Month: October 2017

ACU CHURCH HISTORIAN SHEDS LIGHT ON LUTHER AND THE REFORMATION

Full text downloadable issues of Christ History Magazine on Luther are available at: https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/issues/
Issue 34 Martin Luther: The Early Years
Issue 39 Martin Luther: The Later Years and Legacy
Issue 115 Luther Leads the Way
Many of Luther’s writings are available in full text at http://www.godrules.net/library/luther/luther.htm

Martin Luther Changed Everything

By Douglas A. Foster
Professor of Church History
Director, Center for Restoration Studies
Abilene Christian University

“The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.” (Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 9, p. 24)

DougFoster

Doug Foster

On October 31, 1517, a thirty-three year old Catholic priest named Martin Luther posted a notice on the church door at Wittenberg, Germany. The heavy wooden door was used for posting announcements for Wittenberg’s church and university communities, which Luther served as both minister and professor of theology. That notice has become one of the most important and widely known documents in history—the Ninety-Five Theses.

The Theses were propositions for debate with other scholars about the legitimacy of “indulgences.” He saw that this teaching on penance (or repentance) and forgiveness, rather than a way to help people “show fruit worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8), had become a money-raising scheme to build a magnificent cathedral in Rome for the apostle Peter.

Luther’s training, sermon preparation, and teaching of theology classes gave him the opportunity to spend countless hours in studying scripture. This constant immersion in the Bible led him to see abuses he believed tended to obscure the gospel.

In the years that followed, Luther wrote hundreds of sermons, biblical commentaries, books and tracts, launching the Age of Reformation. He regarded his most significant work to be translating the Bible into ordinary German. He was convinced that the scriptures should be in the hands of all the people in a form they could understand instead of the Latin used by scholars. His own experience had shown him the vital importance of the scriptures for revealing the heart of God and the grace of Christ.

Sometimes we in the Stone-Campbell Restoration movement have been reluctant to acknowledge the great debt we—and all Christians—owe Martin Luther. Not so the founding leaders. In Alexander Campbell’s Christian System, he points out the tremendous debt we owe to the “intelligence, faith, and courage of Martin Luther and his heroic associates in that glorious reformation. He restored the Bible to the world and boldly defended its claims against” all perversions of the gospel. (The Christian System, 1871, p. 3.)

In his 1843 debate with Presbyterian minister and theologian Nathan Rice, Campbell described Luther and the other reformers as “God’s chosen vessels to accomplish at the proper time a mighty moral revolution,” the impact of which had “not yet been fully appreciated.” Alexander Campbell, 1844, A Debate Between Rev. A. Campbell and Rev. N. L. Rice, p. 587.

In many ways, Campbell saw his “current reformation”—the term often used for the

movement—as a continuation of Luther’s work. He believed those who followed Luther had succumbed to the temptation to obscure the gospel of grace—the very thing Luther fought against. Yet ironically, Campbell came to witness the same powerful tendency in his own reform.

We owe much to the courageous and flawed Martin Luther. I for one, also flawed and saved by God’s grace, look forward to seeing him in heaven.

ANOTHER SIDE OF MARTIN LUTHER

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The Humor and Wit of Martin Luther

Editor’s note: Clyde Kieschnick, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, provided the following article. On Reformation Sunday, Oct. 29, Kieschnick delivered his sermon as “Luther.”

These words of Martin Luther were recently posted in the narthex inside an attractive frame in anticipation of the observance of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. This was a gift given to Zion Lutheran Church by Lynn Oglesby, former director of All God’s Children child care at Zion Lutheran

As we do look forward to commemorating Martin Luther the man and the Reformation as the event that he inspired, I’d like to take this opportunity to enjoy  Martin Luther’s notorious wit and humor. Brother Martin was a pretty funny guy and often used humor to express his theological ideas in all sorts of ways.

Both his humor and wit often proved a great way to both gain attention and to express his passionately held ideas to the people, whether it was a crowd of peasants or scholars.

Perhaps the wit and humor of Martin Luther was often misunderstood, inappropriately used, or frequently misused, but it was one of his ways in recognizing one’s limitations in this life because of our sin, and, to express great joy in the life that is to come.

Luther often used such language in expressing his first line of defense against both Satan and the practices of the Papacy and the church of his time.  He faced life’s anxieties and   survived troubling times with laughing, smiling, and humor.

For example, known to be a man who loved having a good time and enjoying letting other people know it, he once said before one of his lectures when speaking on Noah, Tomorrow I have to lecture on the drunkenness of Noah [Genesis 9:20-27], so I should drink enough this evening to be able to talk about that  wickedness as one who knows by experience.”

Another example was when he described himself at sixty as being alt, kalt, und undgestalt” (old, cold, and mutilated).

Following then are some of Luther’s quotes that I think you folks might enjoy, but know that they came from a deep faith in Jesus Christ.

On Marriage and Family:  Think of all the squabbles Adam and Eve must have had in        the course of their nine hundred years. Eve would say, “You ate the apple,” and Adam would say, “You gave it to me.”

On Church Practices:  A simple layman armed with Scripture is to be believed above a pope or cardinal without it.

Farewell to those who want an entirely pure and purified church. This is plainly wanting no church at all.

What lies there are about relics! One claims to have a feather from the wing of the angel Gabriel, and the bishop of Mainz has a flame from Moses’ burning bush. And how does it happen that eighteen apostles are buried in Germany when Christ had only twelve?

On Christian Freedom: Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, aye, even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our conscience with trifles. We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all.

If our Lord is permitted to create nice large pike and good Rhine wine, presumably I may be allowed to eat and drink.

On Music and WorshipThe devil should not be allowed to keep all the best tunes for himself. I have no place for cranks who despise music because it is a gift of God. Next after theology, I give music the highest place and the greatest honor. Music drives away the devil and makes people joyful; they forget thereby all wrath, unchastity, arrogance, and the like.

On Human NatureWe need to hear the Gospel every day, because we forget it every  day.

Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters heaven!  Thus, let us drink beer!

On Prayer:  Oh, if only I could pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his         thoughts are concentrated on this piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish, or hope.

I have often learned more in one prayer than I have been able to glean from much reading and affliction.

On HimselfOur Lord God must be a pious man to be able to love rascals. I can’t do  it, and yet I am a rascal myself. Lord Jesus, You are my righteousness, I am  your sin. You took on you what was mine; yet set me on what was yours. You became what you were not, that I might become what I was not.

If I rest, I rust.

Others try to make me a fixed star, but I am an irregular planet.

Obviously for Luther, keeping his faith in times of distress often required a sense of wit and humor. Perhaps this was because he knew and believed that God laughs in the face of Satan’s defeat. When one reads the many works of Martin Luther, one sees his plain sinful humanity, his theological brilliance, and his strong defense of his Christian faith.  Someone once said about Luther, “I can’t imagine his Christmas cards. I am almost certain there would be an image of someone mooning the devil!”

 

 

HOPE FOR LIFE GETS NEW CEO

Gregory C. Swindle will take over as president and CEO of Hope for Life, a Herald of Truth ministry, on Jan. 1, 2018.

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Gregory C. Swindle

Swindle will begin a two-month transition with Bill Brandt, current president and CEO on Nov. 1. Swindle has served as a minister with Church of Christ congregations in Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, and Alabama. He also was a chaplin with the Army National Guard.

Swindle holds a bachelor’s degree from Magnolia Bible College and a master of ministry degree from Heritage Christian University. Since 2012, he has been the program director of Christian Leadership Develpoment at the George Benson Christian College, Namwianga Mission, in Zambia.

CAMPFIRE FOR REAL MEN

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GET REAL MEN’S MINISTRY
For more information, to volunteer as a counselor, or sign up for the next Get Real campfire, call Ben Gray at 325-518-8327 or email him at grayben@sbcglobal.net. Cost is $55, which includes meals and lodging.

A survey by the Barna Group showed that 60 percent of the men contacted said they are looking for a genuine encounter with God and an authentic relationship with others.

Men living in the Abilene area who want that are in luck. Ben Gray is riding to the rescue with his men’s ministry, Get Real.

“This is the crux of Get Real,” Gray said at the Oct. 25 meeting of the Abilene Association of Congregations.

Gray is looking for counselors and for men interested in attending the next campfire, as Get Real sessions are called. The next one will be held March 2-3, 2018, at Solid Rock Encampment near Eastland, about an hour’s drive from Abilene.

The campfire will follow the same format as the first one, which was held in September. The men gather at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and will be at the camp until 9 p.m. Saturday. All meals are provided on Saturday.

At the check-in at 6:30 on Friday, participants will get name tags and information needed for the Saturday program. Campers will stay overnight at the lodge at the encampment. Information will be provided on what to bring, including bedding and personal items.

The purpose of Get Real ministry is to help men address relevant life issues in the context of a safe environment, Gray said. Gray told the lunch crowd on Oct. 25 that he is concerned about the lack of church attendance by young men, especially those who are fathers of young children. What is being done to address the pattern of male absence? he asked.

“Young men’s ministry is the touch point of church growth,” he said.

Gray cautioned that the campfire discussions are not sanitized. Topics include communication, marriage, sexuality, the impact of addiction and pornography, forgiveness, and “gentle grace,” based on the principles used in horse training.

With God’s grace, lives can be changed and mistakes turned into pathways to lead others to a better way.

“Our mess can become a message,” Gray said. “Men listen to men who’ve screwed up.”

FRIENDS BID TEARFUL FAREWELL TO EGLE AND HER ETERNAL THREADS SHOP

 

SAYING FAREWELL

In the photos above, friends say goodbye to Linda Egle during a farewell party Oct. 19 at Highland Church of Christ. Egle, founder of Eternal Threads, 101 Walnut St., is closing the shop effective Oct. 31 and is  moving to Nebraska to be near family. The store will still have an online presence, www.eternalthreads.org,  and items may be sold in Abilene stores. A half-price sale will continue through Oct. 28. Hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 

 

 

By Loretta Fulton

The tears were plentiful as friends said good-bye to Linda Egle and her popular shop and ministry, Eternal Treads, at a party Oct. 19 at Highland Church of Christ.

Egle is moving to Nebraska to be near family. She opened Eternal Threads in 2003 after a taking early retirement from a 27-year career as a United Airlines flight attendant. She had witnessed poverty and a desire for improvement among women in countries she traveled to and wanted to help.

Since 2006, Eternal Threads has been located in a historic building owned by Walt Pfeifer, a friend. Pfeifer said it is impossible to separate the two–Egle and Eternal Threads.

“One cannot exist without the other,” he said.

Eternal Threads was founded as a nonprofit to provide skills development training and a way to establish a sustainable income. Since the store opened, the inventory has increased to include a variety of Fair Trade artisan products from various countries.

The mission also has expanded to working with international partners to try to stop human trafficking. Eternal Threads’ mission is “weaving hope and justice to improve the lives of women and children who are at risk from extreme poverty and trafficking.”

Pfeifer noted that at one time the building he owns housed T.S. Lankford & Sons sewing operations. It seemed appropriate that Egle’s Eternal Threads should be housed there, he said.

“It was kind of like the building was happy again,” Pfeifer said.

 

 

 

SEMINARIES, AND SEMINARIANS, FACE NEW CHALLENGES, HSU SPEAKER SAYS

 

 

Photos courtesy Hardin-Simmons University

By Loretta Fulton

Usually, if a split occurs between a Baptist university and an affiliate state convention, it’s the university that fires the first shot.

It wasn’t that way in 2005 when the Georgia Baptist Convention severed its ties with Mercer University, Dr. R. Alan Culpepper, retired dean of the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer, told guests Oct. 17 during a dialogue at Hardin-Simmons University’s Logsdon School of Theology. The convention ended its ties and its $3 million a year in support, Culpepper said.

“They couldn’t control it,” he said, “so they weren’t going to pay for it.”

Culpepper, who served as dean of the McAfee School of Theology from its founding in 1995 to 2015, spoke on a range of topics at the dialogue, which was squeezed in between his lectures as guest speaker for the George Knight Lectures Oct. 16-17.

His opening lecture was titled, “Creation Ethics in the Gospel of John.” The second lecture was titled, “The Knowledge of God: Prophetic Vision and Johannine Theme.”

Culpepper first spoke for the Knight Lectures 14 years ago in 2003. He joked that he would see everyone again in another 14 years, in 2031. In visiting with students, faculty, and guests, Culpepper said that many colleges with historical roots in the church are moving away from those roots.

Most of the universities founded in the southeastern part of the United States between 1825 and 1850 were started by a religious denomination, Culpepper said, because the founders wanted to provide a classical and theological education.

“They wanted an educated ministry,” Culpepper said.

By the 1960s, those colleges were moving away from their roots. Hardin-Simmons, with its ties to the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and other denominational colleges are providing an important niche, Culpepper said.

“There is an opportunity for dialogue that involves religion and religious issues that’s both affirming and critical,” he said.

Culpepper grew up in a missionary family, living in Argentina and Chile. He later attended a church pastored by the renowned John Claypool.

“I had the Cadillac of Baptist upbringing,” he said.

Even so, he did not have a sense of patterns in the the scriptures. He didn’t learn that in church, and that is why a theological education is so important.

“I didn’t get that in church,” he said, “I got that in a freshman survey class.”

The face of a seminary has changed drastically over the years, Culpepper said. Some seminarians are not from Christian homes and didn’t grow up in the church. Also, there has been an erosion in basic liberal arts competency, he said, so that theological education has to start from a different point than it did 20 to 40 years ago.

Theology professors have to recognize that challenge and what it means for the future of theological education. Information today is accessed differently and is being used differently, he said. We live in an American society that is suspicious of authority and of religious leadership, Culpepper said, “but with a real sense of spiritual need.”

The question is, “How will the religious community help people achieve that quest for spirituality?” Cupepper cited Ephesians 4:12, which refers to the equipping of saints, or the whole church, for ministry. Generally, he said, “equipping” translates to providing gear or tools need for a task.

But, Culpepper said, the same Greek word also means “mending their nets.” So, perhaps the church should be thinking about “mending the saints for ministry” instead of supplying them with gear.

“We need to help them become whole persons,” he said, and how that’s done may shape the future of higher education.