Friday, August 27, 2010

Intro to the Book of Concord (Viewer Discretion Advised)

The above video is a high-energy introduction to the Book of Concord by the Rev. Jonathan Fisk, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Springfield, PA.

But be very careful. It's like watching a video of Camille Paglia animated by Nickelodian and played at three times the normal speed. So, if you are over 30, I would advise taking precautions. Watch in short (perhaps one minute snippets). Pastor Fisk is kinetic. His presentation is along the lines of a 2 am Red Bull fueled rave. And if you don't understand what I just wrote, you might want to avoid this video entirely, as your head could quite possibly explode.

As for me, I'm a pastor. I can handle it - though it drains me. But I'm a trained professional and shamelessly make use of espresso.

In all seriousness, Pr. Fisk is a great communicator of traditional, confessional Lutheranism to an age demographic in dire need of real evangelical catholic theology. So, watch at your own risk. You have been warned. In clicking the above link, you hereby release Father Hollywood, its subsidiaries and its assigns from all legal liability. Take a deep breath. Go!


HappyFox said...

Hey, Steve & I are both over 40 and we're Worldview Everlasting addicts! Of course, we really, really have to pay attention. And we usually have to watch each video more than once. But there's no way we're missing out on all that great theology just cause he packs 40 minutes of material into ten. :)


Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

I definitely appreciate an impassioned presentation on the value of the Lutheran Symbols.

If I may, at the same time, however, respectfully raise a point or two where I would diverge from Fr. Fisk.

If in the course of a talk in praise of the Book of Concord, the speaker holds up a book, the title of which is Book of Concord, that book ought to be the Book of Concord. I'm not arguing that I prefer a certain printing from a certain publisher. I'm saying that what he was holding up is in no way the Book of Concord. Just saying. Why am I just saying? Because some might go out and buy the scholarly volume what was in his hands, or pull it off their shelf, and think more highly of it than they ought.

Also, at least once or twice as I recall, his words, matched with his graphics, imply that Rome, and then specifically the pontficate of BXVI, teaches that if one doesn't keep the Friday fast, one isn't being a good person, or whatever. The unfortunate, and unLutheran, message might also be received by some who see his graphics, that eating fish on Friday is characteristically Catholic, and therefore unLutheran. Bad enough the live streaming video of the LCMS convention featured a lame "Bible Study" by Kenneth Klaus, in which he spoke of how one of the differences between Lutherans and Catholics is the Friday fish discipline. I'd consider that acceptable only for a preseminary student, who is not from Milwaukee.

And one point of curiosity: toward the beginning, if I caught it, he said that the BoC should be read by all Protestants. Why? and why not all Catholics? why not start with all public teachers in the Lutheran Church?

Nevertheless, over all, what Fr. Fisk does here is a good thing.

Past Elder said...

Great geriatric Judas, I'm 60 and thought it was great!

His blog, or at least an earlier one, was one of those that started me thinking I should be in LCMS because that is where you most often find Lutherans like me.

As was this one.

On the fish on Friday thing, I think he was simply using it as an example since it is so well known even though it has disappeared except in Lent since Vatican II.

So have the crowds at Barry's, which when I was a preconciliar kid was packed for the walleye fish fry on Friday, which was great but I don't think a terrific fish dinner and some GB (God's Beer, which you may know as Grain Belt) is exactly the intent of the Friday fast.

But that's romanitas at the restaurant. If you gotta abstain from meat, you ain't gotta abstain from a hell of a fish dinner. Don't get no more Roman than that, take it from a native!

I like it that he points out something that struck me about the Confessions from the first, that it's not just contra the stinking rotten garbage of Rome, but also contra the opposite but equal errors of the Reformed et hoc genus omne.

Which is the only drawback I find in being 60. By the time the rest of my generation, most of whom seem to want to make adolescence an adult life style and reinvent every year to be 1968 or so, trying to relate to youth with coffee house bands or Vatican II style liturgy, vacate their positions by being gathered unto their ancestors and leave the church into the hands of guys like this, I'll be so gathered myself!

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

I have heard good Lutheran preachers around these parts, like Peter Bender, preach Ash Wednesday sermons in which overindulging on the delectable, all-you-can-eat, fish fry, with all the trimmings, is denounced. That, along with making sure the people are practicing the Friday fast for the right reasons, is a worthy admonition, and appropriate in the context of a community in which the fish fry is part of life, like Milwaukee. (Fr. Bender's very church hosts a fish fry.) I am tired, however, of matters which are innocent in themselves being caricatured for what they are not.

Past Elder said...

I think it's one of those things Luther described as maybe once having had a good intent, but which has become so obscured in popular piety as to be pretty much lost.

They may be innocent in themselves, but they don't stay in themselves.

I was taught an every Friday a little Good Friday just like every Sunday a little Easter Sunday thing.

Right along with Barry's fish fry on Friday night, or halibut at home, and I really liked the fishsticks at school too except the old lady in the lunchroom would never give me as many tater tots as I wanted. I seek vindication now at Sonic, which has great tater tots. But no fishsticks.

And scrod in Boston -- oh hell yes!

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

I'm going to have to meet you one of these days. You're my kind of 60 yr old Lutheran. How come church bureaucracy tends to be populated with 60 yr olds of a different sort?

Past Elder said...

That's because most 60 year olds ARE of a different sort, which is also why most of my friends are younger.

I don't even like most of the secular music FH listens to!

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Br. Latif:

I agree with you about the caricature of the traditional Friday fast. That is the down side of this rapid-fire style of instruction. In Fr. Fisk's defense, he does encourage his listeners to actually study the text.

The matter of "the distinction of meats" takes some time to address. A lot of people do want a one-second answer to the whole matter, and they want it to be a straight-up "good" or "bad." But it is a more nuanced matter.

Meatless Friday is neither good nor bad in and of itself. And like prayer and almsgiving, fasting (which Jesus expects that we are doing, and which our confessions aver that we cannot omit without sin) can certainly be sinful if done for the wrong reasons. Any act can be sinful, even outwardly "good" acts - as Jesus demonstrated many times in His treatment of the Pharisees.

Fasting is a good thing, but if the Church mandates specific exercises that, if omitted or modified, is denounced as "sin," the Church has overstepped its authority in its own submission to God's Word.

Likewise, if a person only keeps the fast (or does anything) because a church bureaucrat (be it bishop or synodical official) says not to do it is a sin (be it meatless Friday or participating in the Ablaze!(tm) program) - then that person does not see the benefit of the discipline.

This nuance is impossible to get across in one sentence accompanied by a two-second visual.

Having said that, there is a Lutheran critique of the RC approach to the whole matter, which loomed far larger in the 16th century than it does now.

And I agree with you regarding the encouragement of "Protestants" to read the BOC. I'm not a fan of the P-word (which never appears in the BOC). I suspect that Fisk is trying to draw a distinction between catholic Lutheranism vs. the non-Roman Catholic portions of western Christianity. As he himself confessed, he used to be a very "Protty" Lutheran.

Such are the perils of YouTube evangelism. But in this day and age, this is a tool to bring confessional and traditional Lutheranism to people who are more likely to watch a rapid-paced presentation like this over and against an academic lecture. It is an invitation. Pr. Fisk is cracking the door open and showing off a bit of our treasures to people who would normally never even peep inside. And he is doing so without compromising the Mass nor turning our worship into a sideshow.

Past Elder said...

If a pious practice starts out with good intentions but soon becomes more practice than pious and is only recovered with great difficulty for most people, what good is it?

Every Friday as a remembrance of Good Friday is great, but tying that up, obligatory or voluntary, with whether one eats meat or how many full meals one eats that day is works righteousness all dressed up as piety.

Remember what God has done for you every day, and in a special way on Friday, and eat what you want, maybe informing what you want with nutritional information, check Isaiah for the fast God wants, and give thanks to the Lord for the food he gives -- he who eats without giving thanks, it is as if he stole the food.

I wonder if they still have those walleye fish frys at Barry's, or of it's even still in business.

Past Elder said...

PS. Had to go back to the office last night for a little while. Dinner? Two buck doubles no pickle, side salad Caesar dressing and croutons, and an old man drink (the senior drink size but it always cracks them up when I order one that way). Wish they had tater tots there though, I haven't had all the ones Mrs Shaw wouldn't give me yet.

My mom kept the Friday Fast long after Vatican II ashcanned it as previously known and well after age 59, the new age limit for obligation. I grew up with the previously known, not to mention fasting from midnight for Communion, but lemme tell ya, you ain't fasted until you've kept Yom Kippur.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear PE:

My fave was the "Lenten Special" at a local restaurant that featured a fried fish and seafood platter with a big hot fudge sundae for dessert.

But the abuse does not define the use.

If any people anywhere needed to recover true fasting - I don't mean symbolic fasting - I mean the real practice of self-denial for the sake of discipline (a word closely linked to discipleship) - it would be us Americans.

We are a wealthy and overindulged people. We lack discipline. And the fact that we are very quick to explain it away and make excuses why we don't do it (even giving ourselves a pat on the back for "not being pietists") shows how much we need to do it.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says "when you fast" and "when you pray" and "when you give alms." Of course, nobody is willing to say prayer is simply an optional part of the Christian life, the response of the disciple to what God has done for us by grace. But we get terribly uncomfortable about fasting - even to the point of mocking it or calling it a sin.

Our Lord Himself partook of this "sin" and this act of "works righteousness" - and even told the apostles that in some cases, fasting was necessary to cast out demons.

I think we are way too facile in our dismissal of it - in the same way that we are all too eager and quick to make excuses why we have for the most part abolished private confession.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

You mention the Jewish fast, which reminds me of my father, who always kept the Ramadan fast, being a good Shiite, of the Bektashi sort. I know, many Shiites do not think of Bektashi as being very good Muslims, but hey, clearly denominational squabbles are hardly foreign to us either. Anyway, for his fast, he couldn't eat during the day. Literalists might abuse this fast by indulging when the sun goes down. Which goes to show there is room for abuse in every system.

Past Elder said...

Well I find nothing in the predictable psychological effects of early stage glycogenolysis to be particularly spiritual.

I'd agree the our consumer mentality is out of hand, but I don't see a remedy in resurrecting ancient superstitions common to all historic religions.

Fasting is useful to hit a baseline for medical testing, and maybe if I run across a tougher than usual demon in exorcism, although elders don't get called on to do that much let alone past ones, but other than that, as the saying goes, I don't see much difference between the man who drinks much and sees snakes and the man who eats little and sees God.

But I have learned something -- from the stuff you post of what Miss Grace whips up, if I ever get to Gretna I ain't coming during Lent!

Past Elder said...

Great Ali Pasha, Bektashi? Didn't know that. You're quite right, denominational squabbles are hardly a Christian phenomenon. If I were Islamic, I'd probably be a Twelver, but maybe that's only because I've known way more of them than any other kind.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear PE:

I just can't agree that our blessed Lord was advocating "ancient superstitions."

Praying is also common to all religions. That in no way negates the benefit it has in the spiritual life of the Christian. One can no more omit prayer and remain in the faith than one can omit breathing and remain alive.

But we live in an age of fastless, almsless, prayerless (and bloodless) Christianity - a kind of wistful brand identification by expressed preference rather than by confessing practice.

Our Lord says: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Matt 16:24)." He does not encourage gluttony and satiety (which we are very quick to call "The Gospel" or "Christian Liberty") - but rather says that we "must" practice self-denial. He also says: "When you fast" (Matt 6:16-17). He doesn't condemn it as "ancient superstition."

I think our pooh-poohing of fasting (which is as difficult for the sated) is a manifestation of the "cheap grace" that Bonhoeffer warned us about.

Fasting helps us not take grace for granted. It is needed now more than ever.

Past Elder said...

I don't think he was either, just that "fasting" in his usage and the various regimens dreamed up by the church here and there are the same thing.

Fasting is part of an entire dietary and culinary disciple, kashrut. The family dinner table is like the altar in the Temple; on neither is just anything acceptable, the sacrifice must be of a certain kind in a certain way in the Temple, and the food likewise on the table. That connexion remains, is even why the Eucharist is connected to Calvary, and really, Calvary could not be without an ensuing Eucharist. Physics we now know bears that out too: a massive disruption in the usual order of matter, such as a resurrection, would entail a massive disruption in the usual order of time, his body and blood in Communion.

Jesus' comments are from before he fulfilled the Law. Christian Freedom is no more getting fat than it is fasting with no command.

Somewhere on somebody's blog you once said I was a rascal, so I am going to resist entirely -- fast from, as it were -- the urge to conclude with "What's for dinner?"

Father Hollywood said...

Dear PE:

I love you, man. In a purely Christian way, of course. But I have to tell you, I can't agree with you when you write off fasting with the statement: "Jesus' comments are from before he fulfilled the Law."

Dear friend, this is Marcionism squared. Now, we're not only going to toss out the entire OT since it was "Before Jesus," but now we're going to tear up all of "Jesus' comments" prior to the crucifixion.

The fact that our Lord fulfilled the Law for us should initiate within us a change of heart that makes us desire to deny ourselves. It is the Old Adam that wants the fifth piece of pie.

Fasting has nothing to do with justification other than a response to it. Our Lord calls upon us to deny ourselves, not so that we can earn salvation, but precisely for the opposite reason - so we can follow Him who has saved us by grace alone.

Judas Priest au jus on a po' boy! When you come to Gretna, I'll make sure you're well fed. But I will also walk your you-know-what all over the French Quarter so that on balance, you will leave with less than you came with. :-)

Past Elder said...

I'm not saying toss anything, I'm saying fasting as we go on about it is not there to be tossed.

And I reference Isaiah 58 as to what "fasting" is all about anyway.

And actually, I'm not opposed to fasting per se. What I am opposed to is making it obligatory OR leaving it voluntary with the idea that those who don't volunteer are less than.

I hear words in praise of fasting from some quarters in Lutheranism, but it sounds like words from the outside looking in. I came up in preconciliar Catholicism, stuck around for a while after postconciliar Catholicism hit, then spent twenty some years around Orthodox Judaism, in all of which "fasting" is part of the deal. Luther saw this stuff up close and personal too.

The words I hear in some quarters of Lutheranism in praise of fasting sound real nice, but do not fit the reality of fasting when it becomes part of the deal. Abuse does not define the use, it is the use, and I just don't buy theory that tries to dress up what this stuff is in actual practice.

For that matter, what one hears in RC or Orthodox verbiage, is theory trying to dress up practice, just from the inside.

So we road tripping to Baton Rouge to hear this piano-playing preacher up there?

Father Hollywood said...

Dear PE:

We have better preachers in Baton Rouge than the TV frauds. Besides, if you want televangelist entertainment, we have our share of crooks closer to home. If you're looking for piano playing, why drive an hour to BR when we can walk from my front door to the Quarter? :-)

Our Lord does not contradict Isaiah 58 when He himself fasts by abstaining from food and water. Nor does He contradict Isaiah when He teaches us how to fast with a proper attitude. True fasting is not *imagining* going without food, nor is it going without food *with an ulterior motive.*

Fasting (like prayer and almsgiving) is commanded by the Lord, but not simply for the sake of just doing it, and especially not in order to merit anything before God.

Our Lord never says fasting is optional. He says "*when* you fast" (not "if"). It is the same language He uses for prayer: "When you pray" (not "if").

AC 26 addresses the issue (as does the Apology). The issue is not that fasting is bad, but that it was being treated as "useful works for meriting grace" and "satisfaction for sins." The Church declared a complicated and inflexible scheme of fasting - and then declared deviation from it was a "sin." That was the problem. That was (and is) our beef (pun intended) with the Roman and Eastern approach.

The early Lutherans (unlike the American Lutherans) did not throw out the baby with the bathwater. And that is sad, considering the complaint: "Our adversaries object by accusing our teachers of being against discipline and the subduing of the flesh. Just the opposite is true" (AC 27:30). Also consider this: "True prayer, charity, and fasting have God’s command, and where they do, it is a sin to omit them" (Ap 12:143)."

When the church says: "Fasting is commanded by our Lord - not to earn salvation, but as part of the self-denial He commands His disciples who have been saved by grace," she teaches correctly. When she says: "It is a sin to eat chicken on Friday, but catfish is okay, under penalty of sin," she oversteps her authority and creates a law that doesn't exist.

But Lutherans have never abolished fasting (see especially AC 26:34-39 (German), Ap 15:45-48, and Ap 12:139-143).

However, the reality is that American Lutheranism is nearly 100% devoid of fasting, and, what's worse, the typical Lutheran would likely believe that we abolished fasting, just as many believe we abolished the Mass and private confession.

Past Elder said...

I don't find the "When" argument to have much merit. You gotta fast but how is up to you seems to me as much a stretch as saying the Our Father is also the only thing we can pray "when you pray" because he said when you pray. pray this form of Kaddish.

Which leads me to a side rant, I hate calling it the "Lord's Prayer" because he didn't write it, it is a version of an existing prayer and other versions can be found even in a modern siddur.

If there's Holy Ghosting, sin chasing Gospel music or hooped sermons in the Quarter, let's go!

Father Hollywood said...

Dear PE:

Our Lord commanded prayer. He gave us His prayer. And yes, He wrote it. He wrote everything. It's the whole "Logos" thing. Man, I would not want to be standing next to anyone who calls the Lord a plagiarist...

He also prayed in other forms as well, and so did the apostles. But He (and they) prayed. It is not an option.

Hence the Lord's use of "when." He could have said "if" but He said "when."

Ditto on almsgiving.

Being a gluttonous, hoarding, non-prayer isn't an option for the Christian life. Not even for Lutherans. How and when and how much you pray, fast, and give alms will vary from individual to individual.

But refusal to do these things in any way, shape, or form is simply contrary to our Lord's Word. We Americans are notorious in our refusal to submit to any authority or command, as well as for our, shall we say, extra roomy trousers.

Past Elder said...

Jesus was hardly a plagiarist. He was asked, since all the other teachers had their special prayers, would he give his guys one. He didn't. He gave them a clearly recognisable Kaddish, right in the tradition he was fulfilling and that led to him.

WHich gives us not only our Kaddish, Our Father, but a great example. We don't need all kinds of human tweaking of the liturgy, just stick to what we have been given, zealously guarding and defending it from either excess or extinction.

Looks like fasting is going up there with mitres and crosiers between you and me. But if you know a place in the Quarter when I can hit the stand with say "Jesus Dropped The Charges", I may show up sooner than anticipated.

Past Elder said...

I clean forgot in all the fasting stuff -- that was one fine Judas Priestism back there a few comments ago!

This makes PW, PTM and now you I have sparred with re self-induced glycose deprivation as spirituality.

All in a post about Fisk, not fast. So, back to the original subject, this 60 year old boomer who oughta be pushing 1960s folk music as spirituality like all the others thinks he and his vids are GREAT!

disgruntled world citizen said...

agreed. i watched this for the first time other day after Paul McCain linked it on his FB page. I've had to watch a few more times since then to get all of it and I'm sure I've still missed most of it. "2 am Red Bull..." agreed, or too many esspresso shots. I've watched a good many of his other videos and they are all truly amazing. Its probably a bad idea two watch them back-to-back-to-back-to-back until, you guessed it, 2 am... yes, they do have the power to explode your brain, err i mean Expand your brain. as a result of watching this video a couple times, i have in fact, taken down my BoC and started rereading it again. and yes, i will admit to having to blow dust off of it *shame*

i look forward to watching more of his vlogs in the future.

mlorfeld said...

The one thing I'd say with regards to Latif's comment regarding holding up a book that is the "Book of Concord" is that I would agree... however, no such thing exists in the English language (not even the Henkel edition which uses the Latin for its translation basis... at least of AC V).