What Grace Looks Like

Abba Ammonas came one day to eat in a place where there was a monk of evil repute. Now it happened that a woman came and entered he cell of the brother of evil reputation. The dwellers in that place, having learnt this, were troubled and gathered together to chase the brother from his cell. Knowing that Bishop Ammonas was in the place, they asked him to join them. When the brother in question learnt this, he hid the woman in a large cask. The crowd of monks came to the place. Now Abba Ammonas saw the position clearly but for the sake of God he kept the secret; he entered, seated himself on the cask and commanded the cell to be searched. Then when the monks had searched everywhere without finding the woman, Abba Ammonas said, ‘What is this? May God forgive you!’ After praying, he made everyone go out, then taking the brother by the hand he said, ‘Brother, be on your guard.’ With these words, he withdrew.

(The Desert Christian: Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection. Translated and with forward by Benedicta Ward, S.L.G. New York:Macmillan Publishing Co. First American Edition 1980)

She Writes What I Think…and Mexican Coca Cola

She, being Frederica Matthewes-Green, the NPR Commentator, Author, Columnist, Speaker, and Pastor’s wife. Writes, referring to this article, for starters. It is an ugly world we live in, not just crass, but profane, materialistic and, well, doomed. She simply puts it on paper (or the computer screen) better than I can.

Another Great Woman–the Greatest–is my wife, for the usual reasons of course, but also for buying me a Mexican Coca-Cola last week. This was a treat because Cokes imported from Mexico were made with REAL SUGAR, not corn syrup like American Cokes are made now.

Let me count the supremecies of Coca-Cola made with sugar:

1. It is the same formula that Coke used when you were a kid, before 1984 or so.
2. It doesn’t taste like syrup.

3. The bubbles are small and fine…it develops a head like a beer, not bubbles like soap that modern America Cokes have.

I’m not crazy (why is it that crazy people seem to be the only ones who say that?). Here is an article about Mexican Coke from the San Deigo Union-Tribune.

‘Statism, Post-Modernism and the Death of the Western World’

Statism, Post-Modernism, and the Death of the Western World by Steven LaTulippe

DO NOT let the title of this article scare you! It is a well-written, scathing essay which reflects the satanic nature of our Western World–and it even uses Sex and the City as major illustration.

A word on that: suppose you have never seen an episode of Sex and the City. Good for you! You really don’t need to in order to understand his point. But LaTulippe also writes:

These women are, admittedly, an extreme example. But the beauty of art lies in its ability to harness archetypes for the purpose of making social and political commentary.

This is where LaTulippe is wrong. The women of Sex and the City are not “extreme examples” or “archetypes” and–God forbid– Flannery O’Conner’s “figures drawn large.” (“When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs as you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock, to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind, you draw large and startling figures.”) They are not caricatures or exaggerations. I know people like this. I went to school with them, I went to college with them, I met them in cafes and bookstores. I tried to date some of them, but as a Christian it was basically impossible.

And there are more of them every year, being formed by their peers and by the examples on television. The same animalistic phenomena appeared on Friends and Seinfeld, in Desparate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, One Tree Hill and almost every other major form of entertainment, in songs, games and in hallways of High School.

It is very easy to say that the sky is falling and this world is going to hell, so pass the chips and take cover. Doomsaying is not only simple, but also popular. Offering hope and a solution is not. But here’s a try, and you may not like it:

This world is dying and it hates you. You must hate it back. Christ said,

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27 ESV).

And:

“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:25-26 ESV)

Western Culture and America is not the friend of Christianity, at least no longer. Public education is not the friend of Christianity. While there are some good public school teachers, systems and administrators, public schools are battlegrounds for the souls of your children. Pull them out, if possible. But don’t for a second think that so-called “Christian” schools will do the job for you. They may try, and do hold back some of this death-embracing world, but your children’s peers are just as post-modern and worldly as their parents are, and are attempting to make your children into materialists as well. Consciously sometimes.

You must indoctrinate them against this world. You must take your faith seriously. You must, to use your post-modern vocabulary, become “old fashioned” and “irrelevant,” otherwise you and your children will not be living as Christians. We are in the world, not of it, and you must separate yourself from our pagan world.

So far, not much hope, eh? As Lutherans say, “This is all Law!” You betcha. Where is the Good News, where does God come in and let me off the hook?

He doesn’t. God does not let you off the hook. It’s not God’s hook, after all. He loves you and desires for you to have life. He gives us that in Jesus Christ, who says,

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV).

He has overcome the world. He has given us His peace, and His promise of return. But we are still in it, and the battle still rages until the consummation of all things.

Committing Treason and Other Defamatory and False Things

Rev. Paul T. McCain, the former Interim CEO/President of Concordia Publishing House, and now the Executive Director of the Editorial Division and Publisher claims that Mr. John Fenton, has “turned his back on Christ and His Gospel,” and “Fenton’s reununciation [sic] of his ordination vows, and confirmation vows, is nothing less than an act of treason against our Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel.” See the complete comment here. McCain posted this missive all over the internet, apparently on every blog that mentioned Fenton at all. Many bloggers refused to allow it to be posted.

Rev. Randy Asburry has been carrying on a response to McCain’s views on this blog, and I wish to thank him for his measured Christian responses. I’ve been holding my pen. But several things still need to be addressed.

1. The Eastern Orthodox Church is Christian. Our confession of the Trinity is the same as theirs. Our confession of Christology is the same as theirs (and BTW, we got it from them). If John Fenton “turned his back on Christ” in becoming an Orthodox Catechumen, then Lutherans have never faced Christ either. We preach the same Jesus Christ, one person, two natures, neither confused nor separated. Accusing him of treason, apostasy, or anything of the sort is neither accurate nor Christian.

2. Mr. Fenton was presumably confirmed with The Lutheran Hymnal’s Agenda. I do not know what vows he took then. I do know what vows I took when I was confirmed with Lutheran Worship’s Agenda. After I had confessed the Triune God, as expressed in the Apostle’s Creed, I vowed never to leave that confession. After that, I expressed my intellectual belief that the teachings of the Small Catechism are true. Here is the exact wording:

P: Do you believe in God the Father Almighty…

R: Yes, I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker…

[after the third article is confessed…]

P: Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?

R: I do so intend with the help of God.

P: Do you hold all the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God and confess the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from them, as you have learned to know it from the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true?

R: I do.

The confession of faith in the Holy Trinity is a binding vow which includes our intent for the future. I would rather die than renounce this faith. However, our “vow” to remain faithful to the Lutheran confessions does not ask this. It only asks, in the present, “do you believe them to be faithful and true?” These are different promises and testimonies we are giving.

It should be noted that Lutheran Service Book does something sectarian here. It moves the “death vow” to after the confession regarding the Evangelical Lutheran Church and Small Catechism. Beware, parents! If your child is confirmed using the new rite, they may be damned if they ever leave the Lutheran Church–according to the vow they take.

3. What about the ordination vows? What did Mr. Fenton promise therein? Here is what he said

P: Do you believe that the Unaltered Augsburg Confession is a true exposition of the Word of God and a correct exhibition of the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church; that the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Small and Large Catechisms of Martin Luther, the Smalcald Articles, the Treatise on the Authority and Primacy of the Pope, and the Formula of Concord–as these are contained in the Book of Concord–are also in agreement with this one scriptural faith?

R: I do.

P: Do you solemnly promise that you will perform the duties of your office in accordance with these Confessions, or Symbols, and that all your teaching and your administration of the sacraments will be in conformity with the Holy Scriptures and with the aforementioned Symbols?

R: I do.

Notice: Neither Fenton, Hogg, McCain, nor anyone ordained with this rite ever promises to hold these beliefs till death or never depart from them. These cannot be compared to marriage vows in any way, shape, or form. In marriage we vow behaviors that will continue “as long as we both shall live.” Departing from marriage before the death of a spouse constitutes breaking the vow. Fenton, Hogg, McCain or I could not possibly “break” or “renounce” this vow, unless we remain in office and teach contrary to the Book of Concord. Fenton resigned in order to avoid this very thing. He said he was no longer Lutheran and could not remain their pastor as he admitted in his letter of resignation.

Any speculation on that he did not “perform the duties of [his] office in accordance with these Confessions” is sinful. We dare not speculate in how he performed his duties. His private opinions are private, and unless we are party to his daily public ministry, we do not know what he said or did. Just because some people from his parish intend to depart from the Lutheran confession with him does not mean that he broke his ordination vow. It may seem likely to us with our sinful minds. Our skepticism and suspicion may point fingers and judge. But let us put the best construction on this, and leave judgment alone. I will be generous, and I pray God is generous with me.

I realize this blog lies on a slightly overgrown footpath in the Lutheran “Blogosphere” and few read the comments (ranting) here. But let us stop accusing men of adultery, treason, and all kinds of nefarious sins, when in reality they have changed their minds. Mr. Fenton simply changed his mind. Perhaps he says he was converted to the fullness of the truth. But he changed his mind in regard to certain doctrines of the Lutheran Confession. Regardless of how you think this or that Church body proclaims the Gospel, remember: Fenton is not a Buddhist, nor did he become a Moonie, Mormon, Muslim, Rastafarian, or Raelian. He still confesses Christ in word and deed.

Would every Lutheran pastor publicly administer his duties according to the Confession’s norm! Would all the Lutheran pastors out there who do not or no longer hold to the Lutheran Confessions do the same!