Sunday, May 31, 2009

This is what education is all about?

(photo from the satirical film Idiocracy)

This article tells of a group of college students from Loyola University in New Orleans who:
won first-place in the Bateman Case Study Competition. The competition, which is organized by the Public Relations Student Society of America, required teams to create a full-scale campaign for the Consumer Bankers Association. The Loyola team's project, "The Bling Starts Here," focused on the correlation between attending college and maximizing your earning potential.
How sad!

Nothing against these college students, but what an indictment of our culture, of higher education, and of the Jesuit Order that runs Loyola University.

It goes without saying that "Bling" is a slang word for jewelry - usually carrying the connotation of gaudy, trashy, and over the top. So, in order to attract young people to get a college education, it is now necessary to induce them with naked greed as personified by shallowness and a lack of class. Notice that there isn't even the pretense of learning to think critically, to be leaders in the community, to be socially refined and educated. No, it's all about having a chain the size of shackles and a big shiny hood ornament around one's neck.

And what about the Jesuits! Loyola is a Christian institution run by the fathers and brothers of the Society of Jesus - which has a long and impressive history of educating - truly educating people - largely for service to the church and to the community. But there is nothing here regarding the Christian concept of vocation nor of service. St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, adopted the motto: Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam ("For the greater glory of God"). But we see none of that here, rather it's all about "bling": materialism, showiness, vapidity, and a lack of refinement.

We are quickly becoming the America of Idiocracy.

Sermon: Pentecost and Confirmation of Guy Caronna, Alexis Hepting, and Cameron Hunt

31 May 2009 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 14:23-31 (Gen 11:1-9, Acts 2:1-21)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

We may be tempted to ask what the Tower of Babel has to do with us today. This was more than four thousand years ago, halfway across the world, at a time when people wrote with wedges on clay tablets, and the latest technological breakthrough was the brick.

But every time you place your ATM card in the slot, and the microprocessor asks you if you want Spanish or English, that is evidence that we are still reeling from the effects of the Tower of Babel.

Our three confirmands have all studied Latin at Salem Lutheran School, and it is likely that all three will study yet another language in high school.

If you have ever been frustrated in trying to communicate with a foreigner, or better yet, if you have been the foreigner yourself, confused and confounded, you have felt the effects of the sins of our ancestors.

And their sin was placing technology ahead of the worship of the true God. It is a sin that manifests itself today in many ways, from playing God through genetic engineering, to seeing life as nothing more than a rat-race to collect more toys and electronic gadgets. We are still Babylonians today, even though we have indeed been dispersed “over the face of all the earth.”

But two thousand years ago, on Pentecost Sunday, fifty days after our Lord’s resurrection, the Lord God took a mighty step to finally rid mankind of Babel’s curse. And in fact, on that one miraculous Sunday, God the Holy Spirit gave us all a glimpse into the paradise to come, a heavenly home where diversity of tribe and tongue are no impediment to unity and fellowship.

That Pentecost Sunday fulfilled the prophecy of Joel: the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, prophecies, visions, and dreams; wonders, signs, and finally, horrific cosmic happenings preceding the Lord’s return. But the final, most miraculous thing of all is mentioned at the very end: “and it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Salvation through calling upon God’s name is the most glorious, the very pinnacle, the greatest manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Salvation is the Spirit’s most wondrous work of all – calling us to be rescued from sin and death according to the will of the Father through the sacrifice of the Son.

“Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Today, on this day of celebration of the Holy Spirit’s coming in power among us, the Holy Christian Church on earth, we will witness three young people calling upon the name of the Lord. They will profess what they have been taught, they will confess what they believe, and they will promise what they will do about it. They will take solemn vows to remain faithful unto death, and they will do so fully empowered by God the Holy Spirit.

Guy, Alexis, and Cameron, you will also be taking the most holy sacrament of the Altar today. You know and confess what it is: the very body and blood of God the Son, Jesus Christ. And you have also explained to me that this sacrament forgives your sins and strengthens your faith. If you wander away from the sacrament, your faith will weaken, and you may even cease calling upon the name of the Lord. But if you remain faithful even in your weakness, the Lord will remain faithful even in His strength.

My responsibility as your pastor is to pray for you, to call you to faithfulness, and to forgive your sins. Your parents’ obligation at this point, as you move into young adulthood, will increasingly be to advise you, to grace you with their wisdom, and to teach you how to be Christian men and women. This congregation’s calling is to pray for you, encourage you in the faith, and to stand side by side with you as brothers and sisters in Christ.

We all speak the English language, but we suffer from the sin of divisions – whether based on ethnicity, what neighborhoods we live in, how much education we have, or what generation we are part of. But in the Church, we speak one language, we share one culture, we have a common musical heritage, we have a common language of liturgy prayer that unites us, we have a shared formation in God’s Word, and an equality of unworthiness according to our sins, but a shared worthiness through Jesus Christ.

Thanks to the Holy Spirit, we are indeed a united family even when we seem to be a divided and petty groups of babblers who worship technology.

When the languages were first confused, the people were dispersed. But curiously, when the miracle of tongues happened, the people were also dispersed – this time not as a punishment, but as a calling to spread the gospel.

You three are going in different directions, to different schools. Your lives may eventually even take you to different continents. You may speak different languages in the future. And this may well be the Lord’s will for you to be his witnesses unto the ends of the earth. And whether you end up living in West Africa, Western Europe, or on the West Bank, you have been deemed a holy people, bonded to your brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world, called by the Holy Spirit within your confession of the Christian faith. When you take the sacrament anywhere in the world, you take it with all of us.

The Holy Spirit has been sent to you as an act of love. Jesus calls Him the Helper. He is there to comfort you, to strengthen you, to keep you in the faith, and to protect you – no matter where you are or will be. He is there to point you to Christ, to the cross, and to the holy sacraments. He is there to keep you in His Word, for as Jesus says: “The word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”

Our Lord has promised all of us Christians: “He [the Holy Spirit] will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” You may stumble over calling to mind the exact words of the catechism – though I cannot stress to you enough its importance. But the Holy Spirit promises to “bring to your remembrance” these words of our dear Lord: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Sadly, many people miss out on this peace, this blessed assurance, by falling away from the faith after they have been confirmed and take communion for the first time. But the most important communion isn’t the first one, but the last one, the ongoing eternal communion we have with God.

The Holy Spirit beings you the very peace of the Lord, the same peace he spoke to the disciples after His resurrection, the same peace symbolized by the dove carrying the olive branch to Noah, and the peace of the dove that hovered over the baptismal waters of our Lord.

We baptized Christians have that peace that passes all understanding. And you confirmands are here this day to claim that peace by confessing the faith, by receiving a blessing, and by taking the holy sacrament of the Lord’s body and blood.

The curse of Babel has been rolled back. The peace of God is yours. The presence of the Holy Spirit is given to all the baptized, and “it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Why Church is Not Entertainment

HT: Rev Aaron Koch

Consider the above plea in context with all of the fluff in this video (and frankly, you'll see a lot of the same fluff in many LCMS contexts) over and against traditionalism in doctrine, preaching, and liturgy.

Our pastors in the LCMS were, nearly to a man, trained at one or the other of two of the finest Lutheran seminaries in the world (by brilliant theologians, preachers, and men of pastoral hearts). How can these men who have been so well trained see their calling as to be some kind of entertainers? How can our district and synodical officials seek to move us in the direction of becoming contemporary clowns and parodies of real pastors?

We pastors would do well to soberly remember that each and every time we enter a pulpit or ascend an altar that the sermon we preach and the sacrament we administer may well be the last of someone's life in this fallen world.

There is indeed a time for clowning around - but the Divine Service isn't that time.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Peter Schiff the Optomist?

Boy, you know things are getting weird when Peter Schiff goes on a TV interview with another guest and is actually the more optimistic of the two.

Does our government know what they are doing to us (in which case they are acting in a completely unethical way) or are they simply that ignorant of the basic laws of economics (in which case they are absolutely stupid)?

And what would be the best scenario: evil or just in over their heads?

Either way, people might want to protect themselves as best they can. I think we're in for a bumpy ride.

Outstanding Lutheran Video

As we say in the South: "Hey y'all, watch this!"

This is a new YouTube video produced by Grace Lutheran Church is in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Grace Lutheran's pastor, Rev. Mason Beecroft, along with having what may be to coolest name of any Lutheran pastor, is a really a bright, faithful, articulate and caring pastor.

This is really a well-done video that not only points out, but celebrates, the contrast that traditional, liturgical Lutheranism offers in a transient fad-driven rapidly-changing culture. It also shows that even in the buckle of the Bible belt, it is possible to be faithful to our Lutheran confession that:
"In our churches Mass is celebrated every Sunday and on other festivals when the sacrament is offered to those who wish for it after they have been examined and absolved. We keep traditional liturgical forms, such as the order of the lessons, prayers, vestments, etc." (Apology of the Augsburg Confession 24:1)
Pastor Beecroft and his parishioners are living proof that these are not just idle words, dusty and meaningless relics of a bygone age, but are part of a living, breathing, vibrant confession of a faith that is as fresh today as when it was founded by our Lord and handed over to the apostles. Long after coffeehouse "churches" have had to become tea houses, day spas, mini golf courses, bowling alleys, and line dancing studios (or whatever the latest and greatest desperate fads to keep people in a "church" will be over the years) - I suspect (and hope and pray) that Grace Lutheran Church in Tulsa, Okalahoma will continue to bring the very Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ to those of every age, race, and background to confess, receive forgiveness, pray, praise, and give thanks together - century after century, without gimmicks and without guile.

Well done, Father Mason and our brothers and sisters in Tulsa! (I have family in Tulsa, and I certainly know where to go to church when I'm in town).

And here is a nice bit of background about Grace Lutheran Church from the Brothers of John the Steadfast.

There are also a couple other videos out there as well, here and here.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Naked Eye vs. Faith

The above performance of "Naked Eye" by The Who is from their 1982 "farewell" tour. Of course, it was only one of many "farewell" tours. I was at their stop in Cleveland. Was that really 27 years ago?

"Naked Eye" is one of those songs that always sounds better live. And for any interested Whostorians (as opposed to Nestorians?) out there, here are a couple other versions taken from live shows: 1970 (as young men in their 20s) and in 2007 (as senior citizens in their 60s).

There is something rather Augustinian in these haunting lyrics: the idea that the sinful desires of the flesh actually distort our perception of reality, and ultimately, giving reign to these lusts never satisfies, because they are rooted in falsehood. Though it all looks fine, things aren't as they appear. We know right from wrong, but we deceive ourselves. And though we aren't pawns, there is indeed One who has the power to move all of us.

Naked Eye by Peter Townshend

Take a little dope
And walk out in the air
The stars are all connected to the brain.
Find me a woman and lay down on the ground,
Her pleasure comes falling down like rain,
Get myself a car, I feel power as I fly,
Oh now I'm really in control,
It all looks fine to the naked eye,
But it don't really happen that way at all,
Don't happen that way at all.

You sign your own name and I sign mine,
They're both the same but we still get separate rooms,
You can cover up your guts but when you cover up your nuts,
You're admitting that there must be something wrong,
Press any button and milk and honey flows,
The world begins behind your neighbor's wall,
It all looks fine to the naked eye,
But it don't really happen that way at all,
Nah nah no, don't happen that way at all.

You hold the gun and I hold the wound,
And we stand looking in each other's eyes,
Both think we know what's right,
Both know we know what's wrong,
We tell ourselves so many many many lies,
We're not pawns in any game, we're not tools of bigger men,
There's only one who can really move us all,
It all looks fine to the naked eye,
But it don't really happen that way at all.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Need a laugh?

HT: Dr. Neill H. Payne, who also blogs here.

Richard Wurmbrand Movie

This past Saturday, I mentioned Rev. Richard Wurmbrand, the heroic Lutheran pastor who spent 14 years in solitary confinement in Communist Romania and who went on to found Voice of the Martyrs, an organization that calls attention to the ongoing persecution of the Church (and here is also the link to a 1966 TV interview with Pastor Wurmbrand that is gripping and disturbing, but also inspiring.

Amazingly, there is now a 30 minute cartoon movie telling his story. It is part of the Torchlighters series. I have not seen the film, but it is now available at Netflix and in my queue.

The clip above captures the turning point in the life of Pastor Wurmbrand, when, spurred to action by his courageous and faithful wife, he made a shocking speech denouncing the Communists on live radio while many other Christian clergymen were singing the praises of the government. The dialogue in the cartoon and the description of the scene accurately retells the story according to Wurmbrand's own account in Tortured for Christ (which is being given away free here).

This one act of speaking truth to power bought for Richard and his wife Sabina a lifetime of persecution for the faith.

Let us pray with St. John in Rev 6:9-11:
"When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, 'O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?' Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been."
Lord, have mercy. Come, Lord Jesus.

Pictures uploaded

I finally uploaded almost a year's worth of pictures to my Flickr sets (and even then, I still have a few more recent ones to do).

So, realizing that most FH readers will be utterly uninterested, I'm putting some of my favorite ones from this recent upload here. You can click to enlarge.

Elephant ears (the plant, that is, not me)

"Come, Mister Tallyman..."

It must be Caturday

Leo has an eye on La Boulangerie on Magazine Street

Leo (R) and his brother Rex (L) after a hard day of kittenplay

Leo with his barefoot mommy in the kitchen making cookies (don't tell Bryn Mawr, they might want their scholarship money back!)

Leo and Daddy celebrating Leo's Big Oh-Four at IHOP

Aunt Lisa throws Leo a surprise party

Those cat condos come in handy for catnaps

"T'row us sumptun, Mistah!"

Leonidas Rex?

Me and Mel

To infinity...

...and beyond!

Calling the Oracle of Delphi...

Two heads are better than one

Yes, that is our boy, alright (with his brother looking over his shoulder). Coffee not (yet) included.

Leo(L) and pal Vicar (R) take a break

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Think before you ink

An interesting article about what happens when a bad economy meets the tattoo trend.

An Analysis of Notre Dame and Infanticide

Put on your asbestos suit before reading Thomas Fleming's treatment at Chronicles regarding the the latest scandal at Our Lady and how pro-life Christians ought to respond.

Here is the start:
'He came, he saw, he conquered,' is the headline of the Washington Post’s article on President Obama’s much heralded visit to Notre Dame. In a particularly stupid exercise in leftwing wishful thinking, Thomas Reese, S.J. – what a foul order the Jesuits have become – lauds the President...
click here to read more.

Sermon: Exaudi (Easter 7) and Baptism of Alyssa Ann Gegenheimer

23 May 2009 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 15:26-16:4 (Ezek 36:22-28, 1 Pet 4:7-14)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

What have the parents of this little girl, Alyssa Gegenheimer, gotten her into? She has now become a Christian, joining the ranks of other saintly young women, like Perpetua and Felicity of Northern Africa, who, because they had been baptized just like Alyssa, were put to the sword by gladiators after first being mauled by wild animals.

Things like this happen to faithful Christians who will not waver in their confession.

Today, the Christian Church around the world honors two upstanding young Christian men who lived in what is today France: Donatian and Rogatian. Like Alyssa, Donatian was baptized. He was a Christian. His brother Rogatian was so moved by his brother’s devout life, that he too sought to be baptized. But at that time, the bishop was missing because of the persecutions against the Christians. Rogatian wanted what Alyssa received today, but could not get it. Instead, he and his brother were hauled into court confessing their Christian faith, they were stretched on a rack, and they were beheaded. The Church recognizes St. Donatian and his brother St. Rogatian – even though the latter was not baptized with water. Like many Christians throughout the ages, he was baptized in blood.

Christianity is a bloody business. It is a serious business. In baptism, we are made heirs with Christ. And we all know where He went on that first sad Good Friday.

Some people may even wonder why we should subject our children to such a bloody affair as joining the Christian Church through Holy Baptism. For death is always nipping at the heels of the baptized. And that’s the point, dear brothers and sisters. Death seeks to catch us and overtake us. We will surely taste death – and some of us maybe even the death of martyrdom – but death does not have the last word.

For Holy Baptism is a second birth. To be baptized is to rise from sin and death to becoming a new creation; to forgiveness, life, and salvation; to die with Christ so that we shall live with Him forever.

The Christian life is a serious business. It is the stuff of life and death. Nothing in this life is more important or more urgent. This is why in the very act of bringing their little daughter to baptism, these parents are making a public vow that they will raise their child in the faith, bring her to God’s house every Sunday, pray with her every day, teach her the catechism, and raise her in an actively and unmistakably Christian home.

For listen to what our Lord warns us is in store for the baptized: “They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” Baptized Christians have a big target on their backs. Satan is after this dear baptized child. And it is our job, pastor and congregation, parents and sponsors, to pray for her, to urge this family to remain faithful, and to defend her against the crafts and assaults of the devil with every bit of rage and intensity by which we would destroy anyone who tried to do her physical harm.

For our Lord promises that Christians will be persecuted by unbelievers on behalf of Satan: “because they have not known the Father, nor Me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.”

Jesus warns us of these things so that we can be prepared. He doesn’t leave us to the tender mercies of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. For he has given us the Helper, the “Spirit of truth.” This Holy Spirit descended upon our Lord in the form of a dove hovering over baptismal water, and according to our Lord’s command, we baptized little Alyssa in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in these baptismal waters. Today, she received the Helper, the Spirit, the one who hovers over these waters and who “will bear witness about” our Lord Jesus Christ when the time comes.

For as St. Peter has warned us: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

The Spirit of glory and God rests upon little Alyssa – not because of who she is or what she has done, but because of who Christ is and what He has done.

The greatest gift any parent can give a child is a trip to the baptismal font. It is of more value than anything this world can offer. For at the font, we are all given a new birth, new life, a new spirit, and even, as the prophet Ezekiel says, “a new heart.”

“I will sprinkle clean water on you,” says the Lord, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you.”

No matter what the enemies of the cross do to us Christians – whether being ridiculed, shunned, mistreated, or even put to the sword – we rejoice with Christ, because we have been given a spirit that overcomes death, we have been given a heart and a flesh that will not fall to death, but in Christ has already conquered death.

This is what Alyssa’s parents have gotten their little girl into. She has been given the gift of everlasting life because of the Holy Spirit poured upon her in a washing of regeneration. This is indeed a serious business. It is the one thing of greater importance than anything else in Alyssa’s life, in the life of her parents, and in the life of all of us. For today, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit spoke to Alyssa, even as He renewed the same words to all of us, saying: “You shall be My people, and I will be your God.”

Christianity is indeed a bloody business, for it is rooted in the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It is a blood sealed by a promise, marked with a cross, bearing everlasting life – so that “in everything God may be glorified in Jesus Christ. To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Persecution, 21st Century American style

Here is a worthwhile and thoughtful post from Robin at Imperial Twilight about how persecution against the Church really begins - as opposed to the cartoonish impressions of pop Christianity.

His article quotes a heroic confessor of the faith, the Rev. Richard Wurmbrand, a Lutheran pastor who lived and served behind the Iron Curtain in Romania. Pastor Wurmbrand spent fourteen years in solitary confinement in a Communist prison. He is the author of Tortured for Christ and a founder of Voice of the Martyrs, an international organization that addresses the ongoing persecution of Christians around the world.

And here is remarkable footage of Pastor Wurmbrand himself. This is not to be missed!

Obviously, we are nowhere near the kinds of persecution in the United States as Pastor Wurmbrand experienced in Romania - but we would be foolish to think it could never happen here. Our Lord implored us to be wise as serpents even as we are to be innocent as doves. If (and when) Christians are again deemed "enemies of the state," we can well expect "enhanced interrogation techniques" to be used on us, just as they were used on Wurmbrand and his compatriots. Of course, this is one of the many evils of moral relativism - allowing government to run amok against one group empowers it to turn and bite any other group that falls from its favor.

Traditionalist Christians especially can expect increasing hostility in our society - as we continue to hold the increasingly unpopular biblical view of matters such as homosexuality, abortion, creation, sin, the inerrancy of Scripture, the roles of men and women, and the exclusivity of the Christian faith. Confessing Christ provokes seething hatred among unbelievers - the kind of raw inhumanity that fueled the Communists and the Nazis.

I do believe we will see an increase of this kind of initially-non-violent bureaucratic harassment by government over and against the Church. Of course, when we refuse to comply, we can indeed expect to be compelled by force. Moreover, I believe that not only Christians, but all Americans would do well to heed this law professor's advice when it comes to making statements to the police. Even St. Paul did not hesitate to invoke his legal rights for the sake of his continued preaching of the gospel.

Let us continue to pray for Christians anywhere and everywhere who are being impeded by government force. Once the monster is let out of its box, no-one is safe, and there are no self-restraints on the wrath of government - especially one convinced of its inherent goodness and manifest destiny ("We will bury you!").

Communism always starts with Socialism, and Socialism is always sold to the people as benign salutary change that promises an economy that can deliver something for nothing and a paradise without God.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sermon: Ascension of our Lord

21 May 2009 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA Text: Acts 1:1-11

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Our Lord spent three years walking with His disciples, teaching men and women of every station in life; preaching in the Temple, on hills and plains, and in synagogues; calling sinners to repentance, healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, and proclaiming the kingdom. He established the Holy Supper, instituted baptism, ordained the apostles into the ministry, went to the cross, defeated death by dying, trampled the serpent’s head, rose from the dead, descended into hell to proclaim His victory, appeared to the disciples, and promised the Holy Spirit.

And as He appears to the Church for forty glorious days, the one thing left to do is to go back to His Father.

For that is where He belongs. He is God, after all. And the Triune God is bound together in a mysterious way. Having completed His mission, having redeemed the world, our Lord Jesus prepares to leave the world – and yet He doesn’t leave us as orphans.

He and His Father send us the Holy Spirit. Our Lord Jesus Christ has given us His Word and His Sacraments. He has established His ministry to be present with us through those whom He has sent. He continues to forgive sin, to cast out demons, to open the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf, to call sinners to repentance and to call the repentant to new life.

He goes back to the Father, for that is where He belongs: “at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” And yet, that is where we all belong as well. It is indeed where we are headed.

And in the fullness of time, we will join our Lord, we will find a joyful reunion in the Unity of the Trinity and the Trinity in Unity, as creation finds rest in the Creator, and Creator calls creation anew to Himself. When all things have been made anew, we are promised never to again be separated from our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.

And yet, the sad reality for the disciples, and for us, is that while our victorious Lord’s place is at His Father’s right hand, we still live in the fallen world. And, we still have work to do.

We, the Christian Church, are a rescue mission. The war is over but the shouting, and it is our job to be heralds of peace, to call combatants to lay down their arms, to beckon and bid those who continue to wage war against God that God Himself has proffered a peace treaty, a Shalom, a Salem, a peace that passes all understanding – the very “peace” the Lord blessed us with when He first appeared to us after His resurrection.

As with any peacemakers, our job is to bind up wounds, to clean up messes, to gather rubble and begin rebuilding that which was destroyed. Our job is to fend for the survivors, to comfort the widows, to provide for the orphans, to show compassion to those traumatized by the war.

We are in a transitionary government, moving from the old order of sin, death, and the devil to the new order of righteousness, life, and the Holy Trinity. We are moving away from the fallen government of sinful men in which men seek out power to gratify their lust for sake of domination, and are moving toward the glorious reign of our righteous God in which Power seeks out men to bring them love for the sake of mercy.

And while the Lord has gone into heaven to prepare a place for us, He has left us to manage His Kingdom here in this world. He bids us to be good stewards, not merely for the sake of personal gain, but for the salvation of all creation.

And we have no idea how long this operation is to continue: “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority.” But we are charged to remain faithful and carry out our orders. And we are not alone, dear brothers and sisters. Our Lord promises: “[Y]ou will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The Lord continues to be present, to work, to carry out His ministry of reconciliation through His witnesses – in this corner of the globe and everywhere where life is to be found on the planet.

We are to be busy. His work is our work. It is urgent work. It is hard work. It is not work that is rewarded in the eyes of the world. But it is the greatest work of all: bringing the Good News of the forgiveness of sins, peace with God, eternal life, and a new creation to those in dying need of that Gospel. There is no time to stand around idling, gazing up at the sky, and pining away. We are to work while it is day, and we are to be ready lest our Lord return as a thief in the night.

He is coming again, and He is coming when the world no longer expects Him. He is coming to establish His eternal kingdom and to draw us to Himself at God’s right hand.

Hear again the word of the angels, the holy messengers, who asked: “Why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus who was taken up from you in heaven will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.” We should be too busy to look blankly into the heavens, and yet at the same time, we can’t help but take His encouraging words to heart: “I am coming soon,” even as we pray earnestly with the apostles and saints of every time and age: “Come, Lord Jesus!” Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sermon: Rogate (Easter 6)

16 May 2009 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 16:23-33

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

If you wanted to sum up what it means to live as a Christian in a fallen world in fifteen words, I can think of no better way to do so than our blessed Lord does today: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart. I have overcome the world.”

In this life, our Lord Jesus Christ doesn’t promise us prosperity and wealth, freedom from illness and pain, and a life untouched by physical and spiritual struggle. Far from it. But there are a lot of religious hustlers and flimflam men out there selling millions of books with this nonsense. But what does our Lord tell us? He speaks plainly and without figures of speech, saying: “In the world, you will have tribulation.”

Earlier in the chapter, Jesus tells us to expect to be removed from respectable society, and that people who try to kill us will think they are doing a good deed. And we know how Christians were slaughtered by the tens of thousands in the first centuries of the church – even as the church is persecuted in many places around the world to this day.

But the word “tribulation” isn’t only the stuff of arenas and burning stakes and concentration camps. The word can also be translated as “pressure.” For even though most of us today are not being threatened with death, we face severe pressure from the world to abandon our faith. We have peer pressure: “respectable” people who mock our Christianity, including pompous scientists and philosophers whose ability to mock far outshines their use of reason and honest scientific inquiry. We have time pressure: the cares and worries of this life that choke out our time and energy to pray, to attend Divine Service, to teach our children the catechism, to study God’s Word, and to volunteer to serve the body of Christ. We have the pressure of the sinful flesh: our own greed and laziness that we satisfy and all-too quickly indulge by ignoring the Lord’s attempts to draw us closer to Himself.

And instead of tickling our ears with a “prosperity gospel,” the Lord Himself soberly warns us that we will have pressures in this world.

As people watched in horror while the unthinkable was happening (the collapse of the Roman Empire), St. Augustine wrote a book called The City of God. In this book, Augustine compares the world (the City of Man) with the church (the City of God). And he showed the difference between the kingdoms of the world and God’s kingdom.

For the world doesn’t operate like God. This world is fallen. This world runs on force. This world is wearing out and running down. And just like the City of Rome being overrun by Barbarians, this dilapidated universe will one day come to an end.

By contrast, God’s Kingdom is everlasting. The Church is eternal. The City of God operates based on the premise, as our Lord said: “the Father Himself loves you.”

And yet, we do live in both worlds, both kingdoms, both cities. But which should take priority: the corrupted world of tribulation, or the eternal kingdom in which the Lord forgives all of our sins, claims us as His own, and gives us everlasting joy and peace? Should our loyalty be with the City of Man that pressures us, persecutes us, and hates us? Or should we consider ourselves to be first and foremost subjects of our merciful King who died for us?

In The City of God, St. Augustine uses a term that is as true today as it was then. He speaks of the world as being governed by the “lust for domination.” For the fallen world operates by force, greed, power, and control. And this is why our Lord tells us: “In the world you will have tribulation.” This is why we have crime, corruption, bullying, sadism, hatred, malice, and the desire for control. This “lust for domination” has been in the universe since Satan’s rebellion and has been in our world since Adam and Eve lusted for dominion over the one Being to whom they were to submit.

In Augustine’s day, the people were stunned that their country had been conquered. It was unthinkable. Their whole way of life was changing. They wondered how God could let such a thing happen. They were frightened for themselves and their children.

But St. Augustine did what he was called to do: preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, forgive sins, and pray for the coming of our Lord. He bade the people to store up treasures in heaven, and put not their trust in princes.

For the only thing that can bring anyone comfort in time of trial, persecution, and even death is the fact that we know how the story ends. We know that sin, Satan, our flesh, and the world do not win the day. We know that the City of God overtakes the City of Man. And this we know not from Augustine’s words, but rather from God’s Word, spoken by the mouth of the Lord Himself in the flesh: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart.”

“Take heart!” dear brothers and sisters – not because Augustine says so, not because I say so, but rather because your Savior, your Redeemer, your very God of very God says so. “Take heart,” says the Lord, for as He Himself says: “I have overcome the world.”

The word translated “overcome” really means “conquered.” It is a form of the Greek word “nike” which means “victory.” Jesus has defeated the world, has conquered the devil, has beaten down death, and has redeemed our sinful flesh by His own perfect flesh. He won the victory on the cross, and hands that victory over to us in Baptism. He declares that victory in the preaching of His Word. And He renews that victory in us every time we are absolved of our sins. His victory is our victory. The lust for domination is overcome by the love of the One crucified and Risen for us. And by the one who is both God and Man, the eternal City of God overcomes the tottering City of Man.

The Lord doesn’t promise that we will necessarily be rich in this world, but He does guarantee that we are spiritually wealthy beyond measure. The Lord doesn’t promise us that if we have enough faith, we will never suffer or struggle, but He does guarantee that we will overcome all these things by His power and grace, His might and mercy. The Lord doesn’t promise us that we will not suffer due to the lust for domination, but He does guarantee that this lust that lurks within us has been atoned for and will be removed from us in the fullness of time, even as He has “overcome the world.”

Dear brothers and sisters, it is easy to get discouraged. It is easy to feel defeated. It is easy to fall away from the faith in bitter disappointment with the world and with our own sinful selves. But you have heard with your own ears the glorious command of the Lord that is truly an invitation to share in His victory: “Take heart!” That is to say: “Have confidence! Have courage!” He tells us plainly and without figures of speech: “I have said these things to you that, in Me you may have peace.”

For Jesus has won the victory. He has conquered the author of the lust for domination. He has overcome the world, and in Him, we too have overcome and conquered and won the greatest victory of all. Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Personal Sovereignty?

Kevin Baugh, President of the Republic of Molossia

Click here for a Father Hollywood article that is being published by Lew Rockwell this weekend (May 16, 2009) under the title: "Personal Sovereignty?"

Jesus on Door-to-Door Evangelism

"Do not go from house to house."
- Jesus (Luke 10:7b)

If there is a bad idea in the world of American religion, the Missouri Synod will not only put in a toe to test the waters, they will dive in head first. Problem is, nobody has checked to see if there's any water in the pool first.

I keep getting things like "training videos" teaching us how to do "door to door" evangelism, complete with role-playing, a script of sorts, and a gimmick to plug in a person's name in John 3:16 (replacing the inspired word "world" (Greek: kosmos) with the person's name who is standing there at the door wishing you would go away).

Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons are a stench in most people's nostrils because of their annoying door-to-door "evangelism." So what does the LCMS do? Copy them.

Why don't we listen to our Lord's sage words of instruction that he gave to the 72 as they set out to do evangelism? "Do not go from house to house" seems pretty clear to me. But then again, we American Lutherans have learned that words don't mean anything. We can pick and choose which parts of the Lutheran Confessions we like, and discard the rest. So why not just do the same with the Bible?

So much for sola scriptura.

But look, folks, you don't have to take Jesus's word for it (we know so much more in these enlightened times anyway). Just ask yourself (and ten people at random) if they like getting people at their door making these kinds of "evangelism calls." There is a reason the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons are seen as an annoyance.

I guess we have people in leadership in the LCMS that would like to make the Lutherans a third member of the club. But then again, we do have a magazine called the Lutheran Witness.

Lord, have mercy!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hollywood Mother's Day

The Hollywoods hope all mother's had a nice day with their families this past Sunday.

I bought Mrs. H. a big diamond ring, took her to a fancy restaurant, and went on a cruise. Well, not exactly.

As is typical in our family, nothing is typical.

But we were able to honor the maternal feast thanks to help from kind parishioners, the Mathernes, who entertained the highly-kinetic Leo for a good bit of Sunday afternoon while I was able to deliver the first part of Mrs. H.'s Mother's Day present (per her request).

We watched the new Star Trek movie at an IMAX theater.

Of course, this was a supreme sacrifice for me, as I grew up in a house where we raced to the TV to turn the big clunky tuner knob as soon as the whining theme music came on for Star Trek. I just never got into the pointy-eared and green-people thing. I guess it is an acquired taste.

Mrs. H.'s family, however, had a rather opposite approach to Star Trek, with all and sundry gathering as though the bell had been rung at the Pavlov's.

So it really was a noble self-immolation on my part to watch the movie. Well, not really.

Actually, the movie was really good (here is a review I find to be spot on). The story and characters were well-done (even for people like me who are not well-versed in the characters from the TV series), the special effects were stunning, and on an IMAX screen with the bombastic surround sound, it was quite a spectacle.

Mrs. H. approved!

As is often our custom, we extended the holiday by fiat, and part deux of the festival was to come on Monday.

Mrs. H. had to miss her sewing class (the last session until August) as a result of my staying late at church for a meeting. So, I proposed that we take Lion Boy and have a family outing to the Quarter. We had a nice meal at Margaritaville (complete with a frozen concoction made of pina colada and coffee). Afterward, we had a nice stroll through the vieux carré (it turns out that Leo is quite the Quarter Rat). Every few feet, a different aroma of delectable food tickles the nostrils, along with music and more music everywhere (everything from Louis Armstrong to Iron Maiden) - and this was only a Monday evening!

Oh yes, I forgot, Mrs. Hollywood's last gift for Mother's Day: a cast iron skillet!

Mrs. H. had asked for it months ago, and boy, was she happy!

We are a weird family indeed.

Hooray for Winn-Dixie!

I don't know what they're feeding the crawfish this year, but some of the "mudbugs" in this latest batch from Winn-Dixie are getting close to qualify as upgrades to "lobster." To my friends up north, Winn-Dixie is a grocery store, not a dog.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A sad irony, comrades!

When I was a kid, we Americans used to make fun of the Russian newspaper Pravda (which is Russian for "truth") because it was all a lie, a propagandizing apology for totalitarian Communism.

How the world has changed!

Today, in a scathing editorial in Pravda Online*, the post-Soviet Russians are rightly criticizing the United States for turning its back on the free market and relying on central economic planning (in addition to pointing out our woefully weak education system and exposing American pop-religion as a sham).

The Iron Curtain may not have fallen at all, comrades. Perhaps it has just moved.

America is today the world's biggest deadbeat, Americans from all walks of life now expect government "bailouts," China is America's biggest creditor, and the Russians are lecturing us on capitalism, politics, and "reject[ing] Christ in hopes of earthly power."

Well, it's a good thing someone is telling the Pravda. The real question is: do Americans still care about freedom?

HT: Walter Block at LRC.

* Pravda Online is not related to the Pravda newspaper, but is run by former Pravda newspaper employees.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sermon: Cantate (Easter 5)

10 May 2009 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 16:5-15 (Isa 12:1-6, Jas 1:16-21)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

One of the hallmarks of our sinful flesh is our impatience.

The reason we are so impatient is because of our weak faith. When we are given a promise of a great reward in the future, we don’t want to wait. A lot can happen between now and then. Besides, we have plans now, not then. Like the prodigal son, we want our inheritance now. In fact, we would rather owe interest and have the unearned cash in hand now than wait for some time in the future to have what we want.

We know the promises of our Lord. He has pledged to us eternal life, communion with God, reunion with all of our loved ones, a restored and resurrected body, a joy that no-one can ever take from us, a life without pain and sorrow, riches upon riches beyond measure, a restored paradise untouched by death, and a new heaven and new earth. The Lord promises us a perfect life. It has indeed been bought and paid for by His perfect life, laid down upon the cross, and taken up again in the tomb He left behind.

And here we are in the fifth week of the ongoing Easter celebration, the 40 days of basking in the resurrection of our victorious Lord and in the promise of resurrection He brings to us. This week is known as Cantate: Latin for “sing!” We are so filled with the joy of this promise that we are called upon to sing.

And yet, this promise is still not enough for us.

Rather than eager to sing, we are quick to complain and slow to hear. We are angry. We fall for the filthiness of this fallen world and its rampant wickedness. We despise meekness and spurn the implanted Word of God – even when that Word is the very promise of the risen Christ to save our souls.

And yet, our Lord Jesus doesn’t abandon us the way we abandoned Him. No indeed! He promised the disciples (and us) that He would send a “Helper,” the “Spirit of Truth” who will come to us, guide us into truth, and even give us the words to speak when we ourselves have no idea what to say.

And our Lord repeats His promise: all that is the Father’s is His, and all that is His is ours!

But by definition, promises are not fulfilled immediately. That’s why they are promises. They are fulfilled at some point in the future. And the fulfillment of the promise is only as good as the word of the one making the promise. And this is where faith comes in.

Do we have faith in Jesus, or do we think He is lying? Do we confess Jesus as God, or do we simply think of Him as a mortal man without the power to deliver on His promise. Do we acknowledge Jesus as our Redeemer and Savior, or do we see Him as a judge and scold? Do we give thanks to Jesus as a giver of gifts, or do we begrudge Him as One who ought to mind His own business and leave us alone to do as we please?

It is only in light of faith that we can see a fallen world and yet envision a future world that will be perfect. It is only through the eyes of faith that we can see and confess ourselves to be “sinful and unclean” in “thought, word, and deed,” and yet comprehend ourselves as saints, as “delighting in [God’s] will” and “walking in [His] ways to the glory of [His] name.” It is only according to faith that we can hear the promise of a crucified criminal and yet perceive them as the very creative Word of the One “who was in the beginning with God,” the one who “is God,” and “by whom all things were made.” And it is through faith alone that we behold a wafer of bread and a cup of wine, and according to faith in the promise, proclaim with St. Thomas the former doubter: “My Lord and My God!” as we eat and drink the true body and blood of the One who not only makes promises, but delivers them.

Seven centuries before the promise of the prophets was fulfilled by the One True God born into flesh and blood, we were given the same promise of eternal life and joy by the prophet Isaiah. For through the holy prophet, God promises: “You will say in that day: ‘I will give thanks to You, O Lord, for though You were angry with me, Your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.’”

Though our ingratitude shocks us, shames us, and may even make us question our faith – look at the sure word of God: “You will say in that day…” It is a promise that is yet to be fulfilled. But it is a promise made by God. It will be fulfilled!

For “God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.”

And notice, though this promise is for the future, it is spoken in the past tense. For with God, a future promise is as sure and certain as a past event. For He is truly the One “who was, who is, and who is to come.”

This is how it is that even in our fallen state, our woefully sinful condition, and with our weak faith that drives us to impatience, we can still hold fast the promise and sing with King David: “Sing to the Lord a new song!” For “His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory” and “He has remembered His mercy.” And in light of the promise of what is to come, we can proclaim with Isaiah: “Sing praises to the Lord, for He has done gloriously…. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

And though He has ascended into Heaven, giving us the Holy Spirit to guide us and give us words to speak, our Blessed Lord is still with us in a mystical way according to His promise that is fulfilled in our very midst by His Word: “This is My body…. This is My blood… for the forgiveness of sins.”

So, even when we are tempted to impatience, even when our sinful flesh nudges us to demand our inheritance this very moment, let us pray for patience, dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

For as St. James exhorts us: “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation of shadow due to change. Of his own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”

That, dear friends, is a promise made by the only One who can make good on that promise. And that promise is for you! It will be fulfilled in the Lord’s time, and meanwhile, even in this time of waiting, we have much to sing about. Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Creationism Fights Back

An interesting piece in the Washington Post about a creationist biology professor who takes his students to the Smithsonian every year.

Why Most Reporters are Boring

An as-always amusing burst of creative thinking from the ever-curmudgeonly Fred Reed.

Like everything else it touches, political correctness has taken the gritty edges off of news reporting, and turned it into a neutered Mister Rogers with a Word Processor and a handbag.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Greatest Clergy Portrait of All Time

Obviously, the Rev. Robert Catherwood (a classmate of mine at the seminary), is not a man to be trifled with! (I'm glad this guy's on OUR side). :-)

Scam calls supposedly from 407-658-4336

For months, I have been getting calls from this number: 407-658-4336. It is a recording claiming that our auto warranty is about to expire.

Of course, this is an annoying scam.

Even though I'm on the no call registry, I keep getting these calls. I keep reporting it on the complaint hotline, but they have yet to send me anything at all regarding my numerous reports.

A couple times I played along to speak to a human. As soon as I raise the "do not call" registry issue, they promptly hang up. This also happens the moment I ask for what company they are calling from. BTW, the phone number on caller ID is a fraud.

I hope they catch these people, and if there is ever a class action lawsuit, I'm in. Meanwhile, I am sorely tempted to buy one of those air-horns in a can, get the human on the phone, and give them a blast.

In related news, I did also get a call recently from the Scientologists.

Now, that was an interesting call...

Imperium Stultum?

Short, sweet, to the point, and with no pulled punches, Lew Rockwell has a trenchant observation on the state of the Imperium Americanum.

New Religion Commercial

I saw the above “PSA” recently. I found it disturbing. The one audible line in the spot comes about 25 seconds in. A teenage girl says: “I love my life. I’m not gonna mess it up with a pregnancy.”

How perverse it this?

This is not an anti-promiscuity message, but rather anti-motherhood propaganda. Why should the word “pregnancy” be associated with the ruination of one’s life? I suppose this is similar to the president of the United States’ comment that he would view a grandchild as a “punishment” and would rather his daughter murder his grandchild in the womb.

This is a commercial for a New Religion - not the Mormons, not Scientology, but something entirely different. And look how the New Religion of death has progressed.

It used to be that we, as a society, encouraged chastity. Pregnancy is a blessing - but it is best in the right context - in marriage, with two loving parents. This is why God gave us the sixth commandment and the blessing of a man and a woman being forged into one flesh. That should be the premise that drives the advice we give to young men and women.

But at some point, the message changed from encouraging chastity to encouraging “responsible promiscuity.” For a long time, the PSAs and the Hollywood/Madison Avenue message was to have “protected sex” rather than chastity. And if that is too much trouble or fails to prevent pregnancy, there is always the failsafe of abortion - of which we’ve had over 40 million in the U.S., and over a billion in the world in the last generation.

Even the pro-life side has made the mistake of fighting on enemy turf. By promoting “abstinence” instead of “chastity,” we have given the world the evil impression that Christianity is anti-sex. In fact, Christianity encourages sex, and always has: “Be fruitful and multiply” we were told from the beginning. Scripture always speaks of children as a blessing, and even in this day and age of test tubes and turkey basters, the easiest and most efficient way (and the way the God Himself designed) of procreation is best. Christians are not for “abstinence,” but rather for “chastity.” Everything has a time and a place.

Chastity, however, is antithetical to the New Religion.

But simply encouraging young people to eschew chastity and to be promiscuous is not enough for the New Religion. For religion isn’t only about deeds, but about attitudes. A true conversion is internal, hence the need to catechize the new generation of proselytes (especially young women) that “Pregnancy Ruins Lives.” There is no qualification that pregnancy is a great blessing in the proper context. For in the New Religion, it is wrong to suggest there is such a thing as a “proper context” - as that would be a confession of absolutes, of right and wrong; and would be discriminatory against single women who choose to have fatherless children, and against homosexual couples who choose to deny children a mother or a father. In both of these cases, the “parents” are more interested in their selfish desires and civil rights than in the well-being of children. In the New Religion, the traditional path is never the right path.

So, here is where we are today: “Pregnancy Ruins Lives.”

Of course, there are unintended (or perhaps “intended”) consequences. Young people now wait until they “get an education” and establish their careers before getting married and having children (if they ever get around to that). It isn’t exactly realistic to expect chastity until someone is thirty or forty years old. The New Religion thus encourages singles to engage in the very act that leads to pregnancy - making contraception and abortion all the more sacramental in the New Religion.

It also leads to extreme self-centeredness. Notice how this message uses the term “love” in a way that is antithetical to Christianity. It’s about self-love. And notice how the word “life” is also co-opted: “I love my life.” In the New Religion, love of life is demonstrated by the religious act of preventing and even destroying life. And this self-centeredness carries through to all aspects of life. Marriage is seen as a temporary arrangement, work is seen as a means to money for the satisfaction of materialism and greed, and anything that is not immediately self-gratifying is seen as a waste of time.

Hence in the New Religion, we might as well add the use of the credit card, careerism, entertainment, and divorce to the list of sacraments.

Of course, none of these are sacraments in the Old Religion, in which chastity is a commandment, selfless love is the highest ideal, committed lifelong marriage is a sacrament, children are a blessing, and sin is something to be repented of and forgiven, rather than something to be celebrated with religious zeal.

Of course, the New Religion thrives not only on selfishness, but ignorance. Hence the other part of the homily: “Stay clueless.” Death wants nothing to do with life, and the New Religion wants people to be unaware of the Old.

For this is what the New Religion wants us to be clueless of: in the Old Religion, life is a gift of the Creator and human beings are created in God’s image. Women are given the gift of nurturing life in the womb, and sexuality is also a gift from God to be used responsibly. And when we fall short of this ideal, we have a gracious Redeemer, who was not contracepted or aborted, born of a woman who was willing to “mess up her life” with a pregnancy, a Savior who forgives our sin and grants us eternal life by conquering death and its god.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Creation Video Series

While looking for worthwhile offerings at Netflix, Mrs. H. and I ran across a series of creation science videos. We decided to give them a shot.

While watching the first few minutes of the first video, we actually shut it off. We were disappointed. It wasn't really what we expected. The lecturer, Kent Hovind, was making a lot of wisecracks and doing tricks with kids in the audience. We were hoping for something a little more scholarly.

However, we gave it another shot, and we're glad we did.

The video is part of a series called: A Complete Creation Seminar From A Scientific Perspective. It is a series of eight DVDs of lectures given by Hovind in various locations accompanied by Powerpoint slides. After its initial slow start, and having gotten used to Dr. Hovind's quirky, at times comical style of presentation, we settled in and actually enjoyed his presentation of scientific evidence that supports the biblical view of a young earth.

Anyone who has seen Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed knows about the hostility that those who do not hold to the evolutionary theory (which is treated not only as fact, but guarded with the fervor of religious zealotry), as well as the suppression of evidence that does not fit with the current "orthodoxy" of scientific atheism.

We went ahead and bought the DVD set (it's $100). It comes with a limited copyright, meaning it can be copied legally for non-commercial purposes.

The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (and I would say a vast majority of its pastors, teachers, churches, and schools) hold to a young earth understanding of creation, accepting the Genesis account as historically and literally true (and not mythical, allegorical, or tainted by human error). However, apart from a single elective course on Apologetics (which was outstanding!) taught by the late Rev. Prof. Kurt Marquart (who, though lacking an earned doctorate, may be the most intellectually-gifted person I've ever had contact with), we weren't given much by way of tools to make a good case from science for accepting the biblical account.

This is not to say Genesis needs support from science. Nor does it mean that anyone will come to faith based on fossils and theories about carbon dating. But we ignore the assault on the faith at our own peril in terms of those who avoid the Church in the misplaced notion that Christianity is anti-science, or that churches like the LCMS are knuckle-dragging flat-earth societies. And there is the additional problem we have of young people going off to college and losing their faith.

We need to do a better job in this area.

I wish we had more Lutheran resources, but there just aren't many. There is a group called the Creation Education Association which I understand has speakers and is doing some work in this area, but not only does this group lack a series of lectures on DVDs, they don't even have a website.

Hovind's lectures do refer to a couple of Lutheran resources - one of which is a book published by Concordia Publishing House called The Discovery of Genesis - which is an analysis of the written Chinese language which seem to contain primeval history corresponding to the Genesis account. Hovind also mentions a work by retired LCMS professor Erich von Fange - two of whose books were on sale at the Concordia Theological Seminary bookstore when I was a student.

I do recommend this DVD seminar. And like anything else, it has its strengths and weaknesses. I do want to address the negatives off the bat:

1) The lectures are at times overdone with jokes. They do improve greatly as you go through them, however. The videos at the end of the series are of much higher quality both in production and in content.
2) Hovind does address topics that are off-track. He is a Baptist, and has a limited understanding of, for example, Roman Catholicism. In fact, some of his statements are simply false, and unfortunately, he gets a lot of his information from books and pamphlets published by Jack Chick. At times, Hovind gets off onto tangents like world government, vaccinations, the sabbath, beer-drinking, the KJV-only debate, and also makes a lot of political jokes aimed at leaders of the Democrat party. Obviously, Dr. Hovind believes passionately in these issues, but when trying to present a seminar on scientific creationism, these things can be a distraction. They may also turn otherwise-receptive people off. And expect the "altar call" at the end of each lecture.
3) Hovind is not a scientist. He is a teacher. But he is a good teacher, lively, well-read, obviously a very bright individual. His doctorate degree (Ph.D. in Education) is from a Bible College that has no secular accreditation, and unfortunately, it sometimes becomes a distraction when he debates professors in academic settings who want to play degree one-upsmanship when the debate isn't going their way.

Having said all that, and keeping those things in mind, these lectures introduce the viewer to the fact that much of evolutionism is based on circular reasoning, is laden with unscientific assumptions, is built on tenuous evidence and, in some cases, outright fraud, is actually a religious faith-based system, is a dangerous worldview that is philosophically connected with racism and genocide, that there are a good number of accomplished scientists and scholars who disagree with the "orthodoxy" of the current academic paradigm.

Hovind presents a well-reasoned overarching Genesis-based theory that would explain things in a unified way, such as fossils, dinosaurs, the Grand Canyon, plate techtonics, the flood, micro-evolution, cosmological observation, the long lifespans of the patriarchs, etc. But unlike his opponents, Hovind presents his theory as a theory.

His treatment of dinosaurs is particularly interesting, especially as dinosaurs are so often used as a cudgel against Christians who believe Genesis to be true.

In short, there is another side of the story that most of us have never been exposed to.

I don't agree with every word Dr. Hovind utters. But that's okay. Science is about hypotheses, theories, examining evidence, debate, discussion, and following the evidence where it leads. Sadly, what passes for modern science begins with an unprovable premise, that the universe has no intelligent design - an assumption that not only violates the principles of science, but also runs contrary to the order and complexity of the universe.

And even if only a fraction of Hovind's argument is true, atheistic evolution would still be impossible.

Here are the titles of the lectures:

1) The Age of the Earth
2) The Garden of Eden
3) Dinosaurs and the Bible
4) Lies in the Textbooks
5) The Dangers of Evolution
6) The Hovind Theory
7) Question and Answer Part 1
8) Question and Answer Part 2

As I said before, I found the first lecture to have gotten off to a slow start. But it does get better. And I believe the lectures themselves get better as you move through them in order. I believe the strongest and most convincing DVDs are The Hovind Theory and Question and Answer Part 1. The lectures get increasingly better - with the exception of the very last DVD - which is a Q and A session that, I believe, is just not very good. Hovind covers a lot of extraneous information on this lecture, and I think he drops the ball on a lot of his material. Much of the reason for this is Hovind's lack of training in Biblical Greek and Hebrew. It is clearly the weakest of the lot.

I encourage everyone to have a look. Hovind's organization, called Creation Science Evangelism, can be found here. They offer not only this seminar on DVD, but an entire library of videos and books. There are also youtube videos of many of Kent Hovind's academic debates - which are themselves quite interesting.

Also, I'm shutting off comments for this post. There is an entire industry devoted to bashing Kent Hovind (the viteol and its intensity are themselves telling), and I have no desire to attract profane and hateful trolling to my blog. If you think Kent Hovind, intelligent design, the Book of Genesis, and biblical creationism (or any of these) are wrong, you're entitled to your opinion just as I am to mine. Put up your own blog (though it is unlikely that you will get much notice, there are already hundreds of hysterical and intentionally crude anti-Hovind and anti-Christian sites out there). But if you have an open mind, and if you are interested in hearing both sides of the story, I recommend this video seminar - especially to fellow LCMS Lutherans - with the aforementioned caveats.