- “Too many of my brothers and sisters in the LCMS seem to be almost thrilled by the demise of the ELCA. I pray I am over-reaching and plain wrong in that analysis. This is a profound sadness... [they] are moving totally into the world and wanting to be a part of it. No longer, 'in the world but not OF the world'... The greater and deeper crisis was succinctly stated by German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg in 1996:
- If a church were to let itself be pushed to the point where it ceased to treat homosexual activity as a departure from the biblical norm, and recognized homosexual unions as a personal partnership of love equivalent to marriage, such a church would stand no longer on biblical ground but against the unequivocal witness of Scripture. A church that took this step would cease to be the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church”..
But what really caught my attention was the exchange Rev. Schroeder had with an LCMS layman, who was formerly a member of the ELCA. In their exchange, they offered observations regarding the course of ELCA's demise: the growing absence of the Second Use of the Law. The layman, at comment #12, who identifies himself as "Ken M" offers the following observations:
- February 26th, 2012 at 19:48 | #12
I am currently a member of LCMS, but most of my background is ELCA and predecessor bodies. To be honest, it puzzles me when most LCMS criticize ELCA, simply because it misses the point of why I left.
ELCA is often criticized as being “antinomian”, and the 3rd use of the Law is often mentioned as a “problem”. My lived experience with the ELCA is not that there is too little Law preached, but rather that it is ONLY Law that is preached. Many attempts at being relevant. Many statements on social issues. As I understand it, this IS 3rd use of the law. Whether it is God’s law that is normative is another problematic issue, admittedly. What I found totally lacking is preaching and teaching of the THEOLOGICAL use of the Law.
Too many sermons are “God is nice. God wants you to be nice. Go be nice.” This is admittedly a bit of a caricature, but it is distilled from too many pastors and bishops out there. If this is a help for anyone, it is only a help for those who “feel” nice. This is not a help for the terrified consciences for which our confessions care so deeply. Any why did Jesus have to die if both he and we are so “nice”? No wonder when I served on a call committee in an ELCA congregation that there was a candidate who sent us some sermon tapes where he didn’t ever mention Jesus doing anything…
I have heard too much crap in LCMS too. The vital difference is that it seems that LCMS is still reformable. As Walther put it in Law and Gospel, the problem with the sin against the spirit is not that it is worse than other sins but rather that it cuts us off from the cure.
This is the sickness to death that I had to reject. And it fills me with a deep sadness and pain to this day that I had to do so.
Rev. Schroeder responds at comment #14 as a Pastor with firsthand experience (and clarifies for "Ken M" a bit what it was he was obviously trying to say):
- February 27th, 2012 at 19:50 | #14
The distinction that you may find useful is this: the difference between God’s Law (the Decalogue) and man-made law(s), as in the ELCA.
The ELCA is antinomian to the core as indicated by the fact that a church-wide assembly put a sin into the “not-sin” category, by majority vote, and say it is God-pleasing, going against the clear Word of Scripture. So, the result is: there is little, if no, theological (2nd) use of the Law in pulpits and classrooms and you nailed that. I discovered this when as an ELCA pastor, preaching Law and Gospel sermons, some folks would simmer with hostility at to what I was preaching (as I found out later!).
And so the ELCA, in it’s denial of the 2nd Use of the Law (theological) and the resulting antinomianism, the vacuum has been filled by something else: man-made law (and maybe the equivalent to it is human tradition). So what fills the void, for instance, is congregational programs (the bane of many a congregation) and social justice. And as in the true Law of God: if we just do this (man-made law: btw, see Mormonism and Islam), then we will have more people on a Sunday and a true Christian society and nation and we are saved. It’s fairly easy, after all we can vote on it! It is akin to indulgences. Just buy this or just buy into this. And so as I heard one ELCA pastor preach that “Jesus was a self-authentic human being.” No, Savior there.
And I agree with your assessment about “niceness”: a friend and colleague had as his screen saver the scroll: “Nice is the enemy of the good.” “Nice” is a fairly easy man-made law to fulfill. “Have a nice day!” “No thanks, I have better plans.” So does the Lord. My friend also said that our Lord came to justify the ungodly…not ungodliness. The result: no need for Jesus Christ.
And the Third Use of the Law is absolutely blunted: to see if our good works are actually pleasing to God, as in the 10 Commandments and as Luther correctly teaches them in the Catechisms.
In my interview to become an LCMS pastor, one of the panel, a district president, said, you know the LCMS is not perfect. I said, If it were, then the Lord has returned. No church, worth it’s salt, will ever say it is perfect and the LCMS so clings to the fullness of the sound doctrine of Jesus Christ.
I will have more to say on this in coming days, as these were precisely the observations of Rev. Dr. Nestingen (formerly ELCA now NALC) in the essay he delivered at the Lutheran Free Conference held at MLC last November – for which I was in attendance: Pursuing freedom from Scripture's clear teachings, by arguing for their ambiguity, results only in tyranny.