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News from the Center: Digest

News from the Center: Digest (10)

 

Remember who is ultimately in control over all things: The same One into whom you were baptized—


  • Keep perspective.

Remember who is ultimately in control over all things: The same One into whom you were baptized—the Father who created you and gives all that you need for your body and life, Jesus Christ who has redeemed you paying for your sins by His crucifixion, and the Holy Spirit who has called you by the Gospel and continues to enlighten you with His gifts of Word and Sacraments. He loves you. He will never forsake you. He will guide you as He ever has now and throughout the future even to our eternal rest with Him.

You are a member of two kingdoms. One is eternal. The other is temporary. The eternal one is the true end goal.

  • Keep faith in God, not political leaders.

“Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation” (Ps. 146:3).

No political leader can be nor will be perfect, nor will they make decisions that will please all people. This is still a world broken by sin.

  • God works His will even in and through the governments of this world (Rom. 13:1-4).

The government in the United States is unique in that we have the ability and privilege to elect those who represent us in local, state and national elections for judges, representatives, governors, and president. The persons for whom we vote is important. Therefore, as members of this earthly kingdom we should desire to live out our faith as good citizens and support good and godly government for our good and the welfare of our neighbor.

  • Informed voting is essential. Do your research.

Do not vote because of endorsements of celebrities or because of what you “heard on the news.” Educate yourself on the stances of each candidate and party regarding biblical and moral issues like the sanctity of life from its conception to its natural end (are they prolife/anti-abortion, against euthanasia?), the protection of biblical marriage, and the freedom to worship without government interference.

Find out which party or candidate will protect Christians in the public sector. Will they defend the right of citizens to conduct business according to their confession of faith without being forced to go against conscience? Do they think that a person can be fired or denied advancement because of church membership or belief system? If they deny that right to believe and practice that faith in public vocation and life, then they should not receive your vote.

Pray without ceasing—for wisdom, for our government, for the world, for our neighbors. Pray that God’s kingdom would come and His will would be done here on earth as it is in heaven. Trust Him and go forward into those polling places with the peace that passes all understanding through Jesus Christ our Savior.

The Rev. Aaron Kangas is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Iuka, Ill., and Faith Lutheran Church, Flora, Ill.

Be Informed

The . . . question remaining is what of current law — e.g., the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1991, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church v. EEOC, or the First Amendment’s ‘free exercise clause’ — will leave us room to operate our churches, schools, universities and institutions according to our Christian doctrine and consciences.” Learn more from the Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

 

Be Equipped

Learn more about the 44th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion. Dr. Michael New of the Charlotte Lozier Foundation explains.

 

Be Encouraged

Certainty [in Christhttps://www.lcms.org/givenow/LCRL">here to learn more or to donate.

Americans will soon be deciding who will be the next president of the United States. They will be determining whether they want to re-elect President Donald Trump or whether they wish to hand over the reins to the Democratic candidate, Senator Joseph Biden.


During this election season, I am repeatedly asked, “What are the most critical issues for people of faith in the election?” To me, the answers are clear-cut: religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and judges.

These three issues intersect because many of the attacks on religious liberty and the sanctity of life have come through the judiciary, which at times, has chosen to legislate from the bench, rather than fulfill its constitutional role of interpreting the law. This has been particularly true in cases involving religious liberty and life. That is why it is crucial to have judges who interpret, not make the law, and the next president will likely nominate at least two to three Supreme Court justices as several of them are in their 70s and 80s.

It is important that Christians and other people of faith be able to practice that faith in the public square without fear of governmental reprisal. Medical professionals, ministries, and family-owned businesses need to maintain the right to exercise their freedom of conscience when it comes to the issue of protecting human life.

In addition, it is critical for faith-based ministries and family-held businesses to be allowed to operate in accordance with their beliefs on human sexuality. Without conscience protections in place, faith-based adoption agencies and foster care agencies could be forced to close because they allegedly engage in “discrimination” because they adhere to faith-based standards when it comes to child placement. Faith- based schools and colleges also face potential legal attacks and closure if they require students to adhere to the school’s statement of faith and faith-based standards.

That is why it is essential that whoever is elected president takes steps to ensure that all Americans, regardless of their beliefs, can continue to live out their beliefs and exercise their freedom of conscience in the public square.

Sadly, over the past 60 years, we have seen that ability to practice one’s faith and abide by one’s conscience under increasing attack. The result of these attacks is a diminished voice for the church and its members in our public discourse. When faith is silenced, societal fissures occur, such as lack of civility we are presently experiencing and the breakdown of the family, which was recently documented in a report to the U.S. Senate. This is indeed a tragedy, and it is my hope that whoever is elected this November will encourage, rather than discourage, faithful Americans to take their rightful role as a strong and vibrant voice in our culture.

So, these are the serious issues that each faithful voter must consider whether they vote by mail or in- person. We must all seek God’s guidance as we make our choice because our decision will not impact the America of today, but the America of the future – and whether we, as believers, can be salt and light in our culture.

Tim Goeglein is vice-president of External Relations for Focus on the Family.

Be Informed

Need a new podcast to download? Issues, Etc. host the Rev. Todd Wilken discusses a new study entitled “The Protestant Family Ethic” with Dr. Brad Wilcox of the Institute for Family Studies. Click here to listen.

Be Equipped

In need of a Lutheran voter guide? We’ve got you covered! Read more here.

Be Encouraged

The state should be interested in religion for this purpose: We produce good citizens. So stop attacking us. We are in every way a blessing for this country. We feel attacked for our fundamental convictions as if we're a detriment to our country. And that is a lie." – Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

 

Help support our efforts to contend for the freedom to proclaim the faith. Click here to learn more or to donate.

Who has the credentials to properly educate children? What do citizens owe their state for the provision of public education? How do diverse educational settings create inequity for some students?


These questions (and many, many more) have been bandied about in the Education Wars for years, but are having a new moment in the spotlight thanks to Covidtide. The status of many brick-and-mortar schools and co-ops is up in the air. And while school boards, administrators, teachers and parents scramble for logistical solutions, the ugly political tribalism underneath current public discourse creates more division. We are asking the wrong questions and have forgotten the answers to the right ones. 

Though the world has very different ideas about the responsibilities and rights of the parent and the power and obligations of the state, Lutheran parents are sure in the directives for our vocation, unchanged for thousands of years:

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deut. 6:6-9).

Who are the primary educators of the child? The same people through whom God provides every other temporal need for the child: the parents. What is the substance of this education? The life of faith. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). These are the only questions that matter. In the Lutheran church, the education of our children starts the same way: Bring the babies to the font! Hear and confess the promises of God they receive in this Sacrament. Remind them of it every day. 

When formal instruction is to begin, there are many educational settings and ideologies to choose from. Public, charter, private, homeschool, now “enhanced” with Covidtide features such as “delayed or unpredictably intermittent in-person instruction” and “this parent you used to be friends with now hates you because you differ on mask-wearing in outdoor spaces.” Lurking beneath the (probably? hopefully) temporary Covid challenges, is a new heightened awareness about the curricular quality and content implemented in most public schools. 

Each setting has its own benefits, obstacles, expense and educational philosophy. As we navigate continuing education in Coronaschool, we must prioritize those institutions that recognize parents as the primary educators. Any other educative authority must operate in loco parentis, in place of the parent. Lutheran parents must reject any institutions that devalue or usurp the vocation of parenthood and deny the truth of God’s Word. 

Katie Winterstein is a wife, mother and former teacher at Immanuel Lutheran School, Alexandria, Va.

 

Be Informed

Is it possible to have political conversations in a calm and helpful way? Dr. Korey Maas of Hillsdale College gives some helpful pointers.

 

Be Equipped

Have you read the Synod’s latest Free to Be Faithful newsletter? Click here to read more about the impact of recent Supreme Court cases, public discourse and how COVID-19 restrictions are impacting LCMS military members.

 

Be Encouraged

 

“There are many things you could be anxious and worried about – race relations, politics, pandemics and so much more. Only when we sit at the feet of Jesus, focus on Him and hear His Word can we get the right perspective.” – Rev. Roy Askins

Help support our efforts to contend for the freedom to proclaim the faith. Click here to learn more or to donate.

Recent rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court, some supportive of religious freedom and some not, are drawing the attention of churches and other faith-based nonprofits, including The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). Synod leaders have been closely following the rulings and their potential impact on Christians’ free exercise of their religion.


Bostock v. Clayton County

On June 15, in a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Title VII’s prohibition of employment discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” — part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — also applies to discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” Justice Brett Kavanaugh dissented, asserting that the Court went beyond its proper role of interpreting the law and, in changing a definition to include meanings the U.S. Congress has rejected multiple times, rewrote the law. This is a “transgression of the Constitution’s separation of powers,” Kavanaugh wrote.

Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas also dissented, stating, “There is only one word for what the Court has done today: legislation.”

The Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, executive director of the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty (LCRL), called the ruling “outrageous” in its relegation of “Christian citizens to second-class status in their own country.”

“[The churchhttps://www.lcms.org/social-issues/free-to-be-faithful">Free to Be Faithful newsletter, noted that the ruling could have widespread implications not only for the church but for the culture: “Among the questions left unanswered are whether men’s access to women’s dressing rooms and sports leagues will be mandated … [whetherhttps://blogs.lcms.org/2020/faith-in-the-public-square-us-supreme-court-decisions-impact-religious-principles-freedom/">Click here to read more from Reporter about other important cases.

 

Be Informed

Big things are happening when it comes to religious liberty, but are they enough? Dr. Ryan Anderson notes that, “Through legislation and litigation, we need to make it clear that it’s lawful to act on the convictions that we are created male and female and that male and female are created for each other. Privacy and safety at a shelter, equality on an athletic field, and good medicine are at stake for everyone—religious or not.” Read more here.

 

Be Equipped

What is the future of abortion law in America today? Clarke Forsythe of Americans United for Life explains.
 

Be Encouraged

“While the fights among political parties and media outlets continue interminably, Christ has already won the final struggle against the devil. And regardless of the news cycle, Christ gives this victory to you.” – Andrew Egger, staff writer, The Dispatch

Dear COVID Couples,


I won’t lie. My wedding was perfect. We picked a date (even before we were engaged), we found an amazing venue, and our friends and family eagerly awaited the day they could join us to celebrate God’s institution of marriage. After the longest seven months of our lives, we enjoyed the robust singing of hundreds of family and friends in a beautiful sanctuary supported by the swell of Concordia Ann Arbor’s robust pipe organ as we vowed, “Yes, with the help of God.” Many stressors and plot twists arose as we planned our day, but with the wonderful support of our family and friends, we enjoyed the perfect day, exactly as planned.


Tragically, for so many of you, this will never be a reality. The shock at the prospect of not only having to alter your wedding plans, but perhaps even postpone or cancel them, is something I’ll never experience. But I won’t apologize for that fact. Why? Because you, the Christian couples of the COVID age, have an opportunity to seize. Instead of prolonging your engagement, consider marrying closer to (or even on) your original date. Ask your pastor to marry you on your original date, even if it’s only in front of a few family members. Prioritize the union before God rather than a party before friends. Such a task may be difficult; heartbreaking, even. Fathers want to walk their daughters down the aisle while a full sanctuary looks on, teary-eyed and joyful. Mothers want that dance with their sons at the reception. But consider this prospect: Instead of being the generation that mourned the loss of their weddings, be the generation that celebrated the start of their marriages.

Some of you might not be concerned. You might be sleeping over or already having sex. You might already be living together. Our bodies are gifts to be loved, shared and cared for, but consider how giving other your bodies before giving your vows de-incentivizes the need to solidify this holy union that God designed, even before sin. The fact of the matter is this: The less you prioritize a godly union, the less likely you’ll want to be married before God or, for that matter, at all. At this point, what would your wedding be celebrating? The union God has created for your good? Or just you two?

COVID has disrupted our economy and our livelihoods. Don’t let marriages be next on that chopping block. Face this pandemic together as husband and wife under Christ. COVID has re-awakened us to the reality of the changes and chances of this life; it’s not good for man to face it alone. Celebrate the blessing of your union when we can receive God’s gifts together once more. In the meantime, don’t put it off. Get married. God willing, start a family. Be the generation that shows that not even COVID can damage the Christian couple. Don’t postpone the wedding. Prioritize your marriage.

Emily Cockran is a wife, mother and instructor at Wittenberg Academy.

 

Be Informed

Big things are happening when it comes to religious liberty, but are they enough? Dr. Ryan Anderson notes that, “Through legislation and litigation, we need to make it clear that it’s lawful to act on the convictions that we are created male and female and that male and female are created for each other. Privacy and safety at a shelter, equality on an athletic field, and good medicine are at stake for everyone—religious or not.” Read more here.

 

Be Equipped

What is the future of abortion law in America today? Clarke Forsythe of Americans United for Life explains.
 

Be Encouraged

“While the fights among political parties and media outlets continue interminably, Christ has already won the final struggle against the devil. And regardless of the news cycle, Christ gives this victory to you.” – Andrew Egger, staff writer, The Dispatch

 

Help support our efforts to contend for the freedom to proclaim the faith. Click here to learn more or to donate.

 

The Lutheran Way of Resistance and the American Revolution

Lutherans are often criticized for submitting to government authority no matter what, which is strange to say of a movement that had its beginnings in a rebellion against the Holy Roman Emperor and the Pope and which was legally established only after the revolution of the Thirty Years War.


But Lutherans do take Romans 13, along with the rest of the Bible, seriously, and there developed a Lutheran theology of resistance to unjust governments formulated in the Magdeburg Confession  of 1550.

John Kleinig sent me a 2001 article by the Baylor Reformation scholar David M. Whitford entitled “John Adams, John Ponet, and a Lutheran Influence on the American Revolution,” in Lutheran Quarterly, 15 (2001): 143-157.  (Not available online except through a library’s ATLAS or EBSCO account.)

Whitford points out that John Adams, who was involved with the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and with promoting the American Revolution arguably more than Jefferson, says that his influence was not Jefferson’s John Locke but John Ponet.  He was a Protestant English bishop who fled the Catholic persecutions of Mary Tudor (a.k.a. “Bloody Mary”) and lived in exile in Strasbourg, then a Lutheran city in present-day France.  Here Ponet interacted with Lutheran divines and became acquainted with the Magdeburg Confession, which served as the basis for his own  Short Treatise on Political Power.

Click here to read the rest of Dr. Veith’s article.

Be Informed

The Nebraska State Legislature [recently] approved by 33 to 8 the Dismemberment Abortion Ban, a bill that bans a late term abortion practice that involves pulling the arms and legs off of a living unborn baby.” Did you know? Click here to learn more about this landmark case.

 

 

 

Be Equipped

When it comes to matters of faith and life in the church, are religious restrictions allowed or do they infringe on religious liberty? The Family Research Council explains.

 

 

 

Be Encouraged

“More than 61 million unborn children have died as a result of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions. However, through the right-to-life movement’s determination to protect mothers and their children, we continue to see evidence that our efforts to educate America about the unborn child’s humanity, and our efforts to enact protective pro-life legislation, are having a tremendous impact in moving our nation away from Roe and Doe’s deadly legacy.” – Carol Tobias, National Right to Life president

 

Help support our efforts to contend for the freedom to proclaim the faith. Click here to learn more or to donate.

 

 

It’s Friday, September 11. But no matter what day 9/11 falls upon each year, the events of that Tuesday morning in 2001 will be forever be burned into my memory. On that second Tuesday in September, I was confronted by the scenes of New York City’s burning towers on TV in California just before 6:00 a.m. We had just moved from New York City to Irvine, Calif., that summer. Ironically, I had stood on the observation deck of the Towers just two months before. And, even more ironically, had we still been living in New York that day, I would have been downtown leading a Bible study on Wall Street at 8:00 a.m. Then, after the study at 8:45 a.m., I would have been walking to the subway station under the Twin Towers to venture back to the Church for All Nations just as the first plane hit.


On a day when I would have been in the heart of the business district of New York City freely sharing how faith in Jesus can change the lives of the power brokers of Wall Street, another ideology was planning to demolish all the “power buildings” of my country, buildings like the Twin Towers, Wall Street, the Pentagon and the White House. In the weeks after that first 9/11, our country came together with a unified zeal, committed to defending our homeland against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But that soon changed. Very shortly thereafter, the mantra was no longer, “Why are they so evil?” Instead, the question became, “Why do others hate America so much?” Why, indeed? Like a battered spouse, we made others’ evils our responsibility and demonized healthy patriotism and respect for the many blessings of America for all. Just recently, I saw a protestor holding up a sign that said, “Religious Freedom is Christian Terrorism.” The men who flew those planes into our buildings could have said the same thing.

Is America worth defending? Is America worth dying for? I point you to an article by Dinesh D’Souza titled “What’s Great About America”[1https://www.lcms.org/about/beliefs/faqs/lcms-views#same-sex-marriage">said by clicking here.

 

 

Be Equipped

Dr. Joel Biermann takes a closer look at voting and the American conscience. Listen to this recent podcast from Issues, Etc. on your way to work!

 

 

Be Encouraged

“We should be out in the forefront leading on economics, on trade, on race, on class, on every subject that matters for what our founders called the “general welfare;” because we have a lot to offer, not just to protect our own rights, but for the good of all of our fellow citizens; because as religious believers, we know that serving our fellow citizens—of whatever their religious faith, whatever their commitments may be—serving them, aiding them, working for them, is one of the signature ways that we show a love of neighbor.” – Senator Josh Hawley, Missouri

 

Help support our efforts to contend for the freedom to proclaim the faith. Click here to learn more or to donate.

 

 

[1https://www.heritage.org/political-process/report/whats-great-about-america

The doctrine of the two kingdoms is most often applied to the Christian's obligations to the state, but it also illuminates the cultural controversies which are causing so much confusion in today's church.


Should Christians get involved in politics? Yes, as part of our vocation in God's secular kingdom. The goal should not be necessarily the election of Christian rulers, nor to make America a "Christian nation." Rather, it should be to apply God's law in our social relationships and to establish justice and righteousness in our land. Abortion, for example, is a monstrous crime against the weakest and most defenseless in our society, and Christians are right to work against this evil, as against many others. Christians in politics must play by political rules, whether hard-ball power plays or the arts of compromise and consensus building. The church should be gentle and loving, while never compromising its doctrines. The rough-and-tumble of the political process, however, means that Christian politicians should not be prevented from exercising power or from making a tactical compromise by the charge that to do so is "not Christian." That confuses the kingdoms. Christian politicians, however, like all politicians, must exercise their power justly and in accordance with God's law.

Can a Christian take part in the expressions of the surrounding culture? Yes. Christians are still part of their culture and can be expected to share the tastes of their neighbors. A Christian can enjoy, perform, and get involved in secular art forms; they need not be religious, but they are subject to God's law. Christians need to draw the line at music or any other form of entertainment that violates God's canons of morality by tempting us to sin.

Can a Christian, then, like rock music? Yes, for the most part. This does not mean, however, that Christians should demand rock music in church. The secular kingdom, again, must be kept separate from the spiritual kingdom. Churches must keep themselves distinct from the surrounding culture.

To return to our earlier categories, a liberal would have little trouble accepting any brand of currently popular music and would even import it into the church. By this way of thinking, the church must always give in and conform itself to whatever the culture is doing. A Christian who believes in Christ above culture would reject secular music and try to devise a completely distinct Christian style, to which every subsequent piece of music should conform. A Christian who believes in Christ against culture would allow the world its own music but never listen to it, developing instead a separate Christian musical style.

A Two Kingdoms approach would allow the Christian to enjoy secular music, even, for those with the God-given talent, to pursue a musical vocation. The Christian's standards for this music would be God's moral law, but also God's aesthetic laws, which were built into the created order and human nature by God himself. The Christian musician might express his or her faith artistically, but the work would be assessed not primarily by its theology but by its aesthetic merits, which also come under God's dominion. The music, though, would not have to be explicitly religious at all it is part of God's dominion even in its secularity.

This same Christian musician, whether a rock 'n' roller or a concert violinist, would very likely object to electric guitars or chamber music in church. Art designed to please and to gratify the senses has its place, but worship belongs to the Word of God. Here, theological truth must take priority. The purpose is not to entertain the congregation but to convict them of sin and convert them to Christ. The audience is not the culture but God, whom the entire congregation is seeking to glorify in his terms, not ours.

Ken Myers has said in his brilliant book All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes that the contemporary church has reversed Christ's injunction to be in the world, but not of the world. Instead, he says, we are not in the world with our separate schools, bookstores, music companies, and other cultural institutions, so that we seldom interact with non-believers and yet, we are of the world. Our music, stores, schools, and corporate structures, may be separate, but they are exactly like their secular counterparts.

Recognizing God's double sovereignty over all of life can enable Christians to be engaged in a positive, transforming way, with their culture without succumbing to the deadly, spirit-quenching sin of worldliness. It is a formula for both faithfulness and relevance.

Dr. Gene Edward Veith is the author of some 20 books regarding Christianity and culture. A retired English professor and college administrator, he also directs the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne. Reprinted courtesy LCMS Life Ministry

Be Informed

Listen to Dr. James Rogers discuss whether a Christian democracy is possible with the hosts of Issues, Etc.

Be Equipped

Could you make the case for the importance of parents and their authority? Learn why parental authority should be “upheld by church and state alike” in a recent article from the Public Discourse.

Be Encouraged

“God wants you to vote for the people, principles and platforms that will uphold and advance His justice in the world. In other words, you should vote in ways that will best serve your neighbor and his needs.” – Rev. Dr. Joel Biermann, professor of systematic theology, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis

Help support our efforts to contend for the freedom to proclaim the faith. Click here to learn more or to donate.

There is a lot of theological talk in the world these days. Words like original sin, love, and repentance are bandied about by many directed at Christians. Of course these words mean something different to actual Christians than they do to those who use them in the world. So, original sin is not that inherited nature that chafes at God’s commands and wants to go his own way, but rather some inherent hatred of those perceived to be different.


Love is not what the Bible defines it to be: the action of keeping God’s commands, as St. John wrote: “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to [God’s] commands” (2 John 6). Love is simply accepting whatever someone says needs to be accepted because they accept it. Repentance is not returning to the Lord and His will in contrition and faith, but checking your privilege or some other popular thing today.

There are other words, too, that are used in this way. Words like Pharisee and hypocrite. These words have specific meanings in the Bible. The Pharisee or hypocrite is one who play acts, who covers up his sin by a show of goodness or righteousness and pretends and acts as if he has it all under control. But the world uses this against Christians to point out that Christians are not perfect. I don’t know any Christians who thinks he’s perfect, who doesn’t know they are in need of a savior from their sin. Are they perfect in this? No. But that’s the point. That’s why we come to church, why we hear God’s Word read and preached, why we study it in Bible Class and meditate on it at home with our family.

And so when these theological words are used, the Christian automatically agrees because the Christian understands them biblically, and recognizes that it is indeed godly to be a sinner who is repentant and loves. And so the Christian hears them and demurs. The Christian steps back, considers his life in light of the commandments of God, and turns to the Lord in contrition and faith.

And that’s the point of the world using these words. That’s why the world trots out these words and flings them in our face. They equivocate the meanings, knowing that Christians will do just that. So these theological words are not used to further the conversation, to come to a meeting of the minds, to reconcile one to another. These words are used to silence Christians. They are used as weapons to get Christians to step back and shut up.

This is a tool of the devil. The devil wants nothing more than Christians to be silent. He desires nothing more than for our consciences to burdened so that we don’t enter the fray. He delights in nothing else than a Christian who begins to doubt his own place in God’s kingdom because of how the world sees him. For he prowls around like a lion seeking someone to devour.

Here’s the point I’m making: The world is not on your side. The world delights in the fall of Christians because the world is the devil’s domain. He has delivered us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son. And so we are not citizens of this world and its kingdom. We are citizens of a heavenly kingdom, a better city, up above, not made with hands. We have a hope not of this world, a hope that is never failing and never fading because it rests upon the Word and promise of God, established in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and given to us through Word and Sacrament.

The world and all its might will try to take this away from you. It will try to convince you of its own ideas of original sin, love, and repentance. But God and His Word is your shield and sword. It is your defensive armor to deflect all the attacks of the world and all the flaming darts of the devil.

Therefore, cling to that word and hope. Do not be swayed into silence or retreat because of these attacks. As in the days of Nehemiah, we must rebuild and fight at the same time. Our fight is not an offensive battle. That battle has already been won through our Lord’s atoning death on the cross. Our battle is a defensive battle, one of standing our ground firm in the faith, not giving in, but contending for the faith once delivered to the saints, always being ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, clearly stating what we know to be true because of God’s Word.

Indeed, we are all sinners in need of a savior. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We are all sick and in need of a physician. But this need is not defined by the world. It is defined by God. It is written in His Word, so that it may be definitely known and firmly believed.

So, stand firm, resolute in your conviction. Let your life and conversation reflect the resurrection of Jesus Christ for all sinners, drowning out the rage of this world’s angry mobs. And listen to the Word and promise of God. For this promise is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. And thus do the angels rejoice over you who repent in this way, of real sin as defined by the Bible.

The Rev. Jason Braaten is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Tuscola, Ill.

Be Informed

Momentous decisions are being made impacting religious liberty. Focus on the Family Vice President and Washington observer Tim Goeglein and moderator Kip Allen discuss the events today on Free To Be Faithful” and you can hear it all by clicking here!

 

Be Equipped

Wondering why religious freedom is so important, especially today? Check out a recent Issues, Etc. interview with Emilie Kao of the Heritage Foundation.

 

Be Encouraged

“The peace that comes with such faith is truly freeing. It removes the anxiety of fending for one’s self and frees Christians to focus on their neighbors — both the weak and the strong, both those who love and those who hate. The eye of faith that looks to God in heaven enables an ever clearer and more loving view of the neighbor on earth.” – Rev. Jonathan Lange

Those of us who grew up reciting Luther’s Small Catechism for our suppers will recall the Table of Duties, the last of the Small Catechism’s eight parts, and the most difficult to learn by heart. In the typical congregation’s catechism curriculum, there wasn’t much time left at the end of the season for the Table of Duties, so it didn’t always get the attention it deserves.


The Table of Duties or Christian Responsibilities is a catena of New Testament passages gathered under the heading of the “three estates or ordos” (tres ordines) of temporal life: the ordo ecclesiasticus, ordo oeconomicus, and ordo politicus, often labelled Church, Household, and State. Priest, Parent, and Prince. These are orders or authority structures established by God for the temporal well-being of everyone, whether believer or not.

When everything is functioning properly, the three orders work together in a cooperative and complementary way with Priest, Parent, and Prince staying in their respective lanes. This is not the distinction of “two kingdoms” – temporal and eternal – but a distinction of temporal orders and authorities. In the eternal kingdom of God, the three coalesce into one, but in this life and world, they are distinct. Like the separation of governmental powers, the distinction of authorities ensures that no one estate holds all three authorities at once. These are, after all, in the hands of sinners. What could possibly go wrong?

The ordo ecclesiasticus, or “Church,” is not necessarily the Christian church. “Religion” or “spiritual authority” might be a better name for it. It is the spiritual authority that orders temporal life under God, reminding us that, like Hebrew National Hot Dogs, we are all answerable to a Higher Authority. It flows from our natural, intuitive knowledge of God and the fact that we are uniquely spiritual creatures. Adam was the priestly image of God in God’s temple, whether the Earth in the cosmos (Genesis 1) or the Garden in a wilderness (Genesis 2).

The ordo oeconomicus, or Household, is also part of the created order, established in the union of man and woman as “one flesh” for the bearing and nurturing of children and the economic exercise of God-given vocations within the fabric of community. “It is not good for Man to be alone.” “Household” is not the atomized nuclear family of the modern suburb, but an extended network knit together into a vocational community. In the ancient world it would have included household servants and their families. The family farm or the family-owned small business come to mind. You sometimes hear people say of the company they work for, “We’re like a family.” We are made to work, not sit idly at home playing video games, and our entire economic life is an extension of the household, whether we work at home or at the office or factory.

The ordo politicus, or State, is the governing authority of society. In our day, it tends to be front and center, though, in fact, it is the third, last, and least of the three temporal orders. The State is not part of the created order, but comes as the result of the Fall, a kind of add-on patch to deal with the pandemic of sin. It is established by God (Rom. 13:1ff, 1 Peter 2:13ff) as His ministry of the sword to curb sin and maintain outward order in a disordered world. There is nothing quite like those flashing lights in the rearview mirror to curb our anarchist driving habits, is there?

The current pandemic has caused something of a wobble in the order. The ordo politicus seems to have taken over everything by executive order. While public health and safety are certainly within its purview to protect, management of economic and spiritual life are none of its business. The prince makes a terrible parent and an even worse priest. Free markets and the freedom of faith allow the three orders to do their proper work. Totalitarians, and any who would lord themselves over others (Luke 22:25), always try to collapse the three orders into one rule under their control, the final step, of course, being one world order. Unus ordo seclorum.

Like King David, who couldn’t resist taking a census, the State can never resist tinkering, often with disastrous results. Instead of permitting everyone to pursue their own enlightened self-interest, the State has taken it upon itself to determine what interests are in fact enlightened. It has also taken over the authority of Parent by defining what constitutes “marriage” in terms of “legal rights and privileges.” We used to ask permission from parents to marry; now we seek permission from the Prince. The State has appointed itself the moral and spiritual judge of society telling when and how human life begins and the legal limits of the right to life. In other words, the Prince has become Parent and Priest. Push back a bit further to first century Rome, and you’ll see the ordo politicus up to the same sort of things with Caesar and the Caesar cult, pictured in the Revelation as two beasts and a dragon. When Prince becomes Priest, the devil is always in the mix (see Revelation 12-13).

Little wonder then, that at a time of global pandemic when the State is called upon to mobilize resources, maintain order, and protect its citizens, it reaches for the totalitarian sword as our elected officials channel their inner Caesar. It’s an easy grab. This is how it can shut down an economy, deprive people of their livelihoods and the ability to exercise their God-given vocations, and declare a society’s spiritual life to be “non-essential,” all by executive order. Who needs Parent and Priest when the Prince can do it all? It’s both efficient and effective.

Temporal life is a delicate balancing act of actions and consequences, risks and rewards, ethics, economics, morality, reason, and faith. It’s like juggling a chain saw, a bowling ball, and a wine glass – you have to keep everything in motion at once and treat each object for the thing that it is. The Prince cannot save us from a viral pandemic any more than he can manage an economy, save the earth or change the weather. “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in princes” (Ps. 118:9).

The present strategy to shut down the economic and spiritual orders to flatten a contagion curve or stop a virus in its tracks is sure to have dire unintended consequences long after this pandemic is over. The damage to our households and economy will bring far deeper death, destruction, and despair than even the most dire predictions by the CDC. The stifling of society’s spiritual voice will in fact subvert the very respect and loyalty the State requires to function. This current crisis did not set us on this disordered road. We’ve been happily strolling on it for quite a while and haven’t taken much notice as the State quietly invaded the Household and the Sanctuary while we amused ourselves. It was time for a wake-up call and a tiny virus particle tripped the alarm.

Some may be tempted to take up the sword and start swinging in rebellion. But as Peter learned, our aim is bad and we manage only to lop off the ears of innocent bystanders. Jesus would say the same to us as He said to Peter that night in the garden: “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matt. 26:51). The Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli died in the battlefield. The only sword we have at our disposal is the Word of God wielded in prayer, a far mightier and sharper sword than any executive order. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The crucified, risen, and reigning Lord Jesus Christ is still the Lord of the Church, as well as the Household and the State. He has all authority in heaven and on earth given to Him, and He knows best how to set things back in order so that the three ordos can do their proper work. The Table of Duties will guide us.

The Rev. William Cwirla is pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Hacienda Heights, Calif.

 

Be Informed

Now that the State has deemed the risk of spreading coronavirus low enough to reopen non-essential business, we respectfully believe that it is our right and duty to safely resume public ministry to the faithful even without the support of the Governor.” Learn more from District President Lucas Woodford regarding COVID-19 restrictions on worship.

 

Be Equipped

How did religious liberty fare when it comes to recent Supreme Court cases? Check out this rundown.

 

Be Encouraged

“When politics becomes the end-all and be-all of life, desperation sets in. Political victory must come at all costs. Those, how- ever, who have the gift of faith in the One True God can engage in public discourse with a confident tranquility.” – Rev. Jonathan Lange