Sunday, September 26, 2004

Lutheran Quiz

So, you're given three minutes in which to explain Lutheranism to someone. Where do you begin?

If you had to choose one of the following words to center your explanation around, which of the two would you choose:

grace --or-- justification

And while we're on the subject, choose one word from each of the following pairs:

Jesus or Paul
Incarnation or Crucifixion
Justification or sanctification
Sovereignty or kenosis
Old or New Testament
Christology or Pneumatology
Apocalyptic or eschatological
love or faith
joy or freedom

I'll post my own responses in one week. Probably forced dichotomies, I know, but the first one on grace & justification sparked an interesting conversation the other day, I'll explain more after I get some responses.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Why the World Won't End Over Chads and Stuff

So yesterday I stopped in at our Men's Group breakfast and Bible study, and we read Psalm 146, among other things, in which the Psalmist sings,

Psa. 146:1 Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
Psa. 146:2 I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
Psa. 146:3 Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
Psa. 146:4 When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.
Psa. 146:5 Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD their God,
Psa. 146:6 who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
Psa. 146:7 who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets the prisoners free;
Psa. 146:8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.
Psa. 146:9 The LORD watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
Psa. 146:10 The LORD will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the LORD!

I especially paid attention to verses 3 & 4, and realized I needed to chill on the whole presidential election thing. I've always disliked when our current President Bush appropriates apocalyptic Biblical language and imagery in his speeches and descriptions of his own administration and work; yet somehow along the way I bought into the same kind of language regarding the importance of this upcoming election. I've hinged a lot of my hope on Kerry-Edwards winning in 2004.

Kerry and Edwards may be relatively better leaders than Bush-Cheney (clearly I believe so), but they will not save things, they will not bring true hope, healing, an end to hunger, protection of the orphan, the widow, etc. If my rhetoric implies that the salvus of the US is dependent on the election of these two men, then my rhetoric is idolatrous.

So I confess to having placed too much trust and hope in the Democrat candidates winning in 2004. I will still vote for them come November 2nd, and I truly hope that all those who read this will consider voting for them as well, because I believe they represent a better vision for justice and equality in America- but I will not be apocalyptic about the whole thing.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Flacius & the Dragon

Since I've been having so much fun posting graphics to the blog, I thought I'd add this dragon, the history of which you can read by visiting the link above, "Flacius & the Dragon". The page is worth the visit, and the book is worth the price.

Flacius & the Dragon

Monday, September 20, 2004

Because I Can't Help It

I know, if you are reading this blog trying to find something about the Lutheran Confessions, you probably are tired of all this politics. But here's a confession of a Lutheran, not a post about the Lutheran Confessions. This speech is solid, and it is why I have to work in every public venue I know to try and convince people to vote for Kerry-Edwards in the upcoming election.

Mailed from the Kerry web site, Kerry's speech of September 20th, 2004

Dear Clint,

This election is about choices. The most important choices a president makes are about protecting America at home and around the world. A president's first obligation is to make America safer, stronger and truer to our ideals.

Three years ago, the events of September 11 reminded every American of that obligation. That day brought to our shores the defining struggle of our times: the struggle between freedom and radical fundamentalism. And it made clear that our most important task is to fight and to win the war on terrorism.

In fighting the war on terrorism, my principles are straight forward. The terrorists are beyond reason. We must destroy them. As president, I will do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, to defeat our enemies. But billions of people around the world yearning for a better life are open to America's ideals. We must reach them.

To win, America must be strong. And America must be smart. The greatest threat we face is the possibility Al Qaeda or other terrorists will get their hands on a nuclear weapon.

To prevent that from happening, we must call on the totality of America's strength -- strong alliances, to help us stop the world's most lethal weapons from falling into the most dangerous hands. A powerful military, transformed to meet the new threats of terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. And all of America's power -- our diplomacy, our intelligence system, our economic power, the appeal of our values -- each of which is critical to making America more secure and preventing a new generation of terrorists from emerging.

National security is a central issue in this campaign. We owe it to the American people to have a real debate about the choices President Bush has made and the choices I would make to fight and win the war on terror.

That means we must have a great honest national debate on Iraq. The president claims it is the centerpiece of his war on terror. In fact, Iraq was a profound diversion from that war and the battle against our greatest enemy, Osama bin Laden and the terrorists. Invading Iraq has created a crisis of historic proportions and, if we do not change course, there is the prospect of a war with no end in sight.

This month, we passed a cruel milestone: more than 1,000 Americans lost in Iraq. Their sacrifice reminds us that Iraq remains, overwhelmingly, an American burden. Nearly 90 percent of the troops -- and nearly 90 percent of the casualties -- are American. Despite the president's claims, this is not a grand coalition.

Our troops have served with extraordinary bravery, skill and resolve. Their service humbles all of us. When I speak to them when I look into the eyes of their families, I know this: we owe them the truth about what we have asked them to do and what is still to be done.

In June, the president declared, "The Iraqi people have their country back." Just last week, he told us: "This country is headed toward democracy. Freedom is on the march."

But the administration's own official intelligence estimate, given to the president last July, tells a very different story.

According to press reports, the intelligence estimate totally contradicts what the president is saying to the American people.

So do the facts on the ground.

Security is deteriorating, for us and for the Iraqis.

42 Americans died in Iraq in June -- the month before the handover. But 54 died in July -- 66 in August and already 54 halfway through September.

And more than 1,100 Americans were wounded in August -- more than in any other month since the invasion.

We are fighting a growing insurgency in an ever widening war-zone. In March, insurgents attacked our forces 700 times. In August, they attacked 2,700 times -- a 400% increase.

Falluja, Ramadi, Samarra, even parts of Baghdad -- are now "no go zones" -- breeding grounds for terrorists who are free to plot and launch attacks against our soldiers. The radical Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, who is accused of complicity in the murder of Americans, holds more sway in the suburbs of Baghdad.

Violence against Iraqis from bombings to kidnappings to intimidation is on the rise.

Basic living conditions are also deteriorating.

Residents of Baghdad are suffering electricity blackouts lasting up to 14 hours a day.

Raw sewage fills the streets, rising above the hubcaps of our Humvees. Children wade through garbage on their way to school.

Unemployment is over 50 percent. Insurgents are able to find plenty of people willing to take $150 for tossing grenades at passing U.S. convoys.

Yes, there has been some progress, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of our soldiers and civilians in Iraq. Schools, shops and hospitals have been opened. In parts of Iraq, normalcy actually prevails.

But most Iraqis have lost faith in our ability to deliver meaningful improvements to their lives. So they're sitting on the fence instead of siding with us against the insurgents.

That is the truth -- the truth that the commander in chief owes to our troops and the American people.

It is never easy to discuss what has gone wrong while our troops are in constant danger. But it's essential if we want to correct our course and do what's right for our troops instead of repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

I know this dilemma first-hand. After serving in war, I returned home to offer my own personal voice of dissent. I did so because I believed strongly that we owed it those risking their lives to speak truth to power. We still do.

Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in hell. But that was not, in itself, a reason to go to war. The satisfaction we take in his downfall does not hide this fact: we have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure.

The president has said that he "miscalculated" in Iraq and that it was a "catastrophic success." In fact, the president has made a series of catastrophic decisions from the beginning in Iraq. At every fork in the road, he has taken the wrong turn and led us in the wrong direction.

The first and most fundamental mistake was the president's failure to tell the truth to the American people.

He failed to tell the truth about the rationale for going to war. And he failed to tell the truth about the burden this war would impose on our soldiers and our citizens.

By one count, the president offered 23 different rationales for this war. If his purpose was to confuse and mislead the American people, he succeeded.

His two main rationales -- weapons of mass destruction and the Al Qaeda/September 11 connection -- have been proved false by the president's own weapons inspectors and by the 9/11 Commission. Just last week, Secretary of State Powell acknowledged the facts. Only Vice President Cheney still insists that the earth is flat.

The president also failed to level with the American people about what it would take to prevail in Iraq.

He didn't tell us that well over 100,000 troops would be needed, for years, not months. He didn't tell us that he wouldn't take the time to assemble a broad and strong coalition of allies. He didn't tell us that the cost would exceed $200 billion. He didn't tell us that even after paying such a heavy price, success was far from assured.

And America will pay an even heavier price for the president's lack of candor.

At home, the American people are less likely to trust this administration if it needs to summon their support to meet real and pressing threats to our security.

Abroad, other countries will be reluctant to follow America when we seek to rally them against a common menace -- as they are today. Our credibility in the world has plummeted.

In the dark days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy sent former Secretary of State Dean Acheson to Europe to build support. Acheson explained the situation to French President de Gaulle. Then he offered to show him highly classified satellite photos, as proof. De Gaulle waved the photos away, saying: "The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me."

How many world leaders have that same trust in America's president, today?

This president's failure to tell the truth to us before the war has been exceeded by fundamental errors of judgment during and after the war.

The president now admits to "miscalculations" in Iraq.

That is one of the greatest understatements in recent American history. His were not the equivalent of accounting errors. They were colossal failures of judgment -- and judgment is what we look for in a president.

This is all the more stunning because we're not talking about 20/20 hindsight. Before the war, before he chose to go to war, bi-partisan Congressional hearings... major outside studies... and even some in the administration itself... predicted virtually every problem we now face in Iraq.

This president was in denial. He hitched his wagon to the ideologues who surround him, filtering out those who disagreed, including leaders of his own party and the uniformed military. The result is a long litany of misjudgments with terrible consequences.

The administration told us we'd be greeted as liberators. They were wrong.

They told us not to worry about looting or the sorry state of Iraq's infrastructure. They were wrong.

They told us we had enough troops to provide security and stability, defeat the insurgents, guard the borders and secure the arms depots. They were wrong.

They told us we could rely on exiles like Ahmed Chalabi to build political legitimacy. They were wrong.

They told us we would quickly restore an Iraqi civil service to run the country and a police force and army to secure it. They were wrong.

In Iraq, this administration has consistently over-promised and under-performed. This policy has been plagued by a lack of planning, an absence of candor, arrogance and outright incompetence. And the president has held no one accountable, including himself.

In fact, the only officials who lost their jobs over Iraq were the ones who told the truth.

General Shinseki said it would take several hundred thousand troops to secure Iraq. He was retired. Economic adviser Larry Lindsey said that Iraq would cost as much as $200 billion. He was fired. After the successful entry into Baghdad, George Bush was offered help from the UN -- and he rejected it. He even prohibited any nation from participating in reconstruction efforts that wasn't part of the original coalition -- pushing reluctant countries even farther away. As we continue to fight this war almost alone, it is hard to estimate how costly that arrogant decision was. Can anyone seriously say this president has handled Iraq in a way that makes us stronger in the war on terrorism?

By any measure, the answer is no. Nuclear dangers have mounted across the globe. The international terrorist club has expanded. Radicalism in the Middle East is on the rise. We have divided our friends and united our enemies. And our standing in the world is at an all time low.

Think about it for a minute. Consider where we were... and where we are. After the events of September 11, we had an opportunity to bring our country and the world together in the struggle against the terrorists. On September 12, headlines in newspapers abroad declared "we are all Americans now." But through his policy in Iraq, the president squandered that moment and rather than isolating the terrorists, left America isolated from the world.

We now know that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and posed no imminent threat to our security. It had not, as the vice president claimed, "reconstituted nuclear weapons."

The president's policy in Iraq took our attention and resources away from other, more serious threats to America.

Threats like North Korea, which actually has weapons of mass destruction, including a nuclear arsenal, and is building more under this president's watch -- the emerging nuclear danger from Iran -- the tons and kilotons of unsecured chemical and nuclear weapons in Russia -- and the increasing instability in Afghanistan.

Today, warlords again control much of that country, the Taliban is regrouping, opium production is at an all time high and the Al Qaeda leadership still plots and plans, not only there but in 60 other nations. Instead of using U.S. forces, we relied on the warlords to capture Osama bin Laden when he was cornered in the mountains. He slipped away. We then diverted our focus and forces from the hunt for those responsible for September 11 in order invade Iraq.

We know Iraq played no part in September 11 and had no operational ties to Al Qaeda.

The president's policy in Iraq precipitated the very problem he said he was trying to prevent. Secretary of State Powell admits that Iraq was not a magnet for international terrorists before the war. Now it is, and they are operating against our troops. Iraq is becoming a sanctuary for a new generation of terrorists who someday could hit the United States.

We know that while Iraq was a source of friction, it was not previously a source of serious disagreement with our allies in Europe and countries in the Muslim world.

The president's policy in Iraq divided our oldest alliance and sent our standing in the Muslim world into free fall. Three years after 9/11, even in many moderate Muslim countries like Jordan, Morocco, and Turkey, Osama bin Laden is more popular than the United States of America.

Let me put it plainly: The president's policy in Iraq has not strengthened our national security. It has weakened it.

Two years ago, Congress was right to give the president the authority to use force to hold Saddam Hussein accountable. This president, any president would have needed the threat of force to act effectively. This president misused that authority.

The power entrusted to the president gave him a strong hand to play in the international community. The idea was simple. We would get the weapons inspectors back in to verify whether or not Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. And we would convince the world to speak with one voice to Saddam: disarm or be disarmed.

A month before the war, President Bush told the nation: "If we have to act, we will take every precaution that is possible. We will plan carefully. We will act with the full power of the United States military. We will act with allies at our side and we will prevail." He said that military action wasn't "unavoidable."

Instead, the president rushed to war without letting the weapons inspectors finish their work. He went without a broad and deep coalition of allies. He acted without making sure our troops had enough body armor. And he plunged ahead without understanding or preparing for the consequences of the post-war. None of which I would have done.

Yet today, President Bush tells us that he would do everything all over again, the same way. How can he possibly be serious? Is he really saying that if we knew there were no imminent threat, no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to Al Qaeda, the United States should have invaded Iraq? My answer is no -- because a commander in chief's first responsibility is to make a wise and responsible decision to keep America safe.

Now the president, in looking for a new reason, tries to hang his hat on the "capability" to acquire weapons. But that was not the reason given to the nation; it was not the reason Congress voted on; it's not a reason, it's an excuse. Thirty-five to forty countries have greater capability to build a nuclear bomb than Iraq did in 2003. Is President Bush saying we should invade them?

I would have concentrated our power and resources on defeating global terrorism and capturing or killing Osama bin Laden. I would have tightened the noose and continued to pressure and isolate Saddam Hussein -- who was weak and getting weaker -- so that he would pose no threat to the region or America.

The president's insistence that he would do the same thing all over again in Iraq is a clear warning for the future. And it makes the choice in this election clear: more of the same with President Bush or a new direction that makes our troops and America safer. It is time, at long last, to ask the questions and insist on the answers from the commander in chief about his serious misjudgments and what they tell us about his administration and the president himself. If George W. Bush is re-elected, he will cling to the same failed policies in Iraq -- and he will repeat, somewhere else, the same reckless mistakes that have made America less secure than we can or should be.

In Iraq, we have a mess on our hands. But we cannot throw up our hands. We cannot afford to see Iraq become a permanent source of terror that will endanger America's security for years to come.

All across this country people ask me what we should do now. Every step of the way, from the time I first spoke about this in the Senate, I have set out specific recommendations about how we should and should not proceed. But over and over, when this administration has been presented with a reasonable alternative, they have rejected it and gone their own way. This is stubborn incompetence.

Five months ago, in Fulton, Missouri, I said that the president was close to his last chance to get it right. Every day, this president makes it more difficult to deal with Iraq -- harder than it was five months ago, harder than it was a year ago. It is time to recognize what is -- and what is not -- happening in Iraq today. And we must act with urgency.

Just this weekend, a leading Republican, Chuck Hagel, said we're "in deep trouble in Iraq ... it doesn't add up ... to a pretty picture [and] ... we're going to have to look at a recalibration of our policy." Republican leaders like Dick Lugar and John McCain have offered similar assessments.

We need to turn the page and make a fresh start in Iraq.

First, the president has to get the promised international support so our men and women in uniform don't have to go it alone. It is late; the president must respond by moving this week to gain and regain international support.

Last spring, after too many months of resistance and delay, the president finally went back to the U.N. which passed Resolution 1546. It was the right thing to do -- but it was late.

That resolution calls on U.N. members to help in Iraq by providing troops, trainers for Iraq's security forces, a special brigade to protect the U.N. mission, more financial assistance, and real debt relief.

Three months later, not a single country has answered that call. And the president acts as if it doesn't matter.

And of the $13 billion previously pledged to Iraq by other countries, only $1.2 billion has been delivered.

The president should convene a summit meeting of the world's major powers and Iraq's neighbors, this week, in New York, where many leaders will attend the U.N. General Assembly. He should insist that they make good on that U.N. resolution. He should offer potential troop contributors specific, but critical roles, in training Iraqi security personnel and securing Iraq's borders. He should give other countries a stake in Iraq's future by encouraging them to help develop Iraq's oil resources and by letting them bid on contracts instead of locking them out of the reconstruction process.

This will be difficult. I and others have repeatedly recommended this from the very beginning. Delay has made only made it harder. After insulting allies and shredding alliances, this president may not have the trust and confidence to bring others to our side in Iraq. But we cannot hope to succeed unless we rebuild and lead strong alliances so that other nations share the burden with us. That is the only way to succeed.

Second, the president must get serious about training Iraqi security forces.

Last February, Secretary Rumsfeld claimed that more than 210,000 Iraqis were in uniform. Two weeks ago, he admitted that claim was exaggerated by more than 50 percent. Iraq, he said, now has 95,000 trained security forces.

But guess what? Neither number bears any relationship to the truth. For example, just 5,000 Iraqi soldiers have been fully trained, by the administration's own minimal standards. And of the 35,000 police now in uniform, not one has completed a 24-week field-training program. Is it any wonder that Iraqi security forces can't stop the insurgency or provide basic law and order?

The president should urgently expand the security forces training program inside and outside Iraq. He should strengthen the vetting of recruits, double classroom training time, and require follow-on field training. He should recruit thousands of qualified trainers from our allies, especially those who have no troops in Iraq. He should press our NATO allies to open training centers in their countries. And he should stop misleading the American people with phony, inflated numbers.

Third, the president must carry out a reconstruction plan that finally brings tangible benefits to the Iraqi people.

Last week, the administration admitted that its plan was a failure when it asked Congress for permission to radically revise spending priorities in Iraq. It took 17 months for them to understand that security is a priority, 17 months to figure out that boosting oil production is critical, 17 months to conclude that an Iraqi with a job is less likely to shoot at our soldiers.

One year ago, the administration asked for and received $18 billion to help the Iraqis and relieve the conditions that contribute to the insurgency. Today, less than a $1 billion of those funds have actually been spent. I said at the time that we had to rethink our policies and set standards of accountability. Now we're paying the price.

Now, the president should look at the whole reconstruction package, draw up a list of high visibility, quick impact projects, and cut through the red tape. He should use more Iraqi contractors and workers, instead of big corporations like Halliburton. He should stop paying companies under investigation for fraud or corruption. And he should fire the civilians in the Pentagon responsible for mismanaging the reconstruction effort.

Fourth, the president must take immediate, urgent, essential steps to guarantee the promised elections can be held next year.

Credible elections are key to producing an Iraqi government that enjoys the support of the Iraqi people and an assembly to write a Constitution that yields a viable power sharing arrangement.

Because Iraqis have no experience holding free and fair elections, the president agreed six months ago that the U.N. must play a central role. Yet today, just four months before Iraqis are supposed to go to the polls, the U.N. Secretary General and administration officials themselves say the elections are in grave doubt. Because the security situation is so bad and because not a single country has offered troops to protect the U.N. elections mission, the U.N. has less than 25 percent of the staff it needs in Iraq to get the job done.

The president should recruit troops from our friends and allies for a U.N. protection force. This won't be easy. But even countries that refused to put boots on the ground in Iraq should still help protect the U.N. We should also intensify the training of Iraqis to manage and guard the polling places that need to be opened. Otherwise, U.S forces would end up bearing those burdens alone.

If the president would move in this direction, if he would bring in more help from other countries to provide resources and forces, train the Iraqis to provide their own security, develop a reconstruction plan that brings real benefits to the Iraqi people, and take the steps necessary to hold credible elections next year -- we could begin to withdraw U.S. forces starting next summer and realistically aim to bring all our troops home within the next four years.

This is what has to be done. This is what I would do as president today. But we cannot afford to wait until January. President Bush owes it to the American people to tell the truth and put Iraq on the right track. Even more, he owes it to our troops and their families, whose sacrifice is a testament to the best of America.

The principles that should guide American policy in Iraq now and in the future are clear: We must make Iraq the world's responsibility, because the world has a stake in the outcome and others should share the burden. We must effectively train Iraqis, because they should be responsible for their own security. We must move forward with reconstruction, because that's essential to stop the spread of terror. And we must help Iraqis achieve a viable government, because it's up to them to run their own country. That's the right way to get the job done and bring our troops home.

On May 1 of last year, President Bush stood in front of a now infamous banner that read "Mission Accomplished." He declared to the American people: "In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed." In fact, the worst part of the war was just beginning, with the greatest number of American casualties still to come. The president misled, miscalculated, and mismanaged every aspect of this undertaking and he has made the achievement of our objective -- a stable Iraq, secure within its borders, with a representative government, harder to achieve.

In Iraq, this administration's record is filled with bad predictions, inaccurate cost estimates, deceptive statements and errors of judgment of historic proportions.

At every critical juncture in Iraq, and in the war on terrorism, the president has made the wrong choice. I have a plan to make America stronger.

The president often says that in a post 9/11 world, we can't hesitate to act. I agree. But we should not act just for the sake of acting. I believe we have to act wisely and responsibly.

George Bush has no strategy for Iraq. I do.

George Bush has not told the truth to the American people about why we went to war and how the war is going. I have and I will continue to do so.

I believe the invasion of Iraq has made us less secure and weaker in the war against terrorism. I have a plan to fight a smarter, more effective war on terror -- and make us safer.

Today, because of George Bush's policy in Iraq, the world is a more dangerous place for America and Americans.

If you share my conviction that we can not go on as we are that we can make America stronger and safer than it is then November 2 is your chance to speak and to be heard. It is not a question of staying the course, but of changing the course.

I'm convinced that with the right leadership, we can create a fresh start and move more effectively to accomplish our goals. Our troops have served with extraordinary courage and commitment. For their sake, and America's sake, we must get this right. We must do everything in our power to complete the mission and make America stronger at home and respected again in the world.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

John Kerry

Dash helps me lighten up

This is a Photoshop (en)lightened photo posted previously. Thanks Dash!

Dash helps me lighten up

Bush vs. Jesus

Bush vs. Jesus

Saturday, September 18, 2004

The New Church in Kosice

Two Sundays ago I had the opportunity to worship and preach at the new Lutheran congregation in Kosice, Slovakia. For much of the recent past, Lutherans had one church in which they could worship in Kosice, the city church downtown. Often things were standing room only, even with multiple Sunday morning services, so the new church up on the hill provides an alternative to the "suburban" community of KVP. Suburbs means something quite different in Kosice- not individual dream houses, but rather panelaky, tall eleven story strucutures in which thousands of the residents of Kosice, along with many millions of people in eastern Europe, abide.

The city of Kosice decided that they would like to have an ecumenical center in KVP, so they provided plots of land for worship space for a number of the churches in the area, including Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Roman Catholic, and Lutheran. The Catholics and Orthodox have already built their churches, but the Lutherans are awaiting the final go-ahead for their groundbreaking.

In the meantime, Ondrej, my friend and colleage in ministry, has been pastoring the newly established congregation in KVP, and they meet in the Biely Dom (White House), the regional capitol building. The irony of their meeting in this place, aside from the strangeness (for an American) of having worship in a government office building, is that the meeting hall in which they worship was a major meeting hall for Communist leaders prior to 1989. The room formerly used by Communists is now on Sunday mornings regularly used for Communion! This irony was not lost on some parishioners, but Ondrej seems to be happy about it, at least from the symbolic side of things, and is especially happy to have a central and comfortable space in which to gather for worship.

There are many things different about Slovak church life from the perspective of an American pastor, including ideas about stewardship and giving, the role of the pastor in the community, etc., and yet at the same time, when Ondrej and I spent the afternoon walking and talking, we found and always find so many things that unite us- how to faithfully respond to the modern demand for the reform of the liturgy, what it means for the church to be "in the community", these questions are eminently on both our minds.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Archbishop Williams: Christians and Moslems

Archbishop Rowan Williams gave this speech in the principle mosque of Cairo, Egypt. In it he urges Moslems and Christians to look at what they share and what they don't in their views on God.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Scripture and Tradition: A Lutheran/Orthodox Joint Statement

4th Plenary of the Lutheran-Orthodox Joint Commission
27 May - 4 June 1987, Crete/ Greece


1. The divine revelation in the Old and in the New Testament of the saving intervention of God (oikonomia), consummated in the person of Jesus Christ, is communicated to the world through the operation of the Holy Spirit. This saving intervention of God through the Son in the Holy Spirit is the essence of the "euangelion" of salvation.

2. The word of God made known to the prophets is revealed to us through the incarnation, the life and teaching, the passion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ and the sending of his Spirit at Pentecost. By all this Jesus Christ accomplished and secured the unity of the testaments and the continuity of the once and for all offering of his body and blood for our salvation and his abiding presence with us to the end of the ages. Therefore, the "euangelion" of salvation, to which holy scriptures bears witness, is not simply speech from or about God but the hypostatic Word of God incarnate. This "euangelion" of Jesus Christ, which by the operation of the Holy Spirit is communicated to us by the church to the end of the ages, is the holy Tradition.

3. The holy Tradition is the authentic expression of divine revelation in the living experience of the church, the body of the Word incarnate. The church in its sacraments and spiritual life transmits this "euangelion" of our salvation through the operation of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, apostolic faith is not only a matter of proclamation but an incarnate faith (Heb. 11:1,; enhypostatos pistis, Maximus Confessor, Quaestiones 25, PG 90, 336D) in the church.

4. This "euangelion"of salvation is the content of the holy Tradition, preserved, confessed and transmitted in scripture, in the lives of the saints in all ages, and in the conciliar tradition of the church.

5. The Orthodox and the Lutheran churches have the same Bible, comprising the Old and New Testament, but the following ten books of the Old Testament have varying degrees of authority in our churches: Judith, 1 Ezra, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, 3 Maccabees, Tobit, Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom of Solomon, Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah. In the future we will have to discuss the problem of the canon in more detail.

6. The same triune God is revealed in the Old and in fullness in the New Testament. The Old Testament contains God's unconditional promise of salvation, and the New Testament contains its fulfilment in Christ through the Holy Spirit. Both Testaments reveal God's judgment of the sin inside and outside God's people and God's saving grace in Christ. Holy scripture, being the work of the Holy Spirit in holy Tradition, has as criterion for its true understanding Jesus Christ himself in the life and teaching of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

7. The revelation of God, even as contained in scripture, transcends all verbal expressions. It is hidden from all creatures, especially from sinful human beings (palaios anthropos). Its true meaning is revealed only through the Holy Spirit in the living experience of salvation, which is accomplished in the church through the Christian life. This catholic experience of salvation in the church is at the same time the only authentic expression of the true understanding of the word of God.

8. The holy Tradition as ongoing action of the Holy Spirit in the church expresses itself in the church's whole life. The decisions of the ecumenical councils and local synods of the church, the teaching of the holy fathers and liturgical texts and rites are especially important and authoritative expressions of this manifold action of the Holy Spirit. However, not every synod claiming to be orthodox, not every teaching of an ecclesiastical writer, not all rites are expressions of the holy Tradition, if they are not accepted by the whole church. They may be only human traditions, lacking the presence of the Holy Spirit. That is why the problem of the criteria for determination of the presence of the holy Tradition in the traditions of the churches is of great importance and needs further study.

9. Therefore, those church decisions which have been received by the catholic church as true expressions of the intent of the holy scripture can be considered authentic criteria of the church's faith and its confession (cf. Vincent of LĂ©rins, Commonitorium, 2,3; PL 50, 640). The church's doctrinal definitions which confess the holy Trinity and God's saving act in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit are guidelines for defending truth against falsehood. Proclaiming, confessing and living in Christ, the church communicates the mystery of God's revelation. The church's doctrinal statements are rooted in its whole spiritual life and at the same time are shaped by it. As St. Basil affirmed about holy scripture and holy Tradition: "... regarding the true faith, both of these have the same value" (St Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, XXVII, 66, PG 32, 188A). In another place St Basil argued for the formula "the glory is common to the Father and to the Son" (he doxa koine Patri kai Hyio) first on the basis of some of the fathers; then he continued: "But it is not sufficient for us that it is a tradition of the fathers. For even they followed the intent (boulema) of the scriptures because they have used as principles the testimonies of the scriptures as mentioned shortly before (St Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, VII,16; PG 32,96).

10. The function of holy scriptures is to serve the authenticity of the church's living experience in safeguarding the holy Tradition from all attempts to falsify the true faith (cf. Heb. 4:12, etc.), not to undermine the authority of the church, the body of Christ.

11. Regarding the relation of scripture and Tradition, for centuries there seemed to have been a deep difference between Orthodox and Lutheran teaching. Orthodox hear with satisfaction the affirmation of the Lutheran theologians that the formula "sola scriptura" was always intended to point to God's revelation, God's saving act through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, and therefore to the holy Tradition of the church, as expressed in this paper, against human traditions that darken the authentic teaching in the church.

12. Pointing to scripture is pointing to the "euangelion" of salvation, to Christ and therefore to the holy Tradition which is the life of the church, to act as criterion of its authenticity and so to stress the church's unity and catholicity for the joyful common praise of the triune God.


Monday, September 06, 2004

Hildegard of Bingen

This is a site that has some of Hildegard's hymns in Latin and English translation. I have only known Hildegard's writing for a year now and am amazed at the depth of her theological mind and its originality. In the introduction to her Scivias in the Classics of Western Spirituality series, Barbara J. Newman writes: "If Hildegard had been a male theologian, her Scivias would undoubtebly have been considered one of the most important early medieval summas" (p. 23) . You may also find more of her hymns here. I have yet to find an espeically striking hymn on the Spirit to link for you. She writes about the "Spirit giver of life" as the "greening Spirit." Her reflections on creation, the church, the Trinity, the sacraments, the virtues, and covers more ground than you might imagine. The Scivias, the center of a triology of her theological works, is a little hard to read for a post-Peter Lombard like myself. The order of her writing and comments follow her biblical and liturgical vision, not an organised series of topics. Or do they?

Religion Texts Online

While trying to locate an in-print copy of Bultmann, Jesus and the Word, I found that the whole thing is available here. Many other texts are here as well. This is, obviously, a happy thing. The huge downside is that there are no page numbers in most of the texts! Happily, with the existence of such blessed publishers as Wipf & Stock, instructors in theology can still obtain reproductions of long unavailable texts.

It is surprising to me that Bultmann's Jesus and the Word is out of print. The original German title is just Jesus and that seems to suit it better. Remarkable little book. It was the first or second in a serious entitled "The Immortals" profiling great figures of history.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

New Renewing Worship Holy Communion available

How One Shouldn't Preach Justification but Law and Promise

While Clint is away, I am keeping things going. This is an older Crossings Community article from early this year by Dr. Ed Schroeder. Clint has been talking with the folks over at Here We Stand about the difference between doctrine and doctrine, so I thought I'd toss in someone else's $.02. I remember seeing something on the Pontificator about this matter as well. As they say these days in TGIF's and other restaurants, Enjoy!