“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven”

Our Scripture reading in church yesterday included this passage from John 20:

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,[c] Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

via John 20 ESV – The Resurrection – Now on the first day – Bible Gateway.

(1)  We Lutherans believe that this passage teaches that Christ gives the Holy Spirit to the Church, which includes the authority to forgive sins.  This is exercised in vocation–that is, God acting through human beings–when the called pastor gives absolution during individual or corporate confession (the latter of which is part of every worship service).   After the individual or congregation admits their sins, the pastor says that as a called and ordained servant of the Lord, “I forgive you your sins.”

(2)  But that authority is not just given to pastors, but to the whole congregation, which has called the pastor to exercise this gift on its behalf.  But laypeople too can forgive sins and absolve those who confess their sins to them.  Again, it is Christ who forgives, but He applies that forgiveness through individual Christians.  (Isn’t that right?  Perhaps someone can explain the parameters.)

(3)  So when we forgive someone, according to this Scripture, that affects not only our feelings about the person who has wronged us.  Rather, that actually does something to the person that is recognized in Heaven.  (Right, Lutheran pastors?)

(4)  I know this sounds outlandish to you non-Lutherans.  But how else can you account for these verses (especially John 20:23)?  Do you think that only the Disciples were given this power?  Or what?

The founders’ individual mandates

It is unconstitutional to force individuals to buy health insurance, according to critics of Obamacare.  Not so, says Einer Elhauge of The New Republic, who points out that the founders who wrote the Constitution were not above passing individual mandates forcing citizens to buy things:

The founding fathers, it turns out, passed several mandates of their own. In 1790, the very first Congress—which incidentally included 20 framers—passed a law that included a mandate: namely, a requirement that ship owners buy medical insurance for their seamen. This law was then signed by another framer: President George Washington. That’s right, the father of our country had no difficulty imposing a health insurance mandate.

That’s not all. In 1792, a Congress with 17 framers passed another statute that required all able-bodied men to buy firearms. Yes, we used to have not only a right to bear arms, but a federal duty to buy them. Four framers voted against this bill, but the others did not, and it was also signed by Washington. Some tried to repeal this gun purchase mandate on the grounds it was too onerous, but only one framer voted to repeal it.

Six years later, in 1798, Congress addressed the problem that the employer mandate to buy medical insurance for seamen covered drugs and physician services but not hospital stays. And you know what this Congress, with five framers serving in it, did? It enacted a federal law requiring the seamen to buy hospital insurance for themselves. That’s right, Congress enacted an individual mandate requiring the purchase of health insurance. And this act was signed by another founder, President John Adams.

Not only did most framers support these federal mandates to buy firearms and health insurance, but there is no evidence that any of the few framers who voted against these mandates ever objected on constitutional grounds. Presumably one would have done so if there was some unstated original understanding that such federal mandates were unconstitutional. Moreover, no one thought these past purchase mandates were problematic enough to challenge legally.

via Einer Elhauge: If Health Insurance Mandates Are Unconstitutional, Why Did The Founding Fathers Back Them? | The New Republic.

Wait a minute:  A mandate for everyone to possess firearms?  What does that  do to the liberal argument that the Second Amendment only allows for collective gun ownership in militias rather than personal possession?

I’m also curious about the status of these old laws.  Were they ever repealed?  Why, how, and when?  Would conservatives accept the insurance mandate in return for  Congress  re-instating the firearms mandate?

Anyway, back on topic, that the Washington and Adams administrations passed commerce mandates in no way proves they are Constitutional.

Tornado hits my old stomping ground

I was born in Alva, Oklahoma.  I have memories of going to Woodward, the biggest town within an hour’s drive, to go to the movies.  I had to have been younger than five.  Anyway, Woodward was hit by a tornado early yesterday morning, killing five people.

This video is especially eerie.  It’s dark, but when the lightning flashes you get just a glimpse of this massively wide funnel.




We’re on Issues, Etc. today

My daughter and I will be on Issues, Etc. radio and web-radio program today to talk about our book Family Vocation: God’s Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood.  We’ll be taking the book section by section today and for the next fourMondays.  The show runs from 3:00-5:00 p.m. Central Time, but it will also be archived.  Go here to listen live (though our part will be taped).


Coming Up on Issues, Etc.

Monday, April 16, 2012
Family Vocation, Part 1
Deaconess Mary Moerbe and Dr. Gene Edward Veith, authors, “Family Vocations”



Giving Luther a hit record

A while back ago we blogged about that YouTube video of Lyle Lovett and other members of his LCMS congregation reciting the Nicene Creed.  Someone observed that on his latest album,  Release Me, he does a straight-up recording of Luther’s hymn “Keep Us Steadfast“:

Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word;
Curb those who fain by craft and sword
Would wrest the kingdom from Thy Son
And set at naught all He hath done.

Lord Jesus Christ, Thy pow’r make known,
For Thou art Lord of lords alone;
Defend Thy Christendom that we
May evermore sing praise to Thee.

O Comforter of priceless worth,
Send peace and unity on earth.
Support us in our final strife
And lead us out of death to life.

All of this gave Aaron Lewis a bright idea:

I was reading your post recently about Lyle Lovett’s rendition of Lord Keep Us Steadfast on his new album.
Why don’t you launch a campaign to help a song by Luther reach the top of the pop charts? We could start by having you encourage your readers to call radio stations and request that they play the song (it is on a major label so most stations should have the album). People can suggest others do the same on their facebook page/twitter &etc.
What do you think???

 I think it’s not very likely that the readership of this blog, however massive and well-connected, could pull that off, but, hey, I’m willing to try.  And we can all at the very least buy the track for 99 cents at Amazon or for $1.29 at iTunes, thus bidding up its prominence.  (Go to one of those sites to sample the recording.)  Though I myself, a big fan of Lovett and his alt country repristination of Western Swing, want the whole album.

What the “nones” believe

Lutheran sociologist Peter Berger discusses the phenomena of the “nones,” the growing demographic–currently 19% of the American population– that is unaffiliated with any religion.  Some say this group represents the secular elite, a wave of atheism, the sexually-liberated young people reacting against the sexual restrictions of religion.  But, says Berger, the evidence suggests otherwise:

The “nones” are most strongly represented among people with an income under $30,000, with high school graduation or less, who are married but (interestingly) without children. I am enough of a sociologist to think that class comes in somewhere in this matter, but it is unlikely to be a major factor.

I find most intriguing the Pew data on the religious beliefs and behavior of the “nones”. Let us stipulate that the “nones”, especially if they are young, are repelled by the neo-Puritanism of religious conservatives. But does this mean that they have decided (in the words of the authors) “to opt out of religion altogether”? I am strongly inclined to say no. Back to Pew data: 60% of “nones” say that they believe in God, as against 22% who say not. 41% say that religion is important in their lives, a minority as against the 57% who say that religion is not important—but a minority large enough to contradict the assertion that the “nones” have turned against religion altogether. What they have clearly turned away from is participation in institutional worship: 72% say that they seldom or never attend church services.

Let me, with all due respect for Campbell and Putnam [authors of a book on the subject that Berger is reviewing], suggest a hypothesis of my own: Most “nones” have not opted out of religion as such, but have opted out of affiliation with organized religion. Among Christians (the great majority of all survey respondents) there are different reasons for this disaffection. The two authors are very probably correct that, broadly speaking, those who are turned off by Evangelicals and conservative Catholics do so because they don’t like the repressive sexual morality of those churches (the sexual abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church has not helped). But the “nones” have also exited from mainline Protestantism, which has been much more accommodating to the liberationist ethic. Here, I think, there has been frustration with what my friend and colleague Thomas Luckmann long ago called “secularization from within”—the stripping away of the transcendent dimensions of the Gospel, and its reduction to conventional good deeds, popular psychotherapy and (mostly left-of-center) political agendas. Put differently: My hypothesis implies that some “nones” are put off by churches that preach a repressive morality, some others by churches whose message is mainly secular.

What then do these people believe? There is very likely a number (in America a relatively small one) of “nones” who are really without religion—agnostics or (even fewer) outright atheists. The latter have been encouraged by the advocates of the so-called “new atheism”—which is not new at all, but rather a reiteration of a tired 19th-century rationalism, pushed by a handful of writers who have been misrepresented as an important cultural movement. Presumably it is committed atheists who spark litigation over allegations that, for instance, a Christmas tree in a public park is a violation of the constitution. The bulk of the “nones” probably consist of a mix of two categories of unaffiliated believers—in the words of the British sociologist Grace Davie, people who “believe without belonging”. There are those who have put together an idiosyncratic personal creed, putting together bits and pieces of their own tradition with other components. Robert Wuthnow, the most productive and insightful sociologist of American religion, has called this “patchwork religion”. This includes the kind of people who will say “I am Catholic, but…”, followed by a list of items where they differ from the teachings of the church. The other category are the children—by now, grandchildren—of the counter-culture. They will most often say, “I am spiritual, not religious”. The “spirituality” is typically an expression of what Colin Campbell, another British sociologist, has called “Easternization”—an invasion of Western civilization by beliefs and practices from Asia. A few of these are organized, for instance by the various Buddhist schools. But most are diffused in an informal manner—such as belief in reincarnation or the spiritual continuity between humans and nature, and practices like yoga or martial arts.

via The Religiously Unaffiliated in America | Religion and Other Curiosities.

So 60% of those who belong to no religion believe in God, and 41% say religion is important to them, even though they don’t have one.  I agree with Berger that the privatization of religion–the anti-institutionalism that rejects churches and “organized religion” and the impulse to devise one’s own personal theology–accounts for much of this.

That’s a useful term:  “secularization from within.”  That is, the way churches have embraced secular values, thus rendering themselves superfluous.

What other observations can you make about the “nones”?

Are any of you readers “nones,” and if so does any of this ring true?

HT:  Matthew Cantirino