Posted by TJH @ 4:51 pm on July 26th 2015

The Battle For Wittenberg 2017 Begins

Yesterday, at the big state “evangelical” church in the center of old Wittenberg, the worship program explained

State church in background

State church in background

Wir feiern Abendmahl vor dem Altar. Dazu sind auch Kinder eingeladen. Über die Teilnahme entscheiden die Eltern.

The flip side of the bulletin backfills a bit more detail, in English:

At the time of distribution, you are invited to come forward and form a semi-circle in the chancel area.… In our church children are invited to receive communion if that is the will of the parents

There you have it. In the “invitation” to partake in communion, there is no mention of the need for

  • baptism
  • nor faith
  • nor confirmation
  • nor is it under control of the church (but rather, the parents and/or the individual)

Like most American churches, they have become a self-invented church, with no thread of continuity to the holy catholic church, and with less backbone than the anabaptists had when they re-invented the church.

Martin the Magnificent

When in 1817 the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III  fused the Reformed and Lutheran churches into one single “evangelical” state church, the “old Lutherans” separated as the continuing true Lutheran church. The SELK (Selbständige Evangelisch-Lutheranische Kirche)  is the modern remnant of this separation in Germany. The ones that emigrated to the US formed the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. These two groups have a kind of sister-church relationship.

The SELK is making a move on Wittenberg, the Lutheran Mecca, and because of funding undergirded by their American cousins, can afford to do it, and this is attracting some attention and pushback from the state church and media.

In the background is the funding issue — “what? we thought we had a lock on that!” Enough money can be collected from Missouri Synod donors to rival the tax-collected revenues of the state church, at least for focussed projects; whereas the SELK by itself is only slightly larger than my church, the OPC, and can barely feed its own pastors. However, in a close reading of the counter-attack by the statist church, a slightly hurt “we’re Lutherans too” can be detected. “This just makes it look to the world like we are divided.”

Ah, unity. Let’s hide the fact that some of us no longer believe, so the world will not be put off by our lack of unity. Which begs for the question, “if you don’t believe, why do you care what the world thinks?”

But the SELK for its part, whether from strategy or confusion, sets forth as if the whole problem were Lutheran distinctives being watered down by Reformed ones: rather than seeing denial of the gospel as the problem.

Of course, fundamentally they know it has to do with the gospel: they just think the loss of the gospel must be caused by the fusion, rather than modernism. It is exactly like the Protestant Reformed church blaming the apostacy of the CRC on the embrace, a century ago, of common grace and the free offer. From the standpoint of empirical history, all this is understandable. One of the dangers of separation, even when justified, is that subsequent history tends to be interpreted from the standpoint of the what was at stake at the exact moment of separation.

So we can learn from our brothers. It is a shame that things always drift into such dead-end non-issues, when the real issue is the gospel, and indeed, the reception of the word of God as such. The abandonment of that is what causes such grief of soul to the true Christians in Germany.

Having made that point, however, we can also turn it right back around to the concrete. The SELK emphasizes the Lutheran doctrine of Communion as the point that distinguishes them from the fusion church, and it turns out that the administration of the Lord’s Supper at the state church was indeed just the point at which the four problems I outlined above jumped out. Expanding on them in sequence,

1. There is a failure to see a decisive turning from one’s wicked ways in conversion as signified by baptism.

2. One can see the need to come to the Lord’s Supper in faith, that it be a blessing and not a curse.

3. Like our own paedo-communionists, they have given up on confirmation controlled by the church, and transferred control to the parents. Some parents will allow, others not, thus creating two classes amongst the young people through no fault of their own. Moreover, if it is so important to allow children to come, why is it acceptable to allow any parents to decline. All of this feeds directly into the fourth point,

4. in any case, there is no longer a doctrine of the church as controller of the sacraments.

In short, 1 and 2 can broadly be seen as a denial of the Word, and 3 and 4 a denial of church and sacrament, so we see precisely that both of Luther’s marks of the church are threatened. By focussing their attack on communion, the SELK perhaps has found the loose thread which, pulled upon, will unravel the few remaining rags covering the nakedness of the state church [1]. This despite the fact that at first blush, it seemed like they were barking up the wrong tree.

Perhaps the lesson here is simply that a Confessional church should use its Confession. There is a coherence which allows error that all Christians recognize as such to be rooted out, even using points of a Confession that are controverted between communions.


[note 1]

Wir Alt-Lutheraner oder Bekenntnislutheraner bei uns ist es zuerst, die Teilnahme am heiligen Abendmahl, ein Bekenntnisakt der Kirche, es ist nicht an erster Stelle ein Gemeinschaftsmahl der Christen, sondern die Austeilung des heiligen Leibes und des heiligen Blutes zur Sündenvergebung.

For us Old-Lutherans or Confessional Lutherans, the most important thing about partaking of the holy Supper — a confessional act of the church —, is not in the first place a common meal of Christians, but rather the giving of the holy body and holy blood unto the forgiveness of sins.

Posted by TJH @ 3:10 pm on February 9th 2015

Homosexuality: Ain’t No Such Thing

Ladies, please skip this section. I feel it is necessary to speak frankly (more…)

Posted by TJH @ 9:53 am on January 13th 2015

Review of “Hold Your Peace” by Douglas Wilson

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Posted by TJH @ 11:27 pm on January 1st 2015

A holiday observation by Jonathan Edwards

New Year’s Day is kind of like a collective birthday — the common passing of another year. In Jonathan Edward’s day and place, Election Day was one of the festive days of the year. In George Marsden’s biography is found this choice quote from 1725.

Thus our elections are times of pleasure and rejoicing; and what an influence has it on the mind of the youth all over the Colony, to think this time is by general agreement made a time of mirth. How uneasy are they if they are alone and not in company, and han’t opportunity to be merry as well as others; how extraordinarily unnatural and unpleasant does serious business and solitude seem at such a time, which would seem pleasant at another time; and how does it promote mirth, to think that the whole country are then merry. This abundantly convinces me of the rational foundation of sabbaths, and holy days of fasts and thanksgivings. (page 105)

I am struck by the phenomenology of solitude-against-a-backdrop. In the context of an ordinary day, life holed up in a dusty library seems like heaven to many of us. But doing so while knowing that the whole nation is dressed up, chatting gayly, playing games, singing, feasting, and dancing, is unbearable — though it would seem pleasant at another time.

The social nexus is foundational. If one were the sole survival of a nuclear wipeout, would making music on the empty town square, or attaining scholarship in vacant libraries, still bring any pleasure? Clearly not.

The holiday is a representation of this reality, i.e. a vivid re-presenting of a reality that is latent at all times.

Solitude is pleasurable when the context is the possibility of its negation.

Posted by TJH @ 9:53 am on October 29th 2014

Doug Green and Westminster Seminary

The forced retirement of OT professor Doug Green at Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) should not require months and months of agonizing. I was reminded about this while reading the endless series of articles on arcane matters of hermeneutics at the Green Baggins site. See, for example, the seven consecutive articles starting with this one and going backwards in time. Though disguised under academic-sounding titles, it is obvious that the meta-narrative is to show why Green & Enns can’t teach at WTS. But if it comes down to such subtle and nuanced positioning, we are in trouble.

The reason Green & Enns are unacceptable as teachers at a confessional school can be stated very simply: on their hermeneutic, you could never deduce the Confession their school gathers around.  There it is, in one sentence.

I made this point six years ago in connection with the Enns affair. The point still holds.

It is not enough to “affirm the Confession.” If it turned out that someone wholeheartedly affirmed the Confession because one day fairies whispered in his ear that it was true, that would be worse than denying the Confession honestly.

We need people that affirm the Confession just because it is taught by the Word of God. And this cannot be done from the hermeneutic taught by Enns and Green.

Posted by TJH @ 5:29 pm on September 9th 2014

Confessionalism Type B: The Case of the RPCUS

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Posted by TJH @ 8:47 pm on November 17th 2013

The Federal Vision: Not Catholic At All

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Posted by TJH @ 8:34 pm on November 13th 2013

The World Chess Championship

is happening right now in India.

It is of great interest — 22-year-old Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, having the highest rating in history, challenging Anand for the title.

Unfortunately, you will have to get up at around 5 or 6 AM (east coast) or even earlier (further west) to watch it live.

It can be done at, which hosts GM-level running commentary as the games are being played.

I am not good enough at chess to even understand, unaided, why champion-level players move what they do. But with the expert commentary, I can understand a lot. It really opens up what the game is like at the high level, and makes it very exciting. Try it out. Schedule is below


Chess schedule

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The Covenanters in America: A Brief History

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Gordon Clark on Music

Some people think music a primitive art because it has only a few notes and rhythms. But it is only simple on the surface; its substance on the other hand, which makes it possible to interpret this manifest content, has all the infinite complexity that’s suggested in the external forms of other arts and that music conceals. (more…)

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Posted by TJH @ 1:39 pm on January 1st 2010

The Proposed OPC Directory for Worship

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Posted by TJH @ 1:38 pm on November 24th 2009

Introductory criticism of Wilson’s “‘Reformed’ is Not Enough”

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On Deacons Serving Communion

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Heidelberg Catechism and Paedo-communion

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Posted by TJH @ 11:25 pm on August 2nd 2008

The Slovak people continue five centuries to 1938

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