Sunday, September 21, 2014

Exhibit C... and an apology

It has been well over a month since my last post so I figure it's well past time that I post something again... Unfortunately, I can't even say that it was because I have had no worldview responses to post =/ I've either just been lazy, or incredibly busy with not blogging...

That being said, I have had a very full life the past few weeks, I started working on my Bachelor's degree in Education at the beginning of the month and have been busily trying to keep up with a ridiculous amount of reading. Between that and work (I'm still working part time at the place I worked this past summer), I don't have time to do a whole lot of extra stuff... but I'm still hoping to get into the local Symphony (I play cello for anyone who doesn't know), so we'll see how this goes...

ANYWAY, enough about me... here is the next worldview response which comes to you from another dear friend of very unique background. =) Just for fun, let's call him Torval... Ill even let him introduce himself.

The World According to Torval

I'd like to give a short preface before I start, for those who are interested.
I have lived in multiple countries and attended many different denominations over the years, a mix of Evangelical, Pentecostal and even Lutheran.  I have learned many things and hope to continue to gain a greater understanding of what it means to be a Christian for the rest of my life.

1.  Ontology:

What is the purpose of life?
The purpose of life is to serve as witness to God's glory.
What are the most important things in the world?
Most importantly, to seek after God and love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
What is the purpose of existence?
The purpose of our existence is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
What is the center of the universe?  Where is it?
The universe is centered around not a place, but a being.  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1)
What is time?  What is space?  How do they intersect?
Time keeps track of finite things within the infinite eternity of existence.  Space likewise grounds physical things within the infinite vastness of God's domain.

2.  Futurology:

Where are we going?  In life?  After life?
We are either going toward God or away from God in belief and action during this life.  After we die, we will either live forever in heaven or be sent to hell.

3.  Axiology:

What is good and what is evil?
Good is that which is aligned to the nature and commands of God, evil is that which is contrary to his nature and his commands.
How should we approach life?
We should view life as fleeting and temporary, therefore as a time to live as witnesses to God and his promise of salvation.
What goals are most important?
The most important goals are those which bring us into further obedience to God and those which expand his kingdom.
What values are most important?
The greatest values are those found both generally in God's nature and specifically in his revelation (especially the fruits of the spirit as outlined by Paul).
What is our ethical responsibility?
We are to live humbly and act justly, care for the poor and the widows, and do good to those who wrong us.

3.  Praxeology:

How should we act?
Our ultimate aim should be to live and act perfectly, as Christ did.  We should model our action based on his perfect model.
How do we go about approaching the world around us?
We are to live in the world, but not of the world.  Being flesh, we must understand the struggles of humanity but live in the hope of our new spiritual bodies that are promised us after life.  The world is fleeting and will pass away, so we must place our treasures in heaven, not on physical or temporal things.
How do we go about accomplishing our goals?
Our goals should be thought through with prayer, and carried out with diligence and love.
How do we go about approaching the Divine?
God has many roles, and is both our Father and our King.  Though we must fear his awesome power, we can also find comfort in his loving embrace.

5.  Epistemology:

What is truth?
Jesus came into the world for a single purpose: to testify to the truth.  God is this truth, and the better we understand his nature (including his plan of salvation), the better we know truth.
What is knowledge?
Knowledge is our understanding of the world around us that God has placed us in.
What is wisdom?
Wisdom is discerning and interpreting eternal truths into finite situations.
How do we know what is true and what is not?
Though sometimes the truth can be veiled behind lies, ultimately truth can be discerned by listening to God's word (either by prayer or meditating on the Bible) as he chooses to reveal it to us.
How does one gain knowledge and/or wisdom?
We need only to ask God, and he will give it to us.  He has already given us our entire lives as a gift to learn, but we need only ask for more.

6.  Etiology:

Where do we come from?
We come from dust and to dust we will return.  God created us out of nothing.
What is our history?
Our history is that of sin – choosing to obey our own desires rather than God-given ones.  The current story of the human race is that of a desperate search for meaning, one that can only be satisfied in God.
How did we get to this place?
We chose it.  Every one of us is sinful, and each has turned to his own way.  We are wise in our own eyes and sinful in nature.
What is most important in life?
The most important thing in this life is to seek after God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  After accepting his sacrifice for our sins, we must live as Christ-like examples and spread the good news that he offers to salvation to anyone who believes.
What is indispensable to how we see the world?
The Bible is God's specific revelation to man, and an indispensable tool for us to learn about God and his plans.

Friday, August 1, 2014


A while back, a dear friend of mine sent me a link to an article titled "The Hillsong Song every Christian can sing." I have to admit that I was rather apprehensive when I clicked on the link... The page that I found at the other end told the story of how an Anglican minister convinced several song writers from the world-famous Australian pentacostal mega-church to revisit the text of the Apostle's Creed and rework it into a modern "Worship Chorus."

At the time the article came out (and my subsequent reading of it), I was unable to any recordings or even complete lyrics. I was somewhat suspicious, though, I have developed a somewhat ambivalent attitude toward the songs that come out of the Hillsong movement so you may likely just chalk it up to that if you like. I managed to find a few other articles discussing the forthcoming song but was forced to bide my time until its official release. However, I must say that when I finally did come across the song a few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised. While I think the claim that every Christian can sing the song is a bit presumptuous (as is the writer's seeming belief that they are the first people to set the words to music in generations... there have been at least 3 others in the last 50 years all in relatively contemporary styles), the song itself has the potential to be very impactful in the circles where Hillsong is influential. I highly doubt that this song will reach far outside of the Pentecostal and Evangelical circles that Hillsong seems to dominate at times, I hope that it can serve to help to heal some of the many divisions that exist there as well as drive people to search out more of these ancient texts for themselves and not just rely on popular Christian music to shape it into a more accessible form...

In a recent conversation I had with another good friend, it came out that he was afraid to show me some songs because I tend to give technical critiques that end up sounding as if I don't like the song... (which in some cases may be the case, but I guess that's what I get for having a professional background in music...) Thus, I shall resist the temptation to give a full critique and content myself with 3 stars and a wish...

Star No. I:

I appreciated that they included all 12 phrases from the original creed (though a few words were changed to make it more palatable to more audiences).

Star No. II:

I felt the melody was easy to learn and sing (okay, this might not exactly be a star for everyone, but it is something in this day and age) The words have an easy and natural flow.

Star No. III:

While the writers did add various statements, I felt that the added material (tropes if you want to be traditional...) didn't take away from the meaning of the original text and contribute a nice rounding out of the text and even (likely inadvertently) clarifying some of the articles left ambiguous by the original. Fitting arcane texts to contemporary music styles can be cumbersome at times and they did a pretty good job working with that. (for the most part)


While fitting the words to the contemporary musical conventions is difficult, I find that often the logical flow of the original tends to be sacrificed for the sake of the musical convention. This happens all the time with Hymns that are re-worked with added choruses and bridges and the like; the verses that flow logically together become interrupted by the tropes (this isn't always a horrible thing, but it can be done well or poorly) I felt that the logical flow of the text did get sacrificed considerably and the emphasis was shifted from an intentional confession of faith in God to a somewhat disjointed affirmation of personal belief.

Okay fine, here's another Star since that "wish" had at least two prongs to it...

While I didn't like how disjointed the various articles became, I did really appreciate that an emphasis on the Resurrection of the dead became very apparent =)

So there you have it... now that I've talked about it... here's the video

What are your thoughts? Please do share =)

Also, is it just me or does the phrase "Holy Church" make anyone else think of a certain Cardinal in a rediculous red costume accusing old ladies of heresy? (If you aren't a fan of Monty Python's Flying Circus you likely won't get this and will probably be offended, so please disregard my previous question...)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Exhibit B, Part II

So, along with my list of world view questions, I included another list of miscellaneous "bonus questions." I included them with the intention that contributors could answer as many or as few of them as they like... however, just because they didn't make it into the main body of questions doesn't mean they aren't important... Many of them pertain to things that often have many different meanings depending on who you're talking to (especially in English where Religious Homonyms abound...) Thus, here are the bonus questions that were submitted along with the last worldview. I broke them up because otherwise things could get pretty long (that and I haven't had very many responses as of yet... so I'm kinda trying to stretch things out a little... =/)

Worldview of the Augsburg Confession
~ Bonus Questions ~

What is Salvation? 

“To be saved, we know, is nothing else than to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil and to enter into the kingdom of Christ and live with him forever.” (LC IV.25) Salvation can be compared to being alive. A living person works and has a will; a dead person neither has a will nor can he do works. With this in mind, the Christian is “dead to sin and [made] alive to God in Jesus Christ” (Rom. 6:11). The person whose sins have not been forgiven is “dead in [his] transgressions” (Eph. 2:1); moreover, as an enemy of God (John 8:34), is unable to please God in anything he does. A person cannot be ‘partly’ alive, ‘partly’ on the right side of the law, or ‘partly’ belonging to both God and to the Devil.

Salvation is thought of as having two parts: Justification (“being made just”) and Sanctification (“being made holy”). Justification can be thought of as being brought to life, and sanctification involves living God’s way. “Faith apart from works is dead.” (Js. 2:14-26)

It is useless to single out any precise “moment” of salvation. We were saved when Jesus said “It is finished” on the cross. We are saved when the old man is “put off in Baptism”; we are saved each time we partake of the Communion cup or receive the Absolution from our priest. We will be saved when the Son returns in His glory to finally separate the good from the wicked. “For, where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.” (SC: The Sacrament of the Altar)

What is Scripture? 

“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.” (Pr. 30:5-6)

Scripture is the Word of God. Because Scripture has two natures – divine and human – St. John the Evangelist believed that Jesus Christ is the living incarnation of the Word (Gk. ο λογος) (Jn. 1:1; Rev. 19:13). The properties of Scripture having been adequately treated in our Epistemology, what remains are a brief word on the authority of Scripture. Now, just as the written word of a king or leader carries the same weight as if they were speaking to you directly, we owe the proper reverence to the word of God. Dr. Martin Luther reasoned thus: “The Gospels were taken up and approved by the Fathers; that is to say, the Fathers themselves recognized the Holy Spirit. But one must not infer from this: The church or the Fathers are above the Gospel, any more than to say, I recognize the true and living God and his Word; therefore I am above God and his word. Just as one is not superior to a prince whom one acknowledges, or to a parent, so it is here.” Thus Irenaeus of Lyons summed up in Against Heresies III.1-2: “If anyone does not agree with [the Scriptures] he despises the companions of the Lord, he despises the Lord Christ himself, he despises even the Father, and he is self-condemned, resisting and refuting his own salvation as all the heretics do.” Again: as a certain Political Science professor at TWU would express it, when God speaks, “you listen up and shut up”.

Our Lord was known to open arguments with statements like: “Have you never read?” or, “It is written” or, “You know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God!” The Holy Apostles understood that everything revealed to them was in accordance with – and did not contradict – the words of the OT (see 2 Pet. 16-21; Ac. 15). The Jewish believers in Berea “received the word in all eagerness, examining the Scriptures to see if these things were so.” (Ac. 17:11)

What is the Church? 

“It is a fellowship of faith and of the Holy Spirit in marks. Yet this fellowship has outward marks that can be recognized. These marks are the pure doctrine of the Gospel and administration of the Sacraments in accordance with the Gospel of Christ. This Church alone is called Christ’s body, which Christ renews, sanctifies, and governs by His Spirit. Paul testified about this when he says, ‘And gave Him as head over all things the Church, which is His body: the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Eph. 1:22-23)” (Ap. IV.5)

If you understood, then you heard it right: the One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church can be found anywhere called ministers of Christ dispense the Word of God and the Sacraments according to His institution (1 Cor. 4:1)! It is not one particular synodical body; it is any synodical body that bears these marks of the Church. Whenever your pastor/priest/bishop ministers according to the standards set forth by the Apostles, you are part of Christ’s Church.

You may hear of the “Church Militant”; that is us believers on earth who still contend with the Devil, the world, and the desires of our sinful flesh (see Eph. 5:12).  Those who have left this world for God are called the “Church Triumphant”. Both together form the “Communion of Saints”.  The ancient Liturgy recognizes their joint worship that happens during celebration of the Lord’s Supper: “Therefore, with angels and archangels, and all the company of Heaven, we laud & magnify Your Glorious Name…” (LSB, Divine Service: Proper Preface for Holy Communion)

What is the Symbol of Faith? 

The Prophetic & Apostolic Scriptures are the ultimate rule & norm of faith. (Period.)

The Confessional Lutheran Church adheres to authoritative statements (symbols) of faith, such as the three Catholic Creeds: namely, the Apostles’, Nicene (in its Western form), and Athanasian. These and other symbolic documents are collected in the Book of Concord (or, The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church). The Confessional writings were compiled by countless theologians over the 16th century in answer to both ancient and new heresies. According to the International Lutheran Council, the Book of Concord represents “a clear & accurate exposition of the Holy Scriptures”.

Outside of this, Lutherans do not subscribe uncritically to the private opinions of any saintly or otherwise figure in the Church. Whether he be Martin Luther, St. Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, a pope, or our local pastor, they are occasionally erring humans – as much as you or me. For a church to claim absolute congruence with one teacher or another is problematic, as even the ancient Fathers were known to disagree in their writings. However, there is remarkable agreement (concord) in terms of how they viewed God, Scripture, and our salvation. Faithful teachers past & present are a gift of the Holy Spirit. The misguided statements of Christian teachers are their own; but where they teach the orthodox, catholic, and evangelical doctrine of the Church, they form part of her rich Sacred Tradition.

What is Grace? 

Grace, by definition, is a gift or a waived punishment unmerited by our prior worthiness. Grace is often contrasted with Nature (defined here as the pre-existing state of a thing; i.e. human nature). “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing – it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)
You may ask, How are we saved by grace? The Sacraments are the “Means of Grace”, as they transfer the work of the Spirit to the believer in a very tangible and efficacious way. The Means of Grace are: the Word of God, Holy Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper/the Eucharist/Holy Communion.

Grace is not irresistible, as it requires two things on the part of the believer: contrition (genuine sorrow over one’s sins) and faith (undaunted confidence in one’s salvation). Confusing? more like Amazing!

What is the evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit? 

Good works are the evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit. (see Gal. 5:22-25; 2 Pet. 1:10; James 2:18) The Holy Spirit has “called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, and kept me in the true faith.” (SC: Explanation of the Third Article) A life according to God’s commands – that is, whenever a person is horrified by his sins and bears “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Mat. 3:8) – is evidence enough that the Spirit is at work in a person. The Holy Spirit does not dwell in a person with mortal sin – that is, one who makes a show of living an ungodly lifestyle.

God has promised us that the Spirit is predictably present & at work via tangible means: the Word and Sacraments. Water drowns and washes us in Holy Baptism; we eat the flesh & drink the blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist; we hear and speak the Word of God, read orally and actively in the Liturgy. Predictable does not mean boring; it means reliable.

Inexplicable signs, apparitions, prophesies, and miracles are not necessarily of the Holy Spirit, as even false prophets, demons, and “Antichrists” can perform them (Rev. 13:13-14; see Deut. 13:1-5, 1 Sam. 28). Rather, “To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this Word, it is because they have no dawn.” (Isaiah 8:19b-20)

Why do bad things happen to good people?

1)      “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the ones he loves, and chastens every son whom he receives.” (Prov. 3:11,12, cited in Heb. 12:6) We may not be as “good” as we think we are at any given moment.

2)       “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. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgement to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome of those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, ‘If the righteous will be scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (1 Pet. 4:12-18)

3)      God doesn’t really owe us this knowledge. (see Job; Ecclesiastes 8:14-17)

What happened at the Fall? 

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him.” (Gen. 1:27) “What was this image and likeness other than that man was created with the wisdom and righteousness so that he could apprehend God and reflect God? Mankind was given the gift of knowing God, fearing God, and being confident in God. This is how Irenaeus and Ambrose interpret the likeness to God.” (Ap. I.18, 19) Man was created with a free will and “original righteousness”, defined above.

At the Fall, man lost his “original righteousness”, to be replaced with “original sin”. He became no longer able to enjoy communion with God, to trust his neighbour without reservation, or to sustain his immortality with the fruit of the Tree of Life. Having transgressed God’s Law, God’s further dealings with man had to come via some form of punishment or sacrifice (atonement). “The law requires that everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Heb. 9:22) “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23a)
Death (like sin) was never an essential part of being human; it is solely the result of sin. Death is defined as “separation”, i.e. of the soul from the body, or of any being from God.

What is sin? Sin nature? 

“The ancient definition of sin is that it is a lack of righteousness. This definition not only denies that mankind is capable of knowing God, placing confidence in God, fearing and loving God, and certainly also the ability to produce such things … when righteousness has been lost, conspicuence came in its place. Since diseased nature cannot fear and love God and believe God, it seeks and loves carnal things. By nature, when we are secure, we hold God’s judgement in contempt.” (Ap. I.23, 24)
There are two kinds of sin:

1)      Original sin. Refers to the unavoidable inclination towards sin that a person inherits. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity/ and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5) The marks of original sin are evident in that “the wages of sin are death” (Rom. 6:23a), and all human beings, from the moment of conception, despite their mental capacity to be self-aware, are vulnerable to physical & spiritual death.

2)      Actual sin. Refers to any sins that a person commits, both consciously and unconsciously. “Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.” (Psalm 19:12)
Of those born of woman, only Jesus the Nazarene, being “in very nature God”, is innocent from the contagion of sin. “He became sin who knew no sin, that through him the many would be counted righteous.” (2 Cor. 5:21; see Psalm 49:7)

What is Communion? 

Communion may have a myriad of meanings. (Κοιονια “fellowship”, i.e. with a Spiritual quality to it.) In the broad sense, it may refer to the fellowship shared between any living persons – esp. between the persons of the Trinity, or between the believer and Jesus Christ. (see Ac. 4:32-37)

In the strictest sense, communion refers to the intimate fellowship of members in the congregation. Congregations are said to be “in communion” when their members are permitted to receive the Eucharist, to be sponsors at Baptism, and to occupy leadership roles in the congregation; Lutherans refer to this as “altar & pulpit fellowship”. In this sense, communion is important because it refers to the rights of a Christian; it also implies that their fellowship with other believers contributes to building up the kingdom of God.

The harshest penalty the Church has the authority to exact is excommunication. Called “church discipline”, so long as a believer is in the state of excommunication, they surrender their rights as a Christian & their fellowship with other believers – with the implication that they may suffer this penalty in the next world, if the reasons for such discipline are not amended. Reasons for excommunication include living in mortal sin, or holding to beliefs that contradict those of the Church. “Expel the immoral brother!” (1 Cor. 5; cf. 1 Cor. 10:21)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Worldviews: Exibit B

Hey everyone,

Sorry for the delay in posting the last couple of weeks, I've been away and without regular access to the internet... Anyway, here's the next submission which comes from a dear Lutheran friend of mine: hope you enjoy =)

The Worldview of the Augsburg Confession

SC = Luther’s Small Catechism. LC = Large Catechism. Ap. = Apology of the Augsburg Confession. LSB = Lutheran Service Book. Epitome = Epitome of the Formula of Concord.

I.          Ontology (model of being)

“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)

In His Word, God has revealed to us many things about time, the center(s) of the universe, and its structure. But, while He did not satisfy every question our curiosity may demand, what is most needful is to understand how all these topics intersect in the person & work of God’s Son. Blessed Dr. Martin Luther, Reformer of the Church, outlines the boundaries of our existence most succinctly in the Explanation of the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God begotten of the Father from eternity, and true man begotten of the Virgin Mary of the Holy Spirit, is my Lord; who has redeemed me, a lost & condemned creature, from sin, death, and the power of the devil – not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and innocent suffering & death, that I may be his own and live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. Just as he is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity, this is most certainly true.” (SC II)

II.        Futurology (model of the future)

Jesus Christ prepared his followers to expect these things in life:

1)                  The blessing of God
2)                  The hatred of the world
3)                  The growth of the Church

After life, “it is appointed for a man to die once, but after this face judgement.” (Heb. 9:27) The Creed of Athanasius concludes that “whoever does not believe [the catholic faith] faithfully and firmly cannot be saved.”

In a moment known only to God the Father, Christ will return visibly to Earth in all his glory. The Church can expect to undergo the persecution, trials & disasters held in store for the last times (see Rev. 6:9-11; Mat. 24:22); her commission of witnessing to Christ and converting souls, both by the aid of the Holy Spirit as promised in John 16, is not finished until “the end of the age” (Mat. 28:18-20).

Our Good Shepherd will then separate the good from the wicked, for good. In Matthew chapter 25, the faithful followers of Christ will enter into glory with him in the presence of God the Father (Heaven), while the worldly join the evil angels banished from his presence (Hell). The Scriptures give us little factual information regarding what kind of experience awaits us in the hereafter. What we infer is that there will be varying stages of glory in Heaven and varying degrees of punishment in Hell (see Mat. 25:14-30; 1 Cor. 15:21; Lk. 12:47-48). The saints in Heaven are too focussed on Christ to claim any merits for themselves; the damned in Hell have no one to blame but their own hardheartedness.

To him be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:25)

III.       Axiology (theory of values)

God is good. Everything He made is good (Gen. 1-2). Everything He does is good and just. Everything He says is true.  All good things come from Him (Js. 1:17-18).
False teachings ultimately come from the Devil, as do all evil things that would endanger our physical or spiritual well-being; he is, after all, the “father of lies” and “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). Satan and his host of fallen angels oppose what is good with a passion equal to his dread of the day of his ultimate destruction in the lake of fire.

Our eternal salvation is the most important thing; God would rather nail His beloved Son to a Roman cross than have any one of us lose our life with Him. Gifts such as culture, patriotism, wealth, family, friendship, and ‘identity’ (whatever that means) are certainly good gifts from God. But even a good thing, when held over & against the Fountain and Source of all goodness, becomes an idol that may jeopardize our salvation. Our priority is to “love & trust in Him and gladly do what He commands” (SC I: The Close of The Commandments). This may demand us to let go of any or all the above things – even our earthly lives.

IV.       Praxeology (theory of actions)

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind … Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Mat. 22:37, 39) (For a thorough treatment of Christian ethics, reference SC or LC I: The Ten Commandments.)

The inclination of the human heart is to “do what is right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). He involves himself in setting up new laws which he feels he can live up to – and dispenses with these when the “ends justify”. But, the end is always alienation from God. Living by God’s Law as clearly outlined in Holy Scripture offers us an alternative to hatred, suspicion, and self-interest which put us at odds with God and with others. Lutherans use this Law famously in three ways:

1)                 A “fence”: “the Law keeps us from violent outbursts of sin and keeps order in the world.”
2)                 A “mirror”: “the Law accuses us and shows us our sin.”
3)                 A “guide”: “the Law teaches Christians that we should and should not do to lead a God-pleasing life. 

The power to live according to the Law comes from the Gospel.” (Explanation of the Small Catechism 77)
Having clearly outlined in Holy Scripture what kind of works please Him, God expects nothing less than perfect obedience “in thought, word, and deed”. “You must therefore be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mat 65:48; cf. Lv. 11:14; Mat. 5:20) “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails on one point has become accountable of all of it.” (Js. 2:10) Only those who keep God’s Law without defect can escape His wrath & displeasure – for He, being just, cannot help destroying anything that is not holy. “Depart from me – for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Lk. 5:8; see Is.6:5)

With this in mind, we would despair of approaching the Divine – had it not been for our sacrificial Lamb: Jesus Christ, who placed himself between us and God’s wrath. God commanded his people in the OT to select for this purpose an animal “without blemish”; these were a symbol of the perfect obedience Jesus performed in life (Heb. 10:19-25). God looks at human beings with the spotless record of Jesus in mind. ON TOP OF the merits of Christ, believers cheerfully & prayerfully carry out good works (made possible through participation in the Word and Sacraments). “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.” (Lk. 17:10)

V.        Epistemology (theory of knowledge)

“Thy Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:5)

The measure by which we gage all truth is the canonical Scriptures. God condescended to use human language to communicate with us via the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures have come to us through human authors, who actively drew upon their diverse experiences, cultural contexts, and literary styles in composing them. The Scriptures fell from “the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4), they are “trustworthy and true” (Rev. 22:6), and “profitable for teaching, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). Humans can err, but God is above error; therefore, God’s Word is inerrant.

Within their voluminous pages, God has managed to deliver no more and no less truth than we need to know about Him, His plan, and His will for our lives. “They have Moses and the prophets – let them hear them.” (Lk. 16:29; see Jn. 5:46, 21:25) This does not rule out other means of knowing, such as observable science or historical record. Simply, what the Scriptures teach cannot be negated by our senses, internal sentiments, or outside sources. For example, Jesus is recorded in no less than four places as saying “This is my body… this is my blood” (Lk. 22:19, 20), and – despite no physical evidence – we believe it is. On the practical side, we hold to God’s commands in spite of pressure from friends, rulers, or society (Ac. 5:29).

VI.       Eitology (model of causation & origination)

“The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (Jn. 6:63b)

The origin and the chief cause of all things is the “living & active” Word of God (Heb. 4:12). Perhaps the most incredible way of seeing our world is how these words still have the same power in it today even as they did when He commanded the universe into being (Gen. 1-2), or when Jesus spoke them during His lifetime. This fact evidenced by the Sacramental properties it carries when properly read, understood, and meditated on. “It is God’s will that men should hear this Word and not stop their ears. The Holy Spirit is present with this Word and opens hearts so that they heed it and thus are converted…” (Epitome II.5)

Every time Christ performed a healing, he did so with audible words. A Christian Baptism in “the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Mat. 28:19) carries with it all of his regenerative power – for in it, we are “united with him” (Rm. 6:3-9). When Christ passed orally to the Apostles the power to bind or to loose sins, it is recorded that “he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.” (Jn. 20:22) Each time our pastor absolves us after confession, we believe that “this is just as valid and as certain as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us himself” (SC V: Confession). The words spoken by Christ on the historic night when he was betrayed changed ordinary bread and wine into his life-giving body and blood; these words do this same thing each time they are repeated (unaltered). What’s more, his words “Shed for you for the forgiveness of sins” give you the prizes of His Passion on the cross. “Which is easier – to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk?” (Mk. 2:9)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Worldviews: Exibit A

So last week, I mentioned that I made a list of questions that I hoped would help with the documentation of various Christian worldviews. In the interest of better understanding I sent this list to various friends of mine who hale from diverse Christian traditions asking if they would be able to formulate responses to the best of their understanding and ability on behalf of their faith tradition. So far, the response has been somewhat underwhelming, but then again, it takes a lot of thought to answer questions like "What is?" or "How did we get here?" and the like, so I suppose that's alright.

In the interest of being unbiased, I shall present the responses that I receive in the order that I receive them. I am very excited to see what various people have to say, and the responses that I've received already have been insightful and thought provoking... but don't take my word for it... please take the time to read and understand and engage for yourself. 

Okay, so here goes... The first worldview I would like to submit for your appreciation comes to you courtesy of my priest Fr. Lawrence Farley (he didn't feel anonymity to be necessary). The questions are italicised.

 I Ontology: (model of being);
What is the purpose of life?
Like the Westminster Confession says, the purpose of life/ existence is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. As CS Lewis points out, the two are the same thing, since to glorify God is to enjoy Him. In classic Orthodox terms, it means that the purpose of life is to focus our hearts upon God so that we enjoy a continual flow of His life, joy, and Presence into us, and allow that life, joy, and Presence to flow through us out into all the world.
Thus, the most important things in the world are those things which reflect His Presence--which includes our neighbour, and especially our poor neighbour. It is our neighbour that we can preeminently find the presence of the Lord in the world.
The question "What is the centre of the universe? and Where is it?" can only be answered by us in moral and spiritual terms, not physical or astronomical ones. (For in outer space, where is "up"?) For us the center is the human heart, for it is in the heart that one finds God and where God comes to dwell. It is difficult to answer the questions "What is time? What is space? and How do they intersect?" because as finite human beings we have never known anything else. The angels who are less confined by these created realities might hazard a better guess, and as might the saints who have been to some degree liberated from them and who now dwell in the Kingdom. But asking us about this is like asking a fish, "How does it feel to be wet?" The fish cannot answer; it has never known anything else to compare it to.

II Futurology: (model of the future);
Where are we going? In life? After life?
Here the destination depends upon the one travelling, for each one chooses his or her own destination. If we are oriented towards the light and to God, we are going towards Him and His Kingdom. If in our secret heart we reject Him, we are travelling away from Him, into the darkness, into non-being, into hell. The destination depends upon our choice, for God's judgment sets the seal upon what we ourselves choose.
III Axiology: (theory of values);
What is good and what is evil? The Good is what is real--i.e. God, and evil is the nothingness that comes when we refuse to choose God and goodness, the deprivation of goodness and of life. Evil is essentially parasitic, for it has no life of its own, and draws its horrible phantom reality from goodness. Thus, as some have said, evil is spoiled goodness. We should there approach life by constantly choosing goodness and kindness, and choosing our earthly goals as ones that are consistent with this. The values and ethical responsibility we bear cannot be systematically catalogued, nor did Christ offer us such a system. He simply told us to love, by doing to others what we would have them do to us.
IV Praxeology: (theory of actions);
How should we act? Following from this, we should act consistently with love and goodness in our approach to the world--that is, to the concrete and specific person and opportunity that each day bestows upon us. It is no use saying we love the world in general, for the world is not experienced in general, but as a series of individual encounters, and it is in these encounters that we must be kind and loving. Approaching the Divineis something else: here we approach with trembling, trusting that our humble and loving approach to God will find a welcome in God through Christ. Any approach to God which does not involve trembling is vain and illusory. Isaiah and John point the way: Isaiah saw the Lord and said that he was undone; John saw the glorified Christ and fell at His feet as one dead.
V Epistemology: (theory of knowledge);
What is Truth? What is knowledge? What is wisdom? One could approach these questions as a philosopher (as Pilate did) and ultimately embrace cynical nihilism, or as a worshipper, and embrace Christ. It is in Him alone that all the divine treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found. Ultimately such epistemological knowledge is transcended in the Holy Spirit: we know because we have an anointing from Him, and He witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God. Philosophers who trust in the power of discursive reasoning remain earth-bound, and cannot attain by themselves to such heights. This knowledge and anointing is gained through humble repentance and faith.
VI Etiology: (model of causation and origination);
Where do we come from? Ultimately, from God, that is, from mystery. Our own personal history represents our partial knowledge of how God brought us to Himself, and because our knowledge is partial, we can scarcely know How did we get to this place. What we can know is What is most important in life--namely, to know God and to continually walk in humility with love before His face. This is the one thing needful, the one indispensable thing as we strive to live in this world.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

On Worldviews Part 2

I finished last week by hinting at three predominant worldview categories that I have observed within the range of Christian experience. This doesn’t mean there aren’t more. It’s just that three is a good number and also feasible for this discussion... Since, I could very quickly get myself in trouble by defining these categories point blank, I shall use the “relative” neutrality of metaphors in order to keep my language bias free. Thus, I shall turn to the world of Sacred Choral Music to help me illustrate some differences. Please keep in mind that there is no such thing as a “perfect metaphor” and since I likely don’t understand certain worldviews as well as I should like, there may be some misrepresentation.

If you are not very familiar with the ridiculously diverse world of what is generally termed “Classical” music, I shall try to keep my explanations short, uncluttered and relevant to the discussion. Generally, music history since around 1600 is divided into 4 categories: Baroque (approximately 1600-1750), Classical (approx. 1750-1840), Romantic (approx. 1825-1900), Modern/20th Century (approx. 1900-present). Each of these divisions is more of a guideline and they are roughly assigned according to the general cohesion of writing styles that were utilized at the time. Now I would like to propose that we use these first three “periods” as our three categories. Thus, our three worldviews are as follows: Baroque, Classical, and Romantic. I shall illustrate each period with a musical example that exemplifies the characteristics that I feel are important. They are all settings of a very ancient Greek Hymn whose translation is: Lord Have Mercy, Christ Have Mercy, Lord Have Mercy. Please do listen to the excerpts, if nothing else, they can provide some background accompaniment to your reading...

The Baroque Worldview

The Baroque movement, is all about symmetry and affects, symbolism and beauty.

This example is by J.S. Bach, who was about as Baroque as you can get... (that pun was sort of intended). He was a very devout Lutheran man who spent his life writing music for God. Though most of his music was written to be played in Church, Bach felt that there was no separation between the Secular and the Spiritual and often inscribed “to God alone be the Glory” on his finished manuscripts. This particular piece is constructed in a form called a fugue which is a piece constructed out of a single melody that is duplicated several times (with some alterations), then the strands of music are placed over top of each other and woven together to form a beautiful tapestry. This particular fugue has a short introduction before the base melody is heard, however, you can quickly begin to pick out the melody being woven together. This form is born out of very old musical traditions that go back several hundred years before Bach’s lifetime. In this piece, everything contributes to the whole equally though not every voice is heard at all times.

The Classical Worldview

Above all else, the Classical worldview loves order, clarity, and refinement

This example was written by F. J. Haydn, one of the two most famous composers from this period. He was a devout Catholic and was a life time servant of the Emperor of Austria-Hungry. This particular setting of the Kyrie is constructed in a very refined and clear form called “Sonata-Allegro Form.” There are three distinct sections in this form: the Exposition where the main themes are clearly spelled out, the Development where the themes are fleshed out and played with, and finally the Recapitulation where the themes are originally stated once more almost exactly as they were stated in the exposition (note the decidedly rhetorical names and functions). This form is about the clear victory of a specific key (usually the original key of the piece, i.e. A major, d minor, etc.) the Exposition usually ends in a different key than the one it started in setting up a kind of power struggle between the two. However, when the themes are restated in the Recapitulation they are all in the original key, thus the dominance. Another thing to notice is the clear elevation of the soprano soloist above the rest of the orchestra and choir, this provides for clarity of text and (theoretically) should aid in the ease of understanding what’s being said.

The Romantic Worldview

This worldview especially prises individuality and emotion, as well as both intrinsic and extrinsic meaning. (This is where we get the idea that “music is a universal language.” )

This piece was written by F. Mendelssohn, who is my personal favourite composer. He was a German Lutheran of Jewish descent who took his faith seriously in a time when many of his colleagues in the art community did not. This piece is constructed in a manner somewhat different from the other two. While, each of the other pieces had a specific form and “map” if you will, this piece seems to follow “wherever the music takes it.” It is held together more through common idiomatic expression and textural colour. This is the kind of music that was designed to tell a story (while you can tell a story to the other two selections) this one was written almost cinematically. It also assumes some kind of deep meaning that can only be expressed through the experience of the music, and is likely reflection of the composer’s own emotions at the time of writing (though this is not necessarily the case with this specific piece). Nevertheless, it uses a great deal more colourful chord progressions than the two other examples which can produce a heightened emotional state. Also, this piece is a stand alone, it is not part of a larger work like the other two examples I have given. I apologize for defining this worldview over and against the other two, however, it is in many ways very similar, but in other ways so completely different that it is difficult to summarize without capitalizing on the differences.

There, now that wasn’t so bad, was it? Now for the big reveal: You may already have some ideas of who fits where. While this is not a hard and fast rule (see the denominations of each of the composers for a very clear indication of this) I have observed that those of High Sacramental Traditions (Catholic, Orthodox, some High Anglicans) tend to fall mostly within a Baroque worldview. The Classical worldview would fit best with High Lutherans and Reform Traditions and the Evangelical, Pentacostal, and Charismatic groups would then fall into the Romantic worldview. I suppose I could add a fourth worldview called the Modern/20th Century worldview to include the United Church and Low Church Anglicans and Lutherans, but I don’t think there’s a way of doing that concisely and un-pejoratively... =/

Really, the purpose of this discussion is to better understand where people are coming from. I don’t think it’s as necessary to insist on everyone starting from the same place (ie. Constructing or conforming to a single Christian worldview) as it is to insist on understanding each other. As I was contemplating what to say over the past week, it occurred to me that it might be beneficial to have some input from various people that I know on the subject since I am naturally limited in my understanding of the worldviews that I do not hold. Naturally, the process of defining ones own worldview can be quite a daunting process full of questions like “what is?” (a rather broad and open ended question that really isn’t that particularly helpful if you ask me...) Thus, with the aid of Leo Apostel’s model that I discussed last week, I came up with a list of questions to aid in this process and will be endeavouring to send them to various friends, interlocutors, and professionals in this area. As I have said before, I don't think there can be any real dialogue until we are able to accept that others see things from different perspectives and are able to address the concerns of the other. I shall thus endeavour to post their responses here in the hopes that this may possibly open up dialogue and be a small step toward understanding.