Wednesday, March 23, 2011

C.F.W. Walther: Filching from sectarian worship resources equals "soul murder"

In October of 1998, Professor Mark DeGarmeaux (Bethany Lutheran College, ELS) delivered a paper to the Evangelical Lutheran Confessional Forum of the ELS and WELS in Milwaukee, WI. The title of this paper was Sacramental Worship, Sacramental Preaching: Treasures of our Lutheran Church -- a terrific little essay that explores and extols the unique liturgical treasure we Lutherans have inherited, concluding:
    The Lutheran church has been truly blessed by God with a rich treasury of liturgy, hymnody, preaching, and praying. We are not a sect, but we understand and recognize ourselves as part of the Church catholic, the one Holy Christian and Apostolic Church. At the same time we realize that there is a difference between our theology and that of other denominations in many ways. Our treasures are in the understanding of sacramental and sacrificial elements in the Divine Service, in understanding the Word and Sacraments as powerful and efficacious means of grace, and in the proper distinction between Law and Gospel. And we look forward to the marriage feast of heaven when the Bride will be joined to Christ Himself and will enjoy the great sacramentum of the marriage feast of the Lamb.
This treasure has been kept and valued by generations of Lutheran confessors as a practice which carries a body of worshipers through the Divine Service, focusing them on Christ and His gifts, in a way that not only represents and reinforces our body of pure doctrine, but our distinction and separation from the heterodox. So how would a Lutheran, imbued with genuine confessional ardor, react to the notion of importing sectarian worship forms into Lutheran practice? Using C.F.W. Walther as a benchmark of confessional ardor, DeGarmeaux demonstrates the answer to this question by including as an Appendix to his essay the following letter from Walther, which was written to a man who asked about the use of Methodist worship resources in Lutheran churches:
    Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm WaltherHonored Sir,

    This morning I received your worthy letter, written on the 19th of the month. In your letter you ask for my opinion on whether it is advisable to introduce the singing of Methodist songs in a Lutheran Sunday School. May what follows serve as a helpful reply to your questions:

    No, this is not advisable, rather very incorrect and pernicious.

    1. Our church is so rich in hymns that you could justifiably state that if one were to introduce Methodist hymns in a Lutheran school this would be like carrying coals to Newcastle. The singing of such hymns would make the rich Lutheran Church into a beggar which is forced to beg from a miserable sect. Thirty or forty years ago a Lutheran preacher might well have been forgiven this. For at that time the Lutheran Church in our country was as poor as a beggar when it comes to song books for Lutheran children. A preacher scarcely knew where he might obtain such little hymn books. Now, however, since our church itself has everything it needs, it is unpardonable when a preacher of our church causes little ones to suffer the shame of eating a foreign bread.

    2. A preacher of our church also has the holy duty to give souls entrusted to his care pure spiritual food, indeed, the very best which he can possibly obtain. In Methodist songs there is much which is false, and which contains spiritual poison for the soul. Therefore, it is soul-murder to set before children such poisonous food. If the preacher claims, that he allows only "correct" hymns to be sung, this does not excuse him. For, first of all, the true Lutheran spirit is found in none of them; second, our hymns are more powerful, more substantive, and more prosaic; third, those hymns which deal with the Holy Sacraments are completely in error; fourth, when these little sectarian hymnbooks come into the hands of our children, they openly read and sing false hymns.

    3. A preacher who introduces Methodist hymns, let alone Methodist hymnals, raises the suspicion that he is no true Lutheran at heart, and that he believes one religion is as good as the other, and that he thus a unionistic-man, a mingler of religion and churches.

    4. Through the introduction of Methodist hymn singing he also makes those children entrusted to his care of unionistic sentiment, and he himself leads them to leave the Lutheran Church and join the Methodists.

    5. By the purchase of Methodist hymn books he subsidizes the false church and strengthens the Methodist fanatics in their horrible errors. For the Methodists will think, and quite correctly so, that if the Lutheran preachers did not regard our religion as good as, or indeed, even better than their own, they would not introduce Methodist hymn books in their Sunday schools, but rather would use Lutheran hymn books.

    6. By introducing Methodist hymn books, the entire Lutheran congregation is given great offense, and the members of the same are lead to think that Methodists, the Albright people, and all such people have a better faith than we do.

    This may be a sufficient answer regarding this dismal matter. May God keep you in the true and genuine Lutheran faith, and help you not to be misled from the same, either to the right or to the left.

    Your unfamiliar, yet known friend, in the Lord Jesus Christ,

    C. F. W. Walther
    St. Louis, Missouri
    January 23, 1883
Notice that there are at least two factors involved in Walther's blistering criticism of sectarian worship resources. First, the introduction of false teaching to the congregation (a) by the false content of the sectarian worship, (b) by the true teaching which is absent from it, and (c) by the manner in which the Methodist practice itself entices the congregation away from the Lutheran confession, is inexcusable and alone grounds for rejecting material from such sources. Second, the fellowship implications involved with endorsing such materials, and subsidizing their sources, not only impacts other Lutherans, who have every right to question the allegiances of those responsible for introducing such materials, but impacts the sectarians from whom we remain separate, who consequently have every right to suspect (based on the practice of using sectarian sources, itself!) that those Lutherans using their materials are, in fact, admitting deficiency in their own confession.

If we grant that Walther is a suitable benchmark of confessional ardor, how would we categorize those who are indifferent to the usage of sectarian and heterodox worship materials? According to Walther, above, it seems that a pastor who engages in practice which raises suspicions regarding his confession is himself guilty of offense against the whole congregation, not the observer who is led to suspicion on the basis of that pastor's public practice. Is this an accurate assessment of the above statements? If so, is this consistent with more contemporary teaching regarding how one ought to interpret public practice? Based on what Walther seems to say above, should a Lutheran pastor so conduct himself in his public practice as to raise no suspicions regarding his fidelity to the Lutheran confession, or is such fidelity strictly a matter of internal motivations, making public practice not much of a big deal at all?

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

If it barks like a dog, it's a dog. If it looks like Methodist/Baptist/Pentacostal "worship" then the theology will come through. One should be able to go to any WELS church and receive the same service they would have gotten at their home church. Instead, sadly, they would have to do research so they don't stumble in on a Methodist/Baptist/Pentacostal type service. True unity as prescribed in the Confessions? I don't think so. Looking out for the pure edification of their brother/sister in Christ by worshipping like a heretic? Absolutely not.

Christian Schulz

Anonymous said...

Walther, like a true shepherd, boldly and unflinchingly points out a serious danger to the flock. He doesn't mince words or attempt to straddle the fence.

If only we had more pastors and synodical leaders like that today! These days it seems that the most desired quality in pastors and synodical leaders is the ability to placate everyone and preserve external peace by saying two things at once and coming down on both sides of the issue. Pastors and synodical leaders are praised for being "evangelical" when they compromise Scriptural doctrine and practice enough to make everyone happy.

Can you imagine the reaction if a pastor or synodical leader wrote today what Walther wrote then? They would be branded as judgmental, unloving, and "un-evangelical", and more than likely removed from the synod for daring to say something that ruffled feathers and made someone unhappy.

We need more pastors and synodical leaders who are willing, in no uncertain terms, to call sin "sin", or, as Mr Schulz said, call a dog "a dog", regardless of the temporal consequences or pressures.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Scott E. Jungen said...

Well, gentlemen, isn't that what this blog is to be about? I seems to me a large number of pastors and Synodical leaders are unwilling to call sin "sin" or a dog a "dog". So, it may have to be up to us in the laity. Torches and pitchforks anyone?

Scott E. Jungen

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Scott,

I strongly encourage the laity to speak up.

I strongly encourage against the use of torches and pitchforks.

Scott E. Jungen said...

Pastor,
Figurative language only, kind sir!

Scott E. Jungen

Pastor Matt said...

As a Missouri man, I realize I'm from the outside looking in on this site, but I appreciate these posts very much. Despite our lack of fellowship between LCMS and WELS, the very same struggle for confessional unity is occurring within both church bodies. The irony of the above post is that I had never seen this response from Walther, even though he was the first president of my own church body. Would that we could speak out boldly in such a manner today, telling it straight like it is...

Your brother in Christ,
Rev. Matthew Christians

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the sentiment. But I'm curious to hear other's thoughts on the following. It seems like Walther is suggesting that using a hymn of Methodist origin would be unwise, even if "correct" hymns were chosen. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding him, but is he saying that if a hymn were theologically correct, we should avoid it simply because it is found in a Methodist hymnal, or written by a Methodist? Is so, wouldn't that exclude most of the hymns in our hymnal, which are not Lutheran in origin?

Just looking for clarification. Thanks!

Daniel Kastens

Pastor Matt said...

@Daniel- I'll grant you that in our modern-day Lutheran hymnals, there are a number of hymns of Methodist origin... but I'll go out on a limb without doing any research to suggest that those hymns of Methodist origin probably aren't the strongest hymns doctrinally. I'm sure none of them would appear in the section of hymns on the Lord's Supper. In the end, I don't think Walther would have a problem if a Methodist hymn was properly vetted and then included in a Lutheran hymnbook... he is very concerned, though, at people willy nilly grabbing whatever songs/hymns they want from various sources without carefully analyzing them. He's certainly arguing for a higher standard of hymnody. Even if something is technically "correct" (i.e. doesn't have any manifestly false teaching in it) doesn't mean that it's the best possible hymn we should be singing. Why abandon the richness and robustness of Lutheran hymnody for something weaker? We need to be especially careful to make sure our actions don't lead to our people singing more heterodox hymns and songs (e.g. if a methodist hymnal or songbook were purchased).

- Rev. Matthew Christians

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Daniel,

Great question! I was hoping someone would ask it. I'll add this to Rev. Christians' answer.

Walther is famous for “bold” statements like these. Some call them “overstatements,” but maybe that adds more of a negative connotation to them than they deserve. A “legalistic” interpretation of his statements in the above post would mean that a Lutheran should never sing hymns in church written by non-Lutherans. But we are not legalists here!

Walther was reacting to something: Lutheran churches that, by this time, had a good quantity of solid Lutheran hymns that were being largely marginalized and replaced by the sentimental, Sacrament-denying, shallow hymns of the sects, especially 19th century Methodism.

What did Walther mean by “Lutheran hymns”? Did he mean “hymns composed by orthodox Lutherans only” or simply “hymns that have been widely judged, approved and used by orthodox Lutherans for a long time”? I need to study the history some more, but I think he meant the latter. If you would have asked Walther, “So, do you mean that any hymn written by a non-Lutheran ought not be sung in a Lutheran church?”, I think he would have said, “No, that’s not what I’m saying,” but I am open to being corrected by someone who has researched the topic further.

It’s certainly not what we’re saying at IL. We’re not on a mission to rid Lutheran hymnals of all hymns composed by non-Lutherans (I don’t know any confessional Lutheran who would frown on the use of “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” at Easter). But Walther adds some balance to the “begging” that is occurring at the feet of CCM (and the defense of it), and to the “as long as it can be understood correctly, it’s fine and you can’t tell me it’s not” mentality that is spreading among us. I cannot disagree with Walther if we insert modern phrases into his point #6, “By introducing the hymn books of the Evangelicals, the entire Lutheran congregation is given great offense, and the members of the same are lead to think that Methodists, Pentecostals, and non-denominational people have a better faith than we do (cold, heartless, boring, emotionless Lutherans that we are).”

Again, that’s not to say that “anyone who uses a hymn from CCLI is not a true Lutheran” or is necessarily giving offense. What it is, is the other side of the argument that many with a twisted understanding of “adiaphora” fail to acknowledge. So it’s stated rather boldly. (Something we like to do here on IL from time to time.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification, Pastor Rydecki. I figured that might be the case - a bit of hyperbole. Even Jesus used that... something about rich men and camels and needles.

Rev. Christians, I've wrestled that concept of "the best" we can sing. As a general rule, I'd think we would want solid, meaty hymnody. I've read and agree with the sad state of Christian Contemporary music is that many of the "top" tunes could be sung by a non-Christian.

However, I assume there's room for diversity too. There are some hymns which are not exactly deep, and yet contain simply theological truths expressed eloquently. Some hymns find their way into our collective use simply because they have a rich heritage, if not rich theology. In this Lenten season, I'm sure many of us will sing "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?" Deep? No. You would not want a steady diet of hymns like that. But as one in a collection of three or four hymns sung in a given service, I think it's fine.

It seems to me even the psalms have a variety of depth to them. ("Depth" maybe isn't the right word.) Psalm 150 - Just one very simple thought, and primarily sanctification oriented at that. (Although, I know gospel is found in the name LORD.) Compare that to the profound thoughts of Psalm 51 - original sin, blood atonement, all actual sin being a 1st commandment sin as well, sanctification being God acting in us, i.e. "open my mouth." I'm not sure Israel would have been well served if every psalm was like 150. But, there were another 149 of them!

I'm not really trying to make any points. Just musing about the concept of hymn selection.

Daniel Kastens

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

And I'll also add my two bits. Walther is addressing what everyone rightly expects from a Lutheran pastor regarding what he should want for his congregation: only the best. By addressing the content of hymns as he does (and please recognize that content is only one of many issues he raises in his letter), he is pointing out that hymns with content that is technically "not incorrect," or which "can be understood correctly," should not be considered suitable when better and more balanced hymns, which clearly confess and teach the doctrines of the Lutheran church, are immediately available to him. In this regard, although there are exceptions as Rev. Rydecki points out, Walther correctly characterizes the body of sectarian hymns when he compares them to Lutheran hymns. Methodism, as most of Evangelicalism today, is obsessed with sanctification, with living a righteous life for God, and with motivating this righteousness either through Law or some sort of "spiritual" sentimentality. This was especially the case within Methodism and the various Holiness movements that it spawned, at the time Walther wrote this and in the decades prior to it. This was the era of the Second Great Awakening, of Charles Finney and other revivalists, who marched from town to town, berating and torturing poor souls who sat upon the Anxious Bench until they made a decision to convert. It was a serious problem for the Lutheran Church at the time, as many congregations cast an envious eye in the direction of the revivalists, and many beguiled Lutheran parishoners abandoned their confession as a result. It is from this movement that American Pentecostalism sprung in 1906, which then seeped its way into mainline denominations by mid-century ("charismaticism"), and finally took over the Evangelical movement. And so, Walther's words are just as applicable to us today – if we have the stomach for them, that is. The purpose of those hymns, like the hymns which emerge from the same sources in Evangelicalism today, is not to teach, is not to confess, but is principally to coerce – to manipulate emotions and prepare the worshiper for some "spiritual" act.

Proper Lutheran hymns, on the other hand, confess and teach, and do so directly. They are not concerned with manipulating emotions, but with directing the mind and heart of the worshipper to the objective truth of God's Word, whereby the Holy Spirit, not the poet, moves hearts. This is what Walther means when he says that Lutheran hymns are objectively better because they are more prosaic. What do such hymns confess and teach? Our doctrine. Why is this significant? Because central to all Lutheran doctrine is the teaching of Justification, and Justification is taught only through the message of Law and Gospel. Thus, in confessing and teaching our Lutheran doctrines, Lutheran hymns dwell upon Justification in the terms of Law and Gospel. Sectarian hymns, as a rule, don't do this. They can't do this, because they do not have a doctrinal foundation behind them which informs the composer of the centrality of Justification, nor of the proper distinction between Law and Gospel (which alone teaches Justification). As stated above, sometimes they get it right – by accident.

Continued in next comment...

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

...Continued from previous comment

So this represents the second problem with the content of sectarian hymns: the teaching which they do contain is, incomplete and out of balance with the testimony of our confession. In the first case, above, the problem is the function which the compositions serve (subjective manipulation of emotions rather than objective confession and teaching), functions which are implicit and elemental to the compositions themselves. This second problem, however, is not so much in what they contain (since we're are talking about sectarian hymns which are "correct" as far what they say), but in what is missing from them: full and balanced confession that reaches to the center of our faith and teaching. It is not enough that a hymn is technically "not incorrect". It is not enough that a hymn "can be understood properly." These, according to Walther, are not the best hymns – the only hymns which should be acceptable to a Lutheran pastor. But are such hymns? What is the significance of our prosaic hymns – the best hymns? C.P Krauth, in his Conservative Reformation informs us:

“But especially in sacred song has the Lutheran Church a grand distinctive element of her worship. 'The Lutheran Church,' says Schaff, 'draws the fine arts into the service of religion, and has produced a body of hymns and chorals, which, in richness, power, and unction, surpasses the hymnology of all other churches in the world.' 'In divine worship,' says Goebel, 'we reach glorious features of pre-eminence. The hymns of the Church are the people's confession, and have wrought more than the preaching. In the Lutheran Church alone, German hymnology attained a bloom truly amazing. The words of holy song were heard everywhere, and sometimes, as with a single stroke, won whole cities for the Gospel'” (pp. 152-154)

What a shame it is that Lutherans seem to be so eager to exchange this inheritance for the bowl of porridge sectarians tantalizingly hold out before us – sentimental compositions which, though they please the ear and sooth the heart, are nevertheless consumed and swiftly fade into disuse once their novelty wears off, once they no longer succeed in producing the right kind or sufficiency of zeal and emotion, and thus become no longer useful to the church.

Anonymous said...

Many of those same points were expressed in this excellent essay...

Our Use of Reformed Materials by James Danell
http://www.wlsessays.net/node/423

Are we really careful of what we feed the souls of our adults and children in our Lutheran congregation? It seems so obvious to avoid but yet so tempting to play the "christian freedom" card. Do we realize it when reformed thinking and speaking creeps in unknowingly even in synod publications & videos or does it just sound more "christian" to untrained ears?

Another excellent essay is Reformed Theology and its Threat by Daniel M. Deutschlander
http://www.wlsessays.net/files/DeutschlanderReformed.pdf

Tammy Jochman

Pastor Jeff Samelson said...

Anyone else happen to notice (from referencing the original DeGarmeaux paper) who translated the Walther letter?

"M. Harrison, Fort Wayne, Indiana"

I don't have a copy of the book, but it appears that he included this letter in "At Home in the House of My Fathers".

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Rev. Samelson,

Yes, I had caught that... :) I was holding out for an opportunity to reveal that fact in the course of discussion. You beat me to it!

Daniel Gorman said...

Daniel Kastens: "In this Lenten season, I'm sure many of us will sing "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?" Deep? No. You would not want a steady diet of hymns like that. But as one in a collection of three or four hymns sung in a given service, I think it's fine."

"Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?" is unacceptable for any occasion and should not have been included in "Christian Worship" or any other Lutheran hymnal. "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?" is exactly the kind of sectarian worship resource that Walther rejects.

Spiritualizing ourselves back to another time and place in order to evoke an emotional response is a theology of glory not a theology of the cross. Although the song repeatedly mentions Christ's sufferings and death, the real focus of the song is man's subjective and emotional experience of Christ.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Mr. Gorman.

I guess I'm not sure I follow your train of thought in how we are "spiritualizing ourselves back to another time." It seems like we do similar things in other hymns. Paul Gerhardt (not exactly a sectarian!) writes: "O Jesus Christ, your manger is my paradise where my soul is reclining." Well, my soul isn't literally in Christ's manger, but here's an instance it might be appropriate to say "That can be understood correctly." I've always understood "Were You There" to be trying to convey that part of me was there at the cross - my sin, my guilt, my shame. That seems to be parallel to how Paul talks. "We were therefore buried with Christ through baptism into death..." - Romans 6:4. So I would say you are nit-picking a bit.

The other issue it raises is that of spirituals. "Were You There" is obviously African American in origin. Spirituals tend to be puddle deep theologically. They come out of a culture that was both functionally and Biblically illiterate, where one's exposure to the Word was somewhat limited to Bible stories being handed down from parent to child. And so they sang hymns that were simple. Yet some are beautiful, e.g. "Twelve Gates Into the City." If you eliminate them because they're trite, I wonder if it sends a message to African Americans that isn't helpful. Certainly, a steady diet of spirituals wouldn't be healthy, any more than a steady diet of cupcakes would be healthy. But in moderation - I guess I fail to see the great danger in a hymn like "Were You There."

Daniel Kastens

Anonymous said...

Table Talk Radio had a episode where they talk about mentally recalling the cross and the things that happened there but it is not mentally recalling the image of the cross that forgives our sins as if it was a means of grace. It seems many "praise" songs seem to use this imagery in lieu of speaking about the forgiveness of sins given & assured for us through word & sacrament. The song they talked about this imagery recently was "Sweetly Broken". http://tabletalkradio.org/content/node/217 The discussion about this imagery starts 00:27.

So in reference to "Were you there?". The hymn talks about the events and the emotions (causes me to tremble)when about how horrible the events were. Yet, the hymn doesn't mention what those events mean to me spiritually. Singing that hymn will not proclaim to an unbeliever that my sins are forgiven through Jesus' sacrifice and because Jesus rose I will also live.

Tammy Jochman

Daniel Gorman said...

Daniel Kastens: "I guess I'm not sure I follow your train of thought in how we are "spiritualizing ourselves back to another time." It seems like we do similar things in other hymns. Paul Gerhardt (not exactly a sectarian!) writes: "O Jesus Christ, your manger is my paradise where my soul is reclining.""

I don't any similarity. Gerhardt does not spiritually transport himself back to another time and place. Gerhardt's manger is in the here and now. The manger comes to him. He does not go to the manger.

Daniel Kastens: "Well, my soul isn't literally in Christ's manger, but here's an instance it might be appropriate to say "That can be understood correctly." I've always understood "Were You There" to be trying to convey that part of me was there at the cross - my sin, my guilt, my shame. That seems to be parallel to how Paul talks. "We were therefore buried with Christ through baptism into death..." - Romans 6:4."

No, your soul is in the manger and you are at the cross. Not because you went there but because they came to you through Word and Sacrament.

Daniel Kastens: "The other issue it raises is that of spirituals. "Were You There" is obviously African American in origin. Spirituals tend to be puddle deep theologically. They come out of a culture that was both functionally and Biblically illiterate, where one's exposure to the Word was somewhat limited to Bible stories being handed down from parent to child. And so they sang hymns that were simple. Yet some are beautiful, e.g. "Twelve Gates Into the City." If you eliminate them because they're trite, I wonder if it sends a message to African Americans that isn't helpful. Certainly, a steady diet of spirituals wouldn't be healthy, any more than a steady diet of cupcakes would be healthy. But in moderation - I guess I fail to see the great danger in a hymn like "Were You There.""

The Evangelical Lutheran Church will never compromise its doctrinal purity to achieve ethnic diversity. Chad Bird has written an excellent article on the minimum standards for Lutheran hymns: http://blendedworshipresource.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/lutheran-hymnody-orthodoxy-in-song-by-pastor-chad-bird/

"Christian Worship" is full of the kind of sectarian worship resources that Walther condemns. Another example is "Go to Dark Gethsemane", hymn 104. We don't go to Gethsemane; Gethsemane comes to us.

Brian said...

I think the greatest error on this blog is that you have replaced the actual sacrifice of Christ with an image, or understanding of it. See you use our doctrine as the salvation itself. This is, simply put, not the case. Though our doctrine provides a wonderful image to further our understanding of salvation, faith, God, and many other nuances under the title of Christendom, the image is not a full and complete understanding of what has transpired (as we are human a full understanding is both impossible and thankfully unnecessary). To criticize another's image and understanding of the same events (in this case the emotional experience of looking upon Christ on the cross via song - side note: most people who sing these imagistic songs are not infantile in their comprehension of what the action of Christ's death on the cross means, please do not assume that everyone needs everything drawn out in crayon in order for it to actually mean what God wants it to) to put words in their mouth as to what their practices or words mean, and to go so far as to call them enemy (or worse yet soul murderer) for using this different angle of the same occurrence, is frightening and in fact more likely a working of the enemy than of God. Do not mistake what I am saying - as is the nature of most defenses I have read on this blog. This has nothing to do with what God deems to be right and wrong (i.e. not loving the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul - side note: heart, mind and soul are all mentioned... not just mind; I assume this is purposeful - love your neighbor as yourself, sexual immorality, etc.) but more to do with what you claim to be "best worship methods" or even church philosophy (the importance of evangelism vs administering sacraments or the emotional side of worship vs the need for "doctrinally sound" lyrics). Do not fool yourselves into believing that one human comprehension of Christianity (again please do not think this means I am okay with anybody who says they believe in God - if that's all you get out of this you missed everything) is better than another - see Romans 14 for clarification on this, scripture will do a better job than I ever can. The fact remains that God does not even require full comprehension, simply (though it is not simple at all) faith that encompasses belief, true repentance, and to actually act (yes, we do have to do something according to scripture) on the opportunities God provides. Action would include helping the poor, sick, and needy, visiting those in prison, even "writing unto Him a new song." It is not enough to throw dollars at programs that serve these mission fields, or to simply create a doctrine under which they are to operate - do you not remember what happens to the goats?

I realize you mean well with this blog, but please be more prudent in testing your theories against the Truth in scripture prior to testing it against doctrine (a man made understanding of God's Truth, not to be confused with God's Truth itself). Your blind faith in the inherency of doctrine is frightening! Also, before you respond to this please evaluate yourself, hold yourself to the mirror as you demand others to. Please do not put words and ideas into your response that are not mine; that is manipulative and unscriptural, and has been my experience anytime I have made a post to motivate further evaluation on this blog.

Brian Cooper

Anonymous said...

"You use our doctrine as the salvation itself....Do not fool yourselves into believing that one human comprehension of Christianity...is better than another..."

See folks, this is a perfect example of what happens when you leave Confessionalism behind and go down the path of contemporary, post-modern relativism.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Brian said...

Again Mr. Peeler you do an excellent job of taking a sound byte (or in this case a misquote) to further your point without even giving consideration to what was truly said. It is very difficult to have a conversation with anyone who refuses to be straightforward, or allow another to be straightforward. In no way shape or form did I speak ill of doctrine, or suggest throwing it out the window. Where doctrine becomes an issue is when it is used in place of the Gospel.

Brian Cooper

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Brian,

I have to admit, I had a hard time understanding what your point was. You seem to be pitting "doctrine" against "the Gospel," when in reality, they are one and the same thing. Doctrine is The Teaching of Christ, The Truth of God passed on to us from the apostles. As a wise man once said, "Doctrine is life." Why? Because no one can see into the mind of God. No one can go back to Calvary's cross or the empty tomb. No one can receive forgiveness from the wounds of Christ - except that God brings all of it to us in the Gospel. Apart from the preaching of the Gospel, i.e., doctrine, there is no knowledge of God, no understanding of God, no "image" of the sacrifice of Christ. All of God's gifts are communicated to us through the Gospel (i.e., doctrine), and so Christ enjoins us to preach it rightly, not for the sake of doctrine, but because doctrine is man's only connection to the grace of God in Christ.

I also don't understand your reference to Romans 14, in which Paul most certainly does not equate all "human comprehensions of Christianity" as equal. He calls it a "weak faith" that fails to recognize the Gospel freedom God has given us in regard to food and days of the week. It is a "better comprehension" of Christianity to understand this freedom. His point is not that both "comprehensions" are equal or even correct. His point is that the one with the right comprehension ought not judge the one with the weak faith, nor consider HIMSELF to be superior, but to act in love toward his brother with the weaker faith. You judge us unfairly if you assume that any of us here consider ourselves to be superior to anyone.

It is a dangerous thing to separate God's Truth from the teaching of that Truth. Doctrine is the only access God has given us to Him. That's why keeping it straight matters.

Brian said...

1. Pastor, thank you for discussing this before condemning me - I mean this quite sincerely as this has not been a common experience for me.

2. I am under the impression that doctrine not tested by and held under the light of scripture was the entire reason for the reformation. Also, to say that we need man's word in order to understand God's Word seems strange (the doctrine I refer to is everything and anything set up in the form of some treatise that may be based off of scripture but is not directly in it). Though our doctrine may be passed down by true followers of Christ does not put it on the same playing field as the words of Christ. I have and always will believe that the gospel is the end all be all of Truth and that doctrine is our best understanding of it not the Gospel itself. That is why I agree with your last statement, and try and bring up points that need to be re-evaluated.

3. To clarify the Romans 14 reference: It is also mentioned in that section that the weaker in faith should not pass judgement on the stronger in faith simply because they do not follow the system of legalism. I, and many others, see this blog as a form of legalism and the point of bringing up Romans 14 was not to stop you or anyone else from adhering to these rules under legalism, but to be careful in how other Christian's are judged by those who claim to be "Intrepid Lutherans." I may sing a song with "less doctrinally sound lyrics" because my faith is strong enough that I can understand how it applies my soul is not being murdered, but enriched by the Holy Spirit (I am not saying my faith is stronger than anyones, this is just an example similar to using the universal you).

4. I do not judge you or anyone who posts on this site. I do not have that power, or right. I do, however, wish to communicate openly and straightforwardly my concerns with many of the points brought up in this blog. The only way to do that is to address what is written. That is not under the guise of condemnation, but it is with the goal of pursuing God's Truth. The point is not to be "right" and win the argument, the point is to be true and come to a better understanding of my faith. When I read much of this blog I see how many are logically convinced of being right, but there are moments where Truth is completely missed.

5. Though you may not think anyone here considers themselves superior to anyone, the language of this blog does suggest otherwise - this is not a judgment of anyone, only the judgment of what is written here. I was raised in a non-WELS Christian home and there is an old joke that talks about keeping quiet around a certain part of Heaven because God doesn't want the WELS to realize they're not the only ones there. This blog validates the thoughts behind that joke in so many ways. I say this not to judge or attack anyone, but as a point to be seriously considered by the Intrepid Lutherans if their goal is truly the pursuit of unity with Christ and fellow Christians.

Brian said...

6. Let me also clarify what I consider erroneous. I, like Intrepid Lutherans, feel that the toleration of false teaching and false doctrine is wrong. Of this there is no question. Where I have noticed significant difference is in two arenas. The first is approach. Now, you have all had a field day with the term "loving." Let us clarify what is meant here. Thus far I have noticed your version of reproach to consit of hitting your opponent over the head with what is right, and if it is not immediately accepted there tends to be a desire to amputate these people from the Body of Christ. Most people when hit over the head with anything do not respond well, even if it is correct, and to then reject them further complicates things. What I consider "loving" is an approach that seeks to add to the Body of Christ first. Obviously we have no control over who is added or subtracted in the sense that we pick and choose the Church ourselves. We do, however, have control in choosing to listen or not listen to the Holy Spirit which will guide people to join the Body of Christ and usually does so through acts of love.

The second issue is the liberty taken with other peoples words. Instead of giving anyone the benefit of the doubt, or putting in strong research as to certain churches stated beliefs there tend to be assumptions of what they mean. To clarify, this does not mean we should give credence to statements that validate what is wrong (evolution, sexual immorality, and general disobedience to God). Where this seems most common is when emotion, or works come up. As stated previously I come from a non-WELS Christian background and do know that my former churches teachings have been misrepresented, not only that but I have also been told that my understanding of said churches doctrine was inaccurate by people who never once attended a service (this took place in public, not on this forum).

I hope these are clear explanations on that point that do not "hit you over the head" but make clear part of the perception issues that arise on both sides.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Article cross-posted on Brothers of John the Steadfast:

http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=14417

Post a Comment

Comments will be accepted or rejected based on the sound Christian judgment of the moderators.

Since anonymous comments are not allowed on this blog, please sign your full name at the bottom of every comment, unless it already appears in your identity profile.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License