Faith Related Q and A|
|» ||Should WELS congregations accept government money for payroll expenses etc. during this Coronavirus
pandemic? Is this ethical? I was taught that with government money comes government control.|
A very recent question addressed this subject matter.
Part of the response to that question stated: “Each WELS congregation had the responsibility of determining whether or not to participate in that program.” The program referenced is the Paycheck Protection Program.
You can read the question and the entire response here.
|» ||I am a practicing WELS member and want to say thank you for having courage to answer so many questions that, in my view, are not really questions seeking understanding. They are questions designed to say "I got you" or to discredit biblical truths. Considering this, do you publish all questions submitted to this website or do you edit or throw some out because they are inflammatory or not appropriate given the mission of our church body?|
Thank you for your kind words. It is a privilege to interact with and respond to questioners from around the country and the world.
I can assure you that the great, great majority of questions (95%+) submitted to the website receive responses that are also published on the website. If questioners receive a private response, it is because the subject matter is not appropriate for the website or the information provided by questioners could potentially identify individuals or congregations. Any editing of questions takes place because the submissions are lengthy or contain writing errors.
God willing, all questioners receive biblical responses that are helpful for their Christian faith and living.
|» ||Should WELS churches take government money meant for small businesses? Church is non-profit? Is this part of separation of church and state?|
One of the programs of the CARES Act was the Paycheck Protection Program. It was “designed to keep small businesses, including qualifying non-profit organizations, afloat during mandated Coronavirus Disease 2019 (‘COVID-19’) related closures.” The program provided potentially forgivable loans for small businesses, which included nonprofit organizations like churches. Each WELS congregation had the responsibility of determining whether or not to participate in that program. Below is information that WELS shared with called workers in April 2020:
“One program under the CARES Act receiving quite a bit of attention is the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Under the PPP, certain businesses, including nonprofit organizations (which would include WELS congregations and WELS affiliated ministries) may be eligible to receive a potentially forgivable loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA). Generally, the loans are for the lessor of $10,000,000 or 2.5 times the 2019 average monthly payroll cost. PPP loans may be helpful to nonprofit organizations by providing money to those organizations to pay for certain qualifying expenses, such as payroll costs for called and hired workers who are still employed, mortgage and rent payments, and utility costs.
“We do not view this as a dependence on the government for carrying out ministry; rather it should be viewed as a type of restitution to compensate for financial hardships resulting from government actions to mitigate the spread of the infection.
“We also encourage all of our members to realize that financial assistance from the government is not a substitute for faithful Christian stewardship. Please remember to support your congregation’s ministry and called workers with your faithful offerings, even if you are not able to gather for worship.”
Another provision of the CARES Act provides charitable contribution incentives. That provision created a new “above the line” deduction (i.e. for taxpayers who take the standard deduction). This deduction will permit them to deduct up to $300 of annual monetary contributions.
|» ||I am a lifelong member of WELS. I am very happy that the WELS is a Bible teaching church, but I have a problem with the end of the Athanasian Creed - "Those who have done good will enter eternal life, but those who have done evil will go into eternal fire." That statement is not the true Christian faith as the next sentence in the creed calls out. I've read your responses to others who had made similar comments concerning the Athanasian Creed. The reader of the Athanasian Creed is to understand that the statement "Those who have done good will enter eternal life, but those who have done evil will go into eternal fire" implies that those who believe in Jesus as their Savior will receive forgiveness for their sins, and thereby be saved, while those who do not believe that Jesus is their Savior will receive eternal damnation. I was hoping that the new WELS hymnal will either eliminate the Athanasian Creed altogether, or add an explanation below the creed clarifying the questionable statements at the end. The WELS does a very good job preaching and teaching that salvation is only obtained through faith in Jesus, and not by good works, but then once every year on Trinity Sunday they kind of contradict that good and solid doctrine by using the Athanasian Creed. Is there any plan to address this issue in the new hymnal?|
Your question is one that many people ask when they read the Athanasian Creed. Your question also demonstrates the value of providing an explanation—in the service folder or by way of verbal announcement—when congregations use the Athanasian Creed in a worship service.
The section of the creed you cited reflects the language of Scripture regarding God’s judgment of humanity (Matthew 16:27; John 5:28-29; Romans 2:6-10; 2 Corinthians 5:10). God certainly judges what is in the heart. It is faith in Jesus Christ alone that saves, and it is unbelief that condemns (Mark 16:16). Salvation is entirely God’s doing; we do not contribute to our salvation in any way (Romans 3:28; Galatians 3:11; Ephesians 2:8-9).
What Scripture does explain is that saving faith and condemning unbelief manifest themselves in people’s lives. And so on the last day, the Lord will point out the good works that Christians have done and the sins that unbelievers have committed (Matthew 25:31-46). Those good works of Christians were not the payment for their salvation; the good works were the evidence of Spirit-worked saving faith in Jesus who paid the penalty for their sins. The sins of unbelievers will be singled out because they rejected the only means of forgiveness for their sins.
What the parable of the sheep and the goats illustrates is that God will demonstrate how fair a judge he is. He judges what is in the heart. A person cannot see into the heart of another as God can, so God will provide the evidence for the judgment of the heart that he made. Once again, that parable shows us that on the last day no sins of believers will be brought up. That is because there are no sins to bring up; Christians enjoy complete forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ. On the other hand, the sins of unbelievers will be mentioned because they cannot do good works (Romans 14:23) and, because they have rejected the only means of forgiveness, their sins condemn them.
We could think of the section in the Athanasian Creed (“Those who have done good will enter eternal life, but those who have done evil will go into eternal fire.”) this way: “Those who believed in Jesus as their Savior—and saving faith always produces visible fruit—will enter eternal life, but those who rejected Jesus—such people cannot perform good works, nor do they enjoy forgiveness of sins—will go into eternal fire.”
While the wording of the Athanasian Creed will not be changed in the new hymnal, there are plans to include introductory paragraphs that will provide a brief explanation of the sentence you questioned. The explanation will focus on thoughts stated earlier in this response.
|» ||I am hearing about contemplative prayer and centering prayer. Because I can’t find a crystal clear definition of either, I’m not certain whether they’re the same or different things. If either involves emptying the mind, I realize that’s of Eastern religion and not biblical. Yet I hear of so-called Christians doing these practices, and want to respond biblically. Please enlighten me on these terms.|
The terms are often used interchangeably. The terms describe an approach to prayer associated with Christian mysticism. That approach seeks to affect one’s consciousness by means of repeating words and employing breathing techniques. This has the supposed purpose of assisting people to listen to the voice of God.
Considering this, you have reason to be concerned about the practice. Prayer certainly is communication with God, but that communication is not to consist of “babbling” (Matthew 6:7). Communicating with God in prayer also does not mean that we put our minds in neutral (1 Corinthians 14:15). No, prayer is communication with God that involves our entire being.
While prayer is our means of communicating with God, God has told us that he communicates with people through his word, the Bible (Hebrews 1:1-2). We do not look for God to speak to us beyond his written word.
Do remind others of the wonderful privilege of prayer that God has given his children. Your reminders can also include what the Bible does and does not teach about prayer.
|» ||A friend gave me books by Joseph Prince, describing how we can give ourselves Holy Communion every day if we choose during this COVID-19 time. I am skeptical about this. Is this approved by WELS? Is it vital that we continue even in different times to administer the body and blood of Christ to ourselves? I had never heard of this. Thank you.|
Thankfully, restrictions on gathering for corporate worship, which includes receiving the Lord’s Supper, are easing.
When there were tighter restrictions two months ago, a Together newsletter contained information about the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. This link will take you to that newsletter. Look for the section titled “Communion.”
You can subscribe to Together newsletters here.
|» ||Was Jesus one of God's angels?|
Angels are created beings, created during the six days of creation. As the eternal Son of God, Jesus was involved in their creation (John 1:1-3). Rather than being an angel, Jesus created the angels.
What can confuse people, I imagine, is that the Bible sometimes calls Jesus “the angel of the Lord.” When he appeared to people before he took on human flesh at his birth at Bethlehem, the Bible calls Jesus “the angel of the Lord.” Genesis 16:7-16 is one of those sections in the Bible that describes such an appearance.
What can eliminate that confusion is keeping in mind that the basic definition of “angel” is “messenger.” When Jesus appeared to people prior to his incarnation, he brought messages concerning God’s plan of salvation—that centered in him.
|» ||Was the Baptism of John the Baptist the same as the Baptism done by the disciples after the ascension of Jesus?|
Through John the Baptist’s preaching, God changed the hearts of people. Sinners were led to confess their sins and acknowledge Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah, the Lamb of God (John 1:29).
The Baptism John performed sealed God’s forgiveness to people. The Baptism John performed provided the vehicle through which the Holy Spirit could produce and strengthen faith, and also repentance in people’s hearts. The Holy Spirit changes hearts through the gospel in word and sacrament. John’s Baptism was essentially the same as that done by Jesus’ disciples after his ascension into heaven.
|» ||1 Cor 3:2 "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able."
What is the meat and where can I get it? I still feel like all I am fed is milk.|
The apostle Paul used the imagery of milk and solid food to describe how he ministered to spiritually immature Christians in Corinth. That imagery is what the writer to the Hebrews also employed (Hebrews 5:13-14).
The “meat” of the Christian faith refers to the deeper doctrines of the Bible and the scriptural truths that are challenging to our human minds.
I would say that a good place to get that “meat” is at congregational Bible studies. Bible classes offer a question and answer and discussion format that can help guide Christians through a study of Scripture—including those parts that are easy and those that are more difficult to understand.
I am having a bit of problem that I am not sure how to solve in regard to correcting wrongs. You see when I was a college student, my friend lent me his Netflix login info for about a year. I used it on a few occasions throughout the year and went on to get my own Netflix account. But I still feel guilty because I did not pay for it when my friend lent me his. You see lending someone else your Netflix info is a violation of the Terms of Service (which I did not while I was using my friend's account). I want to try to pay Netflix back, but my family says that seems crazy since Netflix is a transaction based business and does not take donations (This would cost $192 total).
Similarly, for the last 3 years of my college education I have had an Amazon Prime Student Account which is half the price of a regular prime account. I was unaware of this until last week, but I found out from the Terms of Service that I am not supposed to share my account or account benefits with my family (My mom runs the account). I feel guilty and want to pay Amazon for those three years as a regular account (Which would cost $360 total).
I know that God forgives me and I know that I cannot correct everything I have done wrong. I just want to correct the things I can. I do not know if I am doing this to please God or instead appease my guilty conscience and sense of pride. I just want your opinion on if trying to pay the money back is an idea that makes sense, or should I just ask God for forgiveness and move on?|
As Christians, we confess our sins to God (Psalm 32:5). We know that such confession is not meaningless; God forgives sins (1 John 1:9).
Your question concerns fruits of repentance: undoing a wrong or making amends for what we have done. Since you stated that you cannot make donations to the companies you mentioned, I imagine a course of action could be buying gift cards for those businesses and then giving them to others. That way, you would be returning money to the businesses without deriving personal benefit. The decision on what to do is entirely yours.
If you do happen to go that route, I trust you will maintain the distinction between proper fruits of repentance and improper thoughts about the forgiveness of sins. God’s forgiveness is full and free. Our actions do not contribute to our forgiveness (Titus 3:5). God’s blessings to you and your family!