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(From a Sunday bulletin this fall at St. John’s Lutheran Church, Okabena, Minn.; Vance Fossum is pastor)

It is becoming a fairly regular happening: as the new TV programs air every fall, they fall to new depths of moral depravity. Over the years we can mark each step downward. The daytime soap operas started the plunge to the pits of porm. In the sixties and seventies, evening affairs like Peyton Place and then Dallas and Falcon Crest added a touch of class to the bed-hopping of the afternoon soaps. The sinful affairs and pre-marital fornication of the unprincipled principals in each story were presented ever more frequently by the writers as “understandable,” even “acceptable.” “Hey, what’s wrong with two people being attracted to one another and doing what is ‘natural’?” they challenged us. So censorship was trashed for sensual trash.

The downward trend has continued through decades of moral decadence. Made-for-television movies like Rich Man-Poor Man, North and South, and a rash of other so-called romantic novels have further desensitized the American public — especially our children — to the lewd and the nude. In the last decade a plague of popular shows like Doogy Howser, MD and Beverly Hills 90210 have made sexual activity seem like the one pervasive and all-important goal of all young people, except, of course, those very few “undesireables” who want to keep their virginity. NYPD Blue added to the screen the screams of victims of violence, as well as nudity and sex, making it all seem so “real” in order to bring the lovers of violence and the lovers of sex in front of the TV. Picket Fences, far from being white or protective of the American family, broke down still more barriers to evil with episodes like the one featuring two high school girl-friends in bed together, kissing one another. The ground was being prepared for the “coming out” of Ellen Degeneres and other lesbians and gays!

The devil is not done yet! All of television’s temptings that have fallen every fall for the past 30-40 years has been aimed at this one goal: that the temptings–the suggestive scenes and “in your face” immorality–may make the lie more acceptable. That lie has finally been stated in the new series entitled Nothing Sacred. We happened to see a few minutes of (the premier) episode. A man and woman who have been living together for some time are talking about their marriage the next day, while the woman is seducing him. “Wait until tomorrow,” he says, when we are married. “We’ll be together the rest of our lives.” “But,” the woman counters, “It’s more fun when it’s sinful.”

Shades of Eden? No doubt! The “forbidden fruit” has ever since been the most sought-after by fallen mankind. First, the devil works patiently (for 30-40 years if necessary!) to repeatedly put the forbidden fruit “in our faces.” He challenges the conscience over and over again until the voice of God is barely audible. Then he springs the lie: “You will not die! You will be like God, knowing good and evil, and the evil is more fun! . . . There’s ‘NOTHING SACRED’.”

Dear Christian man, woman, and child, your television set is a threat to your spiritual health and life. It “talks” to you every day, like the serpent (may have) talked to Eve. Like the serpent in Eden, your TV may be seen as a friend in the garden of your home. But it is also an agent of deceit, a primary tool of that great enemy who walks about the earth “seeking whom he may devour.” Don’t underestimate him! Turn him off and away when you hear him or see him enter the garden of your home. “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”


— This is a “commercial” for some reading and viewing that would be infinitely more valuable than any time spent in front of the television set for lesser fare.

With the encouragement of the synod’s Board of Education as well as with the encouragement and support of others including his wife Sharon, Pastor John Schierenbeck, Winter Haven, Fla., has produced an adult information manual and video by the above title. In 20 lessons (11 from the Old Testament and 9 from the New), each lasting about one half hour on video, Pastor Schierenbeck effectively shows how “shadows” in the Old Testament are fulfilled by Him who is their “substance,” Jesus Christ. A title byline carries the Bible verse: “The substance is of Christ”–Colossians 2:17.

There have been and are many fine adult instruction manuals out there, such as Luther’s Catechism as well as the well-known “What Does The Bible Say?” by Oswald Riess. In abridged and unabridged versions, Riess has probably been used most often over the years by conservative Lutheran pastors as they instruct prospective members in the chief Bible teachings.

What is unique about “Shadows And Substance” is that it is made clear from the beginning that “the Bible should be used as the primary textbook”–and it is so used! There is a well-prepared manual, yet every encouragement is given to the student(s) to carry out the stated aim that this is to be “an inductive study of the Old and New Testaments.” A preface to the manual explains: “Bible study should be inductive, that is, people should draw truths out of Scripture for themselves. One of the goals of this course is to encourage people to read the Bible for themselves and apply it to their own lives.”

In other words, this is no “quickie” course toward membership in the church. Nor is that what we would want. The student(s) are expected to “work” right along with the presenter. Those who diligently do this, using either the manual and/or the video, following along in their Bibles, and reading the suggested supplementary home Bible readings, will surely be blessed by the Spirit through the Word.

The 82-page manual (including study guides and questions for 20 lessons) can be ordered through the author, or through the CLC Bookhouse, 501 Grover Road, Eau Claire, WI 54701. It is $7.00 per copy, plus shipping.* The corresponding two-set video may be ordered from Pastor John Schierenbeck, 3015 Ave. K NW, Winter Haven, FL 33881. The video set is $15.00 plus shipping.

The “Shadows And Substance” manual is well done (including graphics, tables, timelines) and is a real “buy” in itself. Remembering that the Bible is the primary textbook, each pastor could well adapt the manual for his own presentation. As for the videos, the material is presented while the instructor is seated. Some may be disappointed that there isn’t more flare (a few graphics and tables appear). Schierenbeck, however, has a fine speaking voice and presents the lesson material with a non-dramatic, measured pastoral approach. The musical interludes are appealing. Throughout, the “Bible approach” is obvious and it is powerful.

Throughout his ministry this writer/pastor had often heard it said that one of the best adult instruction courses would be to use the Bible itself, beginning with the first chapters of Genesis, then studying the Gospel of Luke, and finally drawing on various portions of Paul’s epistles. There was always the good intention to give it a try, but we never did. “Shadows And Substance” is an excellent example of how the whole counsel of God can be effectively presented along the lines described.

–Editor Paul Fleischer, Reviewer

(*Note: each pastor and teacher in the CLC will be receiving a free copy of the manual.)