In the News

Germanwings Flight 9525 – Richard Fernandez

666!!: What should we make of the Bible’s scariest number? – Richard Ostling

Supersessionism and All That – Peter Berger

Identical Twin Studies Prove Homosexuality is Not Genetic – Mark Ellis

Putin’s Corrupted Orthodoxy – Philip Jenkins

Multispiritual: Adoration of the Sacrament/Communing the Unbaptized

ELCA Press Release: The adoration of the sacrament will help us grow spiritually.

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and a delegation of ELCA leaders recently returned from what they describe as an “ecumenical pilgrimage” to London, Geneva, and Rome.

In a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the ELCAers asked him to recommend “a spiritual practice to ELCA members to help us grow in our faith lives.”

He answered: “Start where people are, not where you think they should be….And, if they are interested in contemplative prayer or adoration of the sacrament, encourage them to explore this devotion which will help them grow.”

Most Lutherans are familiar with side altars in Catholic churches where the reserved sacrament is kept for adoration.

Lutherans, however, have historically – and recently – rejected this practice because it implies the elements are transubstantiated, that they contain Christ’s presence apart from their use in the communion service.

The national Lutheran/Catholic Dialogue III found an “increasing convergence” between Lutherans and Catholics on the real presence of Christ in communion. But the convergence fell apart on the issue of the reservation of the sacrament:

“Lutherans speak of the whole liturgical action as usus: the consecration, distribution and reception (sumptio) of the sacrament … Lutherans do not speak of Christ being present before or apart from ‘use.’” [1]

Lutherans teach that Christ is present in, with, and under the elements, but, apart from their use in the sacrament, they remain bread and wine.

Lutherans, of course, treat the unused elements respectfully, but reservation and adoration of the sacrament is not Lutheran practice – for gospel reasons.[2]

On the one hand, taking a look at the adoration of the sacrament, Anglo-Catholic spirituality. On the other hand, taking a look (at the request of the 2013 Churchwide Assembly) in the opposite direction from Anglo-Catholicism, at changing The Use of the Means of Grace to commune the unbaptized so they feel welcome.[3]

Whatever “spiritual practice” helps “us grow in our faith lives.” Multispiritual, multicultural. Whatever.

[1] The Eucharist as Sacrifice. Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue III, ed. Paul C. Empie and T. Austin Murphy (Minneapolis: Augsburg, [1967]) 191-97; here 193, footnote 24.

[2] How the Lutheran Confessions write about the Lord’s Supper:

1. Christ is truly present in doing what He commanded, in the use, the action. (Formula of Concord VII, ¶¶85-87; Book of Concord [Tappert], pp. 584-85. Also ¶73, pp. 582-83.)

2. Christ is not truly present apart from doing what He commanded, apart from the use, the action—in the so-called reservation of the host or otherwise.[6] (FC VII ¶108, p.588; ¶¶126-27, p. 591.

[3] “Discuss why a congregation might welcome all people to the Lord’s table. What does that invitation say about one’s understanding of Communion?” From the ELCA Study Guide, “Table and font: Who is welcome?” p. 12, question #3, available at When the Episcopalians took up this issue at their 2012 General Convention, the reaction from the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches was unanimously negative.

So the Holy Spirit is tied to a chain of hands after all?

On January 26, 2015, the first female bishop in the Church of England, the Right Rev. Libby Lane, was consecrated.

A week later, Feb 2, 2015, again in the Church of England, a traditionalist bishop, the Right Rev. Phillip North, was consecrated. Who laid hands on him? Only bishops free of the defect of ordaining women, that is, only bishops who had never laid hands on the heads of female deacons, female priests, or participated in the consecration of the first female bishop a week earlier.

Within the one Church of England there are now two distinct lines, two episcopal pedigrees – one with women deacons, priests, and bishops, and the other, a line of male bishops free of that defect. Both lines valid because they possess the one thing that cannot be tampered with – episcopal ordination by three bishops with proper pedigrees, the unbroken chain of hands.

Both sides are fuming, yet muddling through by “respecting their differences….”   Decisive is the fact that the chain of hands is unbroken.

ELCA Lutherans may chuckle at this contorted waltz, but remember that in 1999 the ELCA changed its constitution[1] to require three bishops, at least one of whom is from the US Episcopal Church, to consecrate new ELCA bishops – until full communion has been achieved. Since then ELCA Lutherans, like Episcopalians, insist on the proper pedigree for their bishops.

This 1999 constitutional change effected a seismic shift in how the Gospel works. Gone is the Lutheran confession “where and when it pleases”[2] God in those who hear the Gospel “purely preached”[3] and the sacraments celebrated according to that Gospel. Now what is non-negotiable law is the proper episcopal pedigree of ELCA bishops, the unbroken chain of hands.

[1] ELCA Constitution 10.81.01.

[2] Augsburg Confession V; Tappert, 31.

[3] Augsburg Confession VII; Tappert 32.

Clergy Fight! Does the Pope need two-thirds to win…..?

Is Pope Francis going to be able to change the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrines on divorce, contraception, and even homosexuality?

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,