Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 in Review

This review is personal and in no way exhaustive.  It simply seemed like an interesting thing to do as the old year winds to a close. Looking back at the first post on this blog back in January, I noticed that after years of concerns and tensions surrounding the teaching of Dr. Matthew Becker (part of which is documented in this blog), we went from an exoneration of his theology (and the frustration that it would never be dealt with properly), to his final departure from the LCMS.  All this within a span of six months.  Amazing.

As one of my more recent posts indicates, I am finally in the last stages of my degree, begun way back in 2010.  I had hoped, originally, to have finished it before now.  However, the life of a pastor, husband, father, chaplain, firefighter and circuit visitor is full, and the thesis received attention as I was able.  I made a final push this summer and by summer's end the last page of the last chapter was reached. A post in February indicates that I had reached page 60 and was done with the first part, debating whether I should make a major push to finish.  But it did not seem like a good idea, and I am glad I took the time necessary to do a quality job. Many revisions later, with many more awaiting, the thesis is largely done.  I hope to wrap up revisions early in the new year and schedule a defense before Lent.  This might be tricky since Lent comes early this year.

Throughout the year, even as I worked through the thesis, I have tried to read more.  As a way of documenting that effort this blog has also become a running review of the books I read.

This Spring my youngest child, Rebekah, graduated from the 8th grade and was confirmed.  Now 15 she is a freshman at the local high school and involved in a combination of band (she plays the flute and piccolo), piano, and dance.  David, my middle child, finally secured a full-time job at Gordy's County Market in Chippewa Falls.  Rachel, my eldest, is working on her master's degree at the University of Minnesota in educational policy and started working for Vets Plus, Inc.  My wife, Carol, began working in August as an independent consultant for Thirty-One, a direct marketing firm specializing in bags of all sorts (totes, purses, etc.) All-in-all, it was quite a year for beginnings and conclusions.  It will be interesting to see what 2016 holds in store!

I end the year in this blog with a total of 19 posts, up from my lowest of only 3 last year! It's hard to believe that I am still blogging after just over 9 years.  It appears that I started the Northwoods Seelsorger on November 25, 2006.  Wow! The blog posts no longer receive comments, and I am sure few probably read this anymore.  Blogging has been eclipsed, in part, by social media, and that's o.k.  I keep this site open, in part, because it is a much safer way to write about subjects that will only engender negative attacks. It also gives me the chance to write about subjects that would have little interest to those on FB. 





LUTHER - MAN BETWEEN GOD AND THE DEVIL by Heiko A. Oberman

In the conviction of adding to my knowledge of Luther and the Reformation, I embarked on a reading of Heiko Oberman's book Luther - Man Between God and the Devil (1982).  As I had intended in previous years, the book was started around the Reformation this past Fall (I often wanted to read something about Luther and the Reformation each Fall around the time of the Festival of the Reformation.)  With 330 pages to work through, it took me longer than expected to finish (Which was complicated by the lure of other books read and reviewed while I worked on this one.)  That is not to say that it was heavy or overly technical.  The truth is, this book was a joy to read.  It provided a wealth of insights into Martin Luther, and having now completed the book I realize I'll need to reread it again to truly absorb many of the author's points.  Given that this was a translation from the original German, I was impressed that the text did not read in a wooden way, but felt fresh from beginning to end.  Oberman tells the story of Luther, as the subtitle indicates, from the theme of conflict with the devil.  This does not become as evident in the early part of the book, but once in, the theme is brought to the fore again and again.  Aside from this, Oberman also notes that the sense that Luther lived in the last days also dominated this thinking.  Oberman, while trying to bring Luther alive to a modern audience, was also careful to describe him in the context of his own time.  From my vantage point he succeeded.  Some books you read and leave.  Some you return to in the hope of gleaning material passed on the first time. This book fits the latter case.
Postscript: I have actually owned this book for many years.  Only now does it seem that I am making some effort to find lost treasures in the mass of books I have accumulated.  I am glad that I was able to finally finish this book just as the year is ending. Now on to another book!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Full and Complete Draft Sent to Readers

A full and complete draft of my thesis has now been sent to my readers for review and suggested revisions as of December 21.  Within a day my first reader had completed his review and responded by email.  I await anything from the second.  Hopefully by the end of January I can make the necessary revisions and schedule a defense.  The final word count as of December 21 was 38,618, totaling 120 pages with 385 footnotes.  Without footnotes it is 30,167. 

KILLING REAGAN - a Review

For months now I have been working, on and off, to finish a book by Luther as an attempt to include something about the great Reformer as part of the Reformation season.  Once again, however, I was distracted by another fascinating book.  As many are aware, Bill O'Reilly, with Marin Dugard, has authored a whole series of books in the "Killing..." series.  I now own and possess a few of these.  This book, Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault that Changed a Presidency (2015) is a brief but informative treatment not only of Reagan's earlier past, but especially of his presidency, and then of his eventual physical and mental decline leading to his death in 2004.  It was interesting to read about a history of events that took place mainly while I was in college and seminary, but in which I apparently took only passing interest. Many names sounded familiar, as did numerous events, but I never looked deeply into them.  Only now, well into my middle years, am I catching up and taking a closer look at events that were no pivotal to world history in my formative educational years.  I am aware that there is some controversy surrounding this book.  Any book, especially by a media personality with such a high profile as Bill O'Reilly, will be placed under an exceptional amount of scrutiny and careful critique.  I am certainly not enough of an historian or an expert to evaluate these criticisms.  All in all, however, it was interesting and informative.  It was also humbling to think that such great men as Regan were also very human, suffering the same struggles and setbacks as others of lesser popularity. O'Reilly seems to spare nothing, without entering into a biased attack familiar to the bitter enemies one makes in life.
Details on the controversy are summarized in a brief Wikipedia article here.  After reading it, I think that I should probably read a bit more from other established biographies.

Friday, December 11, 2015

MISSION AT NUREMBERG Wins CHI Award

This past winter and spring I read Tim Townsend's book Mission at Nuremberg: An American Army Chplain and the Trial of the Nazis. My review is here.  It was good to see that this exceptional book was recognized by the Concordia Historical Institute at its annual banquet in November.  Also up for commendation was Carl F. Schalk: A Life in Song, by Nancy Raabe, a book I have read in part, but worthy of recommendation for those interested in the history of liturgy and song in the LCMS.  The story of the banquet and awards can be found here. The picture to the right is of  author Tim Townsend, right, poseing alongside Col. (Ret.) “Hank” Gerecke, son of Chaplain Rev. Henry Gerecke — the subject of Townsend’s award-winning book.

THE MAN WHO MOVED A MOUNTAIN

Sometimes a book both moves and humbles you.  This was that kind of book.  Considered the definitive biography of Pastor Bob Childress (1890-1956), a man who grew up in abject poverty to become a well known minister in the backwoods regions of Virginia.  He was an unlikely success story with his initial struggles to complete the formal education necessary to be a minister in the Presbyterian church.  Nevertheless he demonstrated both great potential and intelligence, as well as a tremendous love for people.  Throughout his career he preached to several churches on a regular rotating basis traveling thousands of miles a year on nearly impassable roads, but also spent a lot of energy and time assisting people with other basic needs.  The world in which he ministered was rife with alcohol abuse and violence, held back by isolation and ignorance.  Childress worked tirelessly to bring not only the Gospel to the area, but also education, roads, bridges and business.  Even during the depth of the depression the area fared better than many areas, partly due to his energetic efforts to keep the Buffalo Mountain area busy and occupied.  This book by Richard Davids, however, does not paint a picture of a paper saint, but presents us with a man full of energy and passion, but also one who struggled with his own weaknesses.  As a working pastor I was humbled by his story, especially as I witnessed his incredible generosity to those in need. He worked tirelessly making my own efforts feel like a vacation by comparison.  Although his ministry was much different from that of the Lutheran church, I would nevertheless still recommend this book to aspiring pastors to learn the importance and centrality of basic pastoral care. The picture above is one of the five "rock churches" he founded and helped to build. Pictures of the other churches can be found here.This site also provides pictures of the manse where the Childress family lived, as well as other pictures of related historic sites associated with this pastor.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Crossbows

In the interest of possibly extending my season for deer hunting, I recently purchased a relatively inexpensive entry level recurve crossbow.  It was a Barnett Recruit Recurve.  Now that the gun deer season has officially closed, I'm not yet sure if I will buy a license to hunt for the month of December.  The bow's site still needs to be sited in and I haven't purchased any broadheads yet.  I also have only shot it a few times at close range, so it might be better to work at it throughout the intervening months and start fresh next fall.

I decided on a crossbow for fairly simple reasons.  Without the time to dedicate to the many hours of practice necessary for a compound bow, a crossbow would allow me to transfer my skills and experience from rifle shooting.  I think there was also a bit of fascination with its medieval roots. As a student of history it felt like I was going back to a simpler time.  However, it is interesting to note that at one time the church actually banned crossbow use because of it perceived effectiveness, first in 1096–1097 and later by the Second Lateran Council in 1139.  It is claimed that the crossbow was introduced into hunting after the 12th century following the First Crusade, although its use as a weapon of war goes back to the BC era.  Using a recurve crossbow makes me feel as if I am using a weapon closer to its ancient roots.  However, my purchase was based primarily on price and availability (a sale at Dunham's Sports for a crossbow under $150), not historical similarity.   Still, the idea of returning to a simpler, more primitive weapon appeals to me in a time when modern technology is so highly regarded.  The recurve, as I have read, is also a weapon much easier to repair in the field as opposed to the more complex compound with its multiple wheels and strings. 

So, we'll see what happens next.  Probably best to target practice a bit....

Thursday, October 15, 2015

HITLER'S LAST DAYS by Bill O'Reilly

O'Reilly has provided a very readable and fast-paced account of the final months of World War II and the eventual demise and death of history's most famous man of evil, Adolf Hitler.  With larger type face and an abundance of photographs and maps, this book was a relatively quick and easy read.  For one interested in the history of WWII I found O'Reilly's book quite interesting, learning new details of people, places and events I had not known before.  The style of writing offers a vivid picture of the events chronicled and keeps the reader's interest.  By the end of the book you have that sobering feeling one gets after delving into the blackness of that time and the dark wickedness that inspired so much of the bloodshed, suffering and destruction at Hitler's orders.  Besides Hitler O'Reilly provides many other portraits of key individuals in the story as well as numerous appendix-like articles detailing events and people mentioned elsewhere in the narrative.

Now I will return to Luther: Man Between God and the Devil by Heiko A. Oberman, my reading project in honor of the Reformation this month.....[review to follow shortly - I hope!]

Monday, October 5, 2015

FIREHOUSE by David Halberstam

When I first saw this book at my local Good Will store it was not yet the anniversary date of 9-11.  Originally my goal was to read it before 9-11 as a way of honoring this momentous date and my brother fire fighters who died that day.  Nevertheless, it would be nearly a month later that the book was finished.

I especially like the picture of the book seen here, opened so that both front and back are visible.  For the book is largely about the 12 men pictured there who died in the collapse of Trade Center towers.  The author weaves a story of life at the firehouse, the personal backgrounds of the deceased firefighters complete with accounts of family and friends and various individual stories, and ends with the memorials and recovery efforts to reclaim their physical remains.  As a firefighter I appreciated this book on a level I might not have without the past 12 years experience on my department.  Although these men were career firefighters there is a commonality to which I could relate: pride in ones work, the reality of danger and death, a sense of loyalty to the department, fulfillment of engaging in a service to ones community.  Rarely do fire fighters perish so suddenly and so completely. Only one man in the original crew survived, and he was so badly injured that it was almost surprising that he did live. 

This book is a wonderful tribute to true heroes who saw themselves merely as public servants doing their job.  We will never know what went through their minds in those fateful moments leading to their deaths, but if there was fear it never kept them from doing the unthinkable: rushing in to a place doomed to destruction.  I highly recommend reading this book as a reminder of the sacrifice of this day, a sacrifice we dare never forget.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

POSSESSED: THE TRUE STORY OF AN EXORCISM by Thomas B. Allen

I have long had an interest in the spiritual realm.  In high school I began reading books on the presence and activity of the demonic.  Years later after I arrived at my first call in 1987 I found a book in the local library by Malachi Martin entitled HOSTAGE TO THE DEVIL: THE POSSESSION AND EXORCISM OF FIVE LIVING AMERICANS (1976).  Although I attempted to read the book I was unable.  It was simply too much.  In 1996 I ran into this book again at a used book store and purchased it.  I think it wasn't until I arrived at my fourth call in 2000 that I may have finally finished it.  Possession and exorcism are powerful topics and sometimes difficult to study.

Recently at a local library book sale I ran across a copy of POSSESSED: THE TRUE STORY OF AN EXORCISM by Thomas B. Allen.  It is endorsed on the back cover by Malachi Martin with no little praise.  In short it is the account of the 1949 case of possession and subsequent exorcism that inspired the well-known move THE EXORCIST, shown in 1973 which itself was based on the 1971 novel by William Peter Blatty.  The movie, however, changed the gender of the possessed and other details to protect identities, and also took some liberty with the actual facts.  This book, on the other hand, is a journalist's attempt to reconstruct the events with solid facts and to present it as dispassionately as possible.

At the end the author quotes various academics who cast doubt on the truth of whether "Robbie" was actually demonically possessed.  Even one of the participating priests shares this skepticism.  Nevertheless, after reading Allen's account I find it difficult to dismiss Robbie's case too easily.  In the end he is "cured" through the intervention of the exorcist and the repeated use of the rite; he is not cured by therapy or psychoanalysis.  Robbie was also exposed to spiritualism through his aunt, culminating in the use of the Owiji Board, which continues to be sold as a popular board game.  As a youth my parents also gave me one, which I also used.  When my pastor suggested in confirmation its potential evil potential and that it should be destroyed, I made sure it was destroyed in the back of our garage.

The book is well worth the read for anyone interested in a well documented account of an actual exorcism, along with the book mentioned earlier by Martin.  Personally, as a practicing pastor I believe in the reality of personal evil and in the possibility of possession, both of spaces and people.  That said, I do not want to ever have to perform an exorcism.  From all that I have read it is a draining experience. 

Postscript: There is an article debunking much of what Allen wrote.  You may read it here and judge for yourself.  It seems credible enough, but I do not have the time at this point to scrutinize the sources or author. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

FIRESTORM AT PESHTIGO by Denise Gess and William Lutz

I had known about this fire event before, as well as the fact that the "Great Fire of Chicago" often received far more of publicity, regardless of the fact that the Peshtigo Fire was far larger (300 people vs. 2,200 dead, and the destruction of multiple towns).  However, until I read this book I couldn't possibly imagine the extent of the loss and damage left in its wake.  The book by Gess and Lutz helps the reader appreciate the genesis of this incredible blaze by carefully documenting the circumstances leading up to a truly 'perfect storm.'  Some may desire a more technical account, and there are other volumes that address this.  However, Gess and Lutz have researched their topic well and the notes at the end provide many references for further reading.  All told the story is well told and captures best the horrid tragedy that still defies description.  While the numbers of those who perished remains fluid depending on the one telling the story, there is no doubt that the loss of life was extensive far beyond what many imagine, easily reaching the thousands.  Their description of the day of the firestorm is vivid and disturbing in a way that leaves the reader with images that continue to haunt even after the book is finished.  In a way their book serves as a kind of memorial to the many nameless people who perished.  We will probably never know the bulk of the human loss.  For many reasons, including the lack of evidence of remains (many were burned to ash that was subsequently burned away), we can never hope to completely reconstruct this event.  Still, as the book cover testifies, this will easily remain "the deadlines fire in American history."  The book is highly recommended. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Update on Thesis

As of August 26 I finally finished the reviewed stage of my rough draft:  106 pages of research, 3/8 of an inch thick, clearly the longest paper I have ever written.  It now awaits being proofread by my wife, then submitted to the assigned readers at Nashotah House.  After their review with predicted suggestions for revision, I will revise and then schedule the defense.  I hope this all can be accomplished well before the first of the new year. 

According to past posts I finished up my course work back in the summer of 2011, a long 4 years ago.  About that time and stretching over the next couple of years I wrestled with the proposal phase, eventually completing a total of two different thesis proposals, totaling over 40 additional pages of work. My final proposal was submitted in the Spring of 2013, over two years ago.  It appears that I was finally able to start writing around August of 2013, once I received the green light from my adviser.  I probably could have finished sooner, but last summer unexpectedly delayed my progress because of other presentations and writing commitments.  However, I am now on the home stretch.  For any who have followed this and forgot the rather fascinating and captivating nature of my research (o.k. more than a bit of hyperbole there...), here is the title: "A Study of the Influence of the Church's Liturgical Forms on the Literary Structure and Content of the Apocalypse of St. John."   I wonder how many people will find it on the shelves of Nashotah's library in the years to come....

SUN DANCING by Geoffrey Moorhouse

Some books keep you tied to the page unwilling to take a break, waiting eagerly to discover the next point.  This, unfortunately, was not one of those. This reviewer took far too long to finish the book. While the format was interesting at times, the latter part felt slow and encumbered with a bit too much detail seemingly unrelated to the immediate point at hand.  The first section attempted to tell the story of life in a Medieval Irish monastery through historical fiction.  It traced the early beginnings of Skellig Michael, a small outcropping of rock off the coast of Ireland where a limited group of monks led a rather austere existence, to the ending of its active existence and the eventual migration of the order to the mainline in the matter Medieval era (588 AD - 1222 AD).  Enlightening to students of Christian monastic existence was the revelation of the harsh and demanding nature of the early Celtic practice.  The Irish not only withdrew from the world, they attempted in this isolation to create a superior form of spirituality and closer proximity to the divine.  The Celts also betray a certain mixture in their life and practice of their pagan preexistence. 

The second part of the book served as a kind of extended series of footnotes on various details in the first section.  The book's interest and appeal, in the opinion of this reviewer, would have been enhanced by relegating some of the more detailed information to a real footnote and keeping the articles a bit more general in content.  One struggle the reader encounters is that after working through the first part you begin to forget some of the details of the first story by the time you get to the latter articles.  Again, an interesting format, but not quite effective in keeping the book moving. 

As an aside, the title seemed like an odd choice for the content.  One article at page 245 is devoted to the "Dancing Sun."  It simply did not seem central enough to the narrative to warrant its use as a title. 





Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Dr. Matthew Becker to be Removed from the Synod

Numerous posts have been written on this blog over the years reflecting on and reacting to the teachings of Dr. Matthew Becker.  One post even ruminated on why he remained within the LCMS.  As of July 15 he will no longer be on the clergy roster of the Missouri Synod.  If interested you may read about this turn of events here on Dr. Becker's own blog.  He will be joining an ELCA parish, something many of us felt would be a much more appropriate 'fit' for his theological views and beliefs.  In all honesty I was frustrated over these last few years as I read the many papers and posts he authored and wondered how this could be tolerated in the Synod.  Perhaps what confused me even more was realizing that he was trained and educated as a pastor in the same system as I was, albeit at different seminaries. 

There should never be rejoicing over such events as if someone won and another lost.  It was the prayer of many that Dr. Becker would change his views and repent of those teachings felt to be at variance with the official doctrine of the LCMS.  That said, his departure officially closes the chapter on this blog that addressed his teachings.  My interest lay in the fact that we were both rostered in the same synod.  Now that he his leaving for the ELCA my need to post any further with regard to his views ends.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Who are the "Real" Christians?

I just read an article entitled "Dear Conservatives: There are Millions of Christian Liberals and We’re A Lot More Like Jesus Than You" from the Forward Progressives website.  I then read a related article entitled "10 Ways Conservatives Don't Act Like Christians" from the same site.  Both upset me greatly.  Yet not because I was necessarily offended as a conservative.  They upset me because of the generalizations, assumptions and stereotypes that are too often used to characterized people.  They upset me also because of the misinformation about Jesus and his teachings.  Especially when it comes to painting Jesus as a 'I-don't-care-what-you-believe-and-I-accept-everyone-as-they-are' kind of person.  Like a typical liberal might like to be painted.  But that is so off base.  Anyone who has read the Gospels knows that Jesus reached out to the poor and the forgotten and the neglected of his society.  Yet He also called to repentance those caught in sin.  To the woman who was about to be stoned for her adultery he said: "Go and sin no more."   Those who were already convicted of their sins He absolved.  As for those caught in sins more prevalent in our current time Jesus may have said nothing.  Like homosexuality, where Jesus' silence is touted as acceptance. But that is a stretch, to say the least.  Jesus also did not directly address beasteality, or polygamy, or bisexuality, or transvestism, or transgenderism, or a whole host of practices prevalent in our modern society.  However, He did underscore timeless principles that do speak to these practices.  Jesus very directly supported the traditional arrangement of the marriage of one woman and one man and spoke very directly against wrongful divorce (which in some cases was affected by overly liberal views of what was accepted).  And He grounded His teaching in the Old Testament.  Obviously homosexuality was roundly condemned in the Jewish culture in which He lived.  While it was practiced in the Roman culture in some quarters, it was probably not widespread in His area.  That said, based on today's outspoken approach to minority sexual practices, it would seem we should be critical of Jesus for not speaking up for these people, if indeed, they were in a "loving relationship" as currently defined.   If Jesus knew there were people who found love in relationships and arrangements that deviated from the majority, why didn't He speak up for their acceptance?  Was He afraid of the repercussions?  Liberals, who wish to invoke Jesus as the grand example of acceptance of all sexual practices need to explore these questions before they heap criticism upon those who claim the opposite. 

As to the other items spoken of in these articles, it occurred to me that we all major in highlighting stereotypes of all sorts.  If I support capitalism and criticize those who abuse public assistance, does this mean I care nothing for the poor?  If I support gun rights and capital punishment, yet speak against abortion, am I a hypocrite for condemning death in one case but not the other?  Admittedly broad and over generalized characterizations abound on both sides of the political spectrum.  I am sure there are liberal minded people who care deeply for the same people I do, and both of us extend an arm of charity.  But we need to stop the mud slinging.  It does nothing for the public dialog on the issues that need to be addressed. 

O.k.  I'm done with my rant for now.  Thanks for listening, if, indeed anyone reads this.....
10 Ways Conservatives Don’t Act Anything Like Christians

Read more at: http://www.forwardprogressives.com/10-ways-conservatives-dont-act-anything-like-christians/

Read more at: http://www.forwardprogressives.com/dear-conservatives-millions-christian-liberals-lot-more-like-jesus/
Dear Conservatives: There are Millions of Christian Liberals and We’re A Lot More Like Jesus Than You

Read more at: http://www.forwardprogressives.com/dear-conservatives-millions-christian-liberals-lot-more-like-jesus/
Dear Conservatives: There are Millions of Christian Liberals and We’re A Lot More Like Jesus Than You

Read more at: http://www.forwardprogressives.com/dear-conservatives-millions-christian-liberals-lot-more-like-jesus/
Dear Conservatives: There are Millions of Christian Liberals and We’re A Lot More Like Jesus Than You

Read more at: http://www.forwardprogressives.com/dear-conservatives-millions-christian-liberals-lot-more-like-jesus/

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

MISSION AT NUREMBERG: AN AMERICAN ARMY CHAPLAIN AND THE TRIAL OF THE NAZIS by Tim Townsend

Gifted to me by my daughter and son-in-law at Christmas, this was my first book of the new year.  Given that my father was a WWII veteran, and possibly present at the Nuremberg War Trials as an MP, this book held special interest for me from the beginning.  However, what captivated me most was the central character of the story: Pastor Henry Gerecke.  Pastor Gereke, a product of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, became one of the chaplains assigned to minister to high ranking Nazi war criminals, chief among them being Herman Goering (who later committed suicide before being executed.)  Reaction to the Nazis even today is often one of revulsion and disgust, and for good reason.  They were responsible for the systematic execution and slaughter of countless people, primarily a significant numbers of Jews.  Their brutality ranks as among the highest in history.  One can only imagine the challenge of a man sent to be the pastor of those responsible for such horrific crimes.  However, as a Lutheran Gereke understood the Gospel well.  He ministered to them as one who understood that none are beyond the grace of God.  His faith in the power of the Means of Grace to convert and reconvert hardened sinners allowed him to do what lesser men would resist.  It may upset some to think that there were Nazi war criminals who actually communed on the body and blood of the Savior.  However, were these men fundamentally any different than the thief on the cross who was welcomed by Jesus into Paradise?  Chaplain Gereke faithfully led worship for all who would attend, preaching the Word without compromise.  He walked with each of his condemned flock to the gallows.  The experience nearly broke him, and as a Lutheran pastor for over 25 years I could only marvel at his ability to endure.  Townsend's book was a fascinating read with regard to this famous trial by someone closest to the defendants.  That said, for me the most engaging story was that of the man God used to bring the good news of salvation in Christ to the most unlikely candidates.  In some ways Gereke was a far more courageous servant than the prophet Jonah who ran away when called to minister to those who opposed God's plans.  I highly recommend this book to WWII enthusiasts as well as those interested in seeing the heart of Lutheran ministry at its best.

SALT, LIGHT, AND SIGNS OF THE TIMES by Ronald W. Stelzer

I just finished reading a fascinating biography of a great Lutheran teacher: SALT, LIGHT, AND THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES: AN INTIMATE LOOK AT THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ALFRED (RIP) REHWINKEL by Ronald W. Stelzer. Again, a book I picked up for a steal at a mere $5 at the recent Symposia in Ft. Wayne. It is published by Christian News and can be found here if you would like to order and read for yourself: http://www.christiannewsmo.com/Salt_Light_an…/4010000350.htm.
Rehwinkel, as some will remember, was the author of the very popular book THE FLOOD, originally published in 1951 by CPH, but has been reprinted many times over the decades (17 times when I purchased my copy several years ago.) In fact, it is still offered by CPH both in paperback and as an ebook: https://www.cph.org/p-261-the-flood.aspx.
Dr. Rehwinkel (1887-1979) lived well into his 90's. Ordained in 1910 he lived through a history of the LCMS that stretched from the early frontier days, when we were still establishing ourself in the U.S. and Canada to the turmoil of the 'Walk Out' in St. Louis in the 70's. Until I finished the book I had no idea of the connection between this man and the Rev. Dr. Gerhardt Hyatt, the president of my alma mater, Concordia College, St. Paul, who preached at his funeral (and was a graduate of Concordia-Edmonton). This book recounts the experiences of a man who lived in very primitive conditions in his early ministry in western Canada, rising to help found Concordia College in Edmonton (Now Concordia University College of Alberta,) to serving as president of St. John's College in Winfield, KS (which closed in 1986), to finally teaching at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.
Again, a good read that I would heartily recommend!
(Note: I wanted to add a picture of the book's cover, but discovered that it is copyrighted.)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Update on Thesis

In about seven days the deadline arrives for my first draft to be submitted.  Originally I was aiming to meet that date.  At present the thesis is over 60 pages and part one is fairly well finished, except for editing.  If I stayed up late every night and burned the candle at both ends I might have made it.  But I'm not sure it would be the level of quality I want.  Furthermore, why is this date critical?  If I want to go through the commencement exercises in the spring it is necessary to meet this deadline.  However, there is nothing in my life requiring this to be done this spring.  Even if some opportunity opened up, having the actual certificate in my hand would not be essential, provided I met the requirement of the degree, which I hope to do by summer's end.  For now I have a lot of reading to accomplish for part 2......

Monday, January 26, 2015

Recent Exoneration of Dr. Matthew Becker and Dr. Harrison's Response

A while back I backed off of blogging.  My intent was to post on less politically charged issues in the church and concentrate more on personal interests.  That almost worked.  While I was in Ft. Wayne for the annual Symposia I learned of the official exoneration of Dr. Matthew Becker of all charges made against him for false teaching.  This did not seem surprising to me as he has taught this way for some years with seemingly minimal backlash. His posts on the ALPB forum were equally transparent.  It seemed that officially no one could really deal with this.  He was free to teach and write openly in defiance of the Synod's position on a whole range of issues: evolution, women's ordination, higher-critical interpretation of the Bible, and so on.  He even took issue with the Athanasian Creed.  I have documented on this blog what Dr. Becker has said and written contra our synodical positions and doctrine (which a quick search will reveal if you are so interested).  I also reported on my own interchanges with him both on ALPB and his own blog.  My comments there are public and can be reviewed.  With each interchange and each response my frustration grew.  So I backed off.  Furthermore I don't consider myself a sufficient academic heavyweight to spar with him effectively.  I left the online debating to others.  Still it seemed it would never be resolved.  A few spoke up.  A few challenged him.  Yet to what end? He appeared to grow even bolder in his defiance.  The higher levels of Synod seemed almost silent.  Until today.  When I read Dr. Harrison's response to Becker's exoneration I was stunned.  Did he really say that?  Yes, he did.  And now the issue cannot be quietly swept back under the synodical rug.  It's out there.  It has to be resolved.  Will this expose our long deep-seated divisions?  Yes.  But they have been there all along even if some would not admit to them.  The difference this time is that we are dealing with it as a matter of truth from Synod's highest elected leader.  We are confessing.  And for that I stand with my synodical president.  May the Lord grant him strength for the struggle to come.  I suspect the hordes of hell will fly free on this one. 

You may read Dr. Harrison's response here at the Witness, Mercy, Life Together blog of Synod.