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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

06 May 2008

Favorite Columns

Q: I read your column fairly often and have a couple questions. Do you have a favorite column or columns? Have your readers singled out anything you’ve written as being particularly popular?

2 Thumbs UpA: Pinning down a few favorite columns among the 500+ that I’ve written is a truly daunting task. Sometimes, when I first finish, I might think, “This is one of my best ever.” By the time these get into the paper, they usually become just one among many. If I had to pick a few, most would be among those that carefully examine a thorny issue and gently work to expose a true, biblical understanding of the topic.

These often grow from the contrast between Christian freedom and sectarian legalism. Paul condemned “the circumcision party (Galatians 2:12)” who wanted new converts to follow the laws that God had given to Israel. Paul similarly confronted those demanding compliance in dietary laws and worship days in Colossians: “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. (2:16)”

Often, our contemporaries willingly acknowledge certain freedoms under the Gospel but hold on to a few pet legalisms. For instance, few of the staunchest legalistic interpreters of Scripture forsake mixed clothing materials, even though this is condemned in Deuteronomy 22:11. Aside from a few Sabbatarian bodies, Christians don’t normally demand that Saturday be a complete day of rest and worship. However, they often attempt to impose tithes, to ban others from reading or viewing controversial media, and to otherwise set new burdens upon those who should instead be allowed the Christian liberty to decide how best to love the Lord their God wholeheartedly and to love their neighbors as themselves.

As for my readers’ favorites — or at least those writings that draw the most response — these usually fall into one of two camps. The first is that I’ll write something that one or more people deem controversial enough to challenge (e.g., the legalism vs. freedom arguments just mentioned). I usually expect response and often sharp disagreement on certain topics. Among these, you’ll regularly my responses concerning drinking, sexuality, giving of offerings, and otherwise aspects of Christian behavior in light of two questions: “What must I do?” and “What can and may I do?”

The other items that generate replies divide between “Ahh!” and “Aha!” columns. The Ahh! columns usually bring responses based upon contentment, nostalgia, or total agreement. Many of these involve major Church feast days and our rituals surrounding these holidays. Meanwhile, a column triggering responses of “Now I see it” or “That’s for me!” would be an Aha! column. These latter I can never predict, although once I read folks’ replies, I often see what happened.

One major Aha! occurrence involved the article The Why and How of Home Altars. A number of people had never seen or rarely thought of them. However, I received several notes telling me how the writers were planning to buy, gather, or build the central trappings in order to establish their own family altars. In this instance, one person’s question and my reply led to several others discovering an emptiness in their worship lives that they were moved to fill.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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Newspaper column #524:1


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