I have written a few articles on a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod movement called FiveTwo. This movement is anti-Scriptural at its base, though the founder, Bill Woolsey, and his followers would object to that description in the strongest terms.
I’m not in the LC-MS. The reason I’ve written about them is that the fact that they are allowed to exist as part of a nominally Confessional Lutheran church body means that people will see them as a legitimate and approved expression of Confessional Lutheran Christianity. After all, if they are part of the largest self-identifying Confessional Lutheran synod in the U.S. then what they teach must, by implication, have the approval of that denomination.
The danger extends not only to the Confessional Lutheran members of the
LC-MS, but also to other, smaller, Confessional Lutheran Synods: like the E.L.S., W.E.L.S., C.L.C., and the whole alphabet-soup.
Why? The danger of this leaven is its appeal to the flesh of any member of a Confessional Lutheran synod who, struck by the Law of God and his or her own guilt sees the marketing appeal and propaganda of success which FiveTwo projects–all as if it were a Confessionally Lutheran sanctioned movement.
The reason I haven’t written more articles on this group is that it would appear a personal obsession and reek of vindictiveness. It’s not because they have been shy of putting out many articles full of bad theology and heresy. Quite to the contrary, the FiveTwo Facebook page and their website put out a continuous flow of false teaching reminiscent of the Dragon’s vomit trying to drown the Church in Revelation 12.
When a Confessional Lutheran pastor takes his vow of ordination he subscribes unconditionally to the teaching of Scripture as it is confessed clearly and scripturally in the Book of Concord. The words of this subscription are found in the closing paragraph of the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord:
Since now, in the sight of God and of all Christendom [the entire Church of Christ], we wish to testify to those now living and those who shall come after us that this declaration herewith presented concerning all the controverted articles aforementioned and explained, and no other, is our faith, doctrine, and confession, in which we are also willing, by God’s grace, to appear with intrepid hearts before the judgment-seat of Jesus Christ, and give an account of it; and that we will neither privately nor publicly speak or write anything contrary to it, but, by the help of God’s grace, intend to abide thereby: therefore, after mature deliberation, we have, in God’s fear and with the invocation of His name, attached our signatures with our own hands. [SD XII:40, emphasis mine]
I would like to present one example among the many available, of their failure to abide in Scripture, and of their teachers’ failure to keep their ordination vow.
The article is by Robin J. Dugall, and was posted December 30th, 2014.
The article is titled “The Spiritual Disciplines and Students.”
FiveTwo posted this article, and FiveTwo is a part of the LC-MS. So who is Robin J. Dugall? He is Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies at AZUSA Pacific University and Sr. Pastor of Peace Lutheran Church, Monroe, Washington.
It is difficult to find it on the web page, Peace Lutheran Church is a member of the LC-MS. Though, at this point they seem to have removed the most overt references to “Lutheran” in their website: calling themselves “Peace @ Monroe.”
So, who or what are the theological sources and foundations for Pr. Dugall’s article?
- A quote on the “Spiritual Disciplines” from United Methodist preacher Kendra Dean.
- A quote on the value of “historic practices” from the CEO of Lifeway Ministries, Southern Baptist Conference member, Thom Rainer.
Dugall’s article is just over 1,000 words long. In this article he advocates the advantage of using the historical Spiritual Disciplines in training youth.
Dugall writes against using “dumbed down” versions of the Spiritual Disciplines. He cites Rabbi Heschel on the spiritual value of every good deed a person does to redeem the world. Dugall then closes by recommending in the highest terms and quoting from Mark Yaconelli’s book Contemplative Youth Ministry.
In these 1,000+ words the reader is never directed to the teaching of Scripture or the Sacraments as the basis for spiritual growth for youth (or anyone). This is contrary to Scripture and our Confession of the faith. We confess as Scripture teaches:
1] That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, 2] the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear 3] the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake. 4] They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word, through their own preparations and works.[AC 5]
These so called “Spiritual Disciplines” are the pop-theological language and categories of Don Whitney [Southern Baptist Theological Seminary] in his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Dallas Willard especially his book, The Spirit of the Disciplines, and J. I. Packer [wrote the foreword to Whitney’s book].
The consistent theme of these works is that the Christian must make some kind of preparation, abstinence, work, or meditation in order to become closer to God or more God like. I reiterate AC 5.4 where we swear that we as Lutheran pastors will
condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word, through their own preparations and works.
But, far from condemning such notions, Dugall backs up these false teachings with these words of Rabbi Heschel:
Let them be sure that every deed counts, that every word has power, and that we all can do our share to redeem the world in spite of all absurdities and all frustrations and all disappointments.
Dugall has crossed over from the semi-Pelagianism of Whitney, Willard, and Packer into advocating full works righteousness as the basis for so called spiritual discipline or growth in teaching youth.
The citation and recommendation of Yaconelli is also very disturbing.
So who is this Mark Yaconelli? From the bio on his own website:
Mark Yaconelli is a writer, speaker, retreat leader, spiritual director, community activist, youth worker, storyteller, disco dancer, husband, and father. He is the co-founder and program director for the Center for Engaged Compassion at Claremont School of Theology which seeks to heal broken people and communities through contemplation, creativity, and compassion.
Also read about the Claremont School of Theology here.
From Yaconelli’s interview on Youth Ministry and Spirituality Project:
Individuals within these congregations who sensed a calling to ministry to young people established spiritual formation teams that functioned as intentional spiritual communities engaged in personal sharing, contemplative practices, discernment, and ministry with the youth of their congregations. The teams were especially encouraged to expose youth to the contemplative dimension of Christian faith through engaging and mentoring them in a variety of spiritual exercises such as lectio divina, meditation, healing services, the Jesus prayer, chanting, the Ignatian awareness examen, and meditative singing.
[Interview pdf, p. 2, bottom]
What word’s does Dugall emphasize from Yaconelli?
Rather than handing young people statement of faith, we give them space and tools to recognize and act with the One who is beyond all theological formulations.
So, now, go back to Dugall’s article and read it, understanding what the backgrounds of these sources are. Notice that Dugall’s position on this way of teaching youth not only does not involve the authority of Scripture, but is explicitly anti-Confessional.