Is “Heaven Is For Real” real?

How real? What kind of real? What about Near Death Experiences (NDEs)?

Especially over the past fifty years millions of NDEs have been reported. Most have a similar pattern–of a kind of tunnel, of light, of serenity.

What kind of real is this? What is the source, the cause, the explanation, the meaning?

1. Oxygen deprivation, as during a heart attack, can produce such experiences.
2. LSD can produce such experiences.
3. Most significantly, such experiences are found in other religions than Christianity.
4. Very, very few report a bad experience.

1. Oxygen deprivation, as during a heart attack, can produce such experiences.

2. LSD can produce such experiences.

3. Most significantly, such experiences are found in other religions than Christianity.

4. Very, very few report a bad experience.

Luther spoke of a vision of Christ that appeared to him on Good Friday:

“Christ once appeared visible here on earth . . . and according to the divine purpose of God finished the work of redemption. . . . I do not desire that he should come again in the same manner, nor that he would send an angel to me. No, even if an angel would appear before my eyes, it would not add to my belief; for I have my Savior, bond and seal; I have his Word, Spirit, and sacrament; on these I depend, and desire no new revelations. And the more steadfastly to confirm me in this resolution to hold solely by God’s Word and not to give credit to any visions or revelations, I tell you what happened to me: On Good Friday last, I was in my room in fervent prayer when suddenly appeared upon the wall a bright vision of our Savior Christ, with the five wounds, steadfastly looking upon me, as if it had been Christ himself corporally. At first sight, I thought it was some celestial revelation, but I reflected that it must be an illusion and juggling of the devil, for Christ appeared to us in his Word, and in a meaner more humble form; therefore I spoke to the vision: Away with you, confounded devil: I know no other Christ than he who was crucified, and who in his Word is pictured and presented to me. Whereupon the image vanished, clearly showing of whom it came” (WATR 1:287, 8-27; emphasis added).

Luther often cited 2 Corinthians 11:14: “… even the devil disguises himself as an angel of light.”

But, we ask: Doesn’t God still do miracles? To be sure, He does. The only problem is to sort out where. Begin here: A team of medical professionals is resident at Lourdes to guarantee that there are no natural causes for the Marian “miracles” still occurring at Lourdes. And recall Luke 16:31, the point of this parable: “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.”

Again we ask: But NDEs comfort, help—how can you object? The answer: The cross and resurrection are more than enough; here is true comfort. How can we risk a supplement, a diversion (2 Corinthians 11: 14)? And life as co-heirs with Him is simply far more than all our imaginings, all NDEs (1 Corinthians 2:9; Ephesians 3:20 KJV).

Is there not, then, we ask finally, some kind of new revelation, extra revelation, something extra just for you and me? As Raymond E. Brown points out in his famous commentary on the Gospel of John: John 16:13 must not be taken out of its context in John 16:14-15. As in John 14:26 and 15:26, the Holy Spirit does not bring new revelation. His job is merely to re-present Christ. The cross and resurrection of Christ are enough.

2017: The real Roman Catholic roadblock to unity – (hint: not gay sex)

Sharing Communion by 2017 between Lutherans and Roman Catholics!?

Munib Younan, LWF President: “Our intention is to arrive at 2017 with a common Roman Catholic-Lutheran declaration on Eucharistic hospitality.”[1]


That’s in “…the far and ultimately unreachable distance,” stated Walter Cardinal Kasper in his official capacity as head of the Vatican department, The Pontifical Council For Promoting Christian Unity.

For Rome sharing communion is “unreachable” if a church has women bishops – as Kasper warned the bishops of the Church of England in 2006.

“Ecumenical dialogue in the true sense of the word has as its goal the restoration of full Church Communion. That has been the presupposition of our dialogue until now. That presupposition would realistically no longer exist following the introduction of the ordination of women to episcopal office,” Kasper said.

He added that communing together is also impossible: “The shared partaking of the one Lord’s table, which we long for so earnestly, would disappear into the far and ultimately unreachable distance.”[2]

Was Younan implying the LWF will stop ordaining women bishops? Or is he simply clueless?

You can’t make this stuff up.

[1]Luigi Sandri, “Lutheran Leader seeks Communion agreement with Pope,” The Christian Century, 12/17/2010.

[2]Unity impossible if Anglican Church ordains women bishops, says Cardinal Kasper,” Catholic News Agency, 6/8/2006; emphasis added.

No to “Noah”?

But isn’t the film close enough? Isn’t it at least better than most Hollywood productions? Gets a useful discussion about the Bible going?

The only question is:  Who is God in this film? Yes, the name “the Creator” is used and the word “God” occurs. But the “Covenant God,” the

God who creates a world based on the covenant He first makes with Adam and Eve (the tree of life and all that), then with Noah (symbolized by the rainbow),

Is missing, or at least so much on the fringe of things that it requires reinterpretation of the film to find it. The God of the Bible, the God alone who establishes

Justice and mercy through His covenant, does not allow any substitutes, even fringe gods (idols), even somewhat gods ( a la this film).

The ordinary viewer cannot help be misled. After all, isn’t there some echo of the Biblical account? Some echo is not good enough.

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” not even somewhat gods.

At least there’s the Ten Commandments, isn’t there?

Do Luther and Forde regard the Ten Commandments as divine revelation? Human codes? Read more here

“Spontaneity” has more than one meaning

It has been said that for Lutherans ethics is “spontaneous” rather than legalistic. But “spontaneous” can mean “doing what comes naturally” or being free to use our heads in the battles of life. Which is it? Read more here.

ELCA Presiding Bishop Eaton and “the cross”

ELCA Presiding Bishop Eaton and “the cross”

What kind of Lutheran is Elizabeth Eaton, the new ELCA Presiding Bishop?

Outgoing Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson says of her: “She is a wise theologian committed to a strong Lutheran evangelical witness….”[1]

To be sure, she’s known to point to the cross:

“On our own we are helpless and lost. We cannot effect our deliverance. We are, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “like prisoners who must wait for someone from the outside to unlock our cell.” The death of Jesus has done that. That is our core belief. That is the faith. It is Christ and Christ crucified that is the unshakeable foundation of the church.”[2]

“Lutherans have a history of living with paradox. There are some things that are nonnegotiable for us. But there are other things that it is possible for people who love Jesus holding the same faith together, can have very strong, very sharp disagreements, but it does not have to lead to disunity. Things like marriage or the ordering of government or certain political positions, we can and we do disagree, but we agree on the cross.[3]

Eaton affirms “the cross” and she supports major ELCA agendas, including but not limited to, changing the ELCA constitution in 1999 to require an Episcopal, sacramental priesthood, supporting the 2009 decision to approve gay marriage and families, altering God-language to comply with feminist objections as found in the ELCA hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship.

The problem is:

What is “the cross”? Don’t all Christians “agree on the cross”? Isn’t the cross “the unshakeable foundation” of all Christian churches, not just Lutherans?

Lutheran identity is not a matter of waving the cross more vigorously than Catholics or Baptists.

Rather, Luther rediscovered that salvation is all God’s doing. Now that cuts. It excludes  semi-pelagianism in all its pious forms, both personal and institutional. It excludes revelation outside of the cross. It means that the only proper use of the cross is in proclaiming salvation in Christ alone, through the cross alone, by faith alone, through grace alone.

Properly used, “the cross” shows the edges of the gospel, edges which offend modern sensibilities as they did medieval ones. Properly used, “the cross” has necessary, real world consequences that cut.

What kind of Lutheran is Elizabeth Eaton? She’s like her predecessors: Hanson, Anderson, and Chilstrom. Richard Koenig, a prominent LCA Lutheran who died in 2011, put the ELCA problem succinctly:

“The ELCA knows all the Lutheran jargon and recites the epigrams regularly — Christ the center of the Scriptures, Law and Gospel, justification by faith alone, faith active in love — but in stuff coming from the headquarters, there’s no signal that anyone knows how to USE them.[4]

[1] The Lutheran, August 2013, p. 50. Bolding added for emphasis added here and hereafter.

[2] Northeast Iowa Synod Letter, Dec. 15, 2009, Bishop’s column

[3] Meet the Woman Who Will Lead Evangelical Lutherans: ‘Religious’ but not Spiritual” Time, Interview of Elizabeth Eaton by Elizabeth Diaz, August 18, 2013.

[4] Richard Koenig,

Cranach Altar Painting

Christ the Center

Christ the Center - The Predella of the Cranach Altar Triptych

The Predella of the

Cranach Altar Triptych

This painting is the bottom panel of the Cranach altar in Wittenberg’s Town Church. It is the best known among the altar’s paintings and shows Luther in the pulpit preaching the “Word of the Cross.” One hand is on the open Bible; the other points toward the crucifix as the incarnation of the Word of God. The cross, in central position, symbolizes the foundations on which religious life is built, and there is a wave in the loincloth revealing that Christ crucified is alive and present among us.

On the left, the congregation is gathered – Luther’s family with Katharina von Bora holding their son Hans by the hand.  The girl with the round face behind them might be Magdalena, a daughter who died at a young age.  The man with the full long beard in the background is Lucas Cranach “the Elder” who has deliberately chosen to join the Protestant group.  The narrow red band around Luther’s neck is reminiscent of a cardinal’s collar as if to make Luther the secret bishop of the Protestant church. A comparison of the two wings of the Cranach triptych and the bottom panel reveals the same interior design, making the altar a uniform and compact whole.

Forde got out of Biblicism; you can, too – 18

“The distinctive character of current Lutheranism, however, is largely the result of its continuing search for its own roots in the Reformation and Luther’s thought itself. Beginning in about the 1840s, when J.C.K. von Hofmann appealed to Luther in the argument over atonement, Luther was for the first time set against Lutheran orthodoxy on a substantive doctrinal issue (Hirsch, 1954, vol. 5, p. 427) and the uniqueness of Luther’s own thought began to emerge as a viable alternative.[1]

[1] Forde, “Lutheranism,” Blackwell’s Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Thought, Ed. Alister McGrath (Cambridge, MA; Blackwell, 1993) 357; emphasis added.

Forde Fest 4!

April 29, 2013

Forde Fest

The Canon of Scripture: A Guide for the Perplexed

“The insistence that scripture interprets itself is simply the hermeneutical

correlate of justification by faith alone.”[1]

10:00 – 2:00 p.m.

Holy Nativity Lutheran Church, 3900 Winnetka Ave No., New Hope, MN

Sign up by contacting one of the three people below:

Stew Carlson (651-207-3939)

Brad Jenson (218-625-2430)

Meg Madson (763-475-0577)

Sponsored by The CrossAlone District of LCMC

[1] Forde, “Authority in the Church: The Lutheran Reformation,” A More Radical Gospel: Essays on Eschatology, Authority, Atonement, and Ecumenism, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004) 66.

Steven Gjerde (a.k.a. Rodney King): Can’t we all just get along?

Problem #1: Where’s the beef? Pastor Steven Gjerde, in “Tempering Troublesome Spirits,”[1] faults fellow Lutherans for dealing with “style” rather than doctrine, but he himself has the same problem.

He does not want to suggest that “every division is wrong and hateful” (60), but he laments that the NALC and LCMC divide “so sharply over matters of order and style rather than doctrine” (58) and advises the leaders of these bodies “to deal directly with their own constituencies’ tendencies to caricature one another and divide over questions of church culture” (59). When we “caricature each other on the basis of cultural choice and churchly style… we are failing to love our neighbors as ourselves” (60).

What are the substantive gospel issues that keep Gjerde in the ELCA? He ducks: “I have chosen to stay within that body for the foreseeable future, within certain conditions and for reasons we consider faithful and wise….” (57, emphasis added); “Sometimes there must be divisions for the sake of highlighting all the more clearly God’s righteousness and truth” (60).

What conditions? What reasons?

The whole dilemma lies in such “conditions” and “reasons.” After all, there is no pure church,[2] no pure doctrine.[3] There is only pure gospel. Because salvation is at stake in the pure gospel and its consequences, the devil’s in the details of Gjerde’s illusive “conditions” and “reasons.”

Gjerde ends: We “should temper all our actions, and even more, our actions toward brothers and sisters trying to confess the same truth about him” (60, emphasis added).

What is the content of “the same truth”? Gjerde doesn’t deliver the beef.

The “truth of the gospel” (Gal 2:5, 14) is that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone through the cross alone.

This gospel has necessary, practical consequences.[4] Because the cross is all-sufficient, nothing more can be required – not a particular structure or priesthood, not a conversion experience, not inerrancy, or the like.[5]

CA VII: It is enough that the gospel be “preached purely….” “Purely” = by faith alone in Christ alone through the cross alone.

The ELCA, however, compromised this gospel in 1999 when it changed its constitution to require the Episcopal, sacramental episcopate (§10.81.01). This was the status confessionis action that spurred the creation of LCMC. It made the ELCA a gospel-plus church. Every pulpit is tainted by this required add-on.

Problem #2. Massive misinformation. Gjerde is silent about the 1999 constitutional change and its significance for faith and life.

He is wrong about basic facts: For example: “Even the LCMC did not become ‘separately incorporated” until the ELCA declared that it must” (57).

Not true at all. The Articles of Incorporation for LCMC were filed with the Minnesota Secretary of State on September 20, 2000. The LCMC constitution and bylaws were approved by the WordAlone Convention in February 2001. The LCMC constituting convention was held in October 2001. The ELCA had nothing to do with any of these actions.

Gjerde chides conservative Lutherans: “I’d even venture to say that the tendency among conservative Lutherans to eschew institution (sic) has partly led to the problems we’re facing. Rather than fight, rather than appearing mean, rather than care as servants of the church should care, we withdraw, let it go to hell” (59).

To the contrary, Lutherans from coast to coast fought the good fight for many years but realized by the constitutional changes in 1999 that the battle was lost. Constitutional changes set the wickets for the future.

Gjerde incorrectly describes the NALC. The NALC doesn’t just have bishops, as if bishops per se were the problem, as Gjerde implies others think.

Rather, the NALC requires that its head bishop be installed by a bishop, with prayer and the laying on of hands. The NALC has formal agreements with Episcopal seminaries to educate its seminarians. The NALC objects to the ELCA’s 2009 decisions on gay sex, but it has adopted a hierarchical structure similar to the ELCA’s.

Problem #3: Knocking down the straw man “absolute.” Gjerde claims: “Whence comes the basis for making either the NALC or the LCMC or both the absolute means of a more orthodox ministry?” (59)

No one claims that LCMC or the NALC are absolute. Perhaps Gjerde uses “absolute” to absolve himself from making a move to a provisional organization which is a life-boat, although not absolute.

Problem #4: Institutionalism/Pietism. Gjerde acknowledges the importance of institutions: “If we are truly committed to the ministry of word and sacrament….we should easily recognize that the word will require institutions to be its handmaiden and the church will require institutions to be its shelter” (59). Yet institutional differences seem not to matter because we’re all just “trying to confess the same truth” (60).

Gospel-plus churches undermine the gospel. That’s not a problem?

Gjerde ends with teardrops of progressive pietism – lamenting self-righteousness, calling for repentance – yadayadayada. Can’t we all just get along?

If only Luther had “tempered how he conducted himself” (60). If only he had worked harder at “practicing mercy” (60). After all, weren’t they all “trying to confess the same truth” (60)?

[1] Steven Gjerde, “Tempering Troublesome Spirits,” Lutheran Forum (Fall 2012) 57-60.

[2] See Pure Church, no – Pure Gospel, yes! At (Major Theological Issues/Basics)

[3] See Pure Doctrine, no – Pure Gospel, yes! At . (Major Theological Issues/Basics)

[4] See Practical Consequences At  (Here We Stand)

[5] See We are not free to gospel-plus At (Major Theological Issues/Basics)