15 October, 2009

Who I Am & Who This Blog Is For (Updated 23.10.09)

Greetings & welcome!

My name is Mark Henderson and I graduated from Luther Seminary in North Adelaide, Australia, with a B.Th. (Hons) and Grad. Dip. Min. in 2002. I have been in pastoral ministry for seven years in the Lutheran Church of Australia. I consider myself to be a conservative and confessional Lutheran in the best sense of both words, but also one who for precisely those reasons rejoices when aspects of the evangelical and catholic teaching that I treasure as Lutheran doctrine are found in representatives of other confessions as well. I am married with a family, which is to say that I also have a life outside of blogging!

While theology is my passion, I am not a professional theologian, by which I mean while I am trained in theology I am a working pastor who does not have large resources at his disposal in terms of time for research or easy access to a theological library. I am therefore reliant in this project on my own spare time and largely on my own library resources and other materials. Considering these circumstances, this is perhaps an ambitious, even audacious undertaking.

Why do it then?

My motivation is two-fold. Firstly, I have been thinking about the subject and collecting material on it for over ten years now, in fact I have collected what must amount to hundreds of quotes collected from sources both ancient and modern, and since the blogosphere provides an easy way to share this material with others who are interested, I thought, why not? If anyone out there has material they would like to share for the purposes of this blog, feel free to contact me (acroamaticus"at"yahoo.com.au). Some have already shared and I thank them for it. It may be that I already have the material you have collected, but it is possible that you may have one or two gems, in terms of patristic or other quotes, that I haven't turned up yet.

Secondly, like most apologetic endeavours, this project is undertaken as much, if not more, for those "within the camp" as those outside it. It is not my primary goal to persuade anyone who has already made their mind up on the issue of Lutheran catholicity, or rather, as they may see it, the lack of it, to reconsider any decisions they have made in regard to which communion they belong to. Not because the case for Lutheran catholicity is not strong, quite the opposite in my judgement, but because religion is an area where the heart as much as the head is operative. Lack of information and faulty thinking can be corrected if a person has a teachable spirit, but it often seems to me to be the case with those who have left the Lutheran communion over this issue that "the heart has its reasons that reason doesn't know". It would seem then that the hearts of such people must experience disappointment with their new communion before their minds may be led to reconsider their decision to leave the Lutheran communion, and perhaps then resources such as this will be helpful to them.
My primary goal is to help convince Lutherans that their faith has sufficient historical precedent to reasonably and confidently be deemed catholic, and also to provide a resource that may lead those who are considering leaving the Lutheran communion precisely because they doubt our catholicity to reconsider. If I can achieve this, albeit imperfectly, then I will consider this work a worthwhile endeavour.

A word about methodology. The material to be catalogued here will be built up in layers, so to speak, consisitng of the quotations from various sources which I am setting forth as testimony to the catholicity of Lutheran doctrine, along with scriptural and confessional references. Finally, I hope to provide a historical-theological commentary to link it all up (the "layering" may not always proceed in this order, depending on what I feel like working on). The last 'layer' will be the most demanding in terms of analysis, skill, time and resources and may well be beyond me working alone. Because of this "layering" methodology, early posts will be significantly expanded, even reworked entirely at later stages, and you will be notified as this happens.
It should be stated clearly that human authors are cited not as authorities in themselves, but as witnesses to how the teaching of scripture has been received and taught in the church in various times and places. Of course, there is always a danger in citing authors out of context, which is why the references to the original writings will always be given, that the reader may follow these up for him or her self.

Don't expect progress to be speedy. I have to collate my hard copy files and transfer the data to electronic form in most cases. But I do hope progress will be steady. Given the time at my disposal, I envisage that it will take between one to two years to complete, but I certainly hope that within six months the basic shape of the project will be evident and there will be some meat on the bones as well. Keep an eye on the 'Articles of Faith & Categories' list to the right as it will expand over time, beginning with the most fundamental doctrinal topics and branching out later to matters of practise, more or less following the pattern of the Augsburg Confession.

Quotations will be drawn from the patristic, medieval, Reformation and later periods and from writers of various confessional allegiances, and will thus be truly catholic in the basic sense of drawn from as universal a selection of Christian theological literature as possible.

I hope this material will also be serviceable to pastors and others as a presentation or study for educational or apologetic purposes; feel free to use the material for these purposes, but only on a not for profit basis and with acknowledgement of authorship if my words are used - of course, the quotations themselves in most cases will be in the public domain. If you do use this material or the "concept" and outline in a presentation, please let me know as I would be most interested to hear about responses.

(In regard to comments, my present attitude is this: I welcome constructive comment, but please be aware that my determination of what is constructive may well differ from yours! Let your comments be on topic, factual, civilised, and concise (I will grant latitude here if what you are saying demands it), and I will let them appear. If you think I'm factually wrong on something, by all means say so, but if you think I'm going to give you unlimited free space here to argue contrary to the purposes of this blog, think again. That's what your blog is for.
No ad hominem arguments either, be charitable in your interpretation of what others say, and bring your sense of humour to the table. I do not wish this to be a place for intemperate and/or interminable argument or a verbal re-fighting of the Thirty Years War. If you wish to pursue that sort of thing, take it to your own blogs. There are reasonable limits to discussion here and as the blog owner I will decide and enforce them. If you bear that in mind, then comments from Orthodox, Roman Catholic and other brethren (and sisters!) are most welcome.
I hope that all sounds reasonable and fair.)

May God grant that you will not only discover Lutheran catholicity here, but also grow in faith and love toward him by learning more about this golden thread of evangelical and catholic teaching that runs through church history.

S.D.G. Glory to God Alone!
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