Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Rick responded to this post, saying:

Could you find a better word than "prefer." I know what you mean by it and am not in the least worried. But there are those out there who use the language of preference here in a way that scares me. They speak as if God gave us a grab bag of models and if you don't like this one, try another. (I might not even have a problem with that if they didn't mean, if you don't like this one, insult it, throw it in the garbage heap, and try another.)

Of course, I can clarify, for the sake of those (all 3.4 of my loyal readers!) who might mistake what I meant...

I do not mean prefer as in, at the complete and total expense of the other. Which is to say, I do not hold exclusively to the Christus Victor/Ransom theory of the Atonement (Athanasius) at the expense of the Penal Substitution theory (Anselm). They both have much to tell us.

As much as the "God wouldn't do that to Jesus; that would make God a meany!" crowd wants to complain, we still have to deal with texts like Isa 53:10 which sure make it sound like God played a pretty active role in the death of Jesus. As much as we want to keep God's hands clean in this death of Jesus thing, we can't. Furthermore, saying such a thing makes us do all sorts of mental gymnastics over the Trinity. Any attempt to exonerate God in the death of Christ is sin, for in doing so we attempt to make God in our image.

Furthermore, when we speak of satisfying God's wrath, we need to know what we're talking about. Are we talking about wrath as in Jonathan Edward's God who dangles the sinner over the pit of hell like a spider? Or are we talking about in the sense that -- in our sin -- God does not even know us. A while back, Solarblogger blogged about God's hatred being one of indifference, which (if you think about it) is a hell of a lot scarier than active hatred. I think that thinking applies to God's wrath as well. At least if we are being actively punished, God nevertheless knows that we exist.

Christ "satisfied" that wrath of God by reintroducing us to Him.

I mean prefer as in, I see elements of both models supported by the Scriptures, but the predominant view is one of rescue. Ransom. We do well to remember that in the great messianic passage from Isaiah foretelling the name of Jesus ("His name shall be called..."Isa 9:6), the name "Mighty God" (El Gibbor) is just as well rendered "Heroic God". The God who seeks and finds. The God who sells everything to buy His Pearl. The God who leaves 99 sheep to find one lost one; the God who puts off everything else to find his lost coin. The God who runs to his Son while "he was yet a long way off."

Models are simply that: models. They are not the real thing. They are ways of talking about what happened, constructions invented by fragile human minds to understand just what God did for us on the Cross. As such no model is perfect. In "picking" one to focus on, then , we must recognize that we are privileging an imperfect approximation
Monday, November 13, 2006
Let us imagine for a moment a pastor from a sectarian congregation: decision theology, believer's-only baptism, dispensational, and works-oriented. Let us imagine that his studies have left him in a position where he no longer appears to believe in the doctrines in which his "home congregation" believes. He has not only been reading Luther, but rigorously studying the Lutheran Confessions and Lutheran theology under the guidance of trained Lutheran Professors and Pastors. He is 99.44% sure that he will eventually leave his current position.

What is he to do?

Let us further imagine this: a long-time visitor expresses a desire to join the Church. The Official Church Position is that one must be Baptized to join the congregation. This aspiring congregant was baptized as an infant, a baptism which the church does not recognize. What ought this pastor do? He is far along enough in his studies to know what the Biblical teachings on baptism are. The aspirant was baptized in the Trinitarian manner, with water, in a church of which Lutherans have always recognized proper Christian Baptism (let's say Presbyterians, for argument's sake).

What is he to do?
Friday, November 10, 2006
Well, if not exactly "ablaze," they're hot...

Tim Blair (the Australian version of Glenn Reynolds) shows us the new tool for evangelism from the Presbyterians.

It's working: see comment #3.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
My annotated list of the 20 most influential theological books in my life. This is a meme going around (started on some ELCA blogs, I think).

I suspect this list could change tomorrow; note the suspicious absence of Lewis? C.P. Krauth? I'm not sure Walther would ever make the list for me. I had a pretty good grasp on Law and Gospel by the time I got around to reading it, so I'm not sure how much it "influenced" me. No F. F. Bruce? No N.T. Wright? I must be sick! Oh, wait, I am sick.

20) Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth, John Gerstner
This is a funny one. Back in my Pentecostal days, I was all about defending the "gifts of the Spirit" as understood within the Pentecostal paradigm. I knew that John MacArthur was (a) a dispensationalist and (b) opposed to the Pentecostal understanding of the Spiritual Gifts. Ergo (ah! naïve reasoning!), Gerstner's book was advocating the Spiritual Gifts. Needless to say, I was in for a shock. Well, since most of my readers are Lutherans, maybe I do need to say. John Gerstner is a gruff, curmudgeonly old Presbyterian. As an "old school" Presby, he is also a cessationist (i.e., believes the Spiritual Gifts ceased after the completion of the Canon of Scripture, or thereabouts). In the end, the book was about people like Zane Hodges and Charles Ryrie, who advocate a position of (basically) anti-nomianism, saying that once a person has believed, it matters not what they do for the rest of their lives. Essentially, Gerstner's book is advocating a form of Lordship Salvation (another peculiarity of American Evangelicalism), which says that once you have professed belief (at which point Jesus is your savior) you must also make him your Lord. Sanctification by works. This book was not exactly influential in a good way. But, on the other hand, it really opened me up to a broader world than my little tiny Pentecostal circle. What it amounted to was that neither position felt intuitively right, to me. And so, we have ---

19) Christ the Lord, ed. M.S. Horton
In this book, a group of Reformed scholars and pastors from the Continental tradition and a couple of Lutherans (Solarblogger being one of them, along with Rod Rosenbladt at Concordia University, Irvine) delimit the Biblical path through the controversy which the above book addresses. In other words, Gerstner, MacArthur, et al, are wrong on the one hand, and Hodges and Ryrie are wrong on the other. Some of you may have run into Rosenbladt's article, "Christ Dies for the Sins fo Christians, too!" on the interwebby. That's from this book.

18) Let God be God, Philip S. Watson
Why do Methodists write such great books on Luther? Anyways, it's must reading for all Lutherans. It's been reprinted!

17) The Last Temptation of Christ, N. Kazantzakis
Yes, I was among those (back in my Pentecostal days) who condemned Martin Scorcese's movie based on the book. I did so because I was an ignorant fool. This is a beautiful, wonderful book, and could be read by any Christian. It is a fictional "life of Christ" viewed entirely through the lens of the Garden of Gethsemane. Yeah, there are some weird parts, and it suffers from the continual criticism that his characters are not Jews, but Greeks with Jewish names, but anyone who says that this book insults or is a threat to Christ or Christianity has simply not read the book.

16) The Two Natures in Christ, Martin Chemnitz
If I had not read this book already, then perhaps Kazantzakis's book would not have been as meaningful (or would have been more offensive?).

15) A Case for Amillennialism, Kim Riddelbarger
Not so much the book, but the lecture series which became the book. Destroyed dispensationalism (i.e., Left Behind theology). Particularly important was Riddlebarger's treatment of Daniel 9, and an article he used by Meredith Kline which completely put the kibosh on the "anti-Christ in Daniel 9" gobbledygook. I have a .pdf copy of Kline's article; any one who wants it can email me.

14) Poet and Peasant & Through Peasant Eyes and The Cross and the Prodigal, both by Kenneth E. Bailey
I touched on Bailey's work on the Lucan parables in this post. If you haven't read Bailey, you should. CPH publishes another of his books, Finding the Lost: Cultural Keys to Luke 15. Read them. Read them all. Now.

13) Ein Deutsches Requiem, Johannes Brahms
Oh, wait. That's not a book. How'd that get on here?! Background music while reading?...

12) The Creationists, Ronald L. Numbers
Mark Kalthoff, Professor of History at Hillsdale College, has said of this book (I'm paraphrasing), "No one should be permitted to even TALK about creationism without having read this book." He's right. So-called "Scientific Creationism" is born of less-than-reputable stock.

11) "Because it had not rained," Meredith Kline
HT to Solarblogger, who introduced me to Kline's work. This isn't a book, it's an article. I won't summarize it, but I'll tell you that it's related to #12. Tolle lege!

10) The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative, Hans Frei
Oh no. This is one of the books associated with the Seminex debacle. How can a good Lutheran read it??!! Well, first you pick it up, you open the cover, you focus your eyes on the little black marks on the page, and (if you can decipher those little black marks) you read it. That's how.

There is, of course, a certain moment when narrative theology oversteps the bounds, but at its basic, methodological level, there is good prescription here: focus on the story. Isn't this, in actuality, what Lutherans ought to do? Does not the Gospel precede the Bible? That is, we believe the Bible because we first believe the Gospel, n'est pas? There is a point in evangelism where we must get in a person's face and say, "Jesus died for you!" We don't begin evangelism by doing textual analysis. We proclaim Christ crucified. Both of the next books illustrate this point.

9) The Intrusive Word -- Preaching to the Unbpatized, William Willimon
Perhaps the finest preacher in the United States, Willimon is a minister in the United Methodist Church. The only Lutheran whose preaching comes close (and perhaps exceeds on some Sundays, is Cwirla). Sadly, when we moved to the Triangle, Willimon had just left his post at Duke. Dang. Excerpt:

We preachers so want to be heard that we are willing to make the gospel more accessible than it really is, to remove the scandal, the offense of the cross, to deceive people into thinking that it is possible to hear without conversion. This is the great lie behind most of my apologetics, the deceit that it is possible to hear the gospel while we are still trapped in outmoded or culturally conditioned patterns of thought and hearing. How are we extricated from such patterns? Only by being confronted with the gospel. how does the gospel manage to work such power among epistemologically enslaved folk like us? I don't know. It's a miracle.

8) Theology is for Proclamtion, Gerhard Forde
The problem with putting this one on the list is that I know it had a big impact on me, but frankly I can't recall the substance. Too many of my books (95%) are in storage.

7) Real Presences, George Steiner
Well, the title certainly sounds Lutheran, doesn't it? This work is actually a piece of critical literary theory, written against the rise of "reader-response theory" and deconstruction. He argues that language is a God given gift and ought to be respected in the manner that we respect a stranger who enters our house. VERY dense reading, but if you have the courage, very rewarding.

6) The Doctrine of Baptism, Edmund Schlink & Scriptural Baptism, by Uuras Saarnivaara
I usually recommend these two together. Schlink is good but dry. Saarnivaara is an amusing little fictional dialogue between a Baptist and a Lutheran. These, and a personal conversation with R.D. Preus, put me over the top on baptismal regeneration, and infant baptism.

5) The Copernican Revolution, Thomas Kuhn
Kuhn's first book and the one that put him on the map, so to speak. In my master's thesis at Concordia University, Irvine, I took issue with the following statement:

Protestant leaders like Luther, Calvin and Melanchthon led in citing scripture against Copernicus and in urging the repression of Copernicans. Since the Protestants never possessed the police apparatus available to the Catholic Church, their repressive measures were seldom so effective as those taken by the Catholics, and they were more readily abandoned when the evidence for Copernicanism became overwhelming. But Protestants nevertheless provided the first effective institutionalized opposition. (196)
Researching the veracity of this statement (in fact, the statement is wrong) led me all around the theological and scientific world of the 16th century. What fun.

4) The Structure of Lutheranism, Werner Elert
Another one in storage. Two Kingdoms (among other things) came through loud and clear in this one. This was also handy in refuting Kuhn.

3) Eucharist and Church Fellowship in the First Four Centuries, Werner Elert
The ultimate argument for closed communion.

2) Here We Stand, Herman Sasse
Sola scriptura is not enough to make a Reformation; there must be Sola fide.

1) This is My Body, Herman Sasse
Best book ever on the Sacrament of the Lord's Table.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
For those who (like me) tend to prefer the Christus Victor theory of the atonement, here is a great post.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Via Territorial Bloggings comes this quiz. It's way off.

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: Philadelphia

Your accent is as Philadelphian as a cheesesteak! If you're not from Philadelphia, then you're from someplace near there like south Jersey, Baltimore, or Wilmington. if you've ever journeyed to some far off place where people don't know that Philly has an accent, someone may have thought you talked a little weird even though they didn't have a clue what accent it was they heard.

The Midland

The South

The Northeast

The Inland North


The West

North Central

What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Wrong. Way, way, way wrong.

I speak "Californian" through and through. Like, totally.

UPDATE: OK, so I took it again, but this time I turned off my "professionaly-trained Opera Singer" diction filter, and came up with these results:

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The West

The Inland North

The South



North Central

The Northeast

What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Closer, but still incorrect, since I do not believe that the capital of our country is Worshington, D.C., and I do not "worsh" my dirty clothes.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
I have an annoying habit (one of many!) of making a comment on someone's blog, and then either (a) forgetting that I commented, or (b) remembering that I made a comment, but not remembering where I made the comment.

Problem solved. I highly recommend going to co.mments.com and signing up for their service. It's free. It's simple. There is even a widget for displaying the conversations you are currently following on the sidebar of your own blog.

There is also a snippet of code that you can insert in your own blog's template so that if a person wants to, they can just click on the link, and they automatically subscribe to the comments of that particular post. (See the orange button at the bottom of this post!)