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Topics - Dan Fienen

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Your Turn / 1620
« on: June 14, 2021, 01:21:31 PM »
I just finished reading 1620: A Critical Response to the 1619 Project by Peter Wood, President of the National Association of Scholars and a professor of History at Duke University. In it Professor Wood suggested that the November, 1620 signing of the Mayflower Compact is as foundational to the United States and its character as was the landing of slaves in Virginia in August of 1619. 1620 is a critique of the historical basis for the claims made in the NYT's "1619 Project" and finds that in almost every case the historical claims made in the Project were exaggerated or simply wrong. This was not simply a matter of interpreting the historical data differently, but of making assertions about the history that are demonstrably wrong.

Professor Wood does not assert that racism has not nor continues to be a problem in the United States, or that the mythology of the United States as somehow the perfect nation was correct. But if we are to totally reframe our understanding of United States History as the authors and sponsors of the "1619 Project" set out to do, at least they could do so on the basis of the actual history of the United States rather than creating their own origin myths based as much or more on ideology than solid historical research.

This has significance for us as Pastors and Church Men and Church Women for several reasons. We are also part of the USA and have a stake in what is being taught not just about our history as a nation, but about who we are as a people. But more than that, when we preach, teach, and talk about race relations we need to do so based not on cleverly devised stories but on the facts. The "1619 Project" seeks to indict the United States and especially its dominate group of people, Whites, of falsifying their history for their own benefit and calls for changes in what we do. But if that indictment is based not on the facts of the case but lies and misrepresentations, can we as Church People countenance and lend our support to that indictment? Do we agree with the legal theory that "well the accused might not actually be guilty of this accusation but we know that he is a guilty of something so this will do."? What would that say of us as a people?

We also have a stake in what passes as history. Christianity is an historically based religion. Throughout the Bible, Old and New Testament, a constant refrain is that the God who speaks to His people, who calls for their worship, loyalty, faithfulness and obedience is that God who had done certain things for them. He is the God who created everything, who rescued them from slavery in Egypt, who fought for them against their enemies, provided for them in need, who became one of them, died for their sins and rose to give them life. Christianity is not primarily about what we need to do to get in good with God, to have a good life, or a good afterlife, but about what God has done, not in theory but in history. History as an accurate recounting of the past is important to us. In 1 Corinthians 15, when St. Paul discusses the resurrection of Jesus he spoke not about the story of the resurrection as comforting or inspiring, or how it should make us feel. He gives a list of witnesses who could testify that it actually happened at a particular time and place. Then he goes on to say that if it had not actually happened but was rather simply an inspiring story the whole Christian enterprise was useless.

If history becomes for ourselves simply stories that we tell ourselves to comfort us, challenge us, or spur us to action, where the story of the patriots risking their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, is no better to inspire us than the Rebel Alliance uniting to fight the Evil Empire of Emperor Palpatine, and stories may simply be switched around to suit the moment, then what of Christianity's Heilsgeschichte?

The central doctrine in Lutheranism is that of justification by grace. Our salvation is based on what God has done for us, not what we do. But if the stories that we tell and are told of God's actions for us are essentially fungible and any story to obtains the desired result in us "works" then it all depends on us learning to be a good person, authentic person, useful person, fulfilled person, or whatever kind of person our philosophy or therapy seeks. It becomes up to us because our stories have become not what God has done but what we need to hear.

It is this kind of history that the "1619 Project" promotes. History becomes the story we tell to obtain the desired result. At the beginning, when it was published by the New York Times, it had great claims to be telling the true unvarnished history of the United States as it really happened. It would reframe US history and be the basis for a new and comprehensive curriculum for teaching US history. However, that claim soon wilted in that face of withering criticism from reputable historians of inaccuracies, significant omissions, and misrepresentations. It eventually morphed into a journalistic exercise, not historical, a way to get Americans to think differently about themselves.

People make up myths about themselves all the time, Americans no less than others. We have the Noble Pilgrims, righteous Patriots, Cowboys battling the barbaric Indians and rapacious farmers who sought to fence them in, Washington chopping down the cherry tree and refusing to lie about it, and all the rest. Often times there is some grain of truth behind the myth, but much is made out of whole cloth to satisfy some need or raconteur's itch. They can be useful to inculcate desired behavior or attitudes. The myth of the shining, heroic, all benevolent America whose alabaster cities gleam undimmed by human tears is a myth, albeit a flattering one. But must we bring that flight of fancy down to earth by creating another myth of an America about which nothing good can be said, inhabited by a race of people who are universally evil?

The reality is that nations and people are complex combinations of good and bad. While it is easier and comforting to pigeonhole people (including ourselves) as good people (practically perfect with just a few easily excusable foibles) and bad people (who are unremittably and irredeemably bad for whom no excuse can be made). The truth is much more complicated than the perfectionist model would hold. Look at St. Paul's torturous self-examination in Romans 7.

We need to preserve history as accounts of what has happened not just useful stories we tell ourselves since our faith is based not on cleverly devised myths (21 Peter 1:16) but what God actually has done for us. We also need to learn to deal with people (ourselves first of all) not as simply good guys and bad guys but as saints and sinners.

Your Turn / Religious Freedom Issues, Again
« on: June 09, 2021, 10:33:18 AM »
June 1, the Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, our Synodical President, joined a diverse group of U.S. religious and legal leaders in writing to the U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, about a matter of religious freedom, especially at public universities.

At issue are two Federal Regulations, 34 C.F.R. §§ 75.500(d) and 76.500(d). According to the Federal Register, the regulations state that a public institution “shall not deny to any student organization whose stated mission is religious in nature and that is at the public institution any right, benefit, or privilege that is otherwise afforded to other student organizations at the public institution (including but not limited to full access to the facilities of the public institution, distribution of student fee funds, and official recognition of the student organization by the public institution) because of the religious student organization’s beliefs, practices, policies, speech, membership standards, or leadership standards, which are informed by sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The letter to the U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona notes that, even with existing protections, “student groups on some college and university campuses are denied the right to require that their leadership affirm the religious convictions of the organizations.” The letter is in support of those regulations and requesting that they be preserved. The letter may be read here:

It is not the business of publicly funded educational institutions to promote particular religious beliefs or practices. But neither is it their business to discriminate against religions or students who practice their religion. This is not asking for special rights so much as that students who organize as a religious on campus organization be treated as other such student organizations. The point about leadership is a special focus of concern. Should a conservative Christian, Jewish, or Muslim organization whose beliefs include the belief that same sex sexual relationships are sinful be forced to allow leaders in their group to be practicing homosexuals? Should a student Democratic organization be forced to allow as leaders Trump followers?

Another thing that interested me was that Pres. Harrison's signature of the joint letter was ensconced among a diverse group of religious leaders. Not only Lutheran, but also Baptist, National Association of Evangelicals, Roman Catholic, various other Christian denominations, Mormon, Jewish, and Muslim

Your Turn / Judgmentalism
« on: May 22, 2021, 05:26:02 PM »
One fault that is commonly found with Christians in general and the Christian church is that we are far too judgmental. We are always looking for faults in people and condemning them for those faults. There is some truth to that. Jesus Himself pointed out our tendency to hypocritically point out the motes in other people's eyes while ignoring the planks in our own. We do have a tendency to strain out gnats while swallowing camels. It certainly behooves us take care as we stand tall and proud in our virtues lest we fall.

But if we are too judgmental, what of the progressive social activists perpetually on the hunt for the slightest hint of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, microaggressions, white privilege, the list seems endless for the ways that people can be found to offend. And it is not just today that is examined. One's entire life and anything that has ever been posted on line is subject to judgment, no excuses or apologies will be accepted. No forgiveness possible.

Why bring this up? I have several reasons.

1) The tendency towards judgmentalism is not a distinctively Christian or churchly defect but a common human one. As an excuse for dismissing Christianity or involvement with a church it is just that, an excuse, not a valid reason. 

2) There is a lot of fault finding a blaming going around these days. We all need to recognize that it can quickly become excessive. It is also often used as a means of intimidation. Those who oppose the social program of some can expect to have the full force of their accusations unleased. Better to keep quiet and just go along.

3) Similarly, while we need to be self critical and aware of where we can be at fault, insensitive to others, oppressive towards others, or legitimately abusive, we need to keep our own self criticism as well as our criticism of others in a healthy perspective.  Those who always seek to find fault will inevitably find faults even if of the importance of a gnat.

4) Experiencing the hyper-critical attitude of others, we need to allow that to sensitize ourselves to the possibility that we might be doing to those we oppose or dislike what we experience being done to us. Just because our neighbor might be obsessed with tearing out the motes in my eyes while ignoring the planks in his doesn't mean that I have a few planks of my own that I've been ignoring.

Your Turn / Peace be upon Jerusalem
« on: May 15, 2021, 10:08:27 AM »
This Sunday I am including this petition in the Prayer of the Church:

P   Lord of all nations, we note with concern the renewed hostilities in the Middle East in and around the Land in which Your Son, Jesus, was born, lived, died for all humankind, and rose again to provide eternal life for all. Touch the hearts and minds of those who lead these peoples who are in conflict with compassion for all, especially for the non-combatants who live in the land. Lead these peoples to find ways to live as neighbors in that area, respecting the needs and rights of all. Help them to work out their conflicts in ways that serve all. Peace be upon Jerusalem! Lord, in Your mercy,
C   hear our prayer.

Your Turn / Transgendered
« on: May 12, 2021, 10:56:40 AM »
Rather than divert the thread concerning the new ELCA Bishop, this thread.

Some thoughts on transgender.

I affirm the God created us to be male and female and that the intent of creation would be that people be the gender that they were born. However, with the Fall gender, as with so many human things, does not always work the way that it was originally intended. We are not the way that we were supposed to be from creation. We are sinners. We suffer from disease. Sometimes those diseases arise from our genes, we are born that way. Sometimes our malfunctions arise from our environment, or our experiences in childhood, adolescence, or adulthood.

Apparently gender dysphoria is a real phenomenon, people extremely rarely decide on a whim to undergo extensive and arduous medical treatments and surgeries to change their sex. Some of that difficulty may arise from our cultural tendency to lock people into rigid stereotypic sexual roles based on gender that do not always hold true. I find it odd that while generally speaking cooking is assumed to a womanly function, until the last few decades the most prominent chefs were men, and also cooking that involved meat over fire outdoors was always to be done by men. Women are supposed to be more nurturing and more verbal than men, but the ministry which is a nurturing and intensely verbal profession was until the last century largely restricted to men and still is in some churches. Culturally assigned sex roles do not always hold true. I have wondered if part of the problem of gender dysphoria may sometimes arise from trying to conform to sex role expectations that do not always hold true.

That said, I am by no means knowledgeable about gender dysphoria. I do accept that it happens and can become a serious problem for a few people. Extensive medical intervention may be indicated. Seems to me that sex change therapy may well be a legitimate response for a bad situation.

Like just about everything else in this contentious age, this also has become politicized. Rather than the subject of careful, open minded research, positions on gender dysphoria and proper treatment have become entrenched and not to be questioned. From both progressives and conservatives certain positions, answers, and treatments are now orthodoxy, not to be questioned, and any research into the matter that might upset the assumed orthodoxy much less contrary evidence is to be denounced and extirpated.

Nowhere is this more dangerous than when applied to children. In the current climate, questioning ones birth sex and assigned gender as a child has become fashionable and to at all question ones gender is often rewarded and the label of trans locked in. What may be a passing phase becomes destiny with powerful medical intervention imposed to lock in the change. To question whether such immediate intervention is in the long term best interest of the child is forbidden.

Some children may well be destined for genuine gender dysphoria in adulthood and need to be allowed to develop as they will with sympathy and acceptance. But pre-adolescent children have barely begun to establish their identity, to initiate massive medical intervention, including puberty blockers, as they try out identities and gender roles, risks taking what may merely be a stage in development or the development of nonstandard roles. In the past we have culturally been far too obsessed with men's roles and women's roles and ensuring that as our children grow they conform to the cultural expectations for their sex. We risk flipping that obsession.

Children who question their gender identity need to be treated with sympathy and kindness, allowed to explore what it is that they are like without either being forced into traditional typical gender roles or forced to choose prematurely their desired gender and then locked into that choice.

Your Turn / A Thread for Sniping at Each Other over Gender Issues
« on: May 08, 2021, 12:14:58 PM »
The memorial thread for Marva Dawn has devolved into rehashing complaints and defenses of LCMS hiring practices. Perhaps that essential task could be continued here and the Marva Dawn memorial thread reserved for tributes to or memories of Marva Dawn. Since church gender issues have been hashed and rehashed interminably with little new being said and little chance that anyone's mind being changed there seems little left but sniping and name calling in that topic. Hardly a fit tribute for Marva.

Your Turn / The Issue of Issues
« on: April 07, 2021, 12:30:34 PM »
I just received in the mail the January issue of the Forum Letter. In it our Humble Correspondent has an article, “The Issue of Issues.” Written primarily from an ELCA perspective (as is quite reasonable, that being Brother Austin’s church body) what he wrote needs to be considered also by those of us in other church bodies.

Pr. Austin observed that
“We all champion the ‘issues’ we consider critical to theology, church life, politics, or the world. We join others with similar concerns to have an issue brought forward for discussion and action.”
He went on to note that for many, presumably Pr. Austin included, “The Issue For Today” is the issue of gender and sexuality in all of its rainbow hues. This he perceived as a critical issue in need of discussion and action. Now Pr. Austin and I, the ELCA and LCMS are not at all on the same page in regard to this issue, but that is not what I found interesting, insightful, or important about his article.

Rather he continued to point out that aver the years there have been a changing agenda of critical issues that church people became concerned about to point of obsessing over. Which brought him to his most important point. As Pr. Austin wrote:
Circumstances would push one issue or another to the forefront where “The Issue” became almost “The Whole Deal.” Its concerns outweighed all others, when some of those others were actually more critical to the broader mission. It was easy to forget that the Gospel is more than our favored issue.

It’s not that the issue du jour isn’t important and deserves our attention and effort. But we need to remember that that particular issue remains only a part of what concerns us as a church and as Christians. As important as we may perceive it to be, it is not “The Whole Deal.” The Gospel is much more than just The Issue, and people’s spiritual hunger is often not satisfied with just our solution to The Issue. As Pr. Austin concluded:
Because the real Issue of All Issues is bringing people to faith, no matter what sin or sorrow or separation has troubled their life or threatened their faith and their full participation in the Body of Christ. We need to do a lot more of that.

In  my own way, I resemble those comments, and I am in need of his warnings as I presume he is. And as I look at my LCMS I fear that our church body with our concern over and battle for the issues that concern us is in need of those warnings as is the ELCA.

It’s not that the current culture wars, defending our Constitutional rights, sexuality and gender and the proper roles attached to them, abortion, upholding orthodox Confessional theology, the integrity and reliability of the Scriptures, and whatever other battlement we are called upon to defend are not important. They are. But we also need to remember that they are not the Gospel of Jesus Christ although they may be important to supporting that preaching. They may become for us diversions from our main task, preaching Christ and Him crucified and risen from the dead.

Thank you, Charles, for your article. It was well written and a needed warning lest we become so obsessed with side issues that we neglect the main thing, Jesus.

Your Turn / Easter and the End of Mark's Gospel
« on: March 18, 2021, 11:53:53 AM »
As all of us, except perhaps those devoted to the One Year Lectionary, know this is Year B and the primary Gospel this year is that of Mark. As we approach Easter, one of the things that we must come to terms with is the way that Mark treats the Easter story and the notorious and abrupt ending to the Gospel in the earliest manuscripts. Many theories have been advanced as to how the Gospel should end, including the possibility that very early in the textual transmission the original ending was lost. There are a couple of endings given in early manuscripts that round out Mark’s account of Jesus with Resurrection appearances like those given in the other Gospels.

In the introductory material for his first Marcan commentary Mark 1:1-8:26 in the Concordia Commentary series, James Voelz argues that the 16:8 ending is the original ending and that to end the Gospel with that ambiguous ending fits with the themes and point of the Gospel.

Simply and succinctly put, in the Second Gospel we see a story hard to follow and a hero difficult to understand Therefore, we cannot see clearly to believe (cf. 8:22-26). Or as summarized by the Jewish leaders at the cross (15:32): “the Christ, the King of Israel, let him come down now from the cross in order that we may see and believe” (‘ίνα ỉ‛δωμεν καί ϖιστεύσωμεν)! In fact, this is exactly what this Gospel will not give: seeing to believe; clear sight to understand; unambiguous evidence to be sure. In this strange and perplexing Gospel, seeing is not believing; on the contrary, seeing follows from believing, not the other way around.

. . .

This, then, is what Mark’s Gospel is about: the ambiguity of the evidence, the necessity of believing in the face of such evidence, and the reliability of Jesus’ Word.
(Mark 1:1-8:26, Voelz, p. 55, emphasis original)

Thus the demand of the Jewish leaders at the cross for evidence that they can see before they will believe, is met not with the evidence of resurrection appearances, but with ambiguity and a refusal to meet their demands.

Voelz went on to point out another instance in the Gospel where a demand for evidence that can be seen was denied. In Mark 8 Jesus conversed with Pharisees who demanded a sign from heaven. Jesus declared that the demand for a sign was characteristic of a wicked and adulterous generation. And no sign would be given but that of Jonah.

What, then, is the message of this book? According to our analysis it is this: in this age, the reign and rule of God in Jesus Christ has come in power, but in hiddenness, as it were, in humility and lowliness. The goal of the ministry Jesus was to serve, not to be served and to give his life as a ransom for many (10:45). Therefore, the true revelation of the Son of God was at the cross, where he gave his life as that ransom.
(Mark 1:1-8:26, Voelz, p. 61, emphasis original)

But the answer of the Second Gospel is this: “It was ever thus. If you had been there, it would not have been any easier than it is today. The evidence would have been ambiguous, even with your Lord. What you have is what the disciples and the women had, also on that Easter morning; you have the promise of his Word a Word that is ever sure.
(Mark 1:1-8:26, Voelz, p. 61)

Your Turn / Forum Letter, Jan 2021
« on: December 19, 2020, 10:06:01 AM »
I just got and read the electronic edition of the January 2021 Forum Letter. I always enjoy the Forum Letter but this issue was especially thought provoking.

I particularly appreciated Charles Austin's article, "The Issue of Issues." In it he pointed out that while gender equality for women and recognition and acceptance of gender and sexual minorities is an important, even critical issue for the ELCA, it is not the only issue or even the most important issue. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, that sinners are forgiven and saved because of Jesus and what He did needs to be at the heart of what we do. That does not mean that gender and sexuality issues can be ignored or neglected, but neither dare we neglect the Gospel of forgiveness in Jesus. That is applicable to everyone.

Naturally, Charles has much more to say than I could summarize in a paragraph or two, but the take away that I took from his article is the salutary reminder of the temptation that threatens to side track all of us to elevate a side issue or a part of the implication of the Gospel for the Gospel itself. For the ELCA now that might be gender and sexuality issues. For the LCMS it might be issues of doctrinal purity and unity or Biblical inerrancy. Important issues and worthy of our time, effort, and dedication, but not the Gospel itself.

It has become a common trope, even a cliché, that people are tempted to major in the minors. But these crucial issues for either the ELCA or LCMS are not exactly minor issues. They are important in the over all scheme of things and are important to us. We care about them in part because we perceive them as an important part of what supports the Gospel or an important implication of applying the Gospel to life. But we can end up getting so caught up in those that we lose sight of the heart of the Gospel. Sort of a not seeing the forest for the trees situation.

That brings me to the opening article "Lessons from My Uncle" in the issue by associate editor Peter Speckhard. In it Peter shares a letter that his uncle wrote explaining why he left the LCMS for the ELCA. Like Peter, I would not agree with his uncle on a number of points that he made, but here again an important point that I took away from this letter and Peter's article is that we need to be careful not to let subsidiary issues overshadow the Gospel.

One point, for example. His uncle Tom commented on the LCMS insistence on a particular understanding of the real presence in the sacrament that prevented fellowship with the Reformed. I do not wish to argue that point here, but I have long thought that making sure that the sacrament is offered to everyone to whom we should offer it should be at least as important as making sure that no one who should not be offered it at our altar receives it. It seems to me that if we are to err on the side of caution, it should be to err on the side of giving people the benefit of the doubt rather than when in doubt, exclude.

Issues of inerrancy, real presence, and correct teaching are not unimportant nor should we neglect them. But in our zeal, we need to remember that they are not what saves any more than promoting gender or sexuality equality and acceptance. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is what saves, these other issues may be important to support that Gospel or as implications of the Gospel important for living it out in our world, but they are not what saves.

Good articles and they made me think.

Your Turn / Romans 13 and Revelation 13
« on: September 28, 2020, 01:41:20 PM »
Over on another thread it was pointed out that Romans 13 and Revelation 13 have very different attitudes towards government. In Romans 13, the government is portrayed as serving as God's agent in punishing wrong doers and that Christians are obliged to offer it their respect and obedience. In Revelation 13, the Roman government is an enemy of God and His people. So is this a contradiction in Scripture?

Let me offer an observation and interpretive principle: In giving us His word in Scripture, God limits Himself to the limited bandwidth available in human communication. Or to put it another way: God cannot say everything that can be said on a subject all at one time.

As a theological work, the Bible is almost exclusively Occasional rather than Systematic theology. Systematic theology tries to be comprehensive  in its treatment of a topic and include all aspects. Occasional theology is more focused on a particular situation and discuss the theological implication of that situation while leaving unexplored and unspoken how that theological topic might be applied to other situations. In the New Testament, Romans is probably the most Systematically presented text, but even there it addresses primarily the situation of the Christians in the city of Rome at that particular time.

It is a great error to take a passage of Occasional theology and treat it as a comprehensive and Systematic statement. Especially if one then compares it with a different passage of Occasional theology and derives that the Bible is inconsistent and contradictory. That is taking a far too literalistic approach to the text of Scripture.

As a general principle, the Romans 13 view of the nature and function of government is a good summary. However, as Revelation 13 and other passages illustrate, government does not always function according to its mandate from God and must be resisted. The maxim, "You should obey God rather than man," as applied to interactions with the government is not in contradiction with Roman 13, but rather points out limits to the applicability of Romans 13, and with Romans projects a more comprehensive view of how we are to regard government.

Your Turn / Judging Another's Servant
« on: September 16, 2020, 03:11:54 PM »
In looking at the readings for last Sunday, September 13, the 15th Sunday after Pentecost, Series A, Proper 19, Romans 14:1-12, I was especially struck by verse 4. "Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand." The immediate context is the dispute over eating meat that had been associated with idol sacrifices. In the next paragraph Paul also extends it to the observance of holy days. How can we apply this pericope to our sometimes-heated discussions on this forum?

Terms of approbation and disapprobation abound. Orthodox, heterodox, and heresy are bandied about. Terms for various people generally considered rude are used, often seemingly with the intention of rudeness while claiming to be simply "telling it like it is." This behavior does not come only from one end of the theological, social, or political spectrum. One poster habitually questions how a Christian concerned about morality could dream of voting for or defending one presidential candidate. Or how those who have not modified their understanding of how God wants the church to be run or who is to be ordained have simply not been listening to the Holy Spirit or actively resisting God's will. From all sides of any issue it is commonplace to consider those who disagree as deficient in intelligence, faithfulness, piety, or morality. Here Paul argues against such attitudes.

In Paul's day there were a number issues that could divide Christians. They had not yet hardened into what we today have as denominations, but there certainly were recognizable groupings, such as Christians who followed Paul and James's party. It is, I think inevitable that Christians of similar beliefs would band together, eventually forming organization to promote their understanding of the faith. Membership within such a grouping would depend in part on sharing those identifying beliefs. Rejecting those beliefs would naturally eventuate in leaving that grouping. But across those groupings, how should we treat each other?

Each religious group or denomination decides for itself what the requirements are for maintaining membership are and what the limits are for dissent. Maintaining those boundaries is the responsibility of that group. It is not for those outside the group, even if they are a similar group to make that determination. So, for example it is not really for me as an LCMS pastor to decide that a member of the ELCA is a heretic. That is for them to decide. ELCA members are not under my ecclesiastical supervision. They are servants of the same God that I am, but under different authority. The most that I can say is that something that they wrote sounded to me to be similar to a recognized heresy, or that I think that something that they wrote sounded wrong to me and why. Of course, I must accept that they may also find things that I write to be wrong. It is not my place to judge the state of their soul, merely state my disagreement.

One area disagreement between the LCMS and ELCA is over who should be ordained. We are more restrictive. So how should I treat an ordained ELCA minister who in my LCMS understanding of the matter would be disqualified for ordination? She is not my servant, nor is she a servant under the same disciple that I am a servant to. It is not my place to judge whether or not she should have been ordained. If she fulfilled the requirements that her discipline (the ELCA) established, she is an ordained minister in that disciple just as I am in mine, and deserves the same courtesy, dignity, and respect from me that I do from her. In other words, I should treat her as I would treat any other pastor from a denomination in which we are not in altar and pulpit fellowship. We both imperfectly serve the same over all master even if our understanding of the terms of that service contradict each other. Who knows, in the end I could be as wrong as she is or she could be as correct as I am.

Our disagreements certainly become heated in this forum, and at times in anger we become intemperate in our language to each other. I repent of the times when I have offended and do strive to be more respectful. We all (well most of us, I can think of one poster who has stated he doesn’t serve God) serve one master and are responsible to Him through the ecclesiastical order in which we serve. It is not for me to judge someone else’s (God’s) servant unless that judgement has been delegated to me. With the exception of the few Bishops or District Presidents who post here who are the supervisors of others, none of us have authority over others, nor should we exercise that.

Please, let us be respectful and polite to each other even when we disagree, and even when someone is so obviously in the wrong. As Paul wrote, Galatians 6:1 (ESV), “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”

Your Turn / Reparation, Restitution, or Retribution
« on: September 08, 2020, 11:22:47 PM »
Reparations for slavery and racism has been much in the news and a topic of much discussion over the past years. I certainly am not interested in rehearsing all the ins and out of that debate. What I want to suggest is perhaps a different way of looking at reparation.

What is usually suggested as reparations could, I think, often be more accurately termed restitution or even retribution. The idea is the slavery and subsequent systemic racism in our legal, social, educational, and economic systems stole a great deal from people of sub-Sahara African ancestry in the United States. (That can hardly be disputed.) They should be paid back for what they lost. That seems to me to be more a matter of restitution than reparation. And also those who participated in that theft, their heirs, and those who benefited from that need to pay those damages as punishment. That edges towards retribution.

In theory that seems fairly straightforward. In practice that would be quite difficult to be done fairly, both for the victims and the accused culprits. If we are to total up what is owed, lets not forget that part of righting this wrong involved the Civil War in which conflict a great number of lives and a great deal of material resources were spent. With historical events spanning centuries, and the majority of victims and culprits all dead, determining just who has legitimate claims and what they are owed, as well as who owes the restitution and how much is likely an impossible task to accomplish.

One approach is not just restitution but retribution, and not by individuals against individuals, but racial group against racial group. Guilt, culpability, and liability are assigned by being deemed to be part of a victim class or a victimizer class with little regard to whether the individuals so designated had any personal or ancestral connection. That to me seems to not only risk but insure that injustice would be resolved by perpetuating more injustice.

If one of our goals is to bring our fractured nation together and to encourage peace, retribution is a very poor way to try to accomplish that.

Rather I would like to take a new look and different slant at Reparation. Etymologically speaking, reparation traces back to Late Latin reparationem, an "act of repairing, restoration." Instead of looking on this as an opportunity to stick it to people who harmed others and make them pay restitution, look upon it as people who have suffered grievous loss and we should help repair the damaged done to them. And make it a national effort involving all of our people, according to their ability, since this has been a national disaster.

I think that the most important thing here is that those who currently are still suffering the effects of centuries of systemic racism have as much repair done to their lives as possible. While simply a lump of money would no doubt be useful for many people, educational opportunities, better job opportunities, could in the long run be more important.

There would also need to be an examination of our legal, social, educational, and economic system for racial barriers.

Reparations as repairs will not be easy, nor really cheap. But in the long run, I think that it will be beneficial.

Your Turn / What Is Systemic Racism?
« on: August 31, 2020, 04:04:39 PM »
Systemic Racism has become a catch all phrase to describe any widespread instances of racial inequity.

From the Bing "Anti-Racism Glossary"
Systemic racism, sometimes referred to as structural racism, encompasses the overarching system of racial bias across all aspects of society, including history, culture, politics, and economics. All other types of racism, such as interpersonal and institutional racism, emerge from systemic racism. For example, redlining was a system that limited Black people's access to home ownership, locking them out of a major pathway to wealth—an economic disadvantage that can take generations to dissipate.

As such, Systemic Racism, has become too broad a term to suggest just where the racism lies and thus what part of the overarching system that is the totality of American society that must be fixed. To diagnose American society as having Systemic Racism is like diagnosing someone as sick. True enough as far as it goes, but it does little to suggest what needs to be done to bring the person or society into a healthier condition. It doesn't specify where in the body the illness lies much less whether anti-biotics, surgery, amputation, or two aspirin call in the morning is the best course of action. Recognizing that we in America have a problem of Systemic Racism is a start, like a person realizing that something is wrong and they need to go to the doctor. Before action is taken, it needs to be specified just what system in the body of the American social system is malfunctioning, and what will improve the situation.

For some, the cry of Systemic Racism has become the cry to destroy all of American society as we know it and build something, as yet unspecified except that they know it will be utopian, new and much better. Some of the people who claim to speak for Black Lives Matter proclaim that All Police Are Bastards. That the current system of policing needs not reforming but to be completely disbanded and that everyone who is associated with the police are the enemy of the people no matter who or what they are and no matter what they do. Police must go, completely. There has been the claim that the very act of declaring that some actions are illegal is inherently racist and that the whole system of laws must be done away with. That looting and destruction of property is a good thing and should not be discouraged.

We hear echoes of this in the current iconoclasm that would pull down statues not just of Confederate Generals, but anyone of American history that does not match their idea of ideal and that would deface and destroy any monument to American history. It resounds in the contention that American is racism and slavery and only that. That not only has slavery and racism been a part of American history since the beginning but that there is nothing else to American history but that and all of what America has been must be pulled down and discarded. After all there is Systemic Racism so the system must be destroyed to destroy the racism. Thus the cry of Systemic Racism can be used as a club to destroy everything rather than a wake up call the there are problems to be solved and injustices to be ameliorated.

All of American history needs to be known, understood, and dealt with. Our greatest men and women all have had their darker sides, and American history has its dark side also. But while that part of our history needs to be recognized, so also must the good and noble aspects. And ignoring and denying the good side of American history and American life is part of what some intend the cry of Systemic Racism to accomplish.

Your Turn / Science, Archeology, and Solomon's Temple
« on: August 17, 2020, 04:37:56 PM »
Interesting article from the Biblical Archeology Society]"Solomon's Temple Destruction Gives Clues to Modern Science".  Hundreds of floor segments from Solomon's Temple discovered in the Givati parking lot excavation revealed that in the fire that was part of the destruction of Solomon's Temple they were heated to over 1100 degrees Fahrenheit. That was a high enough heat to totally demagnetize the material. Then in cooling they would align to the prevailing magnetic field. That field then could be compared to the contemporary magnetic field. Since the date of the destruction of Solomon's Temple can be reliably established from Babylonian as well as Israelite sources, scientist can then establish with accuracy the state of the earth's magnetic field at a known but ancient point of time. This gives them the ability to chart with some accuracy how earth's field has changed over time.

I don't know that there are any crucial theological points to gleam from this, but I found it interesting. That this is even attempted points out to me how Biblical history is also related to real earth history. Solomon's Temple and its destruction was not just some story that was told around camp fires and home hearths, but happened in history and can assist in scientific discovery.

Your Turn / How Were OT People Saved?
« on: August 15, 2020, 03:52:38 PM »
Over in the LCMS Racial Justice thread the question came up as to whether Cain could have been forgiven because of Jesus since Jesus had not yet been crucified for sins. Rather than see that thread go off the track, I thought I'd start a new thread here for that discussion in case anyone in interested in pursuing it. If not, it will sink unused and unloved to the bottom of the page to finally disappear, lost forever.

My understanding of this relates to my understanding of God's relationship to time. Sorry, but I'm going to exercise my background in philosophy and especially philosophy of religion here. Once a philosopher, always a philosopher.

In Christian theology God is forever, always was, always will be. Numerous Bible passages could be cited, looking them up is left as an exercise for the readers. In philosophy of religion, two different understandings of this have developed. They are usually labeled for convenience as God as Eternal and God as Everlasting. The designators are somewhat arbitrary.

If God is conceived as Everlasting, the idea is that God experiences time in a linear fashion much as we do. The difference is that He has much more of it than any of us. His time began, if there was a beginning, when time began, and will only end when time ends, if it ends. This makes God much more of a person like us than does the alternative. The downside of this concept is that it becomes much more difficult to account for God's foreknowledge of the future without running into problems of causality. It also allows for the question of if God had a start (being a part of time like we are) what started Him?

The other concept is that God is Eternal. That is shorthand for saying that God does not experience time as we do but rather is outside of time and experiences all time, especially all our time, in an eternal present. Foreknowledge becomes not only easily accounted for but inevitable since He does not see His future but rather ours as part of His eternal present. It can also account for a number of other oddities in Scripture. All language that talks about God planning, foreknowing, deciding, regretting, etc. becomes much more metaphorical since He literally does none of that, those being time bounds actions, but rather translating in metaphor what He actually does, which is beyond our comprehension, into our time bound language and concepts. A downside to this concept is that God ends up being an exceedingly weird Dude.

(For a popular Science Fiction attempt to play with the concept of beings who operate outside of our linear time, take a look at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. At the beginning of the series they established that the wormhole near Bajor was inhabited by The Prophets, beings that did not experience linear time but who interested themselves in Bajor and were a major influence on the events in the region. The series at times played with theological concepts. Maintaining The Prophets as beings outside of linear time proved a very difficult plot device to sustain.)

So, what does this have to do with the salvation of OT people? If God is eternal, and most Christian theology that considers the topic opts for God as Eternal, then Cain, Adam, and Eve were before the incarnation and salvific actions of Jesus only in their time frame, not God's. God who knew Cain from before the founding of the earth, also knew Jesus dying for his sins. Since God, in this conception, lives in an eternal present that encompasses all our time Cain's murdering and Jesus death for the murder are contemporary events to God. All the people of Old Testament times were saved in Jesus salvific actions. The sacrificial system, etc. in the Old Testament was to prepare His people for the salvation that Jesus accomplished which in their time was still in their future, but part of God's eternal present, not His future.

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