Legitimate Government, Evangelical Lutheran Style

‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Hermann Sasse.

‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Hermann Sasse. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 I will shortly be posting an article at All Along the Watchtower (Jess’ site) on Luther’s Two Kingdoms doctrine. [It is now up, and is here.] In it I am talking about the interference we are currently seeing in our churches, both here and in the UK, from the secular authorities. I think you should read it. I will update with a link when it is available.

In any case, while researching that article, I came across an essay by Hermann Sasse entitled: THE SOCIAL DOCTRINE OF THE AUGSBURG CONFESSION AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE FOR THE PRESENT This essay was originally published in the Kirchlich-soziale Blätter in 1930. In April 1928 he was called to be pastor at St. Marienkirche, Berlin, and Sozialpfarrer in Innere-mission (“social pastor in inner mission”).

[…]The assertion “The power of the state arises from the people” is false according to Lutheran doctrine, if it would be more than a formal description of the proceedings in a modern state, by which a government is formed. The power of the state proceeds from God. One last reminder of this lives on in the religious formulas and forms with which modern peoples still surround the state and civil life.

Any political power which has arisen out of anarchy may become a God-given governing authority, if it fulfills the tasks of the office of governing authority. This task is the assurance of peace and the maintenance of law through external power, the symbol of which is the sword. The governing authority is a “Servant of God, the avenger for those who do evil.” [Rom 13:4] Legal governing authority is distinguished from religious power in that it not only (as does the latter) possesses power [Macht] but uses its power in the service of law. Both belong to the essence of the state; Power and law [Macht und das Recht]. A governing authority which bears the sword in vain, which no longer has the fortitude to decisively punish the law-breaker, is in the process of burying itself [gräbt sich selbst das Grab]. A state which removes the concepts “right” and “wrong” from jurisprudence, and replaces them with “useful” and “injurious”, “healthy” and “ill”, “socially valuable” and “socially inferior”, [a state] which in the place of the principal of remuneration places the principal of inoculation [Unschädlichmachung] a state which in its civil law dissolves marriage and family, ceases to be a constitutional state and thus the governing authority.

A governing authority which knowingly or unknowingly makes the interests of social position or class the norm for the formation and definition of law, or which allows the norms of the law to be dictated by the so-called “legal consciousness” of the time, sinks to the level of raw power. This danger exists now—and this is not addressed by the Augustana—for all governing authorities, and shall for all time. It exists especially in the modern democratic forms of government and in the dictatorship. For the result of the secularization process of the last century has been that the consciousness of eternal legal norms which are not determined by man, has nearly perished. But where this consciousness ceases to exist, there God-given power is changed into demonic power, resulting in its ruin among peoples and states. But wherever on earth a governing authority—irrespective of which form—is conscious of a [civil] righteousness independent of its will, exercises the power of its office, upholds the law and guards the peace, there it is “God’s good gift”, there it is “by the grace of God.”

The essay (PDF) is available here. The paragraphs and emphasis are mine.

The German statement of where legitimate power comes from may be jarring to Anglo-American readers, after all we have been taught that the people are sovereign. I don’t find them mutually exclusive, however. God established the family for man before the fall, and government after the fall, to provide a semblance of justice in the world. It’s easy enough to see how, under God’s direction, families got together to form first cities and then states to protect themselves. It is also important for us to remember that all the revolutions in the English-speaking world (and only there, strangely) have been more counter-revolutions, than anything else, always the goal has been the restoration of “The Good Old Law“. That is also why we have never gone into the stage of anarchy that has followed all the other (French, Russian, et al) revolutions. We were going back.

The other thing here is that you see how Weimar manged to delegitimize itself. How close are our governments coming to doing the same? I’d say very close, indeed.

Lutheran FAQs

The Martin Luther window at St. Matthew's Luth...

This is sort of a follow-on to yesterday’s post about traditional worship and it shows why for me the Lutheran Church has become home. Is it possible that say the Episcopal Church could have fulfilled this role? Perhaps, but in America it has become a rather liberal church, and may not have suited me as well.

And so some Lutheran FAQs from Steve’s Lutheran Pages


My Lutheranism FAQ

After leaving Pentecostalism, I continued to participate for a while on a Web discussion board run by people from one of the Pentecostal churches of which I was once a member. I wasn’t shy about posting my reasons for returning to the Lutheran church. The participants there were likewise not shy about, to put it politely, asking me a lot of questions in return about Lutheranism, so as a result I developed some stock answers to the questions with which I was most frequently challenged by Pentecostals. These are given further below.

The questions below are in fact pretty much the same questions that led me out of the Lutheran church more than thirty years ago. At that time, I was not patient or mature enough to investigate, or even to seek, whatever answers to those questions Lutheran teaching might have held for me; I instead accepted at face value the answers given (either explicitly or implicitly) by various Pentecostals I encountered in person or in my reading. After nearly twenty years, after life had very thoroughly taught me the inadequacy of the Pentecostal approach, I finally became willing to go back to investigate the answers Lutheran teaching could have given me. The fruit of that effort was eventually a very gratifying return to membership in the Lutheran church.

These questions have been taken nearly verbatim from Web discussions I have had with Pentecostals. The answers are expanded versions of my postings in reply to those questions. (Click on the questions to go to my answers futher below on the page.)

    1. The Lutheran church does not fully understand the Bible—it’s a church 500 years out of date. For instance, it’s completely at a loss as to what 1 Corinthians 12-14 means; so do you really think that what Luther taught in the 1500’s is the end all and be all of Biblical doctrine?
    1. The Greek word used for “to baptize” (baptizo) in the scriptures means only “to immerse.” Why do Lutherans disobey Jesus’ command by instead using sprinkling or pouring to baptize?
    1. How can Lutherans believe both in salvation by faith and in infant baptism? How can an infant have faith?
    1. Isn’t Lutheran theology Calvinistic? I heard that they don’t believe in free will.
    1. I grew up in a Lutheran church and never even knew a person could be born again and have a personal relationship with Jesus until I heard it at a revival another church was having in our town. Then I went forward in response to an altar call to accept Jesus, and my life has completely changed! Why don’t Lutheran churches teach people to be born again?
    1. Good grief. With Lutheranism, one settles for a lifeless, dead “churchianity.” Can’t you see that Lutheran theology results in whole churches full of people who do nothing, but who think they’re saved anyway just because they were baptized as infants?
  1. In Luther’s time, his followers persecuted and put to death Anabaptists. Blood was shed in the name of the doctrine you defend. How can you possibly justify that?

Answers and explanations at Steve’s Lutheran Pages.

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This And That

John Bunyan

John Bunyan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our main post for today will be coming soon. It is the next in Jessica’s series on education and it is very good, don’t miss it.

I just have some miscellany to take care of.

Many of you know that some of what I write here is inspired by Jessica ‘s posts and/or comments on All Along the Watchtower, and vice versa,sometimes simply because our comments are too long for a commbox. So, if you’re not reading both, as many of you do, you may go “Huh, where did that come from?”occasionally. Her focus is far tighter there than ours is here, on Christianity and church history.

After talking with her and finding out how similar our views on many subjects are, I asked her to be my co-author here, because she has expertise in areas I don’t. Her series on education is an example. A reverse of that is that the Robert E. Lee quote on duty that I ended my series with, was used by me in a comment on her blog, and she commented that she knew little of that American hero other than what I had written, so I offered to expand some on that. The result was Duty and Honor, which started here.

The other thing that I promised in connection with it was a reading list. That is here

  1. American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War, By Bruce Catton
  2. BRUCE CATTON’S CIVIL WAR-3 VOL. IN ONE: MR. LINCOLN’S ARMY, GLORY ROAD, & A STILLNESS AT APPOMATTOX, By Bruce Catton
  3. Grant Takes Command, By Bruce Catton
  4. Grant Moves South, By Bruce Catton
  5. Lee’s Lieutenants: A study in command (3 volumes), By Douglas Southall Freeman.
  6. Lee, By Douglas Southall Freeman

Most of these I read when I was in grade school or junior high, and they had a lot to do with my love of history.

Similarly I collected the information on the books backing Jessica’s recent Octave on the Church of the East, which starts here.

  1. Martyred Church the, By David Wilmshurst
  2. The Church of the East: An Illustrated History of Assyrian Christianity, By Christoph Baumer
  3. The Church of the East: A Concise History, By Wilhelm Baum, Dietmar W. Winkler
  4. Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy, By John Anthony McGuckin
  5. Cyril of Alexandria and the Nestorian Controversy: The Making of a Saint and of a Heretic (Oxford Early Christian Studies), By Susan Wessel
  6. Ephrem the Syrian: Hymns (Classics of Western Spirituality), By Ephrem the Syrian
  7. The Westminster Handbook to Patristic Theology, By John Anthony McGuckin

And also at the Watchtower, one of Jessica’s contributor’s is doing a series on Bunyan’s classic Pilgrim’s Progress which was so important in the settlement of the Massachusetts’ Bay Colony.

  1. The Pilgrim’s Progress, By John Bunyan

One other thing that we share is the running of our corporate site, these books are all available there, as I suspect you’ll have some difficulty finding them elsewhere. The link to that is here, there is also another blog of ours there, which is where you can find some technical electrical articles and also some articles on leadership. But fair warning, time constraints mean that we don’t update that site as often as we do our main blogs.

I was also very pleased to note that my favorite Lutheran blogger Rev. Karl Hess of De Profundis Clamavi ad Te, Domine, has followed me here.  I have found it difficult to find Lutheran blogs, I subscribe to several Episcopal/CofE, several Catholic, and a few Fundamental, and even a Baptist, but Lutherans are rare. Jess and I would like to welcome him here and suggest if he has time he might enjoy the Watchtower as well, which Jess has managed to keep ecumenical without being syncretic, which I think is no mean feat.

Sola Scriptura

Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgent...

Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum, 95 theses (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s time I think that we do a bit of definitional work. The Church of England has gotten itself into a huge controversy because under its rule the laity, for the time being at least, has decided against having women bishops. I personally can easily understand the arguments from both sides, and I further have noted that many other churches (or their members), and other groups are sticking their oars in as well.

From where I sit many of the arguments against sound a bit misogynist but, there are cogent arguments also,  and there are cogent arguments for it as well. As I said yesterday on the Watchtower, I don’t really have a position, and it is a matter for the Church of England.

One thing that I as a Lutheran has occasionally had hurled at my head is that we, and the Anglicans run on Sola Scriptura. It is true, we do but I doubt that many really know what we mean.

First the Anglican and Lutheran churches in their origins were primarily efforts to reform the church of Rome. Both churches have substantial memberships still who are sometimes more Catholic than many members of the Roman Catholic church. We developed somewhat differently because England and Germany were different in the 16th century but, in our essences we are much the same.

Sola Scriptura is of course Latin for “by Scripture Alone” and we all know that we can prove anything by cherry picking the Bible. It is one of the atheist communities greatest hobbies. But what do we, as the great reform churches mean, In this case, I think Wikipedia comes close enough.

Sola scriptura (Latinablative, “by scripture alone”) is the doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. Consequently, sola scriptura demands only those doctrines are to be admitted or confessed that are found directly within or indirectly by using validlogical deduction or valid deductive reasoning from scripture. However, sola scriptura is not a denial of other authorities governing Christian life and devotion. Rather, it simply demands that all other authorities are subordinate to, and are to be corrected by, the written word of God. Sola scriptura was a foundational doctrinal principle of the Protestant Reformation held by the Reformers and is a formal principle of Protestantism today (see Five solas).

During the Reformation, authentication of scripture was governed by the discernible excellence of the text as well as the personal witness of the Holy Spirit to the heart of each man. Furthermore, per sola scriptura, the relationship of Scriptural authority to pastoral care was well exampled by the Westminster Confession of Faith which stated:

VII. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

Here the phrase “due use of the ordinary means” includes appeals to pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11-14). As such, sola scriptura reflects a careful tension between the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture necessary for its role as final authority, and the occasional need for its meaning to be revealed by exposition (Hebrews 5:12).

Emphasis mine

My point here is that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura can certainly be misused, when it is used correctly, it is really not that different, except that a Lutheran will deny both Papal Infallibility and the Magisterium, for what to us are completely scriptural and sound reasons. In our view, the Pope (especially at the time of the Reformation) is a Temporal King and thus of the world, while the church is of the right, or God’s Kingdom.

The Church of England is somewhat different than the Lutheran Church on the one hand and the Catholic Church on the other. In many ways, it is a Mugwump of a church. But, it’s views are no less valid than mine as a Lutheran, or a Catholic’s.

I also should note that I commend the C of E for it’s intrepid march into very troubled waters on this issue. If all the right were on one side, it wouldn’t be so controversial.

[I also want to note that Jess has been writing the last few days, at the Watchtower about this controversy. I strongly recommend her articles.]

What does this mean… to be Lutheran?

The Martin Luther window at St. Matthew's Luth...

The Martin Luther window at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Charleston, SC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since I happen to be finding good material lately, I’m going to continue today on the Lutheran church. Partially because some of my British friends have indicated to me that they know essentially nothing about us. Something that should be stressed, as it is in this article is that we do not follow Martin Luther, although he is one of us and a very wise teacher, we follow only Jesus Christ, and him crucified. The other thing is Lutherans are conservative, the Reformation happened because we were trying to conserve and reform the church. As conservative, American democrats say about their party, we didn’t leave the church, the church left us. This is the foundation of our lead in to many teachings, “The church has always taught…” For all my Catholic friends who just blew a gasket, we recognize that for the most part you came back to the fold. You just got too involved with what we call “The Kingdom of the Left” as opposed to the “Kingdom of the Right”. To us you are were the schismatics. This article is by  writing in ”believe, teach, and confess”it is one of the best summaries of what it really means to be a Lutheran that I have every read. Enjoy.

Over the past three decades I am often asked what it means to be Lutheran. What do Lutherans believe? What is most important? How does that work out in practice? This is just a brief introduction to those questions. Despite “popular” views, Lutherans do not follow Martin Luther. Rather, we confess the same Christian faith he did; hence we do not support everything he wrote. Martin Luther appeared at critical time in church history and had a significant influence on the entire Christian Church, but we do not “follow him,” rather Jesus Christ and him crucified. The name “Lutheran” was originally a derogatory term used by Luther’s enemies. Later, it became a term to distinguish itself from Reformed (Zwingli, Calvin, and later Arminius) as well as from the radical reformation.

Historic Continuity: “The Church has always taught…”

The Lutheran Church sees itself in continuity with the historic Christian Church throughout the ages, not something invented in the 16th century. That is, in most of our official writings (called the Lutheran Confessions), we often use the phrase “As the Church has always taught” to show that what Luther and others publicly were teaching was consistent with the historic church. We frequently use the term “catholic” (meaning “universal”) to denote the true Church throughout the ages, not in reference to the specific church body known as the Roman Catholic Church headed by the pope. This phrase is critical in understanding Lutherans, because while sometimes we look like Roman Catholics, we see the papal church deviating in the Middle Ages and onward from that historic faith. At the time of the Reformation, Luther and others continued what was done that was consistent with the Bible and the Church through the ages, but ridded itself of false teachings (especially in worship). In that sense Lutherans were “conservative” keeping that which was solid and discarding other elements. They could and did keep paintings, statures, icons, as aids to help people learn the stories of the Bible. On the other hand, Zwingli, Calvin and other Reformed leaders wanted to distance their churches from anything that looked Roman Catholic. For them, in regard to worship, they made significant alterations to the order of service and even destroyed what appeared in churches. The Reformed tended to get rid of paintings, statues, and icons. Lutherans use the phrase “believe, teach, and confess” to denote those statement which reflect accurately what the Bible teachings. In line with that, Lutherans accept the three Ecumenical Creeds as accurate statements of the Christian faith from the Bible (Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed). You can find them here.

Continue reading What does this mean… to be Lutheran? « ”believe, teach, and confess”.

Creative Commons License Believe, teach, and confess byRichard P Shields is licensed under aCreative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work atexegete77.wordpress.com.

I have little to add to this except to hope that you have learned something about a part of Christianity, that is not particularly good at blowing its own horn. But do remember this is one of our core beliefs:

The reality under the cross is that we should expect persecution, suffering, and even death. Living in this world as Christians means life under the cross of Christ.

Luther: The Faith of Unbaptized Infants

Portrait of Martin Luther as an Augustinian Monk

Portrait of Martin Luther as an Augustinian Monk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most of you know I’m Lutheran but, what exactly is a Lutheran. The Lutheran church was, of course founded by Martin Luther, in one of the opening salvos of the Reformation, and is the oldest of Protestant Churches followed closely by the Anglican, with which we share many things, as indeed we do with Catholics as well.

That may be part of our problem over the last 500 years we have developed many strains of Lutheranism, in one place we may be a very liberal church, while simultaneously next door being, very close to as traditional as the traditional part of the Catholic church. Personally, I’ve very much on the traditional end of the scale, while my particular branch is pretty liberal.

This seems to be another way we have become a lot like Anglicans. I can find you a Lutheran Church where God is Love is the main gospel proclaimed, the rest seems to be on the cafeteria plan but I can also find a Lutheran church where confession is practiced, and the veneration of Mary is encouraged. Sometimes we get lost in our own church.

My own theory of operation is that when I don’t understand something, I look for authority, and as a Lutheran that usually means Martin Luther, of course almost all Catholic teaching up to the Reformation is allowed, after all Luther was an Augustinian monk as well as a priest.

I was raised strangely enough in the United Church of Christ, yep the same church in which Reverend Wright serves. My church unlike his was a pretty conservative church in the German tradition, nearly Lutheran itself, which makes sense, as we’ll see.

My church was an Evangelical and Reformed church before the merger that created the UCC. But as has been said, part of the problem with Protestantism is that sometimes it gets down almost to Tom’s Church and Dick’s Church. My home church was a split from a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, and no I don’t know why, either. It might have been because Matilda had a prettier Easter bonnet than Maude,. Sometimes it’s that trivial.

As usual soon after the church was formed, there was a need for a cemetery, which was located about 3.5 miles from town, just over the county line, which seemed weird to me. When I was a trustee, my main responsibility was the cemetery, so I found out why. The first member of the congregation to die was a girl who died of whooping-cough, and because of health regulations, her body could not be transported across county lines in those days. So something had to be done. Since the church needed a cemetery it was decided to locate it on the other side of the county line, the logical place was next to the Catholic cemetery. All went well and it was done.

But there was another anomaly, our cemetery ran along the south side of the Catholic cemetery and then across the back of it. In that back part there was a grave of a baby girl, whose date of death was before the establishment of the cemetery. I got curious about this and dug around in our records, and found the story.

This baby, a girl, had lived less than an hour after she was born, and was Catholic, for whatever reason she had not been baptized, and so could not be buried in the Catholic cemetery, and so had been buried behind it. When we bought ours, one of the stipulations (besides maintaining a hog proof fence around the cemetery) was to care for this  lonely grave.

The article which follows from  writing in De Profundis Clamavi ad Te, Domine, tells you why this was completely acceptable to my church.

Thus the spoken Word is indeed the word of a human being, but it has been instituted by divine authority for salvation.  For God wants to govern the world through angels and through human beings, His creatures, as through His servants, just as He gives light through the sun, the moon, and even through fire and candles.  Here, too, you could say: “No external thing profits.  The sun is an external thing.  Hence it profits nothing; that is, it does not give light, it does not warm, etc.”  Who would put up with one who argues in such a silly way?

Therefore the rule of which I have also spoken above stands.  It states that God no longer wants to act in accordance with His extraordinary or, as the scholastics express it, absolute power but wants to act through His creatures, whom He does not want to be idle.  Thus He gives food, not as He did to the Jews in the desert, when He gave manna from heaven, but through labor, when we diligently perform the work of our calling.  Furthermore, He no longer wants to form human beings from a clod, as He formed Adam, but He makes use of a union of a male and a female, on whom He bestows His blessing.  This they call God’s “ordered” power, namely, when He makes use of the service either of angels or of human beings.  Thus in the prophet Amos (3:7) there is the noteworthy statement that God does nothing that He does not first reveal to His prophets. 

But if at times some things happen without the service either of angels or of human beings, you would be right in saying: “What is beyond us does not concern us.”  We must keep the ordered power in mind and form our opinion on the basis of it.  God is able to save without Baptism, just as we believe that infants who, as sometimes happens through the neglect of their parents or through some other mishap, do not receive Baptism are not damned on this account.  But in the church we must judge and teach, in accordance with God’s ordered power, that without the outward Baptism no one is saved.  Thus it is due to God’s ordered power that water makes wet, that fire burns, etc.  But in Babylon Daniel’s companions continued to live unharmed in the midst of the fire (Dan. 3:25).  This took place through God’s absolute power, in accordance with which He acted at that time; but He does not command us to act in accordance with this absolute power, for He wants us to act in accordance with the ordered power.

Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, AE 3:273-274

Because daily I see and hear with what carelessness and lack of solemnity—to say nothing of out-and-out levity—people treat the high, holy, and comforting sacrament of baptism for infants, in part caused, I believe, by the fact that those present understand nothing of what is being said and done, I have decided that it is not only helpful but necessary to conduct the service in the German language  For this reason I have translated those portions that used to be said in Latin in order to begin baptizing in German, so that the sponsors and others present may be all the more aroused to faith and earnest devotion and so that the priests who baptize have to show more diligence for the sake of the listeners.

Out of a sense of Christian commitment, I appeal to all those who baptize, sponsor infants, or witness a baptism to take to heart the tremendous work and great solemnity present here  For here in the words of these prayers you hear how plaintively and earnestly the Christian church brings the infant to God, confesses before him with such unchanging, undoubting words that the infant is possessed by the devil and a child of sin and wrath, and so diligently asks for help and grace through baptism, that the infant may become a child of God.

Therefore, you have to realize that it is no joke at all to take action against the devil and not only to drive him away from the little child but also to hang around the child’s neck such a mighty, lifelong enemy.  Thus it is extremely necessary to stand by the poor child with all your heart and with a strong faith and to plead with great devotion that God, in accordance with these prayers, would not only free the child from the devil’s power but also strengthen the child, so that the child might resist him valiantly in life and in death.  I fear that people turn out so badly after baptism because we have dealt with them in such a cold and casual way and have prayed for them at their baptism without any zeal at all.

…see to it that you are present there in true faith, that you listen to God’s Word, and that you pray along earnestly.  For wherever the priest says, “Let us pray,” he is exhorting you to pray with him.  Moreover, all sponsors and the others present ought to speak along with him the words of his prayer in their hearts to God  For this reason, the priest should speak these prayers very clearly and slowly, so that the sponsors can hear and understand them and can also pray with the priest with one mind in their hearts, carrying before God the need of this little child with all earnestness, on the child’s behalf setting themselves against the devil with all their strength, and demonstrating that they take seriously what is no joke to the devil.

For this reason it is right and proper not to allow drunken and boorish priests to baptize nor to select good-for-nothings as godparents.  Instead fine, moral, serious, upright priests and godparents ought to be chose, who can be expected to treat the matter with seriousness and true faith, lest this high sacrament be abandoned to the devil’s mockery and dishonor God, who in this sacrament showers upon us the vast and boundless riches of His grace…

Martin Luther, “Baptismal Booklet”, in The Book of Concord, eds. Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert, pp. 371-373.

Continue reading Luther: The Faith of Unbaptized Infants « De Profundis Clamavi ad Te, Domine.

It is good for us to recall that the Lutheran Church stands for something along with our Christian brothers, and is not really simply the church that successfully broke from Rome. We, like our brethren believe this:

If you stand for nothing, You’ll fall for anything.

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