Thursday, July 24, 2014

DEEDS or CREEDS?

DEEDS or CREEDS?
by Mr. Vernon Kneprath

‘Deeds or Creeds’ is the title of one application for the Sunday School lesson about Rahab in material published by the WELS publisher, Northwestern Publishing House.1 The application is a lesson in itself; one that is applicable to all who are confronted with the question regarding what should or must be included in worship services.

A question is posed in the lesson…
    “Which do you think is more important, deeds or creeds?” Or, in other words, what is more important? Is it the things you say you believe, with words, or is it the things you do, based on your beliefs?
The lesson goes on to teach (paraphrased)…
    We may think that deeds are more important because they show what we believe. But our deeds cannot bring anyone to faith.  Only the Gospel can. That’s why our creed – a confession of what we believe – is important to share with others.  We confess our faith in church as we say the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed and when we sing the liturgy and hymns. We confess our faith at home, work, and school when we talk about God and what he has done for us.

    Our deeds (good works) do not help to save in any way. They are simply our thankful response to what God has done for us through His Son, Jesus. The Holy Spirit uses our creed (confessions of faith in God’s Word) to lead unbelievers to faith and to strengthen and encourage fellow believers.
This Biblical teaching is from WELS material published 15 years ago. Some might argue it is outdated. Some might argue that the culture has changed so much that the lesson should be changed to reflect something more real, more relevant. As some WELS congregations turn toward contemporary worship services they are commonly changing or even removing the Creeds from worship in an effort to become more “user-friendly.”

When teachers who teach this lesson (and students who learn it) notice that the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds are omitted from worship, they are confronted with the inconsistency of teaching and practice. A church which fails to practice what is taught to the youth soon loses all credibility. The likely conclusion is that neither the words (creeds) nor the practices (deeds) matter.

The Gospel message in the Creeds is the means by which God creates and strengthens faith. That message is timeless and indifferent to culture. That’s why the Creeds have been a part of our worship service for centuries. Remove the Creeds from worship service? Outdated? Irrelevant? The Gospel of the Creeds is what all people need to hear.

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Endnotes:
  1. Week 8, Lesson B, Page 114. Grades 5-6 Old Testament, Christlight. Northwestern Publishing House. 1999


5 comments:

Joel Dusek said...

Good points. A Creed is an expression of faith, a good deed is a fruit of faith. Both are based in our God-given gift of Faith, and are not at all incompatible. If you have faith, express it by words and actions. Some contemporary congregations avoid the words and focus only on the actions, which quickly becomes "works righteousness". Creeds AND deeds, I say!

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Deeds AND Creeds... I agree. The more I think about this Lesson from Christlight, the more confused I become. It attempts to draw a distinction between two different works, calling one worthless "because it doesn't save". But confessing one's faith -- in words -- is just as much a "work" as confessing one's faith in deeds. Works are not limited to "deeds". They include our thoughts and words, and some even include "attitudes." Indeed, the Confession of Sin that we use, has us say, "I have sinned against Thee by thought, word and deed.". The works that can't save – because they are sinful – include what we say with words. Words don't save us any more than deeds, nor do they save anyone else. Belief, alone, saves – which is given by the Holy Spirit who works by means of the Message of the Gospel.

In addition, "Faith without works, is dead" (Ja. 2:17). We are taught to measure the Doctrine of church body by its Practice. We are taught to measure the Confession of a person by his Works. If the intent of this Christlight Lesson was to impress on a child the need to "communicate the Gospel", it did so by apparently telling him that his deeds don't matter, that only what he says matters. But the world looks at a person's actions to verify what he claims with words, just as much as Christians are taught to when they measure a person's Confession. And the world hates religious hypocrites more than Christians do. On the contrary, works DO matter as a means of communicating the Gospel, just as much as they matter when communicating any message.

I think that what irritates me the most, however, is that this Lesson seems to fixate on Evangelism to such a degree that it suffers from an obvious imbalance in its teaching regarding the importance of Works. Good Works are more than just a thankful response to God – they serve our neighbor for Christ's sake, and they verify our public confession. While sinful works harm our neighbor, and invalidate our Confession before men. It seems to me that this Lesson was intent upon priming a new generation of Church Growth workers: "What you do doesn't matter because they won't save you any more than they will save anyone else. Don't give it a second thought. Only, Tell! Tell! Tell!" And we know that in WELS the Church Growth Movement was in full swing by the late 1990's (when this Lesson was written). They even had a magazine called, "TELL!" But maybe I'm reading too much into it.

My Opinion.


From the Epistle that "Doesn't Matter"

"But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."

James 1:22-27

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

(And I know that my previous comment is not entirely relevant to Vernon's intent, which was to draw out the fact that the WELS author of this lesson admitted, back in 1999, that our Creeds and Hymnody contain the Message of the Gospel, and that the sharply growing trend to omit them these days is actually a removal of the Gospel from the Divine Service...)

Vernon Knepprath said...

Thank you Douglas and Joel. Douglas, yes, you understood my intent. But I appreciate and agree with Joel's and your response, "Deeds AND Creeds". In fact, this was how I had first titled the blog post, but then changed it to the application words in the publication, but with a question mark rather than as a statement. I couldn't, nor was I trying to cover all the bases, so your comments were helpful.

Vernon

Gregory Jackson said...

Douglas, you are really not saying enough about TELL, which began in 1977. http://ichabodthegloryhasdeparted.blogspot.com/2009/03/truth-or-consequences-ron-roth-versus.html - "TELL has served the church faithfully for 15 years. Three editors have served; Ronald Roth (1977-84), Paul Kelm (1985-88), and the undersigned since 1989...The lead article in the first issue of TELL was titled 'Church Growth - Worthwhile for WELS.'...The author of this article in April 1988 issue of TELL concludes, 'It's obvious by now that I believe we in WELS can profit greatly from the writings of the church-growth leaders.' ... TELL as a separate publication ends with this issue. Nevertheless, the focus of The Evangelism Life Line will continue for years to come as an integral part of the new Board for Parish Services journal - PARISH LEADERSHIP. "
Rev. Robert Hartman TELL (WELS Evangelism) Summer, 1992.

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