1999-8-23 Approval Essay

Here is my Approval Essay for ordination, submitted August 23, 1999.  It consists of the following elements:

1. A sermon envisioned to be preached on New Year’s Eve, 1999.
2. An essay about arguments for and against capital punishment, relating to the Lutheran Confessions.
3. A section on Leadership and the Practice of Ministry referring to religious pluralism.
4. A section on the person in ministry on effective pastoral ministry.

Approval Essay

Eric Lemonholm

United in Christ Lutheran Church

116 Adams Street, Eveleth, MN 55734

August 23, 1999


  1. I.                   Scripture

December 31, 1999

United in Christ Lutheran Church, Eveleth, Minnesota

New Year’s Eve Service, Year B

Ecclesiastes 3:1-13, Revelation 21:1-6a, Psalm 8, Matthew 25:31-46

  1. A.     Sermon

It is New Year’s Eve of 1999.  We are worshipping here together at an uncertain time.  Outside, it is bitter cold.  In just a few hours, the year 2000 will begin, perhaps bringing with it power outages and temporary food shortages, perhaps not.  We do not know exactly what havoc the Y2K problem will bring upon us, our community, and the world.  It is indeed an uncertain time.  Hopefully, we are prepared for the challenges that may lie ahead this coming week, but we do not know for sure.

More than just the Y2K computer problem is on our minds tonight, however.  The year 2000 is perceived in our society as a transitional time, the last year of one millenium and the doorway to another.  Of course, this is just because of the calendar we use to keep track of the years.  With the Hebrew calendar used by many of our Jewish neighbors, this coming year is not the year 2000, but the year 5,761! 

The year 2000 is important to us, though, especially since all of us who are less than 100 years old have lived all of our lives in the 20th century, the 1900s, and now we stand on the threshold of the 21st century.  I admit, Mindy and I think it is pretty neat that our second child will be born in the year 2000.  Even if it is just a number, the year 2000 means something to us because we keep track of our lives, our stories, by the dates on the calendar.

The year 2000 is also meaningful for us as Christians, because it means that the Christian church has been around for almost two millennia.  We think that Jesus was born in about 4 BC, so that 2000 years ago Jesus was a little child in Nazareth.  Symbolically, the year 2000 is a time for us to reflect on where the church has come in the last two millennia, and to ask where the church should go at the threshold of the third millennium of its history.  The year 2000 is a chance for all of us to reflect on the uncertainties of the future, and on our hopes for the future that are founded on the promises of God in Christ Jesus.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”  The poetry we read responsively from Ecclesiastes is one many of us know more from the popular song than from the Bible.  It tells us there are good times and bad times in our lives, hard times and easy times, times of happiness and times of sorrow and grief. 

Some of us in this congregation today have lived through the Great Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights Era, Vietnam.  Many of us have gone through times of economic hardship, layoffs, work stoppages at the mines.  Most of us have endured times of grief for loved ones lost.  We have also gone through times of great joy—childhood, good times with friends, loved ones, wives or husbands, our children, times of good hard work, times of play and rest.  We know that, in whatever season of life we are, whether life is easy or terribly difficult, we are in God’s hands.  Whatever trials are ahead of us in the year 2000, we do not face them alone, because God is with us.  Our Lord, who created the heavens, the moon and the stars, cares for us human beings (Ps. 8)!

While we take care and plan ahead for tomorrow, as Christians we need not be anxious about the future.  The passage that Mike [the reader] read for us from the book of Revelation gives us a glimpse of the future that God has in store for us and for all creation.  God says “See, I am making all things new.”  We know that nothing in all eternity can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.  We wait in hope for the fulfillment of God’s kingdom.

As we wait in hope for the coming kingdom of God— Lord, thy kingdom come!—we are not idle, however.  In the Small Catechism, Martin Luther explains the part of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come,” like this:

What is this?

Answer: In fact, God’s kingdom comes on its own without our prayer, but we ask in this prayer that it may also come to us.

How does this come about?

Answer: Whenever our heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit, so that through the Holy Spirit’s grace we believe God’s Holy Word and live godly lives here in time and hereafter in eternity.[1]

Through “the Holy Spirit’s grace we believe God’s Holy Word.”  Through the Holy Spirit’s grace we “live godly lives here in time and hereafter in eternity.”  That is not to say that we are perfect.  There are times when we doubt God’s Word.  There are times when our lives are not very godly.  Faith and obedience are always gifts of God to us.  We can pray every day, “Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!  Lord, I will obey you today.  Help my disobedience!” 

As we wait in hope, trusting that God will keep his promise to make all things new and bring his kingdom to fulfillment, we will continue to follow Jesus—though we stumble, by grace we will not fall!  By grace, we will be sheep and not goats.  By grace, we will be emboldened by faith in Jesus Christ to feed the hungry, give the thirsty water, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, take care of the sick, and visit the imprisoned.  Our Heavenly Father, may it be so, that we are sheep and not goats.  We know that it is by grace that we are your sheep.  Amen.  We wait for Jesus in faith, hope, and love.  We wait in faith that Christ was crucified, died, and raised for me.  We wait in hope in the promise of God to make all things new and establish his kingdom on earth as in heaven.  We wait in active love for our neighbors.

As we await the coming of this New Year, the year 2000, we know that this year is really like all others.  It is one more Anno Domini, another year of our Lord.  It is a year that brings with it some uncertainty, but it is a year that is in God’s hands.  In the year 2000, God will give us new opportunities to exercise our active faith in Christ, our active hope in God’s promised future, and our active love for God and our neighbors.  God will grant us the grace to undertake this journey!

Let us pray: Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown.  Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.[2]

  1. B.     Setting and Context

The setting for this sermon is a New Year’s Eve service at United in Christ Lutheran Church in Eveleth, Minnesota, where I am serving as intern.  Eveleth is in the heart of the Iron Range.  Much of the congregation either works in the mines or works in a related support industry.  All members live either in small towns in the area or out in the country.  The congregation is a good mix of young and old.  Many of the older members are first or second generation immigrants from Finland (although there are some Swedes and Norwegians in the church also!).  New Year’s Eve is in what is usually the coldest time of the year up here, with wind chills commonly dipping below -50™. F.  Because of the small town/ rural nature of the congregation, and the cold climate of Northern Minnesota, the Y2K bug is a serious issue.  A power outage could potentially come at a time when people are snowed in, during bitterly cold weather.

I envision this event as a short Service of the Word, with youth and adults together providing the music, followed by a festive, intergenerational coffee an’.[3]  Despite the potential problems of this New Year, we can celebrate the coming of a New Year because we have a faithful God.

  1. II.                The Church’s Confessions
  2. A.     Arguments for and against capital punishment

The best arguments for capital punishment are based on either or both of two principles: retributive justice and practical necessity.  In terms of justice, it is clear that one who has committed murder, except under clearly mitigating circumstances, has committed a grave injustice against his neighbor or neighbors.  There is no doubt that such a wrongdoer deserves death for what he has done: the Scriptures and many cultural traditions worldwide agree with the principle, “you shall give life for life” (Ex. 21:23b).[4]  No decent and sane person wants to live in a society wherein there is no penalty for the crime of murder; such a society would be both unjust and dangerous.  Capital punishment is a common way that societies throughout history have used to punish murderers and other serious wrongdoers, such as traitors.  While capital punishment in no way restores the murdered one to life, it at least attempts, as it were, to even out the scales of justice by taking the life of the murderer.

A related argument for capital punishment is based on practical necessity.  A murderer has lost her right to live in society not only to meet the demands of justice, but also to protect the rest of society from the murderer.  In earlier stages of history, a community had only two viable ways to deal with a murderer: capital punishment or banishment.  For example, it was not feasible for villages or even small city-states in the ancient world to build, maintain and guard prisons to house and feed dangerous criminals for life.  Thus, murderers could be either banished or put to death.  The problem with banishment was that the one banished could always return to the community and kill again, or he could visit his crimes on a new community.  Thus, the best way to deal with murderers in a traditional society was to permanently remove them from society by executing them.  It can be argued that, in contemporary society, capital punishment is still the most effective way of “permanently incapacitating convicted murderers.”[5]

The best arguments against capital punishment also fall into theological/ philosophical and practical arguments.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus quotes the law of retributive justice from the Torah—‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’—only to turn it on its head: “But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer.  But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also…” (Matt. 5:38-9).  In John 8, Jesus saves a woman from the biblically mandated capital punishment for adultery.  If we are to follow Jesus, ought we not also to save others from capital punishment?[6] 

This basic perspective was put forcefully by an experienced prison chaplain, Pastor Joseph Ravenell, who ministers to inmates on death row.  Pastor Ravenell stated that “We who follow Jesus Christ ought not to be among the ones crying ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’”[7]  Jesus was executed after due process under Roman law as a traitor.  From our perspective of faith, we know that Jesus’ punishment for being ‘The King of the Jews’ was unjust.  But Pilate and the Jerusalem officials were not mistaken in perceiving Jesus as a threat to the social order of Judea—he had, indeed, disrupted the peace in the Temple at the most dangerous time of the year, Passover.  In any case, our Lord’s execution on a cross, his teaching of turning the other cheek, and his example of forgiving the woman who deserved death (he did not, presumably, forgive the man), should cause us think carefully before we shout “Electrocute him!” to our neighbor. 

Pastor Ravenell argued that we Christians ought to be concerned with forgiveness and reconciliation, not retribution or vengeance.  In his work with death row inmates, Pastor Ravenell found that capital punishment often cut short the inmates’ opportunities to hear the good news of forgiveness through Jesus Christ, repent, and be saved.  Or, if they had repented of their sins and come to faith, he still opposed taking their lives—if God had forgiven the murderer, why could not we forgive him?   Pastor Ravenell is by no means sentimental about death row inmates; he knows that they are very dangerous people that should not be allowed to be in society.  Neither is he a total pacifist; he spent many years as a military chaplain.  As someone who regularly ministered to inmates, their families, and the families of the victims of violence, however, he could not reconcile capital punishment with the Christian belief that “the wages of sin”—for all people—“is death, but free the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  From God’s perspective we are not so different than death row inmates.  Thus, although we rightly keep murderers out of society, we ought not to crucify them.  It is not without meaning that the board upon which people are strapped for lethal injection is cruciform.

The practical reasons to oppose the death penalty are well summarized in the E.L.C.A.’s “A Social Statement on: The Death Penalty.”  In the modern industrialized world, life in prison without the possibility of parole is a viable way to keep murderers permanently out of society.  In fact, many societies that are less violent than the United States use imprisonment rather than capital punishment to punish murderers and keep them from harming others.  Clearly, capital punishment is not the only way to effectively punish violent offenders or to discourage violence.  In fact, in an era in which a clear alternative to capital punishment exists, it is difficult to defend the notion that killing killers is an effective deterrent.

In the United States, moreover, it has been clearly documented that “the gender, race, mental capacity, age, and affluence of the accused,” as well as the “race of the victim,” affect who is charged with and convicted of capital crimes.[8]  When a poor African American is charged with murder, for example, we in America expect that he will not receive the same treatment as John DuPont or O.J. Simpson.  When convicted of similar crimes, minorities and the poor are much more likely to be sentenced to death than whites or the affluent.  This is clearly unjust, and in our society, there is no feasible way to remedy this injustice short of stopping capital punishment.  Especially given the inequalities of our criminal justice system, moreover, it is inevitable that some innocent people are executed along with the guilty.  This is also clearly unjust, and is unconscionable given the clear alternative to capital punishment shown by many of our European allies.  Just as our bloated criminal justice system weighs more heavily on the poor and on people of color, so capital punishment falls proportionately more on them.

In our society, finally, life in prison is also more cost effective than capital punishment.  Suggested ways to bring down the cost of capital punishment, and to increase its frequency—by limiting the rights of the accused to appeal, or by finding cheaper ways to kill them—are plainly roads down which a democratic society should not go.  A sentence of death once carried out is irreversible; thus, of all sentences a death sentence should be open to appeal, especially given the inequities revealed in the preceding paragraph.  If the system is already unjust and liable to error, reducing the rights of the accused (and that could potentially be anyone of us citizens) will only increase the injustice and fallibility of the system.  Regarding suggestions for making executions cheaper: Do the citizens of the United States really want to go down in history as yet another society that excelled at frequent economical executions?  Both crosses and gas chambers come to mind.

B. & C.  My position on capital punishment, and its relation to Article 16 of the Augsburg Confession

As one may guess from my explication of the arguments for and against capital punishment, I oppose it.  I cannot support a practice that, in our society, is unjust, ineffective, and “contributes to a climate of vindictiveness and violence.”[9]  However, my opposition to the death penalty is more practical than philosophical or even, perhaps, theological.  I agree with Article XVI of the Augsburg Confession that “Christians may without sin occupy civil offices… punish evildoers with the sword, engage in just wars….”  In a pre-modern society, capital punishment may have been roughly equivalent to a modern police officer shooting an armed assailant.  For the sake of our neighbors, we support the right of law enforcement officials to take the lives of dangerous people, if necessary.  In fact, when police officers act with lethal force justly, they are upholding the “rule and laws… instituted and ordained by God for the sake of good order” (CA XVI).  In a fallen world, there are times when force by the just is necessary to counter force by the unjust and evil.  In the past, capital punishment may have been the only way to protect the innocent from murderers.  Even if imperfectly applied, it may well have been necessary in other cultural contexts, just as lethal force may be necessary to stop armed assailants today.  A categorical, absolute opposition to the death penalty thus seems to ignore the cultural circumstances in which the death penalty may well have been the only way to protect the innocent.

Those circumstances, however, are not our own.  We have the ability and resources to keep murderers off the streets permanently.  Given the unjust distribution of executions in our society, it is imperative that, since we can stop executing convicted murderers, we should stop.  Once the practical necessity of capital punishment is removed, moreover, our Christian beliefs in forgiveness and reconciliation should cause us to restrain our natural inclinations for vengeance and retributive justice.  In an analogous manner, while we rightly laud police officers or others who take the life of an armed assailant, we would (and should) prosecute for murder anyone who takes the life of an assailant who has already been apprehended.  One is an act of bravery and a proper use of “the sword” to protect one’s neighbors, while the other is a cowardly, unjust act of vengeance.  In our society today, capital punishment is also a cowardly, unjust act of vengeance.  As Christians, we should thus oppose it.


  1. III.             Leadership and the Practice of Ministry
  2. A.    “It doesn’t matter what religion you practice since we are all worshiping the same God anyway.”

 

This parishioner’s comment is a sentiment commonly heard in our society today.  It would be worthwhile to delve deeper into what she meant by it.  Often, such an opinion is expressed in thinking of ecumenical relations between Christians.  For example, while there are serious theological differences between Lutherans and Roman Catholics, we can still consider one another (separated) sisters and brothers in Christ.  Practically speaking, however, it does matter whether you are Lutheran or Catholic, because our theological and practical differences are real, and they make a difference in how one understands and lives one’s faith.  Since, however, we do worship the same Triune God, whether one is Lutheran or Catholic does not ultimately matter—in the light of eternity.

There is also good reason to make such a statement in relation to our Jewish neighbors.  Both Christians and Jews worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God revealed in the Tanakh/ Old Testament.  Paul struggled with his people Israel’s relationship with God in Romans 9-11.  It is not possible, I believe, to completely resolve the tensions in these chapters, but Paul is clear that “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew” (Rom. 11:2).  We Gentiles are, and will always be, “wild olive shoots” grafted onto the cultivated olive tree; the Israelites are “the natural branches” that are ordained by God to be “grafted back into their own olive tree” (Rom. 11:17-36).[10] 

While it is correct to say that we Christians worship the same God as Jews, however, it is not correct to conclude that whether one is Christian or Jewish is inconsequential.  That Paul’s fellow Israelites reject Christ causes Paul “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” (Rom. 9:2).  For Paul, at least, Israel’s lack of belief in Christ was not a minor theological difference.  Christians believe in the God who is identified by his relations with Israel and, additionally and uniquely, with an Israelite named Jesus of Nazareth.[11]  The theologian Robert W. Jenson defines Christian theology as “the thinking internal to the task of speaking the gospel, whether to humankind as message or to God in praise and petition.”[12]  The gospel is the message of the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth; the church is the community that witnesses to this Resurrection.[13] 

This is the scandal of Christian particularity: in addition to such historical events as the Exodus, God has definitively identified himself in the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, so that “to attend theologically to the Resurrection of Jesus is to attend to the Triune God.”[14]  The Resurrection of Jesus is an event in history that is also an event in the life of the Triune God.  In faith to accept the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as the definitive self-identification of the God of Abraham and Sarah is simultaneously what defines a Christian,[15] and, in terms of beliefs, what separates Christians from Jews.  That is not to say that our Jewish friends do not know God, but that we Christians know and relate to the God of Abraham as the Triune God, as revealed definitively in the Resurrection of Jesus by God through the power of the Spirit.  That is a difference between Christianity and Judaism that makes a big difference in how one relates to God and to one’s neighbors. 

If, indeed, being Jewish or Christian makes a significant difference in one’s relationship to God, how much more so with other faiths.  If the only God is the God of Abraham and Sarah, the God who raised Jesus from the dead, then it is by no means certain that all religions worship the same God.  While I do not wish to judge any individual’s relationship vis-à-vis God, it is by no means the case that the God described in current Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness teachings is the one true, living God revealed in Scripture.  Neither is it necessarily true that Krishna or Shiva or Brahma is identical with the God of Moses.  Again, that is not to deny the possibility that the Triune God works in the lives and hearts of Hindus; but it does no religion justice to say that they are all the same.  The parishioner’s opinion may have sprung from a noble desire to not condemn people of other faiths.  However, one does not need to condemn others to hell in order to proclaim to the world the truth of the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ.[16]

  1. B.     Worship Leadership and Religious Pluralism

Building on what I have just written in III.A. above, as well as my answer to Question IV (“Person in Ministry”) below, I do not want to water down the Christian message to some lowest common denominator, which is inoffensive to everyone because it does not say much of anything.  Thus, I will not excise from the liturgy any of the great Trinitarian elements that permeate it.  For example, in the “Brief Order for Confession and Forgiveness,” there are at least three explicitly Trinitarian elements.  While the words of the “Brief Order” are open to adaptation for different liturgical contexts, I would be wary about using non-Trinitarian language in the “Brief Order.”  That we are forgiven “in the name of the Father, and of the X Son, and of the Holy Spirit” is important, because it reveals who is forgiving us: the Triune God.  Both of the announcements of forgiveness state that it is for Christ’s sake that God forgives us.  The second announcement states further that “to those who believe in Jesus Christ [God] gives the power to become the children of God and bestows on them the Holy Spirit.”  Therefore, if one begins the service of word and sacrament with the “Brief Order for Confession and Forgiveness,” or a suitable substitute, the assembly has already heard, spoken, and received in faith the good news of forgiveness by the mercy of God, for Christ’s sake, through the power of the Holy Spirit, in the first moments of the service.  While I am willing to enrich or enliven the “Brief Order,” and adapt it for different liturgical contexts, I will not water it down in Christian worship.

That said, I also want to be respectful of other faiths in Christian worship.  When I have heard ministers put down other religions, it has struck me as triumphalistic, ignorant, and a cowardly form of “preaching to the choir,” because there are usually no Buddhists, Hindus, or Muslims present (which is just as well).  I want to model respect and cooperation with people of other faiths in worship leadership and all other aspects of parish life.  Lutheran worship clearly can be enriched by drawing on other Christian traditions, and we can learn from our Jewish and Muslim neighbors as well. 


  1. IV.             Person in Ministry

The essential calling of Lutheran (and all Christian) pastors is to preach and teach “the Gospel… in its purity” and administer “the holy sacraments… according to the Gospel” (CA VII).  Everything a pastor does should flow from, or be aimed at carrying out, the tasks of preaching and teaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments according to the Gospel in “the assembly of all believers.”  In Article V of the Augsburg Confession, Melanchthon states that through “the Gospel and the sacraments… as through means, [God] gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith, when and where he pleases, in those who hear the Gospel.” 

God has “instituted the office of the ministry,” the Gospel and the sacraments, as the medium through which God’s Spirit works faith in us.  Theoretically, God could have justified us by any way he willed—for example, “by our own merits, works, or satisfactions” (CA IV).  In actuality, however, God justifies us by grace alone, through faith in Christ: “we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith, when we believe that Christ suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us” (CA IV).  Lutheran pastors do those things that God uses to work faith in those who hear the Word and partake of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. 

Properly understood and carried out, these twin tasks are by no means simple or easily mastered.  Indeed, to preach and teach “the Gospel in its purity” and “administer the holy sacraments according to the Gospel” is a never-ending challenge that requires hard work, faith, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  How do I preach and teach the Gospel in its purity today, to this congregation and this time and place?  Certainly, there is no one answer to that question for all times and places.  There is no single method of sharing and nurturing faith in Jesus Christ that we can learn by rote.  Similarly, how do we administer the holy sacraments according to the Gospel today, in this assembly of believers?  Certainly, more is involved in rightly administering the sacraments than merely following the forms of the L.B.W., as important as those are. 

After three years in my first ministry setting, I hope that no one will say of me that “a shameful and insidious plague of security and boredom has overtaken [him].”[17]  I do not want to be a “lazy-belly and presumptuous saint.”[18]  To fail to rightly preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments is a serious lack of faithfulness to one’s pastoral vocation.  As the good Dr. Luther said:

Our office has become something different from what it was under the pope.  It is now a ministry of grace and salvation.  It subjects us to greater burdens and labors, dangers and temptations, with little reward or gratitude from the world.  But Christ himself will be our reward if we labor faithfully.  The Father of all grant it![19]

The practical question, therefore, is how will I assess “the faithfulness and effectiveness” of my ministry?  Weekly preaching and teaching the Gospel in its purity and rightly administering the sacraments in the assembly of believers are the “means” of ordained ministry, through which God “gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith, when and where he pleases, in those who hear the Gospel” (CA V).  Preaching and administering the sacraments are not ends in themselves, but means through which God works faith in us by his Spirit.  Faithful, effective preaching and sacramental administration is that preaching and presiding at table and font through which God’s Holy Spirit works faith in those who hear the word and receive the sacraments.  If I preach in the tongues of angels, but no one hears me, because I have not regularly shown the assembly of believers pastoral love and care, then my preaching is unfaithful (I Cor. 13).  If I preside at the table with artistic flourish, but no one’s faith is fed; or if I preside at baptisms, but the baptized are never invited to join the assembly, then my presiding is ineffective. 

Ultimately, therefore, an effective ministry is one which, by grace, builds up the assembly of all believers in faith.  A faithful minister, I believe, will always be focused on building up the faith of the assembly, through effective preaching, teaching, and administration of the sacraments.  All other aspects of the pastor’s daily work must focus on the goal of upbuilding the congregation.  In accordance with the Great Commission of Matthew 28, moreover, to build up the assembly is not to be curved in upon each other as a cliquish group.  Rather, upbuilding the assembly of believers entails an outward focus, seeking to “make disciples of all nations.”  Effective upbuilding in faith or discipleship making will orient the congregation outward in service and witness to the wider community and the world.


[1] A Contemporary Translation of Luther’s Small Catechism, Study Edition, introduction and translation by Timothy J. Wengert, Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1994, p. 34.

[2] Occasional Services, p. 247.

[3] Coffee an’ is the phrase on the Iron Range for table fellowship: we get together and have coffee an’ whatever good food that’s available

[4] Quoted in the E.L.C.A.’s “A Social Statement on: The Death Penalty,” 1991, p. 6.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Both biblical passages were quoted in Ibid., p. 7.

[7] Lecture, Princeton Theological Seminary, April 8, 1996.  I also had a chance to get to know Pastor Ravenell in Trenton, New Jersey.

[8] “A Social Statement on: The Death Penalty,” 1991, p. 4.

[9] Ibid., p. 7.

[10] It is possible, moreover, to cautiously include Islam in this line of thinking, because of Islam’s Abrahamic origin.  It is difficult to come away from a conversation with a devout Muslim without the strong impression that Allah (in Hebrew El, Elohim) is also the God of Abraham, our God.  The Reformers considered Islam to be “an anti-Trinitarian heresy,” and condemned it as such in CA I.  Although I would not put it in such terms, I essentially agree with their assessment. However heretical (from a Christian perspective) Islamic theology is, the question remains, Is Allah the God of Abraham and Jesus?  If so, Is it possible that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God (the Father), and the communion of the Holy Spirit are with Muslims, even though they have incorrect beliefs about the Trinitarian God?  In any case, it is at least possible to understand Muslims as another set of wild olive shoots, grafted onto the Abrahamic tree.

[11] Robert W. Jenson, Systematic Theology, Volume 1: The Triune God, Oxford: Oxford, 1997, p 42ff.

[12] Ibid., p. 5.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., p. 13.

[15] Cf. CA I, which is in accord with the Nicene Creed.  Of course, Christians use a variety of ways to speak of the Triune life.  The point here is that, as Christians, our speech about God must be Triune, and it must concern God’s revelation in the life, ministry, death, resurrection, and session of Jesus of Nazareth as witnessed to in Scripture.

[16] The Rev. J. Paul Rajashekar made this basic point in a class at L.T.S.P. this past spring.

[17] Preface to LC, par. 5.

[18] Preface to LC, par. 9.

[19] SC Preface, pars. 26-27.

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