the planning of a gathering at the International Center, intended to get a response regarding the cancelling of Issues, Etc., I wrote an essay which I did not publish at that time because I did not want to be a "wet blanket" on the enthusiasm that seemed to have the potential to make a difference and get people involved. Also, in discussion about this piece with a friend, the question was posed, "What do you think people should do instead?" I'm, frankly, not smart enough to answer that question. However, I would imagine, of the 75 or so people who showed up, if they were to have sat down and started thinking about the question, "What project can I start or be involved in that would contribute to others hearing a clear articulation of the Gospel and a clear refutation of false teachings?" several good ideas would have emerged.

The following essay (originally written 4/5/08) is not intended to impugn motives, but to point out the results of the course taken. The momentum on the part of individuals has subsided. Our zeal has run cold. Most of us have returned to our "normal lives" which has been made poorer by the loss of Issues... This includes even those who vociferously pointed to how many people came to know the glorious light of the Gospel and the truth of the Reformation faith through the work of Todd and Jeff on Issues, etc.


The situation surrounding the sudden cancellation of Issues, Etc. and the efforts that have followed have caused me to grapple with a number of topics.

The biggest, and probably most difficult, of these topics is the relationship between politics and the Gospel. I will admit no small amount of disappointment at the transformation of this situation from a crisis for the Gospel into a political cause. This is not to say that the political questions being raised are unimportant. On the contrary, they are very important. It is of the utmost importance that those structures which have been established to promote the proclamation of the Gospel are held to the highest level of accountability. And while I am unsure of how I feel about the tactics being used, the fact is that these questions need to be asked and fully answered.

By any reasonable person's reckoning, the shows cancellation meant the silencing of a clear articulation of the Gospel and a thoroughgoing defense of the faith. This, in itself, is a travesty - and those responsible should give a clear and complete explanation for what can be described as nothing less than an attack on the Gospel.

However, while there are efforts underway to re-establish what has been lost and attempting to put Todd back on the air and Jeff back in the producer's seat, the immediate and short-term effort is not directed at caring for those souls who have been cut off from the "Christ Centered, Cross Focused" work that Todd and Jeff were doing. Rather, the immediate and short-term effort seems to want to use them as pawns - considering their souls expendable for political gains.

I must commend Todd for his wise and measured public statement. In it, he has pointed out what is really important: "If you want to carry on the legacy of Issues, Etc., you already know what to do: Pastors, go to the pulpit and the altar, be faithful to God’s Word and the Lutheran Confession in everything you preach, teach and practice. Preach Christ crucified for sinners. People of God, require your pastors to do nothing less and nothing more than that. Hear the Word, trust Jesus, live for your neighbor. ... The only story I’m interested in telling is the story of the one Martyr, the story of the Lamb of God. That story has all the death and blood I will ever need."

While I don't know him personally, based on this statement, I think Todd would agree, EVERYTHING else is secondary - not unimportant, but secondary.

And therein lies my disappointment. I'm sure that those pastors involved in the various efforts are not neglecting their congregations in any way. They continue to preach faithfully and administer the sacrament rightly. They continue their teaching and their catechesis. But, since ISSUES has been unplugged, what about those thousands who listened and downloaded the show and listened regularly - those sheep without faithful shepherds? What did they do wrong?

It would seem that they have not only been abandoned by those who decided to silence a good, faithful proclamation of the Gospel by yanking the show from the air without warning, but, for now at least, by those who make claims that that this action was a blow to the Gospel. We fuss and lament that it took ten days to get a political explanation for a "Kingdom-of-the-Left" decision.

The "Kingdom-of-the-Left" work to seek an adequate explanation and resolution will continue for a long time. No doubt, there will be long, drawn-out battles over whether or not the decision was politically motivated, who made it, were they competent to hold the position they did, were the directed by someone else.... and the list goes on. In the mean time, the rumor mills will continue to churn. Like many other circumstances, conspiracy theories will continue to exist.

My question is, how long must it be before we take up the cause of the Kingdom of the Right on behalf of those who have been left alone, to their own devices, or to the ambiguity of "Christian Radio" (so called)?

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Organizational Meeting

We had a number of people at the Initial Organizational Meeting to discuss what will be necessary to return Todd and Jeff to the air. There is a transcript of the discussion available.

One thing became obvious in the lead-up to the meeting and at the meeting itself - there are a lot of people working on things, but not a lot of coordination among all of the efforts. There are also a lot of GREAT ideas out there that are not directly related to the current situation and getting Todd and Jeff back on the air but definitely in line with a vision to extend the effort of "Christ Centered, Cross Focused" work that Todd and Jeff have been doing.

Visit and find out how you can get involved!

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Bring Back Issues Organizational Meeting

Organizational Meeting - 2008/03/24 - 8:00 PM EDT

* Location: #issuesetc channel on - info and web interface can be found at
* Time: 8 PM Eastern, 7 PM Central
* Agenda will be posted by NOON Eastern at:

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Yes, Yes, Yes we do! WE NEED ISSUES, How About You? - A Proposal [UPDATED]

As most of us already know Issues, Etc. was unexpectedly cancelled last Tuesday (3/18/08) and its host and producer summarily dismissed from the staff of KFUO. Many of us are saddened at the loss of what was the best Christian talkshow broadcast on the radio and the Internet. Some are making plans to attempt to persuade the Synod and KFUO to reconsider their decision. Overall, I'm not sure that some of the efforts are the best course of action.

We can all speculate, complain, and cast aspersions over what happened, but the fact is, it happened. Even if we are successful in getting the show reinstated at KFUO, I believe that the effort would only be temporary at best.

From what I have read and know about the program, the following information seems to be evident:

1) There is already a loyal international listener base for Issues, Etc.
2) There is already a significant funding base for the program specifically because of it's "Christ centered, Cross focused" message.
3) There is already a network of stations with Sunday night (or other times) blocked out to carry the weekly 2 hour program.
4) There is already a significant Internet listenership.

Basically, from a cursory point of view, it's almost a turnkey program that needs a home. It has listenership, financial support, a network of guests, all committed to bring the pure, unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world and protect the sheep from wolves.

My proposal is simple - instead of trying to temporarily put Issues back on KFUO where it's future will be uncertain in the hands of capricious bureaucrats - we attempt to build an infrastructure to support the program independent of KFUO and the Synod.

The plan would need to be enacted QUICKLY to avoid losing the existing listener and contribution base. Starting it will NOT be cheap as there will be equipment and infrastructure costs in the short term and in the long term there will be significant expenses for salaries, services (phone lines, internet connections, satellite time [?], etc.). But given the support I've seen so far, I don't think it is undoable.

Consider if 500 people spend an average of $200 on gas, meals, lodging, etc. to participate in a rally at the International Center (perhaps that's an optomistic number, but I'm not sure it's unrealistic) - that's $100,000 right there. Just guessing, but I would guess that it's probably enough to cover equipment and the first several month's operating costs & salaries to get the daily program back on the Internet and the weekly program on the Sunday night timeslots (assuming previous donors continue to cover airtime at affiliate stations). If we could syndicate the daily program too (like the Sunday night program), perhaps we could increase the footprint of "Christ centered, Cross focused" radio even further!

If you are interested in such an effort, let me know. I AM NOT AT THIS TIME SOLICITING DONATIONS - I AM GUAGING INTEREST IN THE EFFORT! I have a website that could be used to collaborate and coordinate our efforts fairly easily.

I believe the only way to truly SAVE Issues, Etc., is to make it free-standing and not dependent upon the caprice of those who would (intentionally or unintentionally) obfuscate the Gospel.

Leave a comment (including your email address) or email me (dentm42 at yahoo dot com) and hopefully we can get this off the ground quickly. If we are able to succeed, we may look at "Black Tuesday" in the same light that we see "Good Friday" - it may actually be the BEST thing to happen to the program!

Todd/Jeff - I'd also be interested in hearing from you about such an idea and whether you would be willing to consider participating in such an effort (assuming adequate compensation and benefits could be arranged). A basic list of "what we need" to bootstrap a temporary studio would also be helpful.

Organizational Meeting - 2008/03/24 - 8:00 PM EDT [Edit]

* Location: #issuesetc channel on - info and web interface can be found at
* Time: 8 PM Eastern, 7 PM Central
* Agenda will be posted by NOON Eastern at:

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The Next Big Movie! (It's worse than you can imagine!)

Fans of fantasy come to life may be astounded by the next big fantasy trilogy coming out of Hollywood. The first of the movies will be arriving in theaters just in time for Christmas.

The movie boasts stunning scenery, spectacular special effects, and several big-name stars. It is also partly produced by one of America's premier producers of Children's Books, Scholastic Inc., as well as the company that produced and distributed the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Newline Cinemas.

It has all the makings of the next blockbuster fantasy! Except...

No one can possibly miss the Christian thematic elements of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. The books and the movies they spawned all have numerous parallels with the Christian message. From the introduction of Jadis, the evil queen, into Narnia by two unwitting children, representing the Fall of humanity from the perfect created state, to the sacrificial death of Aslan, the Lord of Narnia, on behalf of another treacherous child, the book uses the story of Christianity as the basis for it's fantastic journey.

Not as clearly thematic, but still a virtuous portrayal, Lord of the Rings is another book with a certain Christian nobility about it. The virtues of Christianity shine clearly, even if the underlying world is presented with too much emphasis on free will and a dualistic understanding of good and evil. Yet, the lines are clearly drawn. There is a fundamental right and wrong, good and evil exist. The structures of the world generally exist to put in check the evil of an invading force. Self sacrifice as well as a sense of duty and honor are fundamental themes. In spite of its theological shortcomings, LOTR is still a good movie that imparts the nobleness of virtue.

Philip Pullman, the author of the trilogy which Newline and Scholastic have partnered to turn into the next big fantasy feature film trilogy, has nothing good at all to say about Lewis or Tolkein.

An article in The New Yorker characterized Pullman's views this way:

    “ ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is fundamentally an infantile work,” he said. “Tolkien is not interested in the way grownup, adult human beings interact with each other. He’s interested in maps and plans and languages and codes.” When it comes to “The Chronicles of Narnia,” by C. S. Lewis, Pullman’s antipathy is even more pronounced. Although he likes Lewis’s criticism and quotes it surprisingly often, he considers the fantasy series “morally loathsome.” In a 1998 essay for the Guardian, entitled “The Dark Side of Narnia,” he condemned “the misogyny, the racism, the sado-masochistic relish for violence that permeates the whole cycle.” He reviled Lewis for depicting the character Susan Pevensie’s sexual coming of age—suggested by her interest in “nylons and lipstick and invitations”—as grounds for exclusion from paradise. In Pullman’s view, the “Chronicles,” which end with the rest of the family’s ascension to a neo-Platonic version of Narnia after they die in a railway accident, teach that “death is better than life; boys are better than girls . . . and so on. There is no shortage of such nauseating drivel in Narnia, if you can face it.”

Pullman goes on to claim that Lewis wasn't even Christian, claiming that because the greatest Christian virtue is charity and that Chronicles readers wouldn't see that through the books, that it, therefore, isn't Christian. A hollow argument given an incorrect presupposition, but pointing out the characteristic vapidity of Pullman's conceptualization of the universe.

Pullman despises the concept that humanity has lost its innocence and good storytelling is an attempt to take us into a world where things are clearer. For Pullman, "growing up" - the throwing off of external authority and strictures - is the most important thing.

    “The idea of keeping childhood alive forever and ever and regretting the passage into adulthood—whether it’s a gentle, rose-tinged regret or a passionate, full-blooded hatred, as it is in Lewis—is simply wrong,” Pullman told me. As a child, Lyra is able to read a complicated divination device, called an alethiometer, with an instinctual ease. As she grows up, she becomes self-conscious and loses that grace, but she’s told that she can regain the skill with years of practice, and eventually become even better at it. “That’s a truer picture of what it’s like to be a human being,” Pullman said. “And a more hopeful one. . . . We are bound to grow up.”

I will likely blog more about this in the future... but for now, I leave you with this quote from the "New Yorker" article, which gives a good idea of how Christianity is treated by Pullman:

    Pullman’s heroine, Lyra Belacqua, is a pre-adolescent girl who erroneously believes that she is an orphan. She has been raised in a slapdash fashion at Oxford, by the scholars and staff of the venerable (and fictional) Jordan College. The novels are set in an alternate version of this universe, in which people travel by zeppelin and refer to electricity as “anbaric power.” It is a church-burdened world, in which the Reformation led to consolidation, not schism, and the Papacy was moved from Rome to Geneva by John Calvin. This Church is responsible for the kidnapping of Lyra’s best friend, whom she vows to rescue; the exile of her father, whom she sets out to find; and, eventually, the homicidal pursuit of Lyra herself. In “His Dark Materials,” the Church is run by a cabal of celibate men who are obsessed with sin and its eradication. The Church employs torture and a doctrine of “preëmptive penance”—a program of self-flagellation that provides its adherents with a kind of get-out-of-Hell-free card, forgiving them in advance for such politically useful sins as assassination.

Additional Information:

"Life and Letters: Far From Narnia - 2005 "New Yorker" piece on Philip Pullman, the Author of the "His Dark Materials" trilogy. [WARNING: Contains lewd artwork]
An atheist's 'Narnia' knockoff - by World Net Daily movie reviewer Dr. Ted Baehr
"The Golden Compass: Unmasked" a video by Bill Donahue of the Catholic League regarding the movie.

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Homiletics Textbook now available as download

I had previously posted about a reprint of J.M. Reu's Homiletics book being available. There is now a less expensive PDF download version of the book available! Enjoy!

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Premature babies feel pain.....

Here's an article I never did publish. I meant to, but didn't. It's interesting that even after a year and a half, there is little coverage of this study by U.S. news outlets. I think this makes my point even more emphatically.

=-=- April 2006 -=-=

I admit it, I know media bias exists but often I've found myself either ignoring the issue or giving the media the benefit of the doubt. But this story about premature infants and pain is so egregious that I can't ignore it.

It has taken the New York Times a full week to find a way to temper the results of this scientific study in order to make it palatable to a country which doesn't want to think that the tens of thousands of babies it murders each year feel the pain associated with being dismembered.

Let's look at this horrific travesty in journalism, shall we?

From the University College London Press Release of April 5, 2006:
The research team used near-infrared spectroscopy to demonstrate that babies have an increased haemodynamic response in the brain following painful stimulation. This response is a reliable measure of pain as it directly relates brain activity with painful stimulation.

Also, a quote from the lead author of the study in the same press release:

"There is evidence that these repeated painful procedures are a significant stressor and lead to increased sensitivity to other non-painful procedures. Since pain information is transmitted to the preterm infant cortex from 25 weeks, there is the potential for pain experience to influence brain development from a very early age, as the brain is highly malleable at this stage of development."

Ok, to summarize: The study methodology (according the press release) uses a "reliable measure of pain." That is, the study proves that the infant FEELS PAIN. It hurts. It is a physiological fact that, when stuck in the heal with a lance for routine medical procedures, the child does not simply "react" to a "stimulus" but the child actually does feel pain. Are we clear on that?

Furthermore, evidence suggests that "repeated painful procedures" have a lasting impact on the child because they "lead to increased sensitivity" even "to other non-painful procedures." So the study authors theorize that there is a memory of this pain and an association of this painful event to the attendent circumstances so that when similar circumstances arise (i.e. other non-painful procedures), it seems they become anxious and have a heightened sensitivity.

Ok, the press release seems pretty clear as to the meaning and implications of the research. Babies as young as 25 weeks after conception (possibly earlier, but that wasn't studied) actually feel pain. Should be pretty cut and dry.... unless you're a NY Times reporter.

Under the headline: Even Tiny Babies Have Ouch Centers in the Brain, the NY Times decides to tackle this issue (a full week after the study was published).

My first reaction is, "Ouch Centers"?!?!?! Heaven forbid we use a clear headline like "Babies Feel Pain." That might offend someone. But let's use a nice soft phrase and say, "Tiny Babies Have Ouch Centers." From this alone, I should have known what was coming...

Opening Paragraph:
Premature babies may be aware of pain in much the same way as older children and adults, according to a British study.

This must be different research... Remember above when the research team said, "This response is a reliable measure of pain as it directly relates brain activity with painful stimulation." So we've gone from the study being a "reliable measure of PAIN" (emphasis mine) to some sort of faint, potential awareness of pain.

Closing two paragraphs:
Despite the identical brain activity, differences remain in the ways babies and older children experience pain, said Maria Fitzgerald, the study's senior author and a professor of developmental neurobiology at University College London.

"An older child will have a much greater emotional and cognitive understanding of pain," Dr. Fitzgerald said, "and therefore have associated anxiety. What we show is that the youngest babies have a pure sensory response, but we cannot assume that they interpret it or analyze it in the same way."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but from my recollection of psychology, "interpretation" and "analysis" come after experience. That is to say, in what way does it matter how babies "interpret" or "analyze" pain. The fact is, IT HURTS!

It's painfully obvious that the NY Times author was digging for a quote to soften the blow to the pro-abortion crowd as to the relevance of this study. For the pro-abortionist, why should it matter how babies "analyze" or "interpret" pain... the whole concept of abortion is to kill it anyway. Their whole argument to date has been that the baby doesn't (or it isunknowable whether or not they do) feel pain.

It's interesting that this story continues to get no coverage in the US press on this issue -- in spite of the fact that many states are considering bills requiring notification of the mother that a baby feels pain during an abortion (most bills specify after 20 weeks). Seems like a published scientific study into the question should be important news for many in the U.S... unless, of course, those whom we trust to give us the information we need have an agenda of their own.

-=-=Other Research

Late abortion and the 'fetal pain' fallacy - Author argues:
The USA's ban on 'partial-birth abortion' rests on flawed arguments about fetal development.
A new front in abortion battle: Questions raised on pain of fetus - Boston Globe, February 3, 2005
Controversial abortion bill passes in Arizona
'Fetal pain bill' may become law, other states passed similar legislation
- MSNBC - Abrams Report - February 16, 2006
Local lawmakers active in committees - According to the article: "Planned Parenthood says there is no evidence to support pain to the fetus."

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For Technophiles and Non-techies alike...

Ok, I admit it, I'm a technophile. It's almost as if technology is in my blood... like lead poisoning from my childhood.

I got my first computer when I was 9 years old and was more interested in programming it to succumb to MY WILL instead of playing computer games (Really, I'm NOT a control freak ... much). In sixth grade, I was asked to teach the "smart kids" (the "elite" group that I was *not* placed into until the end of High School ... but I'm not bitter...) how to do computer graphics programming.

I dropped out of the Computer Science program at the State University of New York at Buffalo to enter the Pre-seminary program at Concordia College, Ann Arbor. Between my days at CCAA and the seminary, I spent 10 years in the computer industry. The first 7 years in a regional Internet Service Provider (ISP) in Michigan. The last 3 years in the network engineering/consulting department of a Value Added Reseller serving small to medium sized businesses as they needed to implement technology.

I cut my teeth on the Internet before the first web browser (NCSA Mosaic) was "mainstream" and people still used gopher and FTP to share information. All of my computers run Linux and have for at least the last seven years. When I MUST use Micro$oft Window$ (for example, to complete my SET form or use LOGOS software), I do so in a "virtual machine" running inside Linux.

While I'm not in the computer industry, I still keep tabs on it. I've seen a LOT in the computer industry and it take A LOT to impress me - and today I ran across not one but TWO articles that impress me.

First is the XO Laptop. This little device at about $200 per unit seems to be technology perfection. It's designed as an educational tool and is a bit slower than systems you may be used but only boot-up and opening applications, when you're using the applications, it's reported to be very responsive. It boasts a 6 hour battery life (or more if you don't use the backlight on the display), is rechargable up to 2000 times (with options of plug, hand crank, or solar cell), is almost kid-proof (spill proof, rain proof, drop proof, and dust proof), and has almost everything one would absolutely need in a computer system for basic, every-day computing.

I've been watching the One Laptop Per Child program as it's unfolded. The original plan was to make these units for $100 each. While they couldn't quite do it for that, the $200 price tag is more than reasonable given the features. The goal is to put a laptop in the hands of every child in undeveloped/underdeveloped countries where electricity is scarce and education is even more scarce.

For two weeks in November, they are making the units available to people in developed countries at the "Buy 1 Get 1" price of $400. At that price you purchase a unit for yourself and one is purchased for a child in the developing world.

It'd be great if we could hand them out with textbooks at our Lutheran Schools each year -- unlikely, but great!

The second piece of news is the latest version of Puppy Linux. I will admit to not using it myself yet (I use Gentoo on my personal machines) but I've been watching the "LiveCD" Linux systems from a distance for a while now and this looks like a perfect tool for starting to use Linux and moving people away from the "Evil Empire" in Redmond.

With Puppy Linux and old laptops, it might be possible to create a One Laptop Per Child program at the local school level that would be cost effective. In any case, If you have ever considered playing with Linux, I would recommend starting with something like Puppy Linux. It lets you test drive without harming your existing M$ Window$ installation.

If anyone tries Puppy Linux, let me know how it goes. I may try it myself soon -- and I'll post my impressions here if I do.

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Fugitive Safe Surrender

Would you encourage your congregation turn your church fellowship hall gymnasium into a temporary court room to allow people in your community with outstanding warrants to come in and deal with the situation?

From the website:
Fugitive Safe Surrender is a unique, creative, and highly successful, initiative that encourages persons wanted for *non-violent felony* or *misdemeanor crimes* to voluntarily surrender to the law in a faith-based or other neutral setting.

It's an interesting concept with interesting implications under Luther's "Two Kingdoms."

What do you all think of this idea?

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The (il)logic of the "science" of Global Warming

While I haven't posted in a while, there are some things that just get under my skin. One of them is alarmist "global warming" news stories that contain significant logical inconsistencies.

I should say that when I was in grade school (late 70's early 80's), I was told that we should be preparing for the next Ice Age because the earth was cooling. Living in the Great Lakes region of the country, there were predictions that the glaciers would be bulldozing our houses at some point (ok, that might be an exaggeration, I didn't take good enough notes in 4th grade.) Now, 25 years later (wow- now I feel old), we're hearing dire predictions that the polar icecaps are melting and sea levels are going to rise and swamp our houses.

Don't get me wrong, I don't dismiss out of hand that human activity could be contributing to global climactic change. However, I haven't seen enough proof to make any sort of causal link. In fact, I regularly hear information which causes me to discount such possibilities (e.g. Discovery Channel programs about how much CO2 and other "greenhouse gasses" are spewed out by volcanos every year -- which, if my memory serves correctly exceeds man-made sources by several orders of magnitude).

One such tidbit of information comes from the latest alarmist news article, posted of all places on Fox News. No doubt in response to the new corporate policy to coddle the enviro-nuts by making a mountain over this environmental mole hill.

Anyway, in the article: Melting Arctic Opens Up Northwest Passage a big deal is made over the fact that the Northwest Passage connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans has opened up "several decades ahead of schedule" (the schedule being determined by computer models).

Yet, there are these two tidbits in the article that we are supposed to ignore:

Look at this paragraph which tries to hide the fact that the passage was open almost a century ago!

The legendary passage was first navigated with great difficulty and using a relatively small ship by explorer Roald Amundsen in 1903 to 1906. Predictions for the opening of the Northwest Passage have ranged from 2012 to 2080 at their most conservative.

Interesting, it was "first navigated" sometime between 1903 and 1906 - by a man with no satillite imagery to figure out whether it was opened or not, and probably very little evidence to assure him that it truly existed. Granted, it was navigated "with great difficulty" but the fact is IT WAS NAVIGATED without the use of any special equipment over 100 years ago!

Questions that remain unanswered are things like:

1) How long had the passage been open before the sailing by Amundsen? That is, how passable was the Northwest Passage 20,30,50,100 years before Amundsen attempted sailing it?
2) Was it just freezing up at that point, or was that a prelude to the thaw we are seeing today?
3) Just how "relatively small" was the ship? I have a mental picture of him in his sail-powered dingy with a crew of 1 or 2 - but it certainly must have been larger than that. "Relatively small" is a comparison which needs something to "relate" to - and the relation is missing. (Note: I found an article about the passage by Amundsen - the crew was a total of 8 and they had to have room for supplies.)

The subtext of the article would like us to believe that this passage has been frozen solid for "thousands of years." See how they say, "navigated with great difficulty," and "relatively small ship" as if to say it was unnavigable, but he did it - and without the aid of modern technological "advances" like GPS, satellite navigation or even a clear knowledge of where his travels would lead him.

Then, we find out that just TEN YEARS AGO the passage opened up, "for a short time." And further that, ""Through the years, it's become increasingly open." But lest we conclude that this may be a natural/normal occurance happening - oh, lets say every 100 or so years, we need to immediately follow that statement with the alarmist drivel, "...but still really had not remained open in any kind of viable way. Two thousand and seven is really the first year."

Really?!?! I thought earlier the article said it was opened in a "viable way" for a "relatively small ship" to navigate it 100 years ago! 2007 "is really the first year"?!?! Hmm.. perhaps the history books about Mr. Amundsen's trip are incorrect then, perhaps it wasn't really a "relatively small ship" after all and he actually developed the first hover-craft - or was abducted by aliens on one side of the passage - who got confused and dropped him off on the wrong side of the ocean.

Historical note: Information about Amunsen's trip can be found here. It really was a difficult journey and not easy at all - taking many years of planning, reasearch, etc. But the fact is, it was open over 100 years ago. I guess we can give props to Fox for at least alerting us to the historical background of the Northwest Passage, but the article is still fairly one-sided - not presenting any facts about how open the passage may have been more than 30 years ago when satellites first started looking.

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[begin rant]
President Bush has recently announced that he intends to increase the number of troops in Iraq in an effort to bring order out of the chaos that exists there due to those whose sole mission is to destroy the lives of those who disagree with them. In my opinion, the biggest mistake our president and the Pentagon have made in the war in Iraq is sending too few troops to begin with. From the early days of the war, when Turkey denied the use of their air-space, troop levels have been too low to execute an effective campaign against terror and insurgents. So, to President Bush I say, "It's about time!"

With that introduction, you may be confused by the title of this post. The fact is that, for over a year, something has bugged me about the reporting of the number of troops killed or injured in Iraq. Each time the media reports the statistic, I get angry. I get angry for two reasons. Number one, it's war. War is a terrible situation and by definition involves death and injury. The fact is, America should be thankful that our troops are well trained and, generally speaking, well armed and that the number of injuries and fatalities is as low as it is.

According to, 3,018 trained military personnel have lost their lives since March of 2003 when the war began. *To be sure, our hearts and prayers goes out to each and every family and friend impacted by their death. There is certainly no words that can express their grief.*

At the same time, a political issue has been made of these deaths. The concern is that these deaths would have been preventable and these Americans would be alive today if we were to pull our troops out of Iraq. The fact is, logically speaking, these valiant men and women would not have died on foreign soil in the line of duty if we pulled them out of Iraq. However, that would be no guarantee that they would be alive today.

It may be that they would have been killed by a terrorist attack on our own country. They may have lost their life in a training accident on U.S. soil. Or, they may have been murdered while on leave. Perhaps they would have developed a disease and died, had a heart attack, stroke, or lethal drug interaction. We must admit that at least SOME of them would possibly have died even if they were "safe and sound" on American soil all this time.

"Safe and sound?" Perhaps not. The fact is, in the same time period as the war in Iraq, *over 50,000 Americans died in our own country in a manner that is 100% preventable*. That's right, over 15 times as many people died in America during the same period from something that is completely preventable.

Yet where is the outrage? Where are the protests? Where are the marches on Washington, state capitols, city halls to put an end to this travesty in America - this slaughter of innocent men, women, and children on our own soil?

Why are we cheapening the sacrifice of our noble men and women in the armed forces who are giving their lives in service to their neighbor? Why are we calling it "senseless" that they are attempting to bring peace and stability to a country ravaged by war and hate for hundreds of years? The fact is, those who died in Iraq are heroes. PERIOD. They lives were not meaningless, their deaths were not senseless. They gave their lives in service to their neighbor while living their life in their vocation and obedient to their calling.

But I have to wonder if we really need such a well trained military that has only 3,018 fatalities in a war that has lasted nearly 4 years when the Americans they are supposedly "defending" have killed over 50,000 fellow citizens and injured tens of thousands more - without even a periodic mention of this fact in the media.

Don't believe my numbers?!?!? Take a look for yourself and do the math! - The Iraq war began in late March, 2003. Based on 16,500 deaths per year (2004 there were 16,919 and 2005 there were 16,885), there have been approximately 60,390 alcohol related deaths in the U.S. since the beginning of April 2003 -- over 20 times as many Americans have died from drunk driving than US troops have been killed in the Iraq war - a situation that was 100% preventable.

[end rant]

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"The Myth of Expository Preaching" ??

David Fitch, author of the Great Giveaway and a voice in the emergent church has a post on his blog (also entitled: The Great Giveaway) about The Myth of Expository Preaching and the Comoditization of the Word.

The post brings up numerous issues, and I'm tempted to run a series on the post over on Learning Greek since it's my site dedicated to such things and I have some spare time now that intensives are over.

But to whet your whistle a little, here's a couple of quotes worth considering and some brief comments/questions. Discuss among yourselves, I think I'll be posting more in the days (hours?) ahead.

His definition of Expository Preaching:
Implied is, if the preacher but applies the exegetical historical-critical skills (s)he learned in seminary and studies the text in its original language, aided by the Spirit, (s)he can arrive at the meaning of the text all by him/herself. Expository preaching, done right (with good exegesis), sticks to the already existing stable perspicuous meaning in the text. Interpretation therefore comes second and can only follow the text. In this way, expository preaching allows God’s Word to drive the message and any interpretation is automatically subordinated to it.

The danger he sees:
The reality therefore is that what guides interpretation is not scientific individual interpretation of the text. It is the broad consensus interpretation for the Biblical texts found in the ongoing history of church doctrine.

I have to say, I generally concur with his assessment. Take a look at commentaries and the tools we have available to us. How are our lexicons, for example, created? How does our preconceived notions of what grammatical structures "mean" inform our exegesis? If we "see" something that those around us, or previous commentators didn't, how do we evaluate who is right? It seems to me, most often, it's by saying, "They're right... 'cause they wrote the book." This is really no different than defering to the papacy or to the "tradition" of the church -- so to some extent, we all often march back to Rome in some ways.

A good example: Is John 6 "Sacramental"? The Lutheran "tradition" says it's not. Scripture doesn't say one way or the other. There are many who say it is, many who say it's not. Surely, God knows whether or not He intended it to be so... so there IS an answer to the question... but what is the answer? (More importantly -- how do you know?)

Another problem he sees:
Secondly, even if we could agree that each individual mind under the Holy Spirit can come to the one propositional meaning of the text using exegesis, we cannot assume then that these truths as communicated by the preacher will necessarily be heard as the same thing to the isolated hearer in the pew when (s)he hears them.

Definitely an issue. How often has this happened to you? You preach a sermon on topic A, and the people leaving your church said, "I loved your sermon about topic XYZ today." How often does something similar happen even in just common every day conversation? This is definitely a problem - but what's the solution?

Fitch is talking about "Expository Preaching" as it's found primarily among Evangelicals... so his comments regarding "three points and an application" that people then take home to try to live out "the Christian life" (i.e. sanctification) may not be entirely true in a proper Lutheran context (at least hopefully). But there's still some sense where many sermons are "three points and an application." Even if the application is, appropriately, "Jesus."

I found what he said about "comoditization" of the Word provocative... and something I'll have to think further about. I have some thinking to do, anyway, about how we define, "the Word" both in our confession, practice and Lutheran understanding.

As usual, I agree with about 70-85% of Fitch's description of the problem, a possible 50% of his diagnosis and approaching 0% of his remedy (more on that later). Of course, he's very much an "anti-Lutheran" (For example, in his article: Theological Issues Confronting the Emergent Church he calls an emphasis on Pauline justification as Justification by grace through Faith, "Over Lutheranized") -- Although, interestingly, I think the Lutheran Church is probably best positioned to answer the problems he sees in modern Evangelicalism -- an interesting paradox.

He references Chapter 5 of his book... I don't recall if I read that far. I read almost exactly half of the book then things turned from problem description and diagnosis to remedy -- where he was too far off for my taste.

Well, how about it? What is the proper preaching "Methodology"? My answer will be forthcoming... Do his descriptions of the problems ring true?

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PSA: Copyright and Digital Rights Management

Beware the Corruptables.

Perhaps you've heard about technologies such as the "audio flag," "digital rights management," etc. You may even have heard about Sony/BMG music installing trojan software on people's personal computers when they play their Audio CD's on their PC... (yes, they did it, without the PC owner's permission. Yes, it IS a federal crime to tamper with another person's computer without permission. No, they didn't get prosecuted for it).

I came across this short video produced by the Electronic Frontier Foundation - A group dedicated to "defending freedom in a digital world" - which can serve as an introduction to this issue.

Copyright law has something called "fair use" (Section 107 - quoted below) embeded in it. Under Fair use, reproduction, "for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright." (emphasis added) This right has already been significantly curtailed by various court decisions.

Many of the initiatives by the entertainment lobby, book publishers, and others aim to limit fair use by "Digital Rights Management". In many cases, it is a back door way of abridging the right of fair use.

It's important to defend fair use - a right which we as scholars and the public in general have as a right guaranteed under copyright law. Without it, quoting the work of another for any reason -- including for purposes of comment or critique would be illegal as well as many other uses.

Abuse of fair use is theft - and can be a problem. However, initiatives which curtail legally defined rights through back doors is oppression. I don't deny that the publishing industry should be able to protect their rights in a work. However, those rights were established for a purpose and are not "inalienable." The express constitutional purpose was "to promote science and the useful arts." I wouldn't call most of the trash talk in the music world nor the garbage on TV and in the movies "useful arts" -- neither would I call it "science" (I guess some case could be made for biology and psychology -- especially on the soap operas and reality TV).

As a side note, plagarism on the web is one of the biggest forms of copyright infringement there is - even in the Lutheran blogosphere. Including large portions of newswire stories, other web sites, etc. without the express permission of the owner of the material is also theft. That means if you extensively quote from the AP, Reuters, CNN, etc. or even another blogger's website without their permission and aren't providing significant commentary, YOU ARE BREAKING THE LAW!

For this reason, I recommend all bloggers examine creative commons licenses to apply to their websites. This gives others permissions (which you can define) to use your material, at the same time, allows a free exchange of ideas to occur.

Anyway, enough comments about that. Here's the "fair use" section of Copyright law. I also recommend reading the copyright law regarding non-infringing uses. Note especially section 110 (3).

Title 17, Section 107

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include —

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

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Life must have been simpler before the Tower of Babel

I tend not to take the word of others very easily-- especially when it comes to hearing second hand what someone else thinks or said. I'll often take the "evidence" or report of a second hand source under advisement, but I will often not readily "accept" it without additional corroboration - preferably from primary sources.

Such has been the case in Luther's "break" with Augustine over the nature of grace.

I had taken a seminar on Augusine in the mid 90's when I was at Concordia College, Ann Arbor. Since then, I have rather liked his writings and found a lot of "good stuff" in them (and on this, I haven't really changed my mind).

When I took a seminar on Luther, there was mention of a 'break' between Augustine and Luther on the nature of grace. Aside from the assertion that such a break occurred, there was no real evidence of it. And even though I had read a fair amount of Augustine's writings, I just couldn't "see" (or rather believe) it.

In reading Augustine, I had often come across the word "grace." Sometimes it seemed to refer to how Lutherans would understand the grace of God in relation to justification (imputed righteousness). Other times, it seemed to refer to the gifts of God which effect our sanctification. Therefore, as I read Augustine, I simply interpreted the word, "grace," in the appropriate way based on the context and my own ("Lutheran") understanding -- figuring he just hadn't been careful about separating the two, but assuming he meant what I thought he meant.

This, of course, meant that I didn't see the gulf that exists between the Lutheran understanding of "grace" in terms of justification (imputation), and Augustine's understanding of "grace" (infusion). It also explained my perplexity with those who saw this gulf. I, therefore, assumed that other people had misread Augustine, seeking to be critical of him where no such criticism was necessary.

Well, I found it today. For anyone else out there who may believe that Augustine's conceptualization of grace was misunderstood and that there is no difference between Augustine and Luther... I recommend that you read the following quotation:

As therefore in Abraham the justification of faith came first, and circumcision was added afterwards as the seal of faith; so in Cornelius the spiritual sanctification came first in the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the sacrament of regeneration was added afterwards in the laver of baptism. And as in Isaac, who was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, the seal of this righteousness of faith was given first, and afterwards, as he imitated the faith of his father, the righteousness itself followed as he grew up, of which the seal had been given before when he was an infant; so in infants, who are baptized, the sacrament of regeneration is given first, and if they maintain a Christian piety, conversion also in the heart will follow, of which the mysterious sign had gone before in the outward body. And as in the thief the gracious goodness of the Almighty supplied what had been wanting in the sacrament of baptism, because it had been missing not from pride or contempt, but from want of opportunity; so in infants who die baptized, we must believe that the same grace of the Almighty supplies the want, that, not from perversity of will, but from insufficiency of age, they can neither believe with the heart unto righteousness, nor make confession with the mouth unto salvation. - Augustine, On Baptism, Book IV - Chapter 24

It's clear that Augustine viewed grace as an infused substance which must be acted upon in order to effect our justification. Oddly enough, this treatise was against the Pelagians... So, sadly, Augustine has been taken down a notch in my eyes. It's sad... but I probably idolized him too much anyway. I think I'll probably continue to reinterpret Augustine as I read him... but at least now I know I'm doing it.

As I've mused many times, life must have been so much easier before the Tower of Babel. Then, at least, we knew what each other was saying.

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Simply horrifying

Medical tourism to the U.S. for designer babies....

I must admit... In general, I'm a capitalist because I find that capitalist competition tends to be the best way to balance competing interests in a secular society. But this is a case of capitalism run amok.... I'm repulsed and embarassed enough to almost turn red!


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Media Responsible if VA Records gets misused?

I understand the watchdog mentality of the media and that it serves an important function in the process of government of our nation by providing information on what goes on in the world. However, it seems to me that there is some responsibility to consider whether the disclosure of facts advances the story and what damage the disclosure might do.

A case in point is the recent loss of information from the Veteran's Administration including Social Security numbers and personal information of former military personnel. The fact is that hundreds and thousands of computer disks and systems are stolen in our country every year. The fact is that personnel who may have access to this information may have been anywhere in the country when the theft took place.

The important facts to be reported are that equipment was stolen containing potentially important information. This should be reported and those affected should be notified. But is it necessary to include in reporting that the equipment was stolen from a residence (my thought is that fewer laptops are stolen from residences than from, say, airports, hotels, and other areas) and the geographic location (city and state) where the theft took place?

With the play that this is getting in the media, it seems very likely that any person who recently stole computer equipment or disks from a residence in that geographic area is now put on notice that they have a disk with very valuable information on it. It is now less likely that equipment stolen from that geographic area will be erased until they are checked for that data.

How is the story advanced by knowing the city that the theft took place in? It doesn't. How is the story advanced by knowing that it was a residence and not a hotel or airport theft? It doesn't. In both of these cases, the only thing that this information does is to provide thieves who stole stuff from residences in that area on notice that they may have something valuable which they might otherwise have overlooked.

If the data is used to defraud anyone, I think the media should be held somewhat culpable for putting the crook on notice of what to look for and making it easier to determine where to look.

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