Angels in Art and Revelation

Dr. Grime, Director of Good Shepherd Institute, opens the Fall Retreat.

The title for this past weekend’s retreat, “What in Heaven Is Going On?” was taken from a tagline from a 1993 Time Magazine cover: “69% of Americans believe in angels. What in heaven is going on?” Dr. Charles Gieschen, Academic Dean at CTSFW, began with an overview of the misplaced spirituality of angels in popular culture and how we should view them through the lens of Scripture. “When there’s this fascination with the angels, sometimes what’s lost is the access to God—the immediate access to God through Jesus Christ,” Dr. Gieschen added. “The proper focus (the focus of all the good created angels) is their Creator.”

To get angels right, we go to Scriptures. The word “angel” means “messenger,” and not every messenger in the Bible is the created angelic being we automatically imagine. “We get off base if we think the term angel means somebody who has wings who is created. As a matter of fact, a lot of the angels or messengers that appear in the Bible do not have wings. There are some places where you do have angelic beings, created angelic beings, that are depicted with wings (seraphim, Revelation 4), but most of the time when an angel appears, that angel appears in the form of a man—and sometimes a rather imposing looking man.”

This gets to another truth. An angel in the Bible can refer to one of three possible identities: 1.) God Himself; 2.) created spiritual beings; or 3.) human beings.

When the “Angel of the Lord” refers to God, this is always the Son (the pre-incarnate Son in the Old Testament), since He is the visible image of God. This is clear from John 1:18 and John 6:46—that no one has seen the Father except for the Son. The pre-incarnate Son is the angel of the Lord that calls out to Hagar in Genesis 16, to stop Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, who wrestles with Jacob (called here, simply, “the man”), announces Samson’s birth (His identity evidenced by the fact that He accepts the offering from Samson’s parents), and the story of Balaam’s donkey, to name a few.

Attendees take time during the lunch hour to visit the new art exhibit on angels that is open in the library.

The created angelic beings are genderless and not always winged. Only two angels are named in the Bible (Gabriel and Michael), though there are a myriad of unnamed angels. Gabriel is the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit while Michael is the protector of God’s people, which is why he’s always depicted in art with a sword (though the sword is not necessarily literal; the Word of God is also referred to as a two-edged sword). They serve as messengers/spokesmen (Luke 1:26-28); protectors (Psalm 91:11-12); worshipers (Isaiah 6:1-4; “They are the guide and model of how the creation should worship the Creator,” Dr. Gieschen explained. “They naturally and repeatedly acknowledge the Creator who has given and brought them life, who is the source of goodness and love, the natural response to which is praise and adoration.”); and enforcers of judgment (Revelation 12:7-12).

The devil (Satan/Lucifer/the ancient serpent) is a fallen angel as are his followers, referred to as evil spirits, demons, principalities, and powers. At the beginning of creation, everything was declared good, which would have included all things invisible (Genesis 1:1-2). At some point, however, a rebellion followed, about which the Bible says only a little. Isaiah 14:12-17 briefly explains that Satan led a rebellion in heaven and Revelation 12:4 speaks of how a third of the angels rebelled. “The futility of that rebellion was utterly clear to all the rest,” Dr. Gieschen said. “No rebellion ever followed again. At that point, the ranks of the angels were fixed.

Though he would like people to think so, Satan is not a counter god to God. He is a defeated created being and Michael is the enforcer of the victory of Christ upon Satan. “Christ won the victory through His blood, He won it on earth, so Michael and the good angels enforce that victory upon Satan and the evil angels,” Dr. Gieschen explained. “Once that happened—Christ’s atoning—they can no longer come into the presence of God and accuse believers.” We can also, in Christ, exercise power over Satan. “The one being we can truly tell to go to hell,” he added.  To understand these created beings, you must keep the centrality of Christ among the angels. They work in service to the true God and should only be properly viewed in that light.

As to the third type of angel, human beings referred to as angels of the Lord include the prophets Hagai and Malachi—human messengers of the Lord. Pastors too are messengers, and can be properly referred to as angels. In the context of Revelation 1:20, “the angels of the seven churches” would have been pastors.

Prof. Steven J. Cody, Assistant Professor of Art History at Purdue University Fort Wayne, led one of the presentations on angels in art in Renaissance Italy. The art produced during that era was never meant for a museum but was created for altars and as a backdrop for religious ceremony. “They were liturgical instruments to help focus worship,” he said. He also quoted Augustine: “‘Angel’ is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is ‘spirit’; if you seek the name of their office, it is ‘angel’: from what they are, ‘spirit’, from what they do, ‘angel.'”

Dr. Grime (left) and Prof. Cody (right) eat lunch together as they discuss the theology of the angels in art.

Dr. Gieschen later noted that artists often want to go farther than the text. For example, an artist may depict an angel with wings to go with a passage that is actually speaking of the Son. That said, art is still a visual way to reinforce theological truth. It just must be kept in mind that angelic art is shaped more by Christian history than Scripture.

As such, the Fall Retreat also marked the opening of the new art exhibit in The Wayne and Barbara Kroemer Library. These art pieces came from artists in churches across the country and include pieces drawn, painted, carved out of wood, and sewn, to name a few styles. Attendees took time during their breaks to find each piece displayed throughout the library—including the wall of art created by the children of the seminary community.

Two walls of art. The top features all the art from the children of the seminary community, and the bottom is only a portion of the art sent to CTSFW from artists across Synod for the exhibit.

Today’s post features the lessons on art and angels, with only a bit about Revelation. On Wednesday, we will post more about the last book of the Bible and its focus on Christ (and the role of angels). Dr. Gieschen teaches a class on Revelation at CTSFW and wrote his dissertation on Angelomorphic Christology; essentially, the pre-incarnate Son as the angel of the Lord.

To learn more about biblical references to the angels as well as the angels role in worship in Revelation, CLICK HERE. Dr. Gieschen put these handouts together for his presentation.

Convocation: The Pornographic Imagination

It was a packed house in L7 for this morning’s convocation, “The Purification and Sanctification of the Pornographic Imagination” with Dr. John Kleinig. An Old Testament theologian with a PhD from Cambridge as well as honorary doctorates from CTSFW and Concordia Irvine, Dr. Kleinig teaches at Luther Seminary in Australia and as a guest at many seminaries across the world. He’s on the CTSFW campus this week for a continuing education class on the Divine Service.

He began the discussion with some definitions: both what pornography is and what it isn’t. Pornography is as old as human history (some of the oldest cave depictions are pornographic) though the word comes from the Greek pornos, which means prostitute. “So pornography is the depiction of the activity of male or female prostitutes,” Dr. Kleinig explained. “It’s not necessarily the depiction of nudity. We get into a lot of trouble if we identify nudity with pornography… [pornography] is selling sex for commercial purposes.”

In the ancient world, there was a religious significance to pornography, seen as a way for human beings to tap into the super sexuality of gods and goddesses for sexual potency or fertility. Today, the pagan religious significance is largely gone, but instead it is both more open and more hidden. In ancient times, to view pornography you had to go to a theater where sexual acts were either simulated or performed on stage, and other people saw you. The internet has changed everything: “Now the new thing is that it can be done in secret. That’s one of the tools of the devil, that it can be accessed in secret. It’s more secret on the one hand yet more public on the other. Everybody knows about it. When I grew up, it was hidden under the carpet. Now everyone knows.”

Pornography, like every bad thing, is a perversion of something good. “Let’s face it: you all know that God invented sex. He approves of sex,” Dr. Kleinig said. “Pornography is the perversion of one of God’s most precious, valuable gifts.” Visual intimacy is an important part of our sexuality, of which the key stimulating senses tend to be visual for men and touch for women (at least generally, though naturally you’ll find differences in individuals). All five senses are employed in the act. “God is not a sexual killjoy,” Dr. Kleinig continued. “In fact, God disapproves of pornography because it ruins the enjoyment of sex.”

Pornography is mentally, physically, and psychologically damaging. But most of all: spiritually damaging. “Pornography is a spiritual problem,” he said. “It’s one of the ways the devil attacks us.” The devil has a contempt and disgust for our bodies and our physicality (having none of his own), not only in and of itself but because we have been given the gift of procreation—of life—through sexual intercourse. The devil can’t create let alone procreate; he can only destroy.

“The problem with pornography is not sex,” Dr. Kleinig explained. “The problem with pornography is idolatry and original sin…The devil gets us to idolize an imaginary body (the brushed up kind of body that you get in photography, in films, and on television)…and parades that in front of us so that we make an idol of that. Then that distracts us from the real bodies of the opposite sex…It has to do with the imagination. We no longer desire the things that God wants to give us, but the things God has forbidden.” Once a thing is forbidden, we imagine how enjoyable it must be—when, in truth, God forbids those things that will harm us and our relationship with Him and with each other.

In fact, the problem of pornography is not the physical act of viewing it, but that viewing forbidden sexual activity encourages our pornographic imagination. “The problem is not out there on the internet,” Dr. Kleinig said. “The problem is here—” he pointed to his heart “—my imagination and my pornographic imagination.”

Imagination is the unique, God-given ability to picture things that aren’t in front of us. We can mentally form pictures, hear words, even smell, taste, and touch within our own minds. “A large part of normal sexual activity is imaginative engagement with [another] person,” he said. It’s not the activity, but the imagination as we picture things that stimulate ourselves for masturbation. “You can get rid of pornography, but you don’t get rid of the problem [which] has to do with the human heart, the human conscience, the human imagination.”

At this point, Dr. Kleinig directed a word of warning to those in church work, those in training, and their spouses. The devil absolutely targets those who directly serve the Church. “Each one of you is a threat to the cause of satan,” he said. The immediate agenda: ruin sex for you. The bigger goal: “He will use sex against you to undermine your marriage, and your ministry, and your relationship with your parishioners. He’d like to destroy your faith, but that’s very hard to do for a believer. But he’ll settle for lesser goals…And he’s succeeded beyond his wildest dreams in recent times in the church. Statistics show that pastors, particularly, access pornography at the rate and sometimes a greater rate than people outside of the Church. And you need to see that’s the target.”

So how, then, do Christians address the root cause of pornographic temptation?

First: “You need to see it and understand your own temptation and your own vulnerability and learn from it. And you need to listen to and heed your conscience. Now you don’t need me to tell you that if you access pornography you are ashamed of it. Otherwise why would you do it in secret?”

We heed God’s Word, His law, and His judgment. But thanks be to God, that His judgment is not a condemnation but a diagnostic tool. “It shows me that I have a bad conscience, that I’m riddled with shame and that something’s wrong me, and something needs to be fixed up,” Dr. Kleinig explained. And the root problem is not sex, though satan would like to make you believe that it is. Society itself is deeply confused, careening between two extremes: from pornographic liberty to the moralistic backlash of Puritanism (which is where the idea that nudity is pornographic and that God disapproves of sex—rather than being credited as its inventor and giver—comes from). “Both are stupid,” Dr. Kleinig said bluntly.

Jesus ministers through Law and Gospel. Though satan—once the root problem is diagnosed—will come along and whisper that you must fix yourself, we know from experience that the harder we try to avoid a sin, the more we are attracted to and enslaved by it. Which is why the next step is Confession and Absolution. “You can fix up the behavior, you can put blocks on your behavior, bring your spouse into it, all that’s common sense, but you don’t fix up the problem. The problem can only be fixed up not by you but by God.

Dr. Kleinig strongly urged that everyone have a confessor. “Like an alcoholic, the basic starting point is that you can’t fix it up yourself. You admit you are helpless and you hand it over to God.” It is a process. No matter how often you fall, you confess again, you pray again, you seek help again—again, again, again, again, again. In Confession and Absolution, we bring the unfruitful works of darkness into the light, exposing that which has now become visible and transforming darkness into light (Ephesians 5:11-13).

Third: seek cleansing. “One of the things about pornography is that it makes you dirty. It defiles you, and because it defiles you, it desecrates your holiness as one of the people of God. You need cleansing. It’s the blood of Jesus that cleanses you from all sins.” There is no sexual sin that cannot be forgiven.

In addition to receiving Christ’s body and blood in communion, Dr. Kleinig also practices the holy living as laid out in Ephesians 5:3-4: “But sexual immorality and all impurity [Dr. Kleinig preferred the translation ‘fornication’ as it refers more specifically to sexual sin in all its guises] or covetousness [in this context, sexual greed] must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

Begin with the tongue, he explained; “the place to start is not what we do, but what we say.” From this passage, we can draw two conclusions. First, that we should not speak of sex in filthy terms. Much of the banter out there is sexual, joked about in the crudest terms possible. If you knew nothing about sex, if you overheard this joking you’d assume it was a ghastly, unclean act.

“Instead,” (and second) “let there be thanksgiving.” Be thanks-givers. “One of the most powerful tools we have to combat [sexual immorality] is to give thanks to God for sex,” Dr. Kleinig said. “It’s a good gift from God. It’s to be received with thanksgiving.” In giving thanks to your partner and thanks to God for their sexuality, your eyes are opened to what you have versus what you do not have. In a thank you there is an acknowledgment that what you have received is good, as well as delight and admiration in the gift and in each other.

Proverbs 5:18-19, which specifically addresses men, is an excellent example:

Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.

“Rejoice” is to enjoy. Sexuality in the Old Testament often has a visual focus, and a common euphemism is to uncover nakedness. There is a distinct visual intimacy between husband and wife—and a difficult one at that. We fear other people seeing us and disapproving. Nakedness is deeply intimate. But there is an enjoyment and delight in revealing ourselves to our spouse.

The Song of Solomon also serves as a guide. This book of erotic poetry depicts the sexuality between a man and his wife, with descriptions that appeal to all five senses. “The whole thing consists of a conversation initiated by the woman, the wife, with her husband,” Dr. Kleinig explained. “And it’s all talk. It’s about the language of love.” It is not a book of sexual mechanics but is the conversation of marriage, in which a couple speaks their love to one another. Too often, the courtship of words ends shortly after marriage when the conversation has just begun in earnest. Even sex is a conversation—a way to communicate with your whole body.

Though erotic, the Song of Solomon is as much God’s Word, inspired by the Holy Spirit, as any other book in the Bible. “Now why has God given us this book?” Dr. Kleinig asked. “[It’s] meant to purify and sanctify our imagination and our sexuality.” Meditate on it, he suggested. Learn to appreciate our spouses sexually. “Notice the movement of his eyes,” Dr. Kleinig said of the husband in chapter 7:1-5. He goes from his wife’s feet to her thighs, then to her navel, her belly, her breasts, eyes, nose, and then to her head, crowned by her hair. “He gives her an eye-over of appreciation. He looks at the whole of it.” The wife does the same to her husband in 5:10-16. “Her eyes go and it’s quite telling,” Dr. Kleinig pointed out. She starts off with his golden head of raven black hair, then to his eyes, cheeks, lips, arms, torso, legs, then back up again to his mouth—where both kissing and speech originate.

“These are God’s aids for us to practice sexual appreciation,” Dr. Kleinig concluded. “Fill our imagination with this and we won’t be tempted by [pornography].” Because the deep, dark secret of pornography is that it’s not explicit enough. It’s fake; neither exclusive nor intimate, let alone satisfying. It is a perversion of a gift given to us by the Lord of all creation in the days before sin, when a man first held fast to a woman.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:8

Dr. Grime, seated to the left of Dr. Kleinig, helped shape the convocation as more of a discussion by asking questions throughout.

Convocation: Same-Sex Attraction

Convocations at CTSFW began this Wednesday with a presentation by Mrs. Karen Hart from Keys Ministry. These hour-long lectures take place after chapel on Wednesdays during the academic year, and typically cover a subject that will likely come up in the field for our future pastors and deaconesses. This week’s convocation dealt with sharing the redemption we have in Christ with those who struggle with same-sex attraction.


Science and Redemption

Keys Ministry has served those burdened with same-sex attraction since the 1980s, when it was founded by a retired LCMS pastor who recognized that many who struggle with these sins are desperate for a Word of hope and healing. Mrs. Hart came onboard when the ministry, which first worked exclusively with men, began receiving requests from women who also struggled with same-sex attraction. A licensed psychologist, Mrs. Hart worked in mental health for 23 years in both state-sponsored programs and her private practice. She became director in 2005. By then, they were also caring for those with minor-adult attraction and transgenderism.

Mrs. Hart has no interest in politics. “It’s more important to win souls for Christ than it is to defeat any group politically.” Science, however, plays a significant role in the issue. Research offers both background to the discussion and hope to those struggling with the burden of these attractions. According to research, 1.4% of women and 2.8% of men have performed homosexual acts in the last year; 10-16% of men have practiced it at some point in their lives. The implications are clear: though media portrays all gay people as militant social justice warriors, many are simply ordinary people who do not want these attractions—and if the statistics are to be believed, many lose them.

Unfortunately, too often the voice from church has been one of condemnation, criticism, and even vitriol. “They are left with the impression that they must first clean themselves up by getting rid of their attraction before they can go to God,” Mrs. Hart said. “They’ve never heard the Gospel.”

Genetics and Behavior

Members in the homosexual community often subscribe to the “born that way” theory, or the idea that there is a “gay gene.” When Drs. LeVay and Hamer did a study on brain structure and attraction in 1994, the media ran with their conclusions (that differences in brain structure lead to homosexual attraction in men), despite the fact that the results would never be replicated. Nor did it take into account that sexual experiences lead to physical alterations. “Behavior by itself can alter brain structure,” Mrs. Hart explained. “Sexual behavior can alter the neurons.”

Mrs. Hart referred to this as the developmental theory, that, while there may be a biological component, environment and behavior play a significant role in same-sex attraction. Science bears this out. “Whatever issue your mind is focused on, neurons will develop to hold those thoughts,” she said. “The Creator of the brain provided a way for the brain to make changes. We used to think the brain was pretty much fixed by 20 or 21. Now we know better.” For example, we know that people’s attractions change over time. The couple that marries at 20 doesn’t find 50-year-olds attractive. But catch up with them in 30 years, and they’ll be attracted to their 50-year-old spouse.

And adolescents live in something of a state of flux, uncertain and confused. At the age of 12, over a quarter of adolescents (25.9%) were unsure of their sexual orientation. By the age of 17, only 5% were still unsure. Of the 95% who were sure, 99% of those were certain they were heterosexual. At 12, these young men and women need facts, reassurance, and encouragement to avoid experimentation. With help and support, most adolescents uncertain of their sexual orientation will find that they are straight by 17. Yet the pro-gay movement advocates for precisely that: experimentation. “They know perfectly well: there is such a thing as sexual imprinting,” Mrs. Hart said. “It never goes away. I’m pretty suspicious of their motives.”


In a study on risk factors in attempted suicide among gay and bisexual adolescents, researchers compared suicidal and non-suicidal homosexual teens and found that those who had attempted suicide were more likely to have divorced parents, been sexually abused, were using drugs, had been arrested, practiced prostitution, or were regarded by their peers as feminine. And the earlier an adolescent was identified as gay, the more likely he would commit suicide; the earlier he began to be sexually active, the same likelihood appeared. This is not a surprise: most youth say they hate being gay.

Risk factors for pre-homosexual boys include: distant or absent fathers; that they have no same-sex friends (studies have found that same-sex peer bonding is even more significant for developing boys than even their relationship with their father); or come from single mother homes where the woman, because of wounds in her past, despise or fear masculinity.

For lesbians, many report a bad relationship with their mother or that they come from a family that devalued its women. Their fathers were sexually abusive, contemptuous of women, and openly showed pornography with no respect to their daughter’s modesty. These girls craved protection but did not receive it. Males are perceived as selfish, unsafe, and predatory.

Of course, there are times when nothing in an environment fits these situations. “I describe same-sex attraction as a room with many door leading into it,” Mrs. Hart said. The man or woman with same-sex attraction had excellent parents, happy childhoods, and healthy peer groups. And sometimes a child can perceive their father as unloving or unavailable when he’s neither: simply unsure how to connect with a son who may not be as traditionally masculine. “It become a self-fulfilling prophesy,” she said, where demanding a boy “toughen up” backfires. Her recommendation: “He needs to show an interest in what his son is interested in. If the father’s response is to just love the boy as he is, spend time with him doing what he would like to do, there’s a high chance he will turn out straight.”

And for those who come from a background of pain, the developmental theory still must be approached with compassion and gentleness. “Never say homosexuality is a choice,” Mrs. Hart said. “They’ll usually put up a wall when they hear that. They were born this way; no other theory makes sense.” Instead, she suggests, “Recognize that they are not born this way: they were born into a set of circumstances that set them up to have these feelings.”

When approached with sensitivity and in a spirit of love, developmental theories expose people to the idea that they may not be stuck on a road they may have never wanted to walk. “Developmental theories give people hope: if there’s a path in, there’s a path out.”

A Word of Hope

The Keys Program was developed at a time when resources for those who wanted out of the lifestyle were few. The retired LCMS pastor went to the best resource he had: the Bible. It has been the textbook of the program since its inception in the 80s.

In the spring of 2007, the ministry began receiving an increasing volume of letters from both same-sex attracted inmates and incarcerated pedophiles. Many have no experience with Christianity, so the introductory packet begins with an explanation of the Gospel with relevant Scripture references: “No sins are better or worse. All need forgiveness. Society may have to treat some sins more harshly, but at the foot of the cross we are on equal ground. God’s forgiveness cannot be earned.”

Some she will never hear from again; others want in the program. “95% of the people who are contacting me have a very legalistic attitude about how to approach God,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard ‘I need to overcome this problem because it’s not God’s will for my life,’ this attitude that they have to clean themselves up then approach God. No, I tell them. You approach God so that Jesus can clean you up.

“The Bible promises deliverance, but I make it clear that deliverance does not mean they will end up heterosexual,” she added. “The opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality. The opposite is holiness. This [program] is a pursuit of holiness. I share the statistics: that a third will turn out heterosexual, a third will reduce same sex attraction and gain a lot of good insight and spiritual growth but the attraction doesn’t come online, and that a third will drop out.”

The Keys Program

The program is broken down into five units with seven key lessons. These forty sessions are each composed of a devotion, Scripture readings, study guides, and a plan of action. Solitude ends up being a vital part of the program as the ministry demands that participants examine themselves in light of their pasts and the Word of God. Unlike other programs, Keys Ministry does not rely heavily on support groups. “There’s certainly value in it,” Mrs. Hart said, “but the danger when you have a group is the level of wisdom may not rise higher than the collective wisdom of the group.”

[At which point Dr. Peter Scaer, sitting to my right, quietly said, “Ah. Like a faculty meeting.”]

The Units and Keys are broken down as follows:

Unit 1: Getting control of your life.
Key 1 Desire: What is your motivation for overcoming these sexual desires? Mrs. Hart has found this key flushes out the legalism, providing an opportunity to teach the difference between Law and Gospel. Many who struggle with these sins have a tendency to be self-pitying, envious, and resentful. Participants identify those thoughts and begin finding Scripture to counter them.

Key 2 Faith: What is your faith in? Your own ability? Your righteousness before Christ? This unit also addresses a common but rarely voiced concern: what kind of person am I going to become as I do this program? Will I like that person?

This lesson also introduces the emergency prayer in Matthew 14:30: “But when [Peter] saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’” Peter had no time for self-examination, he needed immediate rescue—and it was Jesus in verse 31 who immediately takes hold of Peter, not the other way around. “If we are blindsided with an unexpected onslaught [of negative thoughts, emotions, mindset], you can always pray this,” Mrs. Hart said. “Even if you don’t want to be stopped.”

Key 3 Scripture: The program teaches these men to use memorized Scripture to build faith, countering negative thoughts with a memorized verse. It’s crucial that they derail these thoughts as soon as possible. Mrs. Hart finds that these men cling to the verses that speak of God’s mercy as a free gift. “I had one man who used to yell Levitical verses at himself,” she said. “Guess what: it didn’t work. Focus on the cross and the ransom paid on your behalf. Don’t focus on sins but on the Savior.”

“Jesus fought the devil with memorized verses, as should we,” she continued. “Temptations are based on lies of the devil. Pray to the Spirit to expose lies. Sin is addictive, but the brain can be rewired. When one specifically blocks temptations with memorized verses, thoughts can atrophy. The Holy Spirit grows even as the literal meat of the brain grows.”

Key 4 Forgiveness: “The key of all keys,” she explained. Many come from backgrounds of hurt, preyed on by their own families, peers, molesters, and former partners. Peeling back this pain is like peeling an onion. “Forgiveness is complicated: facing painful memories without flipping into the anger to restore the sense of power that was taken away.” Instead, surrender. “Pour out your pain, grieving your losses in the presence of Jesus who bore our sins on the cross. When we’re wronged, we feel robbed; we want compensation. That compensation came on the cross. We don’t deserve a split second of time on the cross, but he gave 6 hours. We don’t deserve a molecule of blood, and he spilled quarts.” Participants are taught to pray for those who wronged them. “It restores the sense of power of which the victim was robbed.”

Keys 5, 6, 7 Love, Surrender, Rebuilding: We were beginning to run out of convocation time, so Mrs. Hart had to sum up the last few units quickly. The unit on love is important for those who never knew there was a difference between love and sex. “Some of them learn for the first time that love means self-sacrifice.” One man in the program admitted, “I always thought love was a word you used to get what you wanted from people.” Surrender, too, is a difficult concept. Participants are facing a lot of fears and insecurities, wondering where they are going to end up, if they are really willing to let God do what he will with their lives, and allowing Him to take their sexuality where He wants it to go. And rebuilding is also a matter of practicality: the time and energy they once spent pursuing their sin must be used differently. At this point they can look back and see how far they’ve come.

The next four units (Personality/Identity, Memories, Relationships, and The Miscellaneous Unit/Where do you go from here?) use the same seven keys, with different devotions, Scripture, and study guide questions. The program ends up cyclical, the participants revisiting every issue in all five units.

Not everyone makes it through the full 40 lessons; but not always for sad reasons. “Some gain freedom after only 1 or 2 units,” Mrs. Hart explained. “The rate of change varies. Weeks of calm can be interrupted by episodes of negative onslaughts. The secular world doesn’t like it when we call this an addiction, but giving up these old habits can feel like withdrawal.”

Throughout, these participants confront the lies the devil told them during their most traumatic moments, which persist long after the abuse is over. They confront painful memories, forgive the abusers in their own past, and learn of the power of Christ’s forgiveness in their own lives. “When a lie is identified and the truth of the Word counters it,” Mrs. Hart said, “it’s a very powerful moment.”

Learn more at Mrs. Hart also passed out several pages worth of resources to the group, including the studies on which her talk was based, websites for several organizations that help those struggling with same-sex (and other) desires, plus book resources. You can access a copy of those resources by clicking HERE.

Resources: Chapel Sermons

For those of you missing our chapel services while we’re off for the rest of the summer, we have several resources for watching at least the chapel sermons. One of our librarians has recently been uploading many older sermons, which you can find by going to and looking under “Newest Titles.” You’ll notice a number of them going back to 1999.

Another option is to go to, our newer media resource cite. Here’s a great place to search through our sermons. You can search for specific preachers, faculty members, or even sermons on specific readings if you’re looking for more on a specific Scripture passage. You can jump to our full archive of chapel sermons at, or you can check out the options we have by looking at the top navigation bar on the video site.

One more resource we’re highlighting today is the Media Server Scripture index. This is a resource mediated by our Library, created to walk you through how to find items on a Bible passage (including more than just sermons–opening up all of our resources to the search). This guide will walk you through how to use the index:

New Resource: Luther Biography

As a part of our latest CTQ release, we’ve highlighted the new Luther bibliography, which you can find by clicking here.

From the introduction of the bibliography, written by our Electronic Resources Librarian, Rev. Robert E. Smith, who did the work of compiling the 80 page document:

“The five hundredth anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation generated quite a bit of interest in the study of Martin Luther, his friend and colleague, Philipp Melanchthon, and their times. A major portion of the studies made as a result were conducted in the English language. They included translations of the work of Luther, sometimes of works never rendered in English and sometimes fresh versions of well-known works. New biographies were written, in-depth analysis of themes, thought, and events produced, and reviews of all of these works penned. Essays appeared in a wide range of journals, conference proceedings, anthologies, and festschriften. This bibliography was compiled at the request of the editors of Lutherjahrbuch to add to their ongoing Lutherbibliographie. It covers the publication years 2013-2017.”

There is, in fact, even more of a story behind that second to last sentence about the editors of Lutherjahrbuch and the “Lutherbibliographie.” In 2017, Dr. Benjamin Mayes (whose long list of titles include Assistant Professor of Historical Theology at CTSFW, Assistant Editor of CTQ, Co-General Editor of “Luther’s Works: American Edition,” and General Editor of “Gerhard’s Theological Commonplaces”) attended the International Lutheran Congress in Wittenberg, Germany. There he met a German scholar, Dr. Michael Beyer, who works for the main journal of Luther studies (“Lutherjahrbuch”), and is responsible for the annual bibliography of Luther studies.

Dr. Beyer told Dr. Mayes about his desire to find a North American collaborator, since it is difficult for him to get access to our databases to find English-language Luther studies. As such, when Dr. Mayes returned to CTSFW, he connected Dr. Beyer with Rev. Smith in our library. Since then, Rev. Smith has been helping to make the annual bibliography of Luther studies (the “Lutherbibliographie”), the first fruits of which are now available at the link here and through the CTQ web page (

And why was it hard for Dr. Beyer to find a North American collaborator? Because he prefers the phone to email but does not speak English well, and only with a thick Saxon accent. Dr. Mayes, who has excellent German skills, was an essential part of the collaboration: he served as the translator between Dr. Beyer and Rev. Smith.