My take on the Lutheran/Calvinist discussion

Some thoughts on the discussion about Lutherans and Calvinists that was provoked by thoughts from Peter Leithhart and D. G. Hart.  (To get up to date with the latest contributions, see also what Anthony Sacramone had to say about it, as well as Dr. Hart’s rejoinder.)

I am one Lutheran who is not a Calvinist basher.  Having grown up in mainline liberal Protestantism and then hanging out in grad school with collegiate evangelicals, I heard about God’s grace for the first time from a friend who was a Calvinist.  It had never occurred to me and I had never been taught that God accomplishes everything for my salvation.  I found that very liberating.  I read Calvin’s Institutes and was greatly instructed.  I credit Calvin for leading me to Luther, whose theology seemed to me to have everything I appreciated in Calvinism while avoiding some of its problems.   In Lutheranism, I would find  dimensions of grace that I never dreamed of before.  But, frankly, if there had been a Calvinist church in the small Oklahoma town where I got my first teaching job, I might have gone in that direction.  Instead, there was a congregation of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, which opened up to me dimensions of grace that I had never dreamed of before, including a deeply sacramental kind of spirituality.  Which brings up my first point:  [Read more...]

A member has been added to your Body

On the Sunday of All Saints yesterday, a new saint was added to the number of saints who constitute Christ’s church.  My new grandson, Thomas Gene Edward Hensley, was baptized.

“When[the church]  baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that head which is my head too, and ingraffed into that body, whereof I am a member.”  John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII

My father’s name was read among the dead, and now his name-sake enters the church, so it was all very meaningful to me.  In honor of All Saints, now that I am thinking about John Donne, after the jump I’ll quote the context of the above passage from his Devotions, a series of meditations as he was undergoing a serious illness, which as far as he knew may well be fatal.  The “for whom the bell tolls” refers to the custom of ringing the church bells to call people to prayer for someone who was dying, and he was wondering if the bells were ringing for him. 

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Flying into a crime scene

Flying into California for my grandson’s baptism, I had to connect through LAX.  This was on Friday, the day of the shootings at that airport.  That happened in the morning.  My plane was coming in that afternoon.  We heard about the shootings just before we started to board.  The plane had DirectTV if you wanted to pay for it, so to see what we were getting into, I sprung for it and watched the news unfold.   After the chaos of the morning, things had settled down by the time we landed.  Flights were coming and going, though they were terribly backed up all through the day, and my connecting flight was cancelled.  Anyway, I finally caught a flight out and made it to my destination.  Still, it was sobering to fly into a crime scene like that.  Things on the news happen to real people, just like us, and some of the bad things we see on TV could happen to us.  The point is obvious, of course, but still. . . .

Details about the shooting after the jump.

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Naming the blessed dead

All Saints’ Day is the Christian Memorial Day, a time to remember loved ones who have died and who now are with all of the other saints, enjoying everlasting life with Christ.  The custom on All Saints’ Day in church is simply to list those who died in the previous year, reading each name as a bell tolls.  I invite you to use this space to honor any of those you love who have joined the saints.

I’ll go first:  GENE EDWARD VEITH, my father, who died in May.

Hitting retirement age

When you are young, you want to get older, looking forward to milestone birthdays–16 (I can drive!); 18 (I can vote!); 21 (I can drink!). After that, you don’t particularly want to get older, and the milestones acquire a negative connotation–30 (hippies won’t trust me!); 40 (but what have I accomplished?); 50 (welcome to the middle ages); 60 (I’m old!). But then comes a short span of time in which you want to get older, with retirement-related milestones–62 (I could take early retirement!), 65 (I would qualify for free health insurance with Medicare!), 66 (I could take the full Social Security benefits!). After that, I suppose, is the milestone that we don’t know when it is coming, when we really get to rest from our labors.

So today I am technically old enough to retire! That gives me a strange sense of satisfaction. Not that I am going to retire. That’s not the point. It’s just that I could. After the jump, some retirement-related questions for general discussion. [Read more...]

Yet another crown for the aged

Our grandchildren are coming in great profusion and in rapid succession.  Our other daughter had her baby:  Thomas Gene Edward Hensley.  Though I sympathize with the lad for having two middle names, I am greatly touched at the tribute, not only to me but to my recently-deceased father.  His first picture after the jump. [Read more...]


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