Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mere shared opinions

From time to time I surf the blog world. My prof said - if you want to write, you need to read. So I read as I surf.

Then I go visit Dr. Ichabod, only to discover that what I tucked away in my mind, he has already spelled out and articulated, and articulated well. OK, I am coming out of the closet...I do read dangerous subversive material s(LOL)Winking.

Here are a few shared opinions he featured in his blog.

[click on the paragraphs to go to the linked articles]

1. There seems to be a Waltherian synodical worship present amongst 'confessors'. Do not get me wrong, I learned a lot from Walther's Law and Gospel book, but as a 'church father' he is to be treated like the rest - capable of over stating his case. I sense this was specially true when it came to synod loyalty. Enclaves, sometimes this is what comes to my mind when I think of Synods in the US.

2. I prefer uni education for honing or sharpening theological scholarship. Over here, we were taught to be a wide ( and in my case be a wild) reader. Of course it is semi-dangerous, but it is less dangerous! At uni, you know who not to take seriously and dismiss. I am not sure that is the case in seminaries, it depends. Teachers in sems can easily hide under labels and catch words.

3.I also believe that reconciliation and justification are to be distinguished though not separate. We do this already with justification and sanctification. We distinguish the two but we do not separate. Trouble happens when they are mixed and lumped. My theory is that mixing reconciliation with justification leads to some anti-nomian indifference, one of which is Roma-phelia

Self-criticism is a virtue encouraged by Scripture - it tells us to examine ourselves. It should be specially applied even to the thoughts of the teachers we respect and esteem.

1 Timothy 4:16 (English Standard Version)

16(A) Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save(B) both yourself and(C) your hearers.

Well, that is my opinion anyway, so please try not to confuse me by giving me facts (LOL)Laughing.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Believing and believing in

The missus said something that occured to me...

To believe in God is not the same as believing God.

To believe in the Bible is not the same as believing the Bible.

To believe in Christ is not the same as believing Christ.

There is a subtle difference.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

When are you coming home?

I have to feature an Aussie's reply to one of his commenters. This was from the Mild Colonial Boy, Esq.

To the question when is he returning to Rome, this was his reply...I highlight here the portion that made me laugh it made my tummy so gassy...

Going back to Rome? Has the Church of Rome stopped opposing the Biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone? Has it stopped issuing indulgences for works? Has it stopped forbidding priests to marry (the doctrine of demons)? Has it stopped the virtual goddess worship of idolatrous Mariolatry and putting other intermediaries, other than Jesus, between God and Man? Has the Pope stopped propping up these and other Anti-Christian positions?

The answer is no.

The signing of an ambiguously worded document by a group of unrepresenative LINOs (Lutherans In Name Only) has solved none of the issues raised in the Book of Concord.

There is no need for me to return as I am in a Church which teaches the Word of God purely and administers the sacraments correctly.

When is the Church of Rome genuinely going to reform its doctrines
and practices?

I like the LINO bit. There is no where to return because the Colonial Boy has found his home.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Will you blend?

No, dear friends, this is not a post about iPhones. It is a post about comparative religion that may lead one to a blended spirituality.

Comparing two religions is a subjective exercise. I am not convinced too that there is a cut and dry method of comparing faiths. You can almost see what you are looking for if you want to, like a brute force fitting a round peg onto a square hole. Let me give a couple of examples...

1.) When I was studying religious claims as a young man (that was ages ago) at uni, I read that Confusius says -"It is good to honor your parents". That sounds familiar doesn't it? Now, let us see, I am sure we have heard that before, no? Might that not be the 4th Commandment? Ex 20:12. Hmm so would you come up with the Biblical basis of Confucianism?

2. What about the Budhist teaching of Karma? Simply put, this means that your action leads back to you. If you do good, good karma will come back, if you do evil, you will get bad karma one day. Would that not be similar to "what you sow is what you reap" - Gal 6:7. More over it sounds like the Golden Rule too doesn't it?

More sayings that are similar to the Bible can be found else where, I found one in the Baghabad Gita a long time ago.

Even some words or sayings of Jesus had some precedent with the words found in Rabbinic writings like that of the Mishna, so what do you make of it?

Well you can say this makes the claims of Christianity not exceptional, there is nothing unique about this even worst, perhaps Christianity might have copied them and imported them since it is not as ancient as the other religions. So what is the difference?

Well when Confusius says "you have to honor your parents", I come back and ask, "so what if I am not"? Confusius says "but this is bad, you are not being a good gentleman". So I retort - "who cares if I am not a gentleman"? "But this is being horrible", he replies. So I counter "why should I accept what you say, who are you anyway"? End of story.

Ah, but it makes a difference when it is God, the Supreme Being - Creator of the Universe who says "honor your fathers and mothers, so that you may live long in the lang your God is giving to you". All my wise ass remarks won't work. He just says "because I am God and because I say so, end of conversation".

What about karma? Well for the time being assume that we do not have a Jesus who said about the Golden Rule, then all of the sayings of all religions on the Golden Rule are just nice opinions and at best good observations that happens in life, and this can be gathered by observation and experience. Besides, if I were a skeptic, I can only say - well the good/bad thing that happened to you had nothing to do with karma - it was simply fate, a struck of good or bad luck. See what I mean, they carry no weight.

But wait. Jesus said "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12.

What is the differenc? A lot. It is not what is being spoken, it is who that is speaking. If Jesus did not claim to be the Son of God, the Messiah promised by God - you can dismiss him, but that is why what he says makes a difference, because it is the voice of God who is saying it. It is true not because we can observe it, it is true because it is God who commands and speaks it.

All the rest are puny sayings, they are dismissible, but not so with those that are spoken by God.

For this reason, Christianity's claims can never be considered one of those claims, because its claims purports to have the authority of the Creator God behind it. Thus, there is no room for syncretism in Christianity.

One thing too I have observed, all of these religions have some truth but based on Scripture - it is Christianity that has the whole truth, not just some of it but the whole truth.

Psalm 119:160The sum of your word is truth,and every one of your righteous rules endures forever

And oh, by the way, the central teaching of Christianity is not just about doing good to parents and reaping and sowing or such things - the central teaching of Christianity is the Gospel which is ---God sending his Son to die for our sins (yes we owe God a penalty for our sins) at the Cross and that Son was raised from the dead signifying the receipt of that payment. God accepted the payment of Christ on our behalf.

No other religion has topped that claim.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Naked Pastor's equation

I found The NakedPastor from Steve M. I think he has some cartoonish things to say. Click on the picture to get to read his cartoons. What do you think of his equation?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Accentuate the positive

Eliminate the negative. That seems to be the message of an RC Bishop here to the victims of RCC clergy sexual abuse. Barney Zwartz of The Age reports it here. For the Bishop, these complaining victims are simply "dwelling crankily on old wounds".

We might recall that around this time last year, one of the biggest settlement payout by the RCC towards abused victims was reported by the ABC News here.

In the case of the Foster (the victims' family name) kids reported in The Age article, they were apparently young kids when the abuse happened.

No one can really comprehend the attending hurts when kids get abused of whatever kind. It is further a double blow when they are sexually abused, the real damage happens internally, psychologically.

There is something that compounds the hurt, it is compounded when the one who stands in the place of Christ is the one that inflicts it. But there is more, the hurt is multiplied a million times over when then victimizer is a member of "The One True Church".

I hears some say that it is not so much that a crime can be committed by a member of the RCC, because anyone is capable of abusing any helpless victime, you do not have to be an RCC clergy to commit such a sin, it is that with the case of priest sexual abuse, the priest does not get prosecuted, see here for this type of story.

So back again, if this is "The One True Church". If the victimizer belongs to, say a Protestant group, well, one can reason - that is the fruit of belonging to a False Church anyway. The situation is not the same for the case of the RCC clergies because the RCC claims to be the One True Church. It belongs to a Church group that has a higher moral and more serious claim than the rest.

I suspect one can not help but wonder, if this is the One True Church, how come it seems like it has such a disease? People surely are attaching different meanings to the notion of what "One True Church" means.

For reference that such abuses have been going on "for ages", read a copy of Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere. In English it is translated Social Cancer. Though this is a novel, the stories have real precedence. Let me warn you though, do not be surprized when you notice you are filled with rage before you put down this book, I however, won't blame you.

Matt 18:5"And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;
6but (D)whoever (E)causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea

Monday, July 14, 2008

Who wrote the Serenity Prayer?

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to
change the things I can;and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at
a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to
peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful worldas it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things rightif I surrender to His Will;That I may
be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with HimForever in the
--Reinhold Niebuhr

Was it Niebuhr? Look here.

Bye Bye

Finally. The Big Brother show is being axed.

They finally realized I was not watching. It took a while for the blockheads to realize that when you insult people's intelligence, you get their scorn.

It does not take a nuclear physicist to figure that one out. The show is a pathetic attempt to get ratings.

I would rather watch RAW or SmackDown any day compared to this. At least it is world class entertainment. There is drama, comedy and irony.

Friday, July 11, 2008

All For Jesus?

Purpose Driven Life (PDL) people are at a loss when we say that they have a man-centered approach to Christianity.

They are puzzled how in the world we can say that. Isn't PDL about what we do with Jesus, what we do with what He has given to us? Does not God wait for us to do what he wants done and so thereby blesses us? How could glorifying God be man centered?

This brings me to the title of the post. You may not believe this, but that was the name of the fellowship I first pastored. I came from a fellowship back home that had the same church name, then when I came to Melbourne that was the name also that I adopted when my little Bible Study group became a church. But note the name 'All for Jesus', you can get a sense of pride at this, - as if you really are 'all out for Jesus', (so you think and only if you have an unbiblical view of sin), you can get Pharisaical in thinking you are that - all out and out (as if).

It is funny but when you are lost in the woods all you see are trees. What turned out to be a response to the grace of God, namely: doing all to glorify Christ, becomes the focus of one's Christian walk - then pretty soon, what Jesus has done gets lost in the background. Soon also, things now turn on you and what you need to do -- for Him.

So we come now to why PDL folks are puzzled. To explain this to them (and to quote Prof. Nagel) - who is driving the verbs? When you come now to PDL's challenge questions like - what have you done for Jesus, what are you doing with the gifts God has given to you - guess who is the subject that is meant to work on the verbs - YOU.

When YOU is the subject, then that is where man-centeredness comes. Warren says it is about God but when it comes down to the wire - it is about you doing stuff, it is about you doing and yet you still leave undone, it does not become about what God has finished to do.

If God ever gives me again an opportunity to pastor, one of the church names I like to have in contrast to 'All for Jesus' is 'Christ for You'. To tell people what God has done and has finished to do in Christ is actually glorifying and glorifies Christ.

Another close second is Beggars Church (we are sometimes allowed to day dream).

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah (prayer)

Need I say more? If you thought Blah, Blah, Blah was something, wait till you hear the BAM, BAM, BAM.

I wanted to label this post with "funny" but I just can't.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Close but not quite, but more moderate.

[Updated: Please try not to be upset until you grasp my argument from the point of view of the Means of Grace]
Over at Wittenberg Trail, I got into a discussion that led to the subject of communion. To cut the long story short, the way my synod's pastors practice 'closed communion' has been dubbed by some LCMS folk as 'moderate' i.e. not confessional. As I mentioned somewhere, I describe my synod as a centrist synod.

Here is how the pastors at home practice 'closed communion'. In our bulletin sheets there is a mention of what our local church believes about the Lord's Supper, namely:

The Lutheran Church teaches that the 'Holy communion is the true body and
blood of our Lord Jesus Christ given with bread and wine, instituted by Christ
himself for us Christians to eat and drink'. It is for baptized people

- repent of all their sins
- trust in Jesus Christ as their only Saviour
- believe that in the sacrament Jesus gives his true body and blood with
bread and wine
- join with the congregation in *this* public confession of Jesus and his

After consecration, the pastor comes forward holding the chalice containing the bread and say words to this effect ..."Dear Friends, our Lutheran Church *does not believe* that the bread and wine are *mere* symbols of Jesus' body and blood, but rather we believe it is truly the body and blood of the Lord given for our sins. Those who could confess this with us are welcome to receive the Lord's supper. Come for all things are ready".

I argue that because these words were written and are said prior to distribution, a visitor who comes forward is confessing what we confess about the supper. If a visitor comes forward dispite the words then there is no reason for him/her to be denied.

I defend that this is in the spirit of Scripture and the BoC. However, this position is called 'moderate' (but what can you expect I said we are centrist) and non-confessional - meaning we are not truly Lutheran (so reader beware).

I argue that the fact that the person is coming forward after the announcement of what it is not and what it is, is an assumption on our part (yes we can be wrong, but what do we have) that the person is agreeing with our confession about the Supper.

Further, I argue from the fact that the Lord's Supper is one of the Means of Grace, i.e. how God comes down to us, and therefore must not be denied on anyone who does not despise but rather rejoices in it!

Apparently for some folk, this is not enough. Apparently one must NOT ONLY believe that it is the true body and blood of the Lord, one must agree 100% with what the pastor preaches from that pulpit too. This latter one is rather curious, and opens for some abuse.

You know I am not always in church, sometimes I visit some Lutheran local church somewhere in the country when I am on holidays, I do not know what esoteric doctrine a country pastor might have taught sometime in his past or he currently hold, what I am agreeing with him is the confession on the means of grace, the Supper, that it is true body and blood of the Lord.

I examined for BoC references to check this position and here are the following

1. Large Catechism on the Sacrament of the Altar: We do not intend to admit to the sacrament and administer it to those who do not know what they seek or why they come.

My Comment: this is taken cared of by the explanation prior to distribution

2. The Apology to the Augsburg Confession (1531) says in Article XI.4 - Confession: "...Excommunication is pronounced on the openly wicked and on those who despise the sacraments."

My Comment: the fact that the person is coming after the explanation does not indicate that he despises the sacrament.

3. The Augsburg Confession (1530) says in Article XXIV.6 - Mass: "...People are admitted only if they first had an opportunity to be examined and heard".

My Comment: This indicates that before communion is given, the person must have given his confession in private to the pastor during the week and only then communion is given to such. In fact in some churches, this necessitates the use of communion tokens. I doubt if those who say we are non-confessional even practice this. Or, this may be also the general confession and absolution that happens earlier in the service, no matter anyway. Note that on my part, I agree with the meaning of the words in the BoC and not on the words themselves. The question is this - will our pastors eventually catechize that visitor? Yes. In fact if the person has been coming for some time, the person will receive a visit from the pastor and one of the things that would be discussed is this doctrine of communion.

Rightly so - one of the pastors (himself LCMS) in the discussion commented that there must be a way to practice close communion with non-Lutherans but we must be able to practice open communion amongst fellow Lutherans too irregardless of what Synod they come from.

I believe our pastors will serve you the elements if you confess what we confess about the Supper irregardless of what Synod you come from. I am open for correction and proper orientation on this by LCAus pastors themselves , but I have been to quite a few and find my articulation to be reasonable(if they are reading this, they can straighten my mis-impression or misunderstanding).

However, I am at this point comfortable that the way we practice it is in keeping with the Gospel as a gift and the nature of what the Means of Grace is -- that the very Sacrament (which is Gospel with elements) creates faith itself in the heart of the sinner according to God's will; why should we withold it if the person is willing to confess and receive it, why should we add more requirements that they belong to our synod etc etc? I just do not understand.

Well, dear reader : caveat lector. I do not necessarily carry the proper brand name to some: confessional. No matter, I only care that my position is Biblical, that is enough. You can call me a mongrel Lutheran, I do not care.

Remember, I am not perfect, I am not a member of Mt. Zion. Be careful of what you read here, you can get contaminated --- by the truth.

Small Cat as Evangelism Tool

[updated: thanks Pr. Kurt]
Remember the 4 Spiritual Laws? I remember at uni the poor guy who applied this to me, got an interesting response from me, I showed him my novena booklet for St. Jude.

The missus suggested to me to buy plenty of Luther's Small Catechism and give them away as an evangelism tool. I heard somebody suggested this, I said to her, but she has a way of pushing me, to get off my back side and do something so I am making plans to buy a truck load (a bit of hyperbole). So, why not. It will be a good discussion piece.

The thing that is nice is that with the Small Cat, you are not being asked for a decision, you are being told of a gift given. I won't sound like a sale's man. Since I am not asking for a decision, the point of being embarrassed does not even come to the question. I'' just be a witness how the Word is used by the Spirit to convert.

Sounds like a good idea? Has anyone tried this at home?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Improve 'me'

It seems what I need is not a better and improved 'me'. The more I get older the more I come to the idea that what 'me' needs is not to be come better or improved.

It needs to repent.

It needs to repent from the idea of what it needs is to be improved or become better!

What 'me' needs is to die and be no more. It needs death and resurrection, not just death, it needs new life, not just an improved one.

Even other religions hint at this. I know in my study before becoming a 'Christian', Buddhism advocates some form of nothingness. What is the difference? In Buddhism it is self help - you have to do this for yourself.

In Christianity, it is done for you.

OK. Comparative religion is sometimes a luny exercise, but it shows to me that Christianity has the WHOLE TRUTH.