Friday, June 24, 2011

How To Be an Awesome Lutheran Father: Director's Commentary

Of all the Sunday morning services that I attended in my youth, the one I remember most was when I was in fifth grade.  

Unlike many congregations, which have two seats on opposite sides of the chancel for acolytes, the congregation my father was serving at the time had the practice of requiring acolytes to sit next to each other in the front row.  Like many other practices in life, this practice generally worked out just fine.  Except for when the people involved sinned.  And that's what I was doing that morning when, instead of listening to my father's sermon, I was joking around with my friend and co-acolyte, Michael.

I'm not sure what we were snickering about.  But whatever the source of the laughter, it was loud enough to cause my father to stop in the middle of his sermon and tell me to be quiet because what he was saying was important.  And while I certainly was terrified in that moment (I know it was a long time ago, but the good folks at St. Peter's might want to give that acolyte robe one more trip to the dry cleaners), the emotion I remember feeling most strongly was embarrassment.

But as embarrassing as this was for me, what I didn't realize until I had kids of my own was that this was even more embarrassing for my father.  You see, no decent father ever wants to bring attention to the fact that his child is being terrible.  And he especially doesn't want to bring attention to that when he's doing his job.  But any decent electrician father in the world in the world would dive headfirst into that embarrassment if that's what it took to stop his daughter from sticking a fork in a light socket.  Any loving chemist father would scream at the top of his lungs to stop his son from taking a sip of hydrochloric acid.  And any pastor father worthy of either vocation would call out his kid from the pulpit if that's what it took to let the kid know that busting a gut over Jeffery Dahmer jokes during the Divine Service is not acceptable.

So while, at the time, I loved my father in spite of that moment, as I've grown older and grown in the faith, I've come to love my father even more because of that moment.  Because that was a moment in which my father taught me that, more than anything else in the world, he wanted me to be a Christian.  And if the only way he could smack some Christian piety into me was to embarrass himself in front of the entire congregation, then so be it.  Because my soul was that important to him.

And so, if you want to be an awesome Lutheran father, that's how you do it, folks.  And, in the offhand chance that you don't have a pulpit from which to yell at your rotten kids, here are a few other ways to increase your concordiawesomeness:

Monday, June 13, 2011

And the comment of the year award goes to...

There's been a pretty nice discussion going on in the comments section of this post.  Informative, know, pretty much exactly the opposite of how most internet discussions go.  All of this despite the fact that conversation has really boiled down to this:

Calvinists: Calvinists CAN be sure of their salvation.
Lutherans: No they can't.

So the Calvinist says that, for certainty of his election, he can simply look to the cross.  But the Lutheran says the Calvinist can't because the Calvinist can't be certain that Jesus died for him.  The Calvinist says he can, by virtue of the fact that he believes that Jesus died for him.  The Lutheran responds by asking the Calvinist how he knows that his faith is sincere, since Scripture makes clear that many who believe themselves to be among the elect actually won't be.

So how does the Calvinist respond?  Commenter Nathan provides an answer straight from the lips of Calvin himself.  Which just goes to show in all it's big, fat, hideous glory what happens when you do what the Calvinist does, when you twist and contort and smoosh and smash all sorts of Gospel comfort into soul-crushing law in your attempt to fit God into a perfect box of sovereignty.  Kudos to Nathan, who writes: 

 As a former Calvinist, I was thoroughly amused by your accurate representation of my high-school and college aged self! I believe you owe me some royalties for character theft. I could not think of a better summary of my college years than: "I am a Calvinst, I am sure of everything........except if Jesus died for me."

For those Calvinsts who doubt whether this is a fair representation, I would encourage you to read Calvin's Commentary on Hebrews 6. There, he attempts to fit apostasy into his system by postulating that God grants to some of the unelect just enough grace to believe themselves Christians. These individuals will receive the sacraments, believe the Christ died for them, and do good works...for a time. Then, when God has fulfilled his hidden purpose, he withdraws said grace and the person plunges into ruin with all the other reprobate. After reading this gloomy hypothesis and seeing how it inevitably results from Calvin's logical premises, I realized that it was impossible to find anything which could convince me that I was not among the reprobate. Everything could have been of part of the ruse by which God was tricking me into trusting myself to be saved when I actually had no hope at all. 

To make a long story short, I am now a Lutheran and I am liberated by the assurance of trusting Christ's words to me in my baptism.

So congrats, Nathan, on winning the Comment of the Year Award.  You don't get a prize or anything.  But if you're ever in my neck of the woods, I'll buy you a beer.

Lutheran Satire goes meta.

For the most part, the purpose of the Lutheran Satire videos is to teach.  The hope is that, by making fun of false doctrine, bad theology and the like, viewers can learn why such things ought not be confessed/practiced.  I suppose the motto of Lutheran Satire could be Teach the faith by making fun of stuff.

So that's for the most part.  Occasionally I'll do a video that has no instructional value, a video that is catechetically vacuous.  Things Your Lutheran Sister Totally Loves: Getting Asked Out By Seminarians was one.  Here's another.  I hope you enjoy.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Super True Stories: The Original John Calvin

Recently a bunch of Calvinists have told me, "hey, I like your videos."  And so I responded by making a video that makes fun of Calvinists and, in particular, a doctrine that is called the limited atonement.  Because I'm sort of a jerk that way.  So here it is:

If you're never heard the term before, as the video explains, the limited atonement means that, when Jesus died on the cross, He made atonement only for the elect.  In other words, He forgave only the sins of those who go to heaven.  Jesus did not, however, shed his blood for those who are condemned.  And he didn't do this because His Father hated those people and decided before time that He was going to send them hell.  That's what committed Calvinists believe.  Very rosy stuff.

So the limited atonement is a vile doctrine.  It's a terrible heresy that one cannot confess and still hold to the words of 1 John 4:16, that God is love.  And, as such, it certainly deserves to be mocked.  And, in response to my mockery, some Calvinists have offered objections to the content of the video.  So, since I'm trying to write more often on my bloggerino here, let me go ahead and address a couple objections here.

1. It's unfair to quote Westboro Baptist Church as a representative of Calvinist theology.

If you're not familiar with the name, Westboro Baptist Church is the little cult of nutjobs who go around picketing military funerals, saying that God is pleased at the sight of dead American soldiers because our nation has become supportive of homosexuality.  So, at first blush, it may seem unfair to quote such a nasty group of folks who make almost all Calvinists in the universe want to barf.  But here's why it's perfectly fair.

Phelps and his group are hardcore Calvinists.  And they act the way they do because of their Calvinist theology.  If you have the stomach to look around Westboro's website, you'll see their train of thought quite clear.  It works like this:

When it came time for Christ to die, God put His Son on the cross.  But God would not give His blood to certain people because He hates them and wants them to go to hell.  When people engage in open sin (ie homosexuality or endorsement of homosexuality) this reveals that they are among this group of people that God hates and wants to go to hell.  Therefore we don't have to treat these people with love.  In fact, we won't even pray for them because that would be an act of defiance against the God who wants the in hell.

So that's pretty much taking Calvinism to its logical conclusion.  I'm glad that most Calvinists don't do this.  But just because Phelps does, that doesn't mean he's not a genuine Calvinist.  All men reflect the behavior of their gods in their own behavior.  And Fred Phelps refuses to love his neighbor because Fred Phelps' god first refused to love his neighbor. That's not a me problem.  That's a Calvinist god problem.

2. It's inaccurate to say that Calvinists can't be sure of their salvation.

I'm aware that Calvinsts say they can be sure of their salvation.  But my point is that, regardless of what they say, Calvinists can't be certain of their salvation.  According to their own theological documents, such as the Westminster Larger Catechism Question 80, Calvinists say they can know that they are part of the elect by looking within themselves by the aide of the Holy Spirit.

But validating your faith by looking to your faith is not certainty.  It's circular hopelessness.  Because how do you know that you really do believe?  How do you know that you haven't just convinced yourself that the Spirit said you are among the elect because you desperately want to be among the elect?  After all, if we're going to take Matthew 7 seriously, a whole bunch of people that Jesus says He never knew will have been laboring under the delusion that they were among the elect.

If you want to be certain of your salvation, you need to be able to look to things outside of your deceitful heart.  You need to be able to look to the Cross and say that you know that Jesus won your salvation there.  And you need to be able to look at your baptism and say that Jesus delivered salvation to you there.  But Calvinists can't do either of that.  They can't look to the cross for assurance because Jesus didn't die for everyone and therefore might not have died for them.  And they can't look to their baptism because it can't deliver salvation to you if Christ never won it for you in the first place.


My name is Pastor Hans Fiene.  Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

For the Ladies

Someone suggested to me awhile ago that my videos were a little dude-centric.  He was probably right.  Even though that was kind of a girl thing to point out. 

Anyway, here's a new series for the ladies:

Things Your Lutheran Sister Totally Loves:
Getting Asked Out By Seminarians