Saturday, September 9, 2017

We have moved! Our new home is now directly tied to the Gottesdienst website, under the new name Gottesblog.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Pastor’s Daily Prayer

At ordination, Pastors promise to be constant in prayer for those who are under his pastoral care. And yet, this seems to be one of the most difficult things to do. On the one hand, we do not know what to pray for as we ought, and on the other hand, the task can seem daunting and time-consuming when we consider our great need and the needs of our people.

Nevertheless, we have promised to do it. And anything that must get done must have a time and place and a plan. Luther is recorded as saying at one point that he had so much to get done that he couldn’t not spend at least two hours in prayer each day just to get it done. If only we had the same inclination.

I have found that “A Pastor’s Daily Prayer” in the TLH Agenda (pages 117–120) to be a helpful daily resource for keeping to a daily regimen of prayer for all. It misses nothing. It includes a confession of our own sin and failings, a thanksgiving for family and brothers in office, requests for God’s help for all members in need, for church officers, for Sunday School teachers, for our seminaries and universities, for the government.

I don’t stick to it word for word every time. Sometimes just beginning this prayer calls to mind specific petitions for family, friends, members, or the church at large, and it is simple to include it at those times. The point is that by beginning and just doing it, brings to the forefront all those things we need to pray for. It’s almost as if, the Spirit is helping us in our weakness, when we do not know what to pray for as we ought, that through these prayers, the Spirit takes our sighs and groans and brings forth prayers to our mediator, Jesus Christ.

So here it is in full:

O Almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto Thee all my sins and iniquities; especially do I acknowledge my indolence in prayer, my neglect of Thy Word, and my seeking after good days and vainglory. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them; and I pray Thee, of Thy boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Thy beloved Son, forgive me all my sins, and be gracious and merciful to me. Yea, cleanse me through Thy Spirit by the blood of Jesus Christ, and give me more and more power and willingness to strive after holiness, for Thou has called me that I should be holy and blameless before Thee in love. 
I thank Thee also, O faithful God, for my family, my wife and children, and for all my relatives. Thou hast given them to me purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. Preserve them in good health, and give them their daily bread; but above all keep them in Thy grace and in the true confession of Thy name unto the end.  
Thou, O God of all grace and mercy, hast also called me, a poor unworthy sinner, to be a servant of Thy Word and hast placed me into that office which preaches the reconciliation and hast given me this flock to feed. In and by myself I am wholly incompetent to perform the work of this great office; and, therefore, I pray Thee, make me an able minister of Thy Church. Give me Thy Holy Spirit, the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge, of grace and prayer, of power and strength, of courage and joyfulness, of sanctification and the fear of God. Fill me with the right knowledge, and open my lips that my mouth may proclaim the honor of Thy name. Fill my heart with a passion for souls and with skillfulness to give unto each and every sheep or lamb entrusted to my care what is due unto it at the proper time. Give me at all times sound advice and just works; and wherever I overlook something or in the weakness of my flesh speak or act wrongly, do Thou set it aright, and help that no one may through me suffer harm to his soul. 
Glory and honor, praise and thanks be unto Thee, God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for all the mercy and faithfulness Thou hast shown to this congregation. Thy Word has not returned unto Thee void, but Thou has here gathered a people that knows Thee and fears Thy name. Give me Thy Holy Spirit, that I may at all times see the good things in this congregation and praise and thank Thee for them. Bless Thy Word in the future, that it may preserve the believers in Thy grace, convert those that are not yet Thine, and bring back the erring and delinquent. Gather Thy people as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and be Thou a wall of fire about Thy congregation.  
Graciously take into Thy fatherly care the sick and the needy, all widows and orphans, and all who are in any trouble, temptation, anguish of labor, peril of death, or any other adversity. Comfort them, O God, with Thy Holy Spirit, that they may patiently endure their afflictions and acknowledge them as a manifestation of Thy fatherly will. Preserve their soul from faintheartedness and despondency, and help that they may seek Thee, the great Physician of their souls. And if any pass through the valley of the shadow of death, suffer them not, in the last hour, for any pain or fear of death, to fall away from Thee, but let Thine everlasting arms be underneath them, and grant them a peaceful departure and a happy entrance into Thine eternal kingdom.  
Furthermore, I pray Thee, Thou wouldst at all times fill the offices of this congregation and its societies with upright, honest, and sincere men and women, who have the welfare of their congregation at heart and are able to help me in my office with their counsel and their deeds. Unite their hearts with me in love for the truth; give them the spirit of prayer for me and for their congregation, so that we may in unity and harmony build Thy kingdom in this place.  
And since hypocrites and ungodly people are often found within the visible church organization, I pray Thee, do not permit Satan to disrupt this congregation through such or to hinder the efficiency of my office. If there a such in our midst, let Thy Word be like unto a hammer upon their hearts of stone. Have patience with them, but if they persist in their unbelief, hypocrisy, and wickedness, do Thou reveal them, so that they may be put forth from Thy congregation. Give me a forgiving heart towards all, and help me, especially for their sake, to speak and act cautiously.  
Preserve and keep the youth of our Church from falling way and joining the world, and keep them from the many sins of youth. Thou, O Lord, knowest how difficult it is to lead the young on the right paths and to divide the Word of Truth with respect to them; do Thou, therefore, give me particular wisdom and skill to be stern without estranging their hearts, and mild and charitable without strengthening them in frivolity and unruliness.  
Mercifully bless the education and instruction of the children, that they may grow up in Thy fear to the praise of Thy name. I commend unto Thee also the nursery of our church, the Christian day school. Hinder and frustrate all enemies of this institution. May I ever regard and accept it as a precious gift of God! Give our congregation able and apt teachers. Preserve them form an indecent and evil walk and conversation. Bless the work of our Sunday school teachers, and help them to lead the little ones into the Savior’s loving arms.  
To Thy grace and mercy I also commend all my brethren in office. Arrest and suppress all discord and dissension. Give me a brotherly heart towards all and true humility, and help me to bear with patience their casual weakness or deficiencies. Grant that they also may act as true brothers toward me.  
Keep and preserve our whole Synod, its teachers and officers, true to Thy Word. Cause the work of our Synod to grow. Guard and protect all members of Synod against sinful ambitions, dissension, and indifference in doctrine and practice. Bless all higher institutions of learning, our colleges, seminaries, and universities. Accompany all missionaries on their dangerous ways, and help them to perform their work. Gather the elect from all nations into Thy holy Christian Church, and bring them at last into Thy Church Triumphant in heaven.  
Grant also health and prosperity to all that are in authority in our country, especially the President and Congress of the United States, the Governor and Legislature of this State, and to all Judges and Magistrates. Endue them with grace to rule after Thy good pleasure, to the maintenance of righteousness and to the hindrance and punishment of wickedness, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.  
Hear me, most merciful God, in these my humble requests, which I offer up unto Thee in the name of Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, whom, with Thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Correcting Some Anti-Antinominanism

There has been a heavy anti-antinomian thunderstorm coming from good confessional writers these days, and heaven knows it has been a welcome rain. We cannot condone sin in the name of the Gospel any more today than they did in the 16th century days of Luther's antinomian nemesis Agricola.

A most recent downpour against the antinomians came in the form of a re-posting, on facebook, of a lecture from the late and revered Professor Dr. Kurt Marquart on the subject. It's from January of 2005 and can be accesssed here. Despite the fact that it's always a safe thing to praise Dr. Marquart, and therefore always treacherous to question what he says, I happen to think that some of what he said was in need of correction. I was there, actually, back in the days when the Symposia were held in the Wambsganss gym. And I responded with a published article in the Easter 2005 issue of Gottesdienst.

Here it is:

The Third Use of “Gottesdienst
Burnell F Eckardt Jr.
Gottesdienst, Easter 2005 (Liturgical Observer)
Gottesdienst, Gottesdienst, Gottesdienst!  Such a popular word among us Lutherans this has become, and all to the glee of us editors of this journal.  In January, Professor Kurt Marquart gave a lecture on “The Third Use of the Law as Confessed in the Formula of Concord” at the 2005 annual Symposium on the Lutheran Confessions on the campus of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (to see it online, go to In it, he sought to “deconstruct” what he calls “the linguistic myth that the German word Gottesdienst means God serving us in Word and Sacrament.”  In fact, said he, “the word means nothing of the sort. It simply means worship. The genitive is objective, not subjective.”  How delighted was I to see heads at once turning in our direction to get our reaction.  Delighted, I guess, in a rather vain sort of way, because it suggests to me that this journal has succeeded to some degree in debunking even Dr. Marquart’s definition, simply by virtue of our popularity.  Why, Gottesdienst does not simply mean worship!  It simply is, as everyone knows, the name of this journal!  Who cares what else it means!
But seriously, folks—that is, you whose heads were turning, and anyone else whose head might by now be turning—Dr. Marquart’s definition is indeed the common one, and the term with that definition is of course a very common word among the Germans.  Yes, he’s right: Gottesdienst simply means worship, and you can’t really make the case that when Germans use that word they really mean “God serving us.”  OK, but so what?  Is it somehow impermissible to propose a better etymological meaning, so that the term can serve us well in our catechetical stress on divine grace and monergism?  Have we erred if we choose to ascribe the subjective genitive to Gottes (God’s) with respect to dienst (service)?  That is to say, Gottesdienst, taken purely and without respect to usage, does beg the question whether we are referring to our service toward God or to the service which God renders toward us.  And while it is true that common usage accepts only the former, some of us like to take advantage of the etymological opportunity provided by the ambiguous nature of the genitive to catechize our people regarding the heart of worship, namely, that it is primarily all about God’s service to us in Word and Sacrament.  So what’s wrong with that? 
For what it’s worth, Philip Melanchthon happens to be one of us who subscribes to this “linguistic myth,” in the Apology to the Augsburg Confession: “Faith . . . is perfectly confident with respect to this, namely, that God makes a present and gift to us, and not we to Him, that He sheds upon us every treasure of grace in Christ . . .  Faith is the worship [Gottesdienst], which receives the benefits offered by God” (Ap IV, 49 [Trigl 134-135], emphasis mine).  Or again, “faith justifies and saves, not on the ground that it is a work in itself worthy, but only because it receives the promised mercy.  And throughout the prophets and the psalms this worship [Gottesdienst] . . . is highly praised” (Apol IV, 57 [Trigl 136-137], emphasis mine).  To be sure, Gottesdienst is also used by Melanchthon according to Dr. Marquart’s common definition, but for him to look askance at any alternative definition with a dismissive “nothing of the sort” seems a bit of an overreach, to say the least.
Dr. Marquart himself cites a number of passages from Luther which employ a wider definition than the common one, as the Reformer calls labor and service to the neighbor a kind of Gottesdienst.  Does he honestly think Luther’s usage here was the common definition? 
But Dr. Marquart’s sights, I think, are on a bigger target than abuse of terminology.  First he quotes Luther, “There is hardly a greater sin than the laborious and invented divine worship [Gottesdienst], which happens with howling and growling in all churches and monasteries” (St. Louis edition 19:1138).  Then he follows with “Why is this important? There is a very real danger that people form the impression that what is really important to God is liturgical falderal and pomp and circumstance in church, and that their own daily labours in their temporal callings are trivial and unworthy by comparison.” 
Say what?  Liturgical falderal and pomp? 
Now I begin to wonder.  Maybe after all he does have Gottesdienst in mind, not according  to the common (first) use, nor the alternative etymological (second) use, but the third use we most commonly employ (as in, “Have you renewed your Gottesdienst subscription yet?”).
I mean, just what sort of liturgical falderal and pomp does he have in mind?  Bowing and scraping, perhaps?  Genuflecting, that is, as we do, before the Body of Christ?  That sort of falderal and pomp?  You know, the falderal and pomp of the Magi before the Christ Child?  Or smells and bells, maybe?  Incense?  Like what the Magi gave Jesus, or what Isaiah saw in his vision?  That sort of falderal and pomp, h’mmm? 
Now since we at Gottesdienst (third use) seem to be getting tarnished with Dr. Marquart’s careless brush, it behooves me to speak up.  Since everyone knows (see above) that we speak routinely about things liturgical, and since we are also routinely blamed for dealing in falderal and pomp, though usually under other similarly flattering designations such as, most commonly, “high church,” we need to make a defense of our kind of liturgical falderal and pomp.
“High church” is really a misnomer, for a number of reasons, not least because our churches usually don’t employ thurifers, subdeacons, and deacons, and they often have no idea of the difference between “Low Mass,” “Sung Mass,” and “High Mass.”  Not that we have any problem with High Masses, mind you; actually we find that kind of falderal and pomp quite fine, and wish there were more of it, because it’s the kind that tells us that when we are in church, there is something very important, something otherworldly going on here.  I’m reminded of the envoys St. Vladimir sent to Byzantium in the late tenth century, who returned with the amazing report that they could not tell if they were in heaven or on earth during the liturgy.  I suppose someone could snort that it was only liturgical falderal and pomp, but I find myself reticent about sneering at dignity, especially since I have seen it for myself, and am well aware that it was the expected and common kind of liturgy throughout most of Christendom for centuries. 
But most people who live in post “enlightenment” days now have the curse of anti-liturgical worship hanging heavily over them, especially in America, and find themselves very comfortable and content with pole buildings for churches, bare brick or whitewashed walls, corpus-less crosses (if any), large projection screens replacing altars, rock bands replacing organs, and pastors vested in gowns of academia or in business suits.  That’s the sacrilegious milieu with which they have learned to feel at ease, and anything which departs from this new norm is likely to strike them as falderal and pomp.  Well, excuse me for bad taste, but I’ll take the falderal and pomp any day of the week.
That falderal and pomp, at least our version of it, exists for the sole purpose of giving honor to Christ, and calling attention to His presence.  When we are in church, we are coram Christo—before His throne—and we will surely benefit when our ceremony makes us more instinctively aware of this, that we might be the more ready and eager to receive there His inestimable gifts.  You don’t adorn the court of the Queen of England in rags, and you certainly don’t bedeck the Church of God with junk.
Besides, I suspect that the “howling and growling” Luther had in mind is not at all the same as the falderal and pomp to which Dr. Marquart refers.  The monks, after all, were guilty of works of supererogation, thinking themselves holier by virtue of their many prayers and fastings, that is, in view of their kind of Gottesdienst, which is the common (first) use of the term.  They could have benefited from the alternative etymological (second) use, to say nothing of this journal’s (third) use (as in, “Brother John, have you seen the latest Gottesdienst yet?”).  Why, come to think of it, the common (first) use may well have contributed to the very howling and growling referenced
in Luther!  I say, let’s have more, not less, of the second and third uses of Gottesdienst.
It turns out, though, that Dr. Marquart’s preference for the first use of Gottesdienst seems in line with his complaint, which appears to be at the heart of his paper, in which he assails what he calls modern “antinomians”: “Sometimes we are told that sanctification is best left to itself, that conscious attempts to please God lead to hypocrisy, and that if we just preach the Gospel, sanctification will happen automatically. No, we are not automata.”  But just who is saying that we are?  We of the falderal and pomp camp?  Are we the “antinomians” he is chiding?  He doesn’t say.  And, well, maybe we aren’t in view here, but no one else is mentioned, which is what has me a bit nervous, even if Dr. Marquart insists that his use of Gottesdienst is only the common (first) use, which would at least rule out any direct reference to us (third use, as in “I just can’t wait to receive the next issue of Gottesdienst”). 
In any case, and for the record, we certainly aren’t going around saying Christians don’t need to hear the law, nor are we averse to exhorting to love and good works, which, Dr. Marquart notes, “require conscious effort, not unthinking, automatic compliance with inner instincts!”  We are not those who, according to his remonstration, “think one should not frighten or trouble the people,” or who say, “Listen! Though you are an adulterer, a whoremonger, a miser, or other kind of sinner, if you but believe, you are saved, and you need not fear the law. Christ has fulfilled it all!”  That’s not us, I can tell you.
On the other hand, I do question one thing he said: “It is true that the Law ‘always accuses.’  But this refers to the chief, or second use of the Law, which cannot be separated but must be distinguished from the third use.” 
I’m not sure I understand this.  Can we decide which of the Law’s three uses come into play at which time?  Can we say, “OK, folks, I’m preaching third use now, so you can calm your conscience”?  (R: “Whew, that’s a relief!”)  I never thought of the multiple uses of the law to be like the multiple uses of a kitchen gadget.  I’d be more inclined, therefore, to leave the saying alone, without qualifications.  Always means always.  Come to think of it, if you say (rightly) that the third use of the law is its application to Christians, then must you not also say that the law precisely in its application to Christians accuses them, and that, always?   What, don’t you think that “the New Testament exhortations to love and good works [which] require conscious effort, not unthinking, automatic compliance with inner instincts” are accusing us, even as encouragements?  They sure prick my conscience!  The new man in me certainly doesn’t need them; he’s already obedient; but the sinner in me just as certainly does, lest he get the upper hand.  He must be drowned anew, by daily contrition, so that the new man arises, etc., as the Catechism also says.
I think we have to leave it at Lex semper accusat!  The law always accuses, period.  It always accuses because I am always a sinner as well as a Christian.  The “automatic compliance” is, as a matter of fact, always in the inner man, which needs no command but is already obedient; yet since the inner man is never all there is to the Christian, who remains simul iustus et peccator (there’s the rub), therefore he needs constant exhortation.  And that is exactly what the third use of the law is all about.  It does not direct the new man, because he needs no direction—anyone who denies this fails to see just who the new man really is—but it certainly exposes the Old Adam for the phony he is, and forces him into compliance, quite against his will.  No one is only new man, however, and therefore lex semper accusat.  Semper. 
So just who is the new man, then?  It is Christ Himself, conceived and born within us through the Holy Spirit.  And how does the Spirit do this?  By Word and Sacrament, that is, the second use of Gottesdienst
Honestly I doubt that Dr. Marquart meant specifically to criticize Gottesdienst (third use, as in, “Have you seen the remarks in Gottesdienst about Dr. Marquart’s lecture?), but I also hope these remarks will, er, deconstruct the myth that all we care about around here is the childish thrills of smells and bells.  And my fear is that this indiscriminate bludgeoning of phantom antinomians, coupled with an undefined complaint about too much falderal and pomp going on, will have the undesirable effect of producing condemnation of precisely the kind of Gottesdienst whose main purpose is the preaching of the Gospel and the right administration of the Blessed Sacraments, at which, yes, we will all do well to bow and bend the knee; for these alone are the means through which faith is kindled and enflamed, faith, which is “the highest Gottesdienst” (Apol III [IV], 10 [Trigl 158-159]).

Monday, August 14, 2017

What Does "The Gospel Must Predominate" Actually Mean?

Walther’s Law and Gospel was not written by Walther. (Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther, Law and Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible. Trans. Christian C. Tiews. Ed. Charles P. Schaum. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2010) The book was written from notes that his students took. Walther was lecturing, outside the classroom, in a somewhat casual setting. He did not set out to produce a careful dogmatic treatment of Law and Gospel but was simply issuing a sort of pep talk to the boys before he sent them into battle. He was dying and frail. He was also deeply mourning the loss of his wife. He felt heaven’s shadow upon him and was eager to depart. That brought clarity to Walther. He knew what mattered and he wanted to drive it into his students. His purpose in the lectures was to get them to preach the Gospel.

Walther had taken stock of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. He had sat in the pew on Sunday mornings. He feared that her preaching was not up to snuff, that it leaned toward legalism, that his students did not quite know what they were getting into, and maybe even that they had too much right doctrine and not enough practical application. Thus he made one last ditch effort to send out his last crop of students as those dedicated to the doctrine of justification who would, above all else, preach the Gospel.

It is admirable goal. The lectures are a blessing to us. The book that came from them is a true treasure. It is, however, like all good things, subject to abuse. If it is taken out of context or simply used as a source for pull quotes, it might well mislead us into Gospel reductionism or a bias against dogmatics as being “of the law” or of thinking that we can see into men’s hearts and know exactly when to apply the Law or the Gospel. So also it might give us the false impression that the proper distinction between Law and Gospel is a task that we can master.

I don’t mean this as a critique of what Walther wrote. I think what he wrote is beautiful and right. I love and use it. I mean this as a critique or a warning of how Walther has sometimes been used and mis-read.

By way of example, one of Walther’s phrases that is most helpful and which is also often pulled up as a kind of buzz word or slogan comes from his last and summary thesis: "You are not rightly distinguishing Law and Gospel in the Word of God if you do not allow the Gospel to predominate in your teaching" (Walther, 455).

I suspect that every pastor in the LCMS is familiar with this thesis and the idea behind it. The Gospel must predominate. This is Walther’s entire concern. He wants his church body to be built upon the doctrine of Justification because he wants to be the Church of the Augsburg Confession and the Formula of Concord, the Church that knows the Catechism by heart and makes a quia subscription to the Book of Concord of 1580. That, of course, is not all spelled out in the  lectures. We learn that from Walther’s many other writings, but we need to keep it in mind.

In Thesis XXV Walther is talking about preaching but he also has in mind the entirety of the pastor’s ministry. He doesn’t much use the word justification though he does quote Augsburg IV. For the most part, not just here but throughout the lectures, he simply talks about the Gospel, the Good News of our reconciliation to the Father by the death and resurrection of the Son that is received by faith. Preachers don’t proclaim justification. They proclaim the Gospel. Ministers aren’t ministers of justification but of the Word.  Proclamation effects justification. The Gospel then, as justification, must do more than simply drive all of our doctrine, practice, and preaching. It must be the goal and purpose of our work. This is entirely correct. Walther’s admonition is well put and needs to be held before us at all times.

But if we don’t read this lecture carefully and take it in context as what it is meant to be, but instead only hear the words “the Gospel must predominate” we might get the mistaken impression that Gospel predomination means Gospel domination and Law subjugation, that is that the Law is not even necessary or that the Law is a negative reality that we must pass over quickly. We might even think that the more Gospel words and phrases a sermon has, and the less Law it has, the more beneficial and Lutheran it is.

In fact, in this lecture, Walther gives a long quote from Luther as an example of how to preach good works according to the Gospel and it is full of Law. Luther preaches the Gospel not simply for the forgiveness of sins, but also to change the hearts of the hearers so that they would do good works. It is important that we notice that this is in the middle of the lecture that extols the virtues of Gospel predomination. For he does not mean Gospel as license or Gospel that abrogates the Law and removes the need for instruction. The Luther quote used by Walther speaks directly to these false idea that Christians don’t care about the Law and morality:

They would change their tone if they landed in this prison. When they stand at the left hand of the Judge, and anguish and terror get hold of them, they will experience what this prison means. Therefore, this is not a sermon for people’s flesh and blood, as if they were given freedom to do according to their desires. But the point of Christ’s ascension and His rule is to make sin captive, to prevent eternal death from putting us in shackles and keeping us there.

Now, if sin is to be made captive, I – a believer in Christ – must live in such a way that I am not overcome by hatred and envy of my fellow humans or by other sins. Rather, I must fight against sin and say, “Listen, sin! You want to stir me up to become angry, to envy, to commit adultery, to steal, to be unfaithful, etc. This I will not do.” Likewise, if sin wants to assault me from another angle and fill me with terror, I must say: “No, sin. You are my servant, and I am your lord. Have you never heard what David sang about my Lord Jesus Christ, ‘You ascended on high,’ etc.? Until now, you have been a hangman and a devil to me. You have taken me prisoner. But now I believe in Christ and you will be my hangman no longer. I will not permit you to accuse me, for you are prisoner of my Lord and King, who has put in the stocks and cast you beneath my feet.”

Understand this matter correctly: By His ascension and by the preaching of faith, Christ does not mean to rear lazy and sluggish Christians who say, “We will now live according to our pleasure, not doing good works, remaining sinners, and following sin like captive slaves.” People who talk in this way do not have a right understanding of the preaching of faith. Christ and His mercy are not preached so that people should remain in their sins. On the contrary, this is what Christians doctrine proclaims: The prison should release you – not so that you may do whatever you desire, but so that you will sin not more (Walther, 461-462).

Walther then goes on to tell the students some people will abuse the Gospel and take false comfort in it apart from actual repentance and faith. They will claim to use the Gospel as an excuse to remain in their sins and not change. Those people, says Walther, will go to Hell, but the students should not try to keep them from Hell by more Law preaching. They should preach the Gospel and take the risk that it be misheard or misappropriated for it is the Gospel that changes hearts. The preachers should, as Luther did, warn their hearers. They should preach the Law sternly and call for repentance and a change, but they should also preach the Gospel and suffer the consequences, leaving it in God’s hands.

If Walther’s words were taken apart from his long example, which he claims is proper Gospel predomination and Gospel motivation for good works, and apart from his other lectures, let alone his many sermons and other writings, we might misunderstand Walther to mean that the Law wasn’t needed as a warning to the hearers or that the preacher should make no attempt to be clear in their distinction between Law and Gospel but should simply preach the sweet words of the Gospel without concern for how they were received. We might think that Walther’s attempt to comfort his students with trust in the Holy Spirit’s promise to work through the Gospel meant that no warnings were needed or even that men couldn’t fall away or abuse the Gospel. This is not Walther’s meaning or intent.

The example he gives from Luther includes much law. It even has “must” language and descriptions of fighting against sin or being damned. Walther doesn’t see this as contradictory to the Gospel or Legalism but actual Gospel preaching. To say that Christ did not mean to rear lazy and sluggish Christians is not only an accusation against our fallen flesh. It does not forgive sins. It is not the Gospel. It is the Law. But besides being and accusation, it is also a description of what the Gospel promises and gives. In forgiving our sins, the Gospel gives us the Holy Spirit who fights against sin and unbelief in us and gives us the strength to fight with Him. Conversion is monergistic.

Before man is illuminated, converted, reborn, renewed, and drawn by the Holy Spirit, he can do nothing in spiritual things of himself and by his own powers. In his own conversion or regeneration he can as little begin, effect, or cooperate in anything as a stone, a block, or a lump of clay could. (SD. II. 24. Tappert)

But sanctification is synergistic. Christians learn from the Law what is good and what God wants and by the Gospel they desire to fulfill it and to cooperate with the Holy Spirit:

From this it follows that as soon as the Holy Spirit has initiated his work of regeneration and renewal in us through the Word and the holy sacraments, it is certain that we can and must cooperate by the power of the Holy Spirit, even though we still do so in great weakness. (SD. II. 65, Tappert).

The Luther quote from Walther teaches by example how the Christian is to think and speak as a Christian. The Christian learns to say “Listen sin! You want to stir me up to all sorts of evil. This I will not do,” and again: “Sin you are my servant. I am not yours.”

Later in his lecture when Walther says that “whoever is engaged in this preaching of the pure Gospel and thus directs people to Christ, the only mediator between God and people, he, as a preacher, is doing the will of God (Walther, 466)” we must understand that the pure Gospel is not only the fulfillment of the Law but also is defined by the Law. There is no pure Gospel apart from the Law and no service is done to hearers if they are not warned and instructed by the Law along with being accused. Thus Walther says that this preaching of the Gospel is the “genuine fruit” of true prophets “by which no one is deceived or duped (Walther, 466).” Those who mishear or misunderstand our preaching of the Gospel as license to sin, and likewise those preachers who preach to itchy ears and ignore the warnings and instructions of the Law, have not heard the pure Gospel.  Walther wants to comfort his students with God’s promises. He wants to teach them to leave this in God’s hands and trust the Gospel At the same time, Walther in no way wants them to ignore the dangers of sin or to make no attempts to address it. The example from Luther and  the deep and varied examples from the body of Walther’s own preaching shine with true God-pleasing and accurate Gospel predomination.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Gottes News

Big changes are coming to Gottesdienst in the coming months, fortuitously coinciding with our 100th issue anniversary in December.

We've been in touch with a web designer and at long last we are looking at streamlining our resources and overhauling our ship.

Our regular website and this blog will be brought under a single umbrella, as well as our facebook page. We hope to have an online store too.

One of the things we'll be working on is more automation of the mundane stuff, to enable us to spend more time on the theological/liturgical stuff. We'll be seeking ways to encourage as many subscribers as we can to let us maintain their subscriptions online (using credit cards, etc.).

This will cost us, of course, so if you'd like to help us out, we'll gladly accept your (tax free) donation.

Meanwhile, we are still soliciting notes from people who might have something to say in our 100th issue. If you'd like to say something, drop us a line.