Great Stuff — Christian First; Lutheran Second?

September 3rd, 2012 Post by

Found on Scott Diekmann’s blog, Stand Firm:

 

I recently read a blog post by a Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod pastor who thinks it’s better to emphasize your identity as a Christian while downplaying your Lutheran identity. He claims that if we’re so concerned with being ‘lutheran’ [sic], it can keep us from focusing on our true identity in Christ. He’s hardly the first Lutheran to say something similar.

Lutheran doctrine is the doctrine of Christ, that was taught by the apostles and Jesus Himself. The wonderful theology that Lutheranism offers, justification, the Sacraments, the Theology of the Cross, and vocation, to name a few, all find their basis in Christ. To somehow downplay this is to downplay the Truth. Lutherans throughout the centuries have been excited to share their Lutheran faith with others. Entire books have been written by Lutherans who winsomely proclaimed what it means to be a Lutheran.

The reformers strove to demonstrate that Lutheran doctrine was the same as that taught from the beginning of Christianity. In the Augustana, they say “Our churches do not dissent from any article of the faith held by the Church catholic” (AC, Part II, 1), what the Formula of Concord calls “the simple, unchangeable, permanent truth” (SD, RN, 20). Johann Gerhard, in his four volume Confessio Catholica proved the catholicity of Lutheran doctrine, showing its presence in every age of the Church. To call yourself a Lutheran is to call yourself an orthodox, catholic, Christian, one who confesses the doctrine of Christ as the Church has done through every age.

Prof. W. H. T. Dau had this to say:

As long as there has been an orthodox Church on earth, so long there has been a Lutheran Church. It sounds strange, but it is true, the Lutheran Church is as old as the world; for it has no other doctrine than that which the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles received from God, and proclaimed. The name Lutheran, indeed, did not come into existence until three hundred years ago, but not the matter which that name signifies. Accordingly, the question, Where was the Lutheran Church before Luther? is easily answered, thus: The Lutheran Church was wherever there still were Christians who with all their heart believed in Jesus Christ and His Holy Word, and would not surrender this alone-saving faith of theirs in favor of human ordinances, or who made this Church their final refuge in the hour of death. (Four Hundred Years: Commemorative Essay On the Reformation, p.313)

Louis Wessel stated:

God will permit the extinction of Lutheranism as little as that of His Word and Christ’s evangel. The human or historic title may perish, — though we doubt even that, — but Lutheranism as a principle of religion is imperishable. (Theological Quarterly, Jan. 1917, p. 311)

Our true identity in Christ will never be found without understanding the person and work of Jesus Christ, something only Lutherans fully confess. Jesus took on a human nature. He became flesh and dwelt among us. The God who created heaven and earth becomes a part of it. An ordinary virgin becomes the mother of God, and God is born in a manger. He eats with sinners, is tempted, draws in the dirt, weeps. Ultimately, God dies on a cross, all to serve us in humility. It doesn’t sound very glorious does it? Jesus ascends to heaven, and while seated at the right hand of God, is still man as well as God. Yet he remains a part of His Creation. He is still present. He comes to us in His Word, spoken not by angels, but by sinful men. He comes to us in the unremarkable waters of Baptism, accompanied by His Word. On the Lord’s Day, we eat His very body and blood, the same body crucified on the cross from which blood and water flowed. These earthly things, when combined with His Word, grant us forgiveness and new life in Christ. These earthy elements are the way in which God has chosen to reveal Himself to us. They are His means of grace. The Lutheran understanding of these things define identity in Christ. Without them, your identity in Christ becomes nothing more than a veiled theology of glory, and your life becomes an unending focus on yourself and your works and your feelings and your obedience, instead of a focus primarily on Christ’s sacramental invitation and promise of the forgiveness of sins.

Maybe it’s popular in today’s era of inclusivity and diversity to downplay your Lutheran identity, but it’s sure not historical, or Scriptural. Christian first and Lutheran first – they’re one and the same.

photo credit: Martin Gommel


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  1. Kari
    September 3rd, 2012 at 12:42 | #1

    Thanks Scott!

  2. John Rixe
    September 3rd, 2012 at 13:06 | #2

    How much effort, then, should we spend on winsomely reaching out to “inferior” Christians compared to reaching out to the non-Christian lost?  

  3. September 3rd, 2012 at 15:12 | #3

    @John Rixe #2
    It’s not that non-Lutheran Christians are “inferior.” It’s just that their doctrine is spiritually abusive. We’re just beggars showing other beggars where to find bread. It’s not being dogmatic or judgmental to insist our friends share the mother load with us instead of dumpster diving.

    But ultimately, yes, it is more important to “reach” those people who are not believers at all, or, to continue the metaphor, can’t find a scrap of bread and are starving to death.

  4. September 3rd, 2012 at 15:13 | #4

    I’m actually a believer in big-tent ecumenicism to a point. I believe that Christians from different traditions can and should pray together. I just don’t think our historic distinctives should be marginalized and downplayed because where you see that happening, you also see the Gospel being re-defined. Not that denominational-ism is essential to the preservation of the Gospel, but the theological traditions and distinctives of the various denominations have successfully handed down the faith for generations and should not be discarded lightly. And, if you are going to stop believing what your denomination has taught for centuries, you should leave. But if you do hold the theology of your denomination, you should be honest and include the label in your name. I do not think that the theology of a denomination should evolve over time.

  5. September 3rd, 2012 at 18:26 | #5

    You’re welcome Kari.

  6. Pastor Ted Crandall
    September 3rd, 2012 at 20:55 | #6

    @Miguel #4

    Any success they had in handing down saving faith was in spite of the false teaching that made them distinctive denominations, so we should not preserve them lightly.

    Whenever you see distinctives marginalized in an effort to combine denominations, it is always the liberals who win, never the original faith of our fathers.

    I could be wrong about that. Perhaps it’s not absolutely “always” and “never.” How many examples of church unions can you think of where the liberals compromised and the resulting ecumenical church was conservative?

  7. Carol Broome
    September 3rd, 2012 at 22:41 | #7

    @Pastor Ted Crandall #6
    The LCMS and WELS. WELS was originally quite a bit more liberal and less confessional than the LCMS, and we prevailed on them to take the confessions more seriously. They pretty much grabbed that ball and ran with it, I would say.

  8. September 4th, 2012 at 08:57 | #8

    I live in an area where Restorationists are big. The call themselves the “Independent Christian Churches.” The more liberal group is “The Christian Church – Disciples of Christ.” The more “conservative” totally legalistic group is the “churches of Christ” [sic].
    To say “I’m a Christian” in many parts of the South, thus, is to claim membership in one of those denominations, who protest “We’re not a denomination, We ARE the Christian church!”

  9. Rev. Robert Mayes
    September 4th, 2012 at 10:12 | #9

    When this comes up, I always say, “I am a Lutheran BECAUSE I am a Christian. No where else can I hear the Word taught in its truth and purity in such a way as the classical, historically-Confessional Lutheran teaching teaches it.”

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  10. September 4th, 2012 at 14:02 | #10

    From “On Being a Christian,” by Henry Hamann (Northwestern Publishing House):
    “The sentence ‘I am a Lutheran because I am a Christian’ asserts
    (1) that the Christian faith is clearly revealed,
    (2) that it can be grasped and understood,
    (3) that it can be accurately stated, taught, and confessed, and
    (4) that this has been done in traditional Lutheranism.

    It is a further consequence of this conviction to hold that convinced members of other denominations would think exactly the same way about their view of the Christian message–and, thinking that way, would reject my views which are specifically Lutheran. The big enemy of the true Christian faith is compromise, toleration, and the spirit that we all are right–as if the important thing is not to be Lutheran, but to be Christian without any denominational confession whatever.” pp. 11,12

    Ought to be required reading.

  11. John Rixe
    September 4th, 2012 at 14:51 | #11

    @Rev. Robert Mayes #9

    I agree with what you say but I’m still not sure what to do with it.  Please see comment 2.

    Blessings on your ministry.

  12. Lumpenkönig
    September 4th, 2012 at 15:24 | #12

    Since the coffee and the praise band are far superior at the non-denominational church down the street, it would be easier to leave my Willow Creek LCMS congregation and say “Christian first; Christian second.”

    The LCMS teaches that denominational differences do not matter (just ask your district president), so why should you be surprised when you learn that yet another LCMS layman leaves for the non-denominational church?

  13. Matthew Mills
    September 4th, 2012 at 16:15 | #13

    @Lumpenkönig #12
    I’ve heard them called “blessed subtractions.” One of the benefits of Walther’s denial that the LCMS is the “only saving church” is our ability to honestly wish our stubbornly heterodox brothers and sisters well when they honestly follow their messed-up theology and transfer to a different denomination. If only they would all be so honest.

  14. Pr. Martin Diers
    September 4th, 2012 at 18:11 | #14

    Carol Broome :
    @Pastor Ted Crandall #6
    The LCMS and WELS. WELS was originally quite a bit more liberal and less confessional than the LCMS, and we prevailed on them to take the confessions more seriously. They pretty much grabbed that ball and ran with it, I would say.

    That’s debatable.

    I cannot speak for the experiences of others, but in my discussions with WELS theologians, the confessions are regularly denigrated. If I use the confessions to defend a doctrine, or to respond to a heresy, I am criticized. And of course, when I demonstrate, as is easy to do, that the WELS is in direct conflict with the Augsburg Confession (regarding the Ministry), then especially they heap scorn on any attempt on use the confessions, well, confessionally.

  15. R.D.
    September 5th, 2012 at 02:27 | #15

    @Pr. Martin Diers #14

    Unfortunately, a quatenus subscription in practice.

  16. Matt B
    September 5th, 2012 at 05:51 | #16

    What response should be given to those of us not surrounded by other Christians? In quite a few countries outside the USA Roman Catholicism is considered a different religion than Christianity. Should I try and tell people about Luther?

    I do not suppose that Lutheranism equates with the worship of Luther (thank you author for clearly avoiding that inference) however to those outside the Christian fold Lutheranism does not mean a thing. As a teacher at a Christian school with many students that are not Christian should I tell my classes that a chapel message that draws primarily on Reformed theology is entirely wrong thus leading the students to gossip about how I’m fighting with so-and-so and thus be deafened from the message of Christ? I don’t think so.

    A non-Christian to looking at this website is unlikely to be drawn in by welcoming arms a-la-“Let the little children come to me” but more likely to be repelled by the tone of criticism not only of other Christian denominations but also within Lutherandom, synods, districts, congregations, etc. I would posit that there are times when it is more important to stand together as group of Christians while still wearing the badge “Lutheran”. Perhaps I’m just trying to be too relevant.

  17. Lumpenkönig
    September 5th, 2012 at 09:48 | #17

    @Carol Broome #7

    Ran with the ball, you say? They ran for a touchdown and kept running out of the stadium and down the street. They are still running.

    These are verboten in the WELS:

    Membership in the girl scouts/boy scouts
    Joining the military
    Praying with other Christians (no exceptions granted).
    Women voting in congregational meetings.

    Ask your friends about the Church Growth Movement within the WELS, affectionately called “Church and Change” and “Change or Die.” Ask them about the WELS debate regarding the official endorsement of the Episcopal Church-friendly NNIV Bible.

  18. September 5th, 2012 at 09:58 | #18

    @Lumpenkönig #17

    One out of four ain’t bad.

    So now you are unfaithful to the confessions if you deny women’s suffrage in the church? That’s messed up, man. Seriously. I realize that women’s suffrage is the third rail among confessionals in the LCMS, but at least most of them are embarrassed about it. I know of none who wear it as a badge of confessionalism.

  19. Lumpenkönig
    September 5th, 2012 at 10:54 | #19

    @Matt B #16

    What response should be given to those of us not surrounded by other Christians? In quite a few countries outside the USA Roman Catholicism is considered a different religion than Christianity. Should I try and tell people about Luther?

    In quite a few countries outside of the USA, Roman Catholicism is a blend of satanism, animism, and voodoo. For numerous examples, just look at any 3rd world county in Central and South America, as well as in Africa. It is not the same church you would expect to find in Iowa City. Perhaps you would explain to everyone why the Evangelicals (and the Calvinists, too) are so fascinated with Catholic bashing. Luther came to reform, but the Roman Catholics rejected him. If the Roman Catholics would not listen to Luther, then why should they listen to the Evangelicals.

    Should I try and tell people about Luther? What is the point of your question. Should I try and tell people about Joel Osteen, Hybels, Rick Warren, or Benny Hinn? How about the Reformed Theologian Robert Schuller? “If I just pray hard enough, then God will give me anything I want.” “Positive Christianity” indeed!

    I do not suppose that Lutheranism equates with the worship of Luther (thank you author for clearly avoiding that inference) however to those outside the Christian fold Lutheranism does not mean a thing. As a teacher at a Christian school with many students that are not Christian should I tell my classes that a chapel message that draws primarily on Reformed theology is entirely wrong thus leading the students to gossip about how I’m fighting with so-and-so and thus be deafened from the message of Christ? I don’t think so.

    I do not suppose that Lutheranism equates with the worship of Luther. I do not suppose that Calvinism equates with worship of Calvin. I do not suppose that Evangelicalism equates with worship of Charles Stanley. No one “worships” these men. You know that. What’s your point?

    Should you tell your classes that a chapel message that draws primarily on Reformed theology is entirely wrong? No. Would a Lutheran day school teacher tell his classes that a chapel message that draws primarily on Lutheran theology is entirely wrong? No. It is not your place to criticize the pastor in front of ANY of your students. If it must be done, then do it privately with the pastor.

    A non-Christian to looking at this website is unlikely to be drawn in by welcoming arms a-la-”Let the little children come to me” but more likely to be repelled by the tone of criticism not only of other Christian denominations but also within Lutherandom, synods, districts, congregations, etc. I would posit that there are times when it is more important to stand together as group of Christians while still wearing the badge “Lutheran”. Perhaps I’m just trying to be too relevant.

    Non-Lutherans curious about the LCMS should start here. I am quite sincere. Please check out this link:

    http://www.worldvieweverlasting.com/

    I am surprised that hardly anyone within the Reformed camp is fighting to restore their church as Calvin would have it. Instead, they support Reformed pastor Bill Hybels. Why is this the case?

    Sadly, outsiders such as yourself get to see the infighting. The purpose of this website is not to evangelize. A large segment within the LCMS wants to turn the Lutheran church into a non-denominational big tent. We Confessional Lutherans do not want to be like the non-denominational Christians. Sadly, many leaders of the LCMS applaud the same leaders of the Church Growth movement that are routinely critiqued by Chris Rosborough:

    http://www.fightingforthefaith.com/

    How many Reformed and Evangelical theologians are featured in the website above? Quite a few!

  20. Lumpenkönig
    September 5th, 2012 at 11:05 | #20

    @Pr. Martin Diers #18

    I do understand and agree 100% with the rationale behind a “men only” pastorate, but…..

    Huh?

    I never thought Women’s suffrage in the church had anything to do with the confessions. Let them vote on the color of the new carpeting if they want.

  21. Pr. Martin Diers
    September 5th, 2012 at 11:20 | #21

    @Lumpenkönig #20

    You must be young, which is no crime, to be sure.

    There are many things that are not in the confessions which are, nevertheless, confessional issues. Who may exercise authority in the Church is absolutely a confessional issue. You may add it to things like women’s ordination or homosexuality, which the confessions do not address because no one disagreed on these issues, whether in the RCC, the Zwinglians, the Reformed, or the churches of the Augsburg Confession.

    Suffice it to say that women’s suffrage in the LCMS has been around for only about 50 years. Prior to that time it was strictly forbidden because the LCMS actively taught the order of creation. It is one of those things that fell to the floor during the 60’s, and was never picked up again, so much so that now otherwise confessional congregations take it as a given. But it is most surely not a given, and the WELS is not the only church body that continues the position which the LCMS once held.

    There is way too big to discuss here. But I would only challenge you to do some research. Lookup the fellowship discussions with the National Church of Finland, for example, in the 30’s.

    Perhaps one of the editors would be so bold to start a topic on this some day. In any case, it would be too far afield to argue this here.

  22. John Rixe
    September 5th, 2012 at 11:26 | #22

    @Lumpenkönig #17

    These are verboten in the WELS:

    …Joining the military
    …Praying with other Christians (no exceptions granted).

    Is this accurate?  I thought the military restriction was limited to WELS chaplains.

    I thought private prayers (for example with family members) were granted exceptions.

  23. helen
    September 5th, 2012 at 11:59 | #23

    @Pr. Martin Diers #21
    Who may exercise authority in the Church is absolutely a confessional issue.

    I have been told that LCMS confessional Lutherans do not allow women to contribute to Voters’ meetings. I have been in the LCMS since 1964, in (let’s see now…) 7 [confessional; when one went seminex, I moved on] congregations that I can remember. With one 1 exception, the other 6 permitted women to participate since permission was granted… 1969? [The 1 exception was, by her own statement, influenced more by the Pastor’s wife than anybody else, so I leave you to decide if there was truly no “woman suffrage.”] ;) 8-D

  24. September 5th, 2012 at 17:03 | #24

    @Carol Broome #7
    “WELS was originally quite a bit more liberal and less confessional than the LCMS, and we prevailed on them to take the confessions more seriously. They pretty much grabbed that ball and ran with it, I would say.”

    I would say! :) Thanks, Carol. I had no idea! When non-Lutheran colleagues ask me about WELS, I usually tell them, “You know what they say about the LCMS? Well, it’s true about the WELS!” (Although I understand they are lately drinking the Kool-ade of COWo…)

    @Rev. Robert Mayes #9
    “When this comes up, I always say, “I am a Lutheran BECAUSE I am a Christian. No where else can I hear the Word taught in its truth and purity in such a way as the classical, historically-Confessional Lutheran teaching teaches it.”

    (Worth repeating — and I would specify I’m Missouri Synod Lutheran, because nowhere else…)

  25. John Rixe
    September 6th, 2012 at 11:13 | #25

    @John Rixe #22

    “Is the Truth compromised by such a prayer? Don’t join together in it. Is the Truth promoted by it? Then let the head of the house pray, and let all the Christians present add their Amen. I think we’re better off thinking about church fellowship in the context of churches and their representatives and their joint activities as churches. There are too many possible variables, in my opinion, to try to dictate that it should always be one way or the other in those private settings around the dinner table. Let love for Christ (and His Word) and love for the neighbor determine the course of action in those situations.”   Pr Rydecki, WELS, regarding joint family prayer.

  26. Ben
    September 6th, 2012 at 19:56 | #26

    I am happy to testify that of the congregations in the world, the LC-MS most truly and purely maintains the teachings contained within the witness to revelation that are the Scriptures. But we must be on guard against hubris. It is our faith which now saves us, and not our ability to communicate doctrines of that faith in confessional statements. 1 Corinthians 13:12.

  27. Lumpenkönig
    September 6th, 2012 at 22:49 | #27

    Before the “Christian First; Lutheran Second?” debate can begin, we need to identify both kinds of Christians.

    Oops (worth repeating):

    http://thehighmidlife.blogspot.com/2012/04/lutheran-manifesto.html

    The non-denominational Christians have forgotten Church history, but it is more fun for them just to make it all up:

    http://www.worldvieweverlasting.com/2012/09/05/know-the-history-of-heresy-or-be-doomed-to-repeat-it/

  28. Matt B
    September 7th, 2012 at 00:31 | #28

    Lumpenkönig :
    In quite a few countries outside of the USA, Roman Catholicism is a blend of satanism, animism, and voodoo. For numerous examples, just look at any 3rd world county in Central and South America, as well as in Africa. It is not the same church you would expect to find in Iowa City. Perhaps you would explain to everyone why the Evangelicals (and the Calvinists, too) are so fascinated with Catholic bashing. Luther came to reform, but the Roman Catholics rejected him. If the Roman Catholics would not listen to Luther, then why should they listen to the Evangelicals.
    I definitely grant that many people confessing Roman Catholicism are a far cry from the Vatican but those aside, I don’t see a need for Catholic bashing by anybody to those outside of Christianity. There’s no need to convert those that already know Christ. Perhaps correct on a number of matters but conversion and correction have a handful of differences.
    Should I try and tell people about Luther? What is the point of your question.
    The point of my rhetorical question was to say that denominations may not be influential or helpful to non-Christians.
    I do not suppose that Lutheranism equates with the worship of Luther. I do not suppose that Calvinism equates with worship of Calvin. I do not suppose that Evangelicalism equates with worship of Charles Stanley. No one “worships” these men. You know that. What’s your point?
    My point was clarity. I’m glad you got that point but did you mean to be mocking? The shouting of “Luther, Melanchthon!” by “Confessional Lutherans” as some sort of automatic impulse to convert to “right” side of things can seem to become a bit idolatrous even though the things that Luther, Melanchthon, etc pointed to was Christ.
    Non-Lutherans curious about the LCMS should start here. I am quite sincere. Please check out this link:
    Knowing doctrine isn’t quite the same as Christ’s blood and righteousness.
    Sadly, outsiders such as yourself get to see the infighting. The purpose of this website is not to evangelize. A large segment within the LCMS wants to turn the Lutheran church into a non-denominational big tent. We Confessional Lutherans do not want to be like the non-denominational Christians.
    I’m not really an outsider. I very much believe that we should remain Lutheran and remind our brothers and sisters within the church of it. I don’t think that we should present ourselves as a divided family to those outside of it. If a non-Christian asks me what religion I am, my answer would be Christian not Lutheran. I belong to Christ not to Luther. If a Christian asks me the same question, my answer would be different. Does that help to clarify?

  29. Lumpenkönig
    September 7th, 2012 at 11:03 | #29

    @Matt B #28

    Please do not take offense at my posts. Please forgive me if you think I was being snarky. I am quite sincere. I want you to know that my church is a member of Willow Creek, and my LCMS pastor was very upset with me when I told him that I visit this and other “Confessional” Lutheran websites. He knows I cannot stand Rick Warren, but we are at an impasse. I could leave the LCMS. However, other Lutheran denominations seem either too militant or too liberal. The problems at other, non-Lutheran churches are even worse. I don’t want a watered-down understanding of the Christian faith in a “pole barn praise tent”, so I remain a Lutheran.

    …I don’t see a need for Catholic bashing by anybody to those outside of Christianity

    Why should there be a need for Catholic bashing by anybody to those within the Christian community? I am not arguing that this is your position. I have always wondered how the Evangelical and Reformed practice of bashing of the Roman Catholic church helps win converts.

    There’s no need to convert those that already know Christ.

    Agreed. That is called sheep stealing.

    How many Lutherans have been enticed by a “helpful friend” to abandon their church for the big box non-denominational megachurch down the street. How I wish they were leaving those churches in droves for the LCMS, but you and I know the opposite is happening. Should Lutheran pastors stand idly by and watch their congregations bleed members?

    In response, pastors could choose to do one of two things: 1.) Embrace the same worship and study materials and praise bands as the Evangelicals; or 2.) Figure out how to market the existing, traditional worship and study materials “in an easy to digest mode” to an “internet generation.” Lutheran Pastors who choose option #1 should not be surprised when the parishioners decide to leave for the non-denominational church, since the coffee, the light shows, and the praise bands are far superior.

    Conversion and correction are definitely two different things. I maintain that this website is focused on correction. Perhaps one of the Steadfast pastors could distinguish the difference between the two.

    The point of my rhetorical question was to say that denominations may not be influential or helpful to non-Christians

    You made a very good point. Many (most?) non-Christians may not know nor care about the differences between the LCMS, NALC, LCMC, AFLC, WELS, ELS, AALC, ELCA, CLC, CLB, etc. They hear about the ELCA in the news and automatically think that all Lutherans are the same. How are non-denominational seeker churches influential or helpful to non-Christians? What advantage do they have that Lutherans do not?

    The shouting of “Luther, Melanchthon!” by “Confessional Lutherans” as some sort of automatic impulse to convert to “right” side of things can seem to become a bit idolatrous…

    The shouting of “Bill Hybels, Rick Warren!” by “Missional Lutherans” as some sort of automatic impulse to convert to “right” side of things can seem to become a bit idolatrous.

    At my LCMS congregation, the latest Saddleback/Willow Creek Association books and study videos are promoted aggressively, to the detriment of CPH.

    “Non-Lutherans curious about the LCMS should start here. I am quite sincere. Please check out this link:”
    Knowing doctrine isn’t quite the same as Christ’s blood and righteousness.

    You chastise the “Confessional Lutherans” for the positions that they hold. I provide you a couple of web links that explain in a “positive, winsome way” the Lutheran understanding of Christianity. You respond in a dismissive way that doctrine is not important. How can you quickly condemn the “Confessional Lutherans” without spending some time examining their positions on those websites?

    I’m not really an outsider. I very much believe that we should remain Lutheran and remind our brothers and sisters within the church of it. I don’t think that we should present ourselves as a divided family to those outside of it.

    I cannot answer your question.

    So much of the infighting is in the public sphere. This can create a toxic environment. The Lutheran church is divided, and this website is a reflection of that fact. I often think it would be easier to lock all of the pastors in a room and have them work out their disagreements in private. Perhaps Pastor Scheer could answer why Lutherans argue more than the Christians of other denominations, and in public places to boot. Is Koinonia working, or will it be ignored.

  30. September 7th, 2012 at 11:14 | #30

    I think I’ve already exceeded my quota for web commenting this week, and I was hoping someone else with more authority might step in, but I’d rather not leave some of the points above unanswered.

    First, let me stress that though I am a WELS pastor, I am not its official representative in any sense. And although I used to be much more of a “Of course we’re right and all our problems are solved” kind of guy, I’ve … matured. So my hope here is basically just to provide some information.

    1) Although the story is often told in such a way as to give Walther and/or the Missouri Synod credit for moving the Wisconsin Synod from its pietistic and unionistic origins to a strict confessional stance, the reality is a lot more complicated. The primary reason Wisconsin became confessional was because some “new guys” came in from Germany who were dedicated to the Book of Concord and they influenced the synod enough to turn things around. Missouri’s role at that point was much more a matter of setting an example — through Der Lutheraner, local contacts between Wisconsin and Missouri pastors, etc. As I recall, when fellowship between the synods was first seriously discussed, Walther was surprised to see the change in Wisconsin — he’d had little inkling what was happening before then.

    2) It’s no news to point out that the WELS has opposed membership in the Scouts as unionistic and tending toward works-righteousness. This has been the position of the synod since the Scouts came to the US, as it was also the position of Missouri at that time. It is true, however, that some in the WELS are wondering whether we need to revisit our doctrinal statements on scouting, given the changes that have taken place in the Scouts over the last 20 years or so. (Just to be clear: we’re still opposed to unionism and works-righteousness.)

    3) It’s also no news to point out that the WELS has long maintained that since prayer is worship, joint prayer is joint worship and therefore a declaration of fellowship. Although I recognize that some within in the LCMS argue that this was never Missouri’s position, the documentation I have seen seems to show convincingly that this, too, was a teaching the entire Synodical Conference shared until Missouri changed its position in the middle of the 20th Century. It is, however, an inaccurate and unfair caricature to say that within the WELS we forbid “Praying with other Christians (no exceptions granted)” — but I don’t have time for (and I doubt the moderators desire) a detailed explanation of our position and practice in this matter.

    4) The idea that “joining the military” is verboten in the WELS is …

    Well, words fail me. Where could anyone possibly get that idea? True, we don’t participate in the military chaplaincy — we find it unionistic — but we have never seen any problem with lay people doing military service.

    5) Regarding whether the WELS is confessional in respect to the doctrine of church and ministry, I can’t really speak to Pr. Diers’ experience, not having been a witness to those discussions.

    But from what I have seen in other discussions of those issues … well, I’ll just say that asserting “That passage in the Confessions doesn’t apply here because it doesn’t say what you think it says” is not exactly the same thing as denigrating the Confessions — it’s a disagreement regarding the Confessions and their content, not their authority.

    6) I thank Pastor Diers for picking up the ball and running with it on the subject of women’s suffrage in the voters’ assembly. Yes, the WELS still holds to the position of male headship in the church that Lutherans held to from the start — and that the LCMS only changed their minds about in 1969.

    7) Even my brothers over at Intrepid Lutherans who are trying to counter the inroads of church growth philosophies and contemporary worship errors in the WELS would not likely claim that the whole synod is tainted by such things. Yes, there are problems with such things in our fellowship that need to be addressed and corrected — I don’t deny that. But they are hardly a majority position, they are being addressed with patience and an evangelical spirit (for the most part), and I personally would not see their existence as good reason to indict the synod as a whole.

    8) There’s a whole ‘nuther thread dealing with the matter of the new NIV (2011) translation. I have no desire to jump into the discussion.

    But why would it be a knock against the WELS that we’re actually discussing, as a synod, what is the best translation of the Scriptures to use in our printed materials? Many may disagree with the points that some raise in favor or defense of or even against a particular translation — or even with whatever the eventual decision turns out to be — but it’s kind of characteristic of a good discussion that … points of view different from your own are expressed so they can be talked about and agreement can be reached.

    I apologize for such a long post, and I recognize that I am an “outsider” here, so I appreciate the opportunity to correct some misinformation. I respect that there are differences in doctrine and practice between the LCMS and the WELS (and other bodies) (and I will not debate those differences here), but it makes me uncomfortable — as I assume it would make you uncomfortable in the same situation — when inaccuracies might or actually do lead to incorrect impressions about the fellowship of brothers and sisters that is my synod. Thank you.

  31. September 7th, 2012 at 11:19 | #31

    The postmodern Evangelical of the Emerged Church, has in Satanic deception: replaced the The Church; The Church of the spiritual Reformation. There will be no actual post-Protestantism. Those calling The Reformation a lie and temporary will be subjegated by Roman Catholics, as you find the Eastern Orthodox more appealing.

  32. R.D.
    September 7th, 2012 at 15:12 | #32

    @Jeff Samelson #30
    “5) Regarding whether the WELS is confessional in respect to the doctrine of church and ministry…from what I have seen in other discussions of those issues … asserting “That passage in the Confessions doesn’t apply here because it doesn’t say what you think it says” is not exactly the same thing as denigrating the Confessions — it’s a disagreement regarding the Confessions and their content, not their authority.”

    Developing a new exegesis of the pertinent Bible texts while deliberately setting aside the Confessions and the fathers is denigrating the Confessions. But they did not stop there. They took their new paradigm and forced a new interpretation of the Confessions, making them say what they never said. This is further denigrating the Confessions.

  33. ralph luedtke
    September 9th, 2012 at 17:13 | #33

    what is this REPORTER -Free To Be Faithful campaign? Should it be more honest to call it the Free To Be Unfaithful as we see pastors standing with the Lord and few others in the LCMS standing with them.Are we not in a big mess when it comes to faithfulness in teaching and practice and supporting faithful pastors and their families? The laity rule and many cc’s and dp’s seem to not care,correct? How faithful is that?

  34. ralph luedtke
    September 11th, 2012 at 00:43 | #34

    maybe it is just me-do we live in a parallel universe where we look/act/speak faithfully,but when push comes to shove-we tuck tail and turn into holy week disciples heading for the hills and become politicians of polity and platform and not keepers and sharers of the Lord’s council.I mean,does being faithful mean we vote on the Lord’s will and counsel and let erring pastors,leaders. and laity dictate/threaten God’s Truth with man-made rules and evil forms of theology which trickle through our culture and church body and kills many of our congregations? do we have the view that at least I have mine? do these things describe faithfulness that the Lord demands motivated by Jesus?

  35. September 11th, 2012 at 19:44 | #35

    @ralph luedtke #33
    “what is this REPORTER -Free To Be Faithful campaign? Should it be more honest to call it the Free To Be Unfaithful”

    You tell me — here is what SED passed in convention:
    Resolved, that pastors of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod be encouraged to “go the extra mile” in establishing mutual trust, collegiality and respect; and be it further
    RESOLVED, that any matters of difference in the practice of ministry, if neither commanded nor forbidden, be respected as matters of freedom; and be it further
    RESOLVED, that the pastor loci in a given context be regarded as the one best able to discern the needs of the congregation he serves; and be it further
    RESOLVED, that the Southeastern District regard it as inappropriate for pastors to meddle in the ministry of another; and be it finally
    RESOLVED, that the Southeastern District express its a priori understanding that its pastors are to be trusted and affirmed in their ministry, and that a climate of mutuality and trust be the norm among professional workers in the church.

    I’m reminded of a used car salesman: “Trust me! Trust me!”

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