Guilt as feeling vs. guilt as verdict

More from Prof. Pless at our church’s Good Shepherd Seminar. . . .He pointed out that it was Schleiermacher, the 19th century Romantic theologian considered the father of liberal theology, who first defined guilt as a feeling experienced by the doer of the deed. Before that, guilt was considered as a forensic judgment on both the doer and the deed. The judge says, “guilty,” and you face punishment, no matter how you feel.

We are guilty, regardless of whether we feel guilty or not, because we are under God’s judgment. But under the Gospel, whether we feel guilty or not, we are pronounced “not guilty” for Christ’s sake.

In pastoral care, if the problem is that people feel guilty, the pastor must reassure them that they are not, that they don’t need to feel that way, that they are really OK. But if the problem is that they ARE guilty because of their sin, what the pastor has to do is deliver God’s new verdict in light of the Cross and Christ’s imputation, the verdict that they are pardoned.

Yea or nay on Intense Debate?

As you may have noticed, due to a number of requests, we have taken down the IntenseDebate plug in on this blog. It had some bugs that made it do some strange things, keeping some comments from posting and preventing me from deletions. It especially annoyed me that when you click “comments” it threw you to the very end of the thread, making it harder to read the whole discussion, as if what we want to do is express our opinion without reading the others.

We can put it back, though, if you want. Please comment upon your preference.

Report from Finland

You might have missed Snafu’s comments on the Changing your religion post about the church in Finland:

In Finland the situation is such that people are not so much changing their denomination but leaving the church membership. As you might know, we have a former state church (now a “people’s church”) and almost everyone used to be a member of the church. However, the Sunday service attendance has never been very high and is at the moment ca. 1-2 % of the membership.

ELCF measured by members is roughly twice the size of LCMS. At the moment the members-leaving-the-church rate is about 40,000 a year. Most of this is happening via a website (freely translated: “”) hosted by a certain atheist organisation. At the moment 81% of Finnish people are members of the Lutheran people’s church and it’s getting down. Sweden is a bit ahead of us, they’re in about 70%. In Germany, ca. 10-15% (if I remember right) are members of a church, whose confession at least on paper is excplicitly Lutheran. The number is going down while it is approximately the same as the number of muslims in Germany. And this is the home country of Luther!

Europe is getting more and more secular and more and more islamic. Well, you might know already that.

My reply:

My impression, Snafu, is that these state Lutheran churches are very, very liberal and modernist, that they don’t believe in the Bible or the confessions and that they hardly care about the Gospel. If that’s so, why WOULD anyone go to them? What are they offering that people can’t already get from secularism?

What is your situation as a believing Lutheran Christian in that context? Isn’t there a small confessional remnant in each country?

Whereupon he replied:

You’re very much right, dr. Veith. It is true that the state churches are very liberal. There was a poll a few years ago showing e.g. that 30% of the clergy did not believe hell existed at all. This year we have seen a pastor (female) coming out of the closet and getting full support from her bishop and another pastor “changing” his sex through a surgical operation, also getting full support from his bishop. And let me tell you, it’s not going to stop here.

To answer your (big) first question even a bit: The mental frame of the Finns is still that “to be a Finn is to be a member of the church”. This is also the reason why the older, Bible-believing members don’t know where else to go. However, this is changing and the younger believers are also leaving the church: 1/7 of those 40,000 report they left because the church is too liberal. I have friends who have then switched to Eastern Orthodox or Pentecostal (the next biggest churches in Finland).

To answer you second question (also a big question that no short answer would suffice).: there is a small remnant of confessional Christians in each country. However, these groups can be quite different from each other, others being quite revivalistic or piethistic, others confessional Lutherans, others charismatic. If you rule out the question of baptism, the state churches include almost all the possible protestant denominations.

My home is a confessional Lutheran movement “Luther foundation” that within a couple of years will start as an independent diocese in the church. A corresponding diocese in Sweden is the Missionsprovinsen, to which we have good relations. (and neither is recognized by the heads of the state church). The situation is a bit complex, and would take long time to explain but you can read a bit more in a blog:

The writer is a friend of mine who studied in Ft. Wayne last year (a good friend of prof. Pless).

The state church still has baptism; still reads the Word of God in its liturgy; still distributes Holy Communion; all of this still evidently creates believers, though amidst much apostasy. I’m intrigued by that cultural loyalty of ordinary people to the church, which I’m not willing to completely discount. I’ve heard predictions of a Christian revival in Europe. Christ is still in Finland, isn’t he?

Rich people’s guilt

According to this article, people earning $500,000 or more make up only 10% of households, but account for over half of retail sales and 70% of retailers’ profits. But they have stopped buying. Why? They feel guilty spending on luxury goods during the economic downturn. Ironically, our economy needs them to start spending again for it to improve. From the linked article:

More than half of affluent consumers say they feel “guilty” making luxury purchases in this economy, a survey of the most-moneyed Americans finds. Fewer this year also say they like to be labeled as “wealthy.” . . .

While there’s been plenty of talk about the wealthy hiding their high-end shopping bags, the findings are believed to be the first to quantify guilt’s role in the decline of spending. Of more than 1,500 respondents, 54% agreed they “feel guilty purchasing luxury goods in the current economic climate.” Just 29% said they like to be recognized as being “wealthy,” down from 35% a year earlier.

The survey, in its third year, never addressed guilt because Jim Taylor, vice chairman of the Harrison Group, says it “didn’t become an issue until this year.”

Taylor says high-end retailers and brands must convince wealthy consumers there’s an added value in their products.

With consumption now often “equated to shallowness,” retail branding expert Ken Nisch says products must “marry function and fashion,” such as Apple’s iPhone.

Andrew Sacks, president of Agency Sacks, which specializes in advertising and marketing to the affluent, says marketers need to give luxury shoppers the words “they can use at a dinner party to justify their purchase.”

So do you think the wealthy should feel guilty about spending money?

Three approaches to worship

Prof. John Pless, at our church’s Good Shepherd Seminar, drew on some other scholarship to point out that there are three different assumptions as to what worship should accomplish:

(1) Conversion. The purpose of worship is to convert non-believers. A more recent variation is motivation of believers. This developed from 19th century revivals, which eventually moved from the tent meetings outside the church to inside the sanctuaries.

(2) Celebration. The purpose of worship is to celebrate what God has done for us. The service should always be “upbeat.” This began in the Roman Catholic church with the worship reforms of Vatican II, but then began influencing some Protestant services.

(3) Consolation. The purpose of worship is to convey the forgiveness of sins, to strengthen the struggling, to comfort the troubled. This characterizes traditional Lutheran services.

Prof. Pless said that many contemporary services, such as those that characterize megachurches, combine the conversion and the celebration models. He cited one church growth advisor who said that services should not start with a confession of sins, since that is a “downer.”

To realize these three assumptions explains a lot, including about music. The conversion model will result in very emotional music, as in revival tunes. The celebration model yields happy praise songs. The consolation model includes music that is serious, sometimes in a minor key, with lots of comforting content.

The Hippocratic oath gets in the way

Betsy McCaughey tells how an administration health care planner thinks the Hippocratic Oath is getting in the way:

Patients count on their doctor to do whatever is possible to treat their illness. That is the promise doctors make by taking the Hippocratic Oath.

But President Obama’s advisers are looking to save money by interfering with that oath and controlling your doctor’s decisions.

Ezekiel Emanuel sees the Hippocratic Oath as one factor driving “overuse” of medical care. He is a policy adviser in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and a brother of Rahm Emanuel, the president’s chief of staff.

Dr. Emanuel argues that “peer recognition goes to the most thorough and aggressive physicians.” He has lamented that doctors regard the “Hippocratic Oath’s admonition to ‘use my power to help the patient to the best of my ability and judgment’ as an imperative to do everything for the patient regardless of the cost or effects on others.”

Of course, that is what patients hope their doctor will do.

But President Barack Obama is pledging to rein in the nation’s health care spending. The framework for influencing your doctor’s decisions was included in the stimulus package, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The legislation sets a goal that every individual’s treatments will be recorded by computer, and your doctor will be guided by electronically delivered protocols on “appropriate” and “cost-effective” care.

HT: Strange Herring