Don’t give them the Gospel? 

We often assume that if we could only find the right way to reach those who are opposed to Christianity that we could win them over to the Gospel.  S. M. Hutchens, writing in the Touchstone blog, says that many of these folks don’t lack knowledge of Christ.  They are simply rejecting Him.

Good point.  But then he says that such overt enemies of God should not be given the Gospel, that they cannot be evangelized.

I would say that we are all by nature enemies of God.  And that, by the power of the Word, the Holy Spirit can bring even the worst enemy of God to salvation.  (I am thinking of St. Paul, who called himself “the worst of sinners” and was an overt persecutor of the Church and of Christ.)  Certainly, a person can’t be open to the Gospel without first being broken by the Law, which can happen in various ways.  But that is part of the process of evangelism, and everyone needs to be evangelized.  (We Lutherans believe in the universal atonement, that Christ died for everyone, so we cannot assume that any given person is one of the non-elect “reprobates.”)

But is there something in what Hutchens says?  Even if those who are purposefully rejecting God should still be evangelized, do we need to approach them and the trouble they give Christians differently than if they were merely ignorant?  Read his argument, excerpted and linked after the jump. [Read more…]

Morality as politics

The Pew Research Center has conducted a study finding that 64% of church goers heard political issues being preached from the pulpit.  Those “political issues” included abortion, homosexuality, religious liberty, the environment, and economic inequality.

Now those are mostly moral–not political–issues.  Churches have always taught about sexual morality and respect for human life.  They have also addressed issues of social morality.  That is not being political.  The Pew study found that only 14% heard political candidates being promoted or criticized.

What’s interesting here is that the researchers consider moral beliefs to be nothing more than political positions.  To be sure, government dictates about morality gives them a political dimension they normally would not have.  This is especially true when the government requirements run counter to the church’s traditional moral teachings.  Of course the church must push back against that.

But the problem isn’t churches meddling into politics.  It is the government meddling into morality.

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He is the priest, He is the Samaritan, He is the robber

A few weeks ago, our pastor (and son-in-law) was preaching about the parable of the Good Samaritan.  He developed the idea that this parable gives us a picture of love, which is what the Law looks like in practice.  And because Jesus fulfills the law, all acts of righteousness–that is, all acts of love–look like Him.

He then applied this back to the parable in a startling way. [Read more…]

Caution: Intense Law & intense Gospel

Sunday was the commemoration of St. Matthew.  In the Gospel lesson, Matthew tells about how Jesus called him, tax collector though he was, and how the Pharisees thought about him:

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

10 And as Jesusreclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9-13)

Our pastor took this text and played off of the indignation that people are feeling about NFL stars Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.  He turned it into a powerful sermon.  Read it all at the link, but I give excerpts after the jump.  CAUTION:  INTENSE Law and INTENSE Gospel. [Read more…]

Evangelizing the condemned Nazis

Last year almost to the day we blogged about  Rev. Henry Gerecke, the LCMS military chaplain who was pressed into service as the Protestant chaplain at Nuremberg, charged with ministering to the Nazi war criminals who were on trial there, many of whom were executed.  There is now  book out about Chaplain Gerecke:  Mission at Nuremberg: An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis by Tim Townsend.

It tells how he used both firmness and compassion, applying both the Law and the Gospel, in an effort to bring these moral monsters to repentance and to Christ.  Which he apparently did with at least 4 of the 11 who were hanged.  Then again, Hermann Goering repudiated Christianity just hours before he committed suicide by biting a  smuggled cyanide tablet, calling Jesus “just another smart Jew.”  After the jump, an excerpt from a review of the book.
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Cheap Grace

We often hear references to Bonhoeffer’s term “cheap grace.”  In an essay defending Christians who are trying to separate themselves from the world–which I recommend that you read–Rod Dreher usefully quotes the entire passage and its context from The Cost of Discipleship dealing with “cheap grace.”

Read the passage after the jump, and then help me think about it. [Read more…]