Faith Related Q and A

» What is the WELS stance on women's role in society, i.e., should women supervise men in the workplace and what is the stance on gambling, i.e., lottery tickets?
Your first question requires a much longer response than is appropriate for this forum, so let me steer you to a couple of resources that can offer a thorough response and detailed explanation. This link will take you to a free resource titled “The God-Given Roles of Man and Woman in the Christian’s Everyday Life.” In addition, I can recommend a couple of resources from Northwestern Publishing House: Man and Woman in God’s World and A Bible Study on Man and Woman in God’s World. There was a very recent question and answer on the subject of gambling. This link will review that information for you.

» Would it be proper for a concerned friend or relative to privately baptize a child whose parents, though raised in the Lutheran faith, have been negligent in doing so?
Our normal practice is not to baptize children without the consent of their parents, unless the child’s death is imminent. That practice recognizes that parents have primary responsibility for the spiritual care and upbringing of their children (Ephesians 6:4). I would encourage a conversation with the parents. If they were raised “in the Lutheran faith” and presumably baptized as infants themselves, ask them how their thinking and beliefs have changed since then. Their answers and responses will tell you how to proceed. I also wonder if it is possible for one of our pastors to visit them and speak with them about Baptism. Your question about Baptism underscores the importance of that sacrament, and yet we need to keep it in perspective. While the Holy Spirit can plant saving faith in hearts through Baptism, that faith needs to be nurtured through regular use of God’s word. That calls for even more parental involvement in the lives of their children. Do what you can to encourage these parents to carry out their parental responsibilities in having their child baptized. It goes without saying that this includes praying for them. God bless your efforts.

» What teachings of the Assemblies of God churches do not agree with our teachings?
An answer to a previous, similar question pointed out these differences: 1) The Assemblies of God churches teach that faith is a condition of salvation rather than teaching that faith is the way God has chosen for us to receive salvation. The implication is that an unconverted, sinful human being must “decide” for Christ. WELS teaches that people by nature are dead in their transgressions and sin and therefore have no ability to decide for Christ (Ephesians 2:1, 5). We do not choose Christ, rather he chose us (John 15:16). 2) The Assemblies of God churches teach that Baptism and Holy Communion are ordinances whereby Christians declare to the world that they have died with Christ and share in the divine nature. They do not believe that the sacraments are means of grace through which the Holy Spirit works to create or strengthen faith. They deny the Real Presence in the Lord’s Supper. They insist that the only legitimate way to perform baptism is by immersion. WELS teaches that baptism and the Lord’s Supper are means of grace through which the Holy Spirit works to create or strengthen faith (Titus 3:4-7, John 3:5-6, 1 Peter 3:21, Matthew 26:26-28). We believe that Christ’s true body and blood are truly present in the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-28, 1 Corinthians 11:23-29). The Bible does not mandate the mode of applying the water of baptism. 3) The Assemblies of God churches teach premillennialism. They believe that Christ will return and reign physically, visibly, and politically for 1,000 years on earth. WELS rejects the teaching that Jesus will return to establish a political reign here on earth (John 19:36, Romans 14:17, Colossians 1:13-14). 4) The Assemblies of God churches are a perfectionist church body. According to the official website of the Assemblies of God, they believe that “by the power of the Holy Ghost we are able to obey the command: ‘Be ye holy, for I am holy.’” Holiness/perfectionist church bodies often seem to make rules where God hasn’t and to call things sinful which God has not forbidden. WELS teaches that, although we will strive for Christian perfection, we will not attain it in this life (Romans 7:14-25, Philippians 3:12). We are careful not to call things sinful which God has not called sinful (1 Corinthians 10:23-33, Romans 14:1-23). 5) The Assemblies of God churches believe that every believer is entitled to “baptism in the Holy Spirit” (an experience separate from water baptism) with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues. They also practice faith healing. They teach that such “divine healing is an integral part of the gospel. Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement, and is the privilege of all believers.” WELS does not teach a “baptism in the Holy Spirit” separate from and subsequent to water baptism. We do not see speaking in tongues and faith healing as normative for Christians today. For more detail to your question, you might benefit from A Lutheran Looks at the Assemblies of God. It is available from Northwestern Publishing House.

» In today's current climate, is it appropriate for a pastor and congregational leaders to be vocal supporters of the NRA, host trainings for current/potential gun owners on church property, and post signs stating that the church property is protected by armed security? Should we be portraying our church to our community as a "Pro-Gun Church" and isolating members/visitors that disagree politically? How can this be addressed without hurting anyone's feelings? Thanks!
These are matters that are best addressed at the congregational level. Your congregation might be in a rural setting where there is a long-established culture of hunting; it might be in an urban setting where there is a high crime rate. As churches and schools react to the shootings that have taken place across our country recently, they are interested in the safety of their constituents. How to keep people safe and vigilant is where discussions and plans can vary. All I can say in general about your questions is that congregations will want to apply their regular decision-making policies and procedures to this matter. They will want to see if any proposed action aligns with the mission of their congregation (their mission statement). They will seek input from congregational members—especially those who are not part of the decision-making process. They will be interested in listening to and addressing the concerns of those individuals whose opinions did not prevail. They will want to know if any proposed actions could benefit from legal review. These are some thoughts that congregations regularly keep in mind as they attend to their business matters and which can be applied to your situation.

» Why is sin being viewed differently at churches, even in WELS churches, in today's world? It is accepted. God plainly states sin is sin and he hates it. The whole idea of adiophora has become for many pastors and religious leaders an excuse to sin. The Bible may not say anything about gambling being wrong, but it is an abuse of God's money, given as a gift and God wants that money to be managed properly. To say it is okay to gamble for whatever reason is to say that God doesn't care how we use his gifts.
When it comes to adiaphora (those things that God has neither commanded nor forbidden), people might reach different, conscientious decisions on concluding whether something is right or wrong. The early Christians in Rome (diet and special days, Romans 14) and Corinth (meat sacrificed to idols, I Corinthians 8) illustrate that. The Bible does not specifically address gambling, but does speak of greed and covetousness that can easily and often be associated with gambling. In addition, the Bible instructs us not to squander the resources that God has entrusted to us, but rather use them to provide for our families (1 Timothy 5:8), to pay taxes (Romans 13:6-7), to give back to the Lord and his church (1 Corinthians 16:2) and to help those who have needs (1 John 3:17). “Gambling for whatever reason” is not a course of action we advocate.

» Why and when did the clergy go from the black robe to the white robe and stoles? Years ago the pastor wore black, as it was a sign of humility. What is the thought process of this change?
Christian Worship: Manual, the companion book to Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal, has a helpful section of information (pages 95-104) that addresses your question. Here are some excerpts: “During the first four centuries after Christ, pastors did not have the custom of wearing special clothes for worship…The alb became the customary worship vestment only as public worship became more formal and ceremonial, sometime around the fifth century. “…The garment the medieval pastor would have worn when he came to church was the street attire of his own era, the cassock…Since the clergy were also the teachers at the schools and universities, the cassock was what teachers and professors wore when they taught. One might compare the cassock to our modern sport jacket and slacks, or to a pinstripe suit…Only under the influence of the Reformed (who rejected almost all of the church’s historic worship legacy) did the ‘Geneva’ or academic robe come to replace the alb as the worship vestment. “…Those who rejected the historic worship vestments, first in Germany and later in America, were aligned more often with the Calvinists, Pietists, and Rationalists than they were with the orthodox Lutherans…The Rationalists were decidedly anti-authoritarian…Their clergy dressed in the black academic robe not because it was a worship vestment, but because it was not a worship vestment. Like many Protestants today, they wore the everyday professional garb of the medieval scholar and the modern magistrate, the Geneva gown.” When it comes to the color of the pastors’ vestments, Christian Worship: Manual, explains the significance of liturgical colors. “White: color of the godhead and eternity; color of the robe of the glorified Christ and of the angels and saints in heaven; color of perfection, joy, purity.” “Black: the absence of color; symbolic of death.” “The stole is traditionally reserved for those who hold the office of the pastoral ministry.” In all of this, we want to keep Christian freedom in mind. God has neither commanded nor prohibited the use of vestments like these.

» I have a co-worker who said you don't have to go to a church service to believe in God. I replied that believing in God, you would want to gather together with like -minded believers to worship. What passages could I use to reinforce my position?
You could use sections of Scripture like Psalm 84, Psalm 122:1 and Hebrews 10:23-25 to demonstrate that it is God’s will that his children gather together in his house for worship. We want to recognize that our sinful nature wants nothing to do with God or his word. Our sinful nature rebels at any opportunity to worship with fellow Christians or read the Bible on our own. On the other hand, our new self agrees with the psalmist: “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1). In our daily walk of faith we strive to put down the sinful nature through repentance and to build up the new self through God’s word. Worshiping the Lord in church, receiving the Lord’s Supper, reading and studying God’s Word individually and with others will build up our new self and strengthen our desire to worship the Lord in church.  God bless your conversations with your co-worker.

» What does the Bible say about cremation instead of burial? If I choose cremation, will I still go to heaven?
Scripture is silent on the issue of cremation. It is a matter of personal preference when it comes to burial or cremation. There was a time not that long ago when some voices in the Christian church cautioned against cremation. In a day and age when some unbelievers utilized cremation as a way to defy God (“Let’s see if this supposed God can put me back together some day.”), some Christians advocated that followers of the Lord not cremate their bodies, so as not to be associated with unbelievers or an activity of unbelievers. That type of taunting has largely disappeared, so Christians today who make use of cremation are not likely to be confused with unbelievers. The choice of cremation over burial often includes ecological, economical and convenience factors. In the end, cremation essentially speeds up the process that occurs with burial: “Dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19). Regardless of cremation or burial, “All who are in their graves will hear his [Jesus’] voice and come out” (John 5:28-29). Choosing cremation over burial will not affect your eternal relationship with God. Faith in Jesus saves (Mark 16:16), not the way our bodies are treated after death. Keep focused on Jesus! (Hebrews 12:2)

» If the construct of a voters' assembly is adiaphora, as in there is no explicit biblical basis for this practice, why is it that the idea of women participating in these positions is seemingly impossible? I understand the spiritual authority aspect, however, as an adult, unmarried female my opinion does not have a way to be heard, due to my inability to attend these voters meetings (not true of every congregation). Applying general passages to a very specific system does not seem like the logical basis to create a system. Could not the women of a church better understand the needs of a church from a different perspective than that of a man? If I, as an unmarried female, wish to raise a concern about who the congregation is calling, for example, how could I go about that in the current system, besides going to my pastor outside of a voters' meeting? This situation then removes my concerns from the congregation, which could have helped raise discussion to help choose the person best fitted to the needs of said congregation. This topic has often troubled me, and I would like more explanation as to why we practice what we do.
Providing adequate detail in the responses to your questions can be challenging in a forum like this. So, perhaps the best way I can help is by steering you to a couple of Bible study resources that congregations can use as they address questions like yours. The first is A Bible Study on Man and Woman in God’s World. The second is Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift. The resources apply Scripture passages to congregational life that we have, in Christian freedom, developed today. As congregations apply the scriptural roles of loving head and loving helper (Genesis 2:18; 1 Corinthians 11:3, 8; 1 Timothy 2:11-13) to the context of voters’ assemblies, they want to do so with love and respect for one another. That certainly means trying to receive input from those who are not part of the voting process.  God bless your study of this topic.

» Were Cain and Abel twins?
People have sometimes thought that the brothers were twins because the wording for Cain’s birth differs from the wording for Abel’s birth. In the case of Cain’s birth, the Bible states that “Eve became pregnant and gave birth to Cain” (Genesis 4:1). In the case of Abel’s birth, the Bible omits the phrase that Eve became pregnant and simply says: “Later she gave birth to his brother Abel” (Genesis 4:2). With that difference in mind, some have taken “Later” to mean minutes and not months or years. That understanding is possible, but the wording does not limit the interpretation to that meaning. There are other instances in Scripture where the births of children are recorded without explicitly stating that their mothers became pregnant. Some examples are Genesis 4:20, 22, 25. With these thoughts in mind, the Bible does not provide a definitive answer.

WELS Q&A are topics that are submitted to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod website.  The articles here are an automatic feed from the wels.net Q&A website.  Even though we may not have generated this contect, we are in fellowship with the WELS and generally subscribe to the beliefs of the breatheryn in the synod generating these answers.

Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! ~ Luke 24:5-6