The more things change . . .

I came across this fantastic quote:

We must take note also of a most deplorable tendency of our times, namely, that of preferring the shallow modern “Gospel anthem” to the classical hymns of our Church. The reference is both to the text and to the tunes in use in many churches. On all sides the criticism is heard that the old Lutheran hymns are “too heavy, too doctrinal; that our age does not understand them.” Strange that the Lutherans of four centuries and of countless languages could understand and appreciate them, even as late as a generation ago! Is the present generation less intelligent or merely more frivolous?

When was this written? Back in June 1929. (Source: Paul E. Kretzmann, Magazin für evang.-luth. Homiletik und Pastoraltheologie [June 1929], pp. 216-217)

Perhaps it should make me sad that confessional Lutherans have been fighting these battles for so long but, for some reason, it makes me hopeful. I think sometimes we think things used to be great and now they’re awful. In fact, I think that we’ve always had people in our midst who didn’t appreciate our Lutheran identity. And sometimes I think things are actually better now than they have been in recent memory.

In any case, a blessed Holy Week to everyone.


The more things change . . . — 24 Comments

  1. Sound doctrine never gets old. The Bible never gets old. And our Lutheran confessions never get old. The writing’s of Luther never get old. And, of course, neither do our Lutheran hymns. WELS recently came out with a new hymnal supplement, with many of the “new hymns” going back to the first century.

    In all synods there have always been people “in our midst who didn’t appreciate our Lutheran identity.”

    That is true. But the problem right now in the LCMS is that the numbers are not just a few voices, but it may be up to half of the synod. Sort of like; Compton California and Scottsdale Arizona both have crime. Yes they do, but Compton probably has twenty times more crime.

    I am a glass “half full” kind of guy, so I hope that you are correct when you state “I think things are actually better now than they have been in recent memory.”

    If Pr. Harrison gets voted in, that will be a good, solid start.

  2. What condition of soul should we consider those who deprecate Lutheran Hymnody as, ” On all sides the criticism is heard that the old Lutheran hymns are “too heavy, too doctrinal; that our age does not understand them.”

    If the teaching of Christ is to heavy and too Doctrinal, then what kind of Jesus do they have and believe in?

    The Holy Spirit in 2 Cor 5:1-21 and 2 Cor 4:1-4, tells us we have been given the, ” earnest of the Spirit “, The Holy Spirit wants us to use these doctrinally sound and heavy Hymns that tell us of the Historical Acts of Christ’s Atonement for us and what they create and work in us.

    I am afraid those who deprecate Lutheran Hymnody have another jesus in mind than is confessed by St Paul in 2 Cor 4:1-4, as this other jesus does not demand of them what Paul’s Jesus does as to sin and salvation, the cross and confession.

    The jesus of the Jesus First crowd is just such a jesus, one that the Pharisees and Sadducees wre waiting for, a worldly savior who do things for them, setting up a worldly kingdom ruled by the Jews.

    This revivalist jesus sees good in man where Paul’s Jesus does not.

  3. I might also add. That in most cases, leadership is to blame. Visitor’s to a confessional Lutheran church, that are using the hymns out of the hymnal will either want sound doctrine, or they will want “big box church” theology that is found on every corner in America and on Christian radio.

    The liberal pastors and DP’s are to blame for allowing it to happen. When the church becomes like the world, it is a false church.

  4. Lloyd I. Cadle :
    Sound doctrine never gets old. The Bible never gets old. And our Lutheran confessions never get old.

    I was given Klemet Preus’ book Fire and the Staff and just started reading it last night, to the tune of 35 pages. I appreciate Klemet’s Norwegian Lutheran lady when she says, “Lehre er liv.” Indeed doctrine is life. Solid doctrine is life!

  5. Last night I just finished a Bible study based on the Good News issue on Worship. This is a great source and the discussion on hymns and how they need to preach Christ crucified is so clear. I also used a quote from Klemet Preus’, The Fire and the Staff, “Most of these arguments (concerning contemporary music) could be solved if we would simply ask the question, “What does the hymn teach?” The purpose of the service is to teach. What do hymns teach?” (143)

    That’s how I’ll begin my approach with the leaders who continue to teach this melodic tripe to our grade school children, adolescents, teenagers and adults. What does the hymn teach?

  6. John :
    That’s how I’ll begin my approach with the leaders who continue to teach this melodic tripe to our grade school children, adolescents, teenagers and adults. What does the hymn teach?

    Indeed, what does any of our church music teach? Does it point to the promise of a Savior? Does it speak to Christ crucified? And while I dearly love the hymns we sing and the historic liturgy, I also see in choir music (love Marty Haugen) and even some contemporary artists (Michael Schroeder) the use of Scripture and correct teaching. As long as their place is not denied in our worship based on style, but only on solid doctrine, we do well. I hope I do not sound like I am standing on shifting sand.

  7. Right you are.

    There is nothing new under the sun, not even in the doctrinal battles of the LCMS. I believe it was in 1871 that Walther published a paper called, “We’re no Longer What We Were” in which he described the degradation of doctrine and practice that had occurred up to that point.

  8. @Deacon Brian Hughes #2

    “The jesus of the Jesus First crowd is just such a jesus, one that the Pharisees and Sadducees wre waiting for, a worldly savior who do things for them, setting up a worldly kingdom ruled by the Jews.”

    So those who belong to or support the organization Jesus First are not Christian and are damned? Ooooooooooooooooooookay.

    I’m just praying that you are using hyperbole. Otherwise, any conversation stops there. Even using hyperbole like this stops almost any possibility of a conversation.

  9. @Perry Lund #4
    “Fire and the Staff” is a great read. Enjoy it. Another title from another Preus, ” Why I am a Lutheran,” is another must-read. I know, I know, the “to read” list piles up faster than one can read it.

  10. @kevin #8
    Kevin, their are degrees of belief as well as unbelief, but the Pharisees and Sadducees are the quintessential prototypes in the New Testament, to this Theology of Glory in our midst.

    So you see it does not negate conversation, but opens it up, does not shut it down, but opens up new vistas of theological inquiry.

  11. 1. A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth,
    The guilt of all men bearing;
    And laden with the sins of earth,
    None else the burden sharing!
    Goes patient on, grow weak and faint,
    To slaughter led without complaint,
    That spotless life to offer;
    Bears shame and stripes, and wounds and death,
    Anguish and mockery, and saith,
    “Willing all this I suffer.”

    2. This Lamb is Christ, the soul’s great Friend,
    The Lamb of God, our Savior;
    Him God the Father chose to send
    To gain for us His favor.
    “Go forth, My Son,” the Father saith,
    “And free men from the fear of death,
    From guilt and condemnation.
    The wrath and stripes are hard to bear,
    But by Thy Passion men shall share
    The fruit of Thy salvation.”

    3. “Yea, Father, yea, most willingly
    I’ll bear what Thou commandest;
    My will conforms to Thy decree,
    I do what Thou demandest.”
    O wondrous Love, what hast Thou done!
    The Father offers up His Son!
    The Son, content, descendeth!
    O Love, how strong Thou art to save!
    Thou beddest Him within the grave
    Whose word the mountains rendeth.

    4. From morn till eve my theme shall be
    Thy mercy’s wondrous measure;
    To sacrifice myself for Thee
    Shall be my aim and pleasure.
    My stream of life shall ever be
    A current flowing ceaselessly,
    Thy constant praise outpouring.
    I’ll treasure in my memory,
    O Lord, all Thou hast done for me,
    Thy gracious love adoring.

    5. Of death I am no more afraid,
    New life from Thee is flowing;
    Thy cross affords me cooling shade
    When noonday’s sun is glowing.
    When by my grief I am opprest,
    On Thee my weary soul shall rest
    Serenely as on pillows.
    Thou art my Anchor when by woe
    My bark is driven to and fro
    On trouble’s surging billows.

    6. And when Thy glory I shall see
    And taste Thy kingdom’s pleasure,
    Thy blood my royal robe shall be,
    My joy beyond all measure.
    When I appear before Thy throne,
    Thy righteousness shall be my crown,-
    With these I need not hide me.
    And there, in garments richly wrought
    As Thine own bride, I shall be brought
    To stand in joy beside Thee.

    Too deep???

    1. Christ Jesus lay in death’s strong bands,
    For our offenses given;
    But now at God’s right hand He stands
    And brings us life from heaven;
    Therefore let us joyful be
    And sing to God right thankfully
    Loud songs of hallelujah!

    2. No son of man could conquer Death,
    Such mischief sin had wrought us,
    For innocence dwelt not on earth,
    And therefore Death had brought us
    Into thraldom from of old
    And ever grew more strong and bold
    And kept us in his bondage. Hallelujah!

    3. But Jesus Christ, God’s only Son,
    To our low state descended,
    The cause of Death He has undone,
    His power forever ended,
    Ruined all his right and claim
    And left him nothing but the name,–
    His sting is lost forever.

    4. It was a strange and dreadful strife
    When Life and Death contended;
    The victory remained with Life,
    The reign of Death was ended;
    Holy Scripture plainly saith
    That Death is swallowed up by Death,
    His sting is lost forever.

    5. Here the true Paschal Lamb we see,
    Whom God so freely gave us;
    He died on the accursed tree–
    So strong His love!–to save us.
    See, His blood doth mark our door;
    Faith points to it, Death passes o’er,
    And Satan cannot harm us.

    6. So let us keep the festival
    Whereto the Lord invites us;
    Christ is himself the Joy of all,
    The Sun that warms and lights us.
    By His grace He doth impart
    Eternal sunshine to the heart;
    The night of sin is ended.

    7. Then let us feast this Easter Day
    On Christ, the Bread of heaven;
    The Word of Grace hath purged away
    The old and evil leaven.
    Christ alone our souls will feed,
    He is our meat and drink indeed;
    Faith lives upon no other.

    ‘Nuff said…

  12. @boogie #9

    Well Boogie, I just have to keep after it. I am taking classes at Martin Luther College via online curriculum for WELS Teaching Certification, and so I do keep busy. I find the Fire and the Staff enjoyable and easy to read. And when Klemet speaks of those Norwegians, I just get giddy inside.

  13. @ Kevin (& Brian)

    So if he’s not using hyperbole, you are out??? That’s a good way to have a conversation and dialogue??? You talk about Brian not having a clue how to talk with someone from the other stripe, and you think you have done better here??? OOOOkaaaayyy???

    Jesus First does have a goal and asperations: agree or disagree??
    The LC-MS has goals and asperations: agree or disagree??
    BJS has goals and asperations: agree or disagree??

    Now, how do those three line up? Do they all have the same goals and asperations? No, are there three different or two different goals or are they after the same thing from three different angles? Let’s talk about that.

  14. @Rev. Kurt Letcher #15
    You are trying to change the entire point. Good attempt at bait and switch. I will not be baited.

    Once again, calling the other side of an issue (in this case Jesus First) Pharisees and worshippers of a (lower case intentional by Brian) jesus is not a way to talk about differences. I even noted that I was praying that he was going to an extreme to make a point. His reply was that calling people in Jesus First damned human beings is a proper way to create real theological dialouge. He is 100% wrong. Let me do the same this to this organization to give you an example.

    Those of the BJS crowd are Pharisees standing at the front of the Synagouge praying to themselves about how righteous, pure, and holy they are. They are not like that tax collector in the back. In fact, the BJS crowd praise god that they are not like that man. For in their self-righteousness their god is really themselves and proving how much more righteous they are than those other Jesus First people.

    Now we can just sit down and have a nice conversation, right?

    While I am not saying that this statement is true, I am showing by example how this kind of usage of terminology and manner of speaking makes it impossible to have a real conversation. If disagreements are to be talked about, we need to come together in humility, respect, and understanding that we are brothers and sisters in Christ.

  15. I happen to agree with Kevin on this (that it is counterproductive to infer that Jesus First folks are damned). Jesus First has made a lot of “damn” trouble in the LCMS but as best I can tell, my aquaintances in the Jesus First group trust solely in the work of Christ for their salvation.


  16. I am not in the place of God. I can’t decide who is damned and who is not. Kevin, at least you haven’t totally run away from this site and string.

    What I was attempting to infer is that when you were pointing your finger at someone else, you were also pointing your finger at you. And while I don’t agree with the mission of JF, I don’t condemn them. In fact, you brought to my mind the work of SPK during his presidency. At first, his song was that there was agreement among the LCMS. Now, he recognizes there are differences. Good. But what is he doing about the various practices among the churches? I know he can’t go to every single one, but that is the help he gets from the DPs. And the DPs can’t go to every single congregation in their districts for the most part and so they rely on the Circuit Counselors. And then what? Basically we recognize there are differences and I’m not saying that everyone has to be the same in all their practices. But let’s get the theology right and then hopefully the practice will follow.

    SPK hasn’t tried to get the theology correct during his tenure. IMHO, he has done the opposite. Just look at the work of the CTCR that they have put out in the last 10 years. Very generic and non-specific answers. For Example: serial prayers. What did that whole paper fix in our synod? Nothing, but it sure did create confusion and minority opinions.

    At this time of year, we dare not forget about Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. They were members of the council who did not consent to the will of the rest. Not everyone in the opposite camp can be condemned outright. Each one will be judged by God for their faith.

    Where the church has abandoned the word of God, there needs to be repentance and a return to the truth. Where there is error, it should be corrected according to the Word of God. There is truth and there is absolute in this world. We absolutely need Jesus Christ to die for our sins to give us the undeserved gift of forgiveness.

  17. Here is a quote from C.F.W. Walther in his “God grant it” devotional book.

    ‘Wherever it is celebrated, the holy Supper is the congregation’s banner of faith. Just as a person enlists on the side of the army whose flag he supports, so also each Christian places himself on the side of the congregation in whose midst he eats the Supper. If that congregation confesses the true faith, the communicant, by his appearance at the altar, confesses the same faith with it. But if the congregation confesses a false faith, the communicant, by his participation in its celebration of the Lord’s Supper, also confesses the false faith and thus denies the true faith. Therefore, whenever we approach the altar, let us appear before the world as confessors of the crucified Christ and as true spiritual priests of Him who called us from darkness to His wonderful light. Let us not gather around this banner of faith in the false church, but rather assemble where the true Christ and His whole, pure, and genuine Gospel is confessed and preached.” page 333

  18. @Pastor Tim Rossow #17
    “Kevin, their are degrees of belief as well as unbelief, but the Pharisees and Sadducees are the quintessential prototypes in the New Testament, to this Theology of Glory in our midst.”

    Let me further clarify as to my explanation of my first post.

    “Their are ‘degrees’ of belief and unbelief” in every organization, but as far as Jesus First and their Theological Program I am reminded of Pauls admonition to the Corinthians,

    2Co 11:1 Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.
    2Co 11:2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
    2Co 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
    2Co 11:4 For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
    2Co 11:5 For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.

    Now as I read Jesus First literature, their name tells what they are about in the sense of ‘ all you need is Jesus’, and so many if not a significant number of their organization deprecate the means of receiving the Merits ‘ of Jesus ‘ work of salvation, the Word and Sacraments.

    As a result they espouse an open communion understanding of Church fellowship, the only requirement being “As long as you believe in Jesus”, there is nothing to bar you from the Altar.

    Never mind agreement in ‘all’ the Articles of Faith as the requirement of full Altar and Pulpit Fellowship.

    As you have mentioned, “my acquaintances in the Jesus First group trust solely in the work of Christ for their salvation”. yes, and praise God that they do, but further, there is more which they do not confess which cannot be ignored or played down or given excuses for, not that you have ever done so, i.e., BJS existng in the first place.

    I said that, “but the Pharisees and Sadducees are the ‘quintessential’ prototypes in the New Testament, to this Theology of Glory in our midst.”

    This does not even come close to damning anyone or all in Jesus First but only gives the ‘quintessential example’ of such a thing I described.

    Maybe, I hit to close to home, but what I wrote is nothing to what Jesus says of those who teach contrary to what He taught and teach others the same also. “They will be least in the Kingdom of Heaven”, in that their misunderstanding or outright contradiction of certain points of doctrine and practice, could in the end condemn their own souls or of those they teach and give bad examples too, ‘Jesus First has made a lot of “damn” trouble in the LCMS…”

    Any trouble you give to the Gospel is going to be used by the Devil himself to damn souls in the end, as that is his soul purpose in life, to see as few in Heaven as possible.

    I hope I have allayed any misunderstandings or offenses, as we all struggle to apply the Articles of our blessed Confessions to the troubles of our time, in our Church.

  19. Deacon,

    I would say “degrees of heterodoxy” instead of “degrees of belief.” “Belief” makes us think of subjective faith whereas heterodxy is clearly a reference to the faith which is believed.


  20. Pastor, how about, “fides qua creditur vs. fides quae creditur, the faith by which it is believed’, and ‘the faith which is believed’.

    I hope this goes even further to clear up misunderstandings.

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