Tob and Ra… both in man and our Synod.

“‘Good and evil,’ tob and ra, here have a much wider meaning than ‘good’ and ‘evil’ in our terminology. “The words tob and ra speak of an ultimate division in the world of man in general which goes beyond the moral discord, so that tob would perhaps also mean ‘full of pleasure’ and ra ‘full of pain'”. (Hans Schmidt). Tob and ra are the categories for the deepest division of human life in every aspect. The essential thing about them is that they appear as a pair and that, in their state of division, they belong inseparably together. Tob, the pleasureful, the good, the beautiful does not exist without being constantly submerged in ra, the painful, evil, mean, impure. And — in this wide sense — the painful, the evil, does not exist without a glimmer of pleasure, which makes pain wholly pain. Tob, the good, is for us always only that which has been wrested from evil, which has gone through evil, which has been conceived, carried and borne by evil. The glitter of the good, that which is full of joy and pleasure, has its origins in evil. … The healthy man is borne up in pain and nourished by that which is full of pleasure; he is torn in pleasure and pain, in good he is torn by evil, in evil he is torn by good. He is divided.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer “Creation and Fall… Temptaion: Two Biblical Studies”

Reading this section by Bonhoeffer this morning got me thinking about how the tob and the ra, the ‘good’ and the ‘evil’, the ‘pleasure’ and the ‘pain’ aren’t only found in us fallen and depraved sinners, but in everything that we try to create… even if it was created with the best of intentions.

Take for instance the election of Pastor Matthew Harrison to be President of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. I believe that politics have absolutely no place in the church whatsoever. Instead of elections we should take all of the nominees and say some prayers and cast lots, or draw straws, and put the whole situation into God’s hands… which would make for a very unhuman centric convention. But who are we to serve, God or man?

However, I also agree that we need leaders in our church body to keep Christian unity and a correct understanding of Scripture. We especially need those leaders to be Scriptural, Confessional, missional and Doctrinally minded. Those leaders need to be first and foremost teachers and pastors, they need to know Scripture, what our Confessions say and be able to lead us and our laity from these sources in a world that wants nothing more than to see them destroyed (the leader and the Scriptures) and come up with new and old heresies to drive people away from the church of Christ. I do not wish this responsability on any one man, but pray that the Lord is with Pastor Harrison who tries to lead us who are in the world and, unfortunately, are still part of this fallen, self-centered and egotistical world that want to see him destroyed and be a failure because the last thing that we want is to be shown what sinners and failures we truly are.

As I said the tob and the ra are in everything that we create and that includes our election practices because what should be done in Christian fellowship, unity and love, is done with name-calling, lies and personal attacks on those nominated to positions of power. We created a system, based off our own nation’s electoral system, created with tob, with pleasure and joy and have turned it into ra… something that is pain and heartache.

The ra is our sinful nature that we can not shake off or get rid of by ourselves. Only Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection removes our ra. It is in our very pores and being, and so, it is in everything that we do and create. Just like our election procedures that have been transformed into something that doesn’t promote Christian fellowship, unity or love. Instead, it promotes lying, cheating and throwing people under the bus to further one’s political career in the church.

But just as “The glitter of the good, that which is full of joy and pleasure, has its origins in evil.” so can the Synod find joy, unity and love in what has become a fractured Synod. I wish Pastor Harrison all of the best as he takes the reins during a time of great stife and dis-unity in our church body. May this time of ra of ‘pain’ and ‘evil’ bring forth a new era of ‘tob‘ ‘pleasure’ and more importantly ‘peace’ in our Synod which so desperatly needs some. Let us refind our unity in the Scriptures, the Confessions, our missions and our Doctrinal teaching and practices in all parts of our Synod.


30th Post Spectacular a.k.a. What is freedom?

Every month I try (emphasis on try) to read a non-fiction book a month. This month I’m reading “Creation and Fall… Temptation: Two Biblical Studies” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I was reading about “The image of God on Earth” and this is what Bonhoeffer has to say on what it means to be free:

“In man God creates his image on earth. This means that man is like the Creator in that he is free. Actually he is free only by God’s creation, by means of the Word of God; he is free for the worship of the Creator. In the language of the Bible, freedom is not something man has for himself but something he has for others. No man is free ‘as such,’ that is, in a vacuum, in the way that he may be musical, intelligent or blind as such. Freedom is not a quality of man, nor is it an ability, a capacity, a kind of being that somehow flares up in him. Anyone investigating man to discover freedom finds nothing of it. Why? because freedom is not a quality which can be revealed – it is not a possession, a presence, an object, nor is it a form of existence – but a relationship and nothing else. In truth, freedom is a relationship between two persons. Being free means ‘being free for the other,’ because the other has bound me to him. Only in relationship with the other am I free.”

Another cross-post, this one on the election.

As you can tell from the title, I’m repeating what I did yesterday…. that is posting what some else wrote on their blog. This morning it’s from Pastoral Meanderings. It’s about being cautiously optimistic in Synod, but how there’s a lot that needs to be done besides an election.

“I remember the candidate who said on his election, “Elections are easy; it is governing that is hard.” For all the cheering that went up in certain camps throughout this church body, I would offer the somber reminder. Elections are easy; governing is much more difficult.

In order for this election to mean something, we as the Pastors and parishes of the LCMS must agree to be led. That is a tall order. We are a contentious bunch. We each see things from our own vantage points and assume we know it all. We love to paint it all into matters of clear confession when somethings are much more complex. We talk about Synod but we keep our dollars close to home because whether they are our guys or their guys — they are still bureaucrats (Barry had money problems just like Kieschnick). We love a good speech or sermon but then we get on the planes and had home to do what we have always done (secure in the knowledge that our congregationalism means nobody can tell us we are wrong).

So I would urge a cautious optimism at best. We may have a new President of Synod, but we are the same old Pastors and parishes, set in our ways, certain that “my” way is the best way, and about as hard to lead as cats are to herd. I sensed a moment of grace when Pastor Chuck Mueller took a moment after the election to honor the new President’s election. But today we will be winding our way through a myriad of motions, by-law changes, and other elections. We still have a Synodical budget crisis. We still have Ablaze and Fan into Flame baking in the oven but not yet done. We still have the odd circumstance of laymen authorized for Word AND Sacrament ministry. We still have 30 something individually tailored deacon programs out there. We still have different ideas of table fellowship, faithful worship, and appropriate methods of outreach to sort out.

Elections are easy. Leadership and governance are much more difficult. So before we party, let us pray. Before we gloat, let us confess. Before we predict a bold new future, let us pull up our sleeves to sort out the issues and meet before the cross. Before we talk about some prophetic moment, let us affirm our willingness to be rebuked, corrected, reproved, and edified (and not just our neighbor’s). Then, perhaps, we may actually see some of the promise of this moment realized. Every week we pray for the man who presides in Synod, for our Bishop, and for our Pastors. Let us start there so that we all know their names and carry them in our hearts close to God for the good work they will do, the mistakes they will make that we should forgive, and the honest disagreement that will continue among us.”

Listening to a Sermon Fruitfully


I was doing some blog reading on Cyberbrethren and came across this post. It’s an except from a writing by Lutheran Theologian Herman Sasse. Hope you enjoy.

“Isn’t it the case that we all – and I include myself here – complain so often about the sermon without ever asking whether the real basis for our discontent doesn’t perhaps lie within ourselves? When a hearer gets nothing from a sermon it is not always the sermon or the preacher that is to blame. Listening to sermons is like work, or better yet an art that one must learn. Fruitful listening requires a measure of Christian formation and spiritual receptivity that few seem to possess anymore (in fact, I dare say that I have only seen it today in ‘simple’ people, in farmers and labourers in country areas). The lack of this formation cannot be compensated for by the thundering rhetoric or the emotional eloquence which most people seem to expect nowadays from preachers if they are to stay alert.”

From Hermann Sasse, ‘Concerning the Hearing of God’s Word’, a sermon preached in Erlangen, Germany on Rogate Sunday, 18th May, 1941 (Text: James 1:22-27)[trans. M.A. Henderson].