God always begins with NOTHING

“It is God’s nature to make something out of nothing; hence one who is not yet nothing, out of him God cannot make anything. . . .Therefore God accepts only the forsaken, cures only the sick, gives sight only to the blind, restores life only to the dead, sanctifies only the sinners, gives wisdom only to the unwise.  In short, He has mercy only on those who are wretched, and gives grace only to those who are not in grace.”

–Martin Luther, “Commentary on Psalm 38,” Luther’s Works 14:163. [Read more...]

The “all’s” of the Great Commission

More from Knut Tveitereid in Oslo:  I love it when Bible expositors mine riches out of a text by attending to the details of the language.  Knut discussed the importance of the four “all’s” in the Great Commission:

 And Jesus came and said to them, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, [another "all" word in Danish] to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-20)

[Read more...]

Jesus of Galilee, Jesus of Jerusalem, Jesus post-resurrection

The other speaker at the Inner Mission youth ministry conference in Oslo, in addition to me, was Knut Tveitereid, who teaches at the NLA University College, a Christian and Lutheran university in Norway.  He spoke about the different approaches to discipleship and what it means to follow Jesus.  He said that we can distinguish three distinct, but related ministries of Jesus:  Jesus of Galilee, Jesus of Jerusalem, and the post-resurrection Jesus. [Read more...]

Westboro Baptist pickets Kim Davis for opposing gay marriage

The Westboro Baptist Church, known for its “God hates gays” demonstrations and military funeral disruptions, is now picketing Kim Davis, the county clerk who refuses to issue same-sex marriage licenses.  Why?  According to the church, gay marriage is God’s punishment.  We must accept that punishment.  Therefore, breaking the laws that require gay marriage is rebellion against God. [Read more...]

Conservatives in liberal churches

The state churches in Scandinavia are theologically liberal, sometimes to an extreme.  For example, in the Church of Sweden the world’s first lesbian bishop called on a congregation to remove its crosses to encourage Muslims to pray there.  Read this.  Notice, though, the opposition to her remarks and how the bishop has no authority over the congregation, since it was established by a “mission” organization.  The point is, there are conservative Christians with orthodox pastors and congregations within those state churches.

When I was in Denmark, I met a number of pastors from the Church of Denmark who came to my lectures.  They were in tune with what I was saying.  I was told that many towns had a conservative congregation along with a liberal congregation, with the former typically filled with worshippers with the latter being almost empty. [Read more...]

State church

Richard Neuhaus once said that the habit of associating Lutheranism with Germany–then blaming Lutheranism for what’s bad in German culture–is misplaced.  Germany has always had a mix of many religious traditions:  not just Lutheranism but Roman Catholicism, Calvinism, anabaptists, etc., etc.   If you want to see Lutheranism’s cultural influence, he said, look at the Scandinavian countries, whose only church, pretty much, has been Lutheran.  More than Prussian militarism, he said, you could argue that Lutheranism helped inspire the Scandinavian welfare state.  (More on that welfare state later!)

I met a member of the conservative theological faculty at the University of Aarhus who studied at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN.  He fondly recalled the classes of Dr. David Scaer, who told him, “I love Denmark.  Everyone is Lutheran.  Even the cows are Lutheran.”

And yet, the Scandinavian state churches, with their near religious monopoly, have become extremely liberal in their official hierarchy.  I don’t know about the cows, but the churches are not always confessionally Lutheran any more.  And yet, there are confessional Lutherans in the country, not just in Inner Mission, but in the state church.  I’m going to run a series of posts telling about some of the paradoxical things I’ve learned about the church situation in Denmark (where I spent most of my time) and the other Scandinavian countries, in the course of which I’ll also pose some questions that you can help me with. [Read more...]