Thursday, June 3, 2010

Liturgical Perspectives - It's not about chanting the Benediction

Already from many of the comments we’ve received at Intrepid Lutherans (both public and private), it seems that many are afraid we intend to set up new liturgical laws where God has not spoken. One brother accused us of “pontifically passing judgment on the hearts and souls of men because they do not chant the benediction in the prescribed manner.” Really? Is that the impression we’ve given so far? I hope not. Either we’ve grossly misrepresented ourselves, or this person is taking up with us a battle he’s been fighting with someone else.

The following is part of an introductory section from an essay presented by the Rev. Daniel Deutschlander, retired professor of Northwestern College and Martin Luther College. The essay is entitled, “The Western Rite: Its Development and Rich History and Its Relevance for Our Worship Life Today.” I think this summarizes well our view of the Liturgy and the role of Christian freedom in making changes to it.

To those who may think that they have come up with something better than the Western Rite in these last days, I would say only this: I would urge you to adopt an attitude of proper humility before you go charging into the treasure house passed down to us by almost 2,000 years of saints and martyrs, teachers and confessors, pastors and the faithful.

They, to be sure, would never contend that what they have given us is all there is to offer in liturgical worship. The Liturgy, after all, is itself the product of many generations of worship and reflects in its evolution changes in conditions in the church from one generation to another. The generations of fathers who kept this and left that would insist with, for example, Art. XV and XXIV of the Augsburg Confession and of the Apology, and X of the Formula of Concord, that ceremonies are adiaphora.

They would remind us that liturgies and ceremonies are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. Let those who can attain the proper end of ceremonies, i.e., the glorification of Christ, the teaching of pure doctrine, and the warning and the consolation of fallen man, in a better way than our historic liturgies do, let them, I say, have at it. Just beware of assuming that you are wiser and more holy than all of the fathers when you do it. And remember that their bequest to us comes not from one or two who imposed the Western Rite on us; it comes from the approbation and the consensus, from, if you will, the mind of the church over these many generations. It deserves our reverent and respectful consideration.

And while making sure that anything put in its place will glorify Christ, teach pure doctrine, afflict the comfortable and console the afflicted, let those casting aside the ancient liturgies keep in mind the counsel of the Confessions

... we teach that liberty in these matters should be exercised moderately, so that the inexperienced may not take offense and, on account of an abuse of liberty, become more hostile to the true teaching of the gospel. Nothing in the customary rites may be changed without good reason. Instead, in order to foster harmony, those ancient customs should be observed that can be observed without sin or without proving to be a great burden (AAC. Art. XV, par. 51 [Kolb edition, p. 230]).


Brian P Westgate said...

Where can we find the full version of Prof. Deutschlander's essay?

LPC said...

I would like to share my experience as an ex-RC who heard the Mass in Latin, then as a Calvinistic Charismatic, then finally now as a Lutheran.

The question I have in any liturgical practice, is this: how does the ritual, action or activity help enhance Justification By Faith Alone (JBFA)? Because if at the end of the day, this does not come out as a proclamation, then all is waste of time.

I say this because as a child I both heard the RC liturgical Mass in Latin and English. Yet I never got the Gospel from it. For after all you can be Liturgical and still be heretical or liberal in your theology. I have seen it in the Anglican (priestesses) and Roman Catholic (priests).

To me it is not Liturgy but Catechesis that is the first issue.

Luckily in my first months of examining Lutheranism I went first on the BoC specially the Small Cat(then the Large Cat). Here is what my wife said: "I now appreciate the Liturgy only because I understand what JBFA means. I hear it having new ears".


Dan Drews said...

Try this, Brian...

David Jay Webber said...

"as a child I both heard the RC liturgical Mass in Latin and English. Yet I never got the Gospel from it."

Assuming that they are sung in a language that the person in question understands, if a person who hears the Gloria in Excelsis or the Agnus Dei doesn't "get" the Gospel from those texts, is the problem in the texts, or in the person? People may or may not "get" the Gospel from any preachment of the Gospel that takes place in their presence. But in regard to liturgical texts such as the above, the Gospel is always presented and preached to anyone who is there when they are sung. I cannot create a kind of liturgy whereby everyone who is present when it is sung will necessarily always "get" the Gospel from it. That must be left in God's hands. But I can and should use a liturgy that I know will always present the Gospel to people, whether or not they individually "get" it.

Brett Meyer said...

Pastor Webber asks, "...if a person who hears the Gloria in Excelsis or the Agnus Dei doesn't "get" the Gospel from those texts, is the problem in the texts, or in the person?"

The Lutheran Confessions answer this and remain faithful to Scripture when they state, "For, first, although man's reason or natural intellect indeed has still a dim spark of the knowledge that there is a God, as also of the doctrine of the Law Romans 1:19ff., yet is is so ignorant, blind, and perverted that when even the most ingenious and learned men upon earth read or hear the Gospel of the Son of God and the promise of eternal salvation, they cannot from their own powers perceive apprehend, understand, or believe and regard it as true, but the more diligence and earnestness they employ, wishing to comprehend these spiritual things with their reason, the less they understand or believe, and before they become enlightened and are taught by the Holy Ghost, they regard all this only as foolishness or fictions. 1 Corinthians 2:14..."
Formula of Concord, Thorough Declaration, II. 9. Free Will, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 883. 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 4:17f.; 1 Corinthians 1:21

"Hence the natural free will according to its perverted, disposition and nature is strong and active only with respect to what is displeasing and contrary to God."
Formula of Concord, Thorough Declaration, II. 7. Free Will, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 883. John 8:34; Ephesians 2:2; 2 Timothy 2: 26.

"Thirdly, in this manner, too, the Holy Scriptures ascribe conversion, faith in Christ, regeneration, renewal, and all that belongs to their efficacious beginning and completion, not to the human powers of the natural free will, neither entirely, nor half, nor in any, even the least or most inconsiderable part, but in solidum, that is, entirely, solely to the divine working and the Holy Ghost, as also the Apology teaches."
Formula of Concord, Thorough Declaration, II. 25. Free Will, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 891.

David Jay Webber said...

It was a rhetorical question.

LPC said...

Pr. Jay,

The Liturgy may be right but the Catechesis will undo what is right if what is thought is wrong. I was taught the Baltimore Catechism in which - to cut the long story short, I was taught that I earn my salvation by following the sacraments of the church. Case in point was the sacrament of penance.

Luther heard the liturgy did he not? Yet for him the battle was not in what he heard, it was in what was being taught. In short it was not just about words but what the words mean.

You can have the liturgy and tact on to it the doctrine of purgatory and what have you. Case in point the RC church who still believes in purgatory till now.

John 1:29 The next day he beheld Jesus coming toward him, and he said: “See, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!

I picked this verse from JW's New World Translation. If what you say Pr. Jay is right, then I do not need to convert my JW friend for after all that verse is enough for him to get the Gospel. Perhaps he can stay in the JW while he gets it?

Scripture warns of anti-Christs, who are not blatantly against Christ, for anti-Christ affirms the Gospel so to speak but in the back ground chops off Christ from the Cross. Its left hand takes away what the right hand gives.


David Jay Webber said...

Catechesis prepares us better to hear the Gospel in the Liturgy. And catechesis itself conveys the Gospel in its own way. But the Gospel in the Lutheran Liturgy is not somehow dormant, until awakened by catechesis. It is there, and it is alive. If I do not hear it, the problem is in me, and not in the Liturgy.

An errant church, with an errant liturgy, does not err in absolutely everything it says. Rather, in such a case, there is error mixed with truth. And the truth that remains imbedded in the liturgy of an errant church gives a constant testimony against the error which is there along with it. And that truth supernaturally works against the influence of the error in the hearts and minds of those who worship in such a church.

In his treatise Von der Wiedertaufe, Martin Luther writes: "It is our confession that in the papacy there are the right Holy Scriptures, the right Baptism, the right Sacrament of the Altar, the right keys for forgiveness of sins, the right preaching office, the right catechism - such as the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed. ... Now if Christianity exists under the pope, it must be Christ's true body and members. If it is His body, then it has the right Spirit, Gospel, Creed, Baptism, Sacrament, keys, preaching office, prayer, Holy Scriptures, and everything that Christianity should have. Therefore we do not rave like the 'enthusiasts' that we reject everything in the papacy."

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

And along the same lines with what Pr. Webber said, I suppose it’s possible to have the world’s finest sermon, but if the rest of the service fails to teach pure doctrine, glorify Christ, convict and console fallen man, then it remains a hodge-podge of truth mixed with error. Can the Holy Spirit sustain his Church under such circumstances? Of course. But we can do better than that.

David Jay Webber said...

Our goal and wish should always be to have an order of service, hymns, prayers, sermon, and ceremonies that are all in harmony with each other, and that reenforce each other in their testimony to, and conveyance of, the truth of the Gospel. We have a problem when there is an incongruity or contradiction among some or all of these elements of the Liturgy, or when they are working at cross-purposes against each other.

A problem that I have seen in much of what is offered under the guise of "contemporary worship" is that it contains neither truth nor error, but functions instead as a catalyst for an emotional experience. The repetious phrases of many praise songs serve as emotional triggers, but do not actually teach anything of substance whether true or false. But if I am not learning something from a hymn or song, or if a hymn or song is not in some sense teaching me how to pray, then I should not be singing it in any church that wants to be a Christian church. And if I am not learning something true from a hymn or song, according to the proper distinction of law and Gospel, or if I am not learning how to pray in accordance with the First Commandment, then I should definitely not be singing it in a Lutheran church.

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God." (Colossians 3:16)

David Jay Webber said...

Another thought about this...

We need to be on our guard against the influence of postmodernism in these matters. Postmodernism (as a philosophy and as a worldview) posits that there is no such thing as objective truth. The operative categories of human interaction are not the categories of truth, but the categories of power. So, when someone claims that his words are conveying "truth" to me, this is just a cloak for his wish to use words as a tool for exercising power over me and in me.

Now, we as Confessional Lutherans would say that there is indeed such a thing as objective truth. And we would say that words - of the Bible, of the Liturgy, of a hymn, of a sermon - are used properly when they are used for the conveying of objective truth. But if we are unwittingly under the influence of postmodernism (which permeates the culture all around us), we may be tempted to use words, not as conveyors of truth, but as tools for exercising power over others, and for controlling and manipulating others according to our wishes. It's like when someone uses a shoe as a hammer, to pound a nail in the wall, rather than as a foot covering. We may also be doing that sort of postmodern "improvizing" in our use, or misuse, of words.

Many praise choruses do not use words as words - to convey truth - but as tools of "power," for manipulating the emotions of worshipers in such a way that they are led in the direction that the "worship leader" wants them to go. Those who invented the whole concept of a "praise chorus," in the context of revivalist, Arminian, American Evangelicalism, knew exactly what they were doing. They were using the words of these praise choruses, in postmodern fashion, to lead people toward a "decision for Christ." This "decision" was not to be brought about simply through the conveyance of truth, but through the manipulation of the will, which, according to the theology of these groups, is what conversion is ultimately all about.

Lutherans who bring such praise choruses into their worship services, by contrast, do not know what they are doing. And I say this as a way of putting the best construction on what amounts to the introduction of revivalist, Arminian, postmodern manipulation into a church that should never make room for such a thing. Lutherans instead should always be seeking for ways to preach the Word - not as a tool for emotional manipulation, but as a message that in itself has the power to save, and to bring life out of death.

I would fraternally encourage Lutherans who use "contemporary" songs in their services to consider whether some or all of these songs may actually be the kind of postmodern manipulative "praise choruses" that I have described. Please think carefully about what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what you are actually accomplishing.

Brett Meyer said...

I believe the Confessions speak directly to times and circumstances such as those we are currently enduring:

10] We believe, teach, and confess also that at the time of confession [when a confession of the heavenly truth is required], when the enemies of God's Word desire to suppress the pure doctrine of the holy Gospel, the entire congregation of God, yea, every Christian, but especially the ministers of the Word, as the leaders of the congregation of God [as those whom God has appointed to rule His Church], are bound by God's Word to confess freely and openly the [godly] doctrine, and what belongs to the whole of [pure] religion, not only in words, but also in works and with deeds; and that then, in this case, even in such [things truly and of themselves] adiaphora, they must not yield to the adversaries, or permit these [adiaphora] to be forced upon them by their enemies, whether by violence or cunning, to the detriment of the true worship of God and the introduction and sanction of idolatry. 11] For it is written, Gal. 5:1: Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not again entangled in the yoke of bondage. Also Gal. 2:4f : And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage; to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour, that the truth of the Gospel might continue with you. 12] [Now it is manifest that in that place Paul speaks concerning circumcision, which at that time had become an adiaphoron (1 Cor. 7:18f.), and which at other occasions was observed by Paul (however, with Christian and spiritual freedom, Acts 16:3). But when the false apostles urged circumcision for establishing their false doctrine, (that the works of the Law were necessary for righteousness and salvation,) and misused it for confirming their error in the minds of men, Paul says that he would not yield even for an hour, in order that the truth of the Gospel might continue unimpaired.]
Book of Concord, Formula of Concord, Adiaphora, Solid Declaration

Brian P Westgate said...

Thanks, Daniel!

LPC said...

Catechesis prepares us better to hear the Gospel in the Liturgy. And catechesis itself conveys the Gospel in its own way. But the Gospel in the Lutheran Liturgy is not somehow dormant, until awakened by catechesis. It is there, and it is alive. If I do not hear it, the problem is in me, and not in the Liturgy

I have a much stronger view of catechesis than this. In fact without catechesis, the Liturgy will be heard differently. In as much as you recognize that catechesis prepares better the person, conversely catechesis can destroy the proper understanding of the words that are used in the Liturgy.

Over here, the Anglicans use the same historic Liturgy as Lutherans, yet the Anglicans have priests that celebrate the Liturgy who are Bultmannians, not to mention female ministers who also do not move an inch from the historic Liturgy.

It is quite narrow to focus simply on the Liturgy to the exclusion of the overall confession of the people celebrating it. It is also distracting. Liturgy and Catechesis go hand in hand.

If I do not hear it, the problem is in me, and not in the Liturgy

Brett already alluded to the fact that it is God who gives faith in the Gospel. Fair enough.

Let me put it this way. At least I can say that God in his sovereignty decided not to give me faith in the Gospel through the preaching of a RC priest, rather he used an Evangelical's preaching to enlighten me of the meaning of Christ's sacrifice. That is the fact.

I have many more to say such as my encountering Lutherans who believe they are saved by works because they have gone through the Liturgy. That is another long story, but I hope my point of the over all confession of the group is to be examined not just on how they do or don't do the Liturgy.


Anonymous said...

"This communicates Christ, sin, grace, and forgiveness in a perfectly acceptible way."

Since when do we do things in worship simply because they are "acceptable"? Don't we want to communicate Christ in a way that is truly excellent and not just acceptable?

Mr. Adam Peeler

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Pr. Lillo,

I think you’re misusing the phrase “straw manning.” A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. You didn’t point out how Prof. Deutschlander misrepresented anyone’s position. You just didn’t agree with his, so you assumed his reasoning must be flawed. I, too, enjoy hearing the Professor speak at conferences. I have to tell you, I have never seen him lose a debate when he actually gets a chance to respond.

Let’s save the label of “straw man arguments” for actual misrepresentations of another’s position, like this straw man argument of yours, “By Prof. Deutschlander's argument, then, we shouldn't write sermons.” Yes, I’m sure that’s his position. You’ve really nailed him to the wall. (And you thought we didn’t have a sense of humor!)

You say, “The question is not, ‘Do the new forms do as well or better than the historic forms?’ The question is, ‘Do the new forms and songs exult Christ and communicate law and gospel?’” That’s like inheriting a $5 million estate in pristine condition, giving it away to whoever wants it, and then going out to the sandy beach and trying to build your own little shack that’ll be here today, gone tomorrow. “What’s wrong with that? It serves its purpose for today!” Confessional Lutheranism doesn’t strive for the lowest common denominator.

Intrepid Lutherans said...

Regarding the comment about the worship song some people liked this weekend -

Yes, those words are real fine. They are certainly better than say, "Blest be the tie that binds," by that old Pietist Count von Zinzendorf.

But that's not the point! Allow me to try yet again to get to the heart of the matter.

I'm sure there are songs/hymns written in the last 50 years, thus "contemporary" that have perfectly good confessional Lutheran theology, and whose tunes don't necessarily pander to fleshly appetites or worldly emotions.

Fine and well. So add them to a liturgical service, for goodness sake!

That's the issue. The questions are: Shall we have worship that is orderly, organized, dignified, respectful, focused on Christ alone, centered around the Means of Grace, with the elements that have always accomplished those goals? Or shall we have worship that is rambunctious, trite, casual, even crude, simplistic, emotional, perhaps focused on Christ, but really focused on those attending and designed to meet their felt needs, that has few, if any, of the means whereby Scripture teaches us that the Gospel moves and works?

It's not just about words and music, or what the leader wears, or what hangs on the walls, or the instruments that are used. It's about what all these things teach us and those who visit us. It's about what we as confessional Lutherans stand for and stand against.

We are not saying that confessional Lutheranism is identical with the Invisible Church, or anything like that. If others want to be something other than confessional Lutherans, they can certainly do so, and they too may make it to heaven. Fine and good. But don't try and be both - confessional Lutheran and some other theology - at the same time. That's false and wrong.

Pastor Spencer

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Pr. Lillo,

Why can’t I assume that their splendid education will preserve them from making bad choices? Here’s an example of a sectarian worship song used in a WELS service:

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid!”
The voice of truth says, “This is for My glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

(Casting Crowns, “The Voice of Truth”)

Whoever chose this song for worship that day (and any pastors who may have nodded in approval) must have missed the section on “The False Doctrine of Arminian Decision Theology” taught at the seminary. And please, no feeble attempts to explain how this might possibly be understood correctly. They also teach us at the seminary not to speak in such a way that we can be understood correctly, but to speak in such a way that we cannot be misunderstood.

Anonymous said...

"I may be mistaken, but I think they changed the last two lines."

That's all well and good, but how many WELS members then went home and listened to the real version of that song and thus imbibed false doctrine?

See, even if WELS pastors are able to weed out the bad stuff and only use the good in public worship (and in most cases I think they can), that still doesn't address the fact that many WELS laypeople lack the same discernment. If the stuff they hear in church sounds the same as the stuff on the radio and in the Christian bookstore and at their friend's mega-church, they simply assume it's all the same and all good.

See, it's not just the words used, it's the impression given. And the impression given by using worship forms which come from heterodoxy and are based on heterodox doctrine is that false doctrine isn't so bad.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Anonymous said...

"I may be mistaken, but I think they changed the last two lines."

Unless they received permission from the publisher to do so (unlikely), that church broke copyright laws.

Ben Schiller

Keyser Soze said...

"I know the education they have. I know the love and respect for the Word of God that education instills."

Perhaps this isn't the right post for this topic-- if not, then I apologize-- but I also wonder about the education some pastors receive. I don't mean the WELS education system, although some may beg to differ. I am referring to the fact that several of our pastors have, for whatever reason, chosen to go beyond the master's degree offered at WLS by attending schools with somewhat dubious distinctions.

Schools like Gordon–Conwell Theological Seminary and Fuller Theological Seminary have granted doctorate degrees to multiple WELS pastors. This is a major source of confusion to me for a couple of reasons.

I don't understand the motivation of pastors to pursue these degrees. Is there something lacking in our own educational system that would force these pastors to look elsewhere? If so, that should be remedied so that we can promote and recognize the Lutheran scholarship that, clearly, we have in our synod. Are there any plans to do something in this regard?

Secondly, given the number of places available for a doctorate degree, why are these two institutions, in particular, chosen? (There may be others, but these are the two with which I am most familiar.) They clearly are outside of our fellowship, so I would think it should strike both Lutherans and 'church shoppers' alike as strange that we tout our doctrinal purity on the one hand while doing something seemingly contradictory on the other.

Mr. Jay Ramos

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Mr. Ramos,

Thanks for your comment. I sympathize with your confusion in some ways.

We certainly don't pretend that WELS schools have a monopoly on scholarship. Attending a non-WELS university, even a church-affiliated university, isn't in itself a practice of church fellowship. I would see nothing wrong with attending one of these schools in search of information and a higher degree of scholarship.

What I can't understand is going to a university outside our fellowship to study theology or to learn ministry methods, especially when most of them, like the schools you mentioned, don't teach the same as we do about the role of the Means of Grace in ministry.

Whether it's a school or a seminar or a convention, it seems out of place for a confessional Lutheran pastor to try to glean - or copy entirely - ministry methods from false teachers. Not only does it encourage the false teachers in their teaching, but it threatens our own synod as ministry methods from those false teachers are introduced among us.

AP said...

Mr. Ramos,

I think the reason lies in the kinds of degrees offered. Universities like Chicago, Harvard, Yale, or Georgetown offer academic, research degrees in theology. These MA and PhD programs are for the study of theology as an academic discipline. One might also seek advanced study in biblical languages or history in an academic program at a major research university. These universities almost always require extended periods (years) of residency.

On the other hand, Fuller and others like it offer advanced degrees in ministry (i.e. advanced pastoral training). Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary does not offer what is called a D.Min. (Doctor of Ministry), though it does offer an S.T.M. (Master of Sacred Theology). Both Concordia seminaries offer advanced degrees in theology and ministry as well. I know Concorida St. Louis now requires residency.

So, I think the draw to places like Fuller may be 1) the theology or practices it teaches, 2) the type of degree (ministry vs. academic) and standard of admission (academic would be much higher) and 3) the residency requirement or lack thereof.

Dr. Aaron Palmer

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