Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Confessional Lutheran's Confession

Forgive me, please, for reminiscing today. Twenty years ago today--June 1, 1990--I graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, WI. As I headed off to my first assignment in ministry I was proud of who I was and glad to be part of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).

The WELS has never been a large Lutheran Synod. We're not tiny, but then again we aren't busting at the seams from all the new converts we're gaining. For some in our synod that's a reason to hang our heads. We must not be doing our jobs since we're not growing, we're told.

In our hometowns we listen to enthusiastic neighbors tell all about the local community church that's really doing ministry. Their church is packed because so many love the modern music and the charismatic preacher. The accomplishments of the church are impressive indeed: teens taking mission trips all over the world, seniors running a food pantry for the local needy, young parents recruiting others through soccer leagues.

As WELS Lutherans, especially if we're part of a smaller congregation, we smile politely as we hear the glowing report. But deep inside we are thinking, "There's got to be some way our congregation can do this."

The first thing we do is study how the community church is doing what it's doing. We rush off to the local Christian book store and buy up all the "how to" books on the shelves, all written by people outside our fellowship. We glean an awful lot of good ideas and then we sit down and try to "Lutheranize" them all.

Quite often we find some resistance in our congregations. "We've never done it that way before," is the age-old cry. If we've been in the WELS long enough, all we can do is go home and complain to our spouse that the WELS is such a fuddy duddy synod.

After a little thought, though, we get up the nerve to speak to our pastor. We say to him:

"Liven things up a bit in worship."

"Let's not be so formal."

"Develop your own orders of service that really speak to the people."

"Don't repeat things in the service every week. Do we really need to confess the Apostles Creed or Nicene Creed so often? Surely we can confess our faith in words that mean more to 21st century people. People today like more variety!"

"People get tired of hearing that they're sinners. Do you really need to make a point about that every Sunday? Be more positive!"

"In the service talk more about things that really matter today. As Lutherans we know that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus, so you don't have to repeat that so often. What people really want to know is how Jesus helps them with their families, their jobs, their lives today."

"Use videos in worship. That's how you're going to grab people's attention. After all, this is the TV age!"

"Let's make sure our people know that we need them to work around the church. Remind them of that every week, please."

Here's my first confession for today. I've either thought, said or tried every one of those things. After all, I want my church to grow. I want great conversion stories to tell at the next pastors conference. I want to be a success!

Thankfully, in my desire to be a success and grow my congregation(s), I've never stopped preaching law and gospel. I haven't dropped the ecumenical creeds for ones "more modern."

I have come down from the pulpit (so I can be closer to the people), taken off my robe at small midweek services, tried my hand at special orders of worship, used videos in worship, and used PowerPoint to highlight my preaching. And I sure have cajoled people to serve their Lord.

About a year ago, after speaking with other WELS laypeople in town, I thought that the "niche" my aging congregation could grab was that of contemporary worship. After all, that's what people want these days. If we're ever going to get younger members, we've got to give them what they want. And I see it in more WELS congregations now than ever before.

Here's my second confession. The pressure to grow my church got to me. Reality soon set in, though. There was no way my aging congregation would agree to contemporary worship, and I'm not sure I really enjoy that style of worship very much. And the more I thought about using the methods from the local community church, I realized I wasn't trained to do that. I am who I am. I'm a confessional Lutheran.

So, I went in search of my confessional Lutheran roots. I read from the stuffy old books that were on my bookshelves. I sought out confessional Lutheran blogs written by WELS pastors and some in the LCMS. I began to appreciate more and more what I truly had already.

Now a year later I've become a founder of the Intrepid Lutherans blog. I've studied the Lutheran Confessions more in the last month than I had in the nineteen years combined prior to that. I'm convinced more than ever that confessional Lutheranism is right when its liturgies focus my attention on God's Word and Sacraments. It's comforting to know that growth in faith and growth in numbers is God's work not ours.

Here's my next confession: I know that a great many people in the WELS are reading this little blog of ours. Some have already contacted us to tell us that we're a divisive force in the WELS. Others have suggested that it's about time somebody sought an open forum for discussion of where doctrine and practice in the WELS is headed.

I, for one, may be outspoken in my congregation and maybe even my circuit. However, I've always kept a low profile in any district I've served and have never served as a delegate to a WELS Convention. I'm an unlikely pastor to step forward as a leader in this effort. I stand to be counted, though, because I sense that the people of the WELS are having an identity crisis of sorts. We talk an awful lot about walking together, but I see us splitting into two groups as we reach the fork in the road.

If you think we're here to be divisive, please think again. The divisions have already started to splinter. If you think we're only here to talk, please think again. We've stated quite clearly that we want to listen and carry on an open discussion that doesn't allow anyone to hide behind an anonymous comment.

We are brothers in the faith who see the WELS sliding away from confessional Lutheran practice. I want to believe that concerned brothers and sisters in the faith, especially those in the public ministry, will be given a fair hearing by those who don't agree with us. I hope that our views even cause some of our "bolder" brothers to reconsider their actions, or at least discuss them more fully before going full speed ahead down the road that could lead us away from confessional Lutheranism and its blessings.

Rev. Paul Lidtke


Rev. Mark D. Ochsankehl said...

I would like the Church Growth Gurus to answer this one simple question: Why is it, after decades of Church Growth programs ad nauseous, the visible Christian church isn't growing? There appears to be plenty of sheep stealing going on, but at last count the numbers were still going down. Seems to me if the Church Growth mentality was so successful we would see something other than lateral movement. Personally, I'd rather die a thousand deaths as an historic, orthodox, Confessional Lutheran, than be counted as one of the wolves in sheep stealing clothing.

Lisette Anne Lopez said...

-Rev. Paul Lidtke
When I read this I saw your hope for something unknown and unrecognized. Your faith still stands though, but feeble in the understanding of how our WELS stands. How obvious to me that things will change, and I don't want a big band when I go to church. As I read your words I find myself contemplating what the pastors are thinking and what the debates will lead to. But still, I know that the world will change and that Scripture doesn't. I know that there are Christians who are not Christians. I know what warnings Jesus himself has given through Scripture. The WELS are confessional Lutherans- God recognizes his own. The "identity crisis" is no more than the pages of time turning and God's steady hand holding and allowing all things. He will not lose his own. We want to see through His eyes- simple enough.
Children of God stick to sound doctrine, to Scripture- the sacraments, our Creeds- no parades. God is in heaven we are not there yet. But God has made a home within us, if we are His. We then filled with grace worship Him and not the world. We do not reach out to others with earthly things- we use God's Words- the Scripture. We do not confess our sins with the sound of trumpets, we do not receive the sacraments laughing. And we confess the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed. We are thankful Christians, humble and inwardly grateful with sincere hearts of praise. We do not use the world and what is passing away to speak out to those who need to hear the Word and who are also passing away. We use what is stable, sound and sure- God's Word. We celebrate what will never pass away. And one day, we again will praise God, but for all of eternity. Should some WELS pastors not conduct themselves in such a manner? Well why? Because they are wrong and in great error. We however must be patient in affliction- I know that does'nt sound easy. Perhaps these "pastors" want to parade themselves, perhaps they are lost. Either way, God will call them to account. And if we do, we pray God will do the work through us. They must answer to Him.
Don't fear what you have already been told. Remember Scripture.
God Bless your work and efforts.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for you comments & confessions! It’s refreshing to hear your honesty. You may not feel you are able to speak up at events, but you are through your blog. I am hoping to find that this is a place where the people truly desire to follow God’s Word (that’s the God and the Word found in the Bible - just to clarify). There are many confessional Lutheran Christians of WELS and other religions that have been cloistered into believing that they are the last hold outs, just like Elijah, that are sticking to these “old, outdated” ways. Don’t worry about “growing your church” - that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. You do yours of telling the truth in love to those who are coming to hear that message, not you. It’s better to serve 50 faithful believers than 1000 people who are there for the wholesome social atmosphere, as well as looking for friends and connections that can be made! Linda Sasieta, Seminole, Florida

Steve Martin said...

I've always learned that "what works" is just another expression of the law.

The law and the gospel, the Word and Sacrament, not jumping to fads 'that work' is the way to go.

It's not how big or little the flock is, but how faithful.

"Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I."

I think He said that for a reason.

AP said...

Pastor Ochsankehl's question reminds me of a speech I heard when I was working on a number of political campaigns in 1996. Alan Keyes, in his typical fiery manner, was blasting the Republican party for having lost its principles. He compared the Republicans to a "Greedy Santa Claus" and the Democrats to the "Generous Santa Claus." In adopting just a little liberalism, the GOP was offering diet liberalism in the hopes of building a "bigger tent." If liberalism really is appealing to someone, which would one choose? The Greedy Santa Claus cannot really sell his message to true liberals and he alienates his conservative base. The lesson, which is seen again and again in history: when conservatives try to "out-liberal" the liberals, the liberals ultimately win. When the "big tent" is built on a flimsy foundation, it collapses under its own weight.

I think this analogy works, to an extent, for Church Growth in the WELS. I have seen WELS versions of contemporary worship. It is usually some kind of half-measure (e.g. "blended worship") that ends up satisfying no one and accomplishing little (sometimes at great expense). In the end, though Church Growth methods may be adopted with the best of intentions, they are of "a different spirit" and will forever be incompatible with the Lutheran confessions. I do not believe there can be any happy marraige between the two, and one must eventually dominate the other within a church or church body. That, I think, is the real danger of Church Growth--the danger that this "different spirit" will become the dominant spirit of the WELS.

Dr. Aaron Palmer

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Pr. Lillo,

I suppose that, if we hadn’t bound ourselves to one another in this thing we call a synod, every congregation could do as it saw fit without worrying about any other. The United States was founded on the principle of individual freedom, so I feel your pain regarding the neighborhood covenants and city property ordinances and things of that nature! Our synod, however, is a voluntary fellowship founded on a common confession regarding Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.

You’re right, of course, that this doesn’t give one congregation the right to dictate the goings on in another. But we do all have a right to expect a unity in doctrine from one another, and this includes how we speak about sectarian practices. If we have not yet spoken with one voice regarding such practices, then it’s time we talk about it, come to some theological conclusions, and speak with a unified voice concerning them.

We are not assuming that any one of our brothers has anything less than a genuine love for God’s Word and for God’s people. Far from it! We are not saying their motivation is wrong. We are pointing to some practices that we do not consider to be consistent with our common confession.

Nor are we, on this blog, accusing the pastors you named of false doctrine. We struggled with whether or not to post your comment, since you named them there and we are unable to edit the comments that are submitted. We put it through because you were not in any way slandering these men, and because we want to emphasize that we encourage each circuit and district to deal appropriately with any concerns that arise in them. We are not making ourselves the policemen of the synod. We do believe that worship style is not entirely a neutral thing, but flows from theology and teaches theology, so “live and let live” isn’t always the proper response.

Thanks for reading the blog. Many blessings to you in your ministry!

Intrepid Lutherans said...

Pr. Lillo,

No - what we're saying is exactly what we said, and what you quoted, no more, no less. Now, if "alternative" and "contemporary" worship IS "enthusiastic," (i.e. pietistic), "man-centered," and "sectarian," then the pure Gospel is perverted. And all of us should be "obsessed" with seeing to it that such does not happen within our fellowship.

Fr. Spencer

Rev. Mark D. Ochsankehl said...

The burden lays on those who use alternative forms of worship to prove they are Lutheran, Confessional, Christ centered and Biblical. Something doesn't have to be false to be watered down, devoid of anything Lutheran or done with the wrong motivation. When a congregation uses contemporary forms of worship they can't possibly rob the Word of God of its efficacy, however, they can and have watered down their Lutheran Confession and heritage to the point it becomes either an embarrassment or irrelevant. I pray that everyone is obsessed with the type of worship services, teaching and practice they use - obsessed with being Christ focused, making clear and unambiguous use of God's Word - and not using fleshly entertainment, let's blend in with the world, and become so relevant that we are irrelevant. Again, no one has been able to show how contemporary worship or any Church Growth principle has brought any growth to the Christian church. We can show how historical, orthodox, Confessional Lutheran worship, teaching and practice brings spiritual growth to the Christian. We don't grow the church by bringing in people. We grow the people, who in turn go and teach others. Same with money. We don't raise money. We raise Christians and the money comes. If contemporary worship or contemporary anything else, means anything less than solid, historical, orthodox, Confessional Lutheran teaching and practice, I would wonder if you shouldn't question your own motivation or question why you are still calling yourself Lutheran.

Anonymous said...

Someone urged me to take a look at this new website.
I may be just a simple layman in the WELS, but it seems to me this entire website is a waste of time. You have offered a huge assumption that the WELS is no longer united. I thought unity in the WELS was based on the Bible and not on what order of service or what music was used in church.

As simple as it can be: I don't see any Bible evidence to support your opinion.
You say that this about theology and not about personal opinion, but without the Bible, it just turns into a personal matter of what do or don't like.

There are 66 books in the Bible. I cannot find anywhere where God tells us to use a certain kind of liturgy. Maybe an educated pastor can prove me wrong. But if not, then let's use a little common sense.

I will encourage my pastor not to waste one minute of his time in some of the pointless arguments I see here. I would rather have him doing what we called him to do: visit our people and reach the lost.

I hope you will print this even though I do not agree with you. I guess we'll see.

Mr. Raymond James

rlschultz said...

Mr. James,
There is no place in the Bible where membership in the Scouts and the Lodges are specifically prohibited. Yet, officially, the WELS does prohibit membership in both of these. This would be taking your argument to its logical conclusion. Respectfully, I ask you to reconsider what you have written. There is a reason why it is often called "the historic liturgy".

WELS church lady said...

In response to Mr. Raymond James:
WELS is not united in the way we would think it is. Just over a year ago, I too thought that all WELS churches were the same. Very soon, I entered the blogospere and found a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT picture! WELS churches teaching with Willow Creek materials.(this is documented) Pastors Plagarizing sermons and letters from non-WELS sources.(this too is documented) Worse, is a pastor who made fun of closed communion.(there is video footage on that one) I could type much more, so I hope this explains part of the reason for this Confessional blog. I am grateful for the leadership that wants to keep orthodox Lutheran teaching in the WELS. May God bleess all your efforts.

In Christ,
Rebecca Quam

Keyser Soze said...

I agree with Mrs. Quam. There are some instances of actions being taken by WELS pastors that have the potential to cause confusion among members of our synod. For example, the listing of Time of Grace on the LCMS Web site and the affiliation of a few WELS churches with the Willow Creek Association could be seen as violating the principles of church fellowship.

I pray that this forum becomes a place to discuss these issues with the goal of preserving confessional Lutheran teaching and practice.

Jay Ramos

Tim Niedfeldt said...

Hello all,

I just want to say that I am thrilled about this type of blog. I believe this type of open debate is exactly how these types of issues should be carried out online. Hopefully more meaningful exposition and debate can be accomplished within our own denomination - free of polemics, satire, and half-truths. Except for one or two points that I think I would need further clarification or definition as to the intent of the words, I could subscribe to what you stated as beliefs. Now some who know me from my illustrious mischaracterized blogosphere reputation of the past would probably huff or snicker at that statement knowing what church I belong to, where my children went to school, and what schools I coach and volunteer for.

However that leads to one point. I hope when the time comes and we start looking at the practices of churches that we appropriately do the research and evaluate them fairly and thoroughly with documented and named sources. I guess in two or three years out here scanning the blogosphere I have been waiting for that definitive “Lutheran List” that could be used to go from church to church and evaluate them for a “Genuine WELS Lutheran” label. I mean I want to see those assessments like “90% faithful to the common service”, “-6 points for excessive instrumentation in CW 280”, “pastor is wearing white robe -3 points….not wearing a robe at all -10 points” etc. Of course I’m being a bit facetious, but you get my point I hope. We’re talking about the application of worship principles to the biblical and confessional norms. If there is a problem with unity of doctrine as it relates to practice then there must…or at least should … be an objective evaluation of each particular application.

The problem out here is that there is so much “feeling” about things. I feel that is not Lutheran. I feel that is not the spirit of the Confessions. I feel this is biblical. It is a classic case of WELS principles vs application of principles. I just hope that as was stated by a pastor above that a definitive list will emerge.

“If we have not yet spoken with one voice regarding such practices, then it’s time we talk about it, come to some theological conclusions, and speak with a unified voice concerning them.”

Then when you tackle the synodical bad boys out there we have a common understanding based on a unified evaluation and thoroughly researched data into each situation. Because honestly each case needs to be looked at individually. It is my opinion that it is quite the opposite than was stated above:

“The burden lays on those who use alternative forms of worship to prove they are Lutheran, Confessional, Christ centered and Biblical.”

I think the burden lies on those who think these churches are not Lutheran, Confessional, Christ centered, and Biblical to prove these alternative worship churches are not. Until the “Genuine WELS Lutheran List” is published AND defined with a comprehensive objective application of principle, these churches will operate within the same doctrinal unity you claim is not there. I’d be very curious as to why the onus belongs to the alternative worship church to prove they are legitimate. That implies there is some sort of objective norm that is imposed already.

Before these judgments are made I hope we can accurately and definitively be able to present to those “wrongdoers” the exact nature of their offenses and where they have strayed. Perhaps teams of pastors to visit each church at least two or three Sundays. Talk with the pastors of each church and interview them. Evaluate their websites, podcasts, sermon archives, conference papers, etc.. I guess this is nothing more than an accreditation type of visit. However before the typical type of hyperbole and one off debates begin about this hearsay item and that isolated incident let’s at least do the legwork.

Again, thank you for the efforts you are putting forth.

God’s Blessings

Tim Niedfeldt

AP said...

Mr. James, you wrote, "There are 66 books in the Bible. I cannot find anywhere where God tells us to use a certain kind of liturgy. Maybe an educated pastor can prove me wrong. But if not, then let's use a little common sense."

In terms of liturgy, the issue is not the exact order of the service or the specific music used. Liturgical matters are not adiaphora (i.e. things indifferent) when these matters are either rooted in or promote (intentionally or not) false doctrine. In other words, Scripture may not tell us what liturgy to use, but it certainly provides guidelines about what forms of public worship we are to avoid or follow and why.

The issue here is about doctrinal principles of worship and how they are applied in practice. We are confessional Lutherans, meaning that we subscribe to the Book of Concord BECAUSE it is an entirely correct interpretation of Scripture.

The Book of Concord also does not specifically provide a liturgy, but it most certainly provides principles for public worship that are in total agreement with Scripture. See especially Article XXIV of the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, and Article X of the Formula of Concord.

From the Formula of Concord (Solid Declaration X) Tapper Edition: "We should not consider as matters of indifference, and we should avoid as forbidden by God, ceremonies which are basically contrary to the Word of God, even though they go under the name and guise of external adiaphora and are given a different color from their true one. Nor do we include among truly free adiaphora or things indifferent those ceremonies which give or (to avoid persecution) are designed t give the impression that our religion does not differ greatly from that of the papists, or that we are not seriously opposed to it. Nor are such rites matters of indifference when these ceremonies are intended to create the illusion (or are demanded or agreed to with that intention) that these two opposing religions have been brought into agreement and become one body, or that a return to the papacy and apostasy from the pure doctrine of the Gospel and from true religion has taken place or will allegedly result little by little from these ceremonies. In this case, the words of Paul must be heeded: ‘Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Therefore, come out from them and be separate from them, says the Lord’ (II Cor. 6:14, 17). Neither are useless and foolish spectacles, which serve neither good order, Christian discipline, nor evangelical decorum in the church, true adiaphora or things indifferent.”

There are at least two general principles for public worship here: first, we should not be “mismated” or yoked to those who differ from our public confession of faith (i.e. the Book of Concord) by imitating, adopting, or adapting their worship practices. Second, ceremonies (liturgy) rooted in doctrines opposed to our public confession of faith should be avoided. As Pastor Ochsankehl wrote, the burden of proof that there are no doctrinal issues is on the innovators. Intended or not, major changes in liturgy or worship at least suggest changes in doctrine. If one is going to make these changes that suggest departures from the long-established doctrine of the Lutheran church, then these innovations must be fully and properly defended using Scripture and the Lutheran church's public confession (the Book of Concord).

Purely as a matter of taste, I have not liked the contemporary services I have seen. Were it just a matter of taste and not doctrine, we could call it adiaphora and leave it at that. As it is,I do not want to see Refomed or Arminian theology creeping its way into the WELS through the backdoor of worship. I am perfectly willing to listen to arguments based on Scripture and the Confessions that can detail how this is not happening.

Dr. Aaron Palmer

Anonymous said...

I think I should respond to this. I'm glad my previous comment was posted. I hope this one will be also.

To rlshultz: I think you missed the point of my comment. The lodges and scouts are banned because they break the 1st commandment. But can you find me anywhere in the Bible that a worship service without using your preferred order of service is a sin? I can't. I assume if you could, you would have listed a Bible passage.

To Ms. Quam: Are only WELS people true Christians and going to be in heaven? I think WELS pastors are smart enough to know which materials are good and which are not. And have you spoken with these people who made you upset in private as God asks? I hope so.

To Dr. Palmer: You gave a nice long speech, but you don't have any Bible passages? That was the point, right?
And, since you bring it up, if we are "not to be mismated with those who differ from our public confession of faith" then why does this website have a link to Evangelical-Lutheran Liturgical congregations? When I clicked on that, it linked to churches of all different denominations. So am I to understand that the WELS pastors Rev Lidtke, Rev Rydecki, and Friar? Father? (sorry, not sure how to address you or what the Fr stands for as I've never seen it used with a WELS pastor) Spencer on this website are telling people to do just what Dr Palmer told us the Formula of Concord and the Bible forbid?

I'm old enough to remember the breaking of fellowship between WELS and LCMS so this makes me most curious. I'm wondering what other WELS pastors would say about this? Is this right?

I hope you are brave enough to print this and let others discuss this, even though it appears this could be actually be a real problem that is in the Bible.
Sincerely, Mr Raymond James.

Rev. Mark D. Ochsankehl said...

Brother Tim, thank you for your curiosity as to why the onus belongs to the alternative worship church to prove they are legitimate. I believe you will find the answer in Paul's letter to Timothy. "Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching." The opposite it also true, according to the Apostle John. "Test the spirits, whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world."

The genuine WELS Lutheran List, objective norm, has already been published and defined. We call it the Lutheran Confessions and it can be found in the Triglotta.

The question isn't whether or not you can sing Silent Night with a guitar. The question is what are the words you are singing. What impression are you giving? What statement are you making to the world? Are you still willing to die for the Lutheran Confessions?

Far too many Lutheran churches, schools, pastors and teachers are scared and ashamed to call themselves Lutheran. They shy away from anything that might label them as Lutherans. They want to be generic Christians. Since that is the case, perhaps it would be most expedient for them to be honest with themselves and others and leave the Lutheran church.

Brother Tim, this isn't about frivolity, making liturgical rules and regulations, or creating a Liturgical Police. We do have Circuit Pastors and District Presidents whose job it is to monitor doctrine and practice. However, the problem is far more serious than being hyper-over-reactionary about liturgical habits. For the most part it's not what we are doing, in so much as it is what we are not doing. It boils down to the essence of our identity, beliefs and practices as Lutherans. Someone once said, if the government started arresting Christians, would there be enough evidence to convict you. My question is, if the government started arresting Lutherans, would there be enough evidence to convict us? How close is the world getting to answering that question with a resounding, "No."?

Anonymous said...

Dear Rev. Ochsankehl,

I sincerely feel sorry for you and wish to cheer you up. You sound like you have little joy in your work. The world is going down the toilet and we can do nothing but martyr ourselves for being Lutheran. I am not a pastor but I read the Bible. I read in my devotion the other day from Acts 13 how Paul and Barnabas were expelled from a region for preaching about Jesus. But they were still filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. God didn't tell us to give up, but to go out and love people and preach to them. I hope this encourages you in your work.
I also want to ask you a question. Several years ago, I read a bulletin insert by Northwestern Publishing House about what it means to be a Lutheran. It said that Luther would never have wanted a church to bear his name. A Lutheran is not about being called Lutheran. It is about being a Christian who believes in the Bible. So why do you keep talking about dying a hundred times for being called Lutheran? And why would you make everyone who is just a generic Christian leave the church? What is a generic Christian? Will a generic Christian get to heaven too?

Thank you, Mr. Raymond James

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Mr. James,

Please note that the ELLC is a directory of congregations, not an endorsement of congregations or an invitation to break fellowship principles. Their own website directs visitors to practice closed communion within their own fellowship. Like a phone book contains churches of many denominations, so does this, but with a more narrow "search engine," as it were, i.e., Lutheran churches that are committed to liturgical worship.

Please also note our warning above the non-WELS links:
Note: Intrepid Lutherans cannot endorse all the content found at the following links, and expects that the visitor accessing them will exercise mature Berean judgment in assessing and making use of them.

Rev. Mark D. Ochsankehl said...

Dear Mr. James,
Thank you for your heartfelt sorrow and your wish to cheer me up. Actually, I've never been more content in my entire life. I am a Called and Ordained Lutheran servant of the Word and I have the privilege and joy to preach, teach and administer the Sacraments according to the Lutheran Confessions. If a Lutheran is not about being called Lutheran, than why do we have Lutheran Confessions? I'm far more than just a Christian who believes in the Bible. I have pledged myself to be faithful to the Lutheran Confessions and even die for them if necessary. If pastors, teachers and members of the WELS want to be generic christians, with no definite statement of doctrine and faith, then perhaps we should change the name to The Wisconsin Evangelical Generic Christian Synod. Or drop the name altogether and call ourselves generic christians and change the names of all our churches to "The Generic Christian Church in...". Although, I'm sure you will find plenty who will be offended at the use of the term christian and church, and want to narrow it down to just plain generic.

This isn't about whether or not a generic christian can get to heaven. It's about being honest with our Lutheran Confessions and our identity as Lutherans. I'm not a generic male, generic American or generic Lutheran. I have a distinct personality, background, heritage and set of beliefs. As Lutherans we have nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to our Lutheran Confessions, although, that's becoming harder and harder to witness within the Lutheran churches. I hear people say, "If you don't like America than move out." Perhaps we should be saying, "If you don't like being called a Lutheran than be honest about it and join a generic christian church."?
Peacefully yours, MDO

Brett Meyer said...

I wish to add to the Confessional quotes that Dr. Aaron Palmer graciously provided.

5] Namely, when under the title and pretext of external adiaphora such things are proposed as are in principle contrary to God's Word (although painted another color), these are not to be regarded as adiaphora, in which one is free to act as he will, but must be avoided as things prohibited by God. In like manner, too, such ceremonies should not be reckoned among the genuine free adiaphora, or matters of indifference, as make a show or feign the appearance, as though our religion and that of the Papists were not far apart, thus to avoid persecution, or as though the latter were not at least highly offensive to us; or when such ceremonies are designed for the purpose, and required and received in this sense, as though by and through them both contrary religions were reconciled and became one body; or when a reentering into the Papacy and a departure from the pure doctrine of the Gospel and true religion should occur or gradually follow therefrom [when there is danger lest we seem to have reentered the Papacy, and to have departed, or to be on the point of departing gradually, from the pure doctrine of the Gospel].

7] Likewise, when there are useless, foolish displays, that are profitable neither for good order nor Christian discipline, nor evangelical propriety in the Church, these also are not genuine adiaphora, or matters of indifference.

8] But as regards genuine adiaphora, or matters of indifference (as explained before), we believe, teach, and confess that such ceremonies, in and of themselves, are no worship of God, nor any part of it, but must be properly distinguished from such as are, as it is written: In vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men, Matt. 15:9.

9] Therefore we believe, teach, and confess that the congregation of God of every place and every time has, according to its circumstances, the good right, power, and authority [in matters truly adiaphora] to change, to diminish, and to increase them, without thoughtlessness and offense, in an orderly and becoming way, as at any time it may be regarded most profitable, most beneficial, and best for [preserving] good order, [maintaining] Christian discipline [and for eujtaxiva worthy of the profession of the Gospel], and the edification of the Church. Moreover, how we can yield and give way with a good conscience to the weak in faith in such external adiaphora, Paul teaches Rom. 14, and proves it by his example, Acts 16:3; 21:26; 1 Cor. 9:19.
Book of Concord, Formula of Concord, Adiaphora, Solid Declaration

These quotes will help to clarify what is to be believed and taught in Christ's Church because they are the correct explanation and confession of Scripture. As a quia subscription to the 100% faithful Lutheran Confessions is required of all members of the (W)ELS they are an additional foundation to which all doctrine and practice is to adhere.

Pastor Jeff Samelson said...

Mr. James (and others) -- Regarding being called "Lutheran", you might be interested in the article published here at Paul McCain's Cyberbrethren.com blog: http://cyberbrethren.com/2010/05/31/concerning-the-name-lutheran-2/

AP said...

Mr. James,

Perhaps you missed it, but my previous post contained Scripture passages from II Corinthians.

As Brett Meyer wrote, the confessions are a completely correct "explanation and confession" of Scripture. They are the "normed norm" with Scripture itself being the ultimate "norming norm." It is true that the confessions are not Scripture, but they are in total agreement with it. That is why those of us who hold calls in the WELS agree to teach according to them.

In the end, there is one Scripture passage that most motivated me to join this discussion publicly. Romans 1:16 (KJV): "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."

In Galatians (and if you have not read Luther's commentary, I cannot reccomend it strongly enough), Paul warns against departing from the purity of the Gospel:

Galatians 1:6-10 (NIV) "6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
10Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ."

Or, as Luther put in in the final verse of his great hymn "Dear Christians One and All Rejoice:

"What I have done and taught, teach thou,
My ways forsake thou never.
So shall My kingdom flourish now
And God be praised forever.
Take heed lest men with base alloy
The heavenly treasure should destroy.
This counsel I bequeath thee."

As I have said, it is the "base alloy" of practices rooted in doctrine of a different spirit (a different gospel) that troubles me.

Dr. Aaron Palmer

Brett Meyer said...

Luther considered his commentary on Galations to be his best work. In my opinion it should be read and studied by everyone, but certainly by those who value Luther's faithfulness to Holy Scripture and his contributions to the gracious gift of God given to mankind in the Lutheran Confessions. Many of the false claims currently made about Luther's doctrine are answered and rejected by this faithful commentary.

"The importance of this Commentary on Galatians for the history of Protestantism is very great. It presents like no other of Luther's writings the central thought of Christianity, the justification of the sinner for the sake of Christ's merits alone."

It can be found online here: http://www.bibleteacher.org/luthercom.htm

"When a man comes into the pulpit for the first time, he is much perplexed by the number of heads before him. When I ascend the pulpit I see no heads, but imagine those that are before me are all blocks. When I preach I sink myself deeply down; I regard neither doctors nor masters of which there are in the Church above forty. But I have an eye for the multitude of young people, children, and servants, of which there are more than two thousand. I preach to them. I direct my discourse to those that have need of it.

A preacher should be a logician and a rhetorician - that is, he must be able to teach and admonish. When he preaches on any article, he must first distinguish it, then define, describe and show what it is; thirdly, he must produce sentences from the Scripture to prove and strengthen it; fourthly, he must explain it by example; fifth, he must adorn it with similitudes; and lastly, he must admonish and arouse the indolent, correct the disobedient, and reprove the authors of false doctrine - Martin Luther"

Anonymous said...

Mr. James,
I'm not sure anyone cleared up your confusion yesterday as to the meaning of the Fr prefix. I went to WikiAnswers and learned it stands for "fire retardant," and that didn't seem to fit, but a few lines down I also read, "It stands for France." When a WELS pastor uses that abbreviation, we would hope and pray that he is doing nothing more than taking pride in his French heritage.
Pastor Cz Mark Porinsky (with the Cz I'm showing my appreciation for my Czech heritage.)
Dexter, Michigan

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Palmer,

You sure do write an awful lot for this old guy to sort through. But I don't see what your single Bible passage does to prove your point.

All it says that unbelievers and believers and dark and light should not be combined. Right? So you're saying that anyone who does not use your preferred liturgy is an unbelieving person of darkness? I think that you should prove that with a Bible passage before you condemn them.
I also want to say that I am not ashamed of the Gospel either, even though I do not seem to agree with you.

So, here is my question again. Maybe this time you will try to answer it. "There are 66 books in the Bible. I cannot find anywhere where God tells us to use a certain kind of liturgy. Maybe an educated pastor can prove me wrong. But if not, then let's use a little common sense."

Mr. Raymond James

Anonymous said...

Dear Rev. Rydecki,

I'm trying to say this nicely, but your comment about your link sounds like an ambulance-chasing lawyer. We don't officially endorse it but we post it on website for all to see?

Let me share something personal. When the Wisconsin Synod and Missoui Synod broke apart, some of my Missouri relatives couldn't come to communion anymore, and that really caused a lot of pain in my family. What should they do? Their nearest church was Missouri, and their pastor was the same, and even though they were the same Christians as before, now they were part of a church which was not in fellowship and were not welcome. We were told that the outward confession was different and they should leave their church if they wanted communion.
I didn't know WELS pastors are being told differently nowdays. I think I'll ask my pastor what he says. And I hope other pastors will give their opinion too.

Mr. Raymond James

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Mr. James,

I don’t mind you asking questions. I appreciate the cross your family has had to bear with the divisions among the synods. You are not alone.

I’ll try to explain once more: The ELLC is an online phone book. That’s all it is. It’s a phone book with a very limited search range. It lists WELS churches, ELS churches, and also churches in fellowship with the LCMS. I grant that there are relatively few WELS churches listed, but they are there.

If I were handing you a phone book so that you could find a WELS church in an area you’ll be visiting, I would expect you to skip the “Methodist” section and the “Baptist” section and find the “Lutheran – WELS” section. Some WELS members, when visiting another part of the country, wish to find a WELS congregation where they can worship and know that there will be a recognizable liturgy and that there won’t be a praise band up in front. For them, this online directory may come in handy.

I do endorse the ELLC as a directory, to help traveling WELS/ELS members find a WELS/ELS church that remains liturgical. That doesn’t mean I endorse every congregation listed in the directory, as little as I endorse every church listed in a phone book.

Thanks for your comments,
Pastor Rydecki

Intrepid Lutherans said...

Pastor Spencer here -

There seems to be just a tad of consternation being expressed about some clerical terminology showing up on this blog from time to time; the use of the term "Father" by a Lutheran Pastor, to be precise, myself, to be more precise.

Please allow me to explain.

I am sometimes asked why I use the term "Father" as part of my name as a Pastor.

Simply put, I follow the suggestion made by Dr. Luther himself, or "Father Martin" as he is often referred to, even in our circles. For he once wrote -

"Thus we have two kinds of fathers presented in this commandment, fathers in blood and fathers in office, or those to whom belongs the care of the family, and those to whom belongs the care of the country. Besides these there are yet spiritual fathers; not like those in the Papacy, who have indeed had themselves called thus, but have performed no function of the paternal office. For those only are called spiritual fathers who govern and guide us by the Word of God; as St. Paul boasts his fatherhood in First Corinthians 4:15, where he says: "In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel." Now, since they are fathers they are entitled to their honor, even above all others."

(From Large Catechism, Fourth Commandment, paragraphs 158-160)

"Reverend" usually signifies simply that a man has successfully completed a course of theological studies so that he can serve in the public ministry. "Pastor" denotes he is a religious shepherd over a group of believers. "Father" means that he has been given a Call by God and recognizes his responsibility for the spiritual care and feeding of souls. Thus, all Pastors should be Reverends and Fathers, but not all fathers are Reverends or Pastors, and not all Reverends are Fathers or Pastors.

I use the term to remind myself everyday that, as St. Paul and Martin Luther taught, I am a "father" spiritually to the members of my congregation, and need to have a deep care and affection for their eternal souls. I think I shall keep using this term, thank you. It is good discipline for me.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Spencer,
I have more than "just a tad of consternation" concerning the use of the term "father," and I am deeply disappointed that you didn't post my comment concerning this yesterday.
I've never met you personally that I know of, but from my experience, pastors who apply to themselves the term "Father" are identifying with a mindset, or I should say a "spirit," that is different from the WELS spirit I've grown up with - every bit as much as those who turn to the church growth spirit.
I understand that, in certain places and times, the term has been used among Lutherans - but not in the WELS during my 60-year lifetime. I find the use of this term "Father," with all the baggage it contains, every bit as divisive of unity as words like "Willow Creek."
How does one even obtain the title "Father"? Is it bestowed by a circuit pastor or district president, or simply chosen by the individual himself? And where does that leave the majority of us WELS pastors who do not display that title?

Pastor Mark Porinsky
Faith Lutheran Church
Dexter, Michigan

Intrepid Lutherans said...

Pastor Porinsky,

First, it was the choice of the editors, not mine alone, that your previous comment not be posted. We saw it as somewhat facetious and silly, and not to be taken seriously.

Second, that this subject is what gives you more than a little consternation, with all else that is happening in our church body, I find quite amazing, and frankly, somewhat unnerving and odd. If I were nearby, I'd take you out for a beer and tell you to "get over it!" There are certainly much bigger and more important issues to deal with.

Third, you make a very broad generalization that Pastors who use the term under discussion have a "different spirit." Some would say, and I think rightly so, that such a comment is quite unfair and judgmental. You are tarring with a very wide brush. You admit you do not know me, yet you presume to know what "spirit" I have or don't have. That is simply not right, good sir.

Fourth, you speak about a WELS different than the one you grew up with. Well, good Pastor, look around you - it IS different, but most certainly NOT because of the tiny group of Pastors who use "Father." I think you would have to look elsewhere for the source of many of the changes in the WELS, some of which are much more disturbing than the titles a particular Pastor uses or doesn't use.

Fifth, you never even commented on Father Martin's opinion. I don't see why Luther wouldn't be a good man to follow in this regard. And the same goes for St. Paul. We follow their lead in many other matters. I fail to see why we can't in this instance.

Sixth, neither did you react to my use of this term as a tool for myself and my members to discipline ourselves to the correct Biblical understanding of what a Pastor is. This is our choice, not just mine alone. My sheep are not unhappy with it. Thus, it should not bother you.

Finally, if you want to continue this discussion, let's do it outside this blog, so as not to take up precious time and space with such a mundane argument. Thanks!

Take care and God bless!

Pastor Spencer

AP said...

Mr. James,

You must really stop putting words into my mouth. I never said or in any way meant to imply that those who use a different liturgy are bound for eternal damnation. No one ever said you were ashamed of the Gospel either. It seems to me that you are raising strawmen here. I do not feel particularly obligated to provide you with more material when you have either ignored or totally misconstrued what has already been provided. I will attempt only one more brief explanation.

We are talking about applying Scripture. In essense, the adoption of worship practices rooted in some level of false doctrine binds us (at least in terms of perception) to a different church. As you pointed out, WELS likes to think of itself as very strict on fellowship rules. By sharing or adapting the worship practices of a different confession, are we in fellowship with that confession? Moreover, adopting these kind of worship practices will have an impact on doctrine (i.e. an emphasis on a prosperity gospel or theology of glory).

There are quite a lot of writings out there on this topic. I think most of your questions will be satisfied by reading Robert Koester, "Law and Gospel" (available from NPH) who deals with Church Growth and doctrine far more expertly than I possibly can. The book contains an abundance of Scripture references.

Dr. Aaron Palmer

Anonymous said...

I'd like to respond to something Pastor Lillo said:

"That having been said, if you took a poll of WELS members, I think you would find that there are more of them would equate the term "Father" with the false teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church than would equate the use of contemporary music and worship with the false teachings and practices of the Reformed or Arian churches."

Isn't that exactly the problem with contemporary worship, though? WELS members are very sensitive to anything they might perceive as being "too Catholic", but most are completely ignorant of the dangers associated with American Protestantism. When they introduce worship styles that come directly from American Protestantism, aren't WELS pastors and churches giving the impression that those dangers don't exist, or, at the very least, aren't very dangerous at all?

Our culture is saturated with American Protestantism. I consider it far more dangerous to the average WELS member than Roman Catholicism is. Why is it then that we're quick to shun anything remotely Roman Catholic, but equally quick to adopt anything American Protestant?

WELS pastors and churches need to stay away from contemporary worship in order to send a clear message that American Protestantism is a grave danger to faith.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

I think Mr. Peeler makes a very strong point. The biggest threat to confessional Lutheranism in America has always come from the Protestant camp, not the Roman camp (future article from C.F.W. Walther in the works). If only we were as sensitive to the Arminian/Calvinist heresies as we are to Roman heresies, we would be more careful before borrowing the worship forms born of their heretical theology.

Pr. Lillo, you made a rather strange statement above:

"The point (I think) is that you shouldn't be upset about the use of contemporary forms of worship in other churches if the pastors in those churches have determined that it is in the best interest of the members to use those forms and the members agree that these forms are proper as well (as long as no false doctrines are being TAUGHT (not IMPLIED) by these forms..."

It seems like you're saying that it's OK to imply false doctrine, as long we don't explicitly "teach" it. Would you mind clarifying that point?

Anonymous said...

Pastor Lillo said:

"He assumes that just because contemporary forms are used by American Protestantism (American Evanglicalism), they carry with them the errors of American Protestantism. That isn't necessarily the case."

I respectfully disagree. The Christian Church has always held to the maxim "lex orandi, lex credendi". That means that the worship practices of the heterodox do indeed carry with them heterodox doctrine.

This is especially true for American Protestantism/Evangelicalism. Their worship practices were designed for a very specific theological purpose. Because their theology focuses on human decision, their worship is designed to manipulate emotion in order to encourage human decision.

It's foolish to think that one can adopt such practices without adopting the theology which is built into the practices. The examples you cited (Methodist hymns and black Genevas) are perfect examples of this.

Our Wauwautosa fathers warned very strongly about the danger of Methodist hymns. This danger has now played itself out. Ask WELS members what their favorite hymns are. In almost every case, they will tell you they love "those good old songs", referring to shallow Methodist hymns. Appreciation for solid, sustantial Lutheran hymnody is at an all time low, and will only get worse as shallow Methodist hymns are replaced by even shallower contemporary praise songs.

Likewise, the adoption of black Genevas was accompanied by a lack of appreciation for the Scriptural doctrine of the ministry, the effects of which the WELS is still dealing with today.

So, yes, it absolutely is the case that worship practices carry with them and even cause doctrinal problems.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Rev. Mark D. Ochsankehl said...

The question of contemporary versus traditional really is of no concern. It's far more complex than that. How are you doing it justice if you take it lightly and glibly start doing your own thing? The questions are why are you doing what you are doing? What is your motivation? Is it really better? If so, what makes you think it is better? Are Christians being fed meat, or milk, or worse yet cotton candy? Are you catering to the flesh or the spirit? Are all types of music appropriate for worship? The Bible talks about Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Should that be our goal? How do you determine the difference between entertainment and worship? Is your worship serving and/or glorifying God or man? Are you portraying God as the holy, almighty, righteous Judge and Lord, or some kind of sweet Daddy? Is the worship service giving a proper distinction between Law and Gospel? Does the worship service have anything to do with being Lutheran, or are you trying to hide the fact you're a Lutheran? If contemporary is supposedly so much better, why is the Christian church still losing members? Is it a matter of historical versus contemporary, or is it a matter of substance over fluff? Do you care about the WELS as a whole or are you playing the Lone Ranger? Should the WELS be unified in both doctrine and practice? Is changing from wax candles to electric candles giving the impression church is fake? How about anything you are doing in your church? Is it fake or is it real? Is being a cheerleader Pastor manipulation or are you looking for a sincere response of faith? Are you just showing off and trying to be clever, so the focus is on you - or are you clearly motivated to make absolutely certain Christ alone is getting all the glory? Are you caving in to weak Christians because you're scared, or are you ready and willing to stand up for what is good, right and true? Is the Gospel being portrayed as we're all forgiven, so let's act goofy and show no respect for the Savior? How are you showing respect for your Savior? Does the Lord Supper mean more than Coke and potato chips, and if so how are you getting that across to your people? Is baptism more than laughing at a crying baby and splashing a bit of water, and if so how do your members know that? Are you truly teaching all nations or trying to make it palatable and/or aiming for the lowest common denominator? Are you trying to make generic disciples or Confessional, orthodox Lutherans? Is what you are doing a sin of omission, rather than a sin of commission? Is your worship simply lip service or from the heart? These and many more questions can and do apply to both liturgical and contemporary worship. Personally, I believe our practice, especially our worship, should be a reflection of our doctrine - to God alone be the glory.

Anonymous said...

One other thing.

I've heard people make the case that WELS pastors have the discernment to adopt the worship practices of American Evangelicalism while weeding out the things that promote false doctrine. (I already disagree with this since these worship practices are designed to promote false doctrine in and of themselves.)

But even if WELS pastors do have the discernment to see through the false doctrine, the average WELS layperson doesn't. All they know is that the stuff they sing in church sounds the same as the stuff they hear on the local Christian radio station and the stuff they see when they watch that televangelist, and the same stuff they find in the local Evangelical bookstore. And if it all looks the same and sounds the same, it must all be the same. And without even realizing it, they are being inundated with false doctrine.

Mr. Adam Peeler

AP said...

Pastor Lillo makes a good point. Who can deny that there is a deep-rooted fear of all things Catholic in the WELS. I spent over a decade studying at two Jesuit institutions, which raised a few eyebrows among some of my WELS friends and family members. Many are shocked to learn that the Lutheran reformers put forward three sacraments--communion, baptism, and confession. Maybe they would also be jolted by learning that Luther's own orders of worship were Masses, one of which was in Latin. I believe that it was the influence of Reformed doctrine and Pietism in the Lutheran church that caused many of these things--the Geneva gown (an academic, not religious robe in origin) and a downplaying of the Lord's Supper, for example. As another correctly pointed out, Calvinism and Arminianism have always historically been far greater internal enemies of the Lutheran church than Catholicism. Have you ever heard of a crypto-catholic? Isn't it just a bit bizarre that we will throw ourselves into fits about the wearing of a collar, the use of the term father, or the wearing of vestments (all legitimate aspects of the historic church), yet hardly a soul bats an eye when we embrace the worship practices of the Reformed. Somehow the argument that we can sanitize these practices carries water while we maintain our irrational fears about legitimate, historical usages in the church.

Dr. Aaron Palmer

Dr. Aaron Palmer

Anonymous said...

I know that liturgical “experts” like Strodach and others have written books and claimed that the black gown worn for years by Lutherans in our country came from the reformed or from pietism, but that claim is not backed up by the facts. P. E. Kretzmann in an article in the Concordia Theological Monthly, 1930, shows by citing many original sources that while it was different in Northern Germany and the Scandinavian countries, in southern Germany the black Lutheran gown developed in the 1500’s as a reaction to the Leipzig Interim. It was a reaction to the Catholic ceremonies being forced on them. He shows that the black gown of the reformed developed along different lines and was different from the Lutheran black gown that was fuller and the pleats hung from the chest rather than from the shoulders. Lutherans who wear black gowns also have good historical LUTHERAN liturgical practice behind them. Kretzmann also notes that as early as 1524 Luther wore a modified black garment of the Augustinian friars to preach. He also quotes Luther many times including this quote “of vestments we have not yet spoken, but we hold concerning them as we do of other external features. We permit that they be used freely, only that pomp and other extravagance be avoided. For you are not more pleasing to God if you administer the Sacrament in priestly garments nor less pleasing if you administer it without such vestments; for the garments do not further our cause before God.”

On another point, I support you as you point out the dangers of contemporary worship. It is something that we need to stand against. But I am afraid that your point is being lost because although you point out the danger of contemporary worship, you do not point out the danger of those who see something wrong with those who wear black gowns, who don’t have a crucifix in their church, who don’t have communion in every service and other practices that many of us would view as “high church.” H.C. Nitz wrote an article in the Northwestern Lutheran Oct 13, 1957 that pointed to an article by Prof Fuerbringer of the Missouri synod. That article appeared in the Concordia Theological Monthly 1934. It is entitled “The Golden Mean in the Liturgy and Order of the Divine Service.” In that article Fuerbringer points out the danger of following the Reformed in their liturgical practices. He also points out the danger in following the Roman Catholics. It would be good if you would also not only point out the dangers of the one extreme but also the dangers of the other extreme.

Pastor Marc Frey

Rev. Mark D. Ochsankehl said...

Brother Joel,
Thanks for your comments, however, just so you know I'm not always talking about WELS specifically, but Lutheranism in general. Although, I do specifically remember one WELS church experience I had, where the church had teenagers playing in a band with drums, guitars, etc. I was a sound man for a band in high school and believe me when I say in comparison the WELS band was embarrassingly horrible. If we were trying to compete with Calvary Baptist, who has a much better band, I might suggest we are wasting our time. I believe that would be on the contemporary side. However, in the same vein I've heard some church choirs on the traditional side that wouldn't have hurt my feelings if they never would have sung. They definitely were not the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I think both could be an example of asking yourself if the worship service was dignified and respectful to God. Another example might be singing "Father Abraham" during the Sunday worship service. I don't think anyone would say it was false doctrine, but than again, could one say it would be appropriate to have our members stand up and lift their right leg, left leg, right arm, left arm, turn around, sit down? Probably good physical exercise, but questionable spiritual exercise at best. I've seen weddings that in my opinion were a mockery, with coarse joking, drunkenness, syrupy vows, earthy music, etc. That's why I say it is so complex. It's not always that straight forward. If you sing "Father I Adore" at a summer camp campfire, is that the same as singing it at a Sunday worship service? Again, I doubt anyone could find anything heretical about "Father, Jesus, Spirit I adore You," however, it probably wouldn't hurt to ask yourself about your motivation for using it, is it giving glory to God or yourself for adoring God, or is it just trying to emote some kind of fleshly feel good type of reaction? In my experience, the vast majority of contemporary Christian music uses the words I, me, we, and us, a whole lot more than what we would describe as traditional Lutheran hymns. Again, you probably could find several that weren't heretical, however, how much of a steady diet of I, me, we, and us, can Christians get before the principle of "you are what you eat" comes in? I suppose it wouldn't hurt to ask yourself, if it would be better to err on the side of using hymns that are Christ centered, as opposed to contemporary music that has a tendency to be man and flesh directed? The contemporary christian music field is a multi-billion dollar business, complete with marketing schemes that call on the flesh to hand over the almighty dollar. They're definitely not afraid to do whatever sells, even if it means it titillates with earthly delights. Why would you use contemporary music? Does it appeal to the flesh or the spirit? Are you contemplating Christ crucified or simply tapping your toes to the syncopated beat? Which brings up a whole other discussion on syncopated versus non-syncopated and whether syncopated is anything but fleshly. Oh well, like I said - it's complicated and much of it has to do with motivation, which I suspect is too many times a motivation to water down Lutheranism and blend in with the world, because "everybody is doing it."

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Pastor Frey,

Please see the new post ("Rome, Geneva and the Geneva") for a reply to your comment. It was too long to publish as a comment!

Frank Sonnek said...

I was greatly heartened to read Pastor Lidtke post.

It was a post that reflected the righteousness that God demands of all men. The biblical evidence of that earthly righteousness is discipline that results in love.

Pastor Lidtke did not do an "us vs them". There is only an "us".

More importantly, pastor Lidtke pointed to study of our Lutheran Confessions.

If we study the confessions and internalize them and treat them as demostrations on how to apply law and gospel to every single article they treat, then the liturgy wars will simply melt away.

We argue over liturgy because our doctrine is wrong. All of us american Lutherans have to go back to what defines us as Lutherans. That, alone, is the Lutheran Confessions.

All the issues that are about the culture wars (women´s role in the church, homosexuality, et all) along with the litugy ways, will be resolved, over time, and in love, by a fresh look at the Lutheran Confessions.

Frank Sonnek said...

part II Lutheran Confessionalism

By "fresh look" I do not mean revisionism or some sort of higher critical reading. I mean a naive reading of our Confessions, of course also understanding the important historical context, such as scholasticism and aristotelean Virtue Ethics. And also by "fresh look" I mean a reading that is not necessarily completely in like with CFW Walther, who even in "Law and Gospel" betrayed a remnant of his pietistic past, nor the fathers of the WELS such has Schaller, who proposed that one should appeal directly to Holy Scripture, rather than bind oneself strictly to a reading of Holy Scripture that is interpreted by the Lutheran Confessions.

I am suggesting that both in the WELS, LCMS and of course the ELCA, the American Lutheran Church Fathers cannot always be relied on to point us to the truly Lutheran and Confessional understanding of things.

I see NONE of the commentators really using the confessions organically to show that their position is the Lutheran one. None. Yes some quote the confessions, but they do so by way of proof texting. This is not the confessional way.

The Confessional path is to apply law and gospel. Allow me to illustrate:

The administration of the sacraments, prayer, and even the teaching of the Law and Gospel are things that pertain only to our existence on earth. This fully includes the Holy Liturgy, the preaching of the word, and baptism, holy absolution and the holy and blessed sacrament of the altar. These are earthly kingdom things. they are things of the law. they are things of the "flesh/body" part of the pauline contrast between flesh/body and spirit/Spirit.

This law/gospel contrast, aka heavenly kingdom/earthly kingdom contrast, aka earthly righeousness/Heavenly Righeousness contrast, MUST be the context for any confessional conversation about any and all points of doctrine.

But we modern american Lutherans dont even begin to get what law and gospel are all about and aimed to do:

The entire point of the law and gospel distinction is to put EVERYTHING that we can see and do in our flesh/bodies firmly into the category of law, earthly kingdom, earthly visible righteousness, old adam.

We do this with EVERYTHING, so that only ONE thing remains in the Heavenly Kingdom of the Holy Gospel: invisible faith, alone, in Christ, alone. This Righteousness of invisible faith, alone, in christ, alone, alone, alone, furthermore is meaningless on earth to anyone but God and a troubled conscience.

So the law and gospel categories are not a uniquely lutheran filing system with which we can sort the various passages of Holy Scripture into two piles of "stuff".

It is a much more radical idea! It is to put ALL the STUFF that we can see or do in our bodies, and most especially the "spiritual" "sacred" "Churchly" "stuff" into one huge pile that we call Earthly Kingdom or kingdom of the law or kingdom of the Old Adam, so that we are very very very clear that only ONE thing, Christ, is alone in the Heavenly Kingdom. alone alone alone.

so we even have adopted the scholastic understanding of two kingdoms as being secular vs sacred. the civil estate vs the churchly estate. this is pure scholasticism. and we insinuate this into the romans 8 constrast.

fact: Luthers lightbulb moment was to realize that romans 8 flesh vs spirit was not a movement from vice to virtue. It was a movement from Virtue ,true virtue worked by God himself on earth even from and for the wicked "even without our prayer" "even for all the wicked" to.... Faith in Christ... alone alone alone alone. alone alone.... um.... did I say alone? alone!

We have all adopted the neo-scholastic views of late-Melancthon and his acolyte Calvin who taught that a good work is defined as a work that is done a) with the right motivation and b) conforms to devinely revealed rules.

Frank Sonnek said...

Part III Lutheran Confessionalism

We have place the difference between believer and non believer , once again, intrinsically in the fruit, rather than in the heart of the believer and invisible faith alone.

This results in ALL the things we see about evangelism , seeker friendly churches etc.

If we would only read the formula of concord article VI for example, we would see that the line that divides church from un-church passed right down the middle of each of us as new man vs pagan old adam for whom only death and not reformation is the cure.

so we assume that there is a different law and a different gospel necessary for believers and unbelievers. and the errors multiply.

Frank Sonnek said...

Pastor Lidtke. Did you tutor at NW lutheran academy in Mobridge SD for a time?

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