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Messages - Dan Fienen

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Your Turn / Re: Here's a Way to Control Guns
« on: Yesterday at 08:36:41 PM »
Just as I would have predicted. It’s only almost a M-16. The Ukrainian soldiers without a weapon would love to have one.

Peace, JOHN
Fine. You're suggesting that out of concern for Ukraine, US owners of AR 15s donate them to Ukraine. AR 15s cost from around $700 for a budget model to over $2,000 for a top of the line. Since you are so enthusiastic for Americans to donate weapons to Ukraine to support their defense efforts will you join them in buying an AR 15 to donate, or just donate the cost of such a weapon (provide the money for them to purchase one) for their cause. Or is your concern that they get weapons just a gimick? Are you one of those who are good at suggesting how others should practice charity that you have no intention of doing?

Got no weapon to give.  I do contribute funds for humanitarian relief in Ukraine.

Peace, JOHN
Does your humanitarian relief help defend Ukrainians?

Your Turn / Re: Here's a Way to Control Guns
« on: Yesterday at 08:28:37 PM »
And nothing answers the question: Why should anyone outside if the military or law enforcement be allowed to have a weapon that is “almost” an M-16 or any firearm designed for military?
Perhaps someone more knowledgeable about firearms than I could answer me this. How many firearms were not originally designed for military use or, like the AR 15 derived from the sign for a military weapon?

Your Turn / Re: Here's a Way to Control Guns
« on: Yesterday at 08:23:23 PM »
Just as I would have predicted. It’s only almost a M-16. The Ukrainian soldiers without a weapon would love to have one.

Peace, JOHN
Fine. You're suggesting that out of concern for Ukraine, US owners of AR 15s donate them to Ukraine. AR 15s cost from around $700 for a budget model to over $2,000 for a top of the line. Since you are so enthusiastic for Americans to donate weapons to Ukraine to support their defense efforts will you join them in buying an AR 15 to donate, or just donate the cost of such a weapon (provide the money for them to purchase one) for their cause. Or is your concern that they get weapons just a gimick? Are you one of those who are good at suggesting how others should practice charity that you have no intention of doing?

Your Turn / Re: Jews and God(s)?
« on: Yesterday at 04:24:09 PM »

Okay, lets go with your last statement.  The Athanasian Creed, which Christians have been confessing since at least the 5th century, and is included in the Book of Concord, states explicitly that "Whoever must be saved must, above all, hold to the catholic faith."  This "catholic faith" is defined as the truth that "we worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity..." (The Book of Concord, Kolb-Wegert ed., page 24).  If the Trinity, as you seem to claim, took time to formulate in the Early Church, then according to your understand it would be unfair to hold those early Christians to this confession, correct? That they were "saved" independent of any understanding of God as "Trinity". If that is what you believe, at what point can the Church claim that "whoever must be save must, above all..." confess "one God in trinity, and the Trinity in unity"? Or do you believe it is ever fair to hold a person responsible to make such a confession who claims to be Christian?
Might there be another way to express the divine reality that there is only one God but that we interact with that one God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit without using the Trinitarian terminology that the early Christians developed after the New Testament? Perhaps, but I don't know what it would be or why one would bother to try to develop such terminology. But, in the end, we are pledged not to a formulation but to believing the reality that formulation describes and expresses. The very earliest of Christians who lived in the time when the New Testament was being written may not have used the same Trinitarian formulations that were later used in the Athanasian Creed, but they would not have denied it. They believed in the reality that came to be expressed thus. They believed in One God, and they believed that God the Father, Jesus, the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit were all God. That belief can be demonstrated from the New Testament.

So, they may not have expressed their faith in God in the formulations of the Athanasian Creed, but they held the faith that the Athanasian Creed said was necessary if one was to be saved.

Your Turn / Re: Jews and God(s)?
« on: Yesterday at 04:11:54 PM »
My understanding, for what it's worth which likely is not much, is that the formulation of "Trinity" and "Triune God" was not formulated as such before the end of the writing of the New Testament. Neither was the description of God as "Three persons, one God." These ways of naming and describing God were developed as early Christians wrestled with the seeming incompatible truths taught in Scripture that there is only One God but that there was the Divine Father, and that the Divine Jesus was related to the Divine Father in a way that could be described as a Son to His Father, and that also the Holy Spirit shared in the Divinity. This was illustrated most vividly when the risen but not yet ascended Jesus instituted Baptism "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

While the first Apostles, and probably Paul, would not necessarily have used the same kind of Trinitarian terminology that developed as orthodoxy, that does not mean that the understand of God that came to be expressed in that Trinitarian terminology was foreign to their thinking, understanding, or worship. The divinity of Jesus was a major topic of the New Testament. The divinity of the Holy Spirit was also mentioned, but not as frequently or prominently. What was not nearly as frequent a topic is how a Divine Father, Divine Son/Jesus, and Divine Holy Spirit fit with a Single God. That conundrum was largely ignored in the New Testament. While the New Testament writers did not use the Trinitarian terminology that developed later does not mean that they were Unitarians. Far from it. The whole Trinitarian/Unitarian debate as well as the debate about how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit relate to each other as the singular God, as well as the related topic of how the Divine and the Human related within Jesus, developed out of trying to make sense of what the Apostles taught in the New Testament.

Your Turn / Re: Here's a Way to Control Guns
« on: Yesterday at 03:49:29 PM »
While we are talking about taking drastic action to eliminate causes of death in the US, when are we going to take action about traffic accidents? In 2020 there were 45,222 firearm related fatalities in the US. (That includes not just homicides, but also suicides, and accidents. There were more suicides than homicides or accidents.) In 2021 there were 42,915 traffic deaths, slightly less than gun deaths. So if we need to ban all guns to eliminate gun related deaths (would all the suicide deaths {more than the third of the gun deaths} be eliminated by removing guns?) why not ban all motor vehicles to remove a similar number of deaths?

If the whole thing is about saving lives, gun related deaths are at most the 11th greatest cause of fatalities in the USA. in 2021 were:

Heart disease: 695,547
  • Cancer: 605,213
  • COVID-19: 416,893
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 224,935
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 162,890
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 142,342
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 119,399
  • Diabetes: 103,294
  • Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis : 56,585
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 54,358
  • Gun killed only 6.5% of the number of people killed by heart disease. But by all means, it's guns that are your bête noir, so focus your righteous wrath at them and make their elimination your obsession. We all need hobbies. And, naturally, rail against anyone who does not share your obsession. Obviously, anyone who doesn't agree with importance that you place on gun elimination must be a fool or worse.


Your Turn / Re: Artificial Intelligence Sermon Generator
« on: Yesterday at 11:35:51 AM »
Back in 1942, Isaac Asimov published a short story, "Runaround," in which he set his Three Laws of Robotics:

[size=78%][/size]First Law[size=78%][/color][/size][size=78%] [/size]A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.[size=78%][/color][/size]
[/color]Second Law A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.Third Law A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.


At the time, robots were a science fictional concept, but have since become a integral part of our world. But they have developed differently than Asimov or other futurists envisioned. Rather than general purpose machines that could learn to do a wide variety of tasks, they have developed as purpose built machines that while adaptable are not nearly as widely adaptable as Asimov's robots and with far less personality.

What should, perhaps, concern us is that currently A.I. is being developed without a hint that somehow something like the Three Laws of Robotics being implemented. Ad A.I. develops we need to see about incorporating something like the Three Laws in the mix.

It is on that personality that current concerns over A.I. are centered. The field is haunted by the 1818 novel by Mary Shelley Frankenstein and the fear the man's creation will overshadow and destroy man.

As far as I know, as clever as current A.I. has become, it has not yet achieved true sentience. It is not self directed and able to decide for itself what it wants to do but rather does what it is designed to do. I really do not think that we are close to a Skynet or Matrix scenario where the machines decide for themselves to take over. We do not know where sentience comes from, how a machine could begin to be really self-aware. It is often assumed that self-awareness is an inevitable byproduct of complexity, that the reason why humans are self-aware is that our brains are so complex, much more complex than the most advanced computers yet in existence. Once computers become complex enough, a point often described as the Singularity, they will inevitably become self-aware and may well decide to take over. It is a common sci-fi trope.

This depends in part on the assumptions that humans are merely extremely complex biomechanical machines, differing from our "smart" machines in being organically rather than mechanically based and the level of complexity involved. This is an anthropology which Christianity would dispute.

That does not mean that there are no dangers associated with the current developments in A.I., dangers which the article Pr. Austin posted. But the dangers are more familiar than exotic A.I., Terminator/Matrix, threats. It is the dangers associated with people doing foolish and dangerous things with invented tools that allow people to create ever increasing amounts of havoc more easily and efficiently.

Ever since WW II people have had the means to effectively end all human life on planet earth. We can create with the push of a few buttons a human extinction level event. A.I., in the manner of the movie War Games, can make it easier to do, and more frightening easier to do accidentally, but it is still a human threat to humanity.

As we consider the dangers that recent developments in A.I. pose, the threat of the machines becoming self-aware, self-willed and going rogue is something of a red herring. The real problem is more commonplace but really no less frightening. The real danger is what havoc people will let lose on purpose or even accidentally with tools that they do not completely understand but which can inflict damage ever more easily and with greater effect.

Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Adolf Hitler did not invent the police state or the idea of controlling people by manipulating the flow of information and propaganda, but they used the latest development in information technology to do so more effectively. It is troubling to think what people today could do along those lines with the information technology being developed.

A Unitarian church, where my group used to sing once in a while, had a brochure in their rack with six pages explaining what they did not believe.
OTOH A former Lutheran Pastor i knew, went over to a Unitarian church, and was preaching what he called “biblical monotheism”. No trinitarian or sacramental mysteries.
Not then what I would theologically call Christian. Perhaps could be considered within the broader sociological category of Christian religions.

The question has been raised whether Jews, Muslims, Unitarians, JWs, LDSs, etc. worship the same God that we Christians do. That is actually a more complex question than it may appear at first glance and admits of no simple answer.

Our understanding of God is monotheistic. If there were many gods then the question of whether different people in their rituals address the same god becomes a simpler question. Which of the several gods out there is being addressed? Did Greeks who worshiped Zeus worship the same God that the Romans did when they worshiped Jupiter? But if God is singular, the question of which of the several gods in existence is being addressed becomes moot. There is no other God to be addressed so any worship is directed at the only God that can receive the worship. By default then, if there is only one God, then any worship directed at the divine must be addressed to Him. But will He accept and receive worship directed at the divine but incorrectly directed at divinity that is understood incorrectly?

I occasionally receive mail addressed to me not by name but as Occupant or Resident at my address. It gets to me and I may look at it, even respond if it suits me, but I do not mistake it for missives directed at me personally. Whoever sent it, sent it blindly without any real knowledge or understanding of who they wished to reach. If anyone else lived at my address, they could as easily receive the mail and deal with it as I. It may or may not even be appropriate for me.

Similarly, people who worship God or gods without having a clear understanding of just who God is, what He is like, etc. may be simply sending out words that in the context of the true God are meaningless, inappropriate, or even insulting.

It isn't even really a question of having the correct name for God. I respond to several names and variations, even job titles or descriptions. Hey you! may suffice, or Pastor, Tim's father, Jan's husband, or my personal name of Daniel or Dan. Even if the name is completely wrong but the context is sufficient for me to recognize that I am being addressed, I may still respond although I likely will correct the addressor.

Does God hear the worship or prayers of those whose understanding of Him is so vague or mistaken that it is doubtful that they actually are addressing who He is rather than a cosmic "To Whom It May Concern?" God is omniscient He knows everything that everyone says and does. If nothing else, He must hear everything to determine if it addressed to Him. Even Alexa hears whatever is said around her to determine if she is being addressed. Something that raises privacy concerns about smart speakers.

But will God respond favorably to prayers and worship that is obviously not addressed to who He actually is or to some generic Whoever is Out There? That is not promised or guaranteed. Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. Acts 4:12  And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” At a minimum it seems to me that we should not be content to allow people who wish to call on God to remain ignorant of who they address, His nature and His intentions.

Your Turn / Re: Artificial Intelligence Sermon Generator
« on: March 23, 2023, 02:55:42 PM »
There are video clips circulating on Twitter of former Pres. Trump running from the police as they attempt to arrest him. Which is interesting of course since he has yet to be indicted much less arrested in reality. Like it or not (Not!!) we live in an era of Deep Fake.

I remember back in the Obama presidency over a decade ago an item on internet about how the "Liberal media" protected Pres. Obama. The video clip show was that of Pres. Obama doing a back flip and otherwise showing his excitement in an undignified way over some occurrence with the warning that you would never see that video on the mainstream networks since they were protecting Pres. Obama. As a matter of fact, I had seen that very clip on a mainstream network several days earlier. Only it wasn't on the news. It was on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show." He occasionally had such clips constructed as a joke. It was good enough to fool a troll looking for such material. Image what they can do a decade later!

Once again, we have reached the point where we need to discuss what we mean by the words that we use. For us in the church the term Christian carries certain theological freight. Thus, there are certain core beliefs that must be affirmed if the group is to meet our criteria for being considered Christian. However, others use the term more sociologically, thus any religious group that is related or derivative from classic Christianity would be included within the Christian category.

Thus, while groups like the UU, JW, LDS are theologically beyond the Christian pale, sociologically they would be included in the broad category of Christian churches since they are more like the more traditional Christian churches, or derivative from those churches. Thus, they will be included in surveys of Christians, or polls.

Which is the correct usage of the term "Christian?" Either, depending on the context. Like many words that have various shades of usage, context is important and usually determinative. Personally, since my concerns are primarily theological, it is the theological usage that I will use much, much, more often than the sociological.

Another Lutheran Chapel that I love, Chapel of the Holy Trinity, Concordia University, Ann Arbor. The stained glass was designed by world renowned French artist Gabriel Loire. Among other projects that he has done was the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, and the Church of St. Walberge, Xertigny, Lorraine, France.  It is another 1960s construction, only not the typical 60s A-Frame St. Roofus church but a three-sided pyramid.
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* I see it came out in 2001 and is about the Third Use of the Law. Is that the same thing as the Seminex controversy? I didn't get that impression from the histories I read.

Seminex and Third Use of the Law arguments are related.

Perhaps, but I heard the Third use of the Law arguments, that is, there isn't a distinct third use that is separate from the first two uses in seminary before Seminex existed. It isn't an approach unique to Seminex.
When was the last time that someone came up with a truly novel heresy? The point is not that Seminex invented questioning Third Use arguments but that they came down on the Third Use isn't a distinct use of the law contrary to accepted LCMS theology and Valpo has also come down on that side.

Your Turn / Re: Artificial Intelligence Sermon Generator
« on: March 22, 2023, 10:35:20 AM »
I remember a passage in a British mystery novel written in the 1920s where a lawyer reflected on the harm being done by the new fangled typewriters making secretaries lazy and less careful about making mistakes since it was less effort to type off a new page than to hand write a new clear copy. All new technology comes with potential risks and benefits. What matters is how we use it and what we use it for. Pastors have long had the opportunity to sluff off on sermonizing, pulling sermons from books of sermons, often from famous preachers, rather than going to the labor of constructing their own. Ai sermon generators would simply be another way to do basically the same thing with a bit more customization.

I have two Masters degrees. There is, naturally my M.Div. from seminary. For that I received two diplomas. The diploma for the degree and the professional certification diploma certifying me as qualified for the Office of the Ministry. Of the two, I consider the certification diploma the more important.

I also have an M.A. from a state university. I achieved that in the gap year that I took between graduating from seminary and taking my first call. Technically the Masters was in Humanities, but realistically it was a degree offered by the School of Philosophy and Religion and I majored in the philosophy of religion.

Practically speaking, my second Masters gave me little benefit. I could have used it to secure a teaching position somewhere as I worked toward a Ph.D., but one result of that year of study was to convince me that I was called to the parish rather than academe. It should have risen my pay as a pastor if I had ever been actually paid according to district guidelines. Like most pastors, district guidelines were a dream never realized.

What I did receive with my second Masters was a furthering of my education, a greater awareness of the philosophical side of theology, and greater honing of my skills in critical thinking, especially about theology. Was it worth a year of my life and the money spent (in those days in the 70s it was not that steep a price, I graduated without student loans)? I sometimes wonder. I value the education and skills that I received, while it played no role in my professional advancement, I think that it helped me serve my people a bit better when confronted with some of the questions that were posed, helped me as I did theology, and I think helped me prepare the few minor articles that I have published. With the cost of higher education today, I doubt that it would have been worth the debt load such a degree would have incurred today.

The M.A. diploma makes a nice addition to the "I Love Me" wall in my office.

If you are in today's ELCA without registering protest, you favor liberal theology. You just don't mean the same thing by that phrase as Michael means. If I adopt your view of the Scriptures, I am adopting the liberal view, not the conservative view.

One can be a faithful member of the ELCA without favoring "liberal theology." Peter, it seems as if a "liberal" is anyone with whom you disagree.

My understanding of the authority and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures in no way accords with "liberal theology." I reject all historicist views of the Scriptures, e.g., the liberal Protestant history-of-religions approach, as I have made clear in my writings.

Matt Becker
This illustrates the difficulty with the labels that we habitually use to categorize the various schools of thought. Just what does it mean to be "liberal?" Everybody has their own definition. To some people in the LCMS I represent a liberal view point. I support lay and lay women lectors in worship. I deviate from the strict thinking that any understanding of Genesis 1 that does not include 7 24 hour days of creation inevitably leads to the destruction of the faith. I would not meet the orthodoxy standards of the ACELC. Yet compared to several ELCA people that I know, I am a far right wing, dry as dust conservative. So what am I, liberal or conservative? Pr. Austin has reminded us several times that in come circles he is considered a conservative.

Labels and packaging has long been recognized as often deceptive in the American commercial world. And they have "Truth in Advertising" laws. Intellectually, we do not even have those standards.

In my experience, most people consider themselves somewhere close to the center ideological. We can always find others who are either more conservative or more liberal than we are.

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