Re-reading parts from the book: “Christianity for the Modern Pagans”

From a previous post, I mentioned the book edited, outlined and explained by Peter Kreeft called, “Christianity for the Modern Pagans,” reflecting on Pascal’s Pensées.  According to Kreeft, Pascal was a seventeenth-century contemporary of Descartes who was “the father of modern philosophy.”  Pascal was seen as the one who did not jump on the ship leading to “the Enlightenment” and one who was at odds with the scientific method. (p.9)  Pascal, in his Pensées, writes in short little paragraphs that in some way are a collection of contemplative thoughts.  The beauty of reading his Pensées, is that you can read from beginning to the end or jump around in the collection of his contemplative thoughts.  He appears to be a theologian that responds to our modern day secularism and finds Christ at the center.  In this way, I think he would be found quite appealing to most Lutherans.  Especially when he makes statements such as in my earlier post.

Well, I must run, I am traveling around southern United States, visiting with perspective seminarians and deaconesses.  Though a northern boy, I do enjoy visiting with the people of the south.  In many ways, this is where culture is to be found but again, I still prefer the north despite our nasty weather at times.  – H.F.

A Book: Christianity for Modern Pagans

I was in conversation with a gentleman last night about Pascal’s Pensées by Blaise Pascal.  I especially like Peter Kreefts explanation of  Pascal’s Pensées in a book Kreeft authored called, “Christianity for Modern Pagans.”  Since I am traveling, I will edit this post later and add this book to my Pre-Sem recommended reading list.

The Book: Hammer of God

Book Recommendation – The Hammer of God by Bo Giertz

 By Pompadoras

If you visit the seminary during the Christ Academy College weekend, they will give you an opportunity to speak to a panel of students from each different year at the seminary. When I visited a few years ago, one of the questions posed to these students was, “What books do you recommend we read before coming to seminary?” Each student gave their answer. The fourth year student recommended reading a book called The Hammer of God by Bo Giertz. I had previously heard the name of this book from a few pastors and a professor or two at the seminary. If I could read only one book before coming to the seminary, it would be this book.

The book is about the proper distinction between law and gospel. Professor Pless has said that what Walther does in theses, Giertz does in a novel. The book is filled with pastoral care scenarios in which the pastors have to apply law and gospel to the messy, real lives of their parishioners. The fantastic thing about this book is that these are no imaginary scenarios. Each situation represents something we’ve seen or someone we know has seen. The book will show you how law and gospel is applied to sinners, wherever they may be. I recommend reading this book before you get to seminary because it will get you thinking about how theology applies in real life and to real people.

The Hammer of God is more than just a guide in pastoral care. It is about the work of the law and gospel in our own lives. As a seminarian, you will struggle with the sin of spiritual pride, which is the common feature of each of the pastors in the book. For this reason, the book shows the necessity of having a pastor. It is impossible to apply law and gospel to ourselves. For that, we need a pastor. Each of the pastors in the book needs and eventually receives the spiritual care of a fellow pastor. As a seminarian you will need a pastor too. You won’t stop being a sinner when you show up on campus.

Before arriving at the seminary, read the book. You will read it again during your first year at the seminary. The great thing about this book is that you will keep seeing new insights every time you read it. The book is theological, yet thoroughly pastoral throughout. You will find wonderful insights for pastoral care. You will find application of law and gospel. But above all, you will find Jesus Christ crucified for sinners like you and me.

Learn to hate Life

One learns to hate this life in order to live it!

– H.F.  (Me)

Somewhere Martin Luther talks about hating life and desiring the greater life, namely heaven.  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26  ESV)  In other words, if God is not above all things, we would not understand the proper relationship we should have before God and thus before one another in Christian love.  That’s the point.  Sin is really not loving God above all things and thus not loving our neighbor as ourselves.

I remember hearing about a person on his death bed who was very angry because he invested so much in his life and retirement but now all his investments in life were gone and now he was dying.  It seems that those who invest in their joys and advancement in this life loose perspective of life.  I love the quote from the proverbs, “Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:7-9)  “Lying” is not about simply lying to one another but more, lying to ourselves about what life is really about before God and one another thus being possessed by material things and the interest of this life and not the heavenly life before  God and before one another in His love in Christ. Instead we live this life as if it is what we make of it and not what God has already made of it in Christ.  “If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” (I Jn 1:10 ESV)  Thus we lie to ourselves in sin. (Deut. 6:4-12ff)

“The beatings will continue until the morale improves”

I used to have this quote hanging up in my office, a plaque with two cross bones (pirate)  that I bought when I was in Maui.  It made me think about a particular characteristic that I saw within families, those in leadership positions in the work force, and in the church.

It runs with the idea that you need to have strict, uncompromisable, nonnegotiable  boundaries and control over all situations, and when these boundaries are broken, discipline is at hand (literally and figuratively).  It is nothing else but a legalistic environment even if it is a concerning and caring environment.

In the family, I see kids who grew up in such an environment eventually leave home and not know how to make choices in their life (because they were made for them), have problems with relationships and even become rebellious in life, following their passions instead of  having the experience of making decision in their life in accordance to their beliefs and values.  A combination is needed, teaching and upholding family values and at the same time teaching your children how to think things through thoroughly in light of the family values and beliefs. In other words, life is not simply about rules, but teaching your children about good reasoning while developing their rational capabilities.  This is why in American we have a jury in our court system and not just judges that make rulings according to the strict letter of the law.

It is the same in the work force and leading organizations.  I have chaired quite a number of organizations since my youth.  Learning good leadership skills in Boy Scouts (I’m an Eagle Scout), I learned the importance of investing in those around me, with their ideas, imagination and planning skills and the same time offering structure and keeping the organization on track to achieve greater goals and objectives.

As I served as a pastor in the parish, the same held true with my idea that you work with members without compromising good practice and doctrine.  I never recall having to remind people that “I am the pastor here,” because they knew that and they also knew that I would give ear to them and work with them wherever they were at in life.   If one would listen to the words of Martin Luther, he was very “human” or “earthy” about life and at the same time lived out the fear and love of God and one another in accordance to good doctrine and teaching.

What does this have to do with the quote above, well, it just made me think of these things.

H.F.

Imagination!

People need to learn to dream more!!! It seems that imagination is being sacrificed for what? Life being characterized by the whims, demands and task lists of the day?  Where is the adventure? I choose my little existential world where life is an adventurous journey, immortal, and heaven.

FB 1/4/12

I would add, “… where the life in Christ is an adventurous journey, love, immortal, and heaven.”