Tuesday, 30 November 2010

American Christians Not Accountable To Their Churches

Long ago Dietrich Bonhoeffer lamented that the preaching of cheap grace had fatally weakened the fibre of German Protestantism. Most of us will be familiar with Bonhoeffer's definition of cheap grace: "Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession....cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate" (from The Cost of Discipleship).

Now - as if we needed it - comes confirmation that the same can be said of American Protestantism today...

Only 5 percent of Christian adults indicated that their church does anything to hold them accountable for integrating biblical beliefs and principles into their life, according to the Barna Group. Evangelicals were most likely to have some form of church-centered accountability.

George Barna, director of the survey, stressed that mutual accountability is one of the cornerstones of the biblical concept of community. "But Americans these days cherish privacy and freedom to the extent that the very idea of being held accountable by others – even those with their best interests in mind, or who have a legal or spiritual authority to do so – is considered inappropriate, antiquated and rigid," he lamented.

Click on the post title to read the full report at The Christian Post.

Barna's comment that "American Christians cherish privacy and freedom" rings true also in the Australian context.

To be sure, Lutherans, unlike the Reformed, do not make church discipline a third mark of the church. But it might serve us well in our present context of increasingly brazen antinomianism to recall Luther's words on the exercise of the keys:
For the dear Man, the faithful Bishop of our souls, Jesus Christ, is well aware that His beloved Christians are frail, that the devil, the flesh, and the world would tempt them unceasingly and in many ways, and that at times they would fall into sin. Therefore, He has given us this remedy, the key which binds, so that we might not remain too confident in our sins, arrogant, barbarous, and without God, and the key which looses, that we should not despair in our sins.
The Keys in Luther’s Works (American Edition), ed. Conrad Bergendoff, gen. ed. Helmut T. Lehmann, Vol. 40 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1958), p. 373.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Walther on the Lutheran Liturgy

We are not insisting that there be unity of perception or feelings or of taste among all believing Christians, neither dare anyone demand that all be minded as he. Nevertheless it remains true that the Lutheran liturgy distinguishes Lutheran worship from the worship of other churches to such an extent that the latter look like lecture halls in which the hearers are merely addressed or instructed, while our churches are in truth houses of prayer in which the Christians serve God publicly before the world.

From C. F. W. Walther, Thesis XVIII in The True Visible Church, published in Essays for the Church, Vol. 1 [Concordia Publishing House, 1992].

And along with Lutheran worship go the necessary accoutrements: altar, pulpit, font and lectern. Also, a Lutheran church, in my mind at least, should have kneelers in the pews. Kneelers seem to have become optional in churches built since about 1970, which worries me. Following Walther, I wouldn't insist upon or demand them, but what does the absence of kneelers indicate? Perhaps just that the congregation couldn't afford them, but also perhaps a lack of appreciation for the importance of body language in worship. In fact, I don't think I'm wrong to note a general uncertainty regarding when to stand, sit and kneel among congegations today. Pastors should strive for uniformity in their guidance to congregations in these matters so that the "body language" of Lutheran worship is retained, lest we end up like students in a lecture hall rather than the people of God assembled together in a house of prayer to be blessed and in turn offer our prayers, praise and thanksgiving.

May God grant a blessed and reflective Advent season to all my readers.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

A Random Act of Culture

OK...I know we're heading into Advent and it's not Christmas yet - I remind my people of that all the time - but check this out...

It's a mall in Canada, btw.

HT Pr Andrew 'Andyroo' Burmeister, an American ELS pastor serving in Brisbane, Australia (who also came up with the title).

Monday, 22 November 2010

Quartercentenary of the 'King James Bible' Approaches

The quartercentenary of the Authorised Version of the English Bible, more commonly known as the King James Version, is fast approaching. Robert McCrum, an authority on the English language (as well as having an excellent name!), notes the cultural significance of this anniversary for English-speakers in an article in the UK's Guardian newspaper...

Whenever we put words into someone's mouth, or see the writing on the wall, or go from strength to strength, or eat, drink and be merry, or fight the good fight, or bemoan the signs of the times, or find a fly in the ointment, or use words such as "long-suffering", "scapegoat" and "peacemaker" we are unconsciously quoting the KJB. More astounding, compared to Shakespeare's prodigal 31,000-word vocabulary, the KJB works its magic with a lexicon of just 12,000 words.

McCrum goes on to wonder how secular Britain will mark this event, and asks if any of the official celebrations will include a non-stop reading of the AV...apparently not, but not a bad idea just the same. As it happens, a Lutheran congregation in the city where I live recently held just such a public reading of the entire Bible, however they did not use the Authorised Version, but the more prosaic New International Version, alas. (No, I'm not advocating a return to the Authorised Version in public reading, just lamenting that its magical cadences have disappeared so completely from our culture).

Click on the post title to read McCrum's article in full.

Btw, if you're interested in quality Bibles from Cambridge, Oxford, etc., you might like to check out the Bible Design Blog - there's a link provided in the Miscellanea column to the right. I'm afraid I can't afford to buy the Bibles Mark reviews, but his blog makes for interesting reading and he features high quality pics of the Bibles in question.
It seems there is at least one interesting commemorative edition of the AV coming out next year - in quite an intriguing format too.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

A House Divided...

The following report concerning the state of decline of The Episcopal Church (the American branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion)recently appeared in The Church of England Newspaper. For those who don't keep up with events in Anglicanism, it should be noted that The Episcopal Church has been racked with division over matters such as the recognition of homosexual relationships and the related consecration of at least two openly homosexual clerics as bishops. The latter development has fractured the worldwide Anglican Communion, leading some orthodox bishops from Africa, Asia, Australia and South America to refuse to attend the last Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops; they instead held their own conference in Jerusalem in 2008 to plan the future of orthodox Anglicanism (GAFCON = Global Anglican Futures Conference). The usual dissident rump, you might think? Not at all - the bishops present at GAFCON represented more Anglicans than those present at Lambeth. These bishops contend that events in The Episcopal Church reflect not just a confusion over ethics, but a different understanding of the Gospel which reduces the full orbed Biblical message of law and grace to an agenda of social inclusion as defined by Western liberals.

Those arguing for liberalisation of the church's ethical teaching believe that some accomodation of the church's message to the conventional wisdom of secular liberalism is necessary for the church to survive (shades of Schleiermacher!). This report most definitely indicates otherwise - when the church mirrors the world too closely, those in the church wonder why they should continue to belong to it, and those outside it have no compelling reason to enter it. And a church absorbed by debate over these issues to the point of division, when its foundations are already cracked by decades of allowing the accepted standards of authority (for Anglicans: the Bible, Tradition and Reason) to be questioned, cannot stand.

"THE EPISCOPAL Church continues in its course of a steep decline in the wake of its divisions over doctrine and discipline, with the national office reporting that in 2009 average Sundayattendance (ASA) fell by three percent to 682,963.

As of the end of 2009, the Episcopal Church reported having 2,006,343 active members—at its peak in the 1960s the Church counted over 3.5million members. The church shed 22,294 members in 2009, following a loss of 22,565 in 2008. Income from parochial giving also declined by 2.8 per cent last year, falling to £1.33 billion.

However the Church’s balance sheets remained strong with the value of the total investments of congregations growing by £172 million to £2.24 billion.

Haiti remains the largest Diocese inthe church with 83,698 members, followed in size by Texas, Virginia and Massachusetts. The smallest Diocese remains Venezuela with 792 members.The Church’s largest parish remains St Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston with 8,311 members, while 126 congregations have less than 10 active members.

The median average Sunday worship attendance for the Episcopal Church’s 6,895 churches fell to 66. The numbers show a cumulative loss of over 19.3 per cent in ASA from 2002-2009, Canon Kendall Harmon of the Diocese of South Carolina noted. “This is a cataclysmic decline that suggests the immediate need for an all-hands-on-deck leadership summit focusing entirely on the issue of evangelism and parish health. Not only is the TEC leadership not doing this, the fact that they are not doing it is not even bothering them — a truly tragic situation,” Canon Harmon noted."

Why should this concern Lutherans? As Sasse noted on many occasions, in the (post)modern world the churches all face the same crises in their lives, there is no safe haven - not even Rome, or the Eastern Orthodox resident in the West, will be able to avoid the challenges presented by the wider acceptance in the West of homosexuality as a valid, God-pleasing alternative lifestyle...and nor will the various Lutheran church bodies. The Anglican Communion represents, as Bishop FitzSimons Allison has noted (see link to his essay in the right hand column), a sort of "canary in the coalmine" of contemporary church-society relations, giving advanced warning of the toxic dangers facing all of us.

Click on the post title to read the full report.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Q & A with St Anselm and a Dying Christian (with the tale of an encounter with an Orthodox priest attached)

Q Dost thou believe that the Lord Jesus died for thee?
A I believe it.

Q Dost thou thank him for his passion and death?
A I do thank him.

Q Dost thou believe that thou canst not be saved except by his death?
A I believe it.

Come then, while life remaineth in thee: in his death alone place thy whole trust; in naught else place any trust; to his death commit thyself wholly, with this alone cover thyself wholly; and if the Lord thy God will to judge thee, say, ‘Lord, between thy judgment and me I present the death of our Lord Jesus Christ; no otherwise can I contend with thee.’ And if he shall say that thou art a sinner, say thou: ‘Lord, I interpose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my sins and thee. ‘If he say that thou hast deserved condemnation, say: ‘Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my evil deserts and thee, and his merits I offer for those which I ought to have and have not.’ If he say that he is wroth with thee, say: ‘Lord, I oppose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between thy wrath and me. ‘And when thou hast completed this, say again: ‘Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between thee and me.’

Anselm of Canterbury (c. 1033-1109), Opera (Migne), 1:686, 687 (the trans. is probably by A.H. Strong, in whose Systematic Theology (1886) the quote first appears in English).

Anselm (onetime Archbishop of Canterbury and arguably the first systematic theologian) is one of my "Great Theologians" (see a recent post), and also, clearly, a solafidean, i.e. one who believes we are saved by grace alone through faith alone on account of the merits of Christ alone and not by any merits or good works of our own.

-- + --

Anselm's words remind me of the time our dogmatics lecturer at sem invited an Orthodox priest to speak to our class about the Orthodox doctrine of justification [sic!]. The bearded priest, robed in his impressive black raso, delivered himself of a discourse which mightily confused justification with sanctification, going on for almost an hour about how the Christian life was about askesis (works of bodily mortification) designed to quell the passions and "fan into flame the spark of divinity that was in each one of us" (I kid you not - those were his exact words), upon which effort depended our worthiness to enter heaven. In other words the usual synergistic Pietism, but this time in Eastern garb with a neo-Platonic twist that made it look and sound exotic and enticing to a bunch of Lutheran undergraduates who hadn't yet fully digested The Hammer of God.

Finally, being unable to stomach much more of it, I put my hand up to ask a question, feigning an innocence which, I confess, I hoped would mask my true intent, which was subversive of everything the priest had said...

"And what counsel would you give, Father, to a dying Christian who had been asleep, spiritually speaking, for all his life and who was now terrified of dying unprepared for heaven?"

"I could only urge him to cast himself on the mercy of God", replied the priest, his intense back eyes revealing a note of caution, even hesitancy in his thoughts.

"Thank you Father", I responded politely, "I was hoping you would say that."

"Thank God for the 'felicitous inconsistencies' of men", I quietly thought to myself.

[Pic: Detail from St Anselm's Window, Canterbury Cathedral.]

Friday, 12 November 2010

John Chrysostom on the Repentant Thief

I'm reprising this post from a year ago as a follow up to my previous post on Indulgences. It shows that John Chrysostom, one of the greatest preachers of the ancient church, knew nothing of a purgatory after death for believers who had not suffered sufficient temporal punishment for sin in this life (the Roman Catholic doctrine). Note that, according to Chrysostom, the repentant thief entered Paradise before the Apostles, "from cross to heaven", on the basis of his "faith alone".

"Let us see, however, whether the brigand gave evidence of effort and upright deeds and a good yield. Far from his being able to claim even this, he made his way into paradise before the apostles with a mere word, on the basis of faith alone, the intention being for you to learn that it was not so much a case of his sound values prevailing as the Lord's lovingkindness being completely responsible.

What, in fact, did the brigand say? What did he do? Did he fast? Did he weep? Did he tear his garments? Did he display repentance in good time? Not at all: on the cross itself after his utterance he won salvation. Note the rapidity: from cross to heaven, from condemnation to salvation. What were those wonderful words, then? What great power did they have that they brought him such marvelous good things? "Remember me in your kingdom." What sort of word is that? He asked to receive good things, he showed no concern for them in action; but the one who knew his heart paid attention not to the words but to the attitude of mind."

John Chrysostom (c.340-407), Sermon 7 on Genesis, in St. John Chrysostom, Eight Sermons on the Book of Genesis, Holy Cross Orthodox Press (2004) pp. 123-24.

For more citations from the Fathers of the Church in support of the catholicity of Lutheran doctrine, visit my blog Lutheran Catholicity (click on post title to view).

Monday, 8 November 2010

The Quality of Mercy Is Not Strained

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

(Shakespeare, Portia to Shylock in The Merchant of Venice)

I had occasion to quote Shakespeare's Portia recently in a reply to something erstwhile Lutheran come Roman Catholic David Schuetz wrote over at his blog, Sentire Cum Ecclesia, on the subject of Indulgences. David informs us that "Indulgence season is now open. For the Indulgences for the Faithful Departed available from 1 to 8 November see here". A link is supplied to The Manual of Indulgences where it is explained how "a plenary indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory is granted to the faithful who, on any and each day from November 1 to 8, devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, if only mentally, for the departed...or on the solemnity of All Saints, devoutly visit a church or an oratory and recite an Our Father and the Creed."

I suppose we can at least be grateful they're not selling Indulgences anymore!

David then goes on to note that this is "a contentious issue ecumenically", and to complain of the misrepresentation of Indulgences which stubbornly persists in Lutheran circles, telling us that "My children were treated yesterday [i.e. Reformation Day] to a “fun” children’s address in which (according to their report) the one giving the address came into the church crying something along the lines of “Pay your money and get your sins forgiven”. They were then taught that sins are only forgiven through confession and repentance. Of course. That is what the Catholic Church teaches too. Indulgences has [sic] nothing to do with the forgiveness of sins, and perpetuating this myth is not helpful."

Actually, I think it’s perpetuating Indulgences that is not helpful. And to say that "Indulgences (have) nothing to do with forgiveness of sins" is more than a little misleading. Indulgences have everything to do with the forgiveness of sins - the basis on which forgiveness is granted, how it is received, its extent and its benefits. Yes, the Roman church teaches that sins are forgiven through confession and repentance, but there's more to it than that, and we need only draw attention to the Roman definition of repentance to make that clear; let Luther remind us: “This word repentance cannot be understood to mean the sacrament of penance, or the act of confession and satisfaction administered by the priests” (Disputation on the power and efficacy of indulgences, thesis #2).

The Roman doctrine on Indulgences is an extension of their teaching on forgiveness. In fact, I would suggest it is actually integral to their doctrine of forgiveness rather than incidental to it. What Roman Catholic, knowing and believing what his church teaches, would not seek to gain Indulgences for himself (or his deaceased relatives in purgatory), when by doing so he avoids suffering the temporal punishment his sins are due? The Roman Code of Canon Law, which regulates Roman Catholic practice in this as in all areas of its life, explicitly states that "An indulgence is the remission before God of temporal punishment for sins whose guilt is already forgiven, which a properly disposed member of the Christian faithful gains under certain and defined conditions". Let's leave aside, for the moment, exactly what "properly disposed" means and how the pious works of a Christian may gain a remission of these temporal punishments, and focus our attention solely on what I believe is the most important issue here, the doctrinal root of the practice that is so offensive to Lutherans.

Note that, according to Rome, the guilt of sin is forgiven - in sacramental confession - but there is still "temporal punishment for sins" which must be suffered. If Canon Law wasn’t clear enough, we have the benefit of the authoritative Apostolic Constitution Indulgentiarum Doctrina (The Doctrine of Indulgences), promulgated in 1967 by Pope Paul VI, in which he states that, “ It is a divinely revealed truth that sins bring punishments inflicted by God's sanctity and justice. These must be expiated either on this earth through the sorrows, miseries and calamities of this life and above all through death, or else in the life beyond through fire and torments or "purifying" punishments.”

According to the Papacy, then, the punishments for sin are inflicted by “God’s sanctity and justice” and “must be expiated…through sorrows…either in this life or the next” [italics mine]. Note the forensic language used here: the Pope speaks of punishments inflicted by God’s justice which must be expiated - Lutherans, who must often bear the charge from Roman Catholics that we reduce salvation to the “legal metaphor” of justification or the “commercial metaphor” of imputation, can at least smile at the irony here, even while observing that Pope Paul’s legal metaphors tend in completely the opposite direction from Luther‘s, towards nomism in fact - but that is a subject for another post. The doctrinal bedrock of Roman Catholicism, the Decrees of The Council of Trent, also state that “sins be not in such wise pardoned us without any satisfaction”, and that the satisfaction that priests impose as part of repentance “be not only for the preservation of a new life and a medicine of infirmity, but also for the avenging and punishing of past sins” (Council of Trent, Session 14, On the most holy sacraments of penance and extreme unction, ch. VIII, On the necessity and on the fruit of satisfaction).

On the basis of these statements, we are entitled to draw the conclusion that for Rome the guilt of sin and its temporal punishment are two distinct things; guilt is atoned for by Christ’s death on the Cross, but temporal punishment must be expiated (suffered or paid for) by the repentant sinner, either in this life or the next. And these punishments, note carefully -for this goes to the crux of the matter - are actually inflicted by the justice of God upon his sinning child, and are not just remedial or corrective in intent, as are, for example, the chastisements of a loving parent upon a wayward child.

Now, what strange love is this, that forgives, but still punishes? Strange indeed! As the great St Anselm remarked to his interlocutor, “What else does it mean to remit sins than not to punish them?” (in Cur Deus Homo? Why Did God Become Man?) But then Anselm lived well before the worst excesses of the medieval penitential system and their later codification by the Council of Trent! (It is my contention that the morphology of modern Roman Catholicism developed during the Counter-Reformation, and represents a version, and a distorted version at that, of the Western Catholicism which came before it.)

But back to temporal punishments, for this is where Indulgences come in. The Indulgence, which is gained by performing the prescribed pious work - it may be saying the Creed or the Lord’s Prayer or a Hail Mary - remits (i.e. cancels) the temporal punishment. Here the sufficiency of Christ’s satisfaction for sins is clearly brought into question, as the temporal punishment due for sin is remitted by a satisfaction made by the believer himself, or in the case of the “poor souls in purgatory” by someone still living on their behalf. This practice clearly ascribes salvific merit, even if only partially, to human acts. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church confirms this in ascribing such merit to the good works of the saints (believers whose sanctity resulted in their entering heaven immediately upon death), especially the good works and prayers of the virgin Mary, which merit is supposedly added to the treasury of merit won by Christ, out of which Rome dispenses this remission of temporal punishments (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paras 1471-1479). What else is this, I ask, but rank synergism, salvation by faith plus human works? How does it not undermine the doctrine of the vicarious satisfaction of Christ for the sins of the world and the sufficiency of the atonement made by Christ by teaching that there is still some satisfaction which must be made by the repentant sinner himself or by others - who have the "correct disposition" - on his behalf?

Need I remind the reader of how this system contradicts scripture? There is a catena of passages one could cite, but suffice it to point to the chief passages and let the reader examine each passage for himself in context and follow through by using the cross-references in his own Bible: Isaiah 43:25, John 3:36, 5: 24, Romans 3,5:9, Romans 8, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Colossians 2:13, Hebrews 1:3; 1 John 2:1-2, 5:10-13, Revelation 1:5. But we must give special consideration the words of our Lord which he uttered on the Cross, when he was making atonement for the sins of the world. When the thief at his side humbly and penitently asked to be remembered in Jesus’ kingdom, our Lord assured him that “today you will be with me in Paradise.” The thief would not be consigned to purgatory, a place where the temporal punishment for his obviously manifold sins would have to be suffered, but Paradise.

Then consider our Lord’s words “It is finished.” What was finished? The work he came to accomplish, making atonement to God for the sins of mankind. The word used by the apostle John in his Gospel account (19:30) is tetelestai. We know from ancient Greek papyri that the word had a commercial context, as it was written across a bill or loan contract when the outstanding debt was paid: “paid in full.” Thus Jesus not only made satisfaction for our sins, but he also propitiated (hilaskomai) the wrath of God, turning it away from believers (1 John 2:2). In the Old Testament, the high priest placed the blood of the sacrifices on the mercy-seat (“the place of propitiation”) which formed the lid of the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25). For Christians the Cross has become the “mercy-seat” of the New Testament upon which the blood of Jesus was shed to atone for sins, including the propitiation of God’s wrath (attempts have been made to deny that Jesus’ death on the Cross contained the element of propitiation, most notably by C. H. Dodd in the 1930s, but these assertions have been refuted by scholars as diverse as Leon Morris in his Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, Karl Barth in Church Dogmatics, II, I, pp 398-403 and F. Buechsel in his article on hilaskomai in Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. The AV's use of "mercy-seat" derives from Tyndale, who was in turn influenced by Luther's rendering Gnadenstuhl).

But what does this mean, the lay reader may ask? It means that the death of our Lord on the Cross not only removed the guilt of our sin, but also turned away the divine anger from repentant and believing sinners. God no longer punishes his children for their sins, for that punishment has been borne completely by Christ. God demonstrates his righteousness to us precisely by setting forth Christ as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, to paraphrase Paul in Romans 3 (and note his allusion to the mercy-seat through his use of hilsterion there, derived from the Septuagint‘s translation of kapporeth [Exodus 25:17]). We cannot, and need not, add to the sacrifice of Christ through our own penal sufferings. To assert that we can is to deny the completeness and sufficiency of Christ’s atonement and deny the Word of God.

There is much more that could be written, but satis est - it is enough! In conclusion, let us return to Shakespeare, who noted that in the exercise of mercy, which is not “strained” - meaning not constrained, or meted out only in parts - human beings reflect an attribute of God. The Popes do not understand what the Protestant layman Shakespeare clearly did - that God’s mercy is not stored up in heaven in some treasury of merit to be doled out by the church on earth in “seasons of indulgence” in exchange for pious works of satisfaction, but rather droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon repentant sinners.

So forgive me, William, for now turning your immortal words to my own purpose:

Therefore, Romanist,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy…

Amen! SDG.

[David's original post can be viewed by clicking on the post title.]

Monday, 1 November 2010

The Three Great Religious Issues of Our Time

Interviewed at the recent Third Lausanne Conference on World Evangelization, held in Cape Town, South Africa last week, the Anglican author and incisive social critic Os Guinness identified three major religious issues facing the world today: "Religion has not disappeared; it is furiously alive and as well as ever. The three major issues are: Will Islam modernize peacefully? Which Faith will fill the vacuum in China? and, Will the West sever or recover its roots in the Judeo/Christian faith?"

Guinness also labelled Christianity the first "global religion": "It is the fastest growing [religion] in the world with the Bible the most translatable book in human history.”

But he had some harsh criticisms for liberal Western church leaders, especially in the US: "The clarity and courage of the African and Asian Christian leaders does not characterize Christian leaders in the West. The Christian Church in the West has never seen such a level of apostasy and heresy as seen in the United States.

"The Episcopal Church is the greatest disgrace in Christian history and it is being led down the path by so called Christian leadership."*

“Western Protestant liberals have lost their collective theological nerve. Our life is to live out the truth. His word is truth, we can live out the truth."

* For Australian readers, 'The Episcopal Church' is the US branch of the Anglican Communion. As a resident of the US for over 25 years, Guinness has an insider's view of the travails of American Anglicanism.

Oh, in case you're wondering: Yes, Guinness (D. Phil., Oxford) is a scion of the famous Anglo-Irish brewing family, a direct descendant of its founder, Arthur Guinness. His parents were medical missionaries in pre-Communist China. His books are well written and accessible to the general Christian reader, somewhat in the manner of C. S. Lewis. I have recently read his 'God in the Dark', a popular level exploration of faith and doubt which I highly recommend, especially to pastors, who will find much in it which can be applied in ministry.

Prayer for Reformation Day

God of grace and glory, we give You thanks for the comfort of the Gospel restored to Your Church on earth through the work of Martin Luther and other faithful pastors and leaders during the Reformation era. We praise You that by Your rich grace we have come to the sure knowledge that we stand justified before You, not by what we have done, but rather by faith in what Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord has done on our behalf. We ask that You would defend Your Church from all enemies of Your saving Word. Cause the good news of the Gospel to be proclaimed in this time to every nation and tribe and language and people on earth, and graciously preserve the fruits of the Gospel for generations to come. This we pray in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.