Tuesday, 27 December 2005

John over at Confessing Evangelical has a series of thoughtful posts on C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. The discussion really resides on his blog and on those to which he links, and rather than trying to reproduce everything that’s already there I encourage interested parties simply to take a look over there. (Of course, if you’ve discovered my little hole in the blogsphere you must have been there already, as he has been at this longer and tends to be both more consistent and more thoughtful in his posts.)

A large part of the discussion is the character of Aslan: love him or hate him? That is, is the Lion an appropriate characterization for the Christ-character? I myself am sympathetic to those who suggest that the Lion is a poor choice, given Scriptural evidence like that in Isaiah 53.2: he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker writes in this same vein, also quoted over at CE:

Yet a central point of the Gospel story is that Jesus is not the lion of the faith but the lamb of God, while his other symbolic animal is, specifically, the lowly and bedraggled donkey. The moral force of the Christian story is that the lions are all on the other side. If we had, say, a donkey, a seemingly uninspiring animal from an obscure corner of Narnia, raised as an uncouth and low-caste beast of burden, rallying the mice and rats and weasels and vultures and all the other unclean animals, and then being killed by the lions in as humiliating a manner as possible—a donkey who reëmerges, to the shock even of his disciples and devotees, as the king of all creation—now, that would be a Christian allegory. A powerful lion, starting life at the top of the food chain, adored by all his subjects and filled with temporal power, killed by a despised evil witch for his power and then reborn to rule, is a Mithraic, not a Christian, myth.

This understanding certainly does get at an important aspect of Christianity and of the person and work of Christ, but it’s not the whole story (neither is The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe the whole story of Narnia). Jesus is not merely some carpenter’s son from a backwater town in Palestine, although he certainly is that. He is also the Son of God (although he is also not simply that). Jesus Christ is both God and man.

It seems that critics of Lewis’ choice of the Lion for Aslan tend to miss two significant points. In the first place, the work of Christ may be divided into the state of humiliation (in the words of the Creed, “who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried”) and the state of exaltation (“he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thense he shall come to judge the living and the dead”. The character of the donkey might very well answer for a “humiliation” character, but…then what? Where is our exaltation character? Or what does this character look like in his exaltation (without jumping ahead to The Last Battle)?

The second point is that any allegory is going to be found wanting in some sense. Even the parables of Jesus can be pushed to a point beyond which they cease to work. So you take the best you can. I think Lewis chose wisely.

For a well written response, check out Old Solar.


This took me back

Saturday, 24 December 2005

Take the quiz at

All that time spent creating characters, listening to guys who took the stuff way to seriously. Geesh.

Read the Scriptures

Friday, 23 December 2005

In the original languages. Now in the sidebar you will see a devotional passage from Scripture. What’s more, scroll to the bottom of the page and you will find a Flash application that allows you to search the Scriptures in Greek. I haven’t played with it too much, but apparently it will also parse and translate for you. Thanks to the Rev. Joe Fremer for the link to these resources.

Pulpit and Altar

Thursday, 22 December 2005

An interesting phone call. A guy wanted to use the church for a wedding next year. It was for his daughter. He assured me that he was a conservative Calvinist layman, and that he and many co-congregants found that there wasn’t much difference between their theology and the LCMS. Please hold all snarky comments on this point. He was willing even to supply the minister from his own denomination if we’d be so gracious as to allow them the use of the building, as it is something of an historic building and they found it to be absolutely beautiful.

I thanked him for the compliments and informed him that unfortunately theologically we were unable to allow a minister whose confession was different than that of this congregation to perform official ministerial acts in this place. Needless to say, he didn’t like that very much, but he did have the conversation with me. He asked to hear just where we were so different. We started with the sacraments and, well, it ended shortly thereafter.

I guess through it all, I just don’t understand how it has to be that the Lutheran Church is always asked to act with something less than integrity to her Confessions. When I approach a theological issue with American Protestants, I have a good idea where they likely come from. For those keeping score at home, it looks like this:

Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints


Conditional Election
Unlimited Atonement
Resistible Grace

I don’t expect them to roll over and accept what I’m saying. I don’t expect them to abandon their theological presuppositions, even the ones with which I disagree. But more often than not they expect me to do just that: throw out my confession, because it just gets in the way. It feels like a conversation with a pushy salesman. “What would it take to get you out of your confessions today?” or “Why keep saying ‘This is my body’ when it feels so good to say just about anything else?”

But it hit me that it’s working. As a church body we’re gradually taking what God has given to us to confess and just giving it up. I see it in the conversations with my own parishioners or in the questions from bible classes. Satan would have nothing more than that we give up the Gospel and supplant it with moralism and outward unity that disregards confession or Scriptural truth. It makes me sad but it also drives me to be that much more intentional about ministry. God help me and all those he’s called to serve his people to preach the Word.


Thursday, 08 December 2005

I received a Christmas card from my LCMS district office today. Outside or in, the name of Jesus was nowhere to be found. Period. The message of the Gospel had been supplanted by some chintzy little thought about all mankind enjoying some sort of brotherhood. Something to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. But fuzzy on the inside can also be an indicator of gangrene. Take Jesus Christ out of the equasion and there ain’t no brotherhood.

My point is not to be ultra-critical. Honestly, it just astounds me. It’s like a congregation I know. They have a mission statement that doesn’t mention the name of Jesus, either. It’s all about seeking the lost and serving the saved. Now how’s that going to happen without Jesus?

Things like that–they don’t just baffle me. They really make my heart sick. What are we doing here? I mean, really. What are we doing? Every time I turn around we seem to be selling out our theology, one little piece at a time. I don’t get involved in the politics of Synod. Some have argued to me, unsuccessfully, that I should. I do, however, get righteously pissed off when we start selling out the Gospel–when the church starts taking Jesus out of the picture.

Gospel reductionism is killing the church. I’m not the first to say it, and God-willing I won’t be the last, but when you start on the GR track all you’re left with is moralism and quaint little one-liners. I’ve seen it firsthand. I know a guy who sees nothing wrong with plagiarism in the pulpit. In fact, it’s been his practice for his entire ministry. He’s just never written a sermon. The internet just makes it easier for him. He doesn’t see anything wrong with it. He did have a problem with stealing someone’s words and reprinting them as his own, but preaching them isn’t a problem because, “the Holy Spirit works through preaching.” But wait. There’s more. Preaching isn’t even all that important, because no matter what you preach the Holy Spirit is going to make the hearers hear what he would have them hear.

So for my next sermon, “Your potatoes and you: success in the family garden.”

Yes, in the sense that we cannot control how God causes His people to hear Law and Gospel in what we preach, it’s true. But “preaching” pithy little moralisms with at best a cursory tack-on mention of Jesus doesn’t do what preaching is supposed to do. No Jesus, no cross, no resurrection–no Gospel, no comfort, no dice.

But this is GR. The god of GR is a god who only loves. This god has no opus alienum, only the opus proprium. But wtihout the terror of the former there is no comfort in the latter, and this god becomes the god of moralisms and just being nice to everyone and feeling good. It’s a god of “New Testament principles” and other such tripe. It’s the god who would have pastors concentrate on expanding the parking lot instead of proclaiming to His people the whole counsel of YHWH.

Thus it is written [1 Sam. 2:6-7]: “The Lord kills and brings to life; He brings down to hell and raises up; He brings low, He also exalts.” Isaiah also beautifully portrays this allegorical working of God when he says [28:21], “He does His word — strange is His deed; and He works His work — alien is His work!” It is as if he were saying: “Although He is the God of life and salvation and this is His proper work, yet, in order to accomplish this, he kills and destroys. These works are alien to him, but through them He accomplishes His proper work. For He kills our will that He may be established in us. He subdues the flesh and its lusts that the spirit and its desires may come to life.” LW 14.335

This is the God that we are to preach–not some toothless old man who just invites you to sit on his lap and tells you “it’s all just ok. Go be nice to Billy.” This is the God who really hates sin and really punishes it. This is the God who actually comforts His people with real salvation and real victory–over real sin and real death. Preach this God, for the sake of Christ and His Church.