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Question & Answer
Faith Related Q and A

» Why is October 31 (or the Sunday before) celebrated as Reformation Day? I realize that's the day Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses, but there were other writings before and after that. When did the "Lutheran" Church as such come into existence with its own organizational structure separate from the Roman Catholic hierarchy?
Because the 95 Theses were translated, published and spread throughout Germany and other parts of Europe very quickly, and because the theses set in motion a chain of events involving the Roman Catholic Church and Martin Luther, the date of their posting is considered the beginning of the Lutheran Reformation. Luther recognized he had no home in the Roman Catholic Church when the church excommunicated him in 1520. Lutheran churches began organizing in Germany as early as 1523. The organizational structure of Lutheran churches in Germany and elsewhere in Europe was not consistent, but Christian freedom allows such variety. Northwestern Publishing House has many resources on the Reformation available. This link will take you to the appropriate section of their web site.

» I see a lot of videos circling around among friends in chat groups, where Christian missionaries or pastors are talking loudly in tongues and pushing people backwards and telling them they are anointed with the Holy Spirit. It's so sickening to see people mocking at Christianity. Is this all true, and are those poor people required to fall back and roll on the ground in the name of the Holy Spirit? Is that what our loving and merciful God expects? What's even more intriguing is that I have read in the Bible that talking in tongues is a gift, but I do not know what it sounds like and how it's done. Appreciate your response. Thank You!
Acts 2 records the miraculous gift of speaking in known, intelligible languages that the Lord’s followers did not previously know. While God of course can do anything and can give similar gifts today if he so chooses, we have no such promise that he will do that. This We Believe, a statement of belief of our church body, addresses that point. “The Holy Spirit also equips the church with all the spiritual gifts it needs for its well-being (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). During the beginning of the New Testament era, special charismatic gifts were given to the church, such as signs, miracles, and speaking in tongues. These gifts were connected with the ministry of the apostles (2 Corinthians 12:12). There is no evidence in Scripture that we today should expect the continuation of such charismatic gifts.” On the other hand, there can be the expectation and demand in Pentecostal churches that the Holy Spirit will give people the ability to utter sounds that are not known languages. A good course of action is to compare the teachings of those churches with the Bible. When we recognize that the teachings of churches are not the teachings of the Bible, then we do not believe their message or follow their instructions. Today many Christians are being told that speaking in tongues is a sign that they are God’s children. That is unfortunate because the Bible tells us that we are not to expect the same spiritual gift in all Christians (1 Corinthians 12:27-31). More than that, the certainty of our status as God’s children is not dependent on us and what we can do, or claim to do. That certainty comes from God, as he calls us his own because of his work (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Titus 3:4-7). Finally, the apostle Paul made it clear that it is clear communication in the church that benefits speakers and their listeners (1 Corinthians 14:1-25). Communication that is not clear is not beneficial.

» Is it biblical for parents to give more privileges and independence to boys than girls?
There is nothing in the Bible to suggest parental preferential treatment of boys. Distinctions between boys and girls in Old Testament Israel that resulted from Mosaic laws or customs (for example, inheritance laws) are no longer applicable for New Testament Christians. Parents today will seek to treat their children, both boys and girls, with equal love. Above all, that means bringing them to Jesus in baptism and then following up with training and education in the word of God (Ephesians 6:4).

» Hello, sir. I was talking with my Roman Catholic girlfriend about the doctrine of Sola Scriptura this morning and she said, "If there are so many ways of looking at the Bible, how do you know which is correct?" I told her that you just let Scripture interpret Scripture, not our opinions. What would you have told her?
You said it well. An important principle in interpreting the Bible is to let Scripture interpret Scripture. In practical terms, that means that if we are having difficulty understanding a particular section of the Bible, we look to other parts of the Bible that contain the same subject matter to derive meaning of that difficult section. In addition, we take into account matters like genre. God communicated his message to us in the Bible through different kinds of literature: historical narrative, poetry, prophecy-teaching, epistle and apocalyptic. Recognizing the genre will point the way to proper interpretation.  It is also important to recognize symbolic and figurative language from literal language.  Understanding words in their context is critical to accurate biblical interpretation. While we need to use our minds to read and interpret Scripture, we do not let human reason change the meaning of Scripture. Finally, as Lutheran Christians, we look to Scripture alone as the source and foundation of our faith. This month’s Light for our path column in Forward in Christ addressed that point. God bless your conversations with your girlfriend!

» I am a woman who has been pursuing a degree in mathematics at university with the intention of teaching it at a post-secondary level. It is most likely that I would end up teaching at a co-ed college or university. If I understand the Bible correctly, it is wrong for a woman to instruct adult males in regard to religious matters. Does this apply to secular subjects? Specifically, is it permissible for a Christian woman to instruct adults solely with regard to the subject of mathematics?
I can respond to your questions from the perspective of serving on the faculty of Martin Luther College, the WELS college of ministry. An application of the biblical roles of men and women at this college is that “the teaching of courses in which God’s Word is primary and paramount or in which it is used to judge and/or evaluate the matters being taught is reserved for male professors.” There is the understanding that mathematics is a discipline in which men and women can serve as professors at this college. You can use this information to apply it to your own situation—teaching in a secular setting.

» Pastor, did WELS adopt the Catholic Old Testament readings after Vatican II or did you formulate your own?
WELS did not adopt the three-year cycle of Scripture readings, including Old Testament readings, as Vatican II designed them. The Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship, which did not include WELS participation, revised the assigned Scripture readings in the 1970s for use in Lutheran churches. In 2008 WELS did produce a supplemental cycle of Scripture readings in connection with Christian Worship: Supplement. Because of this, different WELS churches might have different Scripture readings on the same Sunday of the church year.

» I have been a WELS member for 45 years. I am divorced but living with a male partner. I was asked to step down by my pastor from teaching Sunday School 3 years ago. I recently started regularly going back to my church. Due to my living arrangements and after 2 meetings with pastor and no intentions on getting married, pastor is asking me to refrain from receiving Holy Communion. He is not telling me to stop hearing the word of God at church but refrain from this. Can he tell a church member they cannot take Communion due to their sin?
Yes, your pastor has that authority and responsibility. Your pastor has the responsibility of watching over the souls entrusted to him (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2). The Bible explains that people can harm themselves by receiving the Lord’s Supper “in an unworthy manner” (1 Corinthians 11:27-30). When there are wrong attitudes about sin, the sacrament or Jesus, people can receive the Lord’s Supper to their spiritual harm. By telling you to refrain from receiving the sacrament at this time of life because of your circumstances, your pastor is showing appropriate love and concern for you. While there are biblical restrictions and guidelines on the distribution and reception of the Lord’s Supper, you and all people are welcome to hear the word of God read and proclaimed in church. No doubt, your pastor is hoping and praying that by hearing the word of God you will have a change of heart—and also change your living arrangements—so that you can be a guest at the Lord’s Supper again. Your pastor’s actions indicate that he takes seriously his responsibility of spiritual oversight of the souls entrusted to him. Like Ezekiel (Ezekiel 3:17-21), he seeks to warn individuals of sin and point them to the Savior for forgiveness. You really can be thankful for such a pastor.

» Is wearing a head covering in prayer/daily life (based on 1 Corinthians 11) for Lutheran women a personal choice?
Yes. God, through the apostle Paul, makes it clear that the practice of women’s head coverings was a local practice in Corinth and not a part of God’s will for all women of all time (1 Corinthians 11:16).

» What is the most effective way to witness to my niece who lives with her boyfriend?
Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) to your niece. With your words, actions and attitudes let your niece see that you are concerned about her spiritual welfare and her boyfriend. You can remind your niece about the tempting situations her living arrangements present. The Bible urges people to “flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18). God explains that he “will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4). God provides this course of action for his followers: “But among you, there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality” (Ephesians 5:3). You can encourage your niece to think of others. What do her parents think of her living arrangements? While the fourth commandment changes in scope as parents and children grow older, the fourth commandment never disappears. You can lead your niece to think of how her actions might affect other family members, friends and acquaintances. Might her actions cause them to stumble spiritually (Matthew 18:6-7) and perhaps embolden others to follow her example? Love for God certainly drives our desire to live godly lives. Love for others is another strong motivator. Finally, with the assumption that your niece is a Christian, you can remind her of the calling Christians have to live different lives from those outside the faith (1 Peter 2:9-12). In your conversations with your niece you want to share God’s law that shows the path to godly living and also exposes ours sins. You also want to share God’s gospel that reveals the forgiving love of God (Psalm 103:8-14). You can encourage your niece with the news that God hears the cries of the penitent and responds with forgiveness (1 John 1:9). Listen to what your niece says and then respond lovingly with the precious truths of God’s word. God bless your loving witness to your niece.

» When Christ said, It is finished, and we believe that he defeated sin, death and the devil, what is 1 Corinthians 15:24-26 referring to? Is not Christ preparing a place for us? Thank you for your time and consideration.
Jesus’ words on the cross “It is finished” (John 19:30) tell us that Jesus completely fulfilled God’s plan of salvation: he lived perfectly in our place and he endured the punishment our sins deserved. Jesus left nothing undone when it came to living up to his name, which means “Savior.” When Jesus rose from the dead, he crushed Satan’s power (Genesis 3:15) and destroyed the power of death (1 Corinthians 15). But death remains, doesn’t it? It remains as a consequence of sin (Romans 6:23). 1 Corinthians 15:24 speaks of Jesus’ visible return to this world on the last day. On that day the resurrection of the dead will take place (John 5:28-29), eternal separation of Christians and non-Christians will take place (Matthew 25:31-46) and Satan will be put out of commission entirely (Revelation 20:10). Death will no longer affect God’s people (1 Corinthians 15:26). Yes, Jesus is preparing a place for us (John 14:2-3). It is a place of perfection, beauty and glory (Revelation 21-22). What a loving God we have—to bless us now and in the future (1 John 3:1-2).