How did it come to this? There are so many reasons. But ultimately, it seems to me, many Americans just wanted to rebel: Against a political system they perceive as corrupt. Against a radical leftist ideology that has increasingly alienated people of “traditional” values and chastised (even penalized) them for holding such values in the first place. Against an administration that has downplayed threats to security (real or imagined) that many Americans believe face their nation. Against the elite, educated political class who lord it over the common masses.

Some of those concerns may have been justified. When you have nuns who have devoted their lives to helping the poor standing in court arguing that the government is infringing on their religious rights, something is wrong. When the government takes Lutherans to court, arguing that they—the government—should dictate to the church who counts as a “minister” and who does not, something is wrong.

But much of the rage has been fed by darker sources. White supremacy and a host of other “alt-right” positions have come out into the open during this election in a way not seen in generations. To be sure, not all—I pray not even many—Americans voted for Trump because they hold such radical beliefs. But those who hold such beliefs have nevertheless arisen to new prominence during his campaign, and that is cause for grave concern.

In the end, many Americans just wanted to smash the whole thing. And who better to break it up than Trump, a man I once described in an article for First Things as a madman? Make no mistake: he is that—a divisive, erratic, ball of rage. But he is now also President Elect of the United States. So what now?

Scripture tells us that God created governing authorities for the preservation of peace and the restraint of wrongdoers (Romans 13:1-7). That means God has a specific calling and purpose for rulers—the protection of the people. Should rulers abuse that power and help, not hinder, evil, they shall ultimately face God’s judgment for that sin. No ruler—and no citizen with the right to vote—should take that warning lightly.

In the meantime, St. Paul tells us, Christians are called to obey the governing authorities. These words were not written in some idealistic golden age of the Church either; Christians were under increasing pressure from the Roman Empire at the time. St. Paul himself would soon be arrested, imprisoned, and ultimately executed for his faith in Christ.

No, rulers are to be obeyed—but only insofar as they do not force us to participate in sin, whether actively or complicity. For, as Martin Luther says, “It is no one’s duty to do wrong; we must obey God, who desires the right, rather than men.” Those concerned about the recent election should hold these two truths in mind—the duty of respect for duly appointed authorities but always in light of the more important, binding duty to obey God.

Those concerned about the recent election should hold these two truths in mind—the duty of respect for duly appointed authorities but always in light of the more important, binding duty to obey God.

Let the Church turn to God in prayer at this time. Scripture commands us to offer prayers on behalf of “kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:2). And if there is anything that the people of the United States need in this time, it is a return to peaceful and quiet life.

O God, be merciful to the people of the United States. Guide their president to speak and act in ways that foster peace and quell the bitter, antagonistic spirit that broods heavily over their land. Lead him to use his office as you intend all governing offices to be used: as an opportunity to be God’s servant for the good of the people (Romans 13:4). Appoint wise advisors to serve alongside him, and grant peaceful relations with the rest of the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


Happy St. Patrick’s Day all. Why not commemorate the day by reading the Confession of St. Patrick, one of a few works that can be attributed with confidence to Patrick himself?





September 2 marked the anniversary of the death of Nikolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig, who died in 1872. Grundtvig was a brilliant scholar (of Norse and Anglo-Saxon literature), an accomplished poet, an important education reformer, and Bishop of the Danish Church.

He was also a controversial figure in his day because of his opposition to the rampant rationalism that had infected the Danish church. A brief sample of his life-story:

“In 1826, Nikolai was forced to resign his pulpit after he made a blistering attack on the rationalism of H. N. Clausen. By this time, Nikolai was already well-known for a study of Northern mythology in which he argued that poetry speaks better to mankind than prose and is the best medium for conveying spiritual truth to the soul. Although he attacked Schelling and other philosophers for the false ideas of Romanticism, he himself was thoroughly Romantic, and translated and introduced Anglo-Saxon and Norse literature into Denmark. This included Beowulf and the sagas of Iceland. He also wrote religious poems, sermons that called for a return to the spirit of Luther, and fervent Christian hymns….

The established church wasn’t sure what to do with Nikolai. He was too visible to ignore but too controversial to assign to a pulpit. In 1839, the church made him pastor of a hospital chapel. He stayed there the rest of his life. Eventually the state church gave him the rank of bishop—but not the duties.

– (from a biography at

Perhaps Grundtvig’s best known hymn among English-speakers is “Built on the Rock, the Church Doth Stand.” The words are a poignant reminder that, whatever should happen in the world around us, the Church itself as the body of Christ shall ever stand. It also speaks to the importance of our own local churches, as the place where God’s Word is spoken and the Sacraments are administered. (Read the full hymn in English here.)



Just reading through The Catholicity of the Reformation, edited by Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson. In their introduction, Braaten and Jenson remind us that the word “Catholic” was first used to refer to Christians by St. Ignatius of Antioch, when he wrote to the church in Smyrna that “Wherever the bishop appears there let the congregation be, just as wherever Jesus Christ is there is the Catholic Church.”

It’s a good reminder to us all that the catholicity of the church depends ultimately on Christ’s presence. “The church is catholic when the living Christ is present,” as Braaten and Jenson rightly interpret. And that catholicity manifests itself in visible ways. Braaten and Jenson again: “The catholicity of the church includes many things: the Scriptures, apostolic tradition, sacraments, ecumenical creeds, worship, and the ministry.”

Sadly, we do not experience this catholicity in its full glory this side of eternity. “There manifestly are degrees of catholicity,” the editors write. “The full catholicity of the church—its completed integrity and comprehensiveness, its wholeness—is finally an eschatological reality in which the pilgrim church now participates through God’s word and the sacraments but which she does not yet fully possess.”

We yearn for that day. We are the catholic church, for Jesus Christ is present among us, as St. Ignatius writes. But His presence among us awakes in us a desire for unity with our separated brethren. For indeed, Christ Himself tells us that His presence in us goes hand in hand with His desire that we would be one. “The glory that you have given me I have given to them,” He says, “that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:22-23).

But we know this unity is not to be accomplished by the sacrifice of truth. For in this prayer, Christ also tells us that He prays we would be made unified not only in words or actions but in truth. “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth,” he prays (John 17: 17). We are to be one in Christ and in the Truth of His Word.

May Christ, present and working in us, draw us at last to that glorious unity. And may His prayer—that we might be One—be ever our prayer too.



In news that took everyone by surprise, Playmobil has announced that a new figurine of Martin Luther has become their fastest selling toy ever. Their initial run of 34,000 figurines sold out in less than 72 hours (see Deutsche Welle’s report here).

The set was released in anticipation of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation (which will take place in 2017—five centuries after Luther first posted his 95 theses on the Castle Door in Wittenberg). The Playmobil set features a little Martin Luther, complete with scholar’s hat, academic gown and quill. He comes also with an open Bible, which reads (in German) “Here ends the Old Testament” on the left page and “The New Testament translated by Doctor Martin Luther” on the right—a reference to Luther’s famous translation of the Scripture into German, a work often considered the first German classic (much as the King James Version is considered a classic in English).

Demand for the toy far outstripped supply, and so Playmobil has announced they will be making more figurines of the little Luther. The next batch should be ready by the end of April. Sadly, however, it doesn’t appear that the toy will be made available to purchase by English speakers anytime soon.

It seems the little toy was made in a partnership with Nuremberg’s Tourism Center, and so the toys have been directed for sale in that area of the world. As it currently stands, you can pre-order the Playmobil Luther from Nuremberg’s Tourism Office for a scant €2.39 each (plus tax and shipping). Regrettably, they only ship to addresses in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.

When the figure first hit headlines, I tweeted Playmobil about getting one. They seem to confirm that he’s only available in the above three countries.

Maybe that will change in the future, given how widely popular the toy has been (the rapid sell-out has garnered news coverage from many English publications, including The Guardian, The Telegraph, Slate, and Newsweek). There’s certainly interest in North America for the toy. I know more than one organization (churches, for example) who might actually be interested in a bulk purchase.

In the meantime, however, you could always ask a friend in Germany to order one for you. Apart from that, you might be stuck trying to get one on Ebay where (last I looked) it seemed to be going for ten times the original cost (plus shipping).



You will likely have heard of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s (CPS) draft human rights policy, which would (in its current form) restrict physicians’ rights to freedom of conscience and religion. The new policy would require physicians with moral or religious objections to certain procedures (like abortion or euthanasia) to nevertheless facilitate such procedures by referring patients to a doctor willing to conduct such procedures—effectively forcing dissenting physicians to act in ways contrary to conscience, even though these rights are guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The CPSO is accepting comments from the public on the draft policy until February 20, 2015—which is tomorrow (Friday). I encourage you to make your concerns known by visiting their website here. To that end, I’m posting below the letter I have sent the CPSO. Feel free to draw attention to some of the same issues in your own letters.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons in Saskatchewan (CPSS) recently published a similar draft policy. I’ll be adapting my letter to the CPSO accordingly, and sending one to them as well. I hope you will too. You can contact the CPSS at


An open letter to the CPSO on their draft human rights policy

To whom it may concern:

I am writing to express my deep concern over the draft human rights policy released by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario in late 2014. As it currently stands, the policy would compel physicians to act contrary to their consciences, forcing countless doctors to provide services, or facilitate the provision of services, which they consider wrong for moral or religious reasons.

This is reprehensible.

Not only does such a policy ignore the basic rights of physicians, it also undermines confidence in the medical system at large. By forcing physicians to act in ways they consider immoral and unethical, the CPSO signals to wider Canadian society that it is not concerned about the personal integrity of its members. In fact, it suggests the CPSO considers personal integrity something to be discouraged among physicians.

In Canada, we are privileged to enjoy a number of rights and freedoms. I am pleased to see the CPSO committing itself to upholding these rights by producing a draft human rights policy. I am aghast, however, to see that a document purportedly devoted to respecting these rights nevertheless severely undermines the rights of physicians.

The draft policy correctly notes that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects physicians’ right to freedom of conscience and religion, but it is clear that the policy fails to appreciate the full implications of this right. Physicians ought not be forced to refer patients for treatments that the physicians, for reasons of conscience or religion, find objectionable. To require otherwise is to make the objecting physician a party to the treatment he finds objectionable

It’s all very good to say that physicians have the right to freedom of religion and conscience, but it must be further recognized that these freedoms apply not only to thought but also to action. It is not enough to say “Alright, you may believe such and such. You do not need to perform the act yourself, but you must refer patients to someone who will.” If, for example, a physician is opposed to abortion or assisted suicide for reasons of conscience or religion, forcing them to refer a patient for such a procedure impinges directly on the physician’s freedom. The physician will understand herself morally culpable for the final act, in that she facilitated its being carried out. She will have been forced to act in a way contrary to conscience.

As the Nova Scotia Supreme Court recently reminded us, and as the CPSO’s draft policy itself notes, rights in Canada are not hierarchical. When the rights of one individual come into competition with the rights of another, they are to be balanced. “If there are competing rights the issue is whether there are alternative measures by which both rights can be accommodated,” Justice Jamie Campbell writes in his judgment on TWU vs. NSBS. “That involves a consideration or whether one right has been disproportionately affected or the other disproportionately privileged.”

It seems clear that, if the CPSO adopts its draft policy without significant alteration, then the rights of physicians to freedom of conscience and religion will be disproportionately affected—and thus, that their freedom will be infringed upon. As Justice Campbell explains, “An infringement is made out when the claimant sincerely maintains a belief or practice that has a nexus with religion, and the impugned measure interferes with the claimant’s ability to act in accordance with those beliefs in a way that is more than trivial or insubstantial. Trivial or insubstantial interference is interference that does not threaten the belief or conduct.”

Requiring physicians to facilitate a treatment they consider morally objectionable, perhaps even evil, is neither trivial nor insubstantial. Consequently, the draft policy as it stands infringes upon physicians’ rights.

The CPSO should rewrite its draft policy to more clearly protect the freedoms of physicians, including their right to act in accordance with conscience in choosing not to refer patients for treatments they find morally objectionable.

Sincere good wishes,

Mathew Block
Communications Manager
Lutheran Church–Canada



Last week brought good news for those concerned about religious freedoms in Canada. The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia found in favour of Trinity Western University (TWU), in a case that pitted the Christian institution against the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society. In his judgment, Justice Jamie Campbell is clear that the law society’s attempts to block graduates of TWU amounts to religious discrimination.

“People have the right to attend a private religious university that imposes a religiously based code of conduct. That is the case even if the effect of that code is to exclude others or offend others who will not or cannot comply with the code of conduct. Learning in an environment with people who promise to comply with the code is a religious practice and an expression of religious faith. There is nothing illegal or even rogue about that. That is a messy and uncomfortable fact of life in a pluralistic society. Requiring a person to give up that right in order to get his or her professional education is an infringement of religious freedom.”

My article on the story went live at First Things this past Thursday. Read it here: “A Victory for Religious Freedom in Canada: Christian University Wins Case Against Provincial Law Society.” Since writing that, Christianity Today has published a story of their own, in which they kindly reference my piece. And I’m thankful to The Gospel Coalition for linking to my post in the “#Right Now” section of their Current Events page.

I’m glad to see the story getting wider attention outside of Canada. After all, TWU may have won its case against the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, but it still faces court battles with the law societies of Ontario and British Columbia. Prayers are needed now as much as ever.


Next Page »