Concord and Confirmation

concordia-title-2 We live in a highly educated society that is not educated at all about the truths of Scripture.  In America, people are leaving Christianity in alarming numbers.  They are leaving because they think Christianity is not true.  Because their disagreement with Christianity is factual, entertainments will not bring them back.

The only thing that will bring them back is a vigorous and thorough presentation of the truth of the word of God.  Only God’s Word can change the human heart.

However, there are many false religions masquerading as Christianity, and they discredit true Christianity by hiding the truth of the Word of God.  For example, “decision theology” is one reason atheists think Christianity is false:  Every thinking person knows that we can choose our opinions, but not our facts.  Rational people choose their opinions, but rational people do not choose what they think is factually true.  They must be convinced of the facts by evidence and testimony.

Even though Christianity is a historical (fact based) religion, “decision theology” says: “Make a decision for Jesus.”  Choose to believe he was God incarnate and born of a virgin.  Choose to believe he was crucified and rose from the dead.  Choose to believe Christ is trustworthy, and choose to trust Christ, and choose the right factual beliefs, and God will reward you with eternal life.  Atheists rightly ridicule this as a religion of emotion and make-believe.

Will we win those atheists with a better praise band?  Will we win those who pick and choose their church based on their emotions by appealing to their fickle emotions?  Or will the Holy Spirit win them with sound arguments based on the word of God?

The Book of Concord can help us begin to understand how the true Christian faith is different from these make-believe religions that are posing as true Christianity.  This book can help us begin to make a solid defense of our faith, and start using the word of God with skill.

Baptism is the beginning of faith and the Christian life.  Later on, examination and Confirmation will mark the beginning of a Christian’s intellectual defense of that faith.  Confirmation marks merely the passage from Christian childhood to Christian adulthood.  It is not the end, but merely one’s first step into the fray, into the real battle for the truth.

Therefore, if there are any WELS (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod) congregations in the Appleton area that do not already give copies of the Book of Concord to their confirmands; please have your pastor leave a comment here or contact me directly, and I will try to provide each confirmand with their own Book of Concord.  Free books will be distributed on a first-come first-served basis, and supplies are limited.

The purpose of this offer is not only to help provide our Christian soldiers with the tools they will need in the coming battle, but also to plant the idea that we need: the entire Wisconsin Synod needs to return to our Confessions so that we can make a better defense of our faith, both in doctrine and practice.  God has graciously given us his effective word in the Scriptures, and our Confessions can help us to interpret and wield his word with skill.

The Small Catechism summarizes the basic truths of God’s word, and is milk for children.  When we become mature in the faith (after Confirmation), it is time to start eating solid food.

Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.  [Hebrews 5:13-14].

“For what I received I passed on to you …”  (1 Corinthians 15:3).

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9 thoughts on “Concord and Confirmation

  1. I highly recommend this recent paper by Pastor Benjamin Tomczak: Luther’s Large Catechism: Its Historical Setting and Continuing Significance. You may have seen it already, since you have his blog listed in your blogroll.

    Our latest church newsletter recommended the Book of Concord and the Treasury of Daily Prayer as confirmation gift ideas. The church librarian (me) hopes that people will check out these masterpieces in the library and decide to get their own copy.

  2. Rick,

    First, thank you for making the Book of Concord available to our Appleton area confirmands. I agree with you — this is precisely the sort of thing we need to be doing. You cite Hebrews 5. In CPH’s recent Reader’s Edition of the Lutheran Confessions, Walther is quoted in the Introduction, in emphatic support of your use of this reference to encourage lay study of the Confessions, as follows:

    The Book of Concord should be in every Lutheran home. For that reason [our Church] should provide a good, inexpensive copy, and pastors should see to it that every home has one… If a person isn’t familiar with this book, he’ll think ‘That old book is just for pastors. I don’t have to preach. After [working] all day, I can’t sit down and study in the evening. If I read my morning and evening devotions, that’s enough.’ No, that is not enough! The Lord doesn’t want us to remain children, who are blown to and fro by every wind of doctrine; instead of that, He wants us to grow in knowledge so that we can teach others” (pp. xv-xvi).

    Second, you mention that Christianity is founded on fact — the fact of Christ’s Resurrection, of His indisputable deity and the consequent trustworthiness of His gospel promises. I understand that you are an attorney. If you haven’t read them already, I heartily recommend three titles for you: History, Law and Christianity and The Law above the Law, both by Dr. J.W. Montgomery, and Craig Parton’s recent work, Religion on Trial. Both authors are Lutherans, and while these titles are short, they are also dense and eminently useful apologetic works. While they are accessible to any educated Christian, I would say that they would be of particular interest to those trained in the Law.

    We are indeed at war. Our function in this war is to be prepared at all times to give an answer for the faith that is within us — beginning with our public confession.

    Lord’s Blessings — and keep up the fight.

    Freddy Finkelstein

  3. Rick,

    You’re welcome! Parton’s The Defense Never Rests is excellent as well. When you get to his chapters addressing apologetics, realize that you’re basically getting a summary of Montgomery’s approach to apologetics in the two books I cited, above. I should add, that I do have some misgivings with how both Parton and Montgomery handle presuppositionalism and fideism. While I may well be the one who needs correction on these issues, the misgivings that I have are not cause to question the value of Legal Apologetics in the slightest. We need to become experts in finding fact from evidence and in marshaling this body of fact in defense of the historical Christ — his life, death, and resurrection. Short of this, a discussion of Christianity descends, like that of all other religions, into the category of meaningless communication — and a telling of the Gospel under such circumstances is thus dismissed as myth before it is even received by the hearer.

    One note on Montgomery’s Law above the Law: much of this is repeated from his History, Law and Christianity, but is done so in a way that it seems to prepare the reader for a third book of his that I really enjoy, Human Rights & Human Dignity. The real value in Law above the Law, however is really the appendix, which contains Simon Greenleaf’s The Testimony of the Evangelists in its entirety — which is simply outstanding. No Christian apologist should be without this essay — especially those who gravitate toward Legal Apologetics! One could get Greenleaf’s essay elsewhere, though.

    Enjoy your reading!

    Freddy

  4. Rick, I hope you don’t mind me going off on a tangent in the comment section.

    Freddy Finkelstein, I wish I knew how to contact you. Your profile lists classical education among your interests. This is an important topic to my husband and me as we consider our children’s education. I assume you know about the classical Lutheran education movement in the ELS and LCMS. As far as I can tell, the WELS is missing out on this so far. If you have any information or contacts within our synod relating to classical ed, I’d appreciate hearing from you.

  5. Cindy,

    Yes, I am very well aware of the Classical Education movement in ELS and LCMS. And you are correct — WELS seems to be missing out on this. At a relatively recent “free conference” that I attended (WELS, ELS, LCMS, CLC, AFLC, ELCA Lutherans were all in attendance, including professors, pastors and laity), the issue of Classical Education was raised by an ELS presenter and directed to WELS. One of our MLC professors responded, “I’ve been teaching at MLC since the mid-70’s, and since I have been there, I don’t recall that Classical Education perspectives have ever been part of our teacher preparation.”

    In my experience, the most active Classical Educators in WELS are Home Educators, which includes not only laity, but a number of pastors and quite a few former WELS LEM teachers, as well. Of course, not all of our Home Educators follow a Classical model (I would probably say that most don’t), but there are a number who do, or who at least aspire to it. There is one WELS pastor, that I know of, who is also a Latin teacher at a prominent Classical school. That’s about it for Classical Eduction WELS contacts that I am aware of — probably the same list you have.

    As for me and my wife, a couple of online resources that we especially appreciate are Johann Sturm Classical Education Group on Yahoo! (of which I see you are also a member…), and the Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education (CCLE) — which you probably already know about, too.

    Anyway, it’s always nice to meet fellow Lutherans who are serious about Classical Education.

    Freddy

  6. Freddy, thanks for the reply and the insight.

    There is such potential here, if the WELS ever chooses to pursue classical ed. Among all the Lutherans, we have the ideal infrastructure to do it, with our single dedicated called worker training college. If MLC trained our future teachers in classical methodology, it would eventually trickle down to all the elementary and high schools. And with our pastors trained in classical languages, they could help fill the need for teachers of Latin and Greek.

    I know that a conversion of the entire WELS school system to classical education is unlikely and would be no small task, but it would be so worthwhile. One can’t help but notice that there is a lot of overlap between strong defenders of confessional Lutheranism and proponents of classical education.

    I knew about the Sturm list and CCLE and LSA, and even about the WELS pastor who teaches at a classical school. (He’s a friend and former sem classmate of one of our pastors.) I don’t have any contacts within the WELS homeschooling crowd, though I recently joined their email list. I have yet to search the archives to see if classical ed is discussed there. My husband and I are not sure that homeschooling would work for us, but it is an option to consider.

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