Thursday, December 20, 2007

"What Does This Mean?

So, how does a Lutheran go about studying the Bible? First things first . . .

Anyone who has ever read through Martin Luther's Small Catechism will know that Dr. Luther asked the same question whenever he approached God's Word: "What does this mean?" was his question. It's important for what it does ask, AND for what it does NOT ask. Here's what I mean . . .

"What does this mean?" is the right question to ask when we consider who God is! If He truly is the Author/Creator of all people and all things, and if He is going to be the Judge of every heart, then we had better be concerned with what He thinks or wants! If the Bible truly is God's own Word to us, and if it does, in fact, tell us everything about God which He wants us to know about Him on this side of heaven, then we had better ask, and ask clearly: "What does this mean?" But then we run into the problem . . .

Our sinful pride and its resulting arrogance really does not want to know what God wants. It really does not care about God. In some respects (I'm really saying this wayyyy too gently, actually), our sinful pride actually considers God to be our enemy. It does not really care about what God means about anything . . . and especially if God labels as "sin" some of the things which we like! So, what to do? Easy, says our sinful nature, we'll find a way around that crazy "What does this mean?" question. And that is how we arrive at what, in its current form, is called "post-modernism."

Post-Modernism asserts that there is no such thing as an objective, verifiable truth about anything. Post-Modernism says that you cannot say that the sky is blue, for example, because the blueness of the sky is only your personal perception -- well, or something like that. However, the post-modernist does not want to say that he can tell you that you are not right about anything, either -- that would imply that he has an objective, verifiable truth. So . . . he comes forth with the doctrine that "You have your truth, and it is true for you; but it is not necessarily true for me!" How convenient! Then I can say, "I have my truth but I cannot insist that you embrace my truth because there is no objective, verifiable truth, so my truth really is true for me, but it is not necessarily true or binding for you." This way everyone gets to have his or her own "truth," feel good and moral about themselves, and still do whatever s/he wants. Yes, I know, it starts to make your head spin. The old farmer would have reminded you that, before you go into that particular barn, you had better put on your boots because it might get deep in there. :-)


When Dr. Luther asks "What does this mean?" it is important to note what he does not add to his question. In our day and age many Christian denominations ask, "What does this mean to me?" And those two little extra words get us into big trouble! They say that we are not really interested in what God has to say on a given subject. Those extra words say that we are in charge of deciding what God thinks on a given subject. Those extra words put us in the driver's seat. Those extra words tell us that we are not interested in objective, verifiable truth -- rather, those two little words tell us that we are the ones who are, ultimately, in charge (sorry, I know that I'm repeating myself here). Then, when you are in the Bible class or worship service where everyone present gets to decide what a given Bible passage means "to me," you can have as many different interpretations as there are people present. You might even decide that you can vote on what a passage of Scripture means. How very democratic of us! ;-) And how very foolish!

I am so thankful that Dr. Luther knew nothing of the above stuff. "What does this mean?" was his question. It was what had to be answered. From the Word. From God's perspective. There was no room for a creative reinterpretation of what God means. This is wonderfully useful to us! Read on, please . . .

How many husbands have gotten into trouble with their wives when they said, "Honey, what I thought you meant was . . . "? :-) How many children have gotten in trouble with their mothers or fathers when the youngster said, "But what I thought you meant was . . ."? (I remember saying dumb stuff like that when I was growing up . . . and getting into all kinds of trouble because of it.) See what I mean? There was no excuse. There really was an objective, verifiable truth, and failing to recognize it -- and playing word games about it instead -- only resulted in getting in worse trouble!

So, may the Lord help us, when Lutherans open up the Word of God, our question MUST be "What does this mean?" No extra words. No "wiggle room." No game playing. The truth really is objective, and verifiable. Thank God. Know why? . . .

Because Jesus said of Himself, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6) Jesus would not (could not?) have said that if you would have to ask, "What does this mean . . . to me?"

Peace be with you!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Getting Started

I'm just getting started at this. I wish that I had a better idea of what I am doing, but I guess that I will learn.

God has finally led me to a point in my life where I think that I have something to offer to others. To other Lutheran pastors (especially you confessional guys, my brothers!). To Lutheran pastors who are knee-deep into the Church Growth and "evangelical" kind of stuff. To other Lutheran Christians. To other Christians. To other men. To women. To college students. To teens. To children. To other people who are just plain struggling with the anomalies of life and want to know if anything means anything.

God has shown me that the Lutheran faith truly does have the answers which our world needs. People are wounded. People are hurting. People are confused (oh, man, how true is that!).

We have answers. They are solid answers. Rock solid answers. There is no baloney attached. The answers are from the Word of God. God questions? Please bring them. I will TRY to answer. I will try to answer from the Word of God.

It is late tonight. More later. My next post will be on the subject of "What does this mean?" :-)