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Concordia Journal

Concordia Seminary 801 Seminary Place St. Louis, MO 63105

COncordia Journal

Winter 2014 volume 40 | number 1

Winter 2014 volume 40 | number 1

Things We Do Not Fully Preach About: Preparing to Die Christian Counseling: The Past Generation and the State of the Field Dean J. H. C. Fritz and the (Lifelong) Formation of Pastors Marriage: The Divine and Blessed Walk of Life

COncordia Journal (ISSN 0145-7233)



David Adams Charles Arand Andrew Bartelt Executive EDITOR Joel Biermann Charles Arand Gerhard Bode Dean of Theological Kent Burreson Research and Publication William Carr, Jr. Anthony Cook EDITOR Timothy Dost Travis J. Scholl Managing Editor of Thomas Egger Jeffrey Gibbs Theological Publications Bruce Hartung EDITORial assistant Dale A. Meyer President

Benjamin Haupt Erik Herrmann David Johnson Todd Jones Jeffrey Kloha David Lewis Richard Marrs David Maxwell Dale Meyer Glenn Nielsen Joel Okamoto Jeffrey Oschwald

David Peter Paul Raabe Victor Raj Paul Robinson Robert Rosin Timothy Saleska Leopoldo Sánchez M. David Schmitt Bruce Schuchard William Schumacher James Voelz Robert Weise

Melanie Appelbaum assistants

Andrew Hatesohl Theodore Hopkins Andrew Jones James Kirschenmann Emily Ringelberg Michael Tsichlis

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Issued by the faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, the Concordia Journal is the successor of Lehre und Wehre (1855-1929), begun by C. F. W. Walther, a founder of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Lehre und Wehre was absorbed by the Concordia Theological Monthly (1930-1974) which was also published by the faculty of Concordia Seminary as the official theological periodical of the Synod. Concordia Journal is abstracted in Internationale Zeitschriftenschau für Bibelwissenschaft unde Grenzgebiete, New Testament Abstracts, Old Testament Abstracts, and Religious and Theological Abstracts. It is indexed in ATLA Religion Database/ ATLAS and Christian Periodicals Index. Article and issue photocopies in 16mm microfilm, 35mm microfilm, and 105mm microfiche are available from National Archive Publishing ( Books submitted for review should be sent to the editor. Manuscripts submitted for publication should conform to a Chicago Manual of Style. Email submission ( as a Word attachment is preferred. Editorial decisions about submissions include peer review. Manuscripts that display Greek or Hebrew text should utilize BibleWorks fonts ( Copyright © 1994-2009 BibleWorks, LLC. All rights reserved. Used with permission. The Concordia Journal (ISSN 0145-7233) is published quarterly (Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall). The annual subscription rate is $25 (individuals) and $75 (institutions) payable to Concordia Seminary, 801 Seminary Place, St. Louis, MO 63105. New subscriptions and renewals also available at Periodicals postage paid at St. Louis, MO and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to Concordia Journal, Concordia Seminary, 801 Seminary Place, St. Louis, MO 63105-3199. © Copyright by Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri 2014 |

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COncordia J ournal CONTENTS



Editor’s Note

6 Pedagogy for a Politicized Church Dale A. Meyer 15 A Timely Word from Luther on Recruiting Young Men for Pastoral Ministry David Peter

ARTICLES 23 Things We Do Not Fully Preach About: Preparing to Die Glenn Nielsen 30 Christian Counseling: The Past Generation and the State of the Field Rick Marrs 37 Dean J. H. C. Fritz and the (Lifelong) Formation of Pastors Bruce M. Hartung 46 Marriage: The Divine and Blessed Walk of Life Robert W. Weise 61 HOMILETICAL HELPS 81


Winter 2014

volume 40 | number 1


COncordia Journal

Editor’s Note Last winter, when the Old Testament scholars of Concordia Seminary’s exegetical department put together an issue of Concordia Journal on interpreting Isaiah, they inadvertently started a new tradition. (Are there any traditions that don’t start out “inadvertently”?) To wit: we have begun to use the winter issue of Concordia Journal, for the time being, as an opportunity for each faculty department to use however they wish. This time it is the practical department’s turn. The words that appear in these pages don’t have an overtly unifying theme like the essays in last year’s from the exegetical department. They are rather some of the professors’ discrete reflections on how they are each responding to the needs, challenges, and opportunities in, with, and for the church today. And perhaps that’s enough for now. Sometimes the church’s ministry in the world provides us with a unified theme to rally around. But sometimes the church’s ministry requires something more like life in a diaspora . . . thoughts and reflections that attend to a number of concerns at the same time, none of which necessarily supersede the others. And sometimes it’s both at the same time. It seems to me that we are living in just such a time as this, that life and ministry are calling us to places that can feel like both a homecoming and an exile, thoughts that at times are both concentrated and scattered, trends that can be simultaneously permanent and ephemeral. And perhaps this is an appropriate reminder in this season of light, especially as Concordia Seminary enters the 175th anniversary of its founding by reflecting on the motto printed in its seal: anothen to phos (“light from above”). The star’s bright-white light that led magi to Bethlehem is the same light from above that prismed into the colors arcing over Noah and the new family he made of all earth’s creatures. The same promise is embroidered in every sparkle of light, as if each were a swatch from the fabric of Joseph’s coat of promise. The promise of God is the kaleidoscope through which light comes to life. It is reflected in the polychrome gifts of the Spirit coming down from the Father of lights. It shines in the various earth tones of his Son’s face. “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:4–5). Travis J. Scholl Managing Editor of Theological Publications

Concordia Journal/Summer 2013


Pedagogy for a Politicized Church My friend and past president of Concordia Theological Seminary, Dean Wenthe likes to tell about a taxi ride he took to the airport after a meeting of seminary presidents sponsored by the Association of Theological Schools. Sharing the ride with the president of another denominational seminary, Dean asked about the hottest theological topic on his campus. Answer: whether or not Jesus Christ was/is divine. The moral Dr. Wenthe draws is that the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has far-reaching doctrinal unity when compared with much of the American religious landscape. That said, the people of the LCMS live in the saint-sinner tension and sometimes we don’t get along with each other when it comes to churchly business. The current administration’s “Koinonia Project” grows out of a palpable sense of disharmony that many people feel and regret. A report to the 2010 national convention says, Repeatedly, the task force heard that the problem of disharmony in the LCMS is primarily a clergy problem. Certainly lay people have participated in our Synod’s disharmony as well, but pastors seem to be in the forefront of practices and attitudes unbefitting God’s people. While some clergy may contend that “anything goes” when fighting for truth, such an approach ignores both our unity and concord as Christians and as confessional Lutherans.”1 Why are we this way? Is ours a church that people find welcoming? And what are the implications for seminary faculties who work day-in and day-out to prepare the pastors and deaconesses who will minister the saving gospel to the generations of our children and grandchildren? Let me begin with the broad American culture in which we live, worship, and seek to give answer for the hope that is in us (1 Pt 3:15). James Davison Hunter, professor at the University of Virginia and knowledgeable Christian, has written To Change the World.2 He begins by addressing this conundrum: Despite Christians being by far the most populous religious grouping in the United States, American culture has grown increasingly secular and sometimes anti-Christian.3 In the section “The Temper of Our Times,” Hunter describes contemporary American culture. We see great vitality in the functioning of different social institutions—the market, the polity, intellectual life, technology, and so on—and yet the culture that infuses them is in considerable disarray. American political culture continues to be fragmented and relatively polarized, its commercial and entertainment culture is gradually more tasteless and vulgar, its technological culture is ethically incapable of keeping up with the pace of innovation, and its moral and intellectual culture is evermore disjointed, incoherent, relativistic and superficial. It is not surprising that the attitudes and opinions of ordinary Americans reflect these kinds of contradictions:


average Americans are committed and hopeful yet they are also strongly distrustful of the major institutions and their leaders, dubious about the future of the nation, and often confused about their own nature and purpose in this life.4 Hunter concludes, “What remains of a traditional culture . . . is threatened with extinction, and Christian conservatives are right to worry about the effects of this on their descendants.”5 Numerous attempts to stem the tide have been based on the assumption that a critical mass of changed hearts, one person at a time, can restore America to its historic “Christian” culture.6 Those various Christian initiatives have largely not worked. “Do they change the world? The answer is both yes and no; but it is mostly no.”7 This loss of America’s traditional common culture has resulted in “the politicization of everything.”8 “Everything” includes Christian responses to the changed culture and how Christians approach each other. “For all of the leading voices in Christianity up to now—and in their own way—politics has come to provide the language for thinking about the problems they see. Politics is always and everywhere the framework.”9 When everything is politicized, ideology becomes paramount. “Politicization provides a framework of expectations and action and very little substantive content. In a diverse society, ideological polarization is a natural expression of the contest to provide that content.”10 “Every area of civic life has been politicized to one degree or another and strained by ideological conflict.”11 “The language of partisan politics has come to shape how we understand others.”12 And in this current situation, “persuasion is ineffective at generating agreements.”13 This is American culture today and we see it everywhere. Do our LCMS beliefs make us counter-cultural while at the same time insulating us from the politicized world all around? Of American Christianity in general, Hunter writes, “The moral life and everyday social practices of the church are also far too entwined with the prevailing normative assumptions of American culture.”14 Looking at ourselves, the definition of “synod” is critical. In the technical sense, according to the constitution of the LCMS, the “synod” is our congregations and rostered church workers and many, no doubt most do not go about the mission of the church in a politicized ideological way. In common speech “synod” also refers to the structures and leadership of the church at a national level, at district levels, and in conventions. There politicization does show up. Hallway conversations at many such gatherings, some publications, some blogs, some Facebook posts, and no doubt some emails and phone conversations, God only knows about that, do show the work of our church is politicized. Where America’s loss of traditional culture has created a void filled by ideologically-charged divisions, some LCMS partisanship promotes different views of proper doctrine and practice; although the contestants are unable to agree on how uniform our doctrine and practice need to be. I hasten to emphasize that correct doctrine and practice is hyper-important, and some advocates of certain expressions of doctrine and practice may well be correct in their analysis of the state of the church, but nonverbal behavior always trumps content.

Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


To whatever extent and in whatever corners our church is politicized, the politicization shows the law at work among us. Now politics is a necessary art both in the kingdom of the left and to an extent among us who live in the kingdom of the right.15 Any seasoned pastor knows to count his votes before laying a major proposal before the voters’ assembly. The problem comes when diplomatic attempts at proper persuasion turn into politicking, activities like seeking office, campaigns for candidates, some funded, stacking boards and committees, arm-twisting votes, and slandering those who disagree. Politicking should not dominate the life of the kingdom of the right because politicking is law-based, using instrumentalities other than evangelical persuasion to achieve whatever a faction desires. Again, the goal might be good but the way to get there, how we deal with one another, is at issue. Any claim that we with our beliefs are counter-cultural rings hollow when we behave in ways congruent with politicized American culture. Dominant should be our Dominus, who says, “You know that the leaders of the Gentiles lord it over them and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you” (Mt 20:25–26). That said, “doing church” by the levers of the law is quite appealing, also to the baptized, because the law is second-nature, born into our hearts whereas the gospel is alien, coming from outside. Reverting to the law is a default position even for the regenerate, and when we can rationalize the default with proper sounding theological words and quotations, we are flirting with Pharisaism. But C. F. W. Walther urges us to remember that the law does not accomplish our goal. “The Law does not produce a change of heart, love of God, and love of one’s fellow human being.”16 Working with the Koinonia Project, First Vice President Mueller has shared some prescient words from Francis Schaeffer. Writing about Missouri in an earlier time of strife, Schaeffer wrote: Let me go back again to the Presbyterian struggles of the 30s when our men did not remember this balance [between truth and love]. On the one hand, they waited far too long to exert discipline, and they lost the denomination. On the other hand, they treated the liberals as less than human, and therefore they learned such bad habits that later, when those separated had minor differences among themselves, they continued to handle each other in bad fashion. Beware of the habits you learn in controversy. Both must appear together: the holiness of God and the love of God exhibited simultaneously by the grace of God. It will not come automatically, it takes prayer. You must write about this in your papers. You must talk about it to your congregations. You must preach sermons pointing out the necessity of standing for the holiness of God and the love of God simultaneously, and you, by your attitude, must exhibit it to your people and to your own children.17 So is the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod a politicized church? To be fair, I say “somewhat.” Does that make a difference? Yes and no. No for the people in the pews who hear faithful Lutheran presentations of God’s word of law and gospel from our pulpits and in our Sunday schools, Bible classes, and parochial schools. No for the sin8

cere supporters of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, Lutheran Hour Ministries, and LCMS registered service organizations. But yes, big time yes, for seminary graduates. Faculty members can tell you that our students are worried about being pulled into partisanship. They ask how they can resist getting labeled one way or another in our Winkels. They wonder where they will go when they find that the church is not always a safe place for honest, fraternal sharing, and study. True, our graduates will encounter this church politicization in varying degrees but none will be able to escape it, at the very least meeting it on the Internet and in the run-ups to some district and national conventions. The teaching of the seminary must address this reality both in theological substance and in churchly process. Students will come, study, and leave Concordia Seminary either to join in the politicization of the church and thereby acquiesce to American culture or they will leave the seminary with body, soul, and spirit formed into the meaning and mission of the gospel of Jesus Christ with the wholesome result that evangelical persuasion will predominate in their ministries and in respect for all in the body of Christ. The answer to that either-or depends in large measure upon the pedagogy of the faculty. Cultivating the Spirit by Alexander W. Astin, Helen S. Astin, and Jennifer A. Lindholm summarizes a seven-year longitudinal study that examined the (1) spiritual and (2) religious development of college and university students.18 There are about as many definitions of spirituality as there are people, and the authors cite many scholarly definitions but their own working definition says spirituality is about an inner quality . . . rooted in a lifelong, internal process of seeking personal authenticity; developing a greater sense of connectedness to self and others through relationship and community; deriving meaning, purpose, and direction in life; being open to exploring a relationship with a higher power that transcends human existence and knowing; and valuing the sacred.19 “Religiousness generally involves devotion to, and practice of, some kind of faith tradition. It also typically involves membership in a community of fellow believers and participation in the rituals of faith.”20 The researchers surveyed 112,232 freshmen at 236 public and private religious institutions and then asked the same students to complete a survey during their junior year; 14,527 juniors from 136 schools returned the survey. The study found that “spiritual” goes up in college but “religious” declines. We believe that the story told by our study data is not only fascinating but also of great importance for students, for institutions, and for the larger society. Essentially, we find that while students’ degree of religious engagement declines somewhat during college, their spirituality shows substantial growth. Students become more caring, more tolerant, more connected with others, and more actively engaged in a spiritual quest. We have also found that spiritual growth enhances other college outcomes, such as academic performance, psychological well-being, leadership development, and satisfaction with college. These positive changes in students’ spiritual qualities are not merely maturational . . .21

Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


Obviously seminarians are older, but almost all come to seminary with a college degree and most come immediately from college or only a few years removed from that experience. The popular assumption is that they come to seminary to be “formed” for ministry, but in fact, they have in significant measure already been formed by college experiences, by their home congregation, by family, and by general life experiences. It is more realistic to say that the faculty’s task is “re-formation,” that is, to enhance and deepen the positive Lutheran spiritual and religious experiences they have already had and to try to re-form in them biblical and Lutheran doctrinal beliefs and practices that may be wanting. How can formation or re-formation be attempted?22 From Cultivating the Spirit: “Our data provide strong evidence pointing to specific experiences during college that can contribute to students’ spiritual growth.”23 What are some of those experiences identified by the study that the faculty can adapt in its pedagogy for the church? Greatly summarized they include the following. “Interdisciplinarity . . . helps students appreciate the subtleties of intellectual problems and to see the value of using the knowledge and methods of multiple disciplines as a means of understanding complex issues and appreciating multiple perspectives.”24 “When the fullness of time had come” reminds us that God’s saving revelation, the word made flesh, comes into specific earthly contexts (Gal 4:4; Jn 1:14). Interdisciplinarity in teaching honors the various contexts in which lay people and clergy can work together to bring their varying gifts to the mission of Christ. One example: teaching students to understand financial statements so that they will appreciate the expertise laity trained and experienced in finance bring to the work of the congregation. “Community service . . . can have powerful effects on student development, regardless of whether the service is course-based.”25 When residential seminarians experience mentored service in various cross-cultural settings, those real life situations outside the classroom lead to greater theological searching of God’s word. This happens now through resident field education, vicarage, our urban institute, and cross-cultural trips but needs to be integral to the whole seminary experience in and out of the classroom.26 This too has a theological basis. Community service falls in the second table of the commandments, about which Philipp Melanchthon wrote, “The works of the Second Table are truly the worship of God . . . The worship that is pleasing to God, internally and externally, both in our spiritual and outward life, is summed up in the Decalog.”27 Our graduates will be expected to lead their congregations into the fullness of God’s work through us in this world and that means mentored learning experiences in community service. “Another type of experience that positively influences students’ spiritual development is interracial interaction.”28 The entire student population of Concordia Seminary is diverse because of programs like the Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology and the Center for Hispanic Studies. The great challenge that must be met for the sake of God’s mission to today’s America is greater diversity in our residential programs, the largest source for providing pastors and deaconesses to the church. The eschatological vision, “A great multitude . . . from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Rv 7:9), should begin to happen among us; demographic decline need not be our destiny. The seminary looks to congregations to help make this happen.


“Contemplative practices are among the most powerful tools at our disposal for enhancing students’ spiritual development.”29 Here some suggestions from the study are outside the pale for a confessional Lutheran seminary but theologically proper contemplative practices will integrate doctrine into life, contributing to thoroughgoing pastoral formation.30 This means more than a chapel program. The daily chapel program needs to reflect the best Lutheran practice, reflecting the different ways that LCMS congregations worship and in which our graduates will serve. The chapel program is not a substitute for Sunday worship with a congregation, but should serve, as James K. A. Smith says in another book relevant to our subject, as a “mediating institution” between academic life and the life of God’s people in the field.31 Beyond the chapel program, the entire curricular and extracurricular experience of seminary life needs to be what Smith calls a “liturgy,” a body, soul, and spirit worship that receives God’s gifts and reflects his praise in conscious community.32 Again from Cultivating the Spirit: “When faculty directly encourage students to explore questions of meaning and purpose, students become more likely to show positive growth.”33 Because a revised residential curriculum must address the challenge of giving busy students (in addition to studying they work and many have families), more time without sacrificing content, the effectiveness of the faculty’s teaching is of paramount importance. Exploring questions of meaning and purpose needs to happen in and out of the classroom. It’s about keeping the big picture in mind and having a willingness to hear students’ views and letting them feel safe to “think out loud.” It has always been true but more today than ever that the seminary does not, indeed cannot graduate a finished product. Cultivating the Spirit does not address continuing education, that was not the study’s purpose, but given the multi-faceted task of formation and re-formation, providing continuing education resources is a necessary task of the faculty’s pedagogy in service to the church. Hence the faculty applauds President Matthew Harrison’s emphasis upon continuing education and takes seriously Resolution 5-08 passed by the 2013 national convention, “To Establish a Standard for Continuing Education of Pastors.” Working toward fulfillment of that resolution, Concordia Seminary has relevant theological resources available, such as the 4-1-1 continuing education program. The seminary’s faculty and board of regents also affirms Resolution 5-02A, “To Support and Encourage Participation in Post-Seminary Applied Learning and Support Initiative,” the PALS program. Politicization in the church tempts pastors away from the concrete realities of the congregation to which God has called them.34 Enhanced continuing education helps keep the focus congregational. Moving toward a conclusion, you will notice that the suggestions from Cultivating the Spirit place a premium on personal interaction.35 When the synod’s “system” was the dominant provider of seminarians, students entered Concordia Seminary with a great amount of homogeneity. We came from congregations throughout the country that had very similar church and community cultures. America was still a churched society. We arrived at the seminary knowing one another; some of my classmates had already been together for eight years. Our formation for ministry had largely happened and so seminary professors in the main had to fill us with theological information needed for Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


ministry. But in today’s post-church America, our seminarians come from various life backgrounds, from different congregational cultures, and no student knows all his classmates. This means that seminary pedagogy has to emphasize community, life together, as never before. Such an intentional effort toward community is intended to provide a safe context in which the strengths and deficiencies of an individual student’s pre-seminary formation can be identified and addressed. Looked at another way, the days are gone when professors could assume proper formation and simply impart information. Smith writes, “Christian education has, for too long, been concerned with information rather than formation.”36 Information, in our setting giving seminarians a correct understanding of biblical and confessional Lutheranism, must always be a hallmark of seminary pedagogy but it must be in context. One consequence of America’s politicized, ideological milieu is that words carry less meaning today than in years gone by. “Any understanding of what is real, true, good, and right depends on a covenant between the words spoken and the reality to which they refer. But this covenant has been broken, and the result is an emptying of words of their inherited meaning.”37 The efficacy of God’s word is a unique Lutheran emphasis, a “covenant” we hold that God’s word brings to reality what it says. If surrounding society has weakened words of their meaning, we who teach the word must take into account how people learn. Robert Preus, surveying the efficacy of God’s word in post-Reformation orthodoxy, affirms John Dannhauer’s concern about “a caricature of the Lutheran doctrine that would make the Bible, considered as a book and apart from the working of the Holy Spirit, some sort of magical power that would coerce its victim into obedience.”38 If the word were “some sort of magical power,” classroom information would be enough, doctrine could be separated from life, head severed from heart. But today’s students learn differently than my generation did, and so the faculty’s pedagogy is changing, not in accommodation to the culture but in a sincere attempt to respond to today’s realities from the Bible and Lutheran Confessions. Smith: “It will not be sufficient (or effective) to deliver Christian content in pedagogies that are designed for thinking things.”39 After his survey of Christian attempts to counter America’s cultural coming apart, James Hunter advocates a formation he calls “faithful presence.” When the Word of all flourishing—defined by the love of Christ— becomes flesh in us, in our relations with others, within the tasks we are given, and within our sphere of influence—absence gives way to presence, and the word we speak to each other and to the world becomes authentic and trustworthy. This is the heart of a theology of faithful presence.”40 Isn’t this what our Lord teaches us? To the establishment theologians of the day, he teaches that the greatest commandment is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Mt 22:37–40). 12

So the literature and countless personal experiences prescribe some basic pedagogical imperatives. They include, in very summary statement, fidelity to our biblical and confessional beliefs in their full christocentric breadth and depth, corporate worship, and devotional exercises wherein the Spirit through the means of grace grows disciples of the Lord Jesus, and more intentional face-time (1) between professors and seminarians, and (2) professors and seminarians, with the world in its brokenness outside the healing gospel of Christ. These pedagogical imperatives will be actualized in various ways, some innovative ways, and some ways will assuredly raise suspicions of theological liberalism from a few in the church. So be it. Ours will continue to be a pedagogy rooted in the word and the Lutheran confessions, substantive and not facile lip service. A fellow professor raised a question that makes gospel-based pedagogy something not to be taken for granted. What can happen, my colleague wondered, when a church is convinced that it has the correct understanding of the word and gospel, as we rightly do? In view of our real enemy, what can the devil, that “angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14) do when a church is convinced it has already answered all the questions and has all the perfect formulations? Can we be tempted to “advance” to an animating principle other than the gospel for our life together? If it’s not gospel, it’s law, the ministration of death (Rom 7:10-13). Can we fail to see the need to teach the faith in a way that can be understood by new generations? Pedagogy for a somewhat politicized church? The law is to be our paidagogus to lead us together to Jesus Christ and to no other Savior (Gal 3:24). “It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God (1 Pt 4:17).” Love God and love people. Keep the telos—the goal—in mind; the salvation of souls, yours and mine, and the salvation of souls our synod has so blessedly served for generations and we pray will serve with the only saving gospel for generations to come.41 Dale A. Meyer President Endnotes 1

2010 Convention Workbook, 75. James Davison Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010). 3 Ibid. 4 Ibid., 198. 5 Ibid., 167. Emphasis is Hunter’s. 6 Ibid., 45, 46, 77. Hunter debunks the popular notion that there was a truly “Christian America.” 7 Ibid., 18. 8 Ibid., 106, 107. 9 Ibid., 168. 10 Ibid., 103. 11 Ibid., 104. 12 Ibid., 105. 13 Ibid., 103. Apropos is the observation by Harvard’s Henry Rosovsky, “Never underestimate the difficulty of changing false beliefs by facts.” The Washington Post, A17, November 4, 2013. 14 Ibid., 185. 15 Aristotle: “Man is by nature a political animal.” (Politics I, 1, 1253a 3) 16 C. F. W. Walther, Law and Gospel, ed. Charles P. Schaum, (St. Louis: Concordia, 2010), 433; In W. H. T. Dau, (St. Louis: Concordia, 1928), 384–385. 17 Francis A. Schaeffer, “A Protestant Evangelical Speaks to His Lutheran Friends in a Day of Theological 2

Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


Crisis,” Evangelical Directions for the Lutheran Church. Eds. Erick Kiehl and Waldo J. Werning, (Lutheran Congress, 1970), 146. 18 Alexander W. Astin, et al., Cultivating the Spirit: How College Can Enhance Students’ Inner Lives (Hoboken, NJ: Josey-Bass, 2011). The words college and university will be used synonymously. 19 Ibid., 27–28. 20 Ibid., 83. 21 Ibid., 10. Emphasis by authors. 22 Curriculum revision has been talked about for years and thoroughgoing revision is in its preliminary stages. 23 Astin, 10. 24 Ibid., 145. 25 Ibid., 146. 26 Seminarians in distance-contextual programs are by definition in cross-cultural settings. It is a given in those programs but needs to be integrated into residential programs. 27 Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1989), 395a. 28 Astin, 147. 29 Ibid., 148. Emphasis by authors. 30 See Ibid., 148ff. 31 James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009), 225. 32 Ibid., 39ff. 33 Astin, 150. 34 See Inviting Community, eds. Robert Kolb and Theodore Hopkins, (St. Louis: Concordia Seminary Press, 2013), 9–18. 35 See also Smith, “The central role of practices in formation,” Desiring the Kingdom, 224. 36 Smith, 219. His emphases. 37 Hunter, 220–221. 38 Robert D. Preus, The Theology of Post-Reformation Lutheranism (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1970), 370. 39 Smith, 228. 40 Hunter, 252. 41 1 Peter 1:9


A Timely Word from Luther on Recruiting Young Men for Pastoral Ministry A recent edition of the Reporter, the official newspaper of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), arrived in the mail with this front-page headline: “CUS Enrollment Hits New High: 33,399 Students.”1 The article lauded the fact that enrollment in the synod’s Concordia University System’s ten campuses has increased every year for twenty-one years, but there was one aspect of the report that was not so cheery. It states: Although total CUS enrollments continue to climb, the number of students in church-work programs continues to fall—from a total of 1,654 in 2012 to 1,531 this year, a drop of 123 students, or 7.4 percent. Except for an increase of 54 students in fall 2010, that total has been dropping for at least the past 13 years, according to CUS staff.2 This announcement brought to my mind one of Martin Luther’s writings, a work composed in 1530 “A Sermon on Keeping Children in School.” This sermon addresses a similar situation in Luther’s day in which the number of young people going into church work was diminishing. I encourage the reader to access this composition in volume 46 of Luther’s Works in order to encounter directly this timely exhortation.3 Luther’s composition is timely because it focuses on the matter of recruiting young men (actually boys) for preparation for pastoral ministry. Today the need for this is acute, as apparently it was in Luther’s day. Currently the total enrollment of pre-seminary students in all Concordia University System schools is down to 156.4 The number of residential students in the programs leading to pastoral ministry at Concordia Seminary (i.e., the MDiv degree program and the alternate route option) is significantly down from what it was ten years ago. In 2004–2005, the total number of residential pastoral formation students was 725. Today it is 285.5 Luther’s sermon (actually more of a treatise) addresses a similar situation, even a crisis. Despite the advance of the gospel due to the Reformation, an insufficient number of boys and young men were in the process of preparing for pastoral ministry. Although Luther’s estimate of the number of vacancies in Saxony in his day is disputed and the reformer may have exaggerated the crisis, there is no doubt that he had valid reasons for the impassioned concern he expresses in these pages. Similarly, today some question the extent and severity of a “pastoral shortage” in the LCMS. Yet there is good reason to believe that the current low numbers of students in pastoral preparatory studies (both at the seminaries and in the Concordia University schools) does not bode well for the future advancement of God’s kingdom within existing congregations of the synod, let alone new mission efforts. Before highlighting some similarities between the conditions that Luther addresses and the current situation in our church body, one must acknowledge differences. For example, Luther insists upon instruction in Latin, which was the lingua franca of theological study of the day and no longer is a necessity for pastoral preparation. More Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


significantly, the Reformation affected the decline of monasteries in Germany. Since these had been the contexts in which boys, especially from poor households, could gain an education in preparation for the priesthood, the demise of such institutions led to a concurrent decline in students preparing for pastoral ministry. It is assumed that the reader will be able to make the appropriate distinctions between “then and now” as well as the needed translation of Luther’s counsel into contemporary circumstances. Nevertheless, I will comment on three emphases in Luther’s sermon that need to be recaptured today. These emphases deserve renewed attention in our current context regarding efforts to recruit talented young men to prepare for pastoral ministry. Although Luther directed his exhortation to parents, I believe a contemporary application should also be directed to pastors and congregations (which is why I am writing this opinion piece in a journal sent to pastors). These are the emphases: Luther affirms the high value and inestimable impact of the office of the ministry. As one reads this sermon, one cannot help but be struck by the author’s esteem for the office of the ministry (rendered as “the spiritual estate” in this translation) as well as for those who fill it. He upholds the estate’s dignity and honor, stating, “There is no dearer treasure, no nobler thing on earth or in this life than a good and faithful pastor and preacher.”6 For the pastors who read this, please take encouragement from these words and be affirmed in your calling!7 Many in our society regard pastors as irrelevant at best and deluders at worst. A post-Christian and even anti-Christian culture seeks to denigrate the office of pastor. Even some congregational members demonstrate ambivalence toward the office of pastor and even dismiss the value of their shepherd, but Luther’s estimation of the office is of the highest level. Luther identifies the reasons for which the office of pastor is so valuable. He [Christ] paid dearly that men might everywhere have this office of preaching, baptizing, loosing, binding, giving the sacrament, comforting, warning, and exhorting with God’s word, and whatever else belongs to the pastoral office. For this office not only helps to further and sustain this temporal life and all the worldly estates, but it also gives eternal life and delivers from sin and death, which is its proper and chief work.”8 Luther emphasizes the eternal impact that those in the office have. The work of pastors, he affirms, brings rich blessings for the present age but also makes a difference for the eternal destiny of many. Through the pastor, Luther asserts, many souls “come to everlasting righteousness, to everlasting life and heaven.”9 Today many young people are seeking to invest their lives in meaningful causes. There is no more significant cause than that of the gospel mission. As pastors and parents affirm to the young men entrusted to them the high value and inestimable impact of the office of the ministry, no doubt the numbers of those preparing for ministry will swell. This brings me to the second emphasis from Luther’s sermon. Luther emphasizes the need to encourage young men to pursue the office of the ministry. This is a primary purpose of this homily. It is remarkable that Luther would devote a sermon to this goal, which some today might dismiss as a crass recruitment 16

ploy. However, Luther’s concern is not just for some institutional advancement; his passion is for the kingdom of God!10 He regards the mission of the church as hinging on the pastoral office and of those who fill it. This is why Luther’s goal is not just filling the office with warm bodies, but with raising up pastors of the highest character and talent.11 Luther identifies one of the major reasons young men were not encouraged to enter into preparation for pastoral ministry as economic. Parents did not regard this vocation as one in which their sons would become wealthy and prosperous. The preacher accordingly rebukes such parents—and the community that holds similar values. “He [God] has not given you your children and the means to support them simply so that you may do with them as you please, or train them just to get ahead in the world.”12 Doesn’t that sound like the values of our contemporary society? In my own experience, I have encouraged teenage boys and girls to pursue full time church work, receiving an initial positive response from them. Shortly thereafter however, when I take up the subject again, these young people inform me that they have been discouraged from that path by their parents. Commonly, the reason is that church workers do not make enough money. As Luther observes, the parents’ primary concern is that their children “get ahead in the world.” Luther’s admonition is one that is appropriate for parents and parishes today: “…your children are not so wholly yours that you need give nothing of them to God. He too will have what is rightfully his—and they are more his than yours!”13 Granted, not all young people should go into professional church work—Luther himself affirmed this.14 But I am convinced that the current decline in students preparing for the pastoral office—and for other auxiliary offices of the church—reflects to some extent the mindset of our age in which we see ourselves as the masters of our own destinies (and of that of our children) rather than as stewards of God’s gifts. In this spirit, the primary destiny to which we aspire—and to which we direct our children—is to “look only to the belly and to temporal livelihood.”15 More than rebuking Christians for neglecting their responsibility to encourage the brightest and the best young people to prepare for ministry, Luther holds forth the joy and the glory experienced in directing our youth toward service in professional church work. He asks: “How much more should you rejoice if you have raised a son for this office of preaching in which you are sure that he serves God so gloriously, helps men so generously, and smites the devil in such knightly fashion? You have made of your son such a true and excellent sacrifice to God that the very angels must look upon it as a splendid miracle.”16 There is joy and fulfillment in ministry, both for the ones sent and for those who send. The latter category includes parents and congregations. Perhaps the most compelling case for recruitment into the pastoral office is that joy which pastors demonstrate while carrying out their ministry. Such a winsome witness—exemplified by Luther himself—will attract young souls to investigate the public ministry and contemplate their place within it. Luther advocates the financial support of young people who pursue the office of public ministry. In the previous quotation, the reformer stated that those who direct Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


their children to professional church work offer them as “a true and excellent sacrifice to God.” To send one’s child to be formed as a pastor was a sacrifice in Luther’s day, and it is so today. It is not cheap to train pastors, and it is not inexpensive by any means for those who prepare to be pastors. A recent edition of Concordia Seminary magazine reports that a year at Concordia Seminary costs $41,000 to $54,000 and that students pay 50 to 60 percent of that. As a result, when combined with the undergrad debt many students incurred before they ever set foot at seminary, half of Concordia Seminary graduates in 2013 left the seminary with a debt of $39,000 or more and onefourth had a debt of $80,000 or more.17 This places a significant financial stress upon seminarians and their families—including their parents—to prepare for pastoral ministry both at the undergraduate and seminary levels. Indeed, this can be a “true and excellent sacrifice to God.” However, the financial burden should not be borne primarily by them. The broader ecclesial community is also called to make the sacrifice and financially support seminarians and other church workers. By ecclesial community, I am referring to congregations and trans-congregational entities such as districts and the Synod, but I especially refer to individual Christians who have been enriched by the ministry of pastors and other professional church workers and who seek to invest in the spiritual wellbeing of future generations. To this matter, Luther insists that there is no better investment than in the training of pastors. Now ever if you were a king, you should not think you are too good to give your son and to train him for this office and work, even at the cost of all that you have. Is not the money and the labor you expend on such a son so highly honored, so gloriously blessed, so profitably invested that it counts in God’s sight as better than any kingdom or empire? A man ought to be willing to crawl on his hands and knees to the ends of the earth to be able to invest his money so gloriously well. Yet right there in your own house and on your own lap you have that in which you can make such an investment. Shame, shame, and shame again upon our blind and despicable ingratitude that we should fail to see what extraordinary service we could render to God, indeed, how distinguished we could be in his sight with just a little application of effort and our own money and property.18 This admonition and encouragement was originally directed to parents of sons, but I would expand the application to congregations and members. This is especially true of churches that have members who are preparing for pastoral ministry. Many congregations are highly supportive of these “sons of the congregation” and offer ample financial assistance for both undergraduate and seminary education. Yet many are not; the significant educational indebtedness that so many seminarians incur is a testimony to that. I have spoken to many seminary students who reveal that the support for their studies offered by their home congregations is a pittance. Add to this the diminishing support from districts and Synod and it becomes clear that Luther’s admonition hits home for us in the LCMS today. 18

That which has affected me most in the reading of Luther’s sermon is his conviction that the best investment of money for advancing the kingdom of God is in the training of professional church workers, especially of pastors. This has caused me personally to adjust my financial contributions so that I direct a higher proportion to the support of seminary education. As one who is employed by Concordia Seminary, this may appear self-serving. However, I sincerely take to heart Luther’s perspective on this: “A man ought to be willing to crawl on his hands and knees to the ends of the earth to be able to invest his money so gloriously well.”19 What a timely word of exhortation and encouragement we receive from this 1530 composition by Martin Luther! The reformer concludes his sermon with these words: “You have heard your prophet.”20 May this prophet’s message find renewed hearing in our church body today! David Peter Endnotes 1

Paula Schleuter Ross, “CUS Enrollment Hits New High: 33,399 Students,” Reporter, November 2013, 1. Ross, 1. 3 Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 46, ed. Robert C. Schultz (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967), 219‒258. 4 Ross, 1. 5 This data was provided by Dr. Paul Philp, Director of Academic Programming and Curriculum assessment, Concordia Seminary. The number of non-residential pastoral formation students has increased somewhat, from 148 in 2004‒05 to 173 in 2012‒13 (the largest number occurring in 2011‒12 with 195 students). 6 Luther, 223. 7 Yet Luther keeps this affirmation in proper perspective by acknowledging: “It is not the man, though, that does it. It is his office, ordained by God for this purpose. That is what does it—that and the word of God which he teaches. He is only the instrument through which it is accomplished.” Luther, 224. 8 Luther, 220. 9 Luther, 224. 10 Luther identifies what is at risk. Speaking to parents who discourage their sons from pursuing a career in the public ministry, he writes: “So far as you are concerned, the serving of God can just die out altogether . . . But because you allow the office instituted and established by your God and so dearly won to go to ruin, because you are so horribly ungrateful as to let it be destroyed, you yourself will be accursed.” Luther, 223. 11 Luther, 231. 12 Luther, 222. 13 Luther, 223. 14 “In saying this I do not mean to insist that every man must train his child for this office, for it is not necessary that all boys become pastors, preachers, and schoolmasters . . . for the world also needs . . . people without whom the temporal authority would go to pieces.” Luther, 231. 15 The full quote is “If God has given you a child who has the ability and the talent for this office, and you do not train him for it but look only to the belly and to temporal livelihood, then take the list of things mentioned above and run over the good works and miracles noted there, and see what a pious hypocrite and unproductive weed you are. For so far as it is up to you, you are depriving God of an angel, a servant, a king and a prince in his kingdom; a savior and comforter of men in matters that pertain to body and soul, property and honor; a captain and knight to fight against the devil.” Luther, 229. 16 Luther, 229. 17 “Debt Follows Seminarians into Congregations,” Concordia Seminary, Winter 2013, 5. 18 Luther, 228. 19 Luther, 228. 20 Luther, 258. 2

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COncordia Journal

Things We Do Not Fully Preach About Preparing to Die

Glenn A. Nielsen

At first glance the topic of this article seems simple. Preparing to die? Well, the important item is faith in Christ. Make sure the relationship with God is right, and then death will take care of itself. The last breath is taken. The heart beats a final time. Death comes and so does the soul’s entrance into Jesus’s presence. Thus, helping prepare people to die is at the heart a preaching of Law and Gospel so that saving faith is present and life after death is blissful. Convict of sin; proclaim Jesus and his forgiveness. Simple. Or so it seems. Of course, a more complex aspect could be included, that of helping people prepare to die on a more psychological or personal level. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s work could be considered.1 A sermon series on overcoming fear, defusing anger, moving beyond bargaining, and facing the reality of death would lead to a stronger personal acceptance of the fate that awaits all of us. Or perhaps a better tactic would be to meet with chaplains who serve in hospice programs. Find out what insights they would be able to give concerning what needs do people have as they prepare to die, and then incorporate some practical how-tos in sermons for people to adopt. I know one such chaplain and his frustration was that people wait too long to enter hospice. By the time he saw them, death was within days, even hours, so the help he was able to bring was short-circuited. Such avoidance certainly indicates a need for helping people to prepare to die, but would a sermon or two be of much assistance when people ignore the advice of pastors and medical personnel concerning hospice? Perhaps, but probably not much. Now both of these items are important: faith in Christ and personal/psychological wholeness for one’s death. But neither is sufficient. Theologically, we need something much more comprehensive than getting someone to life after death. We need something more that informs the whole of preaching rather than only a sermon series or an occasional sermon. What follows attempts to provide a framework for that something more, and we begin with what everyone faces sooner or later: death. Death: The Last Great Enemy Paul is powerfully concise. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor 15:26).2 Death is not our friend. Death is not a celebration. Death is not natural. Death Glenn Nielsen is a professor of practical theology and director of the vicarage program at Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis. An abridged version of this article first appeared as “Things We Never Preach About, Part 2: Preparing to Die,” Lutheran Forum, Winter 2012.

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is punishment. Death is the horrendous separation of body and soul. Death is that climatic enemy whose tentacles reach back into our lives in so many hostile ways through sin and demonic evil. Before I go on, I need to clarify the focus on death. We often speak of different types of death. One is, of course, spiritual death in which the relationship with God is broken. Apart from Christ we are lost and condemned creatures. Another is eternal death, a reference that speaks of the confirmation of that lost and broken relationship for all eternity when one physically dies. Here is where faith in Christ is needed. Spiritual life comes from the Savior. Eternal life is spiritual life that has begun before physical death, most often in baptismal waters, which when someone perseveres in faith, continues for all eternity. In this article, however, the focus is on physical not spiritual or eternal death as the title indicates. Certainly, the three types are intricately related, but for now, we look at death in its physicality. At the moment of death, life does not merely end but reaches the culmination of death and death’s friends’ handiwork in the lives of all people, including those in the Lord’s church. Who or what are death’s friends? Not us. These are death’s friends: child abuse, genocide, starvation, injustice, violence, oppression. Picture the scenes. An elevenyear-old girl sold into prostitution. A woman addicted sells her body for drugs. A soldier rapes in the name of a cause. In one country people throw away half of their food while in other country children stare with vacant eyes and distended stomachs. Someone with money goes free; someone without the resources spends years in prison. Call it injustice. We see abortion clinics where mother and precious child both are sucked up in a culture of death. War and death are best friends as refugee camps grow in number and diseases. So are death and AIDS. Take a drive through some of our cities’ neighborhoods. What do you see? The homeless shivering in the winter and sweating in the heat. Drug deals stealing youth and hope alike. Gunfire breaking the silence. Are you ready to scurry out of the neighborhood to a safer suburban home? Look back as you do and see what death’s friends are doing. A few years ago I went to the emergency room. The first MRI showed a mass on my kidney. It would be twelve hours before a second MRI could be done to identify the precise nature of that mass. Turns out it was an infection instead of cancer. But for twelve hours I knew the fear of death as an enemy. Look in a mirror. The wrinkles and aging cannot be stopped. A tiny virus can take you down. A car accident can maim you for the rest of your life. Pain, sickness, injury, age—we know these as sin’s consequences and the allies of an enemy who uses them to put us in the grave. Death is ruthless. It ambushes some and slowly sucks the life out of others. But it will get you in the end. The death rate is still 100%, unless Jesus returns before you become another statistic. And once death seizes you, it rends asunder what God had put together: body and soul. Now American culture today does not like to hear this story. We glamourize death in the media or show it on the screens so often we are desensitized to its reality. We try to put a good spin on it with American optimism (“He was in so much pain that death was a blessing.”) We hide it from view and seldom talk about it because it’s such


a morbid topic. We rely on funeral homes to make the body look good, even keeping it from becoming the decaying flesh that returns to the dust from whence it came. So in such a culture of denial about and sugarcoating of death, how do we prepare people to die? Preach death as our enemy. Preach the groaning of creation in death throes (Rom 8:2–23). Preach the physical reality of death and decay. Our people will not hear this message in our culture. They need to hear it in the one place that is committed to being textual/biblical with them—the church. Defeating the Enemy: I believe in the resurrection of the body. A focus on the physicality of the death of the body necessitates the redemption of the body. Death is not fully undone when the soul goes to be with Jesus. The death that consigns the body to decay and dust needs to be defeated as well. The Apostles’ Creed directs us to the final day resurrection of the body for that victory. So does Paul, “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:23). Unfortunately, that final day resurrection of the body has nearly disappeared from American piety and too much of the church’s preaching. What has taken its place? An overwhelming concern for life after death, and not, as N. T. Wright says, life after life after death.3 People and preaching have zeroed in on what Scripture barely mentions—the interim state of the soul—and neglected what Scripture predominantly offers as the Christian’s hope—the final day, resurrection of the body, and the new creation of the heavens and earth. Preaching on the state of the soul in between death and the last day is not wrong by any means, but the tunnel vision which preaches almost exclusively on it is. It is important that people know that life after death is a rest from our labors with Jesus. It is a time of refreshment and joy. It is far better than what we experience now in this life. It is a blissful consciousness of our Savior’s loving and protecting presence. Truly, it is a time when the soul rests in peace with Christ while the body is asleep in the grave. But read through the Bible and you will find that this interim period is not the end. It is more of a temporary state while we wait for Jesus to return in glory when he will fully and finally defeat death. Perhaps even more surprising to most church goers today, including many pastors, is that when you dig deep into the Scriptures you don’t find much talk about dying and going to heaven. It’s just not there like we think it is. Instead, what you come across over and over again is wonderfully consistent with Jesus’s words, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (Jn 6:40). Yet listen to sermon after sermon today and you will hear almost nothing of the final day resurrection of the body. Rather, people are directed to the state of the soul with Jesus. And such preaching unfortunately, even heretically, does not prepare people to die. My colleague at Concordia Seminary, Jeff Gibbs, has called attention to the consequences of focusing so extensively on the soul in the interim state. First, he asserts that a false anthropology is at work—the soul is really the immortal part of us. Thus, the body becomes “somewhat unnecessary, really a hindrance, and this view, incredibly, regards Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


the death of the Christian’s body as a victory, as something good rather than as an ongoing manifestation of sin and evil.” This becomes a form of Gnosticism in which the spiritual is good while the physical “if not bad, is at least indifferent or unimportant.”4 So what is the final and ultimate victory over death? The last day finds God not abandoning His creation but remaking it. He redeems His creation in its physicality, where space and matter matter. The last day resurrection brings back our bodies with all their senses and members. These bodies will be incorruptible, not subject to disease and decay; we will be transformed like Jesus’s glorified body. Justice will finally prevail as all things are made right. You know the phrases—no more tears, no more hunger, no more thirst, no more pain, no more abuse, AIDS, rape, genocide, homelessness, addiction. No more of death’s friends to wreak havoc on our bodies. And joyfully, wonderfully—no more death. Indeed, no more death! Listen to N. T. Wright describe this last day re-creation of our bodies. We sometimes speak of someone who’s been very ill as being a shadow of their former self. If Paul is right, a Christian in the present life is a mere shadow of his or her future self, the self that person will be when the body that God has waiting in his heavenly storeroom is brought out, already made to measure, and put on over the present one—or over the self that will still exist after bodily death. This is where one of the great Easter hymns [“Light’s Abode, Celestial Salem”] gets it exactly right.

O how glorious and resplendent Fragile body, shalt thou be, When endued with so much beauty, Full of health, and strong, and free! Full of vigour, full of pleasure, Thou shall last eternally.5

And all this happens when Jesus comes back to earth (not when we go to heaven). Jesus’s return is the biblical answer to death. Even though Jesus will give Martha more than she could have ever imagined with Lazarus’s exit from his tomb after four days, her confident hope is for a different day: “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (Jn 11:24). In the face of death, the Christian’s confident hope is the same as Martha’s—on the last day we will rise again in the resurrection. Hope anticipates. Hope looks forward. Hope eagerly awaits. I haven’t seen the cemetery myself, but I’ve heard of a small, countryside graveyard where one headstone has only one word written on it. What is that word? “Waiting.” We simply are not prepared to die unless our hope is the true biblical hope, which is standing on its tiptoes watching and waiting for Jesus’s return. How do we prepare people to die? By proclaiming the victory over death that Jesus’s return brings. By taking the friends of death and turning them into defeated foes on the last day. By describing the glories of the resurrection. By reading the Scriptures with an eye toward the last day, the great Day of the Lord, the return of Christ, and 26

simply declaring what those words say to the people. When you do, you will find this future hope throughout the prophets and apostles, and those who have come after them throughout the ages of the church. That includes us every time we confess: I believe in the resurrection of the body. First Fruit: Jesus eats a piece of fish. Yet preparing people to die is not only a forward looking hope, a longing for the “life after life after death.” It looks backward to the ground of that hope. Jesus’ answer to Martha clearly identifies the basis of our hope, of being prepared to die. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (Jn 11:25). I wonder if one of the more significant passages in the Bible is also one of the most overlooked. Luke 24:42, “They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.” Post-resurrection Jesus, appearing glorified in the upper room, is not a phantom. He invites the disciples to touch him. Then Jesus goes even further. He eats a piece of fish. For the church, resurrection is bodily, physical, with taste buds and fingertips, with vocal cords and eardrums, with eyes that see and noses that smell the aroma of supper. For the resurrected Jesus ate a piece of fish in the upper room. Where does that piece of fish take us? Paul shows us: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ” (1 Cor 15:22–23). Everything depends on Christ’s resurrection from the dead. If Christ had not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and so is our faith. And Paul was a resurrection preacher. His letters are filled with the resurrection—because he encountered the resurrected Lord on the road to Damascus.6 Unfortunately, much preaching today fails to proclaim Christ’s resurrection. Good Friday and his death certainly do. Easter and eating fish—not so much.7 Now certainly proclaiming Christ’s sacrificial and forgiving death is good, but failing to proclaim Christ’s first fruits resurrection is not so good. Ken Schurb provides a helpful distinction as to why both are necessary. He says that on Good Friday Christ does so much on our behalf and in our place. Christ does what we cannot do. He pays the price for our sin. He takes the punishment. He dies our death. He goes through hell so we will not have to. He is our substitute. Easter, however, is not so much in our place, substitutionary, but simply on our behalf.8 Christ’s resurrection makes possible what we will actually go through. Easter is our promised future present now in Jesus. Christ’s resurrected body is the prototype of what will one day be given to us. How do we prepare people to die? It is not therapeutic sermons directed to an individual getting ready for the heart to stop. Rather, we need to recover the proclamation of Christ’s resurrection throughout the year. I once heard it said that Sunday is really a little Easter and Easter is just a big Sunday. Indeed, the early church switched the gathering for worship to Sunday because that is the day of resurrection. It is also the eighth day, and a new age has arrived, one that will find its fulfillment on the final day’s appearance of Jesus. We prepare people to die when their hopes are grounded in the resurrection. The confidence to die comes from the first fruit resurrection of our Lord. Listen:

Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


Jesus lives! The vict’ry’s won! Death no longer can appall me; Jesus lives! Death’s reign is done! From the grave Christ will recall me. Brighter scenes will then commence; This shall be my confidence.9 Preparing to Die: Glimpses of God’s Kingdom Coming Now In the incarnation, Christ becomes fully human, including the body. His resurrection is bodily. A final day comes when the heavens and earth will be created anew in wonder and splendor. Our hope is for a final day resurrection when death and all its evil friends will no longer haunt us, will no longer be able to touch our resurrected bodies. Underlying all these realities is the affirmation that this creation is God’s handiwork. In the beginning God created and it was good, very good. Yes, death and all that is opposed to God has wreaked havoc in God’s good creation. But it is still God’s creation. And He will redeem it on the last day. In the meantime, those who live with this future hope are invited, called, and urged to bring glimpses, moments of that hope into this broken world. Paul ends that great resurrection chapter in Corinthians with these words: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58). Our labor is not in vain. Whatever we do to combat that great enemy death and its wretched friends is not wasted. Rather, acts of kindness for the downtrodden, care for all of God’s creation, defense of the oppressed, contributions to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, and thousands of other actions of justice and beauty in opposition to the injustice and ugliness of this evil age are not in vain. N. T. Wright asserts that they will make their way, somehow, into God’s new world. You are—strange though it may seem, almost as hard to believe as the resurrection itself—accomplishing something that will become in due course part of God’s new world. Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit—led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world—all of this will find its way, through the resurrection power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make. That is the logic of the mission of God. God’s re-creation of his wonderful world, which began with the resurrection of Jesus and continues mysteriously as God’s people live in the risen Christ and in the power of his Spirit, means that what we do in Christ and by the spirit in the present is not wasted.10 So much more could be written about our living in hope by taking seriously the redemption of God’s creation at the end—and in our care for it now. But at the heart of the matter is the simple recognition that this creation is not something to be abandoned or given up on or defiled in selfish consumption. It is God’s handiwork, ruined to be sure, but still God’s, and what he will do at the end is beginning to appear in 28

those moments when his people now live as his kingdom people and become a part of his answer to the petition, “Thy Kingdom come.” How do we prepare people to die? By preaching the invitation to join in his work of re-creation now. By sermons that call people to do the work that will not be in vain. By urging them to be kingdom people who stand confident in the face of death and know that whatever is done in opposition to that last great enemy is not wasted. How do we prepare people to die? Preach the word. Confess the creed. Celebrate the resurrection each Sunday. Pray the church’s prayers. And proclaim what we sing in that great hymn, “For All the Saints.” And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long, Steals on the ear that distant triumph song, And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong. The golden evening brightens in the west; Soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest; Sweet is the calm of paradise the blest. But, lo, there breaks a yet more glorious day: The saints triumphant rise in bright array; The King of Glory passes on His way. From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast, Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host, Singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: Alleluia! Alleluia!11 Endnotes 1

See for a summary of her work. All Scripture references are from the English Standard Version. 3 N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope (New York: HarperCollins, 2008), 148. 4 Jeff Gibbs, “Regaining Biblical Hope: Restoring the Prominence of the Parousia,” Concordia Journal 27/4 (2001): 315–316. 5 Wright, Surprised by Hope, 154. 6 See my presentation at the Theological Symposium, September 2011, at http://concordiatheology. org/2012/07/2011-theological-symposium-rediscovering-the-art-of-preaching/ for a fuller discussion of how often Paul makes reference to the resurrection in Romans, and how it impacts the whole of his (and our) theology. 7 Ibid. In that presentation, I list a number of reasons for this imbalance in preaching. Some of them are: our default metaphors for the gospel are forensic and sacrificial which come from Good Friday, our art and jewelry direct our attention to the cross, the “Theology of the Cross” by name leaves out the resurrection (which is a part of that theology), we don’t have as many stories from the Bible about the resurrection, we know death much more personally than resurrection, and we simply haven’t developed a robust theology of the resurrection. One more significant reason for the neglect of the resurrection goes back to the nearly exclusive focus on the interim state. The resurrection loses much of its significance if the hope is to just get the soul to be with Jesus after death. But when our hope is for the last day bodily resurrection, then Jesus’ resurrection becomes essential to our preaching. 8 Ken Schurb, The Resurrection in Gospel Proclamation, Concordia Journal 18/1 (1992): 29–30. 9 “Jesus Lives! The Victory’s Won,” Lutheran Service Book (St. Louis: CPH, 2006): 490:1. 10 Wright, Surprised by Hope, 208–209. 11 Lutheran Service Book, 677:5–7. 2

Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


Christian Counseling

The Past Generation and the State of the Field

Rick Marrs

J. T. McNeill asserts in his book A History of the Cure of Souls, that “soul care” (also known as pastoral care, soul healing, cura animarum, and seelsorge) has been around for three millennia, dating back to Israel’s wise men (hakhaminm) and their Wisdom literature. He cites Jesus’s care of souls in verses like Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (anapausis, refreshment).” The last paragraph of McNeill’s classic work concludes: The cure of souls has been a vast historic enterprise. The Christian Church has regarded it in the light of an unending warfare against the sin and sorrow of the teeming human generations . . . To the shining company of curators animarum whose efforts have claimed our attention, let us accord a reverential salute. May their successors, equipped with new skills, profit by their insights, avoid their mistakes, and surpass their achievements!1 For centuries, soul care was done primarily, almost exclusively, by clergy. But in the past generation, at least in North America, the vocations claiming to do soul healing have greatly expanded. Gary Moon, vice president of Richmont Graduate University, says that Christian counseling, pastoral counseling, biblical counseling, and spiritual direction are all “sibling soul care disciplines.”2 I agree with Moon that these four disciplines are distinct from one another, but interface with one another and share many of the core values. The purpose of this article is to help readers know some of the recent history and current practices of Christian counseling and biblical counseling. A Personal History of Soul Care Each generation introduces the next to “soul care.” Two mentors introduced me to these disciplines: John Saleska and Martin Haendschke. When I was a college freshman in 1976 at St. John’s College in Winfield, Kansas, Professor John Saleska taught both my introduction to psychology course and my Old Testament course. He encouraged me to read not just the psychology textbook, but also the book What, Then, Is Man? and Martin Scharlemann’s book Healing and Redemption.3 Later, I discovered that Rick Marrs is an associate professor of practical theology at Concordia Seminary and director of the MDiv and alternate route programs. He taught psychology and worked as a counselor in the Concordia University System for sixteen years before becoming a pastor and serving a parish in Kansas for six years. He is also a licensed psychologist. 30

What, Then, Is Man? had a formative influence on many non-LCMS evangelicals who expanded the Christian counseling and psychology movement in the 1970s. Saleska emphasized the importance of 2 Corinthians 10:5 “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” It became a theme verse for me as I continued my preseminary and then psychology major studies at (then named) Concordia College in River Forest, Illinois. While there, I let it be known that I planned to become a “Christian psychologist/counselor.” A pastor friend who knew of my plans to study counseling and psychology in graduate school challenged me to first pursue a Master of Arts in Religion (MAR) degree at Concordia Seminary to strengthen my theological foundation before exploring secular psychology in depth. At the seminary, I met Dr. Haendschke who had us read some of the Christian and biblical counseling authors of the 1970s: Gary Collins, William Hulme, Jay Adams, Howard Clinebell, David Myers, and Paul Pruyser. Haendschke emphasized to his students the importance of properly distinguishing law and gospel in pastoral counseling, and showed us that authors like Jay Adams did not comprehend that distinction. I will speak more about some of these authors below. Saleska and Haendschke started me on a love/frustration relationship with the fields of counseling, psychology, Christian counseling, and pastoral care/counseling that I have to this day. There is much first article information we can learn from modern psychology and counseling, information that previous generations of pastors had no access to; however, I also learned from my mentors to be wary of the sub-Christian assumptions with which secular psychologists often begin. Sigmund Freud, B. F. Skinner, and Albert Ellis were proponents of atheism in their generations as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are in today’s generation. Carl Rogers was a prominent secular humanist who influenced modern psychologists to be more open to eastern religions than to Christianity. In its proper place, there is much to learn from psychology, but it poses real dangers when it ventures into the spiritual realm. As a Christian studying and practicing in the secular realm, I had numerous non-Christian supervisors and instructors who treated my Christian belief system with respect. I also faced challenges to my Christian faith, even persecution, by several others. Some of the challenges that face Christian counselors today are discussed below. Early Development of Christian Counseling and Psychology Jay Adams and Gary Collins were two of the most prominent evangelical voices in soul care in the 1970s and 1980s. Adams was the leader of the biblical counseling movement, Collins of the Christian counseling wing. In Competent to Counsel4 Jay Adams writes a strong critique of the Freudian and Rogerian assumptions of modern psychology. According to Adams, mental illness is a misnomer; all emotional problems can be attributed to personal sin, and the primary role of the counselor is to authoritatively confront the unrecognized sin in the struggling Christian’s life. Adams coined the Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


term “nouthetic counseling,” based upon the Greek word noutheteo, to verbally confront someone. In Lutheran terms, Adams was heavy on the use of the law, but rarely emphasized the gospel, forgiveness, or Christian encouragement (despite the fact that the Greek cognates for encouragement and comfort, paraklesis/parakaleo, occur over 130 times in the New Testament compared to only eight times for noutheteo). Adams showed little appreciation for the first article mental disorder or trauma issues that might bedevil struggling Christians. Gary Collins wrote The Rebuilding of Psychology, Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide, and many other books. In these, Collins too critiques the assumptions of Freud, Rogers, and behaviorists like Skinner, but he also calls for the integration of Christianity and psychology in places where they hold common ground. He emphasizes that since God is the source of all truth, truth is found both in nature (natural revelation) and in the Bible (special revelation). Science is the process humans use to understand nature, and theology is our means of understanding the Bible. His focus on presuppositions, in Chapter 5 of Rebuilding, is heavily influenced by What, Then, Is Man? Collins was not alone in this integration movement. Bruce Narramore and Archibald Hart helped to form Christian doctoral programs in clinical psychology at BIOLA (Rosemead) and Fuller Seminary, respectively. Larry Crabb, C. Stephen Evans, John Carter, Paul Vitz, David Myers, and others began writing important articles and books about faithfully integrating psychology and Christianity. Frank Minirth, Paul Meier, and Robert McGee founded inpatient clinics around the United States specifically for Christians who were struggling with various mental disorders. (Many of these clinics have closed, not because of theological issues, but because of the advent of managed care making inpatient treatment less cost effective). Other influential people in the 1970s and 1980s included James Dobson and M. Scott Peck, but they were more independent, not directly involved in the organization of Christian counseling. The Growth of the Christian Counseling Movement In 1986, Gary Collins formed the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)5 and became its first president. Prior to this there had been smaller professional organizations like the Christian Association for Psychological Studies (CAPS, founded in 1956), the Association for Biblical Counseling (ABC), the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC), and the American Association of Pastoral Counseling (AAPC). None of these earlier organizations ever grew very large (not one of them currently has a membership over 2000). However, under Collins’s leadership, the AACC began to eclipse these other organizations in size of membership. AACC has nearly 50,000 members and has had for many years. The AACC is as large as or larger than a few of the secular professional counseling organizations, and is only smaller than the American Psychological Association and the National Association of Social Workers, groups that have a significant number of “non-counselors” in their membership. Gary Collins retired as president in 1998; Tim Clinton, a professor at Liberty University and previously the AACC vice president, became the president and continues today. Liberty University and the AACC share a considerable amount of infrastructure and leadership.


I attended one of the early meetings of the AACC in 1987 at Trinity Evangelical Seminary in Deerfield, Illinois (where Collins was a professor). There I heard Dr. Archibald Hart of Fuller call for Christian counselors to engage with systematic theologians to develop a more sophisticated biblical anthropology. He understood that Christian counselors were typically undertrained in the area of theology, but were wellmeaning Christians who truly wanted to help heal souls.6 Unfortunately in my experience of at least a decade, the field of Christian counseling attended more to pragmatic concerns and less to theological depth.7 Since the year 2000, theological issues and historical soul care seem (to me) to be more frequently written about and discussed at conferences. Now many of the magazine and journal articles and convention presentations are peppered with quotes from Calvin, Luther, Wesley, Edward, and others. For example, I have made workshop presentations at two AACC conferences about the importance of the use of law and gospel in Christian counseling (quoting heavily from Luther and Walther), with nearly 300 counselors attending. Current Trends in Christian Counseling In the 1960s and 1970s, there was considerable pushback from fellow Christians of those who studied psychology and wanted to become professionals in the counseling field.8 Even in the late 1970s, several pastors questioned my intention to enter such a secular field of study. In the 1980s that pushback subsided, especially with the advent of many Christian counseling graduate programs at seminaries and universities around the country. However, a sharp distinction between “Christian counseling” and “biblical counseling” was still prevalent into the 1990s. Biblical counselors tended to eschew any use of modern psychological theory and some of the science while Christian counselors integrated the parts of secular psychology that are compatible with a Christian worldview. In the past decade, the two groups have become friendlier; biblical counselors sometimes attend and present at Christian counseling conferences9 and have become much more open to psychopharmacological treatments for mental disorders.10 The AACC has formed a division for biblical counseling and spiritual formation. The breadth of topics for books and workshops has expanded greatly in the AACC and other Christian counseling groups. There are professional divisions for addictions, cross-cultural counseling, grief and crisis counseling, marriage and family, military counseling, etc. The AACC hosts an international conference biennially in Nashville; 7000 attendees can choose from 200 different workshops in 23 different tracks. As the biblical and theological sophistication of many authors has increased through the decades, the emphasis on neuroscience and psychiatry, evidenced-based outcome research in Christian counseling, and the effects of faith on mental health also has increased. One of the most intriguing and potentially helpful trends in Christian counseling is the development of distinctly Christian sex therapy. The acceptance of sex therapy in the general culture for the treatment of sexual dysfunctions and sex-related issues has been growing steadily since the days of Masters and Johnson (whose laboratory research began in 1954 at Washington University in St. Louis). However, if Christian couples struggling with sexual issues in their marriages came to their pastors Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


for help, those pastors would likely resist referring them to sex therapists because of the sub-Christian values that are part of the therapy. Since the 1990s however, several Christian professionals including Dr. Douglas Rosenau and Dr. Cliff and Joyce Penner, have been certified by the American Board of Sexology (ABS) and the Society for Sex Therapy and Research (SSTAR). These Christians start with biblical presuppositions about one flesh, monogamous marriage, and the gift of sexuality (e.g., the Song of Songs), and glean what is edifying from secular sex therapy to help develop counseling strategies. A book that I and some of my students have found most helpful is A Celebration of Sex: A Guide to Enjoying God’s Gift of Sexual Intimacy by Rosenau.11 Current Challenges to Christian Counseling Christian counselors face some of the same economic challenges that secular counselors do. Since the advent of managed care, remuneration from insurance companies for counseling services has become more difficult. Counselors must be on approved provider lists, the rates of reimbursement are often quite low, the amount of paperwork is very high, and the number of sessions is often limited. Many in private practice want to provide meaningful soul care to their clients, but find it a challenge to pay for office space, insurance, and continuing education. Churches that will trade counseling space for reduced rates for their parishioners may find some interested counselors. In general, acceptance by secular counselors has been satisfactory, especially since secular counseling professional organizations publicly espouse meeting the needs of diverse ethnic and cultural groups, including those of various religions. Secular accrediting groups within the American Psychological Association and the American Counseling Association have regularly accredited masters and doctoral programs at evangelical Christian institutions. State boards have commonly accepted graduates from those institutions granting licenses in counseling and psychology. However, the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning) communities are making life increasingly complicated for Christian professionals. Those who seek training from secular counseling graduate programs may be dismissed from some programs or internships if it becomes known that they believe “homosexual behavior is sinful,” even if they agree to follow ethical guidelines for referring clients whose value systems differ from theirs.12 Licensed counselors who practice “conversion therapy” or “reparative therapy” that seeks to shift another’s sexual orientation have been threatened with the revocation of their licenses. At least one state (California) has made it illegal for licensed counselors to do any type of “sexual orientation change efforts” with minors, even with parental approval and the informed consent of the teenager. Secular journals have routinely dismissed the research of Christians (and other religious groups) who have sought to provide empirical evidence about the changeability of sexual orientation. Leading researchers in this field, Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse, eventually had to publish their research with a major Christian evangelical book company, despite the fact that their research designs met sophisticated psychological standards.13 They had discovered that religiously mediated change in sexual orientation was partially attainable among a substantial number of men.


Unfortunately, “holiness” theology provided the foundation for much of the early “conversion therapy” and “reparative therapy” practices and claims. Lutheran theological emphases like the “old Adam,” simul justus et peccator, Romans 7, and the lifetime need for daily repentance did not influence earlier strategies for changing sexual orientation. Instead, many clients were pointed to their own faith and wrestlings with God, and told that their temptations would eventually go away. When their temptations toward same-sex attraction did not heal as fast or as fully as they were led to hope, many left counseling and reported to the secular world that those strategies were ineffective and had even exacerbated their feelings of guilt and depression. Exodus International, an interdenominational umbrella organization to hundreds of local ministries for Christians seeking help with same-sex attraction, disbanded in June 2013, apologizing for the perceived harm its practices had caused. Some secular media and Internet sources assumed that Exodus was apologizing and backpedaling for its biblical theological position that same-sex behavior was sinful, but that was not true. They were apologizing for how unlovingly and naively their strategies had been implemented. In recent years, Mark Yarhouse, Warren Throckmorton, and others have encouraged more sophisticated theological approaches, asking questions like, “What is the church’s response to enduring conditions?”14 They have also developed Sexual Identity Therapy (SIT) that empowers clients to distinguish between same-sex attraction, orientation, and identity, to weigh the various religious and sexual aspects of their identity, and to seek to be more congruent in these aspects of their identity. Practitioners of SIT seek to uphold the secular counseling values of self-determination and congruence, and SIT is therefore becoming more acceptable in secular circles. Concluding Thoughts McNeill again: “May their successors, equipped with new skills, profit by their insights, avoid their mistakes, and surpass their achievements!”15 This generation of soul healers, the successors to the many generations before us, face many new challenges from this secularizing culture. However, the Lord gives a variety of gifts to his body, the church (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12), and in this past generation he has raised up tens of thousands of Christians who have the culture’s counseling credentials and knowledge, but wish to serve their Lord faithfully in their encouragement of others. This new generation of soul healers generally knows little about our Lutheran theological distinctions, and how those distinctions can aid in their soul healing, but I have found many of them open to learning about these distinctions when we take the time to teach them. Christian and biblical counselors are not evenly distributed geographically. Some pastors may have no Christian counselors within driving distance; others have ready access to several counselors to whom they would feel confident referring their beloved parishioners. If you do have access to such counselors, I pray that you will take the time to get to know them, discuss theology and soul care with them, and work together to bring the gospel message of refreshment (anapausis) to this generation of heavy-laden souls loved by Christ. Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


Endnotes 1

John T. McNeill, A History of the Cure of Souls (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1951), 330. Gary W. Moon, “Growing Up with the ‘Integration’ Movement,” Christian Counseling Today 18, no. 4 (2011): 56‒58. This particular “State of the Art” issue of Christian Counseling Today may be of interest to readers who want to learn more about the history and current directions of the field. 3 What, Then, Is Man? A Symposium of Theology, Psychology, and Psychiatry was co-authored by psychologists Paul Meehl and Alfred Schmieding, seminary professor Richard Klann, pastor Kenneth Breimeier, and psychiatrist Sophie Schroeder-Slomann. It was published by CPH in 1958 with a foreword by Martin Scharlemann. WTIM, commissioned by Concordia Seminary and the LCMS, did a superb job of wrestling with the tensions between the philosophical presuppositions of psychologists and the Christian view of humankind. Many of its insights are still helpful five decades later. Scharlemann then wrote Healing and Redemption: Toward a Theology of Human Wholeness for Doctors, Nurses, Missionaries, and Pastors (also by CPH) in 1965. 4 Jay E. Adams, Competent to Counsel (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1970). 5 The AACC website is 6 In 2011, Tim Clinton, President of AACC cites that “[Archibald] Hart lamented years ago that Christian counseling had run dangerously ahead of its biblical and theological roots.” Clinton goes on to argue that Christian counseling has matured as a field, both theologically and empirically, and is reaching out globally and through e-counseling strategies within North America. Tim Clinton, “Emerging Trends and Issues in Christian Counseling,” Christian Counseling Today 18, no. 4 (2011): 34‒38. 7 There were a few notable exceptions like Stanton Jones and Richard Butman’s book, Modern Psychotherapies: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 1991, revised 2011). That classic spun off other books about how Christian counselors could view psychopathology and practice family therapy. 8 Diane Langberg, “History of Christian Counseling: Personal and Clinical Reflections,” Christian Counseling Today 18, no. 4, (2011): 12‒16. 9 I attended an intriguing AACC workshop in 2011 led by Ed Welch, a Presbyterian seminary professor and psychologist, in which he emphasized the biblical distinction between shame and guilt. He asserted that shame (often labeled “low self-esteem”) is becoming more prevalent than guilt in American culture, and then explained the implications of counseling Christians suffering from shame with gospel metaphors of cleansing, honor, clothing, and belonging. Welch and his colleagues with the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF) Paul David Tripp, and David Powlison, are much more gospel-focused in their writings than was Jay Adams. Welch’s books include When People are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man (1997) and Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, Finding Hope in the Power of the Gospel (2001). 10 Michael R Emlet, “Listening to Prozac… and to the Scriptures: A Primer on Psychoactive Medications,” The Journal of Biblical Counseling 26, no. 1 (2012): 11‒22. Emlet is a medical doctor who counsels and teaches at the CCEF’s School of Biblical Counseling. 11 Doug Rosenau, A Celebration of Sex: A Guide to Enjoying God’s Gift of Sexual Intimacy (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2002). After reading this book, a group of my graduate students decided to start giving copies of it to their pre-marital counseled couples. Rosenau and others have formed the Institute for Sexual Wholeness which trains counselors in professional sex therapy from a Christian perspective. Their website is 12 I had a few challenging circumstances to get through in my own secular graduate training, but I was finished with my internship in 1991. Christian graduate students I have spoken with in the past decade have reported that the pressures on them to conform to the LGBTQ values are significantly higher than in the past. 13 Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse, Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic Press, 2007). 14 Mark Yarhouse, Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors and Friends (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2010), 177. Yarhouse’s group website is 15 McNeill, A History of the Cure of Souls. 2


Dean J. H. C. Fritz and the (Lifelong) Formation of Pastors Bruce M. Hartung

The citation in the Encyclopedia of the Lutheran Church is clear, precise, and relatively short: John Henry Charles (J. H. C.) Fritz (July 30, 1874–April 12, 1953) American Lutheran professor, editor, author. Born at Martin Ferry, Ohio. Graduated from Concordia College, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, 1894; from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, 1897. Served as pastor in Missouri and New York (1897–1920). Vice-president, Western District, Missouri Synod, 1915–1919; president, 1919–1920. Professor of church history and pastoral theology, Concordia Seminary, 1920–53; dean of Concordia Seminary, 1920–40. Initiated noonday Lenten services in St. Louis. Co-founder of Missouri Synod’s radio and television mission. Frequent contributor to religious periodicals. Editor of Der Lutheraner, 1949–53. Author of The Practical Missionary, Pastoral Theology, and other books. A staunch advocate of the inspired, infallible Word.1 Fritz’s biographer Ruth Fritz Meyer, on the other hand, titles her 155 singlespaced typewritten pages Big John.2 Meyer’s work provides personal and professional details of the man who was the dean at Concordia Seminary for twenty years (1920– 1940). Fritz’s influence on thousands of Concordia Seminary students and on the church at large likely more approximated “Big John” than a small notation; however, his influence seems to have survived more in the lives of the people he touched, rather than in the use of his writings (apart from his Pastoral Theology). The focus of this article is on three areas concerning pastoral formation gleaned from Fritz’s extensive writings: 1) practice and experience are key in pastoral formation, not just add-ons to intellectual and academic learning; 2) knowledge about scripture, people, and oneself is central to the life and work of a pastor; 3) the pastor’s personal characteristics and ways-of-being are crucial because the work of the Holy Spirit can be hindered. In developing these foci, only Fritz’s actual writings and Meyer’s biography were used. Through Fritz’s often-prescient thinking, we are able to see the challenges in the twenty-first century to the formation of pastors and in their ongoing vocational formation through continual learning. Bruce Hartung is the advisor on pastoral growth and leadership development and a professor of practical theology at Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis. He is the author of Holding Up the Prophet’s Hand: Supporting Church Workers.

Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


Becoming the First Dean Fritz summarized his duties as dean for the special voter’s meeting at Bethlehem Lutheran Church where he was the pastor and from which he sought a peaceful dismissal, given not without controversy, in September of 1920: 1. Supervision of the spiritual interest of the individual student. 2. Giving a number of lectures weekly, especially along practical lines: mission work, parochial school, Sunday school, establishing congregations, etc. 3. Supervision of student activities: boarding club, students’ chorus, etc. 4. Routine work: records of attendance, supply work, correspondence with secretarial assistance.3 The position of “dean” came about from the recommendation of the Educational Survey Committee (established in 1917 by resolution of the synodical convention). Besides recommendations “that practical matters be given more attention in the ‘Pastorale’ and in a special lecture course,”4 “that the students be given practical manuals to avoid time-wasting dictation,”5 “that the students be led to do independent work,”6 there was a specific recommendation that a dean be added to the faculty.7 On December 2, 1920, J. H. C. Fritz, Martin Summer, and John T. Mueller were installed as members of the Concordia Seminary faculty. The twenty years of Fritz’s deanship began. He soon initiated and led “Lectures on Practical Problems,” held on the first and third Mondays of the month. “Chapel talks,” held every Monday evening and led by a member of the faculty, followed. Dean Fritz also interviewed all incoming students at the beginning of their matriculation and all concluding students prior to their graduation. Following his deanship, which ended in 1940, Fritz continued as a member of the faculty until his death in 1953, the last years on modified service. Learning to Put Into Practice by Doing The challenge of pastors and pastors-to-be gaining practical experience was evident to Fritz even before he became a faculty member at Concordia. Striking and direct is his apologia for The Practical Missionary: A Handbook of Practical Hints for the Lutheran Home Missionary, Containing Thirty-eight Talks on Related Missionary Subjects. The average seminary graduate has had no practical missionary experience, and he often fails to see and to use the very opportunities which present themselves unto him to learn by practical experience what he later so much needs. The graduate from the high school and from the commercial college may be brimful of theories, but, in spite of it, he may not make good in the business world; most young men, in fact, never get beyond the common routine of business life. Even so, the graduate from the theological seminary may have ranked high in Exegesis, Isagogics and Hermeneutics; and may be able to recite all the rules of Homiletics and of Pastoral Theology;


but in spite of it all, he may be a miserably poor missionary. The reason is not that all the knowledge which he has acquired makes him such and that he would be better off without it, but the reason is that he has not learned to put into practice what he knows. Only the practical man is the successful man in life, in the church as well as in the business world. The mere theorist does not get very far; he is a failure.8 This is not written by a man who discounts academic learning nor, obviously, the foundation of Lutheran confessional theology. Rather, it is characteristic of a man who desires a bringing together of theoretical learning and practical application. The book also seems to arise from a certain amount of frustration: Mission Boards, which must supervise and direct mission work and to this end must keep in close touch with the missionaries through personal interviews, by means of quarterly reports, and through correspondence, bitterly complain, as was done at a representative gathering of many Mission Boards of our Synod, of the practical inefficiency of the missionary. As a result, the work in the mission field is suffering; the missionary, who ought to lead in the work is, himself, often an obstacle in the way of its progress. Sad, but true!9 The Practical Missionary brings practical suggestions, assuming a biblical and theological foundation. There is an assumption that the pastor/missionary will have some kind of supervision by a mission board; it is not clear how far this extends to practices in our times, such as coaching, continuing education, and clinical reflection. Fritz speaks directly to actual pastoral practices. For instance, how is a conversation with an unchurched person to be structured? Let the call be made along these lines: “Mr. Smith, I am pleased to make your acquaintance. I am Pastor Jones of the Lutheran Church. May I step in? I understand that you are not church member; is my information correct? I have come to extend unto you a hearty invitation to attend our Lutheran services. Here is our church card, giving you all the necessary information as to the location of our church, time of services, etc. The Lord has given us the Gospel because we are all sinners who need the Savior. Have you ever been a church member, Mr. Smith? Have you any children? Do they attend Sunday school? Is your wife a church member?” When making a missionary call, the missionary should at once state why he has come. He should not speak about the weather or about some matter which has been filling the columns of the newspapers, much less engage in any neighborhood gossip, nor talk about one hundred and one other things, and then, finally, when he has his hat in hand, “tack on” an invitation, very timidly given to the stranger, to come to church. The first missionary call should, as a rule be made in five to ten minutes.10

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Further research might reveal if these suggestions for practice made it into teaching opportunities, through role-playing in the classroom, or actual calls in their practical experience, and then, in true clinical pedagogy, discussed through verbatims or direct supervision. But already in 1919, the pedagogical sense was present: learning includes doing in addition to thinking about doing. The imperative for all learning was also present: that all people come to know of Christ. There is some evidence, though, that Fritz taught homiletics using this kind of pedagogical insight. After recognizing his debt to his homiletical instructors in his own seminary experience, after twenty years of being on the Concordia faculty, and after twenty years of preaching, Fritz writes: My method of teaching homiletics to beginners is the inductive method. I use no textbook. My students in the beginners’ class are given a text which in the classroom is developed into a sermon through the various stages of sermonizing, the final writing of the sermon being done by the student in his study. Thus the student learns the homiletical rules by actually doing what he is to learn. In other words, the writing of the rules, principles, and definitions is not the first step but the last step in the process. This makes for a much better understanding of the rules and for their reader application in the preparation of sermons. Later in the course—at times but not always—I place a book on homiletics into the hands of a student.11 In discussing sermon preparation, Fritz expands his argument and the rationale for his method: “First think yourself empty, then read yourself full.” We can learn to do only by doing. A person will never learn to make a suit of clothes if he lets someone else take the measurements, cut the cloth, and sew the parts together, while he only makes the buttonholes and sews on the buttons. Likewise, the preacher who always at once resorts to helps and uses the sermon outlines of others and their ideas will never become a really good preacher. Using ready-made material, he also will likely not give due attention to applying that text to the particular needs of his hearers.12 Time and prayer are needed in this inductive method. In the big picture of pastoral formation and the ongoing formation of pastors in their congregations, learning is done by doing and, at least in seminary and missionary settings, by consultation and feedback. If this principle were applied robustly toward pastoral formation in our time, a significant amount of time would be given to learning by doing in the context of coaching, consultation, and supervision. Reading Holistically: Books of Scripture, Flock, and Self A central theme that runs throughout the Fritz corpus is attention to the scriptures, the congregation and its members, and to the pastor himself. 40

The minister must read in order to gain a more profound and a better working knowledge of the Scriptures; and he must read to keep abreast of the times in which he is living, in order that he may be apt to apply the Word of God to the needs of his people.13 Attention to the scriptures is both fundamental and assumed, in some cases, as known by Lutheran pastors. In reviewing a classic book of pastoral care of the time, The Art of Ministering to the Sick, Fritz observes: “The book unfortunately reflects the modernistic viewpoint time and time again, which makes it necessary that the Lutheran, Scriptural, background be supplied by our readers.”14 Attention to the congregation and its members is vital, requiring an assertiveness on the part of the pastor to get to know his people. In order to apply the Word of God to the special needs of his congregation, the preacher must know what those needs are. To know these he must know his people, their occupation, their environment, their education and culture, the particular temptations to which they are exposed; also what they talk about, what is agitating their mind, what is troubling their soul. The preacher must know the world in which he lives and in which his people live, must know the particular tendencies of his time, the happenings of his day.15 Without this intimate connection to his people; without the closeness that provides an understanding of the spiritual needs of members of his congregation, there will be “little directness in his sermons, and they will be comparatively profitless to his people.”16 For Fritz, pastoral calling is one major way to accomplish this. However, it is not the means that is most critical, but rather the product: knowledge of the congregation and its people so that pastoral care and preaching can be targeted and directed. Getting out of the office and into the lives of the congregation and the community is a basic task. Attention to the person of the pastor, i.e., of the pastor to himself, also emerges as a crucial and important point. For instance, Fritz quotes approvingly from Earle V. Pierce concerning seminary education: Its graduates should be qualified for spiritual ministry. They should above all things bring warmth and love to the churches. Scholarship is valuable if it has a soul, but it is an arid desert if it does not have flowing through it the river of great love for God and for the souls of men. Diamonds are sparking to look at, but you cannot eat them. Pastors are to be spiritual and not carnal. They are to be men of God. Someone has truly said that the greatest single force for good in a community is a godly minister.17 These three areas comes into full play in a brief line near the beginning of Pastoral Theology: “The words of an old writer still hold true, that ‘a holy pastor has but three books to study—the Scriptures, himself, and his flock.’”18 Attention should be given to spiritual, intellectual, and physical fitness.19 Spiritual Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


fitness includes the development of “Christian character and the Christian virtues,”20 at a higher level of development than the average follower of Christ. Intellectual fitness includes having “the necessary intellectual equipment and fitness for his work”21 acquired by his theological training and life-long learning (“keep abreast of the times . . . study the history of the past . . . read the works of contemporaries but also the principal works of the literature of all ages . . . take time for systematic and thorough study”22). Physical fitness focuses on a sound mind in a sound body and is helped by giving “attention to regular habits of life, to diet, sleep, exercise, and recreation.”23 Attention to these three books—Scripture, flock, and self—becomes the focus of the nature of life in Christ as a pastor. Theological education and pastoral formation need to take into account the development of the capacity of the seminarian to read all of the books. It does not profit the church, to borrow from Fritz’s concern about the development of missionaries, if a pastor is rightly schooled in the book of the scripture, but not schooled in the book of the flock or the book of the self. There are eternal implications for the inability or ability of a pastor to read all three books. This brings us to the third and, in some ways, most stunning development in Fritz’s thinking. Hindering the Work of the Holy Spirit Can a pastor hinder the work of the Holy Spirit? For Fritz, the answer was a resounding yes. Mostly, he references this in relationship to preaching, but it does surface in other ways as well. The question to be discussed is not, “Is the Word of God effective?” The Word of God has divine power in itself, which we can neither take away nor to which we can add. However, the sorry thing that we can do is to hinder the Holy Spirit from exerting His divine power through the Word.24 There is confidence in the power of the word of God as well as concern about the responsibility of the pastor for doing his part, which is to remove the barriers or hindrances to the Holy Spirit over which he has some control. The sorry thing which the preacher can do—which preacher is not at times guilty of doing it?—is to hinder the work of the Holy Spirit. By anything the preacher does or fails to do whereby he prevents the Word of God from striking the inner ear of the hearer, he is hindering the work of the Spirit.25 These include: “not studying and not supplying the spiritual needs of his people,” “not giving due time and attention to the preparation,” “failing clearly to present the subject-matter of his text,” “a poor delivery,” and “not practicing what he preaches.”26 We are called upon to pray and labor with the confident expectation of its (i.e., the saving of souls) being realized, and where it is not, to examine ourselves with all diligence lest the cause of the failure be found in ourselves: in our want of faith, our want of love, our want of prayer, our want of zeal and warmth, our want of spirituality and holiness of life; for it is by these things that the Holy Spirit is grieved away.27 42

Fritz approvingly quotes Oecolampadius: “How much more would a few good and fervent men effect in the ministry than a multitude of lukewarm ones!”28 This quotation also appears in Pastoral Theology: The greatest problem in the Church is the pastor. People are no better than their leaders . . . Much depends on the pastor’s spiritual leadership . . . Said Oecolampadius: “How much more would a few good and fervent men effect in the ministry than a multitude of lukewarm ones!” Said William Reid: “The mere multiplying of men calling themselves ministers of Christ will avail little. They may be ‘cumberers of the ground’ . . . Even when sound in faith, yet through unbelief, lukewarmness and slothful formality they may do irreparable injury to the cause of Christ, freezing and withering up all spiritual life around them. The lukewarm ministry of one who is theoretically orthodox is often more extensively and fatally ruinous to souls than that of one grossly inconsistent or flagrantly heretical.” . . . All detailed instruction and good advice given to a pastor will avail little or nothing if the pastor himself is not the right kind of man—a sincere Christian and a faithful and an able worker . . . A minister of Jesus Christ should seek to become great by way of service.29 So the task of the faithful pastor is to be the kind of person who does not, in word or deed, hinder the Spirit of God. Speaking in this way, he moves the formation of the pastor from simple horizontal implications to more significant spiritual ones. It is not just that seminaries are to form trustworthy and faithful men for ministry because these are good qualities, even though they be so; the seminaries are to help form pastors who can clear away hindrances, in themselves and perhaps in others, of the free working of the Holy Spirit. It is in the person of the pastor and his pastoral tasks, especially preaching and living consistently with that preaching, that Fritz concentrates his discussions concerning hindrances to the working of the Holy Spirit. Some Pastoral Formation Implications for the Twenty-first Century While it is possible to draw many more implications about pastoral formation from the corpus of J. H. C. Fritz’s work, this research concerns three areas: 1) learning by doing still is a primary way to learn, despite the reality that academic work is at least partially learning by thinking/reading/conversation; 2) holistic thinking and being requires that a pastor is conversant in at least the three books of Scripture, flock and self, or, in a broader sense, the three books of academic theology, congregational life and the lives of individual people, relationships and families, and the inner life of the seminarian/pastor; 3) personal pastoral formation demands attention to all facets of the self including intellectual, spiritual, physical, interpersonal, vocational, and personality. Were Fritz’s emphases followed in the twenty-first century, seminaries could: 1. Place holistic growth at the forefront of all activities, using the question of that growth to assist in what should actually happen in the experience of a Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


seminarian. For instance, what are we proactively doing that attends to the spiritual growth of the student (as well as spouse and family)? Every student should have a spiritual advisor (or even a regular spiritual director) as well as an academic one. More mutual support and accountability groups gathered around the word and community should be available or even mandated. Private confession could be offered as part of spiritual direction or in a separate pastoral relationship. 2. Growth in intellectual, spiritual, and physical well-being is embraced within the community and becomes one of the touch-points for certification for call. Thus, the question of whether certification should remain a seminary activity is not confined to doctrinal assessment but includes all aspects of this more holistic approach. 3. Increase “learning by doing” activities as a viable and connected-to-theclassroom experience. This could involve credentialing learning communities as well as specific field experiences that would offer opportunities beyond the occasional preaching, teaching, and leading liturgy available in our current resident field education (RFE). Learning by doing activities require doing and not just observing. So student exposer to various forms of ministry would be used to help the student actually do ministry in that setting. RFE experiences would become more robust and active congregational work. Evangelism education would offer, for instance, going to various coffee houses, bars, rock concerts, and the like in order to strike up witnessing conversations. Modules to do ministry would increase, building on existing hospital, prison, and assisted living center modules. In all these cases, debriefing experiences would be held to analyze and develop skills, and reflect on “gospel-in-life” matters through conversation and prayer. 4. Classroom work could center somewhat less on lecture pedagogy and more on experiential pedagogy. Role-playing, simulation, field trips, and personal challenges plus a host of other pedagogies would become more of a classroom staple. The class itself, then, takes on the flavor of a learning and prayerful group where personal reflection on the meaning of what is being studied becomes a natural part of the class conversation. Additionally, active pastors, providers of continuing education, and circuit and pastoral conferences could take note: 1. Ongoing attention to the “book of the self” is very important. Every pastor could (or should) have a spiritual director or spiritual counselor as well as a confessor. The pastoral self, professionalized, will likely lack vibrancy and perhaps even authenticity. 2. Learning comes by doing not just by talking about doing. Active experiences that push the comfort zone are not only important but necessary. But it is not just having the experience that is necessary; it is also reflection on that experience, most effectively within a community or peer context. This debriefing or reflective process, bathed in prayer and transparency, is the central pedagogical core of active learning. 44

3. Mandated pastoral conferences need time for reflection, engagement, and conversation. 4. Circuits work toward a spirit of safety and openness so that pastors can risk their work and be supported in a context of care and, dare the word be used, love. 5. Use of the behavior sciences—at the foot of the cross and with the power of Christ’s empty tomb and Spirit—is a legitimate activity of learning about the “book of the flock.” Pastors need to be able to target the gospel to human need. We owe J. H. C. Fritz a great debt, not only for his influence on pastors in the LCMS and elsewhere, but also for his courage to write about his work and share his vision of ministry, preaching, and pastoral theology. We would do well to study him more. Those who do will receive wonderful gifts of mind and spirit, and may very well extend and deepen the implications of his vital work. I suspect that he would very much enjoy this kind of a conversation. Endnotes 1

Gerhard E. Lenski, “Fritz, John Henry Charles,” The Lutheran Cyclopedia, 891. Ruth Fritz Meyer, Big John (self-published manuscript, 1991). 3 Ibid., 39. 4 Ibid., 46. 5 Ibid. 6 Ibid. 7 Ibid. 8 John H. C. Fritz, The Practical Missionary (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1919), 1. 9 Ibid. 10 Ibid., 39–40. 11 John H. C. Fritz, The Preacher’s Manual (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1941), viii. 12 Ibid., 22. 13 The Practical Missionary, 19. 14 John H. C. Fritz, “Review of the ‘The Art of Ministering to the Sick’ by Richard C. Cabot and Russell L. Dicks,” Concordia Theological Monthly VII, no. 12 (December 1936): 957. 15 John H. C. Fritz, The Essentials of Preaching (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1948), 56. 16 Ibid., p. 58 17 John H. C. Fritz, “The Theological Seminary,” Concordia Theological Monthly X, no. 2 (February 1939): 133. 18 John H. C. Fritz, Pastoral Theology (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1932), 8. 19 Ibid., p. 15 20 Ibid. 21 Ibid., p. 18 22 Ibid., p. 20 23 Ibid., p, 21 24 John H. C. Fritz, “What Makes for Effective Preaching,” Concordia Theological Monthly XIII, no. 9 (September 1942): 684. 25 The Preacher’s Manual, 82. 26 Ibid., 82–84. 27 Ibid., 84. 28 Ibid. 29 Pastoral Theology, 14–15. 2

Concordia Journal/Winter 2014



The Divine and Blessed Walk of Life1 Robert W. Weise

For the lawful joining of a man and a woman is a divine ordinance and institution.2 Dr. ­ Martin Luther writes, There is much to preach concerning this holy estate and divine ordinance of marriage, for it is the oldest of all estates in the whole world; indeed, all others are derived from that estate in which Adam and Eve, our first parents, were created and ordained and in which they and all their Godfearing children and descendants lived. For there it is, written in the first book of Moses: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it’” (Gn 1:27–28). There it is; these are not my words nor those of any other man, but God’s word.3 Marriage is God’s divine and blessed walk of life for man and woman being true to each other, to be fruitful, to beget children, and to nurture and bring them up to the glory of God.4 Luther adds that marriage is necessary so that men and women can lead a chaste and decent life within the marriage covenant.5 In this world of countless wedding chapels, dating services, same-sex unions and marriages, as well as increased cohabitation of people of all ages in this nation, God’s word returns us to the biblical basics of the divine institution of marriage of a man and a woman as the one-flesh union of a husband and wife. The concern of this paper is not primarily to do an extensive exegetical approach to the many scriptural passages that deal with marriage and family, especially as they apply to cohabitation and homosexual proclivities and “marriage.” Instead, I intend to contribute to the discussion on the dismantling/deconstruction of marriage in light of the Scriptures and Confessions. My claim is that the ongoing dismantling of biblical marriage and family bids all Lutheran Christians to return to their scriptural and their confessional roots, teaching the very young to the very old that marriage is God’s divine creative ordinance that places the man and the woman in a sexual and serving complementarity as husband and wife until death parts them, to the glory of God. Robert W. Weise is a professor of practical theology and holds the Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis Chair of Pastoral Ministry and Life Sciences at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.


A review of the current statistical trends in divorce, cohabitation, and same-sex unions/marriages helps set the stage for a pastoral approach to revisiting the biblical and confessional view of marriage as the divine and blessed walk of life. Divorce, Cohabitation, and Same-Sex Unions/Marriage As our nation withdraws from marriage between a man and a woman to cohabitation and same-sex unions/marriage, the deconstruction or dismantling of the biblical one-flesh marriage becomes a more important matter for the church. The following brief summary of statistics relating to divorce, cohabitation, unwed birth rate, and same-sex unions/marriages tells a serious story regarding the decomposition of marriage and the challenges that confront pastors and the Christian community. Divorce The divorce rate in the United States has declined slightly. In 1979, there were 5.3 divorces per 1000 married persons. In 2007, the divorce rate was 3.6 per 1000 persons.6 The conclusion that the standard divorce rate is 50% is way off base. However, the divorce rate is 52% for couples married 20 years or longer. According to the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, the Index of Family Belonging for the United States is now just above 45%. This means that 45% of American children on the cusp of adulthood have grown up in an intact married family. The parents of the remaining 55% of 17-year-olds have at some time rejected their spouse.7 Pastors have always faced couples who are seeking a divorce for unfaithfulness, malicious desertion, or irreconcilable differences. Regardless, any permanent disruption of marriage that results in divorce is contrary to the word of God and his divine will. Jesus says, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery” (Mt 19:8–9, ESV). Of course, this requires the pastor to be a very good listener to a couple who is struggling with their relationship. The goal is always reconciliation with repentance and forgiveness, for that is the beginning of healing in Christ Jesus. Unfortunately, for couples facing impending marital dissolution, the couple has usually made their decision before coming to the pastor. The pastor is left to pick up the pieces. Through listening, the pastor learns the context of the divorce or separation and can work to bring the couple back together. Parish pastors know that this is easier said than done. Cohabitation While divorce is on a slight decline, the rate of heterosexual cohabitation is increasing. Estimates from 2006–2010 show that nearly one-half (48%) of women ages 15–44 cohabitated before marriage. Similarly, most young couples live together before entering marriage. In addition, cohabitation has become a more frequent lifestyle Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


for childbearing. A recent report on fertility using the 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth showed that 23% of recent births among women ages 15–44 occurred within cohabitation, a significant increase from 14% in 2002. A summary of the statistics from 2010 (the latest available) shows that the number of people living together outside of marriage is about 7.5 million. This is up about 1500% from 1960. One-half of births of cohabitating women in recent years were unintended.8 Based on a sample of 22,682 men and women, 55.5% women and 58.6% men agree that it is okay for an unmarried female to have a child. In addition, 65.4% of women and 54.7% of men agree that it is okay for gay men or lesbian adults to have the right to adopt children. Likewise, the survey form the Center for Disease Control (CDC) showed that more than 55% of men and women agree that it is acceptable for unmarried consenting adults as well as unmarried 18-year-olds to have sexual relations if they have strong affection for each other.9 These trends show cohabitation as an accepted part of the family formation in the United States and a step toward marriage. More disturbing is that it has become an alternative to marriage, family life, and procreation. Increasingly, cohabitation is becoming the first co-residential union formed among young and older adults, even though 40% of cohabitating twenty-something parents who had a baby between 2000–2005 split up by the time their child was five. That rate is three times higher than the rate for twenty-something parents who were married when they had a child.10 The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia adds the following reasons for why people seek cohabitation: (1) childbearing prior to marriage; (2) live together and marry later in life (the average age of marriage is approaching 30); (3) allows young men and women to finish their education; (4) yields psychological independence; (5) the two–parent marriage [husband and wife] isn’t necessary for having and raising children.11 Glen Stanton picks up on the statistical trends in his recent book The Ring Makes All The Difference, The Hidden Consequences of Cohabitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage12 He brings a similar, yet different twist, to why the young cohabitate. He states that there are two reasons for younger persons cohabitating: “the low view and the high view” of marriage. Regarding the “low view of marriage,” Stanton writes: This view was responsible for launching of cohabitation as a growing domestic arrangement out of the 1960s’ sexual revolution. It was motivated by the opinion that legal marriage was an unnecessary—or even stifling—formality that would only spoil the passionate “pure” love of a young couple. These cohabiters saw themselves as revolutionaries, explaining their actions with the decree that “love will keep us together” as the popular song, proclaimed. Other cohabiters boasted, “We don’t need a piece of paper from city hall to make our love meaningful.”13 This historical justification for cohabitation is alive and well among all age groups, especially Generation X and Millennials. 48

The “high view of marriage” emphasizes the reality given in the statistics regarding parents who remained apart and the impact that this has had on their children. Stanton states that cohabitation within the Millennial generation is formed by fear of failure from seeing their parents go through a divorce or separation. They also see cohabitation as a training ground for marriage, which Stanton calls a “relational placeholder.”14 Approximately 62% of young adults (15–44) believe that “living together with someone before marriage is a good way to avoid an eventual divorce.”15 Young couples that I have counseled prior to marriage ignore or deny their cohabitations under the guise of parental approval or the politically correct phrase: “Everybody is doing it!” Some say that they know of LCMS pastors who have married some of their friends who are “living together.” The ends justify the means! There is an increased stress on the young and old fueled by “radical individualism” and “self-fulfillment,” and a tension between the commitment of marriage within Christendom and society’s appeal to individual freedom. The postmodern idea of “anything goes” exacerbates this tension as society puts its stamp of approval on cohabitation. As cohabitation is on the increase for younger adults, the same is true for older adults (over 50).16 In the latest report published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, Susan Brown, et al. state: “Direct measures indicate a rapid recent acceleration in the older cohabitating population, which grew from 1.2 million in 2000 to 2.75 million people in 2010 according to the U.S. Census Bureau.”17, 18 The main reasons for this increase in cohabitation are: (1) companionship; (2) alternative to marriage [not a prelude to marriage as in younger adults]; (3) permits partners to retain control over their assets or eligibility for certain types or benefits or income security; (4) low religious affinity (that is, they do not attend a Christian church on a regular basis).19 The baby boomers are the first generation in the older adult population to cohabitate in large numbers. The older adult population is projected to double by 2050, along with a decrease in marriages of older adults.20 Brown concludes: “Cohabitation [of older adults] is gaining ground as a family form across the life course.”21 The older adult population continues to grow, and this rise of older adults becomes increasingly important for pastors, deaconesses, and especially chaplains associated with older adult residential facilities. Church workers and laity should be aware of the dynamics of cohabitating seniors, their Christian witness to their community, to their family, and to the institution of marriage. There is an ongoing need to recognize the aging population and understand what it means to be an older adult within the body of Christ, as well as a need to serve our older adult neighbors. Cohabitation of all age groups as a foundation for future marriages builds on sinking sand rather on the rock, Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. When cohabitating couples say that they love each other they fail to see that “love is the fulfillment of the law.” God’s law on marriage is that it is a divine institution for man and woman to be united in one flesh, blessed by God and if it is his will, for the procreation or adoption of children. Cohabitation is neither acceptable nor permitted by the word of God, regardless of the couple’s reason(s) for living together. As Luther writes: “For He [God] does not approve of dissolute licentiousness and promiscuous cohabitation.”22 Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


Same-sex “Marriage” Same-sex marriages are on the increase in the United States. As of October 2013, 13 states and the District of Columbia have approved marriage for same-sex partners.23 Seven more states have laws supporting civil unions or domestic partnerships. The Pew Research Center estimates 71,000 same-sex marriages in the United States.24 However, the center suggests that this number is probably low because all states are behind in recording. As more states legalize same-sex marriage, this number will continue to rise. Civil authorities and clergy who perform same-sex marriages may choose various forms of vows. Clergy in mainline Christian denominations that support same-sex marriages also have several choices of vows. These vows have variations, but always end in the name of the Trinity: “I pronounce that they are united, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”25 For clergy and government officials who use a secular format for performing same-sex marriages, vows usually end in a variation of: “And may all of us be blessed by love as it shines through them all of their lives. It is now with great pleasure that I pronounce you spouses for life.”26 Same-sex marriage, like cohabitation, is not age specific. Same-sex marriages occur within all age groups that have the legal freedom to be married. This challenges all pastors but especially chaplains in residential institutions who attend to the spiritual lives of elderly persons who are gay and cohabitating. Within this neo-gnostic approach to marriage, our society frees same-sex marriage from any moral responsibility and accountability to the Lord Jesus Christ and his created order. The aforementioned statistical trends for same-sex marriage demonstrate the dismantling and deconstruction of the institution of marriage in the twenty-first century. Hence, a review of the biblical doctrine of marriage is necessary to maintain faithfulness to God’s word and to care pastorally for God’s people who seek marriage and God’s blessings. Christians must know that “marriage is not to be entered into lightly or inadvisably, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God.”27 To that end, A. E. Giampietro’s paper Marriage and the Public Good is very helpful to the discussion of same-sex marriage. Giampietro clarifies the arguments for same-sex marriage, sharing the lack of homogeneity and consistency in the arguments put forth by the proponents who say that there are no differences between the sexual proclivities of same-sex and heterosexual married couples.28 Giampietro writes that “marriage is a public good.”29 Having based this thesis on Genesis 1 and 2, he concludes that God’s design for sexual fidelity within lifelong marriage is something from which everyone benefits: men, women, and children. This is for the public good. And so, he takes on the question: “Who can marry?” This is very different from the question of whether consenting adults should be discouraged from engaging in certain sexual acts. His emphasis is on the one-flesh union as ordained and instituted by God. He makes his case by pointing out the following justification for equal sexual rights within the gay-marriage community. A relationship between two homosexual persons is analogous to a relationship between two people of opposite sex who are unable to conceive a child—this assumes that both same-sex and opposite-sex couples


can engage in sexual intercourse because the result in any sexual embrace is a “pleasurable experience.” Giampietro responds, “This is an unwarranted assumption that the argument for same-sex marriage entails that reproductive activity and reproductive-type activity are not essential to marriage.”30 Thus, practicing homosexuals focus on fostering “intimate friendships.” According to same-sex marriage proponents, any form of sexual activity unites two gay persons. Giampietro says this is categorically false because there is no public good fostering marriage in this line of logic. Building on this support of same-sex marriage by its proponents, they say that marital acts need not be essentially reproductive since most sex acts of opposite-sex couples are not reproductive. Giampietro counters with, “Same-sex marriage advocates that I have studied do not even attempt to describe sexual acts as intrinsically unitive but rely on the assumption that homosexual acts [all sex acts with the exception of sexual intercourse] can indeed be unitive.”31 Some same-sex marriage advocates say that marital homosexual activities mean “more” than sexual intercourse. From this, Giampietro draws the following conclusion; advocates of same-sex marriage “must show how this “more” is marital. If [they] cannot show how, then two persons of the same sex who engage in sexual acts can be no more married to each other than can two persons of the same sex who do not engage in sexual acts with each other.”32 Based on this and other similar statements, the author concludes, and rightly so, that proponents of same-sex marriage necessarily eliminate the principle of biological complementarity from the definition of [same-sex] marriage. Hence, a sexual act is defined as from within each individual, which is distinctly different from what is happening in the one-flesh union of a husband and wife.33 Therefore, proponents of samesex marriage must excise both the unitive and procreative blessings that God gave man and woman in marriage to justify their marriage under the guise that all sexual activities are unitive. People in same-sex relationships are oriented to “self,” rather than the “other.” There is an enduring concerted effort to continue the normalization and tacit approval of divorce, cohabitation, and same-sex marriages. Normalization of divorce, cohabitation, and same-sex marriage have deconstructed words such as “marriage,” “family,” and “procreation” to nomina, words that are defined only as applied to one’s personal situation. As Jean-Marc Berthound states, “They have no reference to anything permanent in reality. No such thing as the essence of ‘marriage’ or of ‘family’ exists.”34 Divorce and cohabitation have made biblical marriage and family arbitrary in meaning and reality. Marriage is essentially meaningless to family and vise versa. Therefore, the next two sections (the divine order of creation and Jesus on marriage) take us back to the basics of marriage so that “where you begin is where you will go” in teaching and proclaiming the gospel so that marriage and family are centered in the Trinitarian God and his church. Christian marriage and family is hardly arbitrary, either as lived or understood theologically. Divine Order of Creation: God’s First Wedding and Family In the beginning, God created Adam on the sixth day, and from Adam’s rib God created Eve. They are a one-flesh union. They are the first husband, ish (vyIa) and Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


wife, ishsha (hvIa).35 Luther states, “the wife is given by God alone.”36 This is God’s first divine institution that God blessed and said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gn 1:28, ESV). Herein, God blessed the first couple that he married, not only with faithfulness toward him and each other, but also for the procreation of children.37 And so, Adam and Eve comprised the first family, the first church on earth, and the first individual members of the body of Christ. Martin Luther writes in the Large Catechism, “For the following reasons he [God] also wishes us to honor, maintain, and cherish it [marriage] as a divine and blessed walk of life. He has established it before all others as the first of all institutions, and he created man and woman differently (as is evident) not for indecency but to be true to each other . . . Married life is no matter for jest or idle curiosity, but it is a glorious institution and an object of God’s serious concern”38 Marriage and Christ, His Bride the Church Paul’s analogy of marriage to Christ and his bride the church forms the model for the divine and blessed walk of married life (Eph 5:21–27). As man and woman were created and brought together into one-flesh union, so Christ and his church are united into one flesh and spirit by his word, and received by grace through faith alone. As God brought Adam and Eve into being in a worship relationship with him by his word, so the Lord God has called his priesthood of all believers into his family by his word declared in Holy Baptism and the Sacrament of the Altar. As the first man and woman, Adam and Eve formed the first divine institution of marriage. So Christ and his bride the church, formed the first one holy [una sancta] Christian church on earth. Therefore, the husband and the wife are to live their marital walk of life by faith alone as the pattern that Paul sets forth in Christ and His bride, the church. Marital life is about the “other.” As Christ loves the church and gave up his life so that we (the church) might have abundant life, so also husbands are to love their wives. And wives are to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ. What the Lord Jesus Christ does for his church, so the husband does for his wife. This pattern of marriage, as Christ and his bride the church must be discussed in marriage counseling within the context of Genesis 1–3. The scriptures and confessions speak of three main areas of marital life: faithfulness to each to other and to God, procreation, and as the remedy to “outburst of sin.” Faithfulness A married couple gives to each other trust and faithfulness. A husband sees his wife as more significant than himself, and the wife sees the husband as more significant than herself. The wedding vows that a couple takes before each other and God, testify to this faithfulness and trust: “I take you to be my wedded spouse, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy will; and I 52

pledge to you my faithfulness.”39 Luther writes on marital faithfulness, “. . . marriage is a covenant of fidelity. The whole basis and essence of marriage is that each gives himself or herself to the other, and they promise to remain faithful to each other and not give themselves to any other.”40 Procreation “God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Gn 1:28). Adam and Eve were the first family; created to be fruitful, and to desire each other in a proper way “for the natural desire of one sex for the other sex is an ordinance of God in nature.”41 Hence, children are a blessing whether God brings children to parents through their sexual embrace or through adoption. Children are given to parents with the direction given in Deuteronomy 6:4–9 and Ephesians 6:4. Parents are to raise their children in the instruction and discipline of the Lord Jesus Christ, from birth throughout earthly life until the parents enter their eternal rest. Parenting and catechesis is a lifetime venture of responsibility. I believe that parents need to be reaffirmed that their instruction, even to the child in the womb, occurs as they worship the Lord Jesus in spirit and truth every Sunday. Baptism is the culmination of that “in the womb” worship experience. “The work of procreation is something good and holy that God has created; for it comes form God, who bestows His blessings on it.”42 However, procreation in today’s culture has been removed from husband and wife to fertility clinics where there are many ways to “make” a baby. Hence, babies may be thought of as products or commodities. Whether a couple is infertile or fertile, they may seek a child with specific characteristics or gender. Procreation therefore becomes a self-fulfilling desire rather than the will of God. An embryonic child not placed in the womb via Assisted Reproductive Technology is discarded or frozen in liquid nitrogen. Procreation is deconstructed to technological reproduction using donor spermatozoa and oocytes (eggs), surrogate wombs, and soon, artificial wombs. This is contrary to the word of God that children are to be procreated within the love of the husband and wife, and not from the outside. The Apology of the Augsburg Confession states: “This love of one sex for the other is truly a divine ordinance.”43 Luther adds, “We marvel at procreation as the greatest work of God.”44 Remedy to Outbursts of Sin Marriage according to the Scriptures and confessions is about faithfulness between the husband and wife and for procreation, but also as a restraint from outbursts of sin. The Apology refers to this restraint as a “remedy.”45 Luther believed that marriage is the remedy to sexual sin outside of and prior to marriage.46 Luther adds, “Marriage is necessary not only for the sake of procreation but also as a remedy. These things are so clear and well established that they can in no way be refuted . . . Paul, accordingly, speaks of marriage as a remedy and on account of these flames commands to marry.”47 Meilaender contributes the following regarding marriage that restrains sins: Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


We should not ignore, however, what is obvious in human history: that

the disordered sexual appetites of sinful human beings are often wayward, that they bring fragility, vulnerability, and chaos into the most intimate of human relationships. We should not apologize for suggesting that when the institution of marriage directs and channels those anarchic impulses toward faithful service of one other person in his or her bodily need, when God restrains sin in that way, human well-being is served. God begins to teach us the meaning of faithful love by offering marriage as a place of healing.48

We must remember that there will always be tension faced by married couples in their divine walk of life in Christ. Satan is always tempting a spouse to look away from their wedding vows saying, “Did God really say?” God’s Spirit reminds spouses that they are blessed by God to continue living the life of Christ Jesus, always looking to the other in humility as more significant. A couple married by God in Christ is a community that resides within the larger community, the body of Christ. Their conduct reflects their commitment to each other and to the Lord their creator, the one who brought them together in his name. A couple’s Christ-centered marriage is counter-cultural. The divine walk of life of a married couple is not a human work, but the hand of God’s grace. Jesus and Marriage With the ongoing normalization of cohabitation and same-sex marriage, supporters of these unnatural lifestyles say that since Jesus didn’t directly address them, especially “men having sexual intercourse with men” and “women having sexual intercourse with women,” then all must be okay with Jesus. However, Jesus did address the sexual immorality of cohabitation in John 4 with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well. “Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come here.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true’” (Jn 4:16–18). Herein, Jesus was leading her to see the sin and guilt of adulterous cohabitation. This is a reflection of Jesus’s solemn concern for the proper marital life, which he instituted at the union of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The importance of the divine institution of marriage is seen in Matthew 19 when the Pharisees ask Jesus, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and bold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let not man separate” (Mt 19:3–6). Jesus goes back to the creation story to show that marriage is not only monogamous, but also that man and woman are sexual human beings. Hence, the complementarity of God’s created human creatures is manifested in their genders: male and female.


This is a radical, counter-cultural view of marriage then and now, unless you are neo-gnostic revisionists who will frequently downplay the physical aspects of marriage, urging instead that marriage is not primarily about becoming one-flesh physically, but a spiritual and emotional connection for which our physical experiences are extrinsic rather than intrinsic. In downplaying the importance of consummation in marriage, advocates of same-sex marriage have tried to reduce the meaning of marriage to merely a loving and committed relationship between two adults. It is an emotional and relational union that creates the necessary conditions for marriage, they argue, not what you do with your bodies. In fact, the physical anatomy of the adults in question is irrelevant. Marriage is first about the communion of souls in a committed and affectionate relationship and only secondarily about physical union. Hence, this reflects on the importance of the phrase that I mentioned earlier—soul mate—used in many Internet mixing and matching dating services. The body does not ultimately matter. As God’s created human creatures, we are man and woman, male and female given a body and soul. We are embodied persons given and created by God’s word. As Luther writes in the Small Catechism, “I believe that God has created me together with all that exists. God has given me and still preserves my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all limbs and senses; reason and all mental faculties . . .”49 The body matters to God; the soul matters to God. All of this is counter to the current trends within neo-gnosticism, as the latter applies to cohabitation and same-sex relationships.

A Few Concluding Thoughts I have presented some statistical trends relating to divorce, cohabitation among the young and old, as well as legalized same-sex marriages. These trends demonstrate that society views cohabitation as either preparatory to heterosexual and same-sex marriage or as mere companionship. In all cases, traditional one-flesh biblical marriage is under assault by those who have succeeded in spreading their normalizing message that “times have changed.” Hence, heterosexual marriage is just another relationship in which each person retains individualism and self-worth, and with the realization that it can be broken as easily as relationships of cohabitating couples. Human sexuality, cohabitation, and same-sex unions or marriages should not be a Christian’s main subject while addressing marriage. God is the subject as is his divine institution of marriage. Talk about human sexuality, cohabitation, and same-sex unions should be approached in light of the Scriptures and the Confessions. This direction will lead Christians back to the basics about marriage, procreation, parenting, and the stewardship of a couple’s covenant walk in Christ. This biblical basis of marriage as the walk of covenant life in Christ Jesus is Trinitarian, lives in faithfulness and service to God and each other, procreates or adopts according to his will, and serves as a remedy to outbursts of lustful sin. When divorce, cohabitation, and same-sex unions or marriages are discussed in light of these theological and confessional foundations, Christians, see that all three are patterns of sin that must be dealt with over time in repentance and forgiveness. The word Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


of God is what it is; truth given and blood shed by his love and for the forgiveness sins. All this reminds me of one of Jesus’s last commands to his disciples before his ascension that tends to be lost within the argument over the deconstruction of marriage: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Marriage is a divine institution given to God’s holy people by his word. Luther writes, “Married life is no matter for jest or idle curiosity, but it is a glorious institution and an object of God’s serious concern . . . Therefore, I have always taught that we should not despise or disdain this walk of life as the blind world and our false clergy do, but view it in the light of God’s word, by which it is adorned and sanctified . . . It is not a restricted walk of life, but the most universal and noblest, pervading all Christendom and even extending throughout all the world.”50 As the hymn writer wrote: Make their love a living picture Showing how You loved Your Bride; When You gave Yourself to cleanse her, When for her You bled and died. Jesus, You have made her holy. Pure and fair her radiant train; To Yourself, Your Church presenting, Without wrinkle, spot, or stain.51 Marriage is a divine institution and a blessed walk of life in Christ Jesus! Endnotes

1 Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert eds., The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000), 414. 2 Luther’s Works, Volume 1, Lectures on Genesis, Chapters 1–5, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, trans. George V. Schick American Edition (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1958), 134. 3 LW 51:358. 4 Kolb and Wengert, The Book of Concord, 414–415. 5 Ibid., 414. 6 The Annual Report on Family Trends, 2011, 129. 7 P. Fagan and N. Zill, The Third annual Index of Family Belonging & Rejection (Marriage & Religion Research Institute, 2013), 1. Statistics derived from the 2008–10 American Community Survey of the U.S. Bureau of the Census. 8 National Health Statistics Reports, No. 64, April 4, 2013, 1. 9 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Key Statistics from the National Survey of Family Growth, 10 K. Hymowitz, J. S. Carroll, W. B. Wilcox, and K. Kaye, “Knot Yet: the Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America,” (The National Marriage Project, 2013): 10. 11 Ibid., 3–8. 12 G. T. Stanton, The Ring Makes All the Difference: the Hidden Consequences of Cohabitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2011). 13 Ibid., 15. 14 Ibid., 16–17.


15 A. J. Cherlin, The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009), 139. 16 My interest in this stems form several conversations with my brother, Roger A. Weise, MD, Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, Director of Older Adult Health Care, Alexian Brothers Hospital, Elk Grove, IL. 17 Susan L Brown, J. R. Bulanda, and G. R. Lee, “Transitions Into and Out of Cohabitation in Later Life,” J. Marriage and Family, 74 (August 2012): 776. Their data is based on a sample of 28,539 older adults. 18 U.S. Census Bureau. (2010a). Table UC3: Opposite sex unmarried couples by presence of biological children/1 under 18, and age, earnings, education, and race and Hispanic origin/2 of both partners, 2010. Current Population Survey, 2010 Annual Social and Economic Supplement. hh-fam/cps2010/tabUC3-all.xls. 19 Brown, et al. 784, 790. 20 L. A. Jocabsen, M. Mather, M. Lee, and M. Kent, “America’s Aging Population,” Population Bulletin, no. 10 (February 2011) 66:3. 21 Brown, et al, 791. 22 LW 1:240 As far as I am aware, this is the only direct reference that Martin Luther makes condemning cohabitation on the basis of the doctrine of marriage as a divine blessing and walk of life. 23 ME, VT, NH, MA, NY, CT, RI, MD, DE, MN, IA, WA, CA and the District of Columbia 24 Data is taken from the Pew Research Center, June 26, 2013. 25 26 Other variations for wedding vows exist on this website. 27 Lutheran Service Book Agenda, The Commission on Worship of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006), 65. 28 A. E. Giampietro, “Marriage and the Public Good,” Christian Bioethics 13 (2007):211–224. 29 Ibid., 212. 30 Ibid., 217. 31 Ibid., 218. 32 Ibid., 218–219. 33 Ibid., 219. 34 Jean-Marc Berthoud, “The Family in Theological Perspective,” The Religion & Society Report, vol.22, no. 2 (March 2005):11. 35 Personal communication with Dr. David Adams, dept. of exegetical theology, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO., on the use of ish and ishah: “The words for man (vyIa) and woman (hvIa) are regularly used in the sense of ‘husband’ and ‘wife.’ Of course, this is context dependent.” 36 LW 44: 8. 37 Book of Concord, 63. 38 Book of Concord, 414. 39 Lutheran Service Book Agenda (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006), 68–69. 40 LW 44:10–1. 41 Book of Concord, 249 42 Luther’s Works, Lectures on Genesis, Chapters 1–5, 237. 43 Book of Concord, 249. 44 Luther’s Works, Lectures on Genesis, Chapters 1–5, 118. 45 Book of Concord, 250. 46 Luther’s Works, Lectures on Genesis, Chapters 1–5, 116, 118. 47 Book of Concord, 249–250. 48 G. Meilaender, “The Venture of Marriage,” The Two Cities of God: The Church’s Responsibility for the Earthly City, eds. C. E. Braaten and R. W. Jenson, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 122. 49 Book of Concord, 354. 50 Book of Concord, 414. 51 Lutheran Service Book (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006), 860, verse 4.

Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


Homiletical Helps

COncordia Journal

Homiletical Helps on LSB Series A—First Lesson Epiphany 5 • Isaiah 58:3–9a • February 9, 2014

Who is Really Deceived by our Apparent Goodness? Isaiah makes the case that it is not through empty externals that we please God, but with the sacrifice of our priorities for the needs of others. Here we must frame the text in terms of the question of sanctification for the believer. It is not that works justify, but they do affect how our lives in Christ go forward. The attitude of our lives toward God and his word, as reflected in how we treat others in our lives, certainly has an effect on how our requests to God are heard. Having been saved by Christ, even our external deeds are crucified with him, being sanctified with him at the cross. Textual Considerations Verse 3: Isaiah begins with a question we all ask, “Why is this not working?” After all, fasting should be pleasing to the Lord, so why am I not getting my way? God would have us not treat others badly. He would have us love our neighbors as ourselves. Verse 4: Fighting and brawling are also condemned in the New Testament—the fruit of this kind of fasting is to not be heard. Verse 5: The external appearance of fasting is not what God desires and will result in an unacceptable fast. Verse 6: A rhetorical question arises and is answered that we should be loosing, freeing, breaking the yoke of oppression—especially man’s greatest oppression—the bondage to sin. Verse 7: More concrete examples are given: sharing our food, sheltering the wanderer, clothing the naked, not being reviled when people are down and out. Verse 8: The result—your light will break forth like the dawn, you will be healed (of your calloused hearts initially), and you will be protected by both righteousness before you and the glory of the Lord behind. Verse 9: And your prayers for help will be answered and you will be heard (how God chooses to respond is another question). Preceding context: These verses fall into a context of awful behavior on the part of God’s people. Sacrifices of children, gross idolatry, and other atrocities are the themes of chapter 57. But there is also a message of hope for those who, instead of polluting themselves, have remained humble before the Lord. The appearance is good, but the heart is sick. Law/Gospel polarity: Here we find the issue of the hardened heart and its fruit—in this case contempt for the neighbor. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,” we say in the Lord’s Prayer. We need to repent. When we find ourselves in these circumstances the Holy Spirit reminds us of God’s word of forgiveness and brings us to repentance and a restored relationship with Christ. Through his atoning sacrifice we are freed from our bondage to sin—he breaks the Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


yoke that binds us fulfilling this passage—and through his resurrection our new Adam arises to love the neighbor in the power and authority God provides. Two Kinds of Righteousness: We receive both our attitude of repentance and forgiveness of sins from Christ. This then empowers us to love the neighbor in a proper and God pleasing way—not through appearances of love, but by making small but real sacrifices in our lives and so, also in matters of externals, being crucified with Christ. Biblical Examples: James 2:14ff does a good job of describing empty faith and faith filled with Christ’s love for us. We cannot just tell those in need, “be warmed and fed” and do nothing about it. In Matthew 6:19–21 we read that if we store up for ourselves treasures on earth, our hearts will be there also. There is also the story of the unjust steward from Luke 16 in which he reduces all of his master’s debtor’s debt, so that they will welcome him into their homes. Conclusion: God knows the heart and its intentions. When we put up an appearance of righteousness without attendant love manifesting itself in deeds for the neighbor, we only fool ourselves and, in the end, indicate that our own situation is already ruined by our hardness of heart. Timothy Dost

Epiphany 6 • Deuteronomy 30:15–20 • February 16, 2014

Choice Is More than Choosing Christians are confronted with many choices in this world of biomedical technology, and a rash of legal decisions has placed life and death decisions in the hands of loved ones. We face these choices and many more every day. Within the text of Deuteronomy 30:15–20, choice is a covenant theme, and God is the subject. Christian choices affirm the baptized life that we have in Christ Jesus our Savior; hence, our choices are more than simply choosing what we believe is best for us. I. Choice set before Israel is “life or death” in Deuteronomy 30:1–20 A. Moses reminds Israel of Yahweh’s covenant love for them (vv. 1–14). Herein, Moses reflects on Israel’s future: they will go into exile; they will repent and live with Yahweh’s blessings; as they remain obedient to the will of God and his commandments, the blessings will continue. Failure to follow the word of God will result in death, that is, they will perish. B. Choice: source and purpose (vv. 15–20). Moses reminds Israel that they should not forget the source and purpose of the blessings: Yahweh. The Lord God has given countless blessings to Israel by his grace and mercy. Yahweh is the subject of “choice” used in this text, for he chose Israel to be his people.


II. Choice set before Israel is life: a covenant of grace and mercy A. Israel’s choice: death, evil, and the curse go together. If Israel’s choice is apart from Yahweh and their faith and obedience to his grace, then the result is their unification with death, Yahweh’s eternal wrath (vv. 15 and 19). Attention should be given to the definite articles in these verses. To reject Yahweh as the source of life is to reject Yahweh. Choice is not a means to an end, but to an ongoing purpose: living the life of Christ in this world by his grace through faith as we witness the reality that the Lord God chose us; we didn’t choose him (Jn 15:16). B. Choice is more than choosing (loving and caring for the “other”). Choice is a covenant term, wherein Yahweh is the subject. He is the source of choice and gives it its purpose: to live in faith and obedience to the Lord God Jesus Christ. As Israel is commanded to choose life, this is the same as choosing the Lord God as their source and purpose of living in this covenant. The purpose is explicitly given in verse 20. As the Lord of our life, our whole life, our witness affirms the source and the purpose for the abundant life that we have in Jesus Christ. We choose life because the resurrected one has assured us of the life that we have in him through baptism. Christians don’t choose “death” because Jesus has destroyed death in his death and resurrection. Life in Jesus Christ is about caring for the “other” and not targeting our personal desires or whims to control who lives and who dies. This text has implications for life and death issues that permeate our society that is always looking to justify itself and its ways. Christians are confronted with many choices as we live the life of Christ in this world. All too frequently, our sinful flesh caves into the world’s definition of “choice”: picking and choosing those things that will be good for me at the expense of serving my neighbor. Choice within the context of Deuteronomy 30 is not a matter of picking and choosing. Choice is a covenant term wherein God is the subject. Those who choose the way of the world and sinful flesh will be lost forever. Christians who, by God’s grace through faith, choose to continue to live their lives in Christ are assured of his presence and strength throughout their pilgrimage in this world. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you” (Jn 15:16 ESV). Robert W. Weise

Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


Epiphany 7 • Leviticus 19:1–2, 9–18 • February 23, 2014

Text Notes Verses 1–2: “Holy you will be because holy am I, Yahweh, your God.” The commands in Leviticus 19 pertain to almost every area of Israelite life. By commanding such a mix of laws, Yahweh implies that every sphere of life is subject to him. Every action has ramifications for the relationship between God and human beings. And all commands are on the same footing. One is not more important than the other. “Holy you will be . . .” is the theme of the chapter. What follows in the chapter is the elaboration of the theme—what it means to “be holy.” Verses 9–10: There are four prohibitions, two for the field (v. 9) and two for the vineyard (v. 10). They all are designed to provide care for the “poor” and the “stranger” (cf. Lv 23:22; Dt 24:19–22). “I am Yahweh, your God.” This refrain punctuates the paragraphs in the chapter. It is approximately equivalent to “because I, Yahweh, say so.” Since God “says so,” the social legislation to care for the poor becomes a sacred act. Verses 11–18: Each two verse paragraph is followed by the refrain “I am Yahweh,” which indicates that relationships between people are also divine concerns. Most of the commands deal in matters of conscience because, to an extent, the crimes can be committed in secret and go undetected. Verses 11–12: A quotation of the eighth commandment is followed by a paraphrase of the ninth and fourth. Verse 14: If the verse is also taken metaphorically, not just of those literally deaf and blind, the principle includes victimizing others by taking advantage of their gullibility or ignorance. The verse concludes, “You shall fear your God, I am Yahweh,” because the exploitation of vulnerable people may never be uncovered. Fear of God is the only restraint. Verses 17–18: “Do not hate your brother in your heart . . . Love your neighbor as yourself. I am Yahweh.” Because the previous verses have touched every area of life and all kinds of people, the meaning of “neighbor” is not limited. Here Yahweh commands his people to love their “neighbor” as they love themselves without regard for the worthiness of the person being loved. Both Jesus and Paul said that all the other duties to our neighbors are summed up in this command (cf. Mt 5:21–48; Mt 22:39–40; Rom 13:9). Thoughts for Sermon In his well known sermon, “How Christians Should Regard Moses” (LW 35.161–74), Luther says some surprising things about the law. For example, he insists that Christians must not have Moses as the ruler or lawgiver anymore, and God himself will not have it either. The law of Moses is no longer binding on us because it was given only to Israel. Famously, he says, “Moses has nothing to do with us. If I were to accept Moses in one commandment, I would have to accept the entire Moses.” The reason we are no longer bound by Moses and by his authority is because God’s Son, Jesus, is the one who showed us real authority by his resurrection from the dead. No one else has displayed such power, not even Moses. Jesus has the authority to 64

forgive sins (Mt 9:6). Jesus has the authority to cast out demons and heal the sick (Mk 3:15). All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him (Mt 28:18). (Cf., 1 Cor 15:24, Eph 1:21, Col 2:10). Jesus is our Lord and Savior. By grace, he has redeemed us and adopted us into his family. As Peter says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pt 2:9, emphasis added). Since we have been called from darkness to light, we are Jesus’s servants. As Luther says, “we have our own master, Christ, and he has set before us what we are to know, observe, do, and leave undone.” So, what does this text have to do with us? Well, Jesus, in his own teaching, makes use of this text from Leviticus. A lawyer asked him, “‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ and he said to them, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and Prophets” (Mt 22:35–40). The text is interesting to us because our Lord uses it to teach us how we are to live as his children in this world. Verses 9–18, especially, help us think through what it looks like to “love your neighbor like yourself.”1 It is important to remember that while both the OT text and Jesus’s words can function as the second use of the law—condemning us for not “being holy” and not loving as God asks—primarily, they are both given to people whom God has redeemed and brought into his kingdom by grace, people who have a relationship with Yahweh and to whom Yahweh has made his promises. Therefore, the words are meant to help us understand what kind of people we are to be, now that we belong to Christ. What are our lives to look like and how can they best reflect Christ? It is from this perspective that Leviticus 1–2, 9–18 have something to teach us. Tim Saleska Endnote

1 Luther also makes the point that texts like Leviticus 19:9–18, are relevant to us, not because Moses gave the law but because its content, like the Ten Commandments, has been written into the hearts of all men.

Transfiguration Sunday • Exodus 24:8–18 • March 2, 2014

This Old Testament reading for Transfiguration stands as the complement and climax of the covenant ceremony that begins in Exodus 19. In broadest strokes, the text illustrates what it means for the God of Israel, after bringing his people out from bondage to the Egyptians and to their gods, to say, “I will be their God, and they will be my people.” In particular, however, this powerful and frightening depiction of an ascent up into God’s glory and presence reminds us of two things. First, how gracious God is to establish a covenant with a people at all! Second, then, how necessary it is to have a mediator who stands

Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


between the utterly strange and all-powerful Creator and a flawed and broken people. The first verse of the appointed text (v. 8) functions as a hook back into the first part of the chapter. Moses has already thrown the blood of the covenant against the altar that he had erected. Now, this single verse highlights that the covenant is established between two parties: God, and the people he has chosen. In verses 9–18, then, God’s command for Moses to come up to him on the mountain (v. 1) is narrated. It is narrated in such a way, however, that makes it clear that approaching God is no small thing, nor is it possible for just anyone to approach. A group of seventy-plus men begins the journey up the mountain. By the end, only the one whom God has appointed and designated may enter the cloud. On the one hand, Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu (with Joshua, who is not named until v. 13) are accompanied by seventy elders of Israel as they go part of the way up the mountain. There they experience a remarkable fellowship with God, and the text is “remarkable in its bluntness”1: “And they saw the God of Israel.” One might think, “This is as good as it gets.” To the contrary, the ascent does not stop here. What does come to a halt are the people who are allowed to go no further up toward Yahweh’s glory. At first accompanied by Joshua, in the end, only Moses entered the cloud which is, at the same time, a consuming fire— the glory of Yahweh. Moses dwells there (literally, “lives,” v. 12) near the glory for seven days. Only after God specifically calls him into the cloud does Moses enter into God’s glory on the mountain for forty days and forty nights. The narrative is slow-paced, deliberate, and emphatic. Finally, only Moses whom God has chosen is able to enter the cloud. As the narrative of Exodus continues, the next large section (chs. 25–31) offers the teaching about the tabernacle: its structure, its services, the ark of the covenant, etc. Chapter 32 offers up the account of Israel’s apostasy with the golden calf. It could hardly be more forcefully expressed—Israel’s need for mediation in her relationship with God is an ongoing need! There can be no thought of direct access to God, who is almighty, wild, and unthinkably holy. God must provide the way, and he did, and he does—in Christ, ever and always our mediator who is greater than Moses in the same way that the builder of a house is greater than the house itself, or as a son is greater than the servant in the house (Heb 3:1–6). I have heard Hebrews 12:18–29 preached in a blundering “law then gospel” way as follows: Under the old covenant, the people were afraid to approach Mount Sinai, and God was terrible and terrifying, while under the new covenant, everything is different and gracious because of Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant (12:24). This reading violates all manner of truth, including the immediate context in Hebrews itself. The thought in Hebrews 12 moves from the lesser to the greater: if things were that awesome and terrifying under the old covenant, how much more awesome and terrifying—and terrible—it is under the new? So do not refuse him who is now speaking to you (12:25). This lesson from Exodus 24 can afford a chance to regain a sense of the holy fear of God. God is not casual. He is not nice. He feeds the sparrows; he brings the rain; earthquakes and tsunamis, too, are in his hand. To echo the memorable expression found in one of the Narnia books, God is not safe, but he is good. If OT Israel


needed a mediator, the one named and appointed to approach the presence of God on behalf of the people, how much greater is our mediator, the Son of God. Fundamental notions like these: the fear of the Lord, the reality of sin and impurity, the necessity of mediation, the unique ministry of Moses and of the great mediator, Jesus—all of these foundational truths can be preached based on Exodus 24:8–18. Jeff Gibbs Endnote

1 Brevard S. Childs, The Book of Exodus: A Critical, Theological Commentary (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), 506.

Lent 1 • Genesis 3:1–21 • March 9, 2014

The Search Begins An initial caution must be sounded about beginning a sermon with Genesis 3. By divine design, Genesis 3 is an inseparable part of a unit (Gn 1–3), and neither Genesis 1–2 nor Genesis 3 should be discussed without the other. Genesis 1–2 provides an almost rhapsodic celebration of the Lord’s creation, punctuated at each stage by the Lord’s hymnic “good,” whether sung gently or exuberantly. That “good” describes every corner and every speck of this world, because it reflects the good in the heart of God. Our hearts to this day quicken instinctively at the spectacular beauty of a sunset or at the enthralling opening of a flower or at the heart-melting goo-gooing of a baby just beginning to explore the joy of sound. To start with Genesis 3 runs the danger of trivializing both 1) the gift of a world crafted by God and given to us as home, and 2) the horrid disjuncture between the world given us as home over against what we have made of that home. Genesis 3, in other words, appends the irrefutable reality that the world gifted us by God has become for us a Genesis 3 world. This is not to deny God’s creation touch, nor to besmirch those echoes of “good” that warm our hearts, nor yet to consign us to a hopeless, joyless life. We need to hold Genesis 1–2 and Genesis 3 together, but in tension, conveying neither a world unrecognizably idealistic nor a world bereft of God’s touch, promise, and presence. The irony of Genesis 3 is that the quintessential good flowing from the heart of God to every part of the world (Gn 1–2) is turned back against God. The crafty one befuddles Adam and Eve with the unthinkable thought of looking objectively at God, setting aside their trust that God knows what is good and opting for their own choices. That breach of trust, that intrusion of self-driven will is what sets a Genesis 3 world apart from the good of Genesis 1–2. How is God going to deal with this Genesis 3 world? Understandably, there is judgment, quick and serious, ranging from pain and suffering in life, to difficulties between spouses, to drudging labor, and to inevitable movement toward expulsion from the garden and finally death. God does reach out with an undeserved love; how-

Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


ever, that takes several forms. One is to provide clothing for those good bodies, which makes possible life between genders, subject to lust and leer. Of import also is his promise (v. 15) that his children are not simply released into the clutches of the crafty one, but live in hope of God’s intrusive offspring that will crush the machinations of the evil one. Tantalizing also is God’s initial word, actually his question, “Where are you?” Given that God surely knew where they were, this question has richer intent. Certainly, God was reinforcing the reality of how his children had distanced themselves from God by trying to hide. Behind that word of rebuke, though, it seems that God’s question implies a yearning, an invitation that his children come back to God. What makes this astounding is that this is the first word spoken by God after his creative word, and, as such, sets the theme for all the rest of Scripture, a recital of God’s desire to bring his children home. And if they do not come home, God will find ways to come into their world to bring them home, and will send patriarchs and matriarchs, prophets, judges, elders and in the fullness of time, his Son. So this first Sunday of Lent marks the first step toward the supreme gift of God’s love for the world, the gift of him who came “to seek and to save that which is lost.” It’s almost as if there are layers here that can serve as a ready outline: (1) God’s creation, clues and echoes and traces of which we can still see and celebrate; (2) the pervasive invasion of evil into every part of that good world; (3) the dual reality a) of God’s judgment on a world that continues to hide itself and b) of God’s gifts of grace for life in that broken world and of sending servants and Son to seek and to save the lost, the hidden, and the hiding. We add a section (4) to that outline. God’s crucified and risen Son says to his disciples: “as the Father has sent me, so I send you.” God’s search, begun already in Genesis 1–3, continues through us. He sends us, forgiven and renewed, into our corner of this Genesis 3 world . . . until the end of the age. Henry Rowold

Lent 2 • Genesis 12:1–9 • March 16, 2014

Preliminary Comments Three small word combinations in the Hebrew provided direction for this sermon study: 1. lek-leka (v. 1). lek is an imperative followed by leka a preposition with the second person masculine singular pronoun. “Go, as far as you are concerned” is a suggested translation. 2. weheyeh berakah (v. 2). weheyeh is a conjunction followed by the imperative of the verb “to be.” berakah is the word for “blessing” and “be a blessing.” (The ESV translation is “you will be a blessing.”) 3. beka (v. 3) is a preposition with the second person masculine singular pronoun, “by you/in you/through you.” (The ESV translation is “in you.”) “Abram” (exalted father) is the patriarch’s name that appears in Genesis 11:26 through Genesis 17:5 and in 1 Chronicles 1:27. YHWH (Gn 17:5) changed the name from “Abram” to “Abraham” (father of a multitude).


Sermon Notes YHWH (LORD), the covenant God, said to Abram, “Go, as far as you are concerned from your homeland, your relatives, from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” Abram obeyed the directive of YHWH and went where YHWH told him to go. He took with him Sarai, his wife, the members of his household (possibly including slaves), his accumulated possessions, and his nephew Lot. They formed a community and dwelt and slept in tents. YHWH promised to make Abram into a great nation and to make his name great. YHWH promised, “I will bless you.” YHWH commanded Abram, “Be a blessing!” Abram testified to his faith in YHWH and was a blessing by erecting altars to YHWH (vv. 7–8). “He called on the name of YHWH” (v. 8). YHWH had also promised Abram that “in/by/through you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” YHWH indicated that the messianic line begun according to Genesis 3:15 would be transmitted through Abram (Cf. Mt 1:1ff; Gal 3:8). The Holy Spirit has called us in baptism to “Go!” and to “Be” his people in our world today. As it was true in Saint Paul’s day, so it is true in our day. We live “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation” (Phil 2:15 ESV). God has not chosen to remove us from this world at the moment that the Holy Spirit brought us to faith. God has permitted us to live on. God in/through/by Jesus Christ has called us to BE a blessing (Mt 28:19, 20). Saint Paul counseled, “Do not be conformed to this world” (Rom 12:2). Do not allow this world to mold you into sin and corruption. The world values money, property, possessions, and social media. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who have received the blessings of the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life, we have the call to “be a blessing.” We have been called to bear witness to our faith directly (Mt 28:18, 19). We bear witness to our faith indirectly when we leave for church on Sunday morning. We testify to our faith in Jesus Christ when we commune at his altar; “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26 ESV). Jesus Christ described the Christian life in the Beatitudes (Mt 5:1–11) and John 3:1–16, the Gospel for the Day, can provide the basis for responding to God’s command to “be a blessing.” Arthur F. Graudin

Lent 3 • Exodus 17:1–7 • March 23, 2014

Throughout the second book of Moses, the Lord is listening intently to his people, and he yearns for them likewise to listen to him. He is their God; they are his people. In Exodus 2:23–25, when the people of Israel groan to the Lord because of their harsh treatment, the Lord hears their groaning. This cry of the people was one of faith that expected an answer, deliverance, and salvation from the Lord. He therefore draws out and raises up Moses. Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


In Exodus 4:29–31, the people hear the report that the Lord has visited them in his encounter with Moses. They believe and worship. After Moses has his first meeting with Pharoah, things get worse. Make bricks but without straw! Moses goes back to the Lord, and the Lord again promises that he will be the people’s God, and they will be his people (Ex 6:7). After the plagues, the people of Israel do what Moses instructs according to the Lord’s word, and they celebrate Passover. Then the people are commanded to remember the day of their salvation (Ex 13:3). In Exodus 14:1–5, the Lord tells Moses to tell the people of Israel to turn back and appear to be wandering in the wilderness for a very good reason, so that Pharoah would leave them alone and let them wander in the wilderness. Then God would harden Pharoah’s heart to come after them so that he could frustrate Pharoah and receive glory from the people of Egypt. Right after they cross the Red Sea on dry land and see the salvation and deliverance of the Lord, they come to Marah (Ex 15:22–25), and this time they don’t cry out or groan to the Lord but complain and murmur to Moses. Then the Lord tests them by encouraging them to listen to him and do as he commands (Ex 15:26). As Luther reminds us, the Lord indeed tempts no one; instead, he was seeking to keep the people in their status as his people. In Exodus 16:2 they grumble against Moses and Aaron. The Lord still listens to their grumbling (Ex 16:9). The people largely follow the commands of God concerning manna (Ex 16:25–35). This brings us to our text. Through the narrative flow of Exodus, we understand this pericope as yet another episode in the unfolding drama of God’s relationship with his people. The question to the people of Israel and to us is, “How will we respond when the Lord leads us where he will?” Even if the water is bitter, the food scarce, if it seems that there is no water or food at all (and here you could insert examples of crosses that the people of God must bear), or even if it seems that the Lord is not with us at all, will we continue to believe his word that he is our God and we his people? As pointed out above, the Lord had a specific purpose for leading his people into the wilderness where it looked like they were lost. Reassure your hearers that they are still the Lord’s people in their baptism, and that the Lord’s promises last forever. The One who provides all this is Christ. Remind them of the great day of salvation when Christ came to be with his people, when he spoke to the woman at the well, when he preached to all that whoever drinks from him will never be thirsty, when he died, and when he rose. However, remind your hearers that they too eat the same spiritual food and drink the same spiritual drink that the people of Israel did, and that Satan led the people of Israel, nevertheless, into temptation. Like the people of Israel, Satan will seek to draw them too into complaining, murmuring, and unbelief. Urge your hearers not to be like the people of Israel or like any of those who have gone before us (there are plenty of examples of our forebears in the faith complaining and testing the Lord). Point them back to Christ for refreshment that they might not be tempted by Satan to say along with the Israelites, “Is the Lord among us or not?” Benjamin Haupt


Lent 4 • Isaiah 42:14–21 • March 30, 2014

Introductory thoughts The final verse of the pericope governs our use of it and its context in chapter 42. The Lord takes pleasure (‫—)חפצ‬he gets a kick out of—placing his instruction, the script of the conversation he wishes to have with his human creatures (‫)תורה‬, before them. He does so in accord with his righteousness. Preaching on this text will be framed by our need to be listening to the Lord and to be acknowledging and basking in his righteousness (‫)צדקה‬, his being the way he is, compassionate, merciful, fatherly. Context Whether we label the context of this text the entire Scripture, the entire book of Isaiah, or chapter 42, the context brings two words to bear on his hearers’ hearts: words of threat and words of promise. Chapter 42 begins with the first of the songs of the servant, who as a bruised reed faithfully establishes righteousness among the peoples as he delivers the Lord’s instruction (42:1–4). The Lord is the Creator who gives light to the blind and frees the prisoners (42:6–8), words paraphrased in Isaiah 61 and used by Jesus to identify himself and describe his own ministry (Lk 4:18). This leads to praise for God, whose might is displayed against his enemies (42:10–13). In this Sunday’s text God expresses his anger, disgust, and hurt, all reactions to the unfaithfulness of his people, but he also renews his promise to deliver them, themes which continue in what follows the text. Notes on Text Verse 14: God puts up with a lot from his chosen people; his “longsuffering” denotes patience beyond normal endurance. But finally his love overcomes patience; God loses his temper with those whom he loves when they ignore his promise and his plan for their lives. That fits with his reminder that he is a jealous God (Ex 20:5) and does not want his people straying to other gods for their satisfaction in self-indulgence or their haven because of false fears. That jealousy is simply an element of his being Creator and loving his people. Their apostasy hurts so much that the Lord screams like a mother giving birth to a child. Verse 15: God decides to move to save through tough love. His scream, like that of a woman in labor, not only echoes from the mountains; it destroys them. His breath, which gives life, in this case takes water away, the very stuff of life. He is serious about the failure of his human creatures to fear, love, and trust in him above all things! All this is indeed sign of his utter faithfulness. He is a lover par excellence. Restoring human creatures to his family gives him great delight and pleasure. Verse 16: Just as the Lord promised light to the blind (42:6) and as the herald of the Lord’s coming promised good traveling over smooth roads (40:3–4), so God promises to restore communication with the blind and deaf and to even out their paths. His conversation with them and his revelation for them comes from his “torah,” a gift of communication and sight which reflects who he is, his righteousness. His torah, or word, became flesh as the light of the world (Jn 1:1–14). The sermon can explore the Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


deliverance from sin within the context of blindness and light, deafness and word, in the fulfillment of Isaiah’s promises in Christ. The Old Testament confession of faith in the Creator defined the Lord’s righteousness as faithfulness. Here God reiterates his promise to be faithful to his people. Martin Luther not only redefined human righteousness but also God’s righteousness. God is being what God is according to his unchangeable nature when he is faithful; he is fair, but his grace and steadfast mercy always surround, consume, and enhance his fairness, to the relief—to the rescue and restoration—of sinners, whom he transforms into his children out of sheer fatherly goodness and mercy. Verses 17–20: God’s faithfulness means that he continues to call straying children to repentance. He calls us the way he sees us and does not hesitate to remind us when we have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to his torah. This text suggests that he has dramatic ways of doing so. Taking the air out of our personal balloons or our society’s balloons is easy compared to destroying mountains and making rivers into islands. Possible approach to a sermon on the text Mentioning sins besetting people in your congregation, call attention to the ways in which those sins hurt God and elicit his screams of anguish. Turn to the execution of his promise in Christ, the one who opens our ears to God’s communication, his torah, and who opens our eyes to his concern for us, both in his anguish over our sins and in his love that delivers us from evil. Dwell on his pleasure over our repentance and trust in him. Robert Kolb

Lent 5 • Ezekiel 37:1–14 • April 6, 2014

On this Sunday before Passion Week, both Ezekiel 37 and John 11 (the gospel reading) anticipate Easter; even if not there yet we know where we are headed. Within the context of Ezekiel, the end has already come with the fall of Jerusalem reported in 33:21. The prophet’s own speech is raised from the dead, as it were (Ez 33:22), but there is still the need to understand just what—and why—this has happened. A “new Israel,” united and full-bodied, must come forth and arise. The shepherd-leaders will be replaced with God himself (Ez 34:11), who will sort out the humble from the greedy sheep (Ez 34:17–24). God will deal with their shame and put a new spirit within them (Ez 36:24–26). We cannot here rehearse all the wonderful details of this text, but readers are referred to the CPH commentary by Horace Hummel. We briefly note the following: Many other commentaries like to note that the text is about the restoration of hope to a hopeless people (v. 11), and so they downplay any portrayal of a literal resurrection. But even as a metaphor, the vision is of dead—and decomposed—bodies that are indeed restored in a true resurrection of the body, parts put back together (cf. Job


10:11 for the same four “flesh and bones” elements). The assumption is that God can do this. Key word repetitions abound: the “hand of YHWH” (yad-yhwh) upon the prophet to give him special revelation; the various uses of “spirit” (ru’ach, ten times) “bones” (also ten times), the verb “to prophesy” and “to live/come back to life,” and the use of hinneh at key moments: v. 3 (two times), vv. 5, 7, 8, 13). The image is of a great defeat in a battlefield valley, where the bodies of the “slain” (v. 9) have not been buried but allowed to decay. Thus the command to “prophesy to these bones” (v. 4) seems ludicrous: there were no ears to “hear the word of Yahweh.” But this is the word of the Creator, and the scene is reminiscent of Genesis 2: flesh and bones from the face of the earth, awaiting the breath of life. Then comes the key role of the “spirit, wind, breath” (ru’ach). This is not ordinary wind but comes, as it were, from the four compass points all at once (v. 9), and there is life. Verse 10 cleverly combines the “very many” and the “very dry” now as a “very, very (me’od me’od) great army” standing on its feet: the slain ones resurrected to rejoin the tseba’oth, yes, right here on earth. A sound and an earthquake (v. 7) surround the scene. One anticipates both Good Friday and the resurrection, when creation itself participates in giving up the dead. Finally, the goal is that “you will know that I am YHWH,” which is code for all God is and does as the one true God: Creator and Redeemer, who raises up a mighty people as his own by the power of the Spirit. The God “who knows” (v. 3) is to be known (vv. 6, 13, 14). He will be known when he opens graves, puts his life-giving spirit into his resurrected people, and places them in the land as one people (v. 18) under one king (v. 24), so that the nations will know that Yahweh is the one who makes holy (v. 28). Homiletical Thoughts The resurrection is coming: that is the goal, and it brings hope to a hopeless people, not just death but resurrection. But first death: one cannot be raised from the dead until one is dead. So Yahweh has come as Shepherd-King, in a parody of a royal procession on Palm Sunday and then as the Lamb that was slain for us, on the great battlefield. But this is not a story of life and death; it is a story of death—and life. And then a mighty army becomes the church militant upon the land—now the whole earth—united with the church triumphant, wherever the risen and reigning Shepherd-King is proclaimed and known. Andrew H. Bartelt

Palm Sunday • Isaiah 50:4–9a • April 13, 2014

We Would Like to See Jesus This sermon was prepared for Grace Lutheran Chapel in Bellefontaine Neighbors, Missouri. It makes use of various pictures of Jesus’s face from the church and school. Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


The approach combines verses from the text with the pictures. The goal is to give visual support to the sermon at key moments while also adding meaning to the pictures see at the church. The full version of this sermon can be found at The gospel reading for this Sunday has various options. This sermon uses John 12:20–43, and the introduction to the sermon is based on the Greeks’ request to see Jesus. The liturgical focus is Jesus’s passion, not the triumphant entry of Palm Sunday. The introduction makes use of a familiar picture of Jesus by Warner Salmon ( While we would like to see Jesus as the Greeks did, we do not have any real life pictures or paintings of Jesus. Instead, we have Isaiah 50 that clearly reveals what Jesus does with his eyes, ears, cheeks, and mouth. At verse 4, suddenly and without introduction, the Servant of the Lord speaks. This passage is a prelude to Isaiah 53, and the servant stands out in contrast to complaining, rebellious Israel. While so many of the people are blind and deaf to the Lord, the servant listens obediently and without rebellion. The instructed tongue results from someone who listens and learns perfectly so that he can speak the right words. The open ear characterizes one who will do just what he has been instructed to do. The sermon asserts that Jesus is the servant who is speaking here. He listens to what the Father wants him to say and do. (The contrast set up is between my threeyear-old grandson who makes his parents angry by ignoring them and how God is never angry with Jesus.) Two events from Jesus’s life are retold to highlight Jesus’s obedient listening: his baptism and his transfiguration, both of which have the Father declaring how well pleased he is with his Son. The picture used shows Jesus’s ears (, described as listening ears. The sermon moves next to what the listening servant’s obedience looks like. His instructed tongue speaks words to the weary. The words are timely and fitting. He says just what the weary needs to hear. The picture of Jesus used in the sermon at this point is a mural in the hallway leading from the church to the school. Most everyone in the congregation knows it. It shows Jesus hugging a child. The child has his eyes closed and you see a look of peace/ comfort on his face. Jesus’s lips are near the child’s ears. The sermon lists a series of moments of weariness (loneliness, fear, guilt, doubt, death, weakness) and combines them with Bible verses containing words Jesus spoke during his ministry. The section ends with Matthew 11:28–29 (the NIV uses the word “weary”). The servant’s obedience also involves his suffering. Verses 6–7 picture perfectly the horrible agony Jesus will undergo. Pulling out the beard publicly shames and humiliates. The action shows utter contempt to go with the spitting. Yet the key phrase here is how the servant has his face set like flint. Drawing on Luke 9:51, Jesus’s resolve is to go to Jerusalem where this suffering and humiliation will strike him down. Nothing will stop him from this appointed task. The sermon uses a stark picture of Jesus in black and white, with a streak of orange. His face is serious and determined (


Gallery.html#0). After describing what Jesus will go through, the sermon retells how Peter answers correctly Jesus’s question about whom the disciples say he is only to be quickly told to get behind Jesus when he tries to stop Jesus from going to Jerusalem. The servant declaring that he will give his back to be beaten highlights Jesus’s determination to go to Jerusalem—his face set like flint. He will not hide his face from the degradation. He is in control of all that will happen to him. Philippians 2:8 is quoted here. The sermon turns to the question of why Jesus would go through this suffering and humiliation. The picture used is of Jesus, his face bowed down in death on a crucifix. Jose Fuentes de Salamanca’s line drawing captures the drama and emotion well ( 83&type=3). The sermon moves beyond Jesus’s words to the weary, important as they may be, to the deeper purpose of Jesus’s work: forgiveness and eternal life. The last verses of the text focus on the servant’s vindication. God will help him. No charges against him will stick. The ultimate victor against the servant’s enemies is certain. Indeed, the Father brings his Son from the grave and will not let him see decay. The sermon finishes with a picture of Jesus as a shepherd holding a lamb in one arm and reaching out in invitation with his other hand, the scar from the nail visible. The proclamation is that because he lives we too will live. The sermon concludes with the encouragement to see ourselves pictured with Jesus because he is the Good Shepherd who not only laid down his life for us but also took it up for us. Glenn Nielsen

Easter Sunday • Acts 10:34–43 • April 20, 2014

In this pericope, Peter portrays Christ’s resurrection as God’s vindication of his identity and his work. In the resurrection, God gives assurance that Jesus is Lord and the judge of the living and the dead. The resurrection also gives assurance that through his name sins are remitted (cf. Lk 5:20–25). The Jews who rejected Jesus did not believe that he was anointed with the Spirit and that “God was with him” (Acts 10:38), but instead believed that he had an evil spirit (see Lk 11:14–20) and regarded him as one who did not keep the law (see especially Lk 6:1–11). They also did not believe that he could forgive sins (Lk 5:17–26). These reasons were reflected in their taunt at the cross: “Others he saved; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, the chosen One” (Lk 23:35). But God showed that Jesus was his chosen One by raising him from the dead (cf. Acts 2:22–36), and that good, redemption, and forgiveness come through him. Peter shows that the good news is not only for the “sons of Israel” but for anyone from any nation (Acts 10:35–36). To this point, Jesus has been identified usually with Israel’s redemption (e.g., see Lk 1:54; Lk 1:58; Lk 2:8–11; Lk 24:21; Acts 1:6). To be sure, the universal reach of God’s blessings through Christ had been signaled (e.g., see Lk. 2.32; Lk 7.2–10; and Ac 1.8), and God had promised this even to Abraham (Gn 12:3, 22:18). But the realization of God’s impartiality comes to light at this point in the narrative. Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


Notes for preaching When Peter preached, his hearers spoke in tongues and praised God (Acts 10:46). An appropriate goal for this sermon is that your hearers will also praise God for his favor upon them. You can do this by including your hearers in this story, just as Peter included Cornelius into the story of Christ. “Including your hearers” means assuring them God had demonstrated his impartiality to each of them by bringing each the preaching of the gospel and in the administration of the means of grace. “Including your hearers” also means promising them the good that the risen Lord will do and the redemption he will provide when he comes once again. Tell your hearers to expect Jesus to do for them what he did “starting in Galilee” and when he was “in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.” In doing this, be clear about Jesus’s death and resurrection as the reason for faith and hope. The theme is summarized in Psalm 118:22, “The stone the builders rejected has become the head of the corner.” Some who saw and heard Jesus firsthand did not believe but instead killed him. God, however, raised him from the dead, justifying the faith and the hope of all who believe in him. Joel P. Okamoto

Easter 2 • Acts 5:29–42 • April 27, 2014

Collect: Almighty God, grant that we who have celebrated the Lord’s resurrection may by your grace confess in our life and conversation that Jesus is Lord and God; through the same Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen. First Lesson: Acts 5:29–42, Acts 5:29: “Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’” There is a sense in which we all know this story, not just because it turns up in the lectionary every three years, but because what Peter and the apostles say has become a kind of “prime directive” for living out our Christian faith in this world. It helps us to make sense of St. Paul’s statement: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom 13:1 ESV). St. Peter’s call to honor the king (1 Pt 2:13–17) and even the fourth commandment are explicated by this statement. That is good and proper, but on the second Sunday of Easter that really is not the emphasis. Rather this is a call, on this and every day, to be witnesses to Christ’s resurrection, his enthronement at the right hand of God, and the gift of repentance and forgiveness of sins which he gives. So that with the apostles we can say, “We are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:32). As we read the story of those first days and weeks of the rest of our life it becomes obvious that Peter and the apostles really lived by the credo of our text. Remember how


it went: following the resurrection and ascension came the day of Pentecost and the powerful witness of the Holy Spirit through Peter and all the others. Then Acts reports Peter and John’s encounter with the crippled beggar whom they healed in Jesus’s name. This miracle caused many to believe but also ended with Peter and John before the Sanhedrin saying of Jesus, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 ESV). Later there was another imprisonment and a miracle release that resulted in the apostles standing in the temple courts teaching the people. As they were being arrested, the high priest addressed them, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” (Acts 5:28 ESV). And so we arrive at today’s lesson and are able to reflect on the meaning of all these things. That leads to the realization that Acts 5:29 really is not primarily about our relationship to authority. What it is about is our relationship to the Triune God who calls, gathers, and enlightens us because of Jesus’s resurrection. It is today’s psalm (Psalm 148), which calls on us and all creation to “Praise the LORD!” It is the gift of peace offered and received on the day of resurrection (Jn 20:19–31) and our response to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” And even our response is not really our own—that would fail. It is rather the gift of God and the call of his Holy Spirit; it is the fulfillment of Gamaliel’s prophecy that “If this is of God, you will not be able to overthrow [the apostles]. You might even be found opposing God!” (Acts 5:39). Thus, we are encouraged and enabled to preach that Jesus is the Christ whom God has exalted as leader and Savior to give repentance and forgiveness of sins. HE IS RISEN! He is risen indeed. David Wollenburg

Easter 3 • Acts 2:14a, 36–41 • May 4, 2014

Dear preacher, please restore this text to the Easter season! For many hearers this text will seem a “stealing of Pentecost’s thunder” rather than a proclamation of Easter’s good news. There is no better way to correct this skewing of the context of our reading than by preaching on it during Eastertide. It is neither the wondrous sign of the polyglot preaching of the apostles, nor the rushing wind and enlightenment of the Spirit that prompts the people’s response, that stabs their hearts; it is the proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus, Lord and Christ. The double-edged preaching of Christ—you crucified him but God raised him— has made clear to Peter’s hearers the direness of their situation (though who could possibly comprehend it fully?). They have demanded and brought about the death of God’s Messiah and their Lord. If ever there was a time for the deliberative subjunctive: “What shall we do?” now was that time. Peter responds with a word for all and each one. Concordia Journal/Winter 2014


Peter’s command to repent is in the second person plural: “you all repent!” It is the whole faithless people of Israel who are here called upon to repent; there is no distinction when it comes to this command. It is given for all. Reference to the “crooked generation” shows that this command to repent goes far beyond those present, and the book of Acts as a whole will show that the whole world stands under this command. Yet, Peter’s next command is in the second person singular: “Be baptized every one of you.” Note the same pattern in the epistle: “If you (all) call upon as Father the One who judges impartially in accord with the actions of each (person). . .” This proclamation of the crucified and risen Lord and Christ encompasses all in its call to repentance but addresses each individual personally in its offer of salvation. It encompasses all the world in its expansiveness and draws in each individual in his or her situation. It is for “all those whom” the Lord our God calls, and, again, the rest of the book will make clear to apostle and reader alike just how many that is. Peter refers to the world as a “crooked, dishonest, unscrupulous” generation. We may think back only as far as the gospels when we hear these words, but they go back much further. Moses decried the Israel of his time, the Israel who beheld the salvation of the Lord in the exodus from slavery in Egypt, as a crooked generation (Dt 32:5). Now this generation has not only seen and rejected the ministry of our Lord, they have seen the exodus that he accomplished in Jerusalem (cf. Lk 9:31)—and still they refuse him. It is unfortunate that the text ends with the addition of 3,000 souls and does not include the description of this new community’s life together. Today’s preacher will likely be preaching to an already baptized congregation; vv. 43–46 would allow for greater application of this word to his people. Whether read or assumed, the inclusion of these verses could result in the following outline: I. A Word for All A. Jesus is Lord and Christ! 1. Crucified by/for you 2. Raised and vindicated by God B. Repent! 1. It is not too late 2. The invitation is for all I. A Word for Each One A. Be baptized! 1. Each person joined to Christ’s death and resurrection 2. Forgiveness and the spirit of life given to each one B. Rejoice! 1. The Lord saves from this crooked generation 2. The people of God are reborn, raised to a new life of devotion to their Lord and “fervent love toward one another”

Jeffrey A. Oschwald



COncordia Journal

IMPLICATIONS OF BRAIN RESEARCH FOR THE CHURCH: What It Means for Theology and Ministry. By Allen Nauss. Minneapolis: Lutheran University Press/Kirk House Publishers, 2013. 241 pages. Paper. $24.00.

How can we, communicators of the gospel of Jesus Christ, target our conversations, our preaching, our teaching, our walking-with people in a more focused and direct way? In J. H. C. Fritz’s terms (see my article in this issue of the Concordia Journal), how do we learn more about the “book of the flock” so that we can, in Anton Boisen’s (the founder of clinical pastoral education in the 1920s) terms, more accurately read the human document? Allen Nauss takes up this task by attending to the spate of brain research over the last twenty years or so. Dr. Nauss is a longtime LCMS educator, teacher, and seminary professor. His interest in brain research, peaking in the last decade, propelled this book into publication. That it fits a real need in our church is an understatement. I currently use it as a textbook in an elective that I teach at Concordia Seminary where we focus on brain functions and their behavioral and spiritual implications. Every pastor and church worker who wants to keep abreast of research about human beings needs to have books like Nauss’s available and, more than that, read and apply the information therein. “We may be impelled to use the brain’s functions to become more aware of our negative and positive biases, to balance our reason more adequately with our emotion, to use both (cerebral cortex) hemispheres appropriately according to the Concordia Journal/Winter 2014

needs of the situation, to help parishioners develop long-term memories with more deliberation and care, to read more accurately the mind and heart of others, and to develop Christian virtues within ourselves and our parishioners” (219). These are the areas Dr. Nauss takes up in his work; these are the areas about which teachers, pastors, directors of Christian education, and deaconesses need information. Brain research has come into its own in the past several decades. It used to be that we could understand the functions of the brain only when we knew what specific portions of the brain had been damaged. Now, using imaging techniques, dyes, electrical monitoring, and a host of other research mechanisms we can “see” much better what parts of the brain are firing under what conditions. We all do well to keep our eyes, ears, and minds receptive to all this new research. There are likely some who will contend that this is not needed, for all there is to know about the human person is contained in the Bible. Nauss more classically, however, follows Fritz. We need to know as much as we can about the human person in general and about an individual person in particular to be the most faithful to our vocation as witnesses to the Triune God. Especially interesting, and from this reviewer’s view critically important, is Nauss’s take on the relationship of emotion and cognition. Try this challenging position of Nauss’s: “Much church preaching and teaching happens with such abstract words and remains headknowledge. The emotion which accompanies all learning can then be boredom or dislike . . . Pastors learn their theology at the seminary largely in classes apart


life experience. It is presented from real deductively, via abstract words detached from individual real events . . . But as the pastors had to connect their abstract theological words to their own real life experiences, so do their hearers when they begin their ministry in a parish” (95). Nauss is especially critical of those who, using his picture of what is happening, speak the abstraction from the pulpit and then assume no responsibility for its outcome, since it is the Holy Spirit that gives life to the spoken word. Rather, he maintains, we need emotional connections born of real-life experiences in order to develop a transfer of cognition into meaning and, further, into behavior. This way of deductively teaching and preaching is more in line with our understanding of how the brain functions and processes information. He also makes a very strong case for single-theme worship elements to better establish meaning and values in long-term memory. Nauss also leads us to wonder if a great deal of our church conflict, theological disputation, and worship struggles might come from differences in preferred brain hemispheric strengths and underappreciation of the role of emotion in our “thinking” processes. I believe he is quite on target here. He certainly makes a strong argument based on current brain research. Nauss’s discussion of empathy is crucial, especially as he distinguishes cognitive empathy (understanding the view of the other) from emotional empathy (understanding the emotional state of the other). These two features are the building points of whole-person empathic connections. Listening skills, for instance, are often seen as simply saying back what the other person is saying, i.e., having


cognitive empathy. However, true listening always involves an emotional component, and that is sometimes lacking in our generally left-hemispheric way of doing theology and doing ministry. I wished for more depth in Nauss’s book as he explored the practical implications of what he was communicating about the brain, but in our circles within the LCMS, this subject has just barely been tackled. Nauss helps us do so, and in so doing, I believe he stands in the rich tradition of classical LCMS pastoral care as represented by J. H. C. Fritz and many others. It is certainly true that “seminaries and the church’s clergy in the field can certainly become more effective in their ministry as they combine emotion with cognition, work to balance the activity of both hemispheres, become aware of their biases and the virtues of Christ’s model, develop their empathy, translate their theology into meaning, and apply it in their worship and their lives” (224). Readers will find some of Nauss’s book repetitive. Some might consider this a negative, but like a weaver, Nauss brings the reader back to central themes and, much like his argument that a brain can only pay attention to a limited number of things at one time, he brings the reader to his main points again and again. Dr. Nauss is likely in his ninth decade of life. He continues to bring vital thinking, challenge, and helpful reflections to the church and, specifically, to the LCMS. May he continue to contribute to our understanding of the “book of the flock” and the “book of the self” (using Fritz’s terminology) because, frankly, we desperately need this at this time. Bruce Hartung

THE BIBLE MADE IMPOSSIBLE: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture. By Christian Smith. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2011. 220 pages. Hardcover. $22.99.

If the truth hurts, then The Bible Made Impossible is going to leave an ugly bruise. Christian Smith, noted sociologist and author of influential studies in American spirituality, lobs a grenade on the Protestant playground with his exposé on evangelical biblicism. Smith identifies American biblicism as the principal encumbrance for missional efforts in our milieu, as well as the reason for pop culture’s perception of evangelical Christianity as absurd, anti-intellectual, and indefensible. The bruising truth is that, on the whole, he is right. “Biblicism,” as Smith understands it, is a theory about the Bible “that emphasizes together its exclusive authority, infallibility, perspicuity, self-sufficiency, internal consistency, self-evident meaning, and universal applicability” (viii). Absent from this description is the doctrine of the divine inspiration of the Bible. That is because Smith has no argument here: the Bible is the Holy Spirit-inspired-word of God. Instead, the focus of this work exposes the impracticality and unsustainability of the biblicist theory of Scripture due to the problem of “pervasive interpretive pluralism” (x), which renders biblicism an impossible theory of interpretation. Biblicists are defeated in relevance, according to Smith, “by the undeniable lack of interpretive agreement and consistency among those who share the same biblicist background” (xi). The result is more than 33,000 Christian Concordia Journal/Winter 2014

denominations and associations in the United States alone. All claim the authority to speak with authority from what biblicists deem to be the sole authority for Christians in matters of faith and life— the Bible. Outside evangelicalism, nobody is really listening except those who want to hear their own voices in Scripture. Biblicism as a particular theory about and style of using the Bible is defined, says Smith, “by a constellation of related assumptions and beliefs about the Bible’s nature, purpose, and function” (4). Chapter 1 delineates ten such beliefs and assumptions including such admittedly untenable characteristics as “Total Representation”—where the Bible represents the totality of God’s communication to and will for humanity, “Complete Coverage”—the Bible as God’s total will about all of the issues bearing on Christian belief and life, “Democratic Perspicuity”—where any reasonable person can read it and correctly understand the “plain meaning of the text,” “Commonsense Hermeneutics,” “Universal Applicability,” and the “Inductive [Bible study] Method.” Pervasive interpretive pluralism works against any notion of evangelical agreement in essentials by setting forth sometimes innumerable biblicist interpretations of the same texts that result in fragmentation, disunity, and departures from the gospel in the name of an allauthoritative, inerrant, infallible, perspecuitous Bible. The empirical reality is that biblicism yields the opposite of what it claims: hence the dozens of “Three/Four/Five Perspectives” books that debate everything from salvation to eschatology all resourcing from the evangelical position the same all-authoritative Bible.


Smith’s deconstruction of biblicism continues exploring some philosophical assumptions of American biblicism, along with certain historical and psychological factors that have contributed to its rise and prevalence. Throughout these chapters, Scottish commonsense realism, Charles Hodge, B. B. Warfield, the 1978 Chicago Statement, and the Westminster Confession of Faith undergo scrutiny for their contributions or adherence to prevailing biblicist holdings and thus make for uncomfortable but necessary self-critical reading within the Reformation tradition, not only for seminarians but pastors. A biblicist reading of Scripture, the author argues, is not a truly evangelical reading of the Bible, and can never be so. A truly evangelical reading of Scripture would be a gospel-oriented reading of Scripture, where the Bible’s in-built hermeneutic of christocentrism would override special interest interpretations; that self-presenting biblical hermeneutic already stands codified in at least two other extra-biblical sources of authority—“the canon of Truth,” and the classic, consensual interpretation of Scripture. These three things, together, preserve the Bible’s authoritative witness, nature, and content from fraudulent biblicist manipulations and misappropriations. The sola scriptura tradition, especially among Lutherans, must not be permitted to degenerate into solo scriptura. Notwithstanding, Smith says there is a way forward. It requires the abandonment of biblicism as the evangelical’s epistemic foundation and embracing a critical realist approach to the Bible as divine witness to Jesus, who is himself the ultimate revelation of God. Biblicists, however, are locked into an Enlightenment epistemol-


ogy that has steered the former genius of the Reformation down a path that is directed by cultural issues and ideologies and battles them on their terms with their weapons. Epistemological foundationalism, explains Smith, “is a conviction that rational humans can and must identify a common foundation of knowledge directly up from and upon which every reasonable thinker can and ought to build a body of completely reliable knowledge and understanding” (150). This foundation for the certainty of knowledge must withstand all challenges to every topic to which it speaks. In the case of the Bible, the scope of topics includes astronomy, cultural anthropology, geology, zoology, prehistoric eras, medicine, politics, and economics, to name but a few. Biblicists responded to Cartesian, Humean, and Darwinian foundationalism by asserting that the Bible is the proper foundation for indubitable, secure, universal, knowledge and that this position was defended by theories of its plenary inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy. And when this happened, biblicism committed to a failed epistemological endeavor that it props up with circular reasoning about biblical authority and sentiment. Biblicism is preoccupied with epistemic certainty rather than by Scripture’s advent-oriented witness and a long Christian tradition of christocentric interpretation. Consequently, Smith warns with prophetic voice that just as Enlightenment epistemological foundationalism was exposed and abandoned, the day of reckoning for biblicism has arrived: evangelical biblicism will not stand because it has built itself upon the sand and not the Rock. To the degree

that the Confessional Reformation tradition adheres to or associates with subcultural evangelical biblicism is the degree to which they too will suffer declension and missional irrelevance. In this respect, Smith’s work is a call to all Lutheran enterprises to be circumspect about melding our gospel mission with evangelicalism’s biblicist methodology. The Bible Made Impossible will make for uncomfortable but necessary reading for all stripes of evangelicals, but especially Confessional Christians from the Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian, Reformed, and Baptist camps. Have our positions on Scripture been lassoed into categorical epistemological foundationalism? Are subscribers to Augsburg, Westminster, Savoy, and Heidelberg fighting modernity and postmodernity with the failed and abandoned tools of modernity itself, namely philosophical foundationalism? Why are we fighting biblicist battles over “creationism,” “young earth” dictums, and anti-evolution platforms with biblicist hermeneutics that have little or no christocentric referent, let alone christocentric hermeneutic? Smith’s learned but never pedantic, passionate but not pugnacious work will press upon its readers the multigenerational legacy of biblicism, namely the fact that the plausibility structures of the biblicist faith community crumble when their over-realized epistemology is applied to disciplines that eclipse the authorial intention of Scripture as divine witness to Jesus. Emil Brunner said it best last century (Revelation and Reason, 1946) and Smith has said it best this century in this eminently accessible and welldocumented study. By making a compelling argument that christocentrism, not Concordia Journal/Winter 2014

bibliocentrism, is the truly evangelical response to theological liberalism and cultural caricaturing, The Bible Made Impossible warrants mandatory reading by all thoughtful Christians and thorough discussion by Lutheran pastors, professors, and seminarians. John J. Bombaro University of San Diego Editor’s note: In the previous issue of Concordia Journal, Paul Robinson reviewed Divine Kingdom, Holy Order. Here, Ted Hopkins provides a second perspective on this important book. DIVINE KINGDOM, HOLY ORDER: The Political Writings of Martin Luther. By Jarrett A. Carty, editor. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2012. 525 Pages. Hardcover. $59.99. The most impressive aspect of this new anthology of Martin Luther’s political writings is the chronological breadth of the writings and the diversity of genres included within it. Professor Jarrett A. Carty of Concordia University Montreal, Quebec (PhD Notre Dame) has brought together a collection of Luther’s writings on politics that almost span Luther’s reforming career, covering 1520–1546. In so doing, Carty not only draws from the usual treatises on politics—e.g., Temporal Authority—Carty also includes eleven selections from Luther’s exegetical writings. The first part of the book contains Carty’s introductory essay, “Luther’s Theory of Political Government,” which describes the broad strokes of Luther’s political thought. Carty considers Luther to be a consistent political thinker since


Luther grounded his politics on an unchanging theological basis. According to Carty, Luther’s “central teaching” is the distinction between two kingdoms, the spiritual (geistliche) kingdom and the temporal or worldly (weltliche) kingdom, which is also the foundation of his political thought (4). These two kingdoms are two separate governments ordained by God to rule “the inner and outer worlds,” respectively (206; see also 4–7). The spiritual kingdom rules over the conscience and the soul by the word of God while the temporal kingdom rules over matters of the body by coercion and the sword. For Carty, this distinction is an “interpretative key” for understanding the primary sources, “explaining Luther’s view of temporal authority as one of the ‘two kingdoms’ ordained by God to govern the ‘outer man’” (viii). Furthermore, both of these realms are “divinely ordered and biblical,” which requires a “strict separation” between the spiritual and temporal kingdoms (10). In this way, Carty emphasizes that political government for Luther is a divine gift and a necessity; it is “a sign” that God is continually in the world through “the provision of order and earthly needs through the temporal government” (11). In fact, secular government is a “holy order” for Luther, limited to temporal matters but nonetheless a holy estate in which a Christian can and should serve God and love her neighbors (15–18). The second part of the book divides Luther’s political writings into three sections: “The Reformation of Temporal Government,” “The Political Teachings of Scripture,” and “Luther’s Applied Political Thought.” Before each selection of Luther’s writings, Carty includes


a brief introduction of one to five pages, which situates the selection historically within Luther’s life and briefly sketches the important content. Thus, Carty makes all twenty-nine of the selections from Luther’s writings accessible to the reader by noting Luther’s genre and purpose within his historical context in addition to summarizing the content. Because of the introductions, reading through the book in order is helpful, but hardly necessary. Only Carty’s introductory essay is necessary in order for the reader to understand Luther from Carty’s perspective, which enables the reader to read any selection of interest with a lessened chance of confusion. The first section, “The Reformation of Temporal Government,” contains selections from six of Luther’s early writings (1520–1522) and the entire text of Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed (1523). This section develops the frequent distinction in Luther’s early works between the inner and outer person, which elucidates both the limits and the extent of the authority of the temporal kingdom. For Carty, the temporal kingdom rules over matters of the body and temporal institutions, the outer person, but has no say in matters of conscience nor can it rule over the spiritual or inner part of a person. Commenting on Luther’s 1520 treatise Christian Liberty, Carty connects Luther’s two kingdoms dualism to the body/soul dualism of human nature, arguing that Luther’s theology of the two kingdoms accounts “for the Christian experience of being both saved by grace alone, and yet part of a temporal, natural world, governed by God through natural laws . . .” (75). Carty maintains that these separations between

soul and nature and grace are body and integral to Luther’s understanding of the two kingdoms and thus his political thought. “The Political Teachings of Scripture” is the best section of the anthology. Carty has compiled eleven selections of Luther’s political thought from his biblical commentaries, which bring nuance and complexity to Luther’s early thought—although Carty does not often recognize this development. For example, Carty includes part of Luther’s commentary on Psalm 82, which reveals two places where God’s word and politics interconnect. First, Luther calls princes gods among men, but as gods princes are not immune to criticism. According to Luther, preachers are appointed by God to criticize and point out the sins of princes as well as people. Preachers are not only to rebuke the ruler for private sins but also for his public sins, e.g., his failures to keep peace and do justice. In fact, Luther argues, “To rebuke rulers in this way is . . . a praiseworthy, noble, and rare virtue, and a particularly great service to God, as the psalm here proves” (184). Second, Luther contends that good princes follow three virtues: protecting and supporting the teaching and preaching of God’s word, furthering the cause of the poor, the orphans, and widows, and protecting against violence and force by peacemaking. These three virtues are Christian virtues, which show that God rules the temporal sphere also through his word and command that applies to it. The third section, “Luther’s Applied Political Thought,” includes eleven selections from a number of the controversies and issues that Luther attended to from 1524–1546. Important foci of this section Concordia Journal/Winter 2014

are Luther’s notion of just war, Luther’s understanding of the government’s role in heresy, and Luther’s response to the Peasant Rebellion of 1525. In addition, Carty includes a selection on Luther’s notion of political resistance and on the government’s role in education. While Carty’s anthology is impressive in its chronological breadth and the selections are solid, Carty’s introductions misrepresent Luther in two ways. First, Carty does not clearly distinguish Luther’s view of the two kingdoms from either a body and soul dualism or from the nature and grace distinction; in fact, Carty seems to equate the two kingdoms with both distinctions (75). The important distinction for Luther, however, is not body and soul, material and immaterial, but flesh and Spirit, peccator et iustus. These are completely different paradigms. Moreover, Luther’s understanding of God’s word working through natural means such as human lips, bread, and water practically destroys any attempt to separate nature and grace. Secondly, Carty does not discuss the relationship between two kinds of righteousness and Luther’s political thought. F. Edward Cranz has argued effectively that the two realms of Christian existence, before God and before humanity—not the distinction between spiritual and temporal kingdoms—lies at the heart of Luther’s understanding of law and justice,1 but Carty does not discuss either these two realms or the two kinds of righteousness, which depend on them. I agree with Cranz that a better case can be made for the two kinds of righteousness underlying Luther’s political thought than the two kingdoms: Christian identity granted by God as a


the Christian into God’s world gift drives to follow God’s commands to do justice and administer righteousness, which includes the role of government. Such a view makes more sense of the interconnections between the word and politics in Luther’s thought while maintaining a clear distinction between God’s two means to preserve and save his creatures. Theodore J. Hopkins Saint Louis, Missouri


1 An Essay on the Development of Luther’s Thought on Justice, Law, and Society, Sigler Press Edition (Mifflintown, PA: Sigler Press, 1998). Originally published 1959.


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Issued by the faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, the Concordia Journal is the successor of Lehre und Wehre (1855-1929), begun by C. F. W. Walther, a founder of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Lehre und Wehre was absorbed by the Concordia Theological Monthly (1930-1974) which was also published by the faculty of Concordia Seminary as the official theological periodical of the Synod. Concordia Journal is abstracted in Internationale Zeitschriftenschau für Bibelwissenschaft unde Grenzgebiete, New Testament Abstracts, Old Testament Abstracts, and Religious and Theological Abstracts. It is indexed in ATLA Religion Database/ ATLAS and Christian Periodicals Index. Article and issue photocopies in 16mm microfilm, 35mm microfilm, and 105mm microfiche are available from National Archive Publishing ( Books submitted for review should be sent to the editor. Manuscripts submitted for publication should conform to a Chicago Manual of Style. Email submission ( as a Word attachment is preferred. Editorial decisions about submissions include peer review. Manuscripts that display Greek or Hebrew text should utilize BibleWorks fonts ( Copyright © 1994-2009 BibleWorks, LLC. All rights reserved. Used with permission. The Concordia Journal (ISSN 0145-7233) is published quarterly (Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall). The annual subscription rate is $25 (individuals) and $75 (institutions) payable to Concordia Seminary, 801 Seminary Place, St. Louis, MO 63105. New subscriptions and renewals also available at Periodicals postage paid at St. Louis, MO and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to Concordia Journal, Concordia Seminary, 801 Seminary Place, St. Louis, MO 63105-3199. © Copyright by Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri 2014 |

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Winter 2014 volume 40 | number 1

Winter 2014 volume 40 | number 1

Things We Do Not Fully Preach About: Preparing to Die Christian Counseling: The Past Generation and the State of the Field Dean J. H. C. Fritz and the (Lifelong) Formation of Pastors Marriage: The Divine and Blessed Walk of Life

Concordia Journal | Winter 2014  

Things We Do Not Fully Preach About: Preparing to Die; Christian Counseling: The Past Generation and the State of the Field; Dean J. H. C. F...