Should Lutheran Preaching Condemn False Teachers? — Guest post by Pr. Johannes Nieminen

good shepherd vs wolves  A spirit of universalism and toleration which is indifferent to doctrine suggests that the Lutheran church, while confessing the truth, need not condemn other church bodies or their various errant teachings. Such condemnations are deemed to be insensitive and unloving. After all, such errors are simply the result of human sinfulness and weakness.

However, there is great danger in such a position. There are so many false teachers in the world combined with a high view of individual ideas and beliefs, that it is more important than ever to explicitly condemn false teachers and their teachings in order to warn Christians to avoid such teachers.

Christ Himself warned, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Mt. 7:15). Christ was certainly not hesitant to be explicit concerning whom He was speaking. He explicitly calls out the scribes and the Pharisees (Mt. 5:20, 12:34, 15:1-9, 16:6, 21:31, 43, cf. esp. the pronouncing the woes against the scribes and Pharisees in Mt. 23:1-36) as John the Baptist had done (Mt. 3:7). He denounces the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum by name for their impenitence, saying that Judgment Day will be more bearable for the land of Sodom than for them (Mt. 11:21-24). He pronounces judgment of Jerusalem for rejecting Him (Mt. 23:37-38).

The Apostle Paul follows Jesus with condemnations of false teachers and their teachings. He writes that we are to avoid and have nothing to do with those who do not obey sound doctrine (Rom. 16:17; 2 Thess. 3:14; cf. also 1 Tim. 6:3-5). He regularly and extensively warns churches of false teachers (Acts 20:29, 2 Cor. 2:17, Col. 2:4, 8). And Paul also is not hesitant to point out exactly who he is talking about. He condemns the so-called “super-apostles” that were teaching false doctrine in Corinth (2 Cor. 11:5). He writes, “Such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds” (2 Cor. 11:13-15). Paul calls out the Judaizers who were leading the Galatians astray and says that they should emasculate themselves (Gal. 5:12). He leaves no room for anyone to teach false doctrine, writing, “Even if… an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8).

The Athanasian Creed is explicit in condemning those who do not hold the catholic faith (vv. 2, 40). So also the Augsburg Confession condemns false teachings and those who hold to them. Although sometimes specific names are not mentioned and only the false teachings are condemned, oftentimes it was deemed necessary to explicitly mention by name those groups who teach contrary to God’s Word for the sake of understanding and clarity.

Thus Article I of the Augsburg Confession condemns the Manicheans, Valentinians, Arians, Eunomians, Mohammedans, and Samosatenes by name. Articles II and XVIII condemn the Pelagians by name; Article V, IX, XVI and XVII the Anabaptists; Article VIII the Donatists; Article XII the Anabaptists and Novatians. The Preface to the Epitome (para. 4) also indicates the purpose of the Augsburg Confession was to be “the unanimous consensus and explanation of our Christian faith and confession, especially against the papacy and its false worship, idolatry, and superstition” in addition to the other sects named within it.

From these witnesses of Scripture and our Confessions, it is clear that to confess something as the Truth, it is a necessary consequence that everything opposed to that Truth must be condemned as false. For the sake of Truth, we should be just as explicit and clear who teaches falsely and what their false teachings are. The very Truth of the Gospel is at stake.

We cling to the Truth of the Word of God because it sanctifies us; it makes us holy; it sets us apart for God (Jn. 17:17). False teachings cause divisions and obstacles and deceive (Rom. 16:17-18). The Truth sets us free (Jn. 8:32), while false teachings delude (Col. 2:4), deceive (Col. 2:8), and lead astray (Mt. 24:24).

Jesus says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:31-32). Abiding in God’s Word is abiding in the Truth, and the Truth will set us free.

The Truth of God’s Word sets us free from the lies of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature. The Truth of God’s Word sets us free from the punishment we deserve for our sins because in His Word He tells us that Jesus took our punishment in our place, suffering and dying on the cross for us.

God’s Word is Truth. It is God’s Word of Truth that keeps us in the Father’s name. It is God’s Word of Truth that brings us to faith and keeps us in the faith. Therefore, let us faithfully proclaim the Truth, and faithfully condemn those who teach contrary to it, by name when necessary.

About Pastor Johannes Nieminen

Pastor Johannes (John) Nieminen serves Zion Lutheran Church in Melville and Trinity Lutheran Church in Neudorf, Saskatchewan, Canada. After a decade-long foray in business following his undergraduate degree, he attended Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St Catharines, Ontario, graduating with a Master of Divinity degree in 2014. He is married to Lydia and they have been blessed with three children: Ethan, Summerlee, and Jacob. His sermons are posted weekly at zionlutheranmelville.com.


Comments

Should Lutheran Preaching Condemn False Teachers? — Guest post by Pr. Johannes Nieminen — 25 Comments

  1. While I am a huge advocate for tact and appropriate diplomacy given a particular context, I absolutely agree that false teaching and false teachers should be denounced from the pulpit– particularly when the readings for the day bring those false teachings into focus. This is the only way most of the laity will know how to mark and avoid false teaching which could imperil their souls.

    Of course, fair warning if you start naming names of false teachers with their false teachings within your own synod and district… that gets interesting in a hurry.

  2. “But the liberality of kindness is not to be extended to false doctrine. Only relative to conduct and works is it to be exercised. As oft before stated, love with all its works and fruits has no place in the matter of unsound doctrine. I must love my neighbor and show him kindness whatever the imperfections of life. But if he refuses to believe or to teach sound doctrine, I cannot, I dare not, love him or show him kindness. According to Paul (Gal. 1:8-9), I must hold him excommunicated and accursed, even though he be an angel from heaven.” Dr. Martin Luther http://steadfastlutherans.org/2014/10/distinguishing-between-doctrine-and-life/

  3. Dear BJS,
    There is NO spirit of “universalism” in the LCMS. A Pastor, and I have done it, will call out the false preacher when appropriate and needed. Mainly and especially, if false teaching and bad practice does touch the sheep that we tend and begins to “possibly” erode their faith.

    When Pastors stop doing that, and we must make certain of our comments first, we should walk away!

  4. “There is NO spirit of “universalism” in the LCMS.”

    I don’t know if I understand what you mean. Do you mean to say that there is no spirit of universalism in the LCMS? That is patently untrue. Many pastors in the synod don’t preach against sin and false doctrine like they should. The unwillingness to call out false teachers and teachings by name is itself a spirit of universalism that pervades shallow preaching. The antithesis of the spirit of universalism is conviction that one has the truth, which alone sets free. This is the spirit of our Lutheran Confessions.

  5. Dear BJS,
    Another test of us pastors is around the corner now.

    Kim Davis is sent to jail, who will be the first Pastor to be challenged to marry same-sex couples?

    How soon will it be?

    And this will be a test for the men who act as “agents of the state.”

  6. At services this Sunday, how many pastors of Missouri Synod churches will offer imprecatory prayers (other than the imprecatory petitions in the Lord’s Prayer) specifically about the actions of the judge, the ACLU, and the SCOTUS supporting homosexual “marriages”?

    Clue: the number likely starts with the letter, “z”.

  7. @Carl Vehse #7
    Dear Carl,
    This is a challenge.

    There will be many Churches of the LCMS praying for calm and good order in a nation gone contrary to the Word of God. I bet a few of the BJS editors, etc. will include some of those prayers as proof.

  8. In his Bondage of the Will (pp. 43-4), Martin Luther wrote:

    “The world and its God cannot and will not bear the word of the true God: and the true God cannot and will not keep silence. While, therefore, these two gods are at war with each other, what can there be else in the whole world, but tumult?

    “Therefore, to wish to silence these tumults, is nothing else, than to wish to hinder the word of God, and to take it out of the way! For the word of God, wherever it comes, comes to change and to renew the world. And even heathen writers testify, that changes of things cannot take place, without commotion and tumult, nor even without blood. It therefore belongs to Christians, to expect and endure these things, with a stayed mind: as Christ says, “When ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be not dismayed, for these things must first come to pass, but the end is not yet,” Matt. xxiv. And as to myself, if I did not see these tumults, I should say the word of God was not in the world. But now, when I do see them, I rejoice from my heart, and fear them not….

    “I see indeed, my friend Erasmus, that you complain in many books of these tumults, and of the loss of peace and concord; and you attempt many means whereby to afford a remedy, and (as I am inclined to believe) with a good intention. But this gouty foot laughs at your doctoring hands. For here, in truth, as you say, you sail against the tide; nay, you put out fire with straw. Cease from complaining, cease from doctoring; this tumult proceeds, and is carried on, from above, and will not cease until it shall make all the adversaries of the word as the dirt of the streets. Though I am sorry that I find it necessary to teach you, so great a theologian, these things, like a disciple, when you ought to be a teacher of others.”

  9. Kim Davis, charged with contempt by Judge Bunning, now begins her life in jail, possibly facing the same fate as H. Beatty Chadwick.

    H. Beatty Chadwick was held in contempt by a Delaware County Court judge for failing to turn over $2.5 million in a court-controlled account during an alimony hearing. Chadwick said he had lost the money in overseas investments and had no money. The judge put him in the Delaware County jail until he produced the money. Court-ordered investigations, however, turned up no hidden money by Chadwick.

    That was in 1995.

    In 2009, at the age of 73, and never having had a trial or hearing, Chadwick was finally released from jail. He now lives on social security.

    More information is in the article, “Transitioning to a new world H. Beatty Chadwick joins the 21st century.”

  10. @Pastor Prentice #6

    Kim Davis, the Rosa Parks of the incipient religious liberty civil rights movement?

    SP Harrison’s words loom large:

    Christians will now begin to learn what it means to be in a state of solemn conscientious objection against the state. We will resist its imposition of falsehood upon us, even as we continue to reach out to those who continue to be harmed by the ethic of radical sexual freedom, detached from God’s blessing of marriage. And we will stand shoulder to shoulder with Christians, churches and people of good will who are resolute on this issue.

    God help us. Amen.

    Pastor Matthew C. Harrison

  11. Again clarification is needed. Christians are not in solemn conscientious objection against the state. We, the People are the state! What We, the People, are objecting to is the tyrannical actions of elected and appointed representatives who have perverted and ignored the Constitution, and who have become traitors to We, the People, i.e., the United States of America.

    And it is the responsibility of We the People, especially Christians, in our vocation as citizens, to work within our political system to bring justice to these traitors through indictment, trial, conviction, and sentencing for giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States.

    Ignoring or minimizing this vocation and responsibility denigrates the Lutheran doctrine of the two kingdoms.

  12. In addition to resulting in Kim Davis being jailed, the perverted SCOTUS homosexual “marriage” opinion in June has caused a Tennessee judge to decline to rule on divorce cases.

    Hamilton County Chancellor [Judge] Jeffrey Atherton denied the divorce petition last week after hearing from seven witnesses and going through 77 exhibits. Among several reasons he cited in rejecting the couple’s divorce, one was the Supreme Court’s June ruling.

    Atherton said the Supreme Court must clarify “when a marriage is no longer a marriage.” Otherwise, he contended, state courts are impaired from addressing marriage and divorce litigation altogether.

    “The conclusion reached by this Court is that Tennesseans have been deemed by the U.S. Supreme Court to be incompetent to define and address such keystone/central institutions such as marriage, and, thereby, at minimum, contested divorces,” Atherton wrote.

    Excerpted from a September 3, 2015, Chattanooga, TN, news article, “Judge declines divorce case, citing gay marriage ruling.”

  13. @Pastor Prentice #14

    Yep– just the continued unraveling of marriage as a social instituion, as our civilization plunges headfirst into the deep abyss of the sexual revolution. They think they will find some kind of stasis point, but their path has no bottom– just as evil unresisted has no terminus other than an eternity of hell.

    Fairly soon (a generation or two,) I think we will see that Biblical marriage and family is a peculiar quirk of our shrinking Christian ghetto… and those who are suffering in their embrace of darkness will screech and claw ever more fiercely to extenguish the light, together with those who abide in it.

    I wonder where the “seeker sensitive” churches will be then?

  14. @Brad #15: “Yep– just the continued unraveling of marriage as a social instituion, as our civilization plunges headfirst into the deep abyss of the sexual revolution.”

    The dilemma for the Missouri Synod is that it claims to stand in solid Christian opposition to perverted same-sex “marriage” (and to the legalized genocide of persons in the womb), both of which have been promoted for years by the Democrat Party, while at the same time its leader testifies under oath, “We represent a large church body. The constituents are in some way evenly divided between Democrats and Republican.”

  15. @Pastor Prentice #17

    Tell that to the half of Missouri Synod “constituents” who, according to the testimony of the Missouri Synod leadership, belong to or support a political party whose members actively support, legislate, fund, and participate in the hell-spawned opposite.

    And while it isn’t proof of the 50% value, past BJS articles have provided evidence that Missouri Synod members, including at its universities, are associated with promotions of these very offenses to God.

  16. I think Rick’s last point is important, and if our church body paid more attention to similar realities, we might be in a much better condition than we are now. For example, I haven’t seen any discussions about the Church’s responsibilities for dealing with all those LCMS members who very recently, openly, proudly displayed to the whole world, their support of same-sex marriage, by changing their Facebook profile picture to the now well-known rainbow profile picture. I don’t know if there have been any hidden discussions about that, but what I do know is there are pastors of some of the largest LCMS congregations here in Orange County, CA who are communing individuals who openly, proudly support same-sex marriage. One pastor who is practicing that open communion, can hardly claim he doesn’t know about at least one of his flock’s open, unrepentant support of same-sex marriage when just after the recent SCOTUS decision, a member of his flock, while proudly displaying a rainbow Facebook Profile pic, publicly commented right there in front of the pastor on one of the pastor’s own public Facebook posts (and no surprise, that pastor did not post any public opposition to the individual’s proud display of sexual immorality taking place right in front of him and the whole world). That pastor’s open communion practices harm the body of Christ in so many ways. What is happening to the Kentucky clerk, Kim Davis, and has been happening to many others even in this country who stand opposed to sexual immorality rather than standing with those who condone it, is also the fault of many of our own church workers who have been condoning sexual immorality for years through their open communion practices, and through a whole host of other cowardly practices which result in avoiding the responsibility of their Offices (or offices) to confront, oppose, warn and protect the body of Christ from these dangerous errors, even if it means losing their own popularity/likability.

  17. Pastor Prentice comments, “There is no spirit of ‘universalism’ in the LCMS.”

    If that is the message I was supposed to take away from an LCMS pastor standing up at Yankee Stadium and pronouncing those of every sort of religion “brothers and sisters”, it didn’t take.

  18. @Pastor Prentice #4

    Dear BJS,
    There is NO spirit of “universalism” in the LCMS. A Pastor, and I have done it, will call out the false preacher when appropriate and needed.

    I submit to you that every pastor who caves to the pressure for “open communion” is a universalist, since he has no idea who he is communing and what their associations are.
    To commune a member of elca is to put yourself in fellowship with a collection of denominations which deny many of the basic doctrines, besides supporting abortion and SSM.

    And while you describe your virtue here, you also admit that you expose your daughters to proponents of these things in the course of their education at Valpo. What makes you think that, in the end, you will have more influence than their teachers (or more likely, the liberal to ignorant man they will meet there and marry)?

  19. My wife and I just left a large LCMS congregation when they started using big-screen monitors in lieu of the LSB paper hymnal for the liturgy and the hymns. As a recent ELCA convert to the LCMS, I still don’t know the tune of half the hymns. And looking at a wall during Divine Service, rather than focusing on the altar and cross, was just wrong for us. So we departed for a smaller LCMS church, twice as far away, where technology has not yet incroached on the Divine service.

    Being still connected to our old congregation via email, I was informed that they are now going to be renting the smaller sanctuary to a group known as “Quest Church”. On the website for Quest-Church.com I saw that they are big fans of the blogs of Rob Bell and Rachel Held Evans, among others. And while this heterodox Emergent group is in no way connected to our old church, I simply cannot believe that an LCMS congregation’s leaders would allow the wolves under the same roof. Our old church’s newsletter promoted members going to the “Quest Fest” on church grounds, to get to know them. It is bad enough that our old church is a member of the Willow Creek Association, the theological equivalent to the United Methodist Church vintage 1973.

    I cannot claim that my former pastor ever preached a word of false doctrine, and he teaches the Bible in a way where it is regarded as inerrant and infallible. But upon hearing this latest development regarding our old congregation, I find it hard to believe that church elders would do so little research on Quest Church, as to allow them use of the holy space consecrated to the worship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, profaning it with their falsehoods.

    I understand that my former pastor may read what I’ve written, and I pray that his support of Quest Church was made without knowledge of this group’s Bible-denying Emergent theology. But I’m left dazed and confused. Having left the ELCA for the LCMS, is Missouri just the ELCA dressed up in a Confessional veneer? Lord, have mercy on our Synod….

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