Tuesday, March 19, 2013

'Crucible Moments' and 'Becoming Lutheran'

Becoming Lutheran
It is very likely that most readers of Intrepid Lutherans have not been following this research, if they even knew about it, but Rev. Matthew Richard (CLBA), who is working on a doctoral degree from Concordia Seminary - St. Louis, has finished the research stage of his dissertation. The title of his dissertation is Becoming Lutheran: Exploring the Journey of American Evangelicals Into Confessional Lutheran Thought, and the research consisted of three surveys whose participants were once active Evangelicals that have made the transition to confessional Lutheranism, or those who are in the process of making that transition. I was one of the survey participants (along with hundreds of others).

The first two surveys (quantitative and qualitative surveys, respectively) have been published:It is unknown to me if he will be publishing the results of the third survey, which concerned advice for Lutheran pastors with respect to prospects or parishioners who are going through the transition.

Rev. Richard has been compiling the results of his research on his Research Journal blog. In addition, he was the subject of a very interesting interview on Worldview Everlasting TV after the results of the first survey were released last February.

Having personally been through the lengthy transition from “Evangelical” to “confessional Lutheran,” and having done so reflectively (that is, I wasn't just jumping from one Evangelical church to another, like so many Evangelicals tend to uncritically do), I find that his results describe very well the process that we endure, and that they also help explain why many of us who've made the transition as adults (again, reflectively and deliberately) cling so tenaciously to sound and genuine Lutheranism and warn so vigorously against anything that smacks of contemporary Evangelicalism. Indeed, both Rev. Richard and Rev. Fisk discuss this very thing in the interview, above. Unlike those Lutherans who have become enamoured with sectarianism and adjure their brothers to “just give it a chance,” we've already “given it a chance,” already know very well the ruin to which it leads, and, rejecting it, urge others not to even dabble in it. Just as there are no non-smokers like former smokers, there are no non-Evangelicals like former Evangelicals. I'm one of them. I highly recommend looking at his research.

Crucible Moments
In the first survey issued by Rev. Richard, “Fear” and “Anger” emerged as two themes repeatedly observed. These two emotions were explored in the second survey – certainly for the sake of gaining a deeper and more objective understanding of these two factors, but, it seems reasonable to think, perhaps also seeking a way of “easing the process.” With the results of the second survey now published, however, I think it is pretty clear that these “emotions” are necessary aspects of the process, and that if a person does not endure them then it seems difficult to say whether a genuine transition to confessional Lutheranism has been made (assuming they actually believed the Evangelical teaching they had previously imbibed over the years).

Worldview Change is Repentance from Falsehood
Worldview Change is
Repentance from Falsehood
This result (which may be surprising to some) reminds me of a statistic reported by Josh McDowell in his book, Right from Wrong: 90% of one's values are developed by age 13, while the rest develop mostly between the ages of 13 and 18, and remain essentially fixed through the rest of his life – barring what McDowell called “crucible moments” during adulthood, or moments of ideological or worldview crisis. These “crucible moments” force a person into deep reflection, like no other kind of life experience can, and often result in either a change to, or a significant reinforcement of one's worldview. For any such change to occur in adults, whose values are essentially fixed, worldview crisis is necessary for the change to occur.

As the rest of Rev. Richard's research seems to show, the journey from contemporary pop-church Evangelicalism to genuine confessional Lutheranism is a very definite worldview change. I can personally attest to this fact. If “alleviating” or “easing the process” means hiding distinctive Lutheran teaching and practice in order to avoid “offending” prospects, or to soft-pedal the Second use of the Law in order to avoid “offending” the unregenerate, or to hide the Sacrament for fear of “offending” visitors, then the only effect “easing the process” might have is to attenuate the genuine change itself. That would be unfortunate. Perhaps it is best to simply be aware that individuals making a journey from “Evangelicalism” to “confessional Lutheranism” are struggling through internal conflict, and merely receive it as an explanation for what a given pastor observes as he brings disaffected Evangelicals through adult catechism? Perhaps it is best for a pastor to simply offer direct Scriptural support for every doctrinal claim he makes during the process, instead of trying to practice some form of “armchair psychology,” and leave the prospects to wrestle with the clear statements of Scripture on their own and arrive at their convictions through the Holy Spirit's working? I ask these questions rhetorically, of course, while agreeing with Rev. Richard in the interview, above, that, at the very least, confessional Lutheran pastors ought to patiently stick with disaffected Evangelicals who are in the midst of a worldview crisis.

Anyway, I think that the final product of Rev. Richard's research (which won't be published for several months it appears) will make for interesting reading – as will the many journal articles it will no-doubt produce. For now, I hope our readers will use the links above to give his raw research a look, and I hope that they find something interesting or beneficial in it.



our family journal said...

hi Doug,
Thanks for posting on Matt's work. I participated in the survey and am also interested in what his findings will be. Matt has since left the CLBA and is going through colloquy to join the LCMS. Interesting.
Hope all is well with you & yours
Brett Boe

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Hi Brett!

Thanks for posting. I didn't realize that he left CLBA -- although I was curious about that given his close work with LCMS, and what appeared to have been a fairly close identification with them. He did say, in his interview on Worldview Everlasting, that he was CLBA, so that must have changed since the interview.

But it is interesting. In fact, I have a followup post scheduled for Thursday that may make this fact even more interesting... Or not. Who knows...

Stay Tuned!


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