Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Spewing the Doctrines of “Christian Hedonism

Earlier today, “Matthias Flach” of the blog, Polluted WELS posted an article critical of a Contemporary Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, MN – Pilgrim Lutheran – its praise band, SON Band, and of lay pastor Dr. Scott Gostchock (WELS), who preaches during the band's worship performances. Says “Matthias”:
    Most concerning is a "SON Message" in which Dr. Scott Gostchock (who is not a pastor) preaches a "sermon" in which he states the following:

    • It isn't good enough to preach God's Word from the Bible because that's just “words on a page”.
    • We must somehow “experience” God's presence apart from those words on a page.
    • It's not the job of the church to condemn sin.

    The entire “sermon” is pure enthusiasm -- the teaching that one must experience God's presence apart from Word and Sacrament.
Keep in mind that the good Doctor is from the Twin Cities, Minnesota, home of Dr. John Piper (of the former “Baptist General Conference,” which has adopted a “new missional name, Converge Worldwide”) and his theology of Christian Hedonism. We briefly reviewed the theology of Dr. Piper, and its connection to the requirements of Christian worship and Christian experience, in our post, Post-Modernism, Pop-culture, Transcendence, and the Church Militant :
    In some circles, however, the pursuit and experience of “pleasure” is a measure of whether a person is saved or not. In Dr. John Piper’s Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, he makes precisely this connection, first noting from philosophy that happiness is not only the deepest longing of human nature,1 it is also a command from God that we are required to obey,2 then suggesting that Scripture could have more poignantly read, “‘Unless a man be born again into a Christian Hedonist he cannot see the kingdom of God’”3 and eventually stating most directly that “The pursuit of joy in God is not optional …Until your heart has hit upon this pursuit, your ‘faith’ cannot please God. It is not saving faith.”4 Of course, this non-optional pursuit of ‘the joy that is to be had in God’ is tied to worship experience as well. After first denigrating liturgical worship as “empty formalism and traditionalism... [which] produces dead orthodoxy and a church full (or half-full) of artificial admirers,”5 and later reiterating his disdain for traditional worship as “the empty performance of ritual,”6 “the grinding out of doctrinal laws from collections of biblical facts,”7 and “misguided virtue, smother[ing] the spirit of worship,”8 we are informed by Dr. Piper that, in fact, human emotion is the ends for which a worshiper strives; that is, that the worshiper ought to achieve affective experience through his acts of worship: “Happiness in God is the end of all our seeking”9; “All genuine emotion is an end in itself”10; “God is more glorified when we delight in His magnificence.”11 According to Dr. Piper, the worship that true Christians are commanded to engage can be described as follows:

      Now we can complete our picture. The fuel of worship is a true vision of the greatness of God; the fire that makes the fuel burn white hot is the quickening of the Holy Spirit; the furnace made alive and warm by the flame of truth is our renewed spirit; and the resulting heat of our affections is powerful worship, pushing its way out in confessions, longings, acclamations, tears, songs, shouts, bowed heads, lifted hands, and obedient lives.12

    Although I am quite certain that Dr. Piper himself is no card-carrying post-Modernist, the highly charged experiential language used by him, and his use of that experience as a soteriological and axiological point of reference, drives his readers to their own experience as a source of confirmation regarding their own salvation and certainty in living out their faith, and into a post-Modern worldview.
It is not surprising that Dr. Gostchock and “SON Band”13 would be echoing Dr. Piper's theology, even if only in some muted and truncated fashion -- I live in the same area, and having friends and relatives deeply involved in the Contemporary Worship scene in the Twin Cities, I know for a fact that (a) the Christian entertainment racket is a fairly close knit group of people14, and (b) if they have one at all, Piper's Christian Hedonism is their Confessional document. Piper is very influential around here -- indeed, I've long considered the late Rev. Klemet Preus' book, The Fire and the Staff, (whose church was actually fairly near to Piper's), as a highly needed Lutheran rebuttal to Piper's Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. More rebuttal is necessary, in my opinion.

Dr. Piper's experientialist doctrine of “Christian Hedonism”, like the doctrine preached by the lay pastor Dr. Scott Gostchock (WELS), is not only enthusiasm, as Rev. “Matthias Flach” points out, it is also rank synergism. It is also a fundamental aspect of what seems to be the greatest and most insidious worldly threat to invade the Church in our day, one that attacks objectivity in all forms, and empties language of all definite meaning: Post-Modernism. We've blogged about this in the past, as well:


Experientialism: The post-Modern Church's way of “Becoming the Culture
(from The Health of the Church has more than just religious significance)
The philosophy of Materialistic Rationalism, with which Western man was equipped as he entered the 20th Century, was a very optimistic philosophy – the pinnacle of Modernistic thought. Declaring the future equivalent to progress, and limiting reality to the scientifically observable, it confidently identified man's capacity for scientific achievement as the source of that progress, and with this as foundation for the ordering of society, held high-expectations for cultural advancement. Yet, the 20th Century is on record as the bloodiest in history. Indeed, it took less than two decades for serious doubt to develop, as the destruction and human suffering of World War I simply galvanized the sensibilities of modern Westerners. Man was indeed powerful, yet demonstrated that he was not powerful enough to restrain his own inbred evil. The horrors of World War II sealed the fate of Modernism, and the West has increasingly advanced beyond it, into post-Modernism – an essentially experiential philosophy questioning the adequacy of formal language as a vessel sufficient to carry the message of Truth, which is thus utterly dismissive of objective truth-claims and ambivalent toward the future...

It was stated above, that the Church “has struggled mightily and in various ways against the withering onslaught of man's great enemy – the World – yet has been forced into retreat.” Following this, a litany of false teaching, in which some truth and great struggle is evident, was produced to show how the Church has conducted its struggle: from within the context of having “become the culture.” In point of fact, the recent history of the Christian Church is littered with the theological ruins of Christian movements which have, in a flailing desperation for the “survival of the church,” become the culture, either not realizing, forgetting or rejecting the fact that the World is one of the Christian's Great Enemies. In the modern West, doing so has meant adopting one of two perspectives: that of rationalistic Empiricism or of mystical Existentialism. In reality, neither perspective is acceptable; both place mankind at the center of truth, and argue their way to God and for man's relationship with Him from (a) the intellectual (objective), or (b) experiential (subjective) attributes of man's existence – the historical record of God's Special Revelation of Himself to mankind no longer being relevant for this purpose, by the World's standards...

That the Church must “become the culture” is a lie. That it has increasingly “become the culture” is the manifest reason Western Christianity has slowly disintegrated over the past three centuries. Taking on the culture of the World has produced a vacillating imbalance between emphasis on intellect and emotion in the Church, between reason and experience, objectivity and subjectivity – and not just an imbalance, but a thrashing between these emphases that has drawn the attention of the Church away from the saving events and message of the Gospel, away from the centrality of Christ, and instead upon man and the dual fundamental characteristics of his existence. No, Christianity must not “become the culture” any more than it should it cut itself off from society. No, the Church must not abdicate in the face of its great enemy, the World, either by joining it or by running from it. Rather, as an historical institution, with an historical and saving message, it must stand and face the World on the basis of its confession, it must earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 3), by (a) holding on to the specific and historic truths of Scripture in its doctrine, and (b) defending and proclaiming this truth in its practice...


post-Modern Experientialism and Doctrinal Ambiguity
(from Pursuing freedom from Scripture's clear teachings, by arguing for their ambiguity, results only in tyranny – Part One)
Man naturally pursues a “Theology of Glory.” The consequences of this with respect to God’s many gifts to mankind are clearly stated by Dr. Martin Luther, who stated in his 24th Thesis at the Heidelberg Disputation, without the 'Theology of the Cross' man misuses the best in the worst manner. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that where man permits himself the freedom and authority to arbitrate God’s Revelation, he does so with the force and finality of God Himself. It should also come as no surprise that man, according to his nature, does work toward this very end – whether deliberately or quite unconsciously – and that he revels in the glory assigned to him for his efforts.

It seems most charitable to assume that no confessing Christian would deliberately seek a place of judgment over God’s Word, and to leave it at that – remaining oblivious to its likelihood and limiting ourselves to the messy job of first recognizing when it happens and then reacting to it long after the fact. This is, however, a dangerously pollyanna attitude, since the tactic of arguing for the abstruseness of Scripture, in order to deliberately accumulate authority and glory to man, is not unknown in the history of the Church. In fact, this is exactly how, and why, Erasmus, in his Freedom of the Will (a.k.a. De libero arbitrio diatribe sive collatio, or Diatribe), and later supporting works, argued for the ambiguity of the Scriptures – to maintain the freedom and authority of man over against Scripture. And Erasmus’ arguments have remained active as a dominant force in Western Society and, through it, the Christian Church – more so today, perhaps, than ever before.

(from Pursuing freedom from Scripture's clear teachings, by arguing for their ambiguity, results only in tyranny – Part Two)
Dear reader, we ought to thank Dr. Nestingen for alerting us to the tactic of asserting Scripture’s ambiguity as opportunity for supposed liberty, and for locating the modern source of this tactic in Erasmus – who opposed Luther in this regard. It seems, in our post-Modern age, when ALL truth and meaning are self-referentially experiential, that the “discovery” of ambiguity in the Scriptures, having become great sport, has accelerated to an alarming rate!


post-Modern Experientialism governs Ideology of Language... and Bible Translation
(from The NIV 2011 and the Importance of Translation Ideology)
As Mr. Peeler pointed out, Dynamic Equivalency (the translation ideology of the CBT) is related to post-Modernism in its understanding of meaning in language as a social construction (“grammar follows usage”) – an understanding which is a very recent innovation. According to it, social experience is the vehicle for, and social context the arbiter of, meaning. Language is merely a social experience by which meaning is conveyed, and it is the immediate social context which dictates both usage and meaning, not the structure of the language itself. As a result, post-Modernism teaches that meaning is always subjective and relative (resulting in a lack of clarity... terms and phrases of otherwise objective meaning become “slippery”). This is why post-Modernists will insist that there is no truth – not because there actually is or is not Truth, but because even if Truth does exist, it cannot be expressed since language is insufficient to convey it.

But what is “Dynamic Equivalency?”

To use a very widely used (and seriously discussed) example, the post-Modern adherent of Dynamic Equivalency will complain that the passage in Isaiah which reads “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow,” cannot be understood by a person who has never seen snow. It has no meaning because it is not part of his experience. As a result, instead of actually using the word “snow” to communicate “white-ness,” a more effective translation for, say, a resident of the Caribbean may be “the sands of St. Thomas Beach.” But that wouldn’t communicate to someone outside the Caribbean, so another translation would be needed for those groups of people who have seen neither white snow nor white sand, but which is common to their unique experience – fields of cotton, for instance, or even milk. These are all naturally occurring examples of the color white, and communicate the idea of “white-ness” just as effectively. It doesn’t matter that the word in the original is “snow.” This is Dynamic Equivalency, and the job of the translator under this ideology is to (a) interpret the meaning of the source language, and (b) choose his own words in the target language that communicate this same idea.

Only, notice in the case of “snow” used above, that the translator, while communicating “white-ness” through the use of alternative words, fails to communicate the idea of a “covering” which descends from above, and also fails to communicate the idea of “cleansing,” which is precisely what snow does for the landscape as it melts (and is also part of the meaning directly intended by Isaiah). Thus, under the ideology of Dynamic Equivalency, the translator, in choosing his “alternative phraseology,” is said to “pick and choose” from the source language what meaning he will include in his translation – not because he is forced by inadequacies in either source or target languages, but because he is ideologically (a) given license to do so in order that he may engage in the task of interpretation, and (b) constrained by his own ideas of what constitutes “meaning” within a given social or cultural construct and of what patterns of words can be legitimately used in association with that meaning...


Experientialism always a Bridge to Open Ecumenism, accelerates in the post-Modern Era under Church Growth Movement
(from The Church Growth Movement: A brief synopsis of its history and influences in American Christianity)
A primary purpose of the Evangelical Movement, as a reaction against Fundamentalism, was ecumenism, and this Evangelical purpose was seriously supported and engaged at Fuller. Enter “Mr. Pentecost,” David J. du Plessis, who had been active through the 1950’s as an ardent proponent of ecumenism on behalf of the Pentecostals, convinced that the Pentecostal “experience” could serve as an effective ecumenical bridge to non-Pentecostals (namely, the historic mainline denominations) and help bring unity to Christianity worldwide.

That “experience” had its modern genesis partly in the Brethren movements of Europe15 in the early/mid-1800's (the left-overs of Scandinavian and German Pietism), but especially in the practices of the Scottish Irvingites with whom John Nelson Darby (Plymouth Brethren) spent much time during their outbreaks of agalliasis (“manifestations of the Holy Spirit,” which, among the Irvingites at that time and place, included practices such as automatic writing, levitation, and communication with the dead16) and whose practice and theology (including the foundations of Dispensationalism) influenced him greatly. Passing from Darby to James H. Brooks and Cyrus I. Scofield in America, his teaching has continued to see development over the years and is still disseminated by Dallas Theological Seminary, Moody Bible Institute, Bob Jones University and others.

These experiential practices began finding their way to America at about the same time that a charlatan known as Charles Finney exploited the use of these “New Methods,” as they were called, during America's “Second Great Awakening,” fueling the fever of “revivalism” and captivating Christians with the allure of the “Anxious Bench” as a means of saving souls17. Widespread use of such practices strengthened the Brethren movements and touched off the Holiness Movements within Methodism (which later developed into [and at Azusa Street, Los Angeles in 1906, was confirmed as] full-blown Pentecostalism). By the mid- to late-1800's, such radical practices defined “American Worship” – and it was precisely these forms that Walther notoriously condemned. Even the Old Norwegian Synod, in the 1916 edition of its Lutheran Hymnary, Junior stated its warning against Sectarian “American Worship” forms... By engaging in such forms, the Old Norwegian Synod insisted, Lutherans will wind up singing their way out of their own Confession. A sound application of lex orandi, lex credendi.

With widespread criticism against these experiential “American Worship” forms, and, let’s face it, their rather shallow substance, infantile antics, and transparently manipulative purposes, such practices fell out of fashion by the early 1900's (as “contemporary” forms have a habit of doing anyway). Nevertheless, Pentecostals continued to cling to them, and continued to develop them alongside their theology. Accordingly, such worship forms have come to mean much of the following:
  • the actions of the worshiper are themselves Means of Grace, or means through which the Holy Spirit supposedly comes to, and works in, the worshiper;
  • the Holy Spirit's work in and through the worshiper’s actions is generally regarded as a function of the zeal with which the worshiper engages in them;
  • the purpose of these acts is human centered, “to draw near to God in the act of worship,” that He would reciprocate by drawing near to the worshiper and experientially confirm for the worshiper that the Holy Spirit is with him, and that he is therefore accepted and loved by God;
  • these acts of “drawing near to God” are really acts of man's yearning, tarrying, and striving, of wrestling with God through worship and prayer with the expectation that He give the blessing of spiritual experience in return;
  • the assurance of one's salvation is measured by the magnitude of the blessing which proceeds from successfully wrestling with God – in the experience of God Himself through worship;
  • such experience of the Holy Spirit's presence in worship or prayer, or “the Baptism of the Holy Spirit,” is public confirmation of an individual's “spiritual anointing,” of his salvation and approval before God, and serves as divine qualification and appointment for ministerial authority in the congregation (creating levels of Christians in the congregation based on relative “spirituality”);
  • apart from such visible experiences, the individual is naturally prompted to introspection regarding why God does not bless him with His presence (with the usual explanations being sin or doubt, or not really being saved, or even demonic possession), and is looked upon with suspicion by fellow worshipers as one who is not visibly accepted and blessed by God – both factors leading individual worshipers who lack spiritual experiences to guilt and dismay;
  • as a result, many of those who have habituated themselves to the “Pentecostal Experience,” also have a keenly developed ability to whip themselves into a frothy lather (to avoid introspection and the suspicion of others, and to vaunt their spirituality in the eyes of others); if they cannot, or do not, or are unable to reach a pinnacle of spiritual euphoria according to their own expectations, or those of their peers, they just blame it on the band for “not doing it right;”
  • worship accompaniment must therefore serve the need of the worshipers to have particular spiritual experiences, by manufacturing those experiences for them;
  • and these experiences are referred to as “the working of the Holy Spirit,” even though they are little more than the cooperative effort of human worshipers seeking hard after emotional/psychological “spiritual experiences,” and of human entertainers, mounted on stages in classic entertainment-oriented venues, who are skilled at providing those experiences for their audiences;
  • thus, the “Pentecostal Experience,” and all of its derivatives (including contemporary “Sectarian Worship”), are the epitome of anthropocentric worship practice, which, as stated above, remove Christ and His service to man from the center of the Divine Service, and instead place man, his interests and his entertainment needs at the center... and blaspheme God by crediting the results of man’s work, outside of and apart from the direct use of the Means of Grace, to the Holy Spirit..

post-Modern Experientialism, and its experiential language forms, thriving in WELS
(from A Sermon for Sunday of Holy Week, or 'Palm Sunday': “Stand Ye in the Ways, and Find Rest for Your Souls” — Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann)
There is much value in the words of those Christians who've preceded us, particularly these days, as those words come down to us from a time when post-Modernism was unknown, from a time when language still carried objective meaning. In such words, we find the full force of objective conviction and confident passion, words that are chosen for their direct and unequivocal clarity – as well they ought to be, given that the receptor of language is the human mind. This is in contrast to words chosen by contemporary Christian writers and speakers, who are apparently under the illusion that words are not received principally by the mind, but by the entire human body. Words, even the words of Scripture, result not principally in thought from which meaning is derived, but primarily in a human experience from which meaning is derived. One prominent contemporary Lutheran has even stated as much, in writing, regarding the public reading of Scripture:
    We expect that the primary way in which most WELS people experience most of the Bible, most of the time, is by hearing it read in the context of the public worship service.”18
The speech patterns of post-Modernism are unmistakable in references such as this. The message of the Bible is to be primarily experienced not contemplated; it is more important that the masses have a feeling for what the Bible says, and have a positive experience in relation to that feeling, rather than understand the Scriptures as precisely as possible, especially if the process of understanding is a negative experience of mental struggle.

In the words of Christians who've preceded us, we also find the comfort of discovering that they faced the same issues we face today. Christians have always been concerned about the health of the Church, and, certainly, this is not necessarily a bad thing; but in connection with this concern, they have also been known to take great pride in counting their numbers as a show of growth, as a show of power and influence over others, and as a show of what they've accomplished for Christ...
    18: Wendland, P. (2011, December). Evaluating Translations. Forward in Christ 98(12). pg. 29

    NOTE: President Wendland is here naming and defending criteria for the choice of a new translation for Synod. This particular criterion plainly trumps the claim that Synod's choice of standard translation is only meant to be the translation used by NPH in its publications, that it does not represent the Synod's recommendation or requirement for use in the local congregation. On the contrary, by establishing this as a relevant and primary criterion, President Wendland directly states “it is expected” that Synod's choice of standard translation will also be the standard translation used in every congregation, will be the translation generally read in public during the Divine Service. It is “expected,” and is therefore a primary criterion in the selection of a standard translation.

    Some may be tempted to dismiss President Wendland's emphasis of the term “expectation” in connection with the translation used in WELS parishes, yet, even this month, this point was again emphasized Rev. John Braun, who writes:


      Which Bible should you choose? ...We may prefer to use the translation we have used most often, but which Bible will be the best choice for the next generation? ...My pastor had a good answer to that question. He suggested that we purchase the Bible our children have used in their instruction classes [presumably, he means 'catechism classes' here, but that is a big word that no one uses anymore -DL]. That makes good sense. Passages that were memorized came from that version. Most of today's confirmands have grown familiar with the NIV 1984 in the same way I became comfortable with the King James Version. God willing, they will continue to read their confirmation Bibles and treasure them for the truths of God's Word.

      Braun, J. (2013, March). Translation 103: Which Bible?. Forward in Christ 100(3). pg. 29.

    Hence, it is known, indeed, it is “expected,” that the version of the Bible used in catechism materials and other publications distributed by NPH will be the version from which WELS children, and members of all WELS congregations, will be indoctrinated; it will be the version they memorize, contemplate and repeat to one another for the rest of their lives. If Synod in Convention chooses the NIV 2011 this Summer as the “translation used in WELS publications,” then “IT WILL BE EXPECTED” that (a) an egalitarian version of the Bible, that is (b) rendered at the sixth-grade reading level, will be that which our children will (c) “memorize, contemplate and repeat to one another” for the rest of their lives. For the rest of their lives, they will be “memorizing, contemplating and repeating to one another” a translation of the Bible rendered in terms that are (a) twisted to comply with the cultural standards of militant feminism that has been in a state of open war against the Church and Christian teaching from the start, in (b) terms no more sophisticated than a sixth grader.

    This is the form of indoctrination that awaits our children, should the NIV 2011 be chosen this Summer by Synod in Convention, and it will impact them long into adulthood. Their thinking in matters of religion, as they will have been taught from childhood, will not equip them for their lives as adults, it will only equip them with the thinking capacity of twelve-year-old child. At the same time, they will receive instruction in the ideas of the world from their schools, colleges and workplaces, and from the acquaintances and friends they meet through their lives, in terms suitable for adults. Moreover, the word patterns they repeat to one another from childhood will prepare them to receive with gladness the false teaching of the feminists. The juvenile thinking patterns taught them by their NIV Bibles will render them impotent against not only worldliness, but from direct attacks of the World. We see it now, among those adults who've been taught to think about their faith in the simplistic terms of the NIV 1984. Indeed, I am convinced that blame for the appalling state of American Christianity today can be attributed, at least in part, to the popularity of the NIV 1984 over the past generation. It's users are notoriously unprepared for anything but an “experiential” religious life, and decry anything that is not a “positive experience” as false, or of the devil. They are helpless, and mostly worthless as defenders of the Truth. What else is to be expected? Clumsily wielding a dull Sword, they're not dependable partners in battle. I've witnessed the shamefulness of their easily-avoided defeat many times. They look like fools, and make all other Christians look like fools right along with them, for the sole reason that they transparently think and reason like fools, they articulate their thoughts with the shallow predictability of children. To prepare children for adulthood, they must be prepared with thoughts and words that will actually serve them in adulthood, as adults. They must be prepared for adulthood by equipping them with words and thought patterns with respect to their religion that are suitable for adults. This is accomplished by having them “memorize, contemplate and repeat to one another” the Scriptures according to the standards of adult literacy -- adult speech and thought patterns, not those of a sixth grader. The difference between childishness and adulthood that is suggested by St. Paul in this regard is stark:

      When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Cor. 13:11)

    Likewise, the Proverbs tell us:

      Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. (Pr. 22:15)

    The Bible says in these verses, and in others, that childish ways and thinking are habits and behaviours which the adult IS EXPECTED to put behind him, not retain throughout his life, and which he must be trained to put behind him from childhood. Training Christians to think and speak like twelve-year-olds for the rest of their lives is no way to prepare them for the rigours of Christian adulthood. The NIV, whether the 1984 or the 2011 edition, DOES NOT ADEQUATELY PREPARE CHILDREN FOR CHRISTIAN ADULTHOOD.

    So let's have no more talk of dismissing the importance of Synod's choice “translation used in WELS publications,” as if it weren't intended to have, indeed, if it weren't “THE EXPECTATION” that it have, wider and deeper impact than merely the “translation used in WELS publications.” It is clearly “expected” to be far more than just this. And it undoubtedly will be.

Surrender, Retreat or Die! The Prison of Pedologia that awaits post-Modern Experientialists
(from Impressions from My Visit with ELDoNA at their 2013 Colloquium and Synod – PART V.5 (FINAL))
There were two problems. FIRST, most young adults entering college were totally unequipped to think about their faith in complex or abstract terms – in the same types of terms in which they were absorbing ideas from their college professors, textbooks and other coursework. This was a language problem – and it included students who were raised in conservative Christian homes, who studied their Bibles on a regular basis. They certainly had the raw ability to think about their faith in such terms – they just had no training or practice. But not everyone was so ill-equipped. There was one major difference between those of us who were practiced at thinking about our faith in complex or abstract terms, and those who were not: for the most part, we had been reared on Bibles having a faithfully complex grammar and vocabulary.

---------------

I was a little boy when my father started teaching me how to shoot. He refused to put a “child's gun” in my hands: “A gun is a man's tool. It is not a cute child's toy, but a tool that requires the utmost responsibility, a man's responsibility, to use safely and effectively.” He put a man's shotgun in my hands, never allowing me to think of a gun as anything other than something for adults. It was heavy, at first. I could hardly hold it up, and when I fired it I entirely missed, and my shoulder hurt. But over time, with practice and maturity, I grew into it. By the time I had entered adulthood, I was proficient in its use, ready to independently take on the adult responsibilities that go along with the use of a tool meant for a grown man. It was never a toy in my mind, it was always very serious business.

The same was true of my Bible. When I became a proficient reader, I was given an adult's Bible – the NASB. It was too big for me. Too heavy. I didn't know how to use it right. But with practice and maturity, I grew into it, and by the time I had entered adulthood I was proficient in its use. I was able to reason alongside the author as he developed his point, and, understanding a given teaching from the standpoint of the various nuances that went into its development (many of which are grammatical), I was able to apply it, or aspects of it, to challenges that faced me, and to use the form of reasoning taught me by the inspired authors to engage in more complex patterns of thought on my own. My parents, in choosing to put an adult Bible in my hands, preserved me from a lifetime of Christian pedologia. The majority of Christians I met while at college (and since) have not been spared this fate.

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That was the case with most of us who were practiced at thinking about our faith in complex or abstract terms. Most used the NASB or the NKJV, some used the RSV, and only a couple still using the KJV. But many of us knew that when someone showed up to Bible study with an NIV or with a Living Bible, they were much more likely to struggle with Biblical concepts, and were going to have greater difficulty using their Bibles to respond to the complex challenges hurled at them by the secular World that surrounded us. This was because, reading the NIV or the Living Bible, they never had the opportunity to struggle through the text to understand the nuanced teachings of Scripture – they had no practice at it; they had never learned to follow the complex reasoning of the inspired authors, and to think alongside them. All that the text offered was simplistic prose, stripped of nuance, reduced for readers of the sixth grade level. Let me tell you, there isn't a single translation of Hegel, Marx, Darwin, Kant, Hume, Descartes or any of the other great thinkers of World history, that has been reduced for a sixth grade reader! And when a college student sets his NIV or Living Bible next to one of these authors, or even next to one of his recently published textbooks – which also aren't rendered for sixth graders! – he sees that his Bible is just what his classmates and professors tell him it is: a book of children's stories invented to scare people into submission. Bibles like the NIV or the Living Bible certainly aren't books for adults – not like the books they are reading in college, which, instead of the Bible (unfortunately), are the books that are teaching them to think and reason as adults for the first time.

And so this is the problem with equipping children with children's Bibles, instead of adult Bibles. I know. I witnessed it. I was there. For over ten years. When the enemy is swinging a Claymore over your head, you better have something more substantial than a butter knife to parry it with! If you don't, you are left with two alternatives: (a) surrender, or (b) turn tail and run. And the NIV, along with the Living Bible, has – in the heat of battle when it really counts – shown itself to be little more than a butter knife. I was never so thankful for having been trained in my faith, from childhood, using an adult Bible, than when I was in college and had to use it to combat complex false ideas and defend the simple truth. I even tried using the NIV for awhile in college, but threw it away fearing that my mind would get flabby from using it. Many fellow students switched to adult-grade Bibles, too – mostly on their own, after studying their Bibles, but we did have a couple of Bible study methods that I think provided some indirect encouragement toward that decision, as well.


Rev. Dr. Martin Luther on the Meaning of Christian Experience
To be fair, Dr. Martin Luther DID preach about the impact of “Christian Experience”, but hardly devoid of the Word, at the expense of the Word, or as a necessary addition to it. In his Epistle sermon for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity on Romans 8:12-17, he preaches of the experience of comfort from the objective message of the Gospel (the mere words on a page denigrated by the lay pastor Dr. Scott Gostchock [WELS], above), teaching that the experience of this comfort reinforces what the Word already teaches and the knowledge that we can rely on divine assistance when we call on Him in faith:
    The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16)

    That we are children of God and may confidently regard ourselves as such, we do not learn from ourselves nor from the Law. We learn it from the witness of the Spirit, who, in spite of the Law and of our unworthiness, testifies to it in our weakness and assures us of it. This witness is the experience within ourselves of the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word, and the knowledge that our experience accords with the Word and the preaching of the Gospel. For thou art surely aware whether or no, when thou art in fear and distress, thou dost obtain comfort from the Gospel, and art able to overcome thy doubts and terror; to so overcome that thy heart is assured of God’s graciousness, and thou no longer fleest from him, but canst cheerfully call upon him in faith, expecting help. Where such a faith exists, consciousness of help must follow. So Saint Paul says, Romans 5:4-5: “Steadfastness worketh approvedness [patience worketh experience]; and approvedness, hope [and experience, hope]: and hope putteth not to shame.”
WELS has quite evidently become a voice-box for full-throated post-Modernism. There is no discernible level of protest, much less concern, over the adoption of these ideologies and the governing authority they have attained. WELS schools seem to be fully vested in the philosophies of this world, and the leaders fully captive to them. Most of the parishes seem to uncritically accept whatever is handed down to them. True, one hears squeaks and gurgles of protest from time to time, but I've come to believe that these are just the noises made as the chest of a dying body heaves its final gasps of air. But I have a feeling this one isn't going to go peacefully, and anticipate violent spasms as the end draws even nearer.

Endnotes:
  1. Piper, J. (2003). Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian hedonist (2003 ed.). Sisters, Or: Multnomah Publishers. pg. 19.
  2. Ibid. pp. 9, 24-25.
  3. Ibid. pg. 55. (emphasis mine)
  4. Ibid. pg. 73. (emphasis mine)
  5. Ibid. pg. 81.
  6. Ibid. pg. 94.
  7. Ibid. pg. 100.
  8. Ibid. pg. 98.
  9. Ibid. pg. 90.
  10. Ibid. pg. 92.
  11. Ibid. pg. 97. (emphasis mine)
  12. Ibid. pg. 82.
  13. Why does the name “SON Band” remind me of the band SONSEED (top video)... ?
  14. Many of the Sunday-morning entertainment groups, especially if they have been around for awhile, know, or know of, each other, jam/worship together, exchange bandmates and gigs, practice on each other justifying their own existence, etc... In fact, there was a minor flap a few years ago involving WELS contemporary worship entertainers practicing with/gigging with/standing in for musicians from non-WELS bands -- the issue with practicing together being that the Evangelicals usually combine practice with some sort of group prayer and study of the Scriptures...
  15. Gerstner, J. (2000). Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Critique of Dispensationalism, 2nd Edition. Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications. pp. 17-59.
  16. Please see following works:
  17. For more information on the errors of Charles Finney, see the following article written by Michael Horton almost two decades ago:


2 comments:

Jakob Fjellander said...

Dear Intrepid Lutherans,

I, a pastor from Sweden, sympathize with your fight against Contemporary Worship and CGM. You fight openly. You should, however, reject the methods of "Mattias Flach", who writes anonymously. By quoting (obviously assenting) and not criticizing him you support his manners.
"But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God." (2 Cor. 4:2)

Jakob Fjellander

Vernon Knepprath said...

Jakob,

Thank you for your comment and welcome to Intrepid. Yes, the fight is open on Intrepid, also on Ichabod, and for many of the commenters, also on Matthias's blog. It's not much of a fight when you are hiding behind a tree.

If you look at my comments on the "justification" post of Matthias's blog, at 7/22 @12:11 PM and again on 7/24 @7:15 AM, you will find that the issue of anonymity has been criticized. Others have also been critical of the anonymity, though I didn't take the time to find those specific time stamps. I am hopeful that Matthias will reveal himself, as will others. I wish it had already happened.

But I think the prevalence and persistence of the anonymity on Matthias's blog teaches us something. I think it speaks loudly to the circumstances that exist in the WELS, an environment of intimidation that fosters fear, directed particularly towards those who strive to embrace Confessional Lutheranism. And one must wonder if the anonymous are not simply practicing what they themselves have experienced and even been taught, a hesitancy to speak the truth in anything other than the safest of environments.

Since you expressed a sympathy to our fight, I suspect you must be facing similar battles. God's blessings to you then, as you fight to remain faithful to the truths of Scripture.

Vernon

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