Faith Related Q & A
Faith Related Q and A
» How do I stop thinking like a legalist? I have been reading a lot of Baptist materials lately, and always seem to think like a legalist.
You do recognize that what you read affects your thought process. With that in mind, the answer to your question amounts to changing your reading material. Legalism shows itself in different ways: trying to accomplish what only the gospel can, labeling things “sinful” when God has not done so and using the gospel as a club to change behavior. In addition to reading the Bible, I encourage you to use materials that do not confuse law and gospel. For starters, you can consider reading Forward in Christ, our monthly magazine. God bless your reading!
» I just saw a video from a WELS pastor claiming the LCMS seminaries teach doctrine is not important. My entire experience says this is blatantly false. Agree?
I am not aware of which video you are referencing. I would agree with your assessment.
» Why does WELS not require their teachers (K-12) to have their state teaching licenses? Also, why does WELS call teachers for positions where their degree qualifications do not line up (for example, a teacher with a degree in physical education teaching science)?
Martin Luther College (MLC), where I presently serve, states this on its website: “Students who successfully complete program requirements and meet the Minnesota requirements for licensure are eligible for a Minnesota license. To ensure that all teacher graduates are assignable anywhere in our country, MLC requires all teacher graduates to be eligible for a Tier 3 Minnesota license.” Once MLC graduates receive their assignments, even though they have their Minnesota license, the state to which they are called may ask the graduates to also be licensed in that particular state. In addition, Martin Luther College conducts a Post-Baccalaureate Licensure Program to work with teachers who graduated from Dr. Martin Luther College or Martin Luther College before 2002 “to be eligible for their initial Minnesota teaching license or add-on to an existing Minnesota license” (MLC Website). Schools that extend calls for specific teaching responsibilities might consider the gifts, abilities and teaching experiences of individuals, along with their degree qualifications. It can also happen that a school is not able to find a “specialist” at a time a position needs to be filled and a person with other qualifications is called. As a recent answer explained: “Even though the Call is divine and from God, our process is a human one. That means that, while we try to do the best we can, the process itself might not always work as we intend it to work.”
» What are the differences in Calvinism and Lutheran teachings? My brother recently sent me a video from Truth or Tradition that speaks of how Christmas and Easter are based more on devil worship. And now he is stating that he will not go to any church unless it will not participate in either Christmas or Easter celebration. Early in the video John Calvin is quoted. I see that Calvinism teaches 5 principles: T.U.L.I.P. T: total depravity, U: unconditional election, L: limited atonement, I: irresistible grace, and P: perseverance of the Saints. I am particularly interested in unconditional election as several Scripture verses quote that God has chosen or predestined a few to be saved and not others. What Scripture verses refute these teachings?
This month’s “Light for our path” column addresses the concern about Easter celebrations. This link will take you to that column. The Bible does not teach double predestination; it teaches an election to salvation only (Ephesians 1:3-14). From the Bible we learn that God wants all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). We learn from Scripture that people are responsible for their damnation (Jeremiah 15:6; Hosea 13:9; Matthew 23:37). The over-emphasis on human reason in Calvinism leads to the false teaching of double predestination. Another very important difference is that Calvinism denies the power of God in the sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) and considers them only “ordinances.”
» I have been suffering from a deteriorating disease. I feel this illness is taking away my faith in God. I cannot live with the guilt this has caused. I desperately call out to him and love him so much. Please, how can I strengthen my faith in God during this time? I feel like he does not love me.
I am sorry to hear about your health situation. Be assured that our physical health can be quite different from our spiritual health. Struggles in life, including diseases, do not mean that God’s love has diminished. The Bible’s promise to Christians is that nothing can separate them from God’s love in Christ: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Sickness and disease are among those items that cannot separate us from God’s love in Christ. Satan would love for us to conclude that problems in life are signs that God does not love us. Satan is a liar (John 8:44). As we tune out Satan’s voice, we want to listen to the voice of our God in Scripture. God always speaks the truth (Numbers 23:19). Consider some of the things God says to you in his word: “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:10). Your God assures you: “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). God promises you: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). To strengthen your faith at this time and throughout life, continue to go to the means the Holy Spirit uses to deepen and nurture our faith: the gospel in word and sacraments. Remember your Baptism. Recognize that in Baptism God made you his own dear child. Read the Bible and other devotional materials you might have. Be a frequent guest at the Lord’s Supper. Through these means, God assures you of his forgiving, unending love. Finally, speak to your pastor or other trusted Christian friend about your situation in life. God bless you!
» Does God punish us?
No. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). God has already punished Jesus his Son for our sins (Isaiah 53:4-8). Through Spirit-worked faith in Jesus, we are spared the punishment our sins deserved (Psalm 103:10). As God interacts in the lives of Christians, the language of the Bible is “discipline” not “punishment” (Hebrews 12:1-13). The motive behind discipline is love not anger. When you and I face difficulties or challenges or disappointments in life, they are not punishments from God. Romans 8:1 explains that God does not condemn Christians now, nor will he condemn them in the future. No condemnation, no punishment—that is God’s gracious treatment of his children. Those whose earthly lives end in unbelief, rejecting God, will receive punishment from God (Matthew 22:13; Mark 16:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).
» How can I explain to my teenage son that watching movies like "The Dark Knight" is not God-pleasing or that he should avoid and turn away from watching movies with sex or bad language and violence. He just watches them and thinks it's okay--he thinks nothing is wrong with watching a movie for entertainment. It is corrupting your mind and can lead to thinking it's okay - can't it?
Watching a movie for entertainment is fine, but “entertainment” does not make objectionable content acceptable. Your concern for your son’s welfare is good and commendable. You can explain to your son that sexual themes in movies can do much to degrade women, glamorize adultery and desensitize Christians to sexual sins. What may appear to be mere entertainment can definitely adversely affect a person’s thoughts and words and actions. You can remind your son that the wrong kind of entertainment can fuel sins against the sixth commandment. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). Similarly, being exposed to crude and vulgar language in entertainment can have an effect on Christians and the way they talk. God gives this directive: “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving” (Ephesians 5:4). Recognizing that the images and sounds that reach our minds can affect us, it is no surprise that the Bible gives this instruction: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). It would be helpful for Christians of all ages to ask themselves if the entertainment they are engaged in passes the “Philippians test.” God bless you and your family as you seek to be salt and lights to others around you (Matthew 5:13-16).
» I understand that we are in fellowship with the ELS, but are there any doctrinal differences between the WELS and ELS at all?
The fact that WELS is in fellowship with ELS means that there is doctrinal agreement between the two synods. What you will find with the two synods is differences in practice—particularly in the corporate worship life of the synods’ congregations. There can be more chanting of the liturgy by ELS pastors. In addition, the hymnal of the ELS provides for congregational singing of the Lord’s Prayer and the kneeling of the pastor on a prayer bench. Any other differences might be explained by the historical development of both synods. The historical background of WELS is Germanic, while that of ELS is Norwegian. As is the case with other churches in the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference, we treasure our fellowship with the Evangelical Lutheran Synod.
» Is it better to be a Christian sinner or a righteous atheist? I heard a Catholic say it is better to be a righteous atheist.
Christians are sinners who, through faith in Jesus Christ, enjoy forgiveness of sins. Atheists are people who cannot do anything righteous in God’s sight or pleasing to him (John 15:5; Hebrews 11:6). Jesus’ words in Mark 16:16 (“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”) answer your question very clearly.
» What is a customary gift ($) for a church and or pastor for performing a wedding, baptism, funeral, etc.?
That is entirely up to the people who receive those services of a pastor. As a parish pastor, I was happy to tell people that the congregation called me to perform services like these and honoraria were not necessary. Much more often than not, the individuals still wanted to express their appreciation for my time and effort and so gave a gift of their choosing. It was also my experience that some funeral directors provided guidance to families regarding an honorarium they could give their pastor. So, it is entirely up to people what they would like to do when they receive personalized service from their pastor. Pastors are happy to serve.

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December 9, 2018 

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 6:23