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Messages - peter_speckhard

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If I'm talking merely about something that remains consciously "me" after my body dies, and calling that idea the immortality of the soul, then I think the term is fine. Perhaps the term immortality needs some clarification-- does it mean essentially "going on forever" or does it basically mean "undying"? Those two are not synonymous, since there is such a thing as eternal death. Tolkien tried to capture this idea with his ringwraiths and Gollum and even Frodo-- going on and on without receiving more life. Traditions of the undead-- vampires, zombies, ghosts, etc. also try to get at facets of what eternal death might be like. A human soul, unlike a human body, can never merely cease to be, so in that sense it is "immortal". But it can be cut off from the source of its ongoing life, so in that sense it is mortal, and in fact can be "dead" (though not non-existent) even when the body is alive. 

"For man goes to his eternal home while mourners go about in the street. 6 Remember Him before the silver cord is broken and the golden bowl is crushed, the pitcher by the well is shattered and the wheel at the cistern is crushed; 7 then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit.  (NASB)  Ecclesiastes 12:5-7 (NASB) 

Oh golly, I've heard that quoted enough at Masonic funerals to be pretty suspicious of it as a proof text for Lutheran doctrine.

I don't think this is a liberal/evangelical divide; if anything, true theological liberals are more likely to believe in the immortality of the soul.

And Brian is right that this doctrine, as it is usually discussed, is a pagan import into Christianity.

The answer, of course, is in the orthodox Lutheran doctrine sometimes called "soul sleep." As in:

"And in its narrow chamber keep my body safe in peaceful sleep until thy reappearing, and then from death awaken me."

The soul is in a sense immortal in that it seems to have some continuing existence in the resurrection; but from the human perspective, the soul, like the body, sleeps in death, which from our limited perspective seems to be like a cessation of existence.

The paradox of "until thy reappearing" and "today in Paradise" is precisely that--the paradox of the human perspective which is rooted in time, and eternal perspective which is beyond time.
I won't say "you are wrong" to the moderator, but I will say I disagree. From the human perspective the souls of departed Christians are not asleep like the body in death; they are with Christ and the heavenly host, as in "therefore with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven we laud and magnify..." The souls are actively in the presence of Christ and praising Him; that's what we join with in our worship. Furthermore, the souls of the martyrs cry out in heaven "how long?" (Rev. 6:9-11) which makes me think that the passage of worldly time is something they are at least aware of. Furthermore, CPH's 1991 catechism explanation, which can never be repealed, declares, "At the time of death, the soul of a believer is immediately with Christ in heaven," and it references Eccl. 12:7, Lk. 23:43, Jn. 17:24, Phil. 1:23-24, and Rev. 14:13. And if we go to hymns for examples, we find things like "And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long/ steals on the ear the distant triumph song" (okay maybe not in ELCA hymnals, but even so...) to match "soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest/sweet is the calm of paradise the blest". So it seems rest is not so much like sleep but like retirement or vacation-- you actively enjoy it and sing, and remain a part of the Church, but the Church Triumphant instead of the Church Militant. True, there isn't much more we can say about the state of the believer's souls between death and resurrection other that that it is aware, at peace, in the presence of the Christ, and part of heavenly worship.

Your Turn / Re: ELCA Draft Sexuality Report
« on: January 12, 2007, 06:24:30 PM »
Permit me to "kill the Buddha," here and give my opinion that Luther is wrong on this one. He's simply wrong.

The husband did commit fraud and an annulment would solve the problem more easily than bigamy.

(And I come from pioneer Mormon stock, so that's saying a lot.)

Pete "All you wives just settle down, now. Let's just eat dinner. Put down the stick." Garrison
I thought the point was that tyrannical laws did not permit an annulment or divorce because the husband would not agree to one. On this MLK weekend, this example might give us pause to reflect on the nature of just and unjust laws and the disobedience necessitated by the latter. But you're right (notice how it is not rude to say "you're right" but it is rude in some people's mind to say "you're wrong" even though both statements merely declare how close the other person is to truth) an annulment, if it could be gotten, is the solution, not secret bigamy.

Ages ago I posted the following quotation from Chesterton. It is from a chapter of Orthodoxy called "The Suicide of Thought"

"But we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled on the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed...At any steet corner we may meet a man who utters the frantic and blasphemous statement that he may be wrong. Every day we come across somebody who says that of course his view may not be the right one. Of course his view must the right one, or it is not his view. We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table."

This gets at Brian's distinction between "You are wrong" and "I disagree with you." The distinction is whether the topic is a matter of opinion or a matter of fact. If you say, "Barry Sanders was the greatest running back in NFL history," I cannot say, "You are wrong." I can only say "I disagree with you. Walter Payton was better." But if you say, "Barry Sanders played for the Packers under Vince Lombardi," I ought not say, "I disagree with you," as though it were a matter of opinion. I have to say, "You are wrong. He played for the Lions." Postmodern deconstructionists think truth is merely the opinion of the powerful projected onto the narrative, so they have to limit themselves to "I disagree." Thus, they tend to come across as more open-minded, modest, etc. when really they have merely hidden their dogmatism, much like a passive-aggressive hides his aggression and makes regular people look aggressive instead. In fact there is nothing particularly rude about saying, "You are wrong" but people today take it that way because it seems to suggest that "my opinions are more valuable than your opinions", when in fact opinions weren't even the topic. "I disagree" seems so much more polite, but is actually a way of occupying an absolutely unassailable position.   

The point is that you can't get around the images and idea Jesus uses as a way of getting closer to the truth; you'll get farther away.

I think that the images Jesus uses in John 14 are about relationships, not spatial. I also think that using the relationship translation and interpretation gets us much closer to the truth than thinking about a big mansion somewhere up in the sky.
John 14, as I said, is only one example. What about the rich man and Lazarus? Seems to be a lot of spatial imagery there, with comings and goings and so forth. How do you interpret that relationally? And when you do the strictly relational interpretation, do you do it complete with the patriarchy, or do you then change the nature of all the relationships to accommadate today's sensibilities? And do you allow for anthropomorphism, or is thinking of God as Father as bad as thinking of heaven as His house?

Your Turn / Re: ELCA Draft Sexuality Report
« on: January 12, 2007, 03:24:36 PM »
There are no wrong answers-- even Luther did the surprising thing and jettisoned traditional marriage,

I don't think so. He is upholding the traditional view of marriage of his time -- that it is sexual intercourse that creates a marriage. Without that, there is no marriage. In addition there is the issue of fraud -- giving the impression that the the man could fulfill his marriage obligations when, in fact, he could not. I have heard that this continues to be grounds for an annulment of marriage in the U.S.

Fraud is always grounds for annulment of practically any arrangment. If I sell you a house I don't own, you are free to stop making payments. If the tyranny of the law forced you to keep making payments on a house that I didn't actually give you, you might have a situation analogous to Luther's.

Given this understanding, "the place" Jesus is preparing is not a spot in a physical dwelling, but a "place" in God's family -- a "place" where one can be related to and remain with the Father as closely as Jesus, the Son, does.

Lot of ink spilled on what everyone knows already. Who is your dialogue partner here? Do you think Peter only thinks spatially?

Peter did not seem to know this interpretation.
You honestly think I thought heaven was physical dwelling somewhere? I very often preach the Gospel in terms of having a place at the table, or belonging, etc. But this idea is not lost when heaven is presented as a place, any more than people being told they have a place at the table causes them to think there must be a giant table floating around somewhere. The point is that you can't get around the images and idea Jesus uses as a way of getting closer to the truth; you'll get farther away.   

There is no way of understanding these things apart from the spatial way they are presented to us. We say Jesus "descended" to hell/the dead.

That's in the creed, not as high authority as scriptures.

Jesus "prepares a place" for us. Perhaps it isn't a "place" like any other with a street address and so forth, but if there were a better way of understanding what He was talking about than spatially, He would have used it.

That is certainly one way of understanding John 14:2-3. However, that is being challenged.
Brian, I used John 14 as one example out of tons where heaven and hell are talked about in spatial terms. The point is, yes, heaven is about relationships with God, but that is one facet of something larger. Somebody who thinks of heaven as a big house with lots of rooms and God as Father of it will understand the relationship aspect. Nothing is lost. There is no point in improving upon the spatial image, and there is a lot of danger in trying. I don't think even the most traditionalist of Christians actually thinks a rocket ship might crash into the heavenly mansions, as though it is a physical structure up in the sky. Nevertheless, thinking of it as a place will get you closest to understanding the real thing, which is beyond all human concepts, physical, relational, or what-have-you. Besides, if we translated all of those things relationally as you suggest, you'd still have to deal with patriarchy, anthropomorphism, and a host of other things you would likely "challenge" until nothing was left but abstract ideas.  

Your Turn / Re: ELCA Draft Sexuality Report
« on: January 12, 2007, 02:45:09 PM »
Yes, ALPB Forum is an intra-Lutheran dialogue. The Social Statement on Human Sexuality is an ELCA document. Would the LCMS want us to help them create a statement concerning women's role in the church; or would we be considered "outsiders" to their teaching and practices?
If this were a meeting of some ELCA task force crafting a sexuality study, I would offer my input if asked, but otherwise keep quiet. But it isn't. It is a discussion. We aren't creating a statement together. And yes, the LCMS CTCR reports on many issues cite non-LCMS and non-Lutheran sources regularly.

Your Turn / Re: ELCA Draft Sexuality Report
« on: January 12, 2007, 02:40:53 PM »
It is a little bit like using some rant of Luther's against Jews as a way of opening a discussion about Israel. But even so, it is true that if the husband hid his impotence and in a way tricked his wife into marrying him, they would not truly be married any more than someone who fakes a confession without true contrition and repentance is really absolved. Only the "tyranny of the law" forces them to recognize this fake marriage, and that, for Luther, was the problem. But the effect of using this example of a bizarre circumstance and an unfortunate response to it as an intro to discussion is to safely shield any participant from giving a wrong answer. There are no wrong answers-- even Luther did the surprising thing and jettisoned traditional marriage, these things are all highly complex, and the main thing is that we all love each other. Having established that, where is a discussion of homosexual relations likely to go? How long will it be before the tyranny of the law forces everyone to recognize non-marriages as marriages?

Natch. Why let discussions wallow in falsehood and heresy? :D

Does she define heaven as an actual, real place and not a state of mind, state of being or some other philosophical concept?  Ditto on life after death.  Does she define that as an actual, real existence as a living, conscious, self-aware entity in realms beyond the universe of the space-time continuum, in some metaphorical, philosophical way, or that one lives on in the memory of others, or something resembling Khalil Gibran's poetic statement:  "You will live forever in the silent memory of God?"  Or does she simply brush that off as not relevant to "speculate about?"   ???

Before criticizing the bishop, perhaps we need to see what scriptures say about heaven/heavens and hell/sheol/hades/gehenna. Does it present them as places or relationships or???? I note that the word "hell" never occurs in newer English translations of the OT, e.g., NRSV, TNIV. "Heaven" or "heavens" often refers to the sky, e.g., "the stars of heaven."
There is no way of understanding these things apart from the spatial way they are presented to us. We say Jesus "descended" to hell/the dead. Jesus "prepares a place" for us. Perhaps it isn't a "place" like any other with a street address and so forth, but if there were a better way of understanding what He was talking about than spatially, He would have used it. And if a spatial understanding were problematic, He wouldn't have used such descriptions so consistently. Are there any Scriptural references to what happens after we die that don't have spatial connotations of going somewhere? Jesus could not "go" and "come back" to take us to "where He is going" and has prepared "a place" for us if the whole thing was about relationships and not heaven as a third grader understands the term. "My Father has many relationships" says a lot less than "In my Father's house are many rooms." (And if the idea of heaven as a place offends, the idea of God as Father certainly will also.) Certainly one can describe heaven in terms of relationships, but one is then describing it less fully, not more fully, than simply using the pictures Jesus gives us. The person who thinks of heaven as a big castle in the clouds probably "gets it" more than someone who disdains such naive thinking.  

Your Turn / Re: ELCA Draft Sexuality Report
« on: January 12, 2007, 12:11:37 PM »
P.S. to Rob: Never said that the discussion was closed. Just wondered how much weight we want to give to fellow Christians who already think we're heretically wrong on about half of what we teach and practice.
Open your mind! Some people who think you're wrong might still have points to make worth considering. And I don't think you're heretically wrong on about half of you teach and practice. A quarter yes, maybe a third, tops. Your views on pasta are entirely orthodox. Ditto good music. Cats, well that is where you begin to stray onto shaky ground. But seriously, read the whole first page of this thread again. All I wrote about was the possible reasons for considering the third use as part of the first use. And yet in your post you accuse me of jumping to judgment against the ELCA. And you claim Brian got whacked for standing up for the study, and yet I can find nothing untoward at all directed at Brian in those posts. For what its worth, I do agree with Brian that of course the first use of the law applies to Christians as well. Some rules, especially but not exclusively for youth, pertaining to what we watch and listen to, how we dress, what is appropriate online activity, etc. are designed not to show us our sin or give shape to agape, but merely to help vulnerable people navigate safely through a dangerous world. First use of the commandments-- obeying authorities keeps you out of trouble, remaining sexually pure and decent in what we say and do heads off no end of hurt, honesty really is the best policy, etc. I just don't think the idea that the first use applies also to Christians contradicts the idea that there is a third use which applies exclusively to Christians. In other words, Brian's response was true but beside the point.    

Your Turn / Re: ELCA Draft Sexuality Report
« on: January 12, 2007, 01:29:04 AM »
Are you talking about his critque of the sexuality study or your critique of his article?     Or are you saying that if he does not agree with the portion you chose to quote than he must not agree with anything at all?

My critique of his article. While he states at the beginning of the article: "To me it's a smorgasbord that includes a few good dishes, a number of mediocre dishes and several dishes tainted with food poisoning;" nearly all of the article is about the "food poisoning". He does not delve into the "few good dishes" that he finds there. Why not?
I read a lot of news reports about tainted Taco Bell food last month. None of the national news accounts included coverage of the plentiful, perfectly good food also sold at those locations. Perfectly good food is the default expectation and therefore not newsworthy. "Taco Bell offers cheap Mexican food" is not news the way "Taco Bell sells poisonous Mexican food" is news. And when it come to such news, it is pointless to put a positive spin on it. "Taco Bell boasts ninety-nine percent customer survival rate" is silly. "Hundreds afflicted by tainted Taco Bell food" is actually news focused on the newsworthy part, which, in the case of a sexuality study, would be the parts that likely generate controversy. "Most of Lutheran Church study found to be solidly Lutheran" is just spin. "Claim: Lutheran Church study deviates from Lutheranism on some points" is worth discussing.   

On another point, thanks to Mel and the others who had nice things to say about my participation in discussions of ELCA matters, and thanks to Charles for calling me a fine fellow, which I am much of the time. ("Serial killer perfectly decent man six days a week") I chime in on non-LCMS topics because I find them interesting, and sometimes have what I think are interesting things to say about them, and I do think there is at least tangential impact for all churches when one church does something noteworthy. But by all means consider the source of my comments and take them for what they're worth, and if that turns out to be not much, then skip them. It isn't like there is a shortage of space here, and I'm not asking to have my comments read from the floor of ELCA conventions or anything. But going back to my first post on this thread, is there any part of it that is affected by whether the author is ELCA or not? Let it stand or fall on the merits.     

Tell me you wouldn't be just the slightest creeped out to find that a colleague had a number of good friends who were say, all members in good standing of the Klan, or NAMBLA, or even (God Forbid!) the Republican Party ( ;D)?  Extreme examples, I will acknowledge, but please don't tell me that you do not make judgements based upon association, and please don't tell me that all such judgements are sinful and/or in error.

We certainly do make such judgments. We talk about "one bad apple spoils the whole group" and "birds of a feather flock together." We were certainly concerned with who our children had as friends.

The major difference is, none of us are Jesus. With Jesus, the one good apple could sanctify the whole rotten batch. None of us are able to perfectly resist temptation the way Jesus did. Recovering alcholics and drug abusers are usually told that they need a new group of friends. The old group will bring them back down to their level.

At the same time, we, the church, are the body of Christ in the world. If we are avoiding the more sinful people in society because of what others might say, we are probably not following Jesus' call too well. The ELCA has been criticized for our agreement with TEC. We have been criticized for our agreements with the Reformed churches. I do not believe that any of our full communion partners have the power to make us stumble away from the truths we believe in scriptures and our confessions. If others want to criticize us for the company we keep, let them criticize.
Are you actually comparing the ELCA's fellowship with Episcopalians and Reformed churches to Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners? Did you run that by them first to make sure they're cool with the analogy?

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