Posts Tagged ‘Lutheran Satire’

Why I’m not Catholic, Part 28

January 5, 2017

I hate to be an ecumenical wet blanket. I promise I’m not anti-Catholic. Even last month, I quoted extensively from the former Pope Benedict XVI’s excellent little book on Christmas, which I’d recommend to anyone. And I celebrate the many points of agreement between orthodox Protestants and Catholics.

Nevertheless, in this, the five-hundredth anniversary year of the Protestant Reformation, I will shed no tears: There were good reasons the Reformation happened, and apart from drastic reform within the Roman church, good reasons that we Protestants still refuse to swim the Tiber. One of them is this New Year’s tweet from Pope Francis:

Catholic apologists tell me that praying to the saints is nothing more than asking your friends—in this case, your friends in heaven—to pray for you. They are “prayer warriors”—if unusually effective ones. Indeed, even the Hail Mary prayer asks her to “pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”

Not that this isn’t hard enough to swallow. It asks us to imagine that Mary and the saints wait in heaven at our beck and call, outside of time, endowed with God-like powers of omnipresence and omniscience, ready to hear our prayer and intercede for us. At any one moment, after all, thousands or millions could be praying the Hail Mary. How is she not omnipresent? Otherwise, supplicants are competing with one another to be heard—and, let’s face it, she would likely only hear a tiny fraction of the prayers offered. (Is this the reason people repeat the prayer so many times?)

And she must be able to read our thoughts: I assume a prayer that isn’t verbalized “counts,” for example, if the supplicant is unable to speak. How is that possible apart from omniscience?

I hate to speculate, but what else can I do? I would turn to the New Testament for guidance from Paul and the other apostles, but there’s nothing there. Praying to the saints is an entirely extrabiblical practice.

Regardless, apologists tell us that Catholics are only asking Mary and the saints to intercede on their behalf, nothing more. They don’t believe that the saints have any inherent power to answer any prayer other than the prayer for them to pray for us.

But if that’s true, how do you explain the Pope’s recent tweet? How is it not idolatrous to entrust the future to any creature, rather than to Christ himself? What powers does Mary herself possess to enable peace and mercy to grow?

I like this tweet from Lutheran Satire:

P.S. “Mother of God,” from the Greek theotokos (literally “God-bearer”), was originally a Christological formulation, meant to communicate the full divinity of Christ: When Mary bore Christ, she bore God himself, because Christ was fully God. While I wouldn’t use the term myself, given how it’s prone to misunderstanding, there is nothing unorthodox about referring to Mary that way. Again, it says something about Christ, not Mary.

From Lutheran Satire: “C-3PO Crashes a Pentecostal Revival”

September 23, 2016

Here’s a devastating new video from Lutheran Satire. Tom Harkins, this is for you…

St. Patrick and bad analogies for the Trinity

March 17, 2016

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I’m linking to the following Donall and Conall video from Lutheran Satire. I assume, looking at the St. Patrick icon in the video, that Patrick is responsible for some questionable analogies for the Trinity. Who knows?

Regardless, Patrick authored the following blessing, which we can make our own:

May the Strength of God guide us.
May the Power of God preserve us.
May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us.
May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Angels of God guard us.
– Against the snares of the evil one.

May Christ be with us!
May Christ be before us!
May Christ be in us,
Christ be over all!

May Thy Grace, Lord,
Always be ours,
This day, O Lord, and forevermore. Amen.

Good memes, bad memes

February 19, 2016

Here are a couple of things I saw on the interwebs yesterday that merit some comment. First this:

bad_meme

Assuming this gentleman, called the “sexiest teacher alive” by People Magazine, said the words attributed to him in this meme, he needs to read the Bible more. It says nothing about left-handedness being sinful, nor has the church ever interpreted the Bible to say that left-handedness is sinful. In fact, Judges 3:15 says the following about Ehud: “Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, and the Lord raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man.” Ehud is able to slay the evil King Eglon, we’re told, because of Ehud’s left-handedness. You can read about it here.

But why let facts get in the way of this popular progressive Christian narrative—that we theologically conservative Christians “pick and choose” what parts of the Bible to believe, and who could possibly take the Bible seriously, anyway?

Please note: It’s true that Mr. Ferroni, alongside me and everyone else, was born a sinner. At least he got that right!

On the positive side, there’s this from Lutheran Satire, not a meme, per se, but it ought to be:

good_meme

I have had this same conviction for a few years, as I’ve blogged and preached about a lot. All of us, Christian or not, need to hear the gospel constantly. I hope I preach it, in one way or another, in every sermon.

Why I am not a “progressive Christian”

November 11, 2015

This blog post, “10 Ways to Describe Your Progressive Christian Faith without Saying ‘But I’m Not…,'” by Maggie Nancarrow made the social media rounds this week. It was a response to Buzzfeed’s recent viral video, “I’m Christian, but I’m Not…”

That video, with its accompanying hashtag, has already been justly and thoroughly lampooned, including by our friends at Lutheran Satire. I have nothing to add to the discussion.

But I do want to respond, as fairly as I can, to this “10 Ways” post. As recently as six or seven years ago, during and shortly after seminary, I identified as a progressive Christian. How different is my outlook today than it was then? I was curious to find out. (Nancarrow is an Episcopalian who earned a Master of Divinity at the University of Chicago and works with youth at a United Methodist church.)

The following are her ten points, with my comments. I’ll consider the first two together:

1. I am a Progressive Christian, and I believe that God loves me and you and everybody exactly as they are, unconditionally.

2. Yet, God loves us too much to leave us that way–I am a Progressive Christian because I believe that God is always pushing me to grow in love of God, love of neighbor, and love of self.

This is true as far as it goes. By all means, God’s saving plan for the world through Jesus Christ begins with God’s love for sinful humanity. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!” (Ezekiel 33:11). These verses, and many more, reflect God’s love for sinful, unredeemed humanity.

But I want to hear Nancarrow say more about the meaning of “exactly as they are, unconditionally.” It’s true that through repentance and faith in Christ, God embraces us “exactly as we are,” the way the father embraces his younger son in the parable, after the son repents. We who were enemies of God (Romans 5:10) become, by grace through faith, children of God. Once this happens, don’t we experience a deeper or qualitatively different kind of love than the love that God has for sinful humanity in general?

Regardless, whether we experience God’s love in this way is conditional. It depends on repentance and faith, which are themselves made possible through he work of the Spirit.

In his recent memoir, former liberal-turned-orthodox United Methodist theologian Thomas Oden takes responsibility for popularizing the idea of God’s “unconditional love” back in the ’60s:

At the same time I was writing on the uncharted theme of unconditional acceptance, a theme I found in Carl Rogers. I argued that it was a fitting description of the forgiving God, and that unconditional love corresponded directly with commonly acknowledged assumptions in effective psychotherapy.

Soon I began to hear the phrase unconditional love on the lips of homilists and priests as applied to God… The phrase quickly entered into the common vocabulary of psychological literature, sermons and books, especially for pastoral writers struggling to find ways of making God’s forgiveness plausible…

Carelessly, I had invited pastors and theologians to equate the unconditional positive regard that had proven to be a reliable condition of effective psychotherapy with God’s unconditional forgiving love for humanity.

In doing so, I had absentmindedly and unfortunately disregarded all those powerful biblical admonitions on divine judgment and the need for admonition in pastoral care. Few of these homilists mentioned the wrath of God against sin as Jesus did.

I had drifted toward a Christ without a cross and a conversion without repentance. It still makes me wince to hear sermons today about God’s unconditional love that are not qualified by any admonition concerning the temptation to permissiveness.[1]

I also agree with #2 that “God loves us too much to leave us that way,” although I worry that Nancarrow makes the gospel sound like a mere project for personal improvement. Yes, through sanctification, God wants us to “grow in love of God, neighbor, and self,” but this only happens as God deals with the sin in our lives that threatens to destroy us—indeed, that would have destroyed us eternally if not for Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross.

Humanity’s main problem is not that we’re not as loving as we should be. Our lack of love is a symptom of the main problem: We are sinners whose sin has separated us from a holy God. And God has justifiable wrath toward sin.

Furthermore, inasmuch as God’s love is “unconditional,” it isn’t that way forever: we will all face final judgment, after which God, for the sake of his perfect justice, will punish the unredeemed in hell. While I believe that even hell is a necessary consequence of love, it’s hardly the kind of “love” suggested by the blogger’s first two statements.

From my perspective, therefore, Nancarrow’s words here badly underestimate the crisis that humanity faces.

3. I am a Progressive Christian, because I believe that my God actually chose to be human like us–and live the beautiful, painful, messy life of a human just like us–solely to love us better.

Two thoughts: First, shouldn’t we point out that Jesus’ life—beautiful and painful though it was—was not as messy as ours, simply because, unlike the rest of us, he didn’t sin? Unlike us, he obeyed his Father perfectly. When I consider my life, I bring most of its “messiness” on myself through sin.

More importantly, God didn’t become fully human “solely to love us better,” but to make us lovable—so that we could be in a right relationship with him! Nancarrow’s statement makes it sound as if the problem in humanity’s relationship with God were, prior to the Incarnation, on God’s side—that God needed learn something about us, that God needed to grow. Perish the thought!

4. I am a Progressive Christian, because I believe that God rose from the dead in order to prove how much we are loved.

What an odd way to put it! First, why avoid Trinitarian language? Scripture speaks of God the Father sending Jesus, guiding Jesus through the Holy Spirit, and raising Jesus from the dead by the power of the Spirit. Yes, Jesus is also God, so in that sense “God rose,” but this language sounds unitarian. Why?

I wonder if, by avoiding the Trinity, Nancarrow wants to avoid the meaning of cross, which, you’ll notice, she doesn’t mention in any of her ten points.

Remove the Trinity from the work of Christ, and there’s no sense in which God the Father wanted or willed or sent his Son to die; there’s no sense in which Christ’s death was necessary and good in order to bring about our forgiveness; there’s no sense in which (and this gets to the heart of it, I believe) Christ’s death was a propitiation to his Father on our behalf (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2, 4:10). If God isn’t a Trinity, then God requires nothing that Christ’s death satisfies—certainly not the satisfaction of God’s wrath.

I suspect that Nancarrow would say that the cross was incidental to God’s mission to love and be loved.

Besides, as in my citation of Romans 5:8 above, the Bible itself says that Christ’s death, not his resurrection, is the thing that “proves” God’s love. Sure, resurrection does that, too, but it’s as if she’s emphasizing the wrong note in the melody. Again, why not mention the cross?

5. I am a Progressive Christian, because I believe that my God gives me the tools–and the command–to spread the story of resurrection and love to those who need it most.

Is she talking about the work of the Holy Spirit, the Great Commission, and evangelism? Why not say so?

To those who need it most. Who needs it more than anyone else? We all need the gospel of Jesus Christ, apart from which all of us are lost and bound for hell.

6. I am a Progressive Christian, because I believe that I–and all people–are invited to find healing from all pain, sorrow, and failure at God’s table during communion.

Notice she says we need “healing” from failure rather than sin.

Is she talking about “open communion,” which Methodists and Anglicans, among others, practice? I believe in open communion, but that hardly makes me a theological progressive. Besides, even in the Methodist tradition the table isn’t open without qualification, only to those who “earnestly repent of their sins and seek to live in peace with one another.” The table is open because we don’t presume to look into people’s hearts and see whether or not that’s the case. I’m sure God does look into their hearts!

7. I am a Progressive Christian because I believe that through Jesus, God declared that death, hate and oppression are never the last word.

I agree without qualification. Yay!

8. I am a Progressive Christian, because I believe that, in our very busy world, my Christian faith offers me a time to slow down and take my relationships seriously.

This is a bromide. It’s not that it isn’t true, it’s that it isn’t even untrue.

9. I am a Progressive Christian, because I believe that, in our divided and fearful world, my Christian faith offers me a way to live into connection, belonging, and trust.

See my response to #8 (although watch out for ISIS!).

10. I am a Progressive Christian, because I believe that racism, and sexism, and all the isms that separate us from seeing each other as full humans, are sins against God, and in faith, we are called to stand up against them.

Does she add this because we conservative evangelicals are fully supportive of racism, sexism, and any other -ism that “separates us from seeing each other as full humans”? Please!

Besides, is Pope Francis for those “-isms,” too? Yet he’s no progressive.

The overarching problem with this list is Nancarrow’s refusal to deal with the authority of scripture. What doctrine of the Bible, after all, would permit her to disregard so much of it, to ignore the traditions of interpretation surrounding it, and to redefine so much of its unambiguous language?

She begins her post by saying that the “crazy/fundamentalist/mean/convinced that there is a war on Christmas” Christianity is “not normative—it is not the true Jesus movement, it is not our religion.” That’s fine; there’s plenty of room in between that form of Christianity, if it exists, and her own. But what makes her think that hers is the “true Jesus movement”—when she’s thrown away the only scale by which we can measure its truthfulness?

1. Thomas Oden, A Change of Heart (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014), 89-90.

No comfort in the “just do your best” gospel

November 9, 2015

… as Luther himself understood as well as anyone.

For a non-Lutheran like myself, I couldn’t be a bigger fan of Lutheran Satire. And you don’t have to be a Mormon to feel the weight of Donall and Conall’s indictment of “just do your best” theology, which, while prominently featured in Mormonism, infects even orthodox Christian traditions such as Methodism.

Heed this warning: We are all absolutely lost and bound for hell apart from God’s saving grace, made possible by Christ’s atoning death on the cross. The Law, apart from God’s grace, can only condemn us. This must be the starting point for the gospel.

What’s at stake in a pastor’s denying the Virgin Birth?

December 9, 2014
Sorry, Horus, you can't ruin our Christmas celebration.

Sorry, Horus, you can’t ruin our Christmas celebration with phony parallels between your birth and Christ’s birth.

Yesterday, I received a lengthy email from a United Methodist pastor, sent to a group of undisclosed recipients, complaining about what he perceives to be “a serious problem for the future of the United Methodist Church,” which “needs to be addressed”: “Biblicism,” or biblical literalism, one example of which, apparently, is believing that the Virgin Birth actually happened.

He writes: “Living so closely to Southern Baptists and various fundamentalist churches, and having so many folks who approach the Bible from this perspective in our congregations, we have danced around this issue much too long.  Fearing conflict with influential lay members, the loss of those members and the revenue they contribute, we let misinformation and cultural bias to cloud the way the Bible is read and heard in the congregations we serve.”

“What do you mean ‘we,’ Kemo Sabe?”

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