Our Scripture reading last Sunday included the Parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1-15), which is probably one of the toughest parables to make sense of. A household manager gets sacked because of his corruption, so before he cleans out his desk he discounts the debts of everyone in debt to his master as a way to get in good with them for when he’s out of a job. And even though the Unjust Steward is cheating him out of what is his due (telling people who owe 100 measures of oil they only need to pay 50), the Master commends him. [Read more…]
We had a powerful sermon last Sunday on one of those “difficult” passages of Scripture, one that reminds us that Christianity is not merely about “family values”:
26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. . . .33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26-27, 33)
Chad Bird tells the story of Henry Gerecke, a pastor of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and a military chaplain assigned to minister to the war criminals at the Nuremberg trials, including walking with ten of them to the gallows. Many of the Nazis clung to their Nietzschean paganism. But some of them Pastor Gerecke led to Christ.
That might bother some of us. Surely, if anyone deserves Hell, these mass-murdering monsters did. We might think that it’s wrong to extend the Gospel to sinners of this magnitude. As if Christ, when He bore the sins of the world on the Cross did not carry what these men had done. That would make the Cross too hideously ugly. But it is. And this is what Christianity is all about, or it is nothing.
After the jump, read about Pastor Gerecke. And follow the link to read him tell his own story, including the names of the Nazis who did and who did not come to Christ. [Read more…]
The committee preparing a new hymnal for the Presbyterian Church (USA) has thrown out a popular praise song, “In Christ Alone,” not just because it refers to the “wrath” of God, as originally reported, but because of the word “satisfied.” That is, because it says the wrath of God was satisfied in the Cross of Jesus Christ. What was objectionable is the doctrine of the atonement. (See Abby Stocker, writing for Christianity Today, and follow her links, which show how this bedrock teaching of the Christian faith has become controversial lately, even among many ostensible “evangelicals.”)
What is the point of Christianity without the atonement? It becomes turned into another religion. I suppose the attraction is that it gives us another religion of law, which people somehow prefer to a religion that says they are sinners in need of forgiveness and, yes, atonement. Jesus becomes the example we have to emulate, though surely those who are honest will have to admit that this is an even higher standard that they fail to live up to.
At any rate, after the jump I quote Timothy George on the controversy, who, though he focuses on “wrath” rather than “satisfaction,” makes some excellent points as he puts the controversy in the context of church history. I also appreciate his account of how hymns have been tinkered with. See, for example, the Mormon Tabernacle choir version of “Holy, Holy, Holy,” and what the Unitarians have done to “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” [Read more…]
Once again I see on the LCMS website in the “View from Here” feature an article I wrote a long time ago, I think for Lutheran Witness. It takes up what has been called “the scandal of particularity”; that is, the claim that there is only one way that leads to Heaven, the person and work of Jesus Christ. Why aren’t other religions equally valid? How can we credibly hold to Christ as the only way to Heaven in our current climate of religious pluralism? And, as if that isn’t a difficult enough problem, I throw in the question of how a just God could condemn someone for not being a Christian. Reading the piece long after I have forgotten what I said, I found myself approaching it like any other reader and, in an odd way, learning from myself. I’ll present the essay in its entirety after the jump.
Rachel Held Evans tells about how churches that want to reach young people keep missing the point, trying to be cooler and hipper and more contemporary instead of attending to the far greater issues of substance. Yes, she is calling for a measure of liberalism, but notice what else she is calling for. Read what she says after the jump and then consider my comments. [Read more…]