Orthodox council ends

The last Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church was 1,200 years ago, and this one has been in the works for 70 years.  Despite boycotts by several church bodies, including the largest, the Russian Orthodox Church, the council met and finished its work.  As for what it accomplished, it doesn’t seem like much, falling short of the possibility that this would amount to Orthodoxy’s Vatican II.   (Orthodox readers, please help us out with what happened at the Council and its significance.)

The Council did, however, make a clear statement that marriage is intrinsically heterosexual.  It also forbade members of the Orthodox Church from being involved in same-sex unions and all other kinds of sexual cohabitation apart from marriage. [Read more…]

Did Donald Trump “accept Christ”?

Many evangelicals believe that a person becomes a Christian by making a “decision for Christ,” an act of the will, usually involving saying some version of “the sinner’s prayer,” in which the person “accepts Christ.”  We Lutherans certainly believe in conversion, though not construing that as an act of the will, as such, but rather as the Holy Spirit’s creation of faith by means of Baptism and the Word of God.  But some evangelicals treat the “decision for Christ” like Catholics treat Baptism, as being effective ex opere operatoapart from actual faith.

Anyway, lots of conservative Christians of every stripe have problems with Donald Trump.  But James Dobson, who once opposed Trump but now serves on his evangelical advisory board, said that he was told that Trump was “led to Christ” by the controversial prosperity gospel TV preacher Paula White.  That means that the presumptive Republican presidential candidate is a “baby Christian,” who doesn’t understand the language and practices of mature Christians, but who is a Christian nonetheless.  The implication is that Evangelicals should cut him some slack while still being able to vote for him in good conscience.

Read about this after the jump.  What do you think about it?   [Read more…]

Free catechism flash cards

Concordia Publishing House is offering free flash cards and memory cards to help in learning Luther’s Small Catechism.  You can download them here.  Thanks, CPH, for making available such a helpful resource!

HT:  Mary Moerbe

Confessions of an ex-liberal theologian

Thomas C. Oden is a prominent theologian who formerly was a major practitioner of liberal, modernist theology.  But then, after reading the Church Fathers, he did an about face, turning to orthodox, historical Christianity.  He tells his story in A Change of Heart:  A Personal and Theological Memoir.

This is the most stimulating and illuminating book that I have read in a long time, giving an inside look at the construction of liberal theology, explaining what happened to mainstream Protestantism, and describing in novelistic detail how a prominent scholar came back to an authentic Christian faith.

Reading this book, published a couple of years ago, was an especially strange experience for me because Oden’s background and mine are so similar!  Though he is 20 years older than I am, our experiences have been so similar or at least parallel that reading about them is like reading about my own life.  [Read more…]

Pope says most married people aren’t really married

Roman Catholicism famously doesn’t believe in divorce.  But it does believe in annulments, a procedure which determines that for one reason or another–immaturity, not knowing what they are getting into, etc.–a valid marriage never took place.

The implication is that many couples who had a church wedding and a marriage license, who have had children together, and who have lived their whole lives together are not really married.  I suppose this comes out if the couple wants to break up the marriage and, if they are Catholic, receive an annulment, but even if they stay together, they can never really know if they are married.

I would say that, from a Lutheran perspective,  this is another example of Roman Catholicism’s being not nearly sacramental enough.  Catholics believe that marriage is a sacrament, but the objective sacrament doesn’t make the marriage, just the subjective experience of long ago when they first became married.  Similarly, Catholics can’t really know if they have been saved, even though they have been baptized, received Holy Communion, etc.

This is also an example of legalism in religion, in which laws that are too difficult to fulfill are, in practice, weakened by creating technicalities and loopholes that make it easier to accomplish while defeating the whole purpose of the original law.  (If you don’t believe in divorce because marriage is a sacrament and thus permanent, don’t have annulments either!  These are just divorces by another name, even though they “save the appearances” of permanent marriage by declaring that a marriage never happened, though at the expense of your whole sacramental theology.)

Anyway, the Pope last week said that, because of the lack of commitment, “the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null.”  His handlers later edited the original transcript to change “the great majority” to “some,” but still. . . .If so many people who have gotten married are really just living together, committing fornication and their children illegitimate (to use other Catholic categories), then the line between wedlock and cohabitation is fatally blurred.  If marriage, however, is a VOCATION, a calling from God, it’s a different story. [Read more…]

Orthodox Church will have its “Vatican II”

The “Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church” will be held in Crete, June 16-27.  The Council, which will be attended by the leaders of all of the world’s 14 Orthodox bodies (though two are threatening boycott),  is being described as the Orthodox equivalent of “Vatican II.”  The issues to be taken up will reportedly include ecumenical relations, how to handle marriage to someone who is not Orthodox, problems of ethnic identity, achieving greater unity, and dealing with various contemporary questions.  After the jump, a story from a Catholic site with an interview of a key Orthodox player.

Orthodox readers, can you tell us more about this?  This wouldn’t have the authority of the early church councils, would it?, since it isn’t “ecumenical.”  But how would this fit in with its “conciliar” theology?  Do you expect the council to take up issues that are roiling the Western churches, such as homosexuality, gender issues, etc.?  Is the council likely to “modernize” Orthodoxy, as Vatican II did to Roman Catholicism?

UPDATE:  Five church bodies are refusing to come, including the biggest one, the Russian Orthodox Church.  So nearly half of the world’s Orthodox churches representing a majority of Orthodox Christians won’t be there.  For a good discussion of this disunity, including the big issue of the conflict between Russia and Constantinople for leadership in Orthodoxy, go here.  (HT:  Joe & McCain)

UPDATE: The Council will go on as planned, despite the absence of the Russians.  The Serbian church decided to attend after all, so only four will be absent.

[Read more…]


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