Still Glad I Don’t Use Windows

Nothing against those in the Windows world out there. The Matrix has you, and it’s not really your fault.

I admit that I’ve been curious about Vista. The hype has been impressive. But then, it’s still Microsoft Windows after all, isn’t it? That explains this, from Bruce Schneier:

Windows Vista includes an array of “features” that you don’t want. These features will make your computer less reliable and less secure. They’ll make your computer less stable and run slower. They will cause technical support problems. They may even require you to upgrade some of your peripheral hardware and existing software. And these features won’t do anything useful. In fact, they’re working against you. They’re digital rights management (DRM) features built into Vista at the behest of the entertainment industry.

For more information, take a gander at badvista, which led me to Schneier.

The last Windows PC I ran was Windows 95. I had my fill. Since then, I’ve used virtual hardware to run my (ancient, legal) copies of Windows only for testing, debugging, and mostly tax software. As far as I know, they still haven’t released TurboTax or TaxCut for Linux yet. At least it’s available for MacOS.

If you have the means — which is measured in willingness to learn rather than dollars — there has never been a better time to try Linux. Ubuntu is hugely popular, and is rather easy to install. Its variant Kubuntu is even prettier (IMO). For those who absolutely must spend money on an OS, look no further than the Macintosh. It does what you need, and in general it’s not broken.

What defines? What divides?

Norman Teigen highlights an address from ELCA bishop Mark Hanson. Bishop Hansen notes that the issue of (homo)sexuality might be seen as the defining issue for the ELCA, but instead, he wants “the Gospel of Jesus Christ” to define the ELCA.

My first thought is to wonder what he means by “the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” For Hansen, does this include Christ as an historical person, as described historically throughout the second article of the Nicene Creed? Does it include His virgin birth and bodily resurrection as historical facts? I only ask because numerous teachers in the ELCA deny these things. See this book for a well-documented, 15-year old snapshot of those teachings in the ELCA. News reports since that book was published have not shown that things are any better.

But Hansen raises two important questions about fellowship. What does define a body like the ELCA? What does divide it?

In the ELS, we hold that the unity of a church body is (ideally) defined by its unity in doctrine. God-pleasing unity occurs when different people believe, teach, and confess what the Bible says. It’s up to us to figure out who they are by comparing their teaching and their practice to the teaching of the Bible. For us, the teaching of the Bible is critically important, since we apply Proverbs 4:13 in all seriousness: “Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; Keep her, for she is your life.” For us, doctrine is life. (I make bold to speak for the entire ELS. If its members disagree, they may do so publicly.)

However, a church body like the ELS and the ELCA is really established by articles of incorporation, not found in holy scripture. That means that the body can exist without regard for God-pleasing unity. (In the case of the ELCA, I see many points where its members disagree about fundamental points of Christian doctrine — like the historic points listed in the Nicene Creed.)

So neither the ELCA nor the ELS is really defined by biblical doctrine. They are both church bodies that exist by the will of mortal man. The difference is that the formation of the ELS has (theoretically) bound the synod to observe the biblical principles of church fellowship by requiring that its members and those formally “in fellowship” hold strictly to the biblical teachings. This is accomplished by means of the Lutheran Confessions, which agree completely with holy scripture. The Confessions serve as a means of comparing doctrine to discover whether God-pleasing unity exists.

What defines a synod or “church” like the ELS or ELCA? The answer can be anything, because they are organizations of human origin. Officially, they are defined by their incorporation. In my mind, the ELCA is defined by its sad history of mergers and compromises of biblical teaching. To Bishop Hansen, the ELCA is defined by “the Gospel of Jesus Christ” — whatever he means by that. To others, it is defined by its stance on homosexuality.

Despite the disagreement between these points of view, the ELCA and the ELS are both really defined to the world in general by the aggregate of their words and deeds. They are equally fallible and open to criticism for their faults. The responsibility remains with individuals like you and me to examine their words and deeds in the light of holy scripture. (1 John 4:1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”) That is how God-pleasing unity is discovered.

Bishop Hansen is concerned that if homosexuality defines the ELCA, there will be corporate division. Yet outward division can occur for a multitude of reasons, both good and bad. If some wish to depart from the ELCA about the issue of homosexuality, it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with Hansen’s “Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Lutherans in the ELS accept the Bible’s perspective on homosexuality: that such practices are sinful, so that homosexuality challenges and ultimately can destroy faith in Christ. For anyone who agrees with the ELS, it would make perfect sense to separate from the ELCA, which has contradicted what the Bible says about homosexuality. It would uphold the Gospel.

Love and the Fulfilling of the Law: Toward Unity and Peace

The adversaries, in the Confutation, have also quoted Colossians 3:14 against us, “love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” From this they conclude that love justifies because it makes people perfect … This is far from Paul’s meaning, who never allows Christ to be excluded from the Atonement. Therefore, he speaks not about personal perfection, but about the integrity common to the Church. For this reason, he says that love is a bond or connection to show that he speaks about the binding and joining together of the many members of the Church. In all families and in all states unity should be nourished by mutual offices, and peace cannot be maintained unless people overlook and forgive certain mistakes among themselves. In a similar way, Paul commands that there should be love in the Church in order that it may preserve unity, bear with the harsher manners of brethren as there is need, and overlook certain less serious mistakes. This must happen or else the Church will fly apart into various schisms, and hostilities and factions and heresies will arise from the schisms.

…. On the other hand, perfection (i.e., the Church’s integrity) is preserved when the strong bear with the weak, when the people put up with some faults in the conduct of their teachers, and when the bishops make some allowances for the people’s weakness. … Furthermore, it is disgraceful for the adversaries to preach so much about love while they don’t show it anywhere. What are they doing now? They are tearing apart churches. They are writing laws in blood and asking the most merciful prince, the emperor, to enforce them. They are killing priests and other good men if any one of them has slightly indicated that he does not entirely approve of their clear abuses. What they are doing is not consistent with their claims of love, which if the adversaries would follow, the churches would be peaceful and the state would have peace. This turmoil would be lessened if the adversaries would stop being so bitter about certain traditions. … The adversaries easily forgive themselves, but do not likewise forgive others according to the passage in the poet, “‘I forgive myself,’ Maevius said.”

Concordia, p. 116-117

Appeal Commission Report 2

I’d been asked about this report, and what was its connection to the previous Appeal Commission report. This report relates to a second appeal from a different appellant, in a different case.

Four congregations and their pastors have publicly entered a state of confessional protest against the way the synod president handled the confrontation between himself and Pastor Rolf Preus. (If you don’t know anything about that, this might not interest you. If you are part of an ELS church, you may want to educate yourself.) All four have subsequently been deemed to be separated from the fellowship of the ELS. The fourth entered its state of confession after the other three, and upon learning of its fellowship status, appealed its suspension to the synod convention.

What follows is the text of the Appeals Commission report. I include it here for information only. My analysis will follow, later.

Continue reading “Appeal Commission Report 2”