Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Two Faces of Rome: Director's Commentary

A few people in the universe have requested that I provide citations for my accusations of papal bufoonery leveled in my latest video, which is this:  

So if citations be what ye want, here they be:


"The clay became man at the moment in which a being for the first time was capable of forming, however dimly, the thought of "God". The first Thou that—however stammeringly—was said by human lips to God marks the moment in which the spirit arose in the world. Here the Rubicon of anthropogenesis was crossed. For it is not the use of weapons or fire, not new methods of cruelty or of useful activity, that constitute man, but rather his ability to be immediately in relation to God. This holds fast to the doctrine of the special creation of man."
-Joseph Ratzinger (aka His Current Popeness)

"There are so many scientific proofs in favor of evolution which appears to be a reality we can see and which enriches our knowledge of life and being as such. But on the other, the doctrine of evolution does not answer every query, especially the great philosophical question: where does everything come from? And how did everything start which ultimately led to man? "
-Pope Benedict XVI

In other words, for about forty bagillion generations, there was death in the world.  Then God gave Adam and Eve souls because He finally evolved the species enough for these two to call Him God.  Then they fell into sin and brought death into the world but that death was defeated when Christ became sin for us on the cross.  Except that apparently there were already forty bagillion generations of death before this.  So, in the end, the death and resurrection of Jesus are meaningless and the Bible cannot be trusted.

Higher Criticism:

"From the point of view of biblical criticism, it is necessary to mention immediately that the first account of man's creation is chronologically later than the second. The origin of this latter is much more remote. This more ancient text is defined as "Yahwist" because the term "Yahweh" is used to denominate God. It is difficult not to be struck by the fact that the image of God presented there has quite considerable anthropomorphic traits (among others, we read in fact that "...the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life" (Gen 2:7).

In comparison with this description, the first account, that is, the one held to be chronologically later, is much more mature both as regards the image of God, and as regards the formulation of the essential truths about man. This account derives from the priestly and "elohist" tradition, from "Elohim", the term used in that account for God. "
-Pope John Paul II

In other words, Genesis was not written by Moses, but was cobbled together over the centuries by a bunch of guys ("traditions") who weren't prophets but who had developed a deeper view of God throughout the centuries.  I can trust that the words of God, given through His appointed prophets, are true.  But  I cannot trust that the words of a bunch of not prophets are true. 

Denying that Faith is Necessary for Salvation:

"With respect to the way in which the salvific grace of God — which is always given by means of Christ in the Spirit and has a mysterious relationship to the Church — comes to individual non-Christians, the Second Vatican Council limited itself to the statement that God bestows it 'in ways known to himself'."
-Joseph Ratzinger

In other words, saving grace can and does come to unbelievers.  But it doesn't come to them through faith in Christ because they don't have faith in Christ.  Therefore, according to Rome, faith in Christ in not necessary for salvation.  (This is why it is that the Pope could, in good conscience, get his smooch on with the Koran.  Because, according to Vatican 2, God can still bring people to salvation through the Koran's words.  You know, those same words that deny the Trinity, the divine nature of Christ, His crucifixion and resurrection.  Oh, and also those words that say you should kill people who believe those things about Jesus.)

Condemning Salvation By Grace through Faith Alone:

"If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema."

In other words, if you are one of those evil Lutherans who believes that you are saved solely by the grace of God through faith in Christ, then you are to be anathema, a Greek word frequently used by Saint Paul, which means "accursed" or "condemned."  Which is totally a bummer, since that's what the same Apostle Paul wanted you to believe when he was using that term.

Scriptural Interpretation Monopoly:

"The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him."

In other words, only the Catholic Church can interpret the Bible.  And if their interpretation completely contradicts the pain words of Scripture, deal with it, Mr. Sola Scriptura Doo Doo Head.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Your Awesome Evangelism Ideas: Director's Commentary

When I was a student at the seminary, a required book in one of my classes was called Just Words.  Written by a Lutheran theologian named J.A.O Preus III, the goal of this book is to encourage pastors to dive into the deep waters of Biblical language in their preaching.  So, instead of just preaching 20 minutes of doctrinal assertions, don't be afraid to speak of death, condemnation, life and salvation the way the Scriptures so frequently do--with images of deserts and drowning, with themes of making low and bringing up, with metaphors of shepherds and seeds.

As one with a B.A. in English who loves to bit smacked in the ears with a bit of prose from the pulpit, I think Preus' admonition is a meet, right and salutary one.  Not only does it enrich the layman's understanding of the Scriptures when he hears these themes expanded and expounded in his pastor's sermon, it also helps the pastor develop a backbone of structure in his sermon, which is vital to any good bit of preaching.

There are times, however, when diving into the deep waters of Biblical language can cause you to bonk your head on the bottom of the pool.  And I think that most frequently happen when, instead of using images, themes and metaphors to enhance our theology and practice, we actually use them to establish or justify our theology and practice.

So, for example, pastoral themes, themes of fields and flocks, shepherds and sheep, abound in the Scriptures.  But when it comes to these themes and their connection to the pastoral office, they serve to paint a picture of what the office is, rather than to establish what that office is.  So from these themes, we can better understand how it is that pastors are to feed their members with the word, how they are to love them and to keep them safe from the wolves of false teachers.  But they don't tell us specifically in what way pastors are to drive the wolves away.  And because of that, I shouldn't conclude that I have the right to reenact the baseball scene from The Untouchables on any problem members in the congregation because any decent shepherd would bludgeon a wolf to death with his staff, given the chance.  Rather, I follow the clear, non-metaphorical words of Paul, such as Titus 3:10-11, in order to know how to be faithful to the image of shepherd painted in the Scriptures.

And just as you don't establish doctrine on Biblical themes, imagery and metaphors, you also don't justify novel practices with them.  So if a congregation or pastor has something that they would like to do, whether in the Divine Service or as a kind of community event, they ought to be able to demonstrate from the clear, direct words of Scripture that this will promote pure proclamation and understanding of the Word and that it will accurately reflect the love of the God who bought us through the blood of Christ. 

And whenever you depart from that guideline (or whatever you want to call it), it becomes really easy to lather yourself up in any practice you want and then claim that it's justified by citing figurative language from the Bible.

And yet, that's precisely what's happened in some circles where Christians have cited the Scripture's use of spiritual warfare language in an attempt to justify the Church embracing the hyperviolent sport known as MMA (Mixed Martial Arts).  If you're not familiar with the stuff, here's the YouTube link of the first video that popped up when I searched for it.  Classy stuff.

So, after all, we are called to put on the whole armor of God, right?  And Christ does rejoice in His victory over the devil, does He not?  Therefore, it must be acceptable for Christians to engage in MMA, and even for congregations to host these events, because, after all, our warrior Jesus didn't tap, right?

Well, there are two points of response here. 

1.  Well, no, Jesus didn't tap.  But He also didn't fight back.  To use the imagery of MMA, the way Jesus defeated the devil was to get kneed in the face until He was dead.  As Isaiah 53 puts it, He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.  So if you want an MMA fight to accurately portray the manner in which Christ fought against the devil, I suppose you could try having one guy refuse to punch back until he was brain dead.  But I doubt that would make the cut of 2011's Greatest MMA knockouts.

2. Just because we are called to be soldiers of the cross does not mean that we are free to kick our neighbor in the head.  The figurative language of spiritual warfare is meant to enhance our understanding of what it means for the devil to try to rip you away from the faith.  It's not meant to prescribe how to deal with our neighbor, in particular, whether we may or may not kick him in the head.  If you want to know if you may kick your neighbor in the head, there are plenty of clear, non-figurative verses that deal with that issue directly.  Such as this one.  And this one.  And this one.  And those verses teach us that Christians shouldn't beat the crap out of each other, even if that's what real life warriors do.  Just as they teach us that pastors shouldn't hit troublemakers in the head with big pieces of wood, even though that's what a real life shepherd does to the real life wolves.

So, when it comes to your preaching, don't be afraid of images of deserts and drowning.  When it comes to your teaching, wrap yourself in the themes of making low and bringing up.  And when it comes to your prayer life, your devotional life, your worship life, dive headfirst into the metaphors of shepherds and sheep.

But don't dive so far down that you bonk your head hard enough to think you're doing the kingdom any favors by encouraging those clad in the armor of God to bionic elbow each other in the throat.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Clever Church Signs: Director's Commentary

I'm a week behind with posting some thoughts on this video.  So I'll just put it very simply:

If Jesus were to appear before you in all His glory, you would not greet Him in a relaxed manner.  You would not call Him your Homeboy.  You would not point to Him and say "there's my co-pilot."  And you would not try to make him laugh by exercising some terrible pun as His majesty shone around you.

Instead, you would fall on your face and wet your pants.  Because our God is a consuming fire.

And if we want people outside of the Church to know how to approach Him with reverence and godly fear, then we ought not use our church signs to speak about Him in such a silly way.