Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Relief for Pastor Randy Blankschaen

Lydia and the Rev. Randy Blankschaen

By Larry Beane

Some of you may know Pr. Randy and Lydia Blankschaen of Pensacola. 

Their home flooded as a result of the storm that ravaged Pensacola and it seems that their insurance won't cover the damage. They are kind and loving people who hosted Grace, Leo, and me in their home when we needed a place to stay while passing through. We had such a great time visiting with them. Randy serves Immanuel Lutheran Church, a faithful congregation that opens its doors to host confessional speakers and various continuing education events.  On one occasion, I distributed copies of our print journal, and they were received warmly.

Please consider helping out a dear brother and sister in Christ, and a faithful servant of the Word. I did get word that their cats were safe. So that is a bit of good news. Please pray for the Blankschaens! 

Lord, have mercy.

Please see this appeal for help originated and managed by the Rev. Gaven Mize.

Created by Gaven Mize on April 30, 2014

On Tuesday (April 29th) the worst flood that they had had in generations ripped through Pensacola destroying houses, flooding out cars, and has killed 36 people across seven states.  It rained 26 in' in less than 24 hrs and the rain in the houses was waist high.  In that flood a dear friend, Rev. Randy Blankschaen (Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Pensacola, FL) and his wife Lydia lost everything.  The house is ruined, the cars are ruined, the clothes are ruined, and the cats are missing.  The only thing that didn't get completely destroyed is the clothes that they are wearing. And the insurance company isn't going to cover anything.  We are starting with the goal of $10,000 though the value of what was lost is much, much greater.  Please give as you're able to give to this servant of Christ who selflessly serves his flock in Pensacola at Immanuel Lutheran Church.

CSL & CTS Call Day Stats

It's been a while since I ran the stats from Call Day, but this year I’m feeling nostalgic as this marks the tenth year since I was one of those fourth year students waiting to hear of his fate. And how things have changed in that decade! There were 144 (an even gross) in my first year class. By the time we made it to call day, that had been culled down to 120 or so. This year saw 57 men placed from our Synod’s larger seminary.

Several of us in 2004 were exploring graduate studies. None are listed as doing so this year, but perhaps they just didn’t put them in the bulletin.

Every year I have run stats for CSL a clear majority of men were placed as associate or assistant pastors. This year 54.4% of men were placed as sole pastors (36.8% as associate/assistant and 8.8% in district positions, such as missionary at large or church planter).

There were no SMP candidates listed – 84.2% MDiv, 8.8% Alternate Route, 1.8% Cross-cultural Ministry Center, 5.3% Center for Hispanic Studies.

At this time there remain one MDiv student and one CHS student who were not able to be placed.

UPDATE: And here are the stats for CTS.

AT CTS forty-four men were placed into calls. That itself is worthy of note: the two seminaries are much closer in size these days based on the number of graduates. Fort Wayne continued its trend of sending about 2/3 of their graduates out as sole pastors: 68.2% this year, with 27.3% as assistants/associates, and 4.5% into CUS or CTS faculty positions.

May God grant all these men grace to serve their Lord with faithfulness and zeal.


PS:  The only deaconess graduate at CSL was not able to be placed either. At CTS there were no deaconess graduates, but a couple internships were handed out.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"Prebyterian, Romane, Catholique" about Lutherane?

Here is another fine example of why I have been on an Anglican kick in my theology readings. This short piece was penned by Rev. Dr. Thomas Swadlin in 1657. He puts Presbyterians to one side, Romanists to the other, and asserts that he stands in the middle as a "Catholique."

This is fascinating for a Lutheran to read. We disagree with Swadlin and agree with the Presbyterians when it comes to the question of the New Testament Office of the Ministry. For the rest, we are very much on Swadlin's side - and his rhetoric in this short work is very beautiful and very persuasive. So even on the point in which we disagree with Swadlin, we have here a fine summary of the best case against our position, and thus a fine tool against which to test our own arguments.

Enjoy Whether it is better to turn Presbyterian, Romane, or to continue what I am, Catholique, in the matter of Religion?


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Logic of the Antinomians of Luther's Day

 From On the Councils and the Church (1539)
That is what my Antinomians, too, are doing today, who are preaching beautifully and (as I cannot but think) with real sincerity about Christ’s grace, about the forgiveness of sin and whatever else can be said about the doctrine of redemption. But they flee as if it were the very devil the consequence that they should tell the people about the third article, of sanctification, that is, of the new life in Christ. They think one should not frighten or trouble the people, but rather always preach comfortingly about grace and the forgiveness of sins in Christ, and under no circumstances use these or similar words, “Listen! You want to be a Christian and at the same time remain an adulterer, a whoremonger, a drunken swine, arrogant, covetous, a usurer, envious, vindictive, malicious, etc.!” Instead they 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!”
Tell me, my dear man, is that not granting the premise and denying the conclusion? It is, indeed, taking away Christ and bringing him to nought at the same time he is most beautifully proclaimed! And it is saying yes and no to the same thing. For there is no such Christ that died for sinners who do not, after the forgiveness of sins, desist from sins and lead a new life. Thus they preach Christ nicely with Nestorian and Eutychian logic that Christ is and yet is not Christ. They may be fine Easter preachers, but they are very poor Pentecost preachers, for they do not preach de sanctificatione et vivificatione Spiritus Sancti, “about the sanctification by the Holy Spirit,” but solely about the redemption of Jesus Christ, although Christ (whom they extoll so highly, and rightly so) is Christ, that is, he has purchased redemption from sin and death so that the Holy Spirit might transform us out of the old Adam into new men—we die unto sin and live unto righteousness, beginning and growing here on earth and perfecting it beyond, as St. Paul teaches. Christ did not earn only gratia, “grace,” for us, but also donum, “the gift of the Holy Spirit,” so that we might have not only forgiveness of, but also cessation of, sin. Now he who does not abstain from sin, but persists in his evil life, must have a different Christ, that of the Antinomians; the real Christ is not there, even if all the angels would cry, “Christi Christi” He must be damned with this, his new Christ. (Luther's Works 41:

Who hasn't fallen prey to this fallacy? This is why Dr. Luther said, "Hence, whoever knows well this art of distinguishing between Law and Gospel, him place at the head and call him a doctor of Holy Scripture." And why Dr. Walther taught, "To rightly distinguish Law and Gospel is the most difficult and highest Christian art—and for theologians in particular. It is taught only by the Holy Spirit in combination with experience" (Law and Gospel, Thesis III, [St. Louis, MO: CPH, 2006], 49). 

HT: Fr. Weslie Odom.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Religion is Dead?

By Larry Beane

This postcard just arrived from Impact Church. On the back it says:

"At Impact Church, we don't want to add religious duty to your 'list' of stuff that occupies your time. In fact, we dislike religion as much as you do."  Yes, indeed, it is trendy to bash "religion" these days.  It's good marketing in the current cultural paradigm.  It's the narrative.

But what does Scripture say about religion?

"Religion (θρησκεία) that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world (James 1:27 ESV)."

Indeed, visiting people in their need is something that the sinful flesh dislikes, even as we like gimmicky "churches" that brag about "fun games, cool music, exciting Bible Lessons & More!" as this postcard shamelessly says.

The postcard also says a lot by what is not said.

There is nothing about sin, grace, forgiveness, or redemption. And the only cross to be seen is in the mockery of the traditional church, in the stained glass above the forlorn altar. And indeed, that is often the way Christ and His Bride are depicted by false, fly-by-night "churches" and entertainment hucksters.

Oh, and something else is missing. Or should I say someone. The name Jesus and the title Christ are nowhere mentioned, or even hinted at, on this postcard.  Can there be anything more scandalous and more damning than for a group claiming to be a church to completely ignore the Lord Jesus Christ?

If you want Starbucks coffee, rock music, dancing girls, and other forms of entertainment, you can find them in lots of places.  But if you yearn for depth and meaning, for transcendence and truth, for God's Word, dignified worship of the Most Holy Trinity, the theology of the cross, and "religion that is pure and undefiled" in the confession of Jesus Christ unto forgiveness, life, and salvation - you can find them at faithful traditional Evangelical Catholic churches that aren't sending out flashy postcards that mock and belittle the Bride while ignoring the Bridegroom.  We are not formed by the latest Barna poll or shaped by focus groups, but rather we are called by means of Holy Baptism, forgiven by the Word, sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and covered unabashedly by the atoning blood of Christ.

The counterfeit 'impact' of entertainment-worship is clear when contrasted with the Divine Service, in the preaching of Christ crucified, and in the Holy Eucharist. Churches ought not be ashamed of the name "Jesus" nor of the Gospel that He has called us to confess and proclaim.  Moreover, according to James 1:27, part of "pure and undefiled" religion is to "keep oneself unstained from the world."  In other words, pure and undefiled religion is countercultural and cuts across the grain of marketing experts, focus groups, the never-ending quest for hipness, popularity, and what sells.

Gimmick religion is dead. But Christ is risen!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Proper Place for Irreverence

Aristotle's definition of justice is still hard to beat for its simplicity and succinctness: giving everyone his due. An English corollary: a place for everything and everything in its place. The House of God is no place for irreverence. But surely there must be a place for it - as irreverence is the foundation of all comedy. Why do we laugh at grown man chasing his hat in the wind if not because of irreverence? If he has any sense, he will also laugh at himself while he does it.

Which brings me to the Cossacks. I don't ever want to get into a grudge match with a Cossack. Perhaps only a Spaniard would be worse - they held a grudge against the Moors for almost 800 years before they finally kicked them out of Al-Andalus in 1492. But the Cossacks beat even them when it comes to holding on and never letting go. And while the Spaniards are hard to beat for style when it comes to grudge holding (My name Inigo Montoya...), nobody beats the Cossacks for the lively sense of irreverent humor with which it is carried out.

To wit - the following correspondence was carried out sometime between 1672 and 1680 (as you'll see below, the date is hard to nail down) between the Turkish Sultan and the Cossacks. It includes some Bad Words - so read at your own risk.

As if that isn't immortal enough, the Russian master Repin immortalized it in oil and canvas:


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

On clergy attire

An alert reader sends along this paragraph from the US Army's new regulations regarding uniforms. St. Paul, of course, famously drew the analogy between the service of the minister and a soldier's service under his commanding officer. There is much common sense here that applies to the clergy and our attire both in worship and in day to day ministry.

 1–1. Purpose
The Army is a profession. A Soldier’s appearance measures part of his or her professionalism. Proper wear of the Army uniform is a matter of personal pride for all Soldiers. It is indicative of esprit de corps and morale within a unit.
Soldiers have an individual responsibility for ensuring their appearance reflects the highest level of professionalism. Leaders, at all levels, have a responsibility for implementing and applying the standards contained in this regulation to ensure the best interests of the Army, including our shared traditions and customs. This regulation prescribes the authorization for wear, composition, and classification of uniforms, and the occasions for wearing all personal (clothing bag issue), optional, and commonly worn organizational clothing and individual equipment uniforms. It prescribes the uniforms, awards, insignia, and accouterments authorized for wear. It also provides general information on the authorized material and design of uniforms and the uniform quality control system.