A Fifth Improvement for the PMW

For a long time now, I’ve pointed out that testing the spirits (1 John 4:1) is not an exercise of the Keys. How do I know? Because sometimes the “spirits” that need testing don’t belong to living people. For example, doesn’t that passage apply when Christians are reading theological writing from the controversies of the 16th Century? Are they not to test those spirits? Yet, if a Christian, reading Calvin’s Institutes or the Variata of Melanchthon, finds something doctrinally suspect, how is that an exercise of the Keys?

Short answer: it’s not. The Keys are for opening and closing heaven, but Calvin and Melanchthon are now beyond their influence. If they were still living, then maybe our reading and hearing them would eventually lead to an application of God’s Law, but a Christian’s own judgment of their teachings in itself would still not be a use of the Keys.

It is evident where the confusion arose. Christians possess the Keys by virtue of being Christians, that is, having Christ as their God and Savior by faith in His Word. Christians also have a responsibility to judge the teachings they find on earth, a responsibility to test the spirits. Christians have many other things by virtue of their faith, but not all of them are the Keys.

Presently, the PMW says this:

Christians also use the keys to judge the teaching of their pastors and teachers; they are to beware of false prophets (Matthew 7:15-16, 1 John 4:1, 2 Timothy 3:16).

If it must be treated here, I suggest this wording instead:

All Christians have the right and the duty to judge the teaching of their pastors and teachers; they are to beware of false prophets (Matthew 7:15-16, 1 John 4:1, 2 Timothy 3:16).

Doesn’t that make sense?

Hmm. Upgrades.

If something seems different at The Plucked Chicken, I’d be surprised. But if it does, it’s because I’ve upgraded and rearranged some things on the old home network.

It began when I wanted to install something on the server that hosts the PC. (I don’t even remember what it was at this point!) For those who don’t use a Debian-based flavor of Linux, I have to explain how most software installs and upgrades work. It’s pretty easy. Software is split into packages by task, functionality, mutual compatibility, and versions. So the first step is to find the package you want to upgrade or install, and there are package-management tools that make this fairly easy. (Understand that there are somewhere over 6,000 Debian packages.) After that, you use one of several package-management tools to do the upgrade or install. The computer handles the rest: figuring out dependencies, downloading packages and installing them. It even checks cryptographic signatures when possible to make sure nothing insidious has happened.

So I tried installing something remotely on the server machine, but it had been a long time since I’d performed a major upgrade, and years more since I’d upgraded the Linux kernel. I just didn’t want to mess with it, because it sits there, happily running connected only to 115v AC and 10Mb ethernet. Then, I messed with it. The installed system was quite outdated compared to current Debian systems, and it needed a new kernel.

Time past, I’d compile a new kernel without blinking. It was standard operating procedure for a long time while using Linux 2.2 and 2.4 kernels, and pretty easy. (I fondly remember a presentation Joe Abrahamson made to the LUG in Mankato on configuring a kernel for compiling.) This machine was still running 2.4, and Debian is now shipping with something like 2.6.20. I didn’t like the prospect of a full kernel compile on that 333 Mhz machine, not really remembering exactly what hardware it contained. So tried a few short cuts and rebooted it remotely, fingers figuratively crossed. It didn’t come back up. That was Friday morning.

Fast forward past a late night/early morning, one-man emergency computer rebuilding party, involving a GRUB emergency boot disk, a spare hard drive, a CD-ROM drive borrowed from the kids’ room, a newly-burned Debian net-install disk, and an uncooperative DSL modem. As you can see, the PC is up again. Now it has more hard drive space than ever before, sporting its own CD-ROM drive (invaluable for emergency boot/install situations), and a brand-new hostname in honor of a fictional young man whose brief experience as a dragon changed his life for the better. It still has only two wires: 115v AC and now 100Mb ethernet (swapped with kids’ computer).

I remember spending many late hours trying to get Windows or its programs to work. That was many years ago. It’s inevitable, because computers are just complex machines. Even appliances go berserk from time to time. The frustrating thing for me was that I paid good money for the privilege of that sleepless (and often fruitless) wrestling to get things working properly. It was about that time that I tried some alternatives in the hope of finding a Better Way. That included OS2/Warp, and would have included MacOS too, if I could have afforded it. (MacOS 7 was current at the time.) Then, I learned about Linux. I reasoned: “Why pay for my problems, when I can have them all for free?” The surprising thing was that my problems and frustration were also dramatically reduced, while my productivity and satisfaction were dramatically increased. See? You get what you pay for.

Linux is still free, and my problems are still few. Now, though, you can buy low-cost computers running Linux from Wal-Mart and many other places. Also, many (most?) of the embedded devices you use without even realizing it are running Linux.

Just think: my recent upgrade adventure, which wasn’t even so bad overall, used to be so commonplace that it was hardly worth writing about. Now, it’s rare enough — for me, anyway — that I mentioned it on the Plucked Chicken. So thank you, all who contribute to Free Software!

Comment to “Analysis of Appeals Commission Report”

This is a comment submitted by Shawn Stafford, in reply to this post. I’m including it in its own entry because the formatting available in comments is so limited that it doesn’t do the comment justice. Also, the post was so long ago, the comment could easily be overlooked. Without further ado…

Perhaps a memorial would be in order here. I was thinking along the lines of:

Whereas the 2007 ELS Convention elected an appeals commission to hear the appeal of the suspension of St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Williamsburg, Iowa, and

Whereas by doing so the synod acknowledged that a suspension had taken place and that an appeal should be heard in this case, and

Whereas, the appeals commission reported that there was no suspension in this case and therefore no grounds for an appeal, and

Whereas the 2007 ELS Convention floor committee on membership rejected a memorial by the Florida circuit winkel stating that there was no suspension in this case and therefore no grounds for an appeal,

Therefore, be it resolved that the synod in convention reject the conclusions of the appeals commission in the case of St. Timothy since it has rejected its purpose given at the 2007 convention, namely to hear the appeal of St. Timothy’s suspension, and further,

Be it resolved that another appeal commission be elected to carry out the directive of the 2007 ELS Convention in hearing the appeal of the suspension of St. Timothy Lutheran Church, Williamsburg, Iowa.

What do y’all think?


Yet Another Book… for something completely different

This one is not available yet from our local library, but it’s on my medium-short list for books I’d like to read. It was mentioned on the front page of the Christian News. The author is Dinesh D’Souza, and it’s called The Enemy at Home. Here’s from the book’s web site, revealing an observation that has profound implications for the mission of the Church, specifically for the preaching of the Law which must precede the Gospel.

What has changed in America since the 1960s is the erosion of belief in an external moral order. This is the most important political fact of the past half-century. I am not saying that most Americans today reject morality. I am saying that there has been a great shift in the source of morality. Today there is no longer a moral consensus in American society. Today many Americans locate morality not in a set of external commands but in the imperatives of their own heart. For them, morality is not “out there” but “in here.” While many Americans continue to believe in the old morality, there is now a new morality in America which may be called the morality of the inner self, the morality of self-fulfillment.

Is D’Souza right about this shift in the location of morality, or is he idealizing the past? It would seem closely related to the rise of postmodernism. I’d also like to hear what my self-labeled “liberal” friends think of D’Souza’s reasoning relative to the major thesis of this book.

Two Books from NPH

Northwestern Publishing House recently had (is having?) a big sale, and I ordered some books both for my churches and for myself. The two I ordered for myself were The Complete Timotheus Verinus and God So Loved the World, which is a study of biblical doctrine. I’m quite pleased with both hardcover books. Though I have bookmarks in the midst of somewhere between six and a dozen other books, I’ve begun reading the former, and it’s a little hard to stop. I cracked the latter open to read some of it, and found it so clearly written that it would be an important asset to a church library. Of course, I haven’t read the whole thing yet, so there could be some surprises. But so far it looks very good, centered and focused upon Jesus Christ and the atonement He has provided for the sins of the world.

The Complete Timotheus Verinus was mentioned and quoted from by Bruce. What he wrote about it is true, especially that it has much that could and should be applied to present-day church controversies. For example, the author notes that pastors, as public teachers of God’s Word, not only have the responsibility to teach the members of their own flocks, but also to serve as general teachers of the Church and watchmen, ready to identify trouble and warn God’s people against it. This is not a self-appointed responsibility, but one that is laid upon pastors in their call and ordination. When pastors refuse to do this (and I say “when” because we are all quite fallible), we are failing a part of our holy office. So there will be times when we are compelled by our call to say or write things, when we would personally prefer to remain silent for the sake of peace. Few people really enjoy stirring up trouble and painting a target upon their own backs. However, pastors should realize that the target was already painted upon them when they were called to the office, and the “trouble” was already thoroughly stirred up by Christ himself. Turning away from it is the same as turning away from the Cross, and from the Crucified.

In the same context, The Complete Timotheus Verinus makes some practical observations about our personal dealings in the midst of controversy. There will be some who agree with one another, yet who are compelled by conscience or God’s Word to speak in different ways. It is therefore incumbent upon the teachers in the Church to exercise restraint and charity in both speaking or writing and in reading or listening to what others have to say. Yet the teachers will inevitably show varying amounts of restraint and moderation, so they must also willingly make allowances for that, and not condemn one another for their different manners of dealing with the controversy.

Already I have found a great deal that could be, and should have been, applied to the ELS ministry-and-suspension controversy. Don’t you? I look forward to reading more, and I’m glad I have plenty of bookmarks.

Book Tag?

Hmm. Well, I’ve been tagged by Bruce. It seems like kind of a silly game, really, but I’m sure it has interesting results sometimes. And it’s not without some fun. Those who know me understand that this is how I appreciate virtually all games.

When you’re tagged, you’re supposed to

  1. Pick up the nearest book of at least 123 pages. (How’s that for an arbitrary number?)

  2. Open to page 123.

  3. Find the fifth sentence. I don’t know what you’d do if you run out of text. Maybe keep turning pages, or even get the next book.

  4. Post the next three sentences.

  5. Tag five people.

  6. Tag another. (Which seems completely unnecessary)

I don’t think I’ll tag five people. It reminds me too much of Amway.

However, the closest book was one I just bought from the book racks of a Goodwill in Portland. It’s not even shelved properly. It says:

Maybe we’ll be able to hear the difference between alien phonemes, given enough practice, but it’s possible our ears simply can’t recognize the distinctions they consider meaningful. In that case we’d need a sound spectrograph to know what an alien is saying.”

Colonel Weber asked, “Suppose I gave you an hour’s worth of recordings; how long would it take you to determine if we need this sound spectrograph or not?”

For the curious, the book is The Best of SF 4 edited by David G. Hartwell, from 1999. Those lines are from “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang.

I tag the Abrahamsons. That counts for all my tags.

A Fourth Improvement for the PMW

Here’s another improvement about which I’d expect some strong opinions
and brotherly discussion.

First, a bit of explanation. In my mind, a doctrinal statement should
be explicit in what it says, not implicit. That is, it should not
merely imply anything important, leaving the reader to draw the
implication out as something taught by the doctrinal statement.
Instead, it should say what it means at every point. To skim over some
points, leaving them merely implied, is to make the doctrinal statement
less useful by introducing confusion and uncertainty. In fact, it could
be harmful. I don’t claim that this part is necessarily harmful, but in
the wrong hands, or set in the wrong context, it could be. The wrong
context is not even hard to imagine when we survey the state of
“Lutheranism” in America.

Currently, the PMW says:

Christians also use the keys publicly or officially when scripturally
qualified individuals, who have been called by Christ through the
church, forgive and retain sins on behalf of Christ and His church
(Romans 10:14–17, Acts 14:23, Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the
Pope, 67).

Understood correctly, this sentence notes that because
ministers perform the office of the keys, the Christians through whom
God calls them to their office also use the keys, acting to call them on
behalf of Christ.

Continue reading “A Fourth Improvement for the PMW”