Saturday, May 28, 2011
Today is the first anniversary of the Intrepid Lutherans blog. The many posts of Intrepid Lutheran authors and the comments of our readers serve as our yearbook for this first year. Take some time, won’t you, reviewing our year together.
Admittedly we’ve tried to cover the topics that can divide our family of believers. Worship style is perhaps the most challenging right now. Lay ministry and small group Bible studies are a close second. Proper discipline among us has also taken center stage, especially among WELS pastors when our confessional practices and principles seem to be challenged.
On the other hand, we’ve also tried to cover topics that we have agreed upon in the past: justification, law and gospel, church fellowship, the roles of man and woman.
Through it all, I’ve learned that having a blog in the WELS is more challenging than I ever imagined. As brothers and sisters in the faith, I expected that having a forum for discussing what it means to be a confessional Lutheran in the 21st century would be welcome. Evidently, I was a bit naïve.
I’m told that the only place to properly carry on discussions of theology and practice among us is in pastoral circuit meetings and conferences. District meetings might be proper, also. I agree that having meaningful discussions on the topics we’ve covered would be great in all these venues. Can you imagine having a discussion on worship style in the WELS at this summer’s WELS convention? There wouldn’t seem to be any better place than where lay people and pastors from all twelve WELS districts gather!
It doesn’t seem realistic, though. Local issues remain local issues. They are written in personal e-mails and shared along the WELS grapevine, but very rarely see the light of day in the public. Though we’ve been a bit bloodied at Intrepid Lutherans in our first year, we have high hopes that public discussion among us will still take place on this blog.
As it is in every endeavor in life, we’ve made our share of mistakes in this first year. We may have been too bold where we should’ve treaded lightly. On the other hand, at times we may not have spoken up as loudly as we should have.
We appreciate all those who’ve written private e-mails of concern or praise. We’d rather you hop on board and make your thoughts public. Become part of the discussion. We’re just getting started with our next yearbook.
Pastor Paul Lidtke
Thursday, May 26, 2011
What are the mysteries of God? Even a little study into the writings of St. Paul will show that these mysteries are nothing else than God's own Word and the Holy Sacraments. But why are they called mysteries? Very simple – God is God, and we are not. Therefore, the things of God are, by nature, mysteries to us. And, as Believers, we wouldn’t want it any other way!
What a wonderful mystery is the Word of God. There is most certainly something mysterious about the process of divine inspiration which produced it. On top of which the precious Gospel itself which it reveals to us is the greatest and most sublime of all mysteries. That God reconciled us poor lowly sinners to Himself, only by His grace, which we apprehend only by faith, which in turn comes only by that self-same Word and the Sacraments; this is a great miracle, and just as great a mystery.
And how mysterious is the manner by which the Holy Spirit uses it as his tool to operate on men's hearts, to bring them to faith, to regenerate them and make them children of God. When we behold the mysterious workings of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, must we not all stand in amazement and cry with Nicodemus, “Lord, how can these things be?” (John 3:9)
And look for a moment at the beautiful Holy Sacrament of Baptism, that it is truly and always a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration; what a marvelous mystery. That a few words and a few drops of water bring grace, faith, forgiveness, power, and eternal life can only be anything but a mystery to us mere mortals.
Equally so the Lord's Supper, that in, with, and under the bread and wine Christ gives us His very true and real Body and Blood to eat and to drink, and thereby gives us not only a pledge of forgiveness, but the actual remission of all our sins, the strength to live for Him, and the sure and certain seal of our own personal eternal salvation. Really and truly, what a comforting and heavenly mystery! And comfort that our Savior certainly wills that we enjoy on every Lord's Day and indeed whenever His brothers and sisters gather to enjoy the feasts of His grace.
The same is true of that which our confessions call the sacrament of penance, but which has fallen on hard times among us – private confession and absolution. What peace, solace, and inner joy is found when the Pastor looks directly into the tearing eyes of a sorrowing sinner and proclaims at the command of Christ his Lord's own words, "Son, your sins are forgiven." (Mark 2:5) Let this wonderful mystery of God be found among us ever more as the times of this evil world wax late, and Believers need more and more weapons against sin and despair.
The Minister of the Gospel is to be the caretaker, dispenser, and yes, steward of all these mysteries of God. And a steward is nothing more or less than a servant who is placed over the goods of his master; and he is to administer these goods, not according to his own plans and wishes, but strictly in accordance with the instructions of his Master. How much more so for Ministers of the Gospel, who have the immeasurable treasures of the Means of Grace to dispense according to God’s will?!
This makes the work of the minister – the Pastor – very clear, plain, and easy to identify, does it not? He is to be nothing but a servant and steward of the mysteries of God. He is to preach and teach all the Words of God in no other way but in all their truth and purity, and administer the Holy Sacraments in no other manner than according to the institution and command of Jesus Christ – period! In doing this he is also to protect, defend, guard, and cherish the mysteries of God with nothing less than every thought of his brain, every word of his mouth, and every sinew of muscle, and drop of blood in his body. He is to be not only zealous, but jealous for the riches with which the LORD God has entrusted him, and administer them strictly according to the instructions which he has received from his Master.
This is what – and only what – we MUST expect, nay, demand, from all historic, orthodox, confessional Lutheran Pastors! We must demand that each and every one of them – all those who have taken their oath of Ordination upon the beloved Holy Scriptures and the honored Book of Concord – do nothing except preach and teach the mysteries of God – the Means of His Grace!
Let them stand in their pulpits Sunday after Sunday after Sunday and proclaim only the unfiltered Word of God in sermons wrenched with blood, sweat, and tears from long hours of study in the Bible. Let the words of the great apostle Paul be their constant refrain, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (I Cor. 2:2) Believers today are no different in essence from those of Paul's day. They do not need "how to" sermons, funny stories, tales of the rich and famous, or to hear "me, myself, and I" from their preachers. They need to see and hear Jesus!
Let them gather the children about them regularly and teach them the Word of God from the Small Catechism, and guide and assist their parents to do the same. Our children do not need games, movies, toys, silly songs, and story-times; they get more than enough of those things from the world. They need the simple yet profound truths that our dear Father Martin taught his own children, and toiled to pass on to future generations.
Let them visit the sick – in both mind and body – faithfully, for no other purpose than to bring them the admonitions and the comfort of the Word of God, and the soothing and strengthening medicine of the Lord’s Supper. The sick do not need psychologists, counselors, and mental therapists; what they need are real Pastors!
Let them attend to the wandering and erring of their folds, and bring them the earnest rebukes and stern warnings of God's Word; to hold the Word of God before them as a lamp to guide them back again to the paths of truth and righteousness. Delinquents do not need bribes, plays, pageants, choirs, or potlucks; they do need a swift, sure, and well-placed jolt in their spiritual backside from the servant of the Almighty!
Let them go out and about their communities to those who are avoiding or even attacking Christ’s Church, to bring the warnings and chastisements of God's Word to bear upon their hard heads and cold hearts, in order to bring them into the house of God. The slackers and unbelievers do not need “seeker services,” “friendship Sundays,” nametags, happy-clappy singing, loosey-goosey, undignified, disorderly worship, and “casual” Pastors. What they do need is to hear that “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God!”(Heb.10:31) and also “The Blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”(I Jn.1:7)
We should not, we cannot, we must not expect anything else of our Pastors, our Ministers of the Gospel, our Servants of God's Mysteries, than these simple, yet profound, and yes often difficult and laborious tasks – and we Pastors must expect nothing less from ourselves and each other!
Let us be stewards of the mysteries of God, bond-servants of Christ's Church, and co-workers with Jesus. This and nothing more, for this is more than enough!
Monday, May 23, 2011
Second Corinthians 4:7 – But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;
It is God Who establishes the office of the Holy Ministry of His Word. It was God who Called the prophets of old. It was God, in and through His only Son, our Lord, Who sent forth the Apostles to preach the Gospel to the whole world. It is God, working through the Holy Spirit - sometimes not very easily "through," but often more "in spite of" - human agencies to Call men to their various ministries. This is because, though He still does the Calling, the human instruments are subject to human frailty and are liable to make human mistakes. Still, I believe that, because it is God's work, He sees to it that through these imperfect human instruments His will is done.
It is therefore also God who adds His Spirit to the preached Word and through such preaching and teaching saves souls. It is God Who calls, gathers, enlightens, and adds people to His eternal kingdom. It is God Who offers His grace in visible forms in the Holy Sacraments. It is God Who forgives sins, speaking through the voice of His servants in the Gospel Ministry.
Yes, we proclaim in Christ Jesus God's grace, pardon, peace, and eternal life; but these are God's gifts and God's power and God's salvation! God has given His Church THIS work to do - and we must do it - but it is still His work. And His work is not to entertain the world, or even the church; not to tell them what they want to hear, or what they like to hear, but only what they need to hear. Nor is it to bedazzle the world or our fellow believers with our oratory or even our art or music. These can only be but servants of our ministries, never the goal.
Thus, the Church selects a few men - brave and hearty souls, prepared, ready, willing, and able - to take upon themselves the public ministry of the work of the kingdom. But always this work remains the work of God. It belongs to Him, and not to us to do with as we please. And as God's work it must not cease until Jesus comes, and it dare not be left unattended to, or done in an off-handed or slovenly manner. And grave danger it is to any and all who attempt to hinder it, or indeed do hinder it by their sloth or incompetence or false doctrine and practice.
Therefore, let us - both full-time ministers of the Gospel, and all those who hold up our hands in love and support - do the work which God has given us to do! Nor is the least of the work that we carry our shepherding burdens in our hearts to the throne of God; that we together invite and implore the Source of all good things, for His divine blessing upon our work. May God grant us all wisdom, strength, and zeal to carry out our ministries, for it is only with His help and with His power that we may even hope to bring treasured souls to heaven!
Friday, May 13, 2011
For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.Galatians 5:17.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *When Paul says that the flesh sets it desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, he admonishes us so that we might sense the concupiscence of the flesh, that is to say, not only carnal lust, but also pride, wrath, heaviness, impatience, incredulity, and the like. Even though he would have us sense them, he would not have us consent to them, nor accomplish them; that is, that we neither think, speak, nor do those things which the flesh provokes in us. For example, if it moves us to anger, then we should be angry in this manner, as we are taught in the fourth Psalm, so that we do not sin. As if Paul would say: I know that the flesh will provoke you to wrath, envy, doubting, incredulity, and such; but resist it by the Spirit, that you do not sin. But if you forsake the guiding of the Spirit, and follow the flesh, you shall fulfill the lusts of the flesh, and you shall die. So here Paul is speaking not only of the lusts of the flesh, but of the whole kingdom of sin. These two leaders, says Paul, the flesh and the Spirit, are set one against another in your body, so that you cannot do what you please. Paul speaks these words to the believing Christians, who have been justified, renewed, and have full forgiveness of sins. Yet notwithstanding, he says that the flesh rebels against the Spirit in them. In the same way he speaks of himself in the seventh chapter of Romans: “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” But this must be our anchor-hold, that Christ is our only and perfect righteousness.
Thy grace first made me feel my sin,
It taught me to believe;
Then, in believing, peace I found,
And now I live, I live!
Now that he has shared St. Peter's public actions against him, as well as his decision to file an appeal of his termination of fellowship with the district, we would like to reiterate our support for Rick, whom we at Intrepid Lutherans still consider to be our WELS brother.
We pray for Rick, for the Board of Appeals, for the Northern Wisconsin District and for our whole synod. May the Truth of Christ prevail!
We would ask that any comments submitted on this issue would refrain from taking pot shots at any of the individuals involved. That would not help our brother Rick.
Pastor Paul Lidtke
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Let me begin by thanking our ELS brothers in the Pacific Northwest for organizing this event. They rendered a significant service to Lutheranism in America by hosting this conference, and they should be commended for their foresight and zeal for this kind of necessary discussion among the three largest confessional Lutheran church bodies in the United States.
Pres. Schroeder’s 48-page essay was entitled, “Walking Together with Jesus: Church Fellowship and its Implications for Confessional Lutherans.” It will soon be posted on the Emmaus Conference website, but until then, it has just become available on the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Library essay file. (Note: The WLS essay file, while useful, is not a storehouse of official WELS doctrine.)
Schroeder's essay is, in my humble opinion, brilliant. It’s insightful, engaging, evangelical, historical, and honest, but the honest evaluation of the matters that brought about the demise of the Synodical Conference is presented with the utmost humility and tact.
The essay tells the story of church fellowship beginning on Easter Sunday and continuing through the Lutheran Reformation and Lutheranism in 19th century America. It goes into detail regarding the matters that caused the split with Missouri, which, in the words of Harrison, "you had to do when you did, and so you avoided the next 40 years of turmoil that we faced in the Missouri Synod." Then Schroeder clarifies some aspects of the WELS teaching on church fellowship that have been misrepresented or misunderstood. Finally, Schroeder offers some suggestions for moving forward in our discussions with the LCMS, including the suggestion, "Is a 21st century 'Formula of Concord' effort possible?"
Schroeder's final admonition is especially poignant:
- As we strive to apply the scriptural principles of fellowship faithfully, remaining separate when we must on the basis of our confession, we should just as energetically seek to determine where doctrine and practice are one, to trust in the power of the Word for results, and to rejoice in a unified confession if and when God brings it about.
Pres. Moldstad was the first reactor. Since so much ground had been so thoroughly covered by Pres. Schroeder already, it seemed like there would be little left for Pres. Moldstad to say, except for “I concur.” Still, he presented a fine evaluation of the lecture and the state of the fellowship discussion from the perspective of the ELS. One important point he made was the reason why the ELS (and presumably also the WELS) declined former LCMS Pres. Kieschnick’s invitation to dialogue among the three synods in 2003. It was pointed out that this was soon after the fateful “Yankee Stadium event,” at which an LCMS district president participated in a unionistic and even syncretistic public service. I believe it was even called “A Prayer for America.” Although DP Benke was briefly suspended for this action, he was later exonerated and his suspension lifted by the leadership of the LCMS (as I understand the situation from Moldstad’s reaction), signaling that the leadership of the LCMS was, at that time, unwilling to submit itself to the Word of Christ in the area of church fellowship, although several confessional men in Missouri, like Kurt Marquart, denounced Benke’s actions and the official rationalization of them.
It was important, I think, for Yankee Stadium to be brought up in a discussion on fellowship. This is exactly the kind of situation that the WELS teaching on prayer fellowship addresses. Too often WELS sources turn the issue of prayer fellowship into an individual, private matter, almost characterizing any table prayer with one’s Christian (but non-WELS) relative as a denial of Christ and His Truth. This is ridiculous. The issue of prayer fellowship should be taught as a public matter between churches or representatives of churches. President Schroeder did make those distinctions in his essay, although I wish he would have spoken even more strongly on that point in order to move the discussion entirely out of one’s dining room and into the public forum, where it belongs.
Unlike Pres. Moldstad, Pres. Harrison did not have a written reaction, but spoke from notes, and did not exactly react to the essay as much as he simply talked in general terms about Lutheranism in America and the value of discussing doctrine and pursuing at least the possibility of unity with the WELS and the ELS. One might have wished that he had commented more directly on President Schroeder’s essay, but there was nothing disappointing in anything he said. This was the first time I had heard Matt Harrison speak. He has a presence that simply fills a room. He comes across as very intelligent but very down to earth and friendly, with a genuine sense of humor. He admitted having much work to do in his own synod before real progress can be made in doctrinal discussions with other synods. But that was not to imply that these doctrinal discussions ought to wait for in-house business to be completed. He insisted, “We have to do both.”
Harrison expressed a bit of confusion over the issues WELS emphasizes about prayer fellowship. He admitted that it was an issue that had simply never been on the radar for him personally. He joked disarmingly, “We’ve had to concentrate on questions like, ‘Is the Bible the inerrant Word of God?’ and ‘Should women be ordained?’ and things like that.” But in saying that, he made it clear he was not dismissing the WELS concerns over this issue. “It’s something I realize now I have to study. You’ve given me much to think about.”
President Schroeder, President Moldstad and President Harrison are to be commended, among other things, for their gracious demeanor. There was not even a hint of arrogance or an attitude of superiority among the three presidents. President Schroeder quoted Missouri Synod sources favorably (including Matt Harrison himself) over a dozen times in his essay, along with other WELS and ELS sources. Each president spoke of repentance in his own self and in his own synod as the first step toward fruitful discussion.
Here is my (very conditional) prediction, as well as my prayer. If the pastors and congregations of the WELS, ELS and LCMS will adopt the humility and doctrinal commitment of their respective presidents, then I have no doubt that the fellowship of the former Synodical Conference will be restored.
Why? Because the ruling authority of the Scriptures and the ruled authority of the Lutheran Confessions form the foundation of all three church bodies. The authority of the Scriptures was being attacked from within the LCMS 50 years ago, but by the grace of God, such is no longer the case. Church Growth theology has infected all three church bodies to some degree, but all three presidents have spoken out against this false theology, expressing trust in the Means of Grace rather than in human methodology. So there is no reason why church bodies that are committed to the Scriptures and the Confessions should not be able to work out their differences through fraternal dialogue, unless 1) contrition and repentance are lacking on either side, or 2) the external preservation of the institution supersedes the confession of the truth.
If contrition and repentance are lacking in either the WELS or the LCMS, then puffed-up egos on one side will always treat the other side with indifference, condescension or even contempt. If the primary goal of the institution is to preserve the status quo or keep from losing numbers, then truth will take a backseat to expediency, and what is expedient for one synod will likely be unacceptable or even detrimental to the next.
But if the leaders of the synods approach one another in a spirit of contrition and repentance, then egos will not get in the way of God’s clear Word and the Church’s historical interpretation of His Word. And if the primary goal is faithfulness to the truth of Christ rather than to preserving the status quo at all costs, then the Spirit of Truth Himself will fight for the unity of His Church. May God grant it!
Emmaus Conference 2012
- April 19 and 20
- Parkland Lutheran Church, Tacoma, WA
- Lecturer: The Rev. President Matthew Harrison
- Reactors: The Rev. President Mark Schroeder and the Rev. President John Moldstad
Monday, May 9, 2011
Dr. Martin was an expert on the occult, and from the 1960’s onward, disseminated countercultic and apologetic information through his organization, Christian Research Institute (CRI). After his death, he was succeeded as “The Bible Answer Man” and President of CRI by Hank Hanegraaff – a popular commentator who can be heard these days on many, though not all, “Evangelical” radio stations. At least one of Dr. Martin’s works, The Kingdom of the Cults, remains a very valuable resource, one which I consult with semi-regularity as need arises.
Over the past two years, several of Dr. Martin’s lectures have been featured by Chris Rosebrough on his internet radio show, Fighting for the Faith – a daily program in the lineup of Pirate Christian Radio (PCR). I remember these PCR features, since I am of about the same age as Mr. Rosebrough, and remember Dr. Martin’s voice and manner of teaching from my youth, in a way similar to Rosebrough’s reminiscences. Anyway, lest we Lutherans should fall under the mistaken impression that our struggles are unique to us, I supply links to the following lectures, along with selected quotes, in which Dr. Martin defines liberal theology as “cultic,” and makes it clear what the orthodox Christian’s response ought to be. Others have already gone through what we are approaching – it may be of some use to examine and appreciate their own assessments.
(lecture begins @~58min, 30sec)
1hr 12min, and following...
“Any person who does not know that today in the United States, and in denominational structures worldwide, we are in an accelerating apostasy, does not know, I repeat, does not know what is going on... There was a time when one could pick a Presbyterian church, a Methodist church, an Episcopal church walking down the street, send somebody into it, and be reasonably sure that he would hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Today before you'd send people into most of these churches, you would need a psychiatrist if you opened the door and just said 'Go'... because you would know what you did!
“The Episcopal church which I came from, has a rigid orthodox background. Thirty-nine articles of the church, Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed... good solid theology. Yet, the Episcopal church fell so far from its position that it let James Pike continue as one of its representatives. They didn't dare bring him before the House of Bishops – want me to tell you publicly why? Pike said so, I might as well quote him. He said, 'You will never take me to trial before the House of Bishops for my theology, which you say is heretical, because I am an attorney, and I will defend myself, and I will prove that you, in the House of Bishops, are as heretical as I am.' Do you think they listened to him? You bet they listened to him. Because Pike would have proven it. Do you realize that James Pike was an Episcopal Bishop in the United States, denying the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the Virgin Birth, Salvation by Grace, the Vicarious Atonement, and the Bodily Resurrection of the Lord, the Nicene Creed, the Apostles Creed, all the creeds of Christendom, and the Episcopal Church never touched him?! Know why? Because they are as corrupt as he is! They don't dare touch him... The Presbyterian denomination has suffered the same inroads. Today you can be ordained in the Presbyterian Church and deny the Deity of Jesus Christ. The Baptists have had their fare share – we’re up to our eyeballs with it! The Missouri Synod fought them to the death, and won. They said, 'We don't know how we're going to get along without you, but we're going to.' And they threw them out... The Southern Baptists are fighting the same war right now – I know, I'm in the Convention. We don't know how we're going to get along without them, but we are going to. Because if we don't, there is no such thing as a little bit pregnant... you are or you're not! Well, there's no such thing as a mild form of cancer. It's cancer. If you don't get rid of it, you don't deal with it, it get's you! We have to deal with these things today. If we don't, they'll end up getting what's left of the Church... What did the Apostle Paul say? 'They will gather to themselves teachers who will tickle their ears, and the Truth of God will be turned into mythology.' It's here!”
1hr 20min, and following
“Every major theological seminary that has turned from orthodox Christianity began with disbelief of biblical doctrine... Corrupt Bibliology led them to the next step. Theology began to be touched by it. Their view of the Cross and the Virgin Birth immediately was questioned. Then came the miracles of Christ. And finally they had emptied the Gospel of all its content, and simply were using the outward shell so that they could go on collecting money from the people and the churches, because they knew that if the people in the pews knew that they were apostate they'd throw them out. So the strategy was: hang on to the trust funds, hang on to the money that we've got, hang on to the properties we control, we will gradually educate the laymen into this new approach to theology. And then, finally, we will take control of everything. This is the gradual process of feeding you theological poison, until you become immunized enough so that you don't know what is happening to you. And when you wake up to what is happening to you, it's too late. They've got everything.”
1hr 28min, and following
“Look what happened... Look at the votes. We were very subtly, systematically, squeezed out. All of the positions of leadership were given to people who denied the foundations of the faith...”
1hr 34min, and following
“The Jehovah's Witness is easily detected. The Mormon has his bicycle. The Christian Scientist has the Monitor to get you to subscribe to. The religious science people are telling you that you can have health and prosperity and you can rise above all these torrents of life, floating over them as the ping-pong ball soars over Niagra Falls... You can see these people in the cults and the occult if you have any degree of discernment at all, because they are outside the church. But how do you see the Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Episcopalian professor of theology? How do you get him in a place where you can find out what his theology really is? The moment you question him, he reverts to orthodox terminology, and then if you press him for the definitions of his terminology, he claims that you're being suspicious, bigoted and unloving. The average layman is defenseless! He's got to take what comes from behind the pulpit and recommended by his church authority because the moment he opens his mouth, he's accused of being divisive in the church, unloving, and disturbing the fellowship of the faith! When it is the devil behind the pulpit, not the victim in the pew, that's responsible for it! I've used the term ‘devil’ a couple times. That's mild. God uses much stronger language. He describes those who pervert the Scriptures as enemies of the Cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetites, and whose glory is in their earthly shame...”
1hr 37min, and following
“That is why I am concerned about the cult of liberalism. We can identify the other cults, but how do you identify somebody that looks like you, acts like you, sounds like you...? Do you want the answer? ...1 Thessalonians 5:21ff ...put everything to the test, cling tenaciously to what is good.”
2hr 19min, and following
“[Liberalism] is a cult because it follows every outlining structure of cultism. It has its own revelation, its own guru's, and its denial, systematically, of all sound systematic Christian theology. It is a cult, because it passes it's leadership on to the next group, that takes over either modifying, expanding or contracting the same heresies, dressing them up in different language, and passing them on. It is theologically corrupt, because it is bibliologically corrupt; it denies the authority of Scripture and ruins its own theology. And, it ends in immorality.
“Because the only way you could have gotten to this 'homosexual,' morally relativistic garbage, which is today in our denominational structures, is if the leadership of those denominations divide the authority of the Scriptures, and Jesus Christ as Lord. That is the only way we've gotten there. And there is a remedy for this, brothers and sisters. The remedy? Is to start asking questions! Start demanding definitions of terminology. Start insisting that people tell you what they're giving your money to before you give them a dime. Examine the people that occupy the chairs of theology in the seminaries, and if they are not given to the historic Christian faith, out with the rascals! Examine your churches, your sessions, your boards... and find out who is in the faith! You're told to do this in First Corinthians. You're told to do this in Galatians. You're told to do it everywhere in Scripture: Examine to see whether they are in the faith; test all things; make sure of what is true! I'm not being harsh. I'm not being judgmental. I am being thoroughly consistently Christian, in the light of historic theology and the Holy Bible. And I think we have a right to demand that the men who occupy the seats of learning and who preach from the pulpits either preach Jesus Christ or we cut off their pensions, their salaries, their golf club memberships, and let them go on living as social workers, because it is obvious they don't have any theology that is going to save anybody. With Luther, Here I Stand.”
(lecture begins @~18min)
18min, and following
“Tonight we are dealing with an extremely complex subject, we are dealing with 'positive confession' and the health and welfare groups, some of which have crossed over from merely Christian forms in their expression of theology, into the area of the Kingdom of the Cults. Ten years ago... I did a paper on the 'Errors of Positive Confession.' I was vilified, rather openly, by a large number of charismatics on the ground that I was being divisive and unloving, and because I was being 'critical of brothers'. The fact is, you can be a brother and be in very serious doctrinal error, and if you have a large ministry and a lot of people watching you on television or listening to you on radio, and if you are not responsive to your peers it is possible for you to lead literally millions of people into false doctrines – not meaning to do so, but being in ignorance yourself. And we are dealing today with doctrines which have progressed from simply ignorance to outright heresy, and finally, to blasphemy.
“If the Christian church does not address these subjects, if Christian leaders... pastors and teachers do not stand up and say 'Enough! this is what the Scripture says, and you are answerable to Scripture!,' then we are going to have false doctrine running rampant all over the Christian world, and nobody will be able to police it or stop it... [To whom is anyone accountable, theologically??]
“...So the gospel of the checkbook has replaced the Biblical Gospel of authority in the church. Now, so long as nobody insists on accountability, then it will go on; but, the church has awakened, and people are demanding accountability, and that is as it should be. No minister should be afraid to account for his theology, privately or publicly. And if he has questions about it, and he won't answer them, then we have every right to suspect him. That is not unloving, it is not heresy hunting, it is not divisive, it is not unloving, it is thoroughly Biblical. Often, when I cite people's names publicly, they say, 'But, why can't you just name the thing? Why do you have to name the person?' Because, in Scripture, Paul gave us our example; when he confronted evil in the church, he said 'Hymenaeus and Philetus have erred concerning the Truth, they are teaching that the Resurrection has passed, and they are overturning the faith of some.' He named them. And then Hymenaeus and Alexander... So, consistently through church history it has been necessary to confront evil. It doesn't make you popular, alot of people don't love you, but the people that will end up loving you are the one’s delivered because of the confrontation.”
If our Lutheran leaders and laymen won’t listen to fellow Lutherans who quote Scripture and the Confessions, maybe they prefer the testimony of the Baptists?
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Dan Johnson (5/3/11)
The WELS Conference of Presidents (COP) reports in the recently released Book of Reports and Memorials for this summer’s synod convention:
“One continuing area of discussion is the matter of congregational practices in the areas of worship, outreach, and organization. While fully committed to the scriptural principle of Christian freedom, the COP continues to encourage congregations to determine carefully those things that lie within the realm of Christian freedom and then to exercise Christian freedom with wisdom, brotherly love, and extensive consultation with others in our fellowship who may be affected. The COP maintains, as it has in the past, that our practice in all of these areas should be consistent with our doctrine and should reflect a unified understanding of scriptural principles. It continues to encourage open and brotherly discussion of these matters at circuit, conference, and district meetings, convinced that such discussions, done in a spirit of Christian love and based on an ongoing study of God’s Word, are essential to maintaining our unity, our understanding of Christian freedom, and our clear identity as a confessional Lutheran church body.” (Emphasis added)
The concerns raised by a group of five WELS pastors and two laymen in Wisconsin’s Fox Valley have everything to do with “congregational practices in the areas of worship, outreach, and organization.” They center on the “exercise (of) Christian freedom with wisdom (and) brotherly love.” There’s a desire for “extensive consultation with others in our fellowship who may be affected.” And the concern is absolutely about how “our practice in all these areas should be consistent with our doctrine and should reflect a unified understanding of scriptural principles.”
The highlighted portion of the paragraph above relates why there has been silence since the March 25 meeting. We were told not to write in a blog about anything that was discussed. I’m not saying that I agree with this, but I’ve done my best to respect the request.
I will say this: the concerns we had were answered by the district presidium in a written response. There was a time for discussion, but it did little to bring the two sides closer to a real agreement on the issues before us. Nevertheless, there is a desire to keep talking.
As for Rick Techlin, please stay in touch with his situation by visiting his blog, "Light from Light." I’ve agreed to allow him to speak for himself.
I’m sorry, Dan, that your faith in our synod’s resolve to teach pure doctrine is shaken. As a whole, I believe the WELS is still committed to that. When practices that threaten to upset our unity of doctrine are paraded in front of the public on the internet, a public response may very well be called for, even if it’s not our first choice.
The Intrepid Lutherans’ hope has always been for an open, honest discussion on the matters of doctrine and practice that threaten to divide our synod. We still hope for that, instead of silence.
Pastor Paul Lidtke
Friday, May 6, 2011
I have confidence in you in the Lord, that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is. Galatians 5:10.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *This is as if he would say, I have taught, admonished, and reproved you enough so that you should listen to me: nevertheless, I hope well for you in the Lord. Here some raise a question, whether Paul does well when he says he has a good hope or trust in the Galatians, seeing the Holy Scripture forbids any trust to be put in men. Both faith and love have their trust and belief, but different sorts, on account of the difference between their objects. Faith trusts in God, and therefore it cannot be deceived; love believes men, and therefore is often deceived. Now this faith that springs from love is necessary to this present life, for if one man would not believe and trust another, what sort of life would we live upon earth? The true Christians do sooner believe and give credit through love, than the children of this world do. For faith towards men is a fruit of the Spirit, or of Christian Faith in the godly. In this sense, Paul had a trust in the Galatians, yes, even though they were fallen from his doctrine: but were still in the Lord. That is, so far as the Lord was in them and they in the Lord; in other words, as long as they abode in the truth. But, if they fell away from the truth, seduced by the ministers of Satan, he would trust them no more. Paul has a good hope that they will not receive any other doctrine which shall be contrary to his. But those who were troubling the Galatians would bear their condemnation, no matter how important they were in the eyes of men, for one little point of doctrine is of more value than heaven and earth.
Courage then, for all things must
Work for good, and bless us,
If we but in prayerful trust
To His Son address us.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
At this moment, I’m on the road to the Emmaus Conference, which is being hosted by Parkland Lutheran Church (ELS) in Tacoma, Washington, today and tomorrow. Traveling with me (or rather, I with him) is AZ-CA district president Jon Buchholz. At least three other pastors from our district will also be attending the conference.
This “free conference” features the three synod presidents as its speakers: Pres. Mark Schroeder (WELS), Pres. John Molstad (ELS), and Pres. Matthew Harrison (LCMS). Pres. Schroeder has been given three hours on the agenda to present a lecture on the topic of “church fellowship.” I anticipate a very solid, confessional, evangelical essay from President Schroeder. The other two presidents will present their formal reactions to Pres. Schroeder’s lecture. I’m very much looking forward to the discussions that will be taking place over these two days, both formal and informal.
It should be noted that one of the “rules” governing this free conference is that all the presenters must hold a “quia” subscription to the Lutheran Confessions. That is, they must subscribe to the entire content of the Lutheran Book of Concord, not “insofar as” (Latin “quatenus”) but because (Latin “quia”) they accurately expound the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures. This precludes the participation of all non-Lutherans (including representatives of the ELCA) in such a conference, and ensures a solid foundation and common ground upon which the essays and ensuing discussions can build.
According to Pres. Schroeder, this conference is
- a good opportunity to try to explain and clarify the WELS doctrine and practice of church fellowship, to remove misunderstandings and caricatures that others may have about our beliefs, and to provide a public witness to our doctrine and practice of church fellowship…A free conference such as this should not be understood as formal "doctrinal discussions" between church bodies. It should not be seen as a step toward the re-establishment of fellowship between WELS and LCMS. Rather, it is an opportunity for us to present biblical truth and to identify areas where Lutherans agree and disagree.
I suppose there are some agreed-upon definitions somewhere as to what constitutes “formal doctrinal discussions,” and apparently this conference doesn’t qualify. But since the three synod presidents are the main (only) speakers on the agenda, and “doctrinal discussion” is the main agenda item, I think that to the average Joe, this conference could easily be construed as “formal doctrinal discussions.” Informal doctrinal discussions are already taking place all over the blogosphere, and between individual pastors and congregations around the country. Granted, none of the three speakers is coming with the authority of his synod to make decisions for the synod, but I see no reason to downplay the significant historical nature of this dialogue.
“To identify areas where Lutherans agree and disagree” is absolutely essential, and if this is accomplished, then I would consider it at least a possible first “step toward the re-establishment of fellowship between WELS and LCMS.” Obviously, if it is determined that true doctrinal differences still divide our synods, then these will have to be discussed at length and studied in the light of Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. This could take years. But it’s a formal discussion that is long overdue, in my opinion, and hasn’t been pursued with sufficient zeal by our three synods. Until now, perhaps?
I will write a follow-up report after the conference is over. Let us pray for Presidents Schroeder, Molstad and Harrison, and for our three synods in which the true Gospel of Christ is believed, taught and confessed.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
The Order of Creation and the Headship Principle: Christian Men and Women in the home, church and society
A PDF version of this study can be downloaded at the following link: The Order of Creation and the Headship Principle, by Rev. Steven D. Spencer (WELS)
A Bible Study
by Pastor Steven D. Spencer
The question I am most frequently asked about the roles of man and woman in this life is: "Why do I teach that women should not exercise authority over men, also know as the "Headship Principle?" The answer is really quite simple: "I teach the Headship Principle because it is part of God's holy, immutable (unchangable) will for believers in this earthly life."
It is God's will because:
- GOD'S ORDER OF CREATION LEADS US TO THE HEADSHIP PRINCIPLE
Perhaps this diagram will help.
Now, for the Scriptural proof of this, let's begin with Genesis 1:28 & 2:18.
- "God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'" The LORD God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'"
St. Paul makes this point abundantly clear in First Corinthians 11:3,8-9.
- "Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man."
- "Your desire will be for your husband ('s position), and (but) he will rule over you." [emphasis mine]
- "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. For Adam was formed first, then Eve."
- "As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law (the Books of Moses) says." [emphasis mine]
- "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs."
- A. THE HEADSHIP PRINCIPLE IS PART OF GOD'S HOLY, UNCHANGABLE WILL.
B. THE HOLY, UNCHANGABLE WILL OF GOD IS, BY DEFINITION, NEVER SET ASIDE BY CIRCUMSTANCES.
C. THE HEADSHIP PRINCIPLE CANNOT BE SET ASIDE BY CIRCUMSTANCES.
Based on this understanding, it must be maintained that:
- All women are "helpers" to all men, and all men are "heads" over all women, even if only in a theological sense. Concrete applications will follow from this basic fact, and without this foundation, there can be no binding applications.
- In marriage this means that wives are to submit to their own husbands, and husbands love and honor their own wives as they would their own bodies. God intends this relationship to be an unselfish and self sacrificing one. There is no room for any kind of abuse, physical or otherwise, on the part of the husband, or for refusal to submit on the part of the wife, unless compelled to go against God's clear Word. Jesus tells us in Matthew 19:4-6,
- "Haven't you read, He replied, that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
Paul also gives us these directions in Ephesians 5:22-24,& 28,
- "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the Head of the Church, His body, of which He is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies."
- In the visible church this means that women are not to exercise authority over men. Please refer to the passages noted in Session One (above), especially First Corinthians 11:3-12, 14:34-40, and First Timothy 2:11-15.
Since the church is to be ruled solely on the basis of God's perfect Word, the church is to hold its members to the clear application of God's will in the areas over which it has some jurisdiction, such as marriage, and the organization and workings of the congregation. Nothing is to be done which would call God's Word into question, or send an unclear message about God's Word to the world.
- In society this means that believing men and women will strive to demonstrate this truth in every aspect of their worldly lives. Again, please note that Adam and Eve represented not only the first marriage, and the whole church on earth, but also all of society. (Genesis 1-3)
Many people disagree with the idea that this teaching should be applied in society at all. However, if the Headship Principle, based on the Order of Creation, does not also apply in society, but only to believers in the visible church, then it does not apply to all people of all time and in all places. Thus, this teaching would be, by definition, NOT part of God's perfect unchangeable will (Moral Law), but only a Ceremonial Law, of which there are none for New Testament believers. (Colossians 2)
Therefore, if the Headship Principle does not apply in society, it does not apply anywhere. Thus, this entire study is a waste of time, and we should immediately remove any suggestion of submission of wives to their husbands from our marriage vows, and quickly approve and encourage women voters, Elders, and Pastors in our churches. To do otherwise would be unbiblical and hypocritical. And to maintain our present restrictions, without the backing of God's Moral Law, would be unloving and unchristian.
However, since it is clear that the Headship Principle is part of God's holy unchangeable will, we can and must apply it also to society. Yet, we need to remember that while we as individual believers can hope and pray that society, including the government, will use all of God's will as a guide for law, justice, and morality, and can work within our system to bring this about; it is not the church's role to force society to live according to God's will. We must preach the Law and the Gospel clearly, and without equivocation, then allow the motivating power of Christ's love for sinners to move men and women to conform their lives to all of God's will, including His Order of Creation and the Headship Principle, as they grow in the grace and knowledge of Scripture. Thus, it is not up to the church or even individual believers to attempt to legislate society's conformity with the Headship Principle, but rather their duty to apply it in their own lives to the best of their Christian ability and thus serve as a model and guide to the world around them.
VERY IMPORTANT: Let it be clearly understood immediately that upholding and proclaiming this teaching of Scripture is not a matter of inequality, prejudice, or discrimination. For, when it comes to the way of salvation, all people are equal before God. St. Paul writes,
- "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)
We must also realize that this teaching is certainly not the central theme of all Scripture, nor even one of the most important or fundamental doctrines. Still, it is clearly taught. Thus, I must also teach it. Otherwise, I would be dishonoring my Divine Call and my Lord Jesus Christ, my own Head and Shepherd.
Some practical questions:
Q1. Is this teaching responsible for the terrible abuse women sometimes suffer at the hands of men?
A. Absolutely not! If so, then God would be guilty of promoting such abuse. Remember two important points; first, that this tension, which can lead to violence, was part of the curse of sin God saw would happen after the Fall. Secondly, God makes it extremely clear how men are to treat women, especially husbands their wives; not as slaves or worse, but as they themselves would want to be treated, indeed, they are to give their very lives for their wives.
Q2. Is voting in the church really an exercise of authority?
A. Simply put, yes, voting in the church is an exercise of authority, at least in our day and age. If voting is not an exercise of authority, then there is no advantage in having the privilege. Indeed, in most of our congregations, the ultimate decision making authority rests with the Voters, within which the majority rules. When women take part in this voting, they are exercising authority over at least some other men by canceling out their votes, whether or not they are contributing to the majority.
Of course, there is nothing in the Bible which demands that our congregations should be run in such a democratic fashion. Authority could be vested in the Pastor alone or any number of individuals or groups. Wherever the authority is, there is where the restriction of the Headship Principle belongs, and nowhere else. On the other hand, the church is always free, and on most occasions would be wise, to poll both the men and women of the congregation to gauge their opinion as to some project or program. Since there is no exercise of authority in such cases, women members can, of course, freely take part in such "straw votes," and the discussions surrounding them.
Q3. If all voting then is an exercise of authority, isn't the same true of voting in society, such as for President? Why don't we also forbid women to exercise this kind of authority?
A. As for restricting other kinds of voting in the world around us, see the comments concerning society and government under point 4 above. Our government, by an amendment to the Constitution, has determined that women also may participate in voting. However, there can be many God-pleasing ways for believers to respect the laws of the land, and also keep God's will in this regard. Still, it should go without saying that, at the very least, a believing wife who understands the teaching of the Order of Creation will endeavor not to cancel out the vote of her husband, and thus overrule his headship.
Q4. How can the concerns of women members be addressed by the congregation if they can't vote, especially if they are single, or their husbands are not members?
A. As part of the Headship Principle, it is the duty and responsibility of every man in the congregation to take into consideration the feelings, questions, and suggestions of the women members. If this is not done, or no provision is made for this, then it is the men who are clearly violating God's Order of Creation. Note that Barak was dishonored by God when he failed to take the lead against Israel's enemies. Judges 4:9 records,
- "Barak said to [Deborah], 'If you go [along to war] with me, I will go; but if you don't go with me, I won't go.' 'Very well,' Deborah said, 'I will go with you. But because of the way you are doing this, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman.' So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh."
Q5. How and why do so many other church bodies, even "conservative," Bible-believing ones, justify allowing women voters, Board members, Elders, and even Pastors?
A. The answer to this question is simple enough, but not so short. Obviously, this teaching of the Order of Creation and the Headship Principle is not popular in our world today. In fact, it is often seen as a barrier to the growth of our congregation and the Wisconsin Synod. Thus, there is great pressure to find a way around this portion of God's will, especially on the part of churches that want to be or remain popular with the majority of people. Thus, the denominations that permit women to vote and/or hold the Pastoral office regard the Bible passages we have discussed as being open to other interpretations, questionable as to their true origin, not part of God's inspired Word, or simply as having no bearing or authority on us today.
However, let me point out that if we were to say that Moses and Paul did not write the sections quoted, or that these sections are not inspired by the Holy Spirit, or that they no longer apply, or they are not clear enough to guide us, then nothing is to prevent any other portion of the Bible to be called into question, such as the Ten Commandments, the life and work of Christ, or Paul's words about justification by grace through faith.
In addition, it can be said without fear of contradiction, that without exception, every single denomination or church that has given up the teaching of the Headship Principle and Order of Creation, along with their applications, has also eventually set aside other clear teachings of the Bible, including the Trinity, Creation, the Flood, Original Sin, the Virgin Birth of Christ, His Resurrection, and the Vicarious Atonement; not all at once, or quickly, but inevitably, little by little, over many years. Thus, the very basis of saving faith could be lost, and with it, immortal souls.
Therefore, since part of my Call is to protect you, my sheep, from spiritual wolves who would try and destroy your faith, and since it is abundantly clear from church history that the denial of even one teaching of Scripture, however minor it may seem, can ultimately lead to the denial of others, even fundamental doctrines necessary for salvation, I cannot and will not allow such denial to gain a public foothold in the congregation God has placed under my care.
Q6. What happens if some members don't agree with this teaching? Will they be forced to leave our church?
A. No, that is not necessarily called for. Because this is a difficult, unpopular, and often misunderstood teaching of the Bible, it is not only possible, but indeed likely, that there will be many members in this and other WELS congregations who privately do not agree with this doctrine. Such members should not think they are unwelcome or cannot remain in this congregation. The fact is that nearly all members have some difficulty with any one of many such difficult teachings. This does not make them unbelievers, heretics, or outcasts. As long as they do not refuse to continue to be instructed, and do not make public propaganda for an unbiblical doctrine, there is no problem staying and being active in the congregation.
I pray that this study has answered most of your questions and concerns about this sensitive and complex subject, and given you the guidance and confidence to accept, defend, and live by it. Always feel free to ask further questions and make comments and suggestions as to how I can better and more effectively communicate this portion of God's perfect will to people both within and outside our church. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to assist you in understanding this part of your Lord's directions for your life of faith.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License