Rebuke! Rebuke! Rebuke

From Bruce:

Oh yeah and I forgot.
*hug*
thanks for the comment, brother in Christ whom I love.

Now.
WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?! DON’T YOU DARE EVER, EVER EVEN CONSIDER ME when you are considering the calling of your master. I’ have half a mind to walk over to your apartment and 360 you on general principle! You know my inner name. If I were used by God to walk alongside you as you gained strength, maturity, relationships, then that is in keeping with who I am. But catalytic identity cannot claim for its own. And I would not claim for my own, even my most prized things, in opposition or competition to Christ!

REBUKE!
REBUKE!
REBUKE!

Are you going to betray my friendship by even for a moment considering your relationship to me over your relationship to my Master? By that I mean are you going to forge me in your heart into an instrument against my Lord? A stumbling block?! If years of rants, theological wrangling, throwing Greek at your brain, and generally trying to encourage your love of God’s Word mean anything, don’t betray them by saying something like this ever again.

How dare you do this to me?!

PS. I’ll be in town Saturday as usual. So you can be smacked as you so richly deserve.

You’re welcome.

But this comment has in it some things I think have needed addressing, and so with your forgiveness, I shall respond to it as a way to address them.

In Lutheranism, we have a few doctrines.

One is the doctrine of vocation.  Roughly speaking, it defines our calling as serving the Lord through the roles we occupy.  That is, at present my calling is to serve God as a husband of my wife, a friend of my friends, and a servant of Walmart Stores Inc (among other things).

The other is our various teachings regarding revelation.  To put it quite bluntly:  We believe that Jesus Christ is the person who speaks for God these days.  We believe that in the garden of Gethsemane he promised the apostles that they would accurately remember his words and relay his teachings.  Therefore, we hold those books which contain the teachings of the apostles to be inspired scripture, according to the teachings of the apostles.

Therefore we do not hold other things to be inspired scriptures, including coincidence, emotion, or even my good buddy logic.

From this, then, vocation:  the various household codes in the New Testament make clear that our calling from God is to serve God by discharging well the duties implied by our existing relationships.  This is found in the scriptures.

However, we do not find in the scriptures the idea of a mystical call beyond this.  It may be that God pulls us, through thought, deed, emotion, and event, toward the place he wants us.  But it is not written, we cannot say it, and it is arrogant and foolish to make decisions based on it.

Taking on additional relationships (and therefore duties) is a matter of Christian freedom!  If an unmarried man chooses to get married, he has added to the calling of his Master a call to be a good husband.  He was free not to do so.  There was no demand upon him to accept this calling unless that demand can be found in the Scriptures rightly interpreted!

So, too, if I choose to become a pastor, and my church then sends me off to seminary, it will ipso facto become God’s call on my life.

But until that point, whether or not it is God’s desire, it is not God’s call.  And if I say it is, based on my desires or emotions or coincidences, then even if it is God’s desire that I become a pastor, nevertheless by presuming to speak for Him where He has not spoken and by claiming or speculating His will where he has not revealed it, I become a false prophet and a heretic, for I am claiming that I am the voice of God!

So, despite the confluence of my emotions and my church’s potential generosity, which years ago I would have seen as a message from God, I am not at present called to be a pastor.

Should I accept my church’s offer, at that time I shall be called to become a pastor.

In both cases, yeah or nay, I am called to be a friend to my friends.  Therefore, it is good, meet, and right that I consider my friendships when thinking over whether or not I should move forward on this.  It is good, meet, and right, in other words, that I place priority on the calling I do have over and against the calling I do not have.  It is in no way deserving of rebuke.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

Aramis

Really, when it comes down to it, there is only one reason I don’t immediately and enthusiastically say “Really?  I can go to seminary?  Where do I sign up?”

Greg and Bruce.

I don’t want to be shuffled all over the country when they are right here.

St. Paul’s not so bad.  Missouri is a little bit worse.  But if I become a pastor, there is no telling where I’d end up.

Bruce will certainly stay in contact.  I can’t stop him, and most weeks I wouldn’t want to.

With Greg, though, who knows?  I’d have to be intentional about keeping up with him.  And I suck at that.

Plus, more than anything else, there is a very different quality to hanging out with someone when you aren’t actually there with him.

But Bruce has a life that may be moving on.

And Greg, despite saying that he really doesn’t want me to go, also thinks this is up my alley, and I should do it.

And making videogames while pastoring won’t be too much harder than making videogames while Walmarting.  (Uh-oh.  Famous last words.)

So, pending further information and providing it really will get paid for, it is my intention to do this crazy thing.

Maybe now I’ll be able to sleep.

God help me.

Rocking the Collar III

Time after time, in my various wanderings ’round the internet, I have come across rants, open wounds, unmet needs.

This country’s churches have a ridiculous attitude about forgiveness.

This country’s churches have a ridiculous classification system for sins, wherein some are simply too icky to forgive or to fight in any meaningful way.

This country’s churches demean men and exalt women in craven submission to the spirit of the age.

This country’s churches replace the security and comfort of solid truth with an insecure, but exciting reliance on emotional experiences.

I am a confessional Lutheran, in part, because the broad organized churches that submit to the confessions (such as the WELS and the LCMS) do not commit these mistakes.  But on the individual level, very few pastors I have met do not at least give these errors a respectful nod, and I have yet to encounter a church body that does not embrace most if not all of these errors.

If you’re not part of the solution…

Humans are broken and evil, and the flavor of the brokenness and evil will be colored by the sins of the age.  To a degree, this situation is unavoidable, short of expatriating to a country where an almost opposite culture reigns supreme — and there, I would find other problems, just as problematic, just as pervasive.

In short, a Chinese Christian cannot help being Chinese, and an American Christian cannot help being American.  Only by the Grace of God may the errors endemic to a particular culture, like more general errors endemic to humanity as a whole, be overcome.

Nevertheless, the fact that the problem is inevitable does no imply that the problem cannot or should not be fought.

Gnosticism was a particularly Hellenistic error of a Hellenistic age.  Irenaeus is remembered for standing up against it.  And while fragments of the errors of the Gnostics have been recycled throughout history into other heresies and heterodoxies, that particular sect has been smashed to pieces.

So… we deny God’s Spirit (given to us in his Word) in order that we might call the stirrings of our hearts, coincidences, and (perhaps) the schemes of demons ‘the Holy Spirit.’

This must be opposed.

We divorce reconciliation from forgiveness, and thus unknowingly divorce the Hope of Heaven from the forgiveness bought on the cross.

This must be opposed.

As the Gnostics held that men were spiritual and therefore pure, and women were carnal and therefore corrupt, so we now hold that women are emotional and therefore pure, and men are carnal and therefore corrupt.

This must be opposed.

As a pastor, I could take quite a bit more of a stand than as a blogger read by two people.

As a game maker, taking a stand is a matter of arguable merit.  It is intrinsically good, but it may not be the best allocation of resources.

As a pastor, taking a stand would be precisely my job.

And I want to do it.

When Dalrock’s blog on Christian Marriage posts another link to Focus on the Family’s Mark Driscoll going on about how “Wives, submit to your husbands” really means “Husbands, submit to your wives,” and Dalrock wonders whether there are any pastors left on the face of the earth who actually take the Bible at its word, I could say “Yeah.  Here’s my blog.  Here’s the church where I teach what’s on my blog.”

When some ex-gay ministry or another wonders whether there are any churches in the country that neither hate on, nor excuse homosexuality, I would be able to say “Yeah.  Here’s my blog.  Here’s the church where I teach what’s on my blog.”

Ahh, hubris.  Just give me a license to dress in black with a silver crucifix, and I shall solve the world’s problems!

 

But seriously.  I know I can’t do it.  And I also know I can’t stop myself from trying to do it.  If it is a good thing, if it is in accordance with the Scriptures to take these stands (and others… oh, yes!  Many others), should I not take up this avenue of doing what I shall do anyway?

Maybe.  Maybe not.

Collar Rocking II

Half of the two people who read this blog already know what the last post was about, and the other half is clever enough to prise it from between the lines of my half-asleep rambling.

But to be clear:

Sunday, my new Pastor, who is played by Vin Diesel in the movie adaptation of my life, announced that three weeks hence, a recruitment officer of some sort would be showing up and having a talk about careers in church work.  Seems the LCMS needs pastors and other various peoples.

I have, from time to time, toyed with the idea of a theological or philosophical degree.  I really would like to have one.  I just don’t know what I’d do with it.  The best use for the education I want is to become a pastor.  But I’ve always been leery about becoming a pastor.

Leery, but intrigued.  I didn’t go to Oak Hills for no reason.

So, I resolved to attend said meeting out of sheer curiosity.  And, having made that resolution, I promptly forgot about it.

‘Till after Bible Study, when one of the men of the church pulled me aside, told me that I should attend that meeting and really, really think hard about maybe becoming a pastor.  He also told me that my church would find a way to pay for it, should I head out for Seminary.

I haven’t been able to sleep since then, really.  I can’t stop thinking about it.  ‘Round, like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel, etc…

You know I’m passionate about a lot of bits of theology that get swept under the rug these days.  I didn’t join up with the synod I joined due to their lack of will to back someone up if his doctrine is sound.

I was there for Rev Diesel’s ordination.  There was nothing objectionable in the ceremony.  It was doctrinally sound as a mountain of fused anvils.  The few little points of difference I have with the LCMS official stance were not on the list of things sworn to.  It was just the Bible, the Creeds, and Concordia.

To have a way to reach out to the Body of Christ and inject a couple of fitful bursts of logic into the stream of emotionalism (don’t cross the streams!)  How many times have I asked for that?  And now that it is on the table, how can I not look with suspicion towards the Heavens, and wonder if God is not double-dog-daring me to put my money where my mouth is?  Or my mouth where his church is.

I Could Rock the Collar

Or not.  No I couldn’t.

But should I?  That’s the question, isn’t it?

I’m not a socialite.  I’m not an extrovert, nor do I hold extroversion to be superior to introversion.  A pastor is a largely social role, no?  Undershepherd of the flock is a silly title if you don’t spend any time with the sheep.  It is a silly title if you don’t spend most of your time with the sheep.

Well, most of your time tending the sheep.

I looked at the class list.  I looked at the class list for the preceding Bachelor’s program I’d have to take too.  Most of those classes looked delicious.  The sort of thing where the papers would be a joy to write, the study something I would normally feel guilty spending time on.  Back at Oak Hills, I really dug the theology classes.  Christian Faith I.  Old and New Testament overviews.  Those were good stuff.  It was the intro to writing nonsense that my AA should have covered (and did cover at BSU), and the ‘ministry’ classes that were all about people wallowing in emotionalism, and the ministry requirement that always got to me.

Ah, the ministry requirement.  There’s the rub.  Making a career out of one of my least-loved elements of Oak Hills.  But Pastoral Ministry is a little different than making fliers advertising a revivalist orgy of mildly Christianized Bandai theme songs, or trying to reign in native kids who don’t want to be their, but their parents don’t want them at home either.  And hey, those kids need people who give a damn reigning them in, no doubt about it!

Less than 10% of the Concordia St. Paul Theology Major courses look like pathetic attempts to be overly relevant.  (You know how to be relevant in today’s world?  Easy: stop trying to offer them what they already have.  Be different.  Be true.)  And even in those courses, you find scary truth words like ‘doctrine’ in the description.

None of these are the kicker.  The kicker is, I went to Oak Hills because I love the faith.  I love digging deeper, devouring the deep truths that form the pulse.

At Oak Hills, only about a third of the teachers and a percent of the students seemed to give a damn.  The rockstar hero of my class flunked out of theology three times and passed youth ministry on the first go.  I flunked out of youth ministry and aced theology in my sleep.

Now, years later, Rev Fisk’s expositions of Lutheran Doctrine, paired with my own inquiries (and years after I signed on to the Small Catechism) have ignited the old spark again.  Burden after burden of my life has been torn away.  The doctrine of Vocation melted the intense pressure I’ve felt to missionary-ize since I can remember.  Ironic, then, that I am leaning towards a vocation that would make that primarily my responsibility.  But I digress.  The doctrine of Baptism vaporized my doubt and despair.  Every pain, tended.  Every burden, lightened.  I  can’t understand how I used to live with the weight of the world on my shoulders.  I am so much smaller than Atlas; Jesus is so much bigger.

I want to know more.  And I can learn more, on my own, in stolen moments.

Or I can learn more as my objective, for my vocation.

I want, I want, me, me, me…  If I were to go this path, it would be an extra load of responsibility before God.  I would be held doubly to account.  I have thrown off one yoke!  Am I strong enough to bear another?  The correct answer is no-one is.  But perhaps I am less ready than others.

To be a pro-Bible nerd… I spend as much time, if not more, composing and writing rants exhortations as I do writing stories or games.  I could do it on a schedule.  And I can take confessions without batting an eye, and forgive with an inhuman equanimity born of my broken brain.  But can I enact discipline?  Can I excommunicate?  Can I visit the shut-ins?  Meet with those who are sick and in prison?  Online, I may be brash and decisive, but in person I’ve the spine of an egg of Silly-Putty.  This is no time or place for spineless shepherds!  There are wolves without and within.

Meh.  There’s not much more I can do until I can talk to Pastor or to the recruitment guy in a couple of weeks.  But this won’t leave my poor, addled brain alone.

SF & F II

The best fantasy is deeply religious.  The only proof I can offer and still get to church in time is the endurance of Lord of the Rings and its untouched primacy over all other Fantasy.  If Tolkien is ever unseated from the Throne of Fantasy, it will be by a deeply religious author, and probably a Roman Catholic at that.

Thus, the best fantasy will tend to reveal the faith of the place and time that produced it.  Lord of the Rings is soaked in Roman Catholicism.  Narnia is faithful Anglicanism.  And they are both very English works.

So what is the American fantasy?  The Wheel of Time tried to be.  Perhaps it succeeded, though if so it really only succeeded to be the fantasy of the American South (which I do not regard with wholehearted disdain).  The religion of the Wheel of Time very much captures the public’s distrust of organized religion.

I would contend that the great American fantasy, our answer to Lord of the Rings, is Star Wars.  Despite it’s being set a “long time ago”, it nicely captures the way Americans look to the future where the Old World labors under the weight of the past.  It’s zero-to-hero path, where the farm boy becomes the Jedi, captures American concepts of mobility when contrasted with LotR’s zero-saves-the-world-because-of-his-zeroness English aesthetic.

More importantly, and to a degree more indictingly, its hodge-podge of vague mysticism with a dash of redemption at the end very nicely sums up American Christianity.

Of course, once you slap on the prequels, it shifts away from its foundation, and with the extended universe abandons it all together.  Far be it from our elites to endorse their enemy.  American Christianity may have lost most of its teeth, but the six that remain can still remove the occasional finger.