Monday, December 28, 2015

Living with Luther by J. M. Weidenschilling

J.M. Weidenschilling was a master at summarization and brevity. He produced many short works on basic subjects for the Missouri Synod in the 1940's and 50's. Some of the most famous and widely used were: Our Bible; Our Church; and, Our Creed. Living with Luther is a slender 48 page booklet originally designed to be used in the classroom. It could also easily be used as an introduction or jumping off point for an adult study or a tract for anyone wanting a brief overview of the life of Martin Luther and the Reformation.

Living with Luther was published by Concordia Publishing House in 1945, was slightly revised in 1970, and reprinted numerous times. The illustrator was Gustav Koenig. The Lutheran Heritage Foundation also worked to have it translated into Lithuanian in 1996 (translator: Renata Ambrazeviciene).

Weidenschilling was working in the tradition of Gustav Just's Life of Luther to provide a concise, basic summary of Luther's life and introduction to the Reformation. The two works cover much of the same ground, often even in the exact same sequence and manner. The pictures in the older volume are again used in Weidenschilling's, though they are supplemented with additional illustrations.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

An Explanation of the Common Service

Note: Thank you very much to Rev. Mike Grieve of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Golden, IL for this excellent review of a true classic. Anyone wanting to know more about our worship service in the Lutheran Church truly ought to pick this book up. It can be purchased from Emmanuel Press. It was originally compiled and published by the General Council to teach people about the beauty and truth of the Common Service. What a blessing that it is still in print!

“An Explanation of the Common Service”:  Fifth Edition Revised and Enlarged; United Lutheran Publication House, Philadelphia, 1908; Reprinted in 2006 by Emmanuel Press, 1916 Ridgewood Ave., SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49506

            The answer, “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” to the question of, “why do we do what we do in worship?” is not only unhelpful, but it’s also false. We do know “why we do what we do in worship.”  Sometimes we just don’t know where to find the answer to the question.  An Explanation of the Common Service helps give concrete answers to questions that would otherwise be left in abstract thought and speculation.  What would seem to be a daunting number of questions and answers (250) is eased by the reality that the book is just 120 pages in length, which includes a history of Christian hymnody; liturgical colors and their significance; and index and glossary.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Gift of Communion (Communion and Mass) by Carl F. Wisløff

 Thank you very much to Rev. Benjamin D. Hertel of Saint Luke Lutheran Church in Rensselaer, IN for giving us a review of Carl F. Wisløff's The Gift of Communion (Nattverd og messe/Communion and Mass). While not strictly an L-TOM, nor written by an American Lutheran, it was an influential work, translated by Joseph M. Shaw and published by Augsburg Publishing House in 1964. It is included in the Concordia Heritage Series (the dark green hardback series). You can buy it on Amazon or find a copy through Bookfinder.

Wisløff (1908-2004) was a Norwegian theologian known for his opposition to liberal theology. He was also influenced by Norwegian Pietism, especially in regards to lay preaching and evangelistic endeavors. His most influential book with the Norwegian public was Jeg vet på hvem jeg tror (I Know in Whom I Believe).

Review of Carl F. Wisløff's The Gift of Communion
by Rev. Benjamin D. Hertel

A short, but thick book, Carl Wisløff’s work is not something I would recommend to the layman or the arm-chair theologian. The concepts are easy enough, but the way Wisløff presents his points can be a bit congested and repetitious at times.

Wisløff seems to assume a lot from his reader and that he is a trained pastor. Knowledge of certain terms, events, and theology are sometimes not explained. Nevertheless, Wisløff has, in this short book, amassed a large amount of Luther quotes. Though it reads like a text-book, for this we should be grateful.

Wisløff's main claim is that not enough attention has been paid to Luther speaking against the “sacrifice of the Mass”. He says that Lutherans would rather speak against the Reformed or the enthusiasts and probably find Luther lacking on the subject.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Index of Posts on Theodore Engelder's series of essays concerning the "Hades Gospel"

The issue of the fate of the soul after death and the idea of a "second chance," with all the surrounding questions, is important for the Christian. Pastors especially ought to be able to give  clear answers concerning this topic. Engelder's essays offer a firm biblical footing on the subject.

Posts on Engelder's essays on the "Hades Gospel":

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Prof. Th. Engelder on The Hades Gospel Part VI: "The Hades Gospel and the Apocatastasis Gospel"

Another name for those who believe in the Apocatastasis has been Origenists

In Part VI, Engelder confronts the related error of apocatastasis, the eventual redemption and restoration of all the damned. This dangerous and unscriptural doctrine is the end of the road of the Hades Gospel.

[Note: Here is the link to the first (and introductory) post in this series: Prof. Th. Engelder on The Hades Gospel Part I: "The Hades Gospel", the second post: Part II, "The Argument in Support of the Hades Gospel,", the third post: Prof. Th. Engelder on the Hades Gospel Part III: "The Evil of The Hades Gospel" the fourth post: Prof. Th. Engelder on the Hades Gospel Part IV: "Some Remarks on the Question of the Salvation of the Heathen", the fifth post: Prof. Th. Engelder on the Hades Gospel Part V: "The Protestant Purgatory"]

He divides his critique into three sections. First he attacks on exegetical grounds, including an extensive discussion on the word "age(s)" means. He shows how that the denial of the eternality of damnation also undermines the beauty, surety, and everlasting nature of the promise of eternal life. Secondly, he attacks their elevation of reason over the Word of God [with a brief side trip to make the logical and historical connection between the belief in the apocatastasis and Pelagianism, and the dependence and example of Origen].

He states:
But it is a wicked business. "Men derive this dogma from their reason, their sense of justice, their conception of mercy. And men have not the right to use the argument under discussion. For what it amounts to is this: reason presumes to tell God what He must do in order to retain His character as a merciful and just God. And shall reason teach God ethics? Presumptuous reason is telling God that unless He conducts His judgment according to human standards, His conduct would be unfair, partial, unrighteous, unethical. ...Will a man judge God?" (CON. THEOL. MONTHLY, 1945, p.395.) These words were addressed to the Hades theologians, who demand, because of their "merciful" sentiments, that God must save half of the inmates of hell, Hades. They apply no less to the apocatastasis theologians, who because of their sense of "mercy and justice," require God to lead all the damned out of hell to heaven. And since the God of the Bible speaks a different language, they make out of the God of the Bible "a devil." Presumptuous reason will stop at nothing.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Prof. Th. Engelder on the Hades Gospel Part V: "The Protestant Purgatory"

Do men need further sanctifying and purifying after death? What of an intermediate state: purgatory or something akin to it? Can men truly be perfectly purged of the sin still clinging to them in the instant of death?

In "The Protestant Purgatory," Part V of his series of essays on the "Hades Gospel," Prof. Th. Engelder considers the teaching of purgatory, or the state(s) of men who are dead preceding the resurrection. He rightly points out the return to the Roman teaching of purgatory by Protestants who argue for the Hades Gospel (a second chance for salvation after death) and who support some sort of intermediate state in the afterlife. Engelder:

"That is the Catholic purgatory. And what is the Protestant purgatory? The Hades theologians, particularly those who believe in salvation by faith alone, refuse to embody all the Romish features in their reconstructed purgatory. But they have taken over this feature: the dying Christian carries remnants of sin with him into the next world and must go through a purgatorial, purifying process in Hades before he enters heaven."

Monday, June 22, 2015

Prof. Th. Engelder on the Hades Gospel Part IV: "Some Remarks on the Question of the Salvation of the Heathen"

This is the question that always gets raised. What about the people in ancient Peru who never heard the Gospel? What about the child in Saudi Arabia who is born a Muslim by no fault of his own yet strives to be a good and just individual?

[Note: Here is the link to the first (and introductory) post in this series: Prof. Th. Engelder on The Hades Gospel Part I: "The Hades Gospel", the second post: Part II, "The Argument in Support of the Hades Gospel,", and the third post: Prof. Th. Engelder on the Hades Gospel Part III: "The Evil of The Hades Gospel"]

In Part IV, "Some Remarks on the Question of the Salvation of the Heathen," Engelder takes up the issues and questions surrounding the salvation of the heathen. A particularly memorable line is the following: "Nor is it surprising that the liberal Protestants teach that the heathen can save themselves, with the help of God. The Liberals are blood brothers of the Catholics, of the race of Pelagius." The warnings of the essay are clear: do not give up the universality of grace though the facts seem to contradict this article of faith; and, do not be led into strange unbiblical doctrines by rationalizations and human searches into the unsearchable mysteries of God. These paths start in the (vain) hope of explaining God's ways further and more clearly than He Himself does, and ultimately leads to accusing the Lord Himself of evil and malice.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Prof. Th. Engelder on the Hades Gospel Part III: "The Evil of The Hades Gospel"

In his third essay on the topic, Engelder shows the falsehood of the Hades Gospel under 5 headings:

[Note: Here is the link to the first (and introductory) post in this series: Prof. Th. Engelder on The Hades Gospel Part I: "The Hades Gospel" And the second post: Part II, "The Argument in Support of the Hades Gospel,"]

1. To proclaim the "second chance" after death Hades Gospel contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture.

In this section, Engelder specifically meets the charge that a belief that the fate of a soul is fixed at death leaves no room for the final judgment. He also confronts the argument that since some of the Church Fathers accepted the possibility of conversion after death that we must as well.

2. Engelder's second major point is that the Hades Gospel's hope of a second chance rests upon human reason and speculation. He points out that the theologians who argue for such a teaching are following their own sense of justice and mercy in opposition to what the Scriptures actually say. Along the same lines, Engelder confronts the trick of many, which looks superficially like a concern for the analogy of faith, in which the teaching of "the whole Bible" (das Schriftganze) contradicts specific passages. Unlike the using the analogy of faith to explain apparent contradictions or seemingly difficult passages, hazy, and ill-defined broad principles (of course truly emanating from the interpreter himself) overwhelm or trump the clear words and teachings of the Scriptures.

"The Hades gospel, spawned by rationalistic thinking, is an evil thing. The Hades theology sets the verdict of reason and feeling above the declaration of God's Word. God wants His children to accept the teaching of Scripture in simple faith, to believe that God's ways are just and right even if they cannot understand them, but reason, "the archwhore and Satan's bride" (Luther, XX: 232), would seduce God's children from implicit faith and asks them to say to God: We cannot accept statements of Scripture which outrage our reason. The evil of the Hades gospel consists in this, that it weans the Christians away from the allegiance to their Lord."

Monday, May 11, 2015

Prof. Th. Engelder on The Hades Gospel Part II: "The Argument in Support of the Hades Gospel"

What was St. Peter talking about in regards to Christ's preaching to the spirits in prison? What was Christ preaching? The Law? The Gospel? The argument inevitably involves an exegetical discussion concerning the following passage:

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Prof. Th. Engelder on The Hades Gospel Part I: "The Hades Gospel"

The Harrowing of Hell--What was Christ doing in Hell? What "preaching" was he doing there? Was he saving people? What happens to all those people today who die without ever hearing the Gospel? Do they really go to Hell...forever? Why are some saved and not others?

In six essays, published in the Concordia Theological Monthly during 1945-6, Theodore Engelder confronted the prevalent, and still persistent belief and false hope, that there is a "second chance" or further hope for salvation for those who die in unbelief.
[Here is a brief introduction to Engelder and his work.]