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Messages - RevG

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1
Your Turn / Re: Women theological authors
« on: November 19, 2022, 05:07:47 PM »
Thanks, Matt. This is interesting and helpful.

At the very least, an evangelical catholic Christian ought to acknowledge that the force of the salvus esse in the Quicunque, and its statement that "et qui bona egerunt ibunt in vitam aeternam . qui vero mala in ignem eternum," are not easily reconciled with our Lord's promises regarding salvation for sinners, not to mention St. Paul's teaching about justification by faith apart from works of law. A structural shift has taken place between the confession of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan and the emergence of the Quicunque: the latter identifies saving faith with an intellectual acceptance of dogmatic propositions and the necessity of doing "good works" (and of not doing "bad works") in order to enter into eternal life. Is our eternal destiny dependent on our adhesion or non-adhesion to the detail of highly technical, humanly made formulations--and on our efforts to do "good works" and to avoid "bad works"? (In St. John's Gospel, there is only one good work: believing in the incarnate Son of God!)

I don’t know if I entirely agree with your above paragraph, especially if we pay close attention to the synoptic narratives where Jesus speaks about bearing good fruit, giving account for one’s deeds, hearing and doing God’s word, etc.. Both Jesus and Pauline scholarship of the last 50 years has convincingly argued that Luther and Lutherans may have projected too much of his struggle to find a gracious God into the scriptures. Certainly, justification and self-righteousness are issues in these texts but a strong argument can be made that they are not the main issues that we assume they are. We might think of a letter like Romans, where we often assume that chapter 3 and justification are the main thrust when in all actuality it’s chapter 8 and the emphasis on life in the spirit. Or better still, a gospel like Mark where the hinge point is not just Jesus’ prophecy that he will die but also the call to pick up the cross and follow him. Even the example from the gospel of John used above has more nuance to it than “belief” as we tend to understand it, if I recall belief might be better rendered “entrust.” When we entrust ourselves to our Lord, we do what he says (but don’t hold me to that as I am a little foggy there in my thinking right now). I am inclined to believe that we are missing something concerning the aforementioned line in the Athanasian creed that our earlier forebears didn’t see as being a problem.

To my thinking, the challenge is that we run into all kinds of issues as the church moves west, grows older, and loses its Jewishness. Augustine certainly didn’t help as he was not a strong exegete, though he was strong and helpful in other ways no doubt. As I understand it the intellectual shift occurs because of the heightened normalization of Christianity throughout the Empire via the Constantinian shift. But also because of the Arian and then Pelagian controversies. Of course, the intellectualizing of the faith goes back to the school of Alexandria with Origen and others in the 2nd century so it’s not cut and dry either. But it does make sense that the Athanasian Creed would originate there given these dynamics. That said, based on my own research I am not convinced of what you put forth above.

Peace,
Scott+

2
Your Turn / Re: Women theological authors
« on: October 26, 2022, 04:18:50 PM »
I ask this question, not to be snarky, but to understand,
Since most churches early on were house churches, how do we know what was public teaching VS. private teaching?  It seems to me to be a matter of interpretation

I think this is a good and valid question.   The gender-curling word "patroness" describes some of the early Christian hospitable mission-driven house-churches, and certainly as Roman/Greek society encouraged through both its laws and its cultures more equal footing for women who had financial resource (having inheritance rights, having financial independence, etc.) , they became patronesses in the primitive and early church eras by providing their homes and the resources that flowed from their businesses and homes to the mission on the move through the Greco-Roman cities, ports and villages.  Phoebe's status as patroness - the one who let folks into her home - prostatis - gave the apostles and company access.  Hospitality alone was (my opinion) a type of "public teaching", because access had been granted. 

I would say most certainly that these women, who were leaders, were not sitting there silently during the gatherings in their homes.  That would not have made sense to those present, to the presentation of the Gospel.  So the patroness would have given verbal witness to the message and participated in it, not as the apostle, but in affirmation (not silence) of the apostolic teaching. 

One of the things that has always seemed important to me, although I haven't seen much written about it, is that the primitive church must have had a high percentage of people who could read, who were literate.  I'm sure the letters were read out loud, I'm sure the passages from Hebrew Scriptures were read from the books in the synagogue, but there seems to me at least to be an assumption that many could read - were urbane, had money, had access to education.  Is there research on that aspect?

Dave Benke

Related to your last point, one thing that fairly recent Jesus scholarship has uncovered is that Jesus likely grew up in a cosmopolitan environment with Nazareth being likened more to a suburb of Sepphoris than some backwater peasant town. In fact, it is likely he worked in Sepphoris and had regular encounters with all kinds of people and cultures (non-Jewish). In other words, he was more "cultured" than previously assumed which probably has implications for his first followers and those ekklesiae they founded etc..

Peace,
Scott+

3
Your Turn / Re: Women theological authors
« on: October 26, 2022, 03:16:18 PM »
Are there good books written on Montanism/the Quintillians and how the early Church worked through the leadership of women in the mid-200s in that locale and others?  That seemed to me back when I was a student as a turning point - in the primitive Church we have women listed in line with Acts 2 as involved in teaching/accompanying/leading, and then after Montanism, more of a scorched earth rebooting of the Church order system, such as it was.  It's kind of in the mists of that very early time.

Dave Benke

I came across this in my brief Fordham Library search: https://www.amazon.com/Montanism-Gender-Authority-New-Prophecy/dp/0521528704/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1666805151&sr=1-1&asin=0521528704&revisionId=&format=4&depth=1

She also has this but it is not available on amazon: Trevett, C. Christian Women and the Time of the Apostolic Fathers (Ad c.80-160) : Corinth, Rome and Asia Minor. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2006.

Not sure if they are worthwhile but they are something. There are a ton of journal articles on the topic Montanism and women. If interested, I can always send along, just let me know.

There's also Wes Howard-Brook's work: https://www.amazon.com/Empire-Baptized-Embraced-Second-Fifth-Centuries/dp/1626981949/ref=sr_1_2?crid=MH8SWHZ27LU1&keywords=wes+howard-brook&qid=1666810388&qu=eyJxc2MiOiIzLjExIiwicXNhIjoiMi42NiIsInFzcCI6IjIuOTUifQ%3D%3D&s=books&sprefix=Wes+Howar%2Cstripbooks%2C176&sr=1-2

Howard-Brook comes to some interesting conclusions that many on here wouldn't agree with but are compelling nonetheless.

Peace,
Scott+

4
Your Turn / Re: Women theological authors
« on: October 24, 2022, 02:41:10 PM »

So I think you are indicating, Matt, that there are possibly some exceptional events in the Church's history, which I would hasten to add is typical. There are likely to be exceptions but what Tom Eckstein describes is the norm.

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church says, "Bride, St. . . . also 'Bridgid' . . . the traditions about her are conflicting and little can be said with certainty. . . . acc. to one account [she] received episcopal orders." (2nd ed., p. 200).

The pattern of argument from friends on the left goes like this:

(1) Possible example (2) indicates likely broad practice, (3) commends exceptions in our day, (4) leading to new normative practice.

Am I exaggerating the matter?

Yes, you are exaggerating, imo.

Many "innovations" have arisen in the Western Church that later became "normative," but not in the way you describe. Look at how the practice of repentance changed over time in the church. In the earliest centuries of the church, the normative practice was public repentance. The Irish seem to have been the first Christians to introduce private confession. That innovative practice was later given the rank of a normative dogmatic decision in the Roman Church (cf., e.g., the Council of Trent’s anathemas against the rejection of compulsory private confession and the satisfaction imposed as part of it). Since Trent, churches of the Augsburg Confession have taught and practiced contrary to that normative dogmatic decision of the Roman Church. The churches of the AC have introduced to their own innovative orders of repentance, in keeping with their understanding of the gospel, repentance, contrition, and faith.

Paraphrasing a portion of Schlink's summary of the history of innovations in the practice of repentance: In the ancient church, the “mortal sins” of apostasy, murder, and fornication were at first largely excluded from forgiveness, but in the third century the forgiveness of those sins also became established, although for centuries in the West such a second repentance of grave sins was only permitted once in a person’s lifetime. The repentance of those who had committed mortal sins took place in public, in front of the congregation, and often involved very strict and long-lasting impositions of penance before the penitent was gradually permitted to be present at the sermon, participate in the prayers, and finally partake of the eucharist. Only gradually did the principle get established, namely, that the forgiveness of all sins should be permitted without limit—provided there was contrition and penance—and one could repent of grave sins more than once. An order of repentance that was binding for all Christians was developed only in the early Middle Ages in the form of private confession, after the ancient church’s order of public repentance had diminished in significance, partly as a result of its rigidity, partly due to its being restricted to mortal sins, and partly because of its later connection with civil modes of punishment. Private confession spread from Irish-Scottish monasticism into the West and East.

So, at least in the case of the introduction of private confession (and the reformation of church teaching regarding repentance and forgiveness), your progression could be re-framed as follows: (1) an innovative practice is introduced into a regional church; (2) some in other regions learn about the innovation, find that it is not contrary to apostolic teaching, and conclude that it will be helpful if introduced in their own setting; (3) the innovative practice is commended to still others in far away places; and (4) the practice becomes largely normative across multiple regional churches.

Matt Becker

Matt,

This is all fascinating to me. I did some surface-level research on Celtic Christianity some years back, but nothing particularly scholarly, per se. I have a few books by J. Philip Newell. One thing that I recall that really piqued my interest was that of Pelagius and his influence on Celtic Christianity. I seem to recall some suggesting that he wasn't the bad guy that the Pelagian controversy made him out to be. Have you come across anything about him in your research?

Thanks,
Scott+

5
Your Turn / Re: Women theological authors
« on: October 24, 2022, 12:17:59 PM »
Patrick seems to have "tolerated" same-sex sexual behavior, as did other bishops in those lands. Such silent "toleration" does not equate to affirmation. It merely indicates that Patrick knew he had bigger, more central issues to focus upon than the traditional, accepted sexual behaviors of Celtic warriors who were sleeping together in the field, not to mention again the peculiar royal inauguration activities within at least one Celtic tribe.

Brigid of Kildare held authority over women and men. She was a high abbess of a large double monastery (both women and men). She was not the only abbess in church history to have heard confessions from men and to have pronounced absolution upon them. The historical record indicates that she was consecrated a bishop. She certainly preached to and taught both men and women. Men sought her spiritual counsel. A male bishop reported to her and to her successors. Archaeological evidence indicates that other orthodox and catholic women also served as bishops ("overseers" = "pastors") to congregations in the early and medieval church. Brigid was not the only woman so consecrated for such pastoral ministry. Her ministry was consistent with the pastoral ministry that Phoebe likely did as the minister (deacon) of the church at Cenchreae, singled out as she was at the head of Paul's list of commendations in Rom. 16. (Why did Paul not mention "the pastor" of the church at Cenchreae if Phoebe was not that congregation's "pastor"? Why did Paul refer to her as the minister of that congregation if she was not the minister of that congregation? Paul refers to multiple charismata at work in his congregations, not merely that of pastor. Only later will that term become an overarching dogmatic concept. As a term and concept, it plays a relatively minor role in Paul's teaching about the charismata. E.g., the term "pastor" only appears in one Pauline text [perhaps deutero-Pauline?], Eph. 4.11, and appears only after the specifically kerygmatic gifts, i.e., apostle, prophet, and evangelist. The coupling of "pastor" and "teacher" in this passage is also significant, when put in the context of what Prisca/Priscilla is described as doing for Apollos, not to mention her leadership of the congregation she and her husband led. Cf. Acts 18.2, 18, 26; Rom. 16.3.)

Matt Becker

Paul also uses προστάτις to describe Phoebe in Romans 16:2. It is a feminine form of προστάτης. Literally, from προΐσταμαι, it refers to "one who stands out front." While the masculine doesn't occur in the NT, it is in the LXX, most often for שַׂר = "leader, official." Sirach 45:24 is an interesting verse. While my LXX concordance listed it as a verse with the noun, which I discovered is a variant reading. The LXX uses the verb: προστατεῖν. The meanings are essentially the same. The verb: "to be in charge" or "to preside," while the noun would refer to the "one who is in charge" or "the presider" or "the guardian."

The CEB translation:
24 Therefore, a covenant of peace was established with Phinehas,
         that he should preside over the holy places and over his people,
             so that he and his descendants might have the splendor of the priesthood forever.

The verb, προΐστημι, is used in the NT often of church leaders. Examples (from CEB):

1 Thess 5:12: Brothers and sisters, we ask you to respect those who are working with you, leading you, and instructing you.
1 Tim 5:17: Elders who lead well should be paid double, especially those who work with public speaking and teaching.

So, it is possible that προστάτις refers to being the leader of the church. (Another possibility is that she was a benefactor for Paul and many others - she provided money.) It would take more resources than I have at my disposal to do further study on this word.

Brian, are you cherry picking the evidence to reach your conclusion? I note that the CEB for Romans 16:2 has Phoebe as a supporter/patroness rather than a presider. Does even the progressive NRSV make her a presider? if you translate it that way, what does it say about Phoebe's relationship to the apostle and does that fit with what the rest of the NT tells us? It seems like you are step-stoning through the evidence to reach a specific conclusion that differs from even the progressive translators, who have also studied the matter.

I'm taking Brian's final sentence, Ed, not as a statement about eucharistic presidency, but as a statement about leadership.  It's plain from the NT that women were in leadership roles among the assembly/congregation.  In our denomination and two of the largest faith communities (RC, Orthodox) those leadership roles do not include eucharistic presidency.  Eucharistic presidency (what we call "administration of the sacraments") does not exclude, biblically, women from positions of leadership within the congregation; some of those positions are under pastoral supervision, some are simply elections from among the assembly's membership. 

Dave Benke

We might note that in Roman Catholic institutions many women are freely placed in high leadership roles. For example, here in the Bronx, Fordham just installed its first lay person and first Woman as president. She comes from being president of one of the Loyola Universities, another Jesuit school.

I don't imagine that we would consider making a woman president of one of our Concordia Universities. 

Peace, JOHN

Tania has an impressive background that is steeped in the Jesuit tradition. To me, at least, it points to the profoundly tragic aspect of LCMS’s approach to female leadership. A couple of years back, when I took a class on Ignatius of Loyola, the Jesuit professor shared that they, as an order were wrestling with what to do with this “way” of doing things as their order has drastically shrunk. What will the order look like in the 21st century? Should they allow lay people to lead more of their institutions? What does that look like? Should the order be open to lay people in some way? These were just some of the questions he shared. My read is Tania Tetlow’s appointment as president of Fordham is representative of that shift that is required in the moment that they find themselves. What I like about it is that is reveals an openness to doing things differently while still seeking to remain faithful to their forebears.

The tragic part for us is that such an appointment would not happen at an LCMS college, and what makes it even worse is that ideological commitments make the pickings even more limited among men. Nonetheless, the real tragedy is that when we do this, we shoot ourselves in the foot and potentially guarantee the demise of our institutions because those who may have the best talents and gifts aren’t allowed to lead them. I will always go back to Concordia-NY and wonder what may have happened if a woman had been allowed to be president some years back. I wonder because despite official pronouncements and communications Concordia-NY’s demise had much more to do with poor leadership and poor management than many realize. And some of that goes back to how the presidential search process was and is done which connects to the requirement for male-only leaders.

Peace,
Scott+

6
Your Turn / Re: Rich man and Lazarus
« on: September 27, 2022, 09:46:45 PM »
Just fyi everyone, my take on Luke 16:19-31 above was NOT meant to suggest that most LCMS pastors (or most pastor on this forum) view Luke 16:19-31 as though one finds favor with God based on one's economic status.  I was simply trying to point out that some (many?) lay people view Luke 16:19-31 as though it were suggesting that salvation is based on your earthly financial situation and this confuses them.  Therefore, I think it's important for pastors to help them understand Luke 16:19-31 in light of the wider context of Luke's Gospel and point out that Jesus' story is actually stressing that one's financial situation has NOTHING to do with one's salvation but that we must ALL become beggars before God and trust in Christ who is witnessed to by Moses and the Prophets - and the RESULT of faith in Christ is that we will be moved to give of our wealth to those in need because we have been set free from the evil delusion that our earthly wealth (or lack of it) is a sign of how we stand with God.

I think your point goes too far concerning the Lukan narrative. Dave Benke has made some salient points above concerning Luke and the poor. Luke’s narrative makes clear that wealth is or can be problematic for the journey of discipleship. The story of the rich man and Lazarus is preceded by the “Parable of the Dishonest Manager” where Jesus says, “make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” The rich man clearly did not do that, which is why he was not received into such dwellings. This section of Luke also parallels Jesus’ “Parable of the Rich Fool” in chapter 12, which may also be a subtle reference to Pharaoh and his storehouses. The point is that wealth is a danger to faithful discipleship. Luke writes just before “The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus” that the Pharisees were lovers of money and then has Jesus condemning divorce, which was one of how the said group climbed the ladder of social status and acquired more wealth. The point isn’t that if you are rich, you are bad, but that wealth is a challenging thing to be reckoned with as followers of Jesus and should be dealt with intelligently and shrewdly. I should hasten to add that two chapters later, Luke has Zacchaeus (the rich) repaying those he defrauded as an act of repentance, with Jesus declaring that salvation has come to his house. Economic Jubilee is occurring alongside true repentance, hearkening back to Jesus' sermon in the synagogue in Luke 4.

Peace,
Scott+

7
Your Turn / Re: United List…Here We Go
« on: September 22, 2022, 09:53:24 PM »
A healthy congregation will have a solid doctrinal confession based on God's Word.
The pastor will preach Christ-centered sermons that proclaim both law and gospel.
The pastor will teach Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life  in Bible classes,
Youth confirmation classes and Adult Instruction classes.

A healthy parish will also have a passion to reach out into the community with the
Good News of Christ.  Members will be challenged to share Christ with unchurched
family members, unchurched friends and neighbors.  Invitations will be made to
the unchurched to attend worship and adult instruction classes.  The pastor will
demonstrate leadership in parish evangelism efforts.

Amen, this is your mission statement, I believe you are right

Dave’s right about the parking lot. Communications used to be huge there, and there was a huge studio, my wife used to teleprompter for Dr. Bohlmann…he was always more than kind and gracious to the “little people.” Kieschnick’ big mistake was not raising up the next guys, should be more like republicans with so many young leaders, but was more like dems with Pelosi adn Shumer

Regarding raising up leaders I think a reasonable question to ask is whether they were there to raise or to be more specific were there enough to be raised up? I ask this because we can certainly spend a lot of time wondering “what if” with the lens of hindsight but I think in many ways we are where we are in large part because of demographics. Kieschnick won his first term by the skin of his teeth which was partly due to the opposition not being unified. Winning that first term guaranteed him at least another term and was it more a fluke in the larger picture of LCMS history? I was a seminarian for four of those years and I remember plenty of consternation over Kieshnick. It’s weird looking back at that period now. Anyways, just some thoughts.

Peace,
Scott+

8
Your Turn / Re: United List…Here We Go
« on: September 17, 2022, 02:39:14 PM »
Agree with you Dave, we haven’t throught through, in any way I”m aware of, that recruiting has changed. I did hear a man say that “God doesn’t seem to be calling men to the ministry like he used to.” What he meant by that was that God quit sending white guys through the seminaries whose fathers’s and grandfathers were pastors and who graduated through the “System”. . The reasons are seminaries for the most part poorly attended, certainly isn’t because God isn’t calling pastors like he used to.

I’m glad that article is in the “Distorter” as it is in internal resource for the regime. One of the greatest challenges is to listen to the entire congregation and to have an ear for everybody in our parishes. I would think a round table on recruitment would be a wise thing especially inviting laymen who think new thoughts. And, God forbid, I’d invite women to come and participate. THe manly man thing is just a window into the SOB’s [Synod Office Building] heart. They are printing for us the comments they mean to keep quiet.

Focusing back on this, the article in question is the question.  The recruitment of pastors by having a round table and inviting layfolks with their thoughts is a gem of an idea.  What Jim's article sounds like is what you indicate - clergy at headquarters batting around their comments and printing them out. 

What might reach dads, moms and young adults best?  "Put on your big boy pants and be a pastor?"  I don't think that's the best way to go.

Dave Benke

One thing I left out in the previous comment but am curious about is the author's current pastoral experience. When was the last time he was serving a congregation full-time?

9
Your Turn / Re: United List…Here We Go
« on: September 17, 2022, 02:11:12 PM »
Throughout high school and college, I went back and forth about being a pastor. Then in the fall of my junior year, I sat down on a Saturday evening and read the three synoptic Gospels in a row. Having read them in their totality for the first time in my life, I was firmly struck by the Jesus of the Gospels in ways that will forever stay with me. That Saturday evening experience ultimately pushed me to say yes to pastoral ministry. More importantly, though, as it relates to this discussion, I don’t think the concept of manliness or Jesus’ manliness ever entered my mind. Instead, what stayed with me was Jesus' call to love one’s enemies and turn the other cheek, his pushing back against the authorities, his willingness to risk all and die on a Roman Cross, his interaction with the crowds and various individuals that were born out of mercy and love, his parables, etc. I read or heard all these things before but not in their full narrative and contextual form.

Twenty years later, I’m still driven to learn about this Jesus, having just completed a Ph.D. focused on using the Markan Jesus for humanization. I’m not so sure my 20-year-old self, let alone my 15-year-old self, would have heeded such a call as the one in the Reporter. Then, again, that was 20 years ago, though I seem to recall that even then, there were those in the culture wars claiming masculinity was under attack. Such is a fair point, but I’m not so sure it necessarily fits with the Jesus of the Gospels and what the author is arguing. I am also curious about the author’s definition of manliness because I don’t discern that it is being derived from the Jesus of the Gospels entirely, either. 

I sometimes think it would do our leaders well to fast from the cultural war cacophony so that their sight might be clearer. Such isn’t to invalidate parts of their claims but to say that we can sometimes let an issue or topic consume us and let it guide the way rather than He who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. To me, at least, hearkening to General Patton isn’t a good look especially considering that Jesus tells his disciples to put down their swords after letting Judas betray him with a kiss. Even the appeal to dutifulness has its issues, too (it needs clarity). Jesus, the oldest, leaves his work to do ministry, which his family has issues with for good reason. That doesn’t seem too manly if I understand the working definition correctly. I also hasten to add that the very witness of Jesus’ ministry is a subversion of the Warrior God image and expectation that culminates in his death on a Cross, a place meant to embarrass, dehumanize, and torture its victim. Hence, “cursed is he who hangs on a tree” but more importantly “my power is made perfect in weakness.” The letter is certainly dogmatic, but its dogmatism seemingly betrays the Jesus of the Gospels, and it very much has a “Christ against Culture” feel, too. I resonate with John’s point above, I would imagine that such a letter will find appeal among some, but I am concerned about what that might reveal about their future ministries assuming they get that far.

Lastly, writings like these simply reveal to me how out of step I am with certain aspects of the LCMS these days. I just don’t relate to this and would never think to encourage a young man looking into pastoral ministry in such a way. It wouldn’t even cross my mind.

Peace,
Scott+

Thanks for this. Good to hear from a young man about that recruitment appeal.

I take it that you have successfully defended your dissertation. Congratulations, Scott! I'm really glad for you.

Peace, JOHN

Thanks, John. Yes, defended it this past May.

Peter,

In a way, it is frustrating to read your use of gender fluidity as a counter-example. Frustrating in part because I had thought about using that as a similar example with similar problems as the author’s emphasis on masculinity. But I didn’t so here we are. I can’t speak for the others but my contention is the use of masculinity in the article is really not informed by the Jesus of the Gospels rather it is informed by a particular cultural notion of masculinity. That’s the key issue for me and I don’t see how what he does is much different than those arguing for Jesus’ queerness. I believe that if it were the tone would be much different and certainly General Patton would not be invoked. I think a solid argument could be made that the article is heterodox, too, which is ironic given our obsessive concern with doctrinal purity.

That said, I have had strong relationships with the youth wherever I have served. I can’t see them resonating with this recruitment message. I don’t think the disagreement of some including myself can be explained by a generational gap or finding masculinity to be unrefined. Some things are simply off-putting because they are off-putting and have nothing to do with the culture wars, per se. That’s how this article reads to me and bear in mind that I love and listen to music that is considered by some to be the most masculine and aggressive in the world. So I am not bothered by unrefined masculinity and even publically identify with it.

Peace,
Scott+

10
Your Turn / Re: United List…Here We Go
« on: September 16, 2022, 10:01:56 PM »
Throughout high school and college, I went back and forth about being a pastor. Then in the fall of my junior year, I sat down on a Saturday evening and read the three synoptic Gospels in a row. Having read them in their totality for the first time in my life, I was firmly struck by the Jesus of the Gospels in ways that will forever stay with me. That Saturday evening experience ultimately pushed me to say yes to pastoral ministry. More importantly, though, as it relates to this discussion, I don’t think the concept of manliness or Jesus’ manliness ever entered my mind. Instead, what stayed with me was Jesus' call to love one’s enemies and turn the other cheek, his pushing back against the authorities, his willingness to risk all and die on a Roman Cross, his interaction with the crowds and various individuals that were born out of mercy and love, his parables, etc. I read or heard all these things before but not in their full narrative and contextual form.

Twenty years later, I’m still driven to learn about this Jesus, having just completed a Ph.D. focused on using the Markan Jesus for humanization. I’m not so sure my 20-year-old self, let alone my 15-year-old self, would have heeded such a call as the one in the Reporter. Then, again, that was 20 years ago, though I seem to recall that even then, there were those in the culture wars claiming masculinity was under attack. Such is a fair point, but I’m not so sure it necessarily fits with the Jesus of the Gospels and what the author is arguing. I am also curious about the author’s definition of manliness because I don’t discern that it is being derived from the Jesus of the Gospels entirely, either. 

I sometimes think it would do our leaders well to fast from the cultural war cacophony so that their sight might be clearer. Such isn’t to invalidate parts of their claims but to say that we can sometimes let an issue or topic consume us and let it guide the way rather than He who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. To me, at least, hearkening to General Patton isn’t a good look especially considering that Jesus tells his disciples to put down their swords after letting Judas betray him with a kiss. Even the appeal to dutifulness has its issues, too (it needs clarity). Jesus, the oldest, leaves his work to do ministry, which his family has issues with for good reason. That doesn’t seem too manly if I understand the working definition correctly. I also hasten to add that the very witness of Jesus’ ministry is a subversion of the Warrior God image and expectation that culminates in his death on a Cross, a place meant to embarrass, dehumanize, and torture its victim. Hence, “cursed is he who hangs on a tree” but more importantly “my power is made perfect in weakness.” The letter is certainly dogmatic, but its dogmatism seemingly betrays the Jesus of the Gospels, and it very much has a “Christ against Culture” feel, too. I resonate with John’s point above, I would imagine that such a letter will find appeal among some, but I am concerned about what that might reveal about their future ministries assuming they get that far.

Lastly, writings like these simply reveal to me how out of step I am with certain aspects of the LCMS these days. I just don’t relate to this and would never think to encourage a young man looking into pastoral ministry in such a way. It wouldn’t even cross my mind.

Peace,
Scott+

11
Your Turn / Re: Kathryn Tanner books
« on: August 16, 2022, 03:09:04 PM »
I'm testing this a little bit locally with folks - we have actual people on site this week for VBS in the evenings.  I want to listen in on whether or why the melanin content of Jesus and Mary is important to their devotional life. 

Dave Benke
The danger of letting melanin content be important is that no matter what Mary's or Jesus' melanin content was (or we imagine or estimate it was) it won't match the melanin content in the skin of a huge percentage of the people for whom Christ died. Nobody is every color, and Mary and Jesus were both somebody. Some body, not every body, and not bodiless. They were Jewish. That matters. Jews can be a range of skin colors. That doesn't matter. I think both points are important for both the doctrine of the Church and personal devotion of Christians. Which is why I asked, "Are Jews considered people of color?" I was hoping for the response, "Who cares?"

Ahh, Peter, I think you’ve gone too far with this statement. In many ways a deep examination and study of Jewish first century life in Galilee reveals a rather oppressive and traumatic existence on various fronts. Jesus, a brown man (because that’s what he would have been), would have grown up amid the trauma residue of friends and relatives who had homes and family members destroyed (or taken into slavery as punishment) by Rome’s scorched earth campaign. While racism wasn’t Rome’s motivating force, what they did, and were very good at doing was dehumanizing the local populace in order extract as much as possible from them and their areas. I don’t think it’s a stretch, or inappropriate, to draw parallels between that life and the life of black and brown people in the Western context, particularly the U.S. In many ways it’s a first/last connection of which Jesus speaks. And, yes, it should be “Who cares?” but it should also be, “What might we learn here, these experiences, that can guide us today and our interpretation of the Gospel?” I think that’s a different approach to this issue. You can certainly claim that inserts socio-political freight but it can provide clarity and insight to our story which, in my estimation and research, bolsters and provides deeper insight into various themes of the Way of Jesus.

Peace,
Scott+
Jesus would not have been a "brown man" in the ancient Mediterranean; He would have been more or less the same color as the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Persians, and most of whoever else lived in the massive Roman Empire. He would have been part of an oppressed people (like virtually everyone in the ancient world by those standards) but having dark hair, brown eyes, and olive skin would have had zero to do with it. With the right haircut and maybe a laurel He might have looked like Pharaoh or Caesar and any number of other people with dark hair, brown eyes, and olive skin. Those are modern categories of thought being imposed on the story in ways that don't apply. Jesus was Jewish. He wasn't the modern racial equivalent of whatever being Jewish in ancient Rome meant racially. 

Sure, it is important to learn not to dehumanize people. One sure way to do that is to treat it as important whose melanin content matches Jesus' skin the best. Whatever His skin color, He was Jewish. If you think Jews are BIPOC, fine. If you think Jews are white, fine. If you think some Jews are white and some are people of color, fine, but leave Jesus out of that theologically irrelevant debate. What matters is that He is Jewish.

By brown, I meant middle eastern (Persian, Egyptian, etc..). Also, I never asserted that Roman oppression was only relegated to Galilee or Jews for that matter. Roman society was deeply stratified and a tough existence for most of the people. You mostly missed my point because you bring your own biases that make you think you know what others such as myself may mean when you don't.

Peace,
Scott+

12
Your Turn / Re: Kathryn Tanner books
« on: August 16, 2022, 01:50:21 PM »
I'm testing this a little bit locally with folks - we have actual people on site this week for VBS in the evenings.  I want to listen in on whether or why the melanin content of Jesus and Mary is important to their devotional life. 

Dave Benke
The danger of letting melanin content be important is that no matter what Mary's or Jesus' melanin content was (or we imagine or estimate it was) it won't match the melanin content in the skin of a huge percentage of the people for whom Christ died. Nobody is every color, and Mary and Jesus were both somebody. Some body, not every body, and not bodiless. They were Jewish. That matters. Jews can be a range of skin colors. That doesn't matter. I think both points are important for both the doctrine of the Church and personal devotion of Christians. Which is why I asked, "Are Jews considered people of color?" I was hoping for the response, "Who cares?"

Ahh, Peter, I think you’ve gone too far with this statement. In many ways a deep examination and study of Jewish first century life in Galilee reveals a rather oppressive and traumatic existence on various fronts. Jesus, a brown man (because that’s what he would have been), would have grown up amid the trauma residue of friends and relatives who had homes and family members destroyed (or taken into slavery as punishment) by Rome’s scorched earth campaign. While racism wasn’t Rome’s motivating force, what they did, and were very good at doing was dehumanizing the local populace in order extract as much as possible from them and their areas. I don’t think it’s a stretch, or inappropriate, to draw parallels between that life and the life of black and brown people in the Western context, particularly the U.S. In many ways it’s a first/last connection of which Jesus speaks. And, yes, it should be “Who cares?” but it should also be, “What might we learn here, these experiences, that can guide us today and our interpretation of the Gospel?” I think that’s a different approach to this issue. You can certainly claim that inserts socio-political freight but it can provide clarity and insight to our story which, in my estimation and research, bolsters and provides deeper insight into various themes of the Way of Jesus.

Peace,
Scott+

13
Your Turn / Re: Calm
« on: June 24, 2022, 11:55:42 PM »
In 2001, the LCMS had 2,554,088 Baptized Members
In 2021, the LCMS had 1,807,408 Baptized Members

That is a loss of about 747,000 Baptized Members in 20 years.

Bottom Line:  Fewer members make less noise and it is now calmer.

Twenty years is also the span of a generation. That is enough time for one generation’s influence to slowly but surely pass away. It was only a matter of time until we got to this point for various reasons from theological education to institutional decline. We’ve also come out of a traumatic and exhausting event and are now heading into another one.

Bayside, Queens used to be home to a nice little venue on Bell Blvd named the VooDoo Lounge. Saw Madball there 22 years ago this summer.

Peace,
Scott+

14
Your Turn / Re: Calm
« on: June 24, 2022, 08:20:00 PM »
Calm? The presentations at district conventions that I have heard or read of have said, “The Synod is calm.” I think its calm politically because every pastor has their head down working away in a very difficult season. Could also be apathy. Thoughts?

The word "calm" is meant to be reassuring.  Because life isn't calm.  Like when the Titanic hit the iceberg and the captain said, "Everybody stay calm."  I sense a certain calm because as far as I can tell there's little to no church-political urgency having to do with elections.  The urgency has been emanating from those who see the problem as "woke dysphoria."  So the heartland districts will pretty much each and all pass resolutions descrying critical race theory, for instance, in a denomination where 19 out of 20 people in membership are Caucasian. 

As you indicate, this is a time of hard passage for most local congregations, a tough re-boot, a time of dwindling. 

Our district convention will have a specific time of mourning for the loss of Concordia, Bronxville.   The District Conventions had been held at Concordia for close to 100 years.  This year the convention is in Albany toward the end of July, a long, long way from our long-time "home" which now belongs to someone else.  We sold our home and moved north.  Who does that, especially in retirement?  Anyway, the action and need and urgency is local and regional, in my opinion. 

I remember having the mojo - the year was 2000.  Locally and regionally we were growing and making a difference.  More baptized folks, expansion of mission, congregations hitting on all cylinders, district plan actually somewhat working, leaders being developed, celebration in worship with gratitude for blessings received.  That was a lot of fun. 

This is a much different kind of fun.

Dave Benke

Sometimes fortuitous decisions reveal more than intended or realized. To me, the AD convention being held at your successor’s home congregation is representative of a deeper change there that is connected to and transcends Concordia’s closure. I’m a mystic at heart, though, so some may disagree with me on that one.

Peace,
Scott+

15
Your Turn / Re: Prayer service for Concordia University-Wisconsin
« on: May 20, 2022, 09:42:25 PM »
Thanks for the breakdown on the word "equity," Brian.

Whatever the use of the words "diversity, equity and inclusion" is by others, they have been words with Scriptural meaning from the holy writers throughout the centuries.  So those terms can be taught in Christian churches.  My own estimation, stated a few times on this thread, is that those words can be taught better by Lutherans than others because of our theological stronghold in the doctrines of grace, justification and objective reconciliation.  Lively local Lutheran assemblies of believers are going to be diverse, equitable and inclusive in the ways scripture teaches - it is the will of God that ALL be saved and brought to the knowledge of the truth.

Dave Benke

That’s not how the DEI people use the word equity.


The way Evangelicals use “evangelical” didn’t stop the ELCA and many other Lutherans from using it in a more biblical way.
It is a question of who pushes the terminology and for what reason. If someone else steals our terminology, not much we can do. Look at how the rainbow symbol was hijacked by haters of the Creator. But that doesn’t mean we have to steal their terminology. Again, we reject the Ministry of Truth not because we oppose ministry or truth but because we aren’t fools and we know the freight of the term is different from the superficial meaning.

While I am not particularly drawn to Pastor Benke’s argument early Christians subverted the terminology of the Roman Empire and brilliantly so. Gospel is but one such term that was subverted. And we are still using it to this day.

Peace,
Scott+
Yes, in the beginning of the church there were no other options but to use pre-existing terms. Once Christendom was established, the terms either solidified in their Christian meaning or else the Christians came up with new ones. The idea that what goes on today is parallel to that phenomenon is a specifically post-Christian idea that I reject as untrue to history.

This response is very frustrating because it is incredibly simplistic. Peter, you consistently do the very things that those you oppose do. I can resonate with you on some things but such responses are where you lose me. 

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