Thursday, September 29, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
God has a story. Worship does God's story.
There is a crisis of worship today. The problem goes beyond matters of style--it is a crisis of content and of form. Worship in churches today is too often dead and dry, or busy and self-involved. Robert Webber attributes these problems to a loss of vision of God and of God's narrative in past, present, and future history.
As he examines worship practices of Old Testament Israel and the early church, Webber uncovers ancient principles and practices that can reinvigorate our worship today and into the future.
The final volume in Webber's acclaimed Ancient-Future series, Ancient-Future Worship is the culmination of a lifetime of study and reflection on Christian worship. Here is an urgent call to recover a vigorous, God-glorifying, transformative worship through the enactment and proclamation of God's glorious story. The road to the future, argues Webber, runs through the past.
Robert E. Webber (1933-2007) was, at the time of his death, Myers Professor of Ministry at Northern Seminary in Lombard, Illinois, and served as the president of the Institute for Worship Studies in Orange Park, Florida. His many books include Ancient-Future Faith and The Younger Evangelicals. (publisher's website).
I was first introduced to Webber through Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail. In many ways, I felt like an evangelical on the Wittenberg trail due to the practices of my college church that diverged from my LCMS upbringing. I also appreciated his Prymer.
First, a critique. I will always object that the Lutheran theology of the Sacrament of the Altar is called "consubstantiation" (148). Webber's explanation on that page is closer to the actual Lutheran position than he may have wished to admit. Further development in this explanation is needed by this book's readers and Webber's devoted students. I pray Lutherans will have part in that discussion.
The Appendix is the author's document A Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future (179ff).
What I have always appreciated about the books of Robert Webber is the fact that he expects his readers to think, reflect, and interact with his ideas. They may or may not come to his same conclusions. The Introduction explains how he intends readers to read this book (23). His summary of major worship trends in history is concise, understandable, and worthy of discussion (86), especially by Christians who know of little Christian history beyond their own life experience.
- On the Primacy of the Biblical Narrative (The term "rules" is to law-focused.)
- On the Church, the Continuation of God's Narrative (I appreciate his use of the terms "catholicity" and "apostolicity.")
- On the Church's Theological Reflection on God's Narrative (He proposes unity in "the tradition that has been believed everywhere, always and by all.")
- On the Church's Worship as Telling and Enacting God's Narrative (I would re-word how he describes a focus on God's work over our work.)
- On Spiritual Formation in the Church as Embodiment of God's Narrative (This would be a good place to talk about making disciples of all nations by means of baptizing and by means of teaching.)
- On the Church's Embodied Life in the World (This is often called "vocation.")
The more I read of Ancient-Future Worship, the more I became convinced that Webber was on to something big. And, in my opinion, Biblically faithful confessional church bodies (like the LCMS) that preserve the Western heritage of Divine Service and the Daily Office through use and catechesis are living examples of what Webber advocates.
Read Ancient-Future Worship. Buy copies to study at Winkel conferences. In the new year, QBR will post a review of this and other books in the Ancient-Future series. http://lhpqbr.blogspot.com/2010/12/lhp-review-perspectives-on-worship.html
I re-read Ancient-Future Worship as preparation. It was a chance to reflect on the strengths of Webber's books as an Ancient-Future set.
Christianity faces challenges from secularism, Islam, and also from those within the faith that have led us down a path of being "of the world" but not really "in the world." It is as if Christians set up their own ghetto with cultural elements that mimic the world and often lose their original substance.
Isn't it more than time to go back to our Christian roots? Webber thought so in 1978.
The new Zondervan edition of Common Roots has the subtitle, The Original Call to an Ancient-Future Faith. It could also be seen as a framework of what Webber would later write in the Ancient-Future series for Baker. Common Roots became the later book Ancient-Future Faith when Webber started to revise it for a new generation and ended up writing an entirely new book.
The insights of the early church hold vast potential for strengthening the community life and ministry of the contemporary church. Robert Webber sounded this theme in his original 1978 edition of Common Roots. Over the past thirty years, this book has been recognized as Webber’s seminal work, providing a foundation for the ancient-future faith movement. Here is Webber’s original clarion call, presented with an extensive foreword by David Neff, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today magazine and executive director of the Robert E. Webber Center for an Ancient-Evangelical Future. The book will promote new conversations about ancient-future faith and its relationship to modern evangelicalism. Webber examines evangelicalism through the lens of the early church (AD 100–500). He searches for the roots of evangelical Christianity, then challenges contemporary evangelical beliefs and practices that are out of harmony with historic Christianity. These ancient patterns, Webber contends, contain wisdom evangelicals must recover for worship, theology, mission, and spirituality. Chapters highlight a problem, investigate an ancient belief or practice, and suggest an agenda for today. This knowledgeable perspective on ancient-future faith is perfect for both seasoned scholars and a new generation of evangelical Christians. (publisher's website)Webber proposes to recover historic Christianity in five areas:
- The Church, its nature
- Worship, meaning and form
- Theology, confessional
- Spirituality, devotional response (33)
Chapter 5 was the heart of the book for me. Man-centered worship is a temptation in every age, whether it comes from an overemphasis on the head or the heart (103). I've found that if you get Jesus wrong, you get forgiveness wrong. If you get forgiveness wrong, you get the sacraments wrong. And if you get the sacraments wrong, you have to come up with something to deliver the forgiveness Jesus won on Calvary. Webber notes the significant "content" problem in today's worship (117).
Chapter 5 leads into Chapter 6's discussion of the form of worship. The author calls for
- The restitution of the historic shape of worship
- The restitution of the Lord's Supper as a source of spiritual nourishment
- The restoration of the Christian concept of time, especially as it relates to the restitution of the church year (125)
Webber calls for a Christian maturity. I second that motion. Let's return to the Word, common Christian roots, and embrace our historical Christian heritage, being less bound to "every wind of doctrine" and every "Christian" fad.
Since we've already covered Ancient-Future Worship as a way of introducing Webber's work, consider the introduction to the whole AF series:
How do you deliver the authentic faith and great wisdom of the past into the new cultural situation of the twenty-first century? The way into the future is not an innovative new start for the church; rather, the road to the future runs through the past.
Each book in the 4-volume Robert Webber Ancient-Future Collection presents an issue related to faith and practice from a particular point of view—namely, that of drawing wisdom from the past and translating insights from historic Christianity into the present and future life of the church, its faith, worship, ministry, and spirituality. These books speak to the longing to discover the roots of the faith in the biblical and classical tradition of the church.
Webber’s goal is maintain continuity with historic Christianity as the church moves forward. In each volume, Webber draws from the entire history of the church together—Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant—and from Reformers and evangelicals, such as John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards. Webber weaves insights from these traditions with the challenges of the present in order to help readers understand how deeply committed Christians have sought to think and live the faith in other times and places.
Students, professors, pastors, and laypeople concerned with the church's effective response to a postmodern world will benefit from these volumes. Informative tables and extensive bibliographies enhance each book's educational value. (Publisher's website)
Robert Webber was not afraid to talk about the content of the Christian faith. He was adept at facing us up to our Lord and what He says about His person and work in His Word.
In a world marked by relativism, individualism, pluralism, and the transition from a modern to a postmodern worldview, evangelical Christians must find ways to re-present the historic faith.
In his provocative work, Ancient-Future Faith, Robert E. Webber contends that present-day evangelicalism is a product of modernity. Allegiance to modernity, he argues, must be relinquished to free evangelicals to become more consistently historic. Empowerment to function in our changing culture will be found by adapting the classical tradition to our postmodern time. Webber demonstrates the implications in the key areas of church, worship, spirituality, evangelism, nurture, and mission.
Webber writes, "The fundamental concern of Ancient-Future Faith is to find points of contact between classical Christianity and postmodern thought. Classical Christianity was shaped in a pagan and relativistic society much like our own. Classical Christianity was not an accommodation to paganism but an alternative practice of life. Christians in a postmodern world will succeed, not by watering down the faith, but by being a counter cultural community that invites people to be shaped by the story of Israel and Jesus."
A substantial appendix explores the development of authority in the early church, an important issue for evangelicals in a society that shares many features with the Roman world of early Christians. (publisher's website)
How can evangelism produce not only converts but also disciples who grow in faith and become active members of the church?
In Ancient-Future Evangelism, Robert Webber presents a model of evangelism and discipleship firmly rooted in Scripture, attested to in the history of the church, and authentic to the postmodern world in which we live.
Webber surveys evangelism throughout the centuries, tracing the development of the ancient process of Christian formation. He translates that process for the twenty-first century, presenting four stages—conversion, discipleship, spiritual formation, and Christian vocation—that can easily be adapted to various church traditions. He also suggests three practical rites of passage to accompany this “ancient-future” practice of making disciples.
Webber then underscores how the four-fold process of faith formation is interwoven with three theological themes: Christ as victor over evil, the church as witness to God’s salvation, and worship as a witness to God’s mission accomplished in Jesus. (publisher's website)
Discover ancient rhythms for a new spiritual awakening!
God's people have always celebrated his work by retelling the stories of his mighty deeds of salvation. In a time when the church's memory sometimes seems short, many are rediscovering the value of using the Christian year to pattern our celebrations around the essential truths of the faith.
In Ancient-Future Time, Robert Webber draws from this church tradition by introducing and exploring biblical themes and liturgical traditions for each season of the Christian calendar. Helpful charts, prayers, reflection questions, and resource lists are provided for those planning church worship or seeking old, yet new, paths to spiritual growth through a deeper understanding of the Christian year. (publisher's website)
Monday, September 26, 2011
Peperkorn, Todd A. I Trust When Dark My Road: A Lutheran View of Depression. Roanoke, IL: Lutheran Catechetical Society, 2010. Video DVD. ($20.00 + $5.00 shipping) www.thelcs.org (LHP)
Mental illness still faces a stigma.
What if you are a Christian? Will people around you misunderstand? Will even family members misinterpret emotions and behaviors as a crisis of faith? (cf. p. 5)
What if you are a pastor? Can you imagine how depression would impact a life, a family, a ministry, a congregation?
Luther knew this struggle. So did C. F. W. Walther (2).
The Rev. Todd Peperkorn [then pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church, Kenosha, WI] and author of “I Trust When Dark My Road - A Lutheran View of Depression” leads his audience on a journey through the dark days of his own depression and illness… but leading ultimately to the cross of Christ where there is strength and hope. Through Him we have joy in sorrow.
Follow an ongoing discussion at Pr. Peperkorn’s website, http://www.darkmyroad.org.Well-suited for class or study-settings. A PDF copy of Peperkorn’s [LCMS World Relief and Human Care] book “I Trust When Dark My Road” is included on the DVD. (www.thelcs.org)
Depression is an illness, a result of the fall into sin. It is especially insidious because of how it "works into a mind, into a life" (34). I highly recommend spending extra time studying pages 34ff to better understand the distinctions Peperkorn shares between faith, facts, and feelings. He needed the "for you" Gospel of Christ specifically and personally applied to him by congregation members, his family, and his pastor (cf. 99 on why pastors need pastors, too).
What do I do if a loved one suffers from depression? Consider the suggestions of Appendix I:
- Talk to them
- Talk to their spouse
- Give them space but don't avoid them
- Don't give up
The Rev. Todd Peperkorn is Senior Pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church (August 2011 – Present), Rocklin, CA.
Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.
Church bells call listeners to worship at the beginning of Stuart Townend's latest release, The Journey. Orchestration and energy are very similar to his previous studio album, Creation Sings.
Much of the content of the album will be new to Townend's listeners. These recordings are of more recently-written hymns, many co-written by Keith Getty. One of the (few) drawbacks of a pre-release digital copy is that I don't have all of the liner notes at my disposal. That said, I'll probably buy a traditional CD version of this album to have all of those details for my own edification.
I thought the juxtaposition of church bells on track one and traditional acoustic instruments on track two to be rather striking. "O My Soul" confesses the joy of faith in Christ.
"By Faith," track 3, has been previously recorded by Kristyn Getty. Townend's take on the arrangement has a pleasing bluegrass feel. The melody is so strong it just needs a strong and confident voice and modest instrumental accompaniment. I loved the harmonies on this recording.
"Vagabonds" struck me as a song of contrasts. A song of invitation, track 4 calls all to the "table." My first reaction was that this was a reference to eucharistic fellowship. I don't believe that was the author's intent. The arrangement is intense and powerful, even disorienting. Such is the radical nature of the Gospel as welcoming love and grace in Christ to sinners. I found that law was missing. Perhaps a reference to repentance would have been appropriate. My other concern has to do with the second stanza. One line uses the loaded word "orientation." The context and confession of a given congregation or church body where this song is used would make all the difference. Occasionally, Stuart and Townend revise texts and even change the refrains. I would suggest more clear language in any revision of "Vagabonds."
A female vocalist adds poignancy to track 5, "The Man Who Calmed the Sea." I could imagine this as special music or a hymn of the day on any one of Sundays where the Gospel lesson is Matthew 8, Matthew 14, or parallel passages. The solo becomes a pleasing duet. Other texts like "take up your cross" (Matthew 16) are mentioned briefly.
An old hymn gets a fresh treatment on track 6. "It Is Well with My Soul" builds on the traditional hymn. Like the backbeat on track 2, I think percussion on this track could have been omitted. Townend adds a new refrain that adds musical and theological depth to the original.
Among the hymns on this recording that were written in 2010 are:
- The Perfect Wisdom of Our God, track 7, surveying creation, Psalm 119, and the cross
- Kyrie Eleison, track 8, written for the recent Lausanne Congress in Cape Town, South Africa, a "Lord, Have Mercy" that is growing on me
- Simple Living (A Rich Young Man), track 9, ideally paired with a sermon on Matthew 19, or one on the Widow's Mite
"Everlasting Love," track 10, is a personal response to forgiveness in Christ, as well as an encouragement for mission.
Track 11, "You Rescued Us," is an up-tempo pop-feel song that reminds me of Townend's early recordings. I would encourage more explicit references to God. It does NOT fall into the trap of being a "Jesus or my girlfriend" song.
"Never Failing Love" highlight's Townend's piano playing with his solo voice. Bluesy, passionate, and human-care focused, it shows the proper connection between faith and good works building on James and 1 Corinthians 13.
Reminiscent of Timothy Dudley-Smith's "Christ Be My Leader," Lutheran Service Book 861, "Christ Be in My Waking" is a hymn for morning, evening, and throughout the day and one's life long. Personal, yet Christ-focused text is paired with Beatles-like harmonies and accompaniment.
I look forward to seeing the sheet music (and promised instrumental parts) for these newly-written songs, hymns, and canticles soon.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Gilmore, Rachel. 'Tis the Season: Church Celebrations for Advent and Christmas. Valley Forge: Judson Press, 2011. 110 Pages. Paper. $14.99. www.judsonpress.com (L)
Bray, Gerald L., Editor. General Editor Timothy George. Associate General Editor Scott M. Manetsch. Galatians, Ephesians (Reformation Commentary on Scripture, New Testament X). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011. 446 Pages. Cloth. $50.00. academic.ivpress.com (P)
Monday, September 19, 2011
The latest and best biography of a father of confessional Lutheranism in North America.Loehe, who never visited the United States, sent missionaries, founded seminaries, established deaconess training, studied doctrine and liturgy, and fought with church officials. Geiger sets forth Loehe's life, and the divided opinions about him, in a compelling and authoritative narrative.This first, full length biography of a key player in Lutheran history is accessible to lay audiences and appreciated by scholars.Erika Geiger lived in Neuendettelsau, Germany (1953-55) where Loehe and his work made an enduring impression on her. In 1956 she served as a deaconess in a hospital of the Neuendettelsau Deaconess Institute. She later served as an associate professor in Korntal bei Stuttgart, at the Friedrich-Oberlin-Fachoberschule and at the Fachhochschule for Relig639)ionspadagogik, Munich.Translator Dr. Wolf Knappe (1926– ) comes from a family of German pastors. In 1951 St. Peter’s Lutheran Church called him to serve in Wine Hill, IL. He has also served as a guest lecturer and as a translator for Luther Digest. (publisher's website)
Readers will also appreciate:
- Reading about Loehe and Isaiah 6 at the time of his ordination (42)
- Learning the background of his prayer book (76ff)
- Seeing Loehe respond to Wynecken's request for emergency preachers (93, 106)
- Standing with Loehe with regard to Biblical, Apostolic, and Confessional Lutheran Communion practice (164) and confessional differences (205)
- Perusing extensive endnotes (221ff)
Thank you to CPH for publishing this missing chapter of LCMS history, theology, mercy, missions, and practice.
Emmanuel Press deserves our thanks for its updated edition. The translation of the German 26th edition by Weller (with an introduction by Henry Jacobs) is supplemented by previously untranslated German portions thanks to Benjamin Mayes.
Prayers 29-34, 78, 86, 95, 144, and 211 are provided in this edition (v).
Why were these prayers omitted in 1914?
Prayer Bells were not a common practice in America. My hometown still had a "whistle" at noon, 5pm, and 10pm. Why not pray at midday (17-19) to contemplate the Passion of Christ, especially in America?
Number 79 (50-51) is a General Confession as it was worded for use after the sermon. It still deserves our attention, consideration, and continued use. Number 86 reprints the Words of Institution of the Sacrament of the Altar (57). Similarly, Number 95 (59ff) is a meditation on the Holy Supper. It may have been omitted because a previous editor may have misunderstood its purpose: "for those who are present at the Sacrament, but do not receive it with the mouth." For whom was it intended?
Number 144 references demonic possession (90). Might people be uncomfortable with the topic in 1914? 2011? The old evil foe still attacks the Church of Christ, yet he will never prevail.
Number 211 includes a prayer of Bernard of Clairvaux (121), recently a topic of scholarly research because of his influence on Luther (and Loehe, it seems).
Seed-Grains of Prayer shows Loehe as pastor and penitent, theologian and a Christian at prayer. I commend this volume for your spiritual edification.
Loehe's influence on the LCMS has been downplayed, I believe, because modern Lutherans were embarrassed by the break with Walther and some of his theological "quirks." We should thank the Lord for Loehe for his steadfastness in making a good Lutheran confession in the midst of trying times and situations, for enriching our liturgical life, for his example in supporting American Lutherans with pastoral care, for giving us the Concordia Theological Seminary, and for showing the importance of works of mercy through his Deaconness Institute.
Wilhelm Loehe is a good example of a sinner-saint, as Luther taught we all are.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
The 12 Biggest Lies: Can Facts, Logic and Truth Stand Up to Them? St. Catherines, ON, Canada: Cloud Ten Pictures, 2010. Video DVD. $19.98. www.cloudtenpictures.com (LHPN)
Dragons or Dinosaurs? Creation or Evolution? St. Catherines, ON, Canada: Cloud Ten Pictures, 2010. Video DVD. $19.98. www.cloudtenpictures.com (LHPN)
Isaacs, Darek. Dragons or Dinosaurs? Creation or Evolution? Aluacha, FL: Bridge-Logos, 2010. 216 Pages. Paper. $14.99. bridgelogos.com (LHPN)
Two videos from Cloud Ten Pictures and a companion book receive our attention in the following review.
I was very interested to receive an advance copy of the Dragons or Dinosaurs? DVD. Cloud Ten Picture's customer service was very helpful in replacing a disc that didn't play all the way through. I had offered a more private critique at that time, hoping that adjustments would be made in the final video. No content changes were made, unfortunately.
The biggest drawback to an otherwise interesting, informative, and watchable film about ancient dragons being what we now call "dinosaurs" (c. 1841) is a misplaced and misguided attack on the English Standard Version translation of the Bible (Chapter 16, et al, and in the video) by author and video host Darek Isaacs. His is a serious accusation on not merely the word choice of the ESV translators, editors, and publisher, but an accusation that they were trying to remove the word dragon from the Biblical text.
Isaacs quotes Strong's Exhaustive Concordance as his reference. As such, it is a fine reference. He even makes note of Hebrew words (170). If one knows Biblical Hebrew, however, Strong's is NOT the strongest reference book one would use. I have real doubts if the author knows Biblical Hebrew. More in-depth Hebrew dictionaries of the Bible note two similar words, tannim and tannin. I asked Dr. Andrew Bartlelt, my seminary Hebrew professor for more information.
No, Mr. Isaacs, there is no conspiracy to downgrade the original meaning of the Bible. Aramaic and Hebrew are challenging languages, even to modern scholars. It is quite possible that the KJV translators got some things wrong. I thank God for the gift of the King James Version, but do not consider it to be a divinely inspired translation. God's Word is divinely inspired. And I will go to the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic to solve disputes.
I consider the book Dragons or Dinosaurs? Creation or Evolution a moderately helpful reference for discerning readers, but not one I can recommend to the general public because of the immature level of Bible scholarship it includes. Similarly, while well-produced, well-paced, and fascinating, I will not show the video of Dragons and Dinosaurs to my congregation because of the unfounded attacks on the ESV, which are really only based on the speaker's own ignorance of Biblical Hebrew.
Sadly, I have similar concerns about the other video before us, 12 Biggest Lies. There is a market for a video like this that takes on secularism and false religion. This isn't it for me, my family, my congregation, and my school.
Why? Compelling imagery and much truth is combined with a heavy emphasis on false end times prophecy (like many of the other , much of which is derived from the so-called vision/dream of a teenage girl in a Scottish cult group in the early 1800's (rapture, dispensational premillenialism).
Second, Kevin Sorbo is a capable and winsome host, but viewers may remember him as his mythical warrior character from syndicated TV and therefore mistake his advocacy with truth here with is former TV role.
Third, I reject "decision theology" and all of its forms as an unbiblical "work" and contrary to John 15:16.
Fourth, since Jesus is our prophet, priest, king, and His body is the Temple that was rebuilt in three days, and since His sacrifice on the cross is once and for all and does not need to be repeated, the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem does NOT need to be rebuilt, nor does the ancient sacrificial system need to be restarted. Jesus is the Savior of Jew and Gentile. There are not two covenants but one in Christ.
Fifth, I object to the writings, programs, and positions of several of the speakers on the documentary. I would not want my agreement with them here to be an endorsement of their other material.
Again, with regard to this film, I would be unwilling to subject my family, congregation, or school to it, because of the false and unbiblical teachings it includes.
Resources that claim a Christian identity will be judged harshly by non-Christians. That is to be expected. They will also be subjected to a necessary high level of scrutiny for the sake of the Gospel of Christ. He must be at the center of every Christian resource. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
Sometimes, after unfavorable reviews, publishers cease sending us their materials. That is their choice. Many materials we review are the result of requests by our readers and reviewers. Not all are answered or filled. Some materials are unsolicited. Due to our high backlog of materials, they become lower priorities. We do wish to be fair, but we must be true to God's Word first.
Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
- Management: "Don't run in the street!"
- Nurturing: give hope, love, show how God provides
- Training: apply God's Word to a circumstance
- Correction: share the law to lead to repentance
- and rehearsing Gospel Promises
"Christian" parenting books are not Christian if their primary message is law (161).