Doctrine and Practice — Part 2 “Spiritual but not religious”

September 27th, 2012 Post by

 For many years much of Lutheranism has suffered from a disconnect with regard to doctrine and practice and their relationship. A few years ago at a Circuit Winkel, a suggestion was made for a joint study of the then new CPH book, The Fire and the Staff (2004).  One of the pastors became visibly agitated; “Doctrine and practice have nothing to do with each other; why waste our time with a study like that?”

What happens when doctrine and practice are separated?  Simply put, all kinds of naughtiness can and will creep into the church.  When practice alone is driving the car and practice is disconnected from pure doctrine, one can only end up in the ditch.  When the local congregation, trying desperately to keep up with the latest fad or cultural rage becomes “The Church of What’s Happening Now,” people grow tired and apathetic.  They can do all this at home so why bother with church? The often classify themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” In other words they still believe in a God or some Higher Power, and they are sincerely seeking some spiritual meaning for their lives, but they have left the institutional church; it has nothing of substance to offer.

Pastors and laymen alike see that there is a growing indifference and apathy in America with regard to church membership and worship attendance. So, what is the problem and more importantly, what is the solution?

If you believe that doctrine and practice are not related, one possibility would be for you to attend the upcoming seminar at Lutheran Church of the Resurrection (LCMS) in San Rafael, California on September 29. One of the many things that the Spiritual But Not Religious workshop advertises and encourages you to do is to imagine what your congregation would be like if you emphasized practice rather than purity. Surely that is the problem.

Keynote speaker for the event is The Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress, author of Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice and The Sacred Path Companion: A Guide to Using the Labyrinth to Heal and Transform. You can read more about her work to introduce people to the labyrinth here.  While you are at the event you will also hear from Rev. Lon Haack, Nebraska native and host pastor who is “certified in Labyrinth spirituality and ministry” and well as California-Nevada-Hawaii District President Rev. Robert Newton. According to the advance publicity for this event, remember that “society is changing and the church must change too.”

However, if you believe that doctrine and practice are related and that purity of doctrine is not the problem, might I be so bold at to encourage a return to historic, confessional, orthodox Lutheranism?  The problem of indifference and apathy toward God and His gifts is nothing new and is as old and Genesis 3. The answer is always the same: Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow!  It’s time for us to stop the insanity of promoting and encouraging practices that distract and deter from the cross and empty tomb, (as well as forgiveness, life, and salvation) and fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. We need to visit our apathetic and indifferent members and bring them God’s Word full strength; Law and Gospel. It’s time for us to demand that our leaders actually lead and our teachers actually teach and to remember that God’s Word has behind it all power and authority in heaven and on earth.  It’s time for us to scrap the gimmicks and fads and trust the Triune God who promises to draw people to Himself.  It’s time for us to remember our identity as distinctively Lutheran Christians, in both doctrine and practice.  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2.

 

If you are visiting Lincoln, Nebraska, I am happy to report that you cannot visit our labyrinth here at Good Shepherd since we don’t have one; “Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,  but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,  but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:22-25.  If you are curious, however, the Unitarian/Universalist church on the other side of town has one for you to visit and enjoy.

For part one, click here.






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  1. Redeemed
    September 27th, 2012 at 09:00 | #1

    Interesting post!

    When one says, “society is changing and the church must change too.”, it sounds like he is forgetting that God NEVER changes, and neither does His Word.

    P.S., would someone please explain the labyrinth and how it is used?

  2. September 27th, 2012 at 09:22 | #2

    This is the DP we had at our Mid-South confabulations the past two years. The crisis of our lack of faith in the Word of God unfolds apace, unabated, unremarked upon by those called so to do.

  3. Carl Vehse
    September 27th, 2012 at 09:28 | #3

    Here’s a link to the BJS thread on “Labyrinth Spirituality.”

  4. Jason
    September 27th, 2012 at 09:31 | #4

    Okay, I’m goming to pick a fight here…

    Between some pastors and certain DP’s, am I the only one who thinks they act like the tenants in Matthew 21:33-46? I mean really… Seeing the org chart in the Lutheran Witness, I am upset that the COP is not UNDER the SP. Enough of this “I know better than anyone else, including God” attitude.

  5. September 27th, 2012 at 09:38 | #5

    Shouldn’t the fear of God be a basic qualification for the office of DP?

    TW

  6. September 27th, 2012 at 10:13 | #6

    Todd Wilken :Shouldn’t the fear of God be a basic qualification for the office of DP?
    TW

    To quote Ronald Reagan, “There you go again.”

    Just kidding.

  7. John Rixe
    September 27th, 2012 at 10:19 | #7

    I know I’m always whining about mutual respect but….this workshop and this labyrinth just seem wacky goofy.   Is there anything in the Bible about labyrinths? They appear to be more pagan than Christian.

  8. Lumpenkönig
    September 27th, 2012 at 10:35 | #8

    @Jason #4

    How nice that Episcopal priestess Lauren Artress is teaching LCMS pastors doctrine. California-Nevada-Hawaii District President Rev. Robert Newton promotes Labyrinth spirituality and ministry. As Synod has been silent regarding Labyrinth spirituality, is it safe to assume that Synod also tacitly endorses it? The church growth movement does indeed promote a unique theology foreign to Lutheranism.

    Synod is a paper tiger. Perhaps this is why the district presidents can argue that Synod is advisory only.

    @Carl Vehse #3

    Quote from the BJS thread on “Labyrinth Spirituality.”

    “Artress says she walked her first labyrinth at a seminar in 1991 with psychologist and mystic/channeler Jean Houston, who several years ago assisted First Lady Hillary Clinton in trying to contact the departed spirit of Eleanor Roosevelt.”

    How nice that Artress learned Labyrinth Spirituality from an occult practitioner. Hey Carl, maybe district president Rev. Robert Newton or one of the LCMS pastors from his district can assist me in contacting one of my deceased grandparents. How about it?

  9. September 27th, 2012 at 10:37 | #9

    @John Rixe #7 wrote:

    I know I’m always whining about mutual respect but….this workshop and this labyrinth just seem wacky goofy. Is there anything in the Bible about labyrinths? They appear to be more pagan than Christian.

    Minimalistic mode: ON

    Bingo!

  10. September 27th, 2012 at 10:43 | #10

    Just keep repeating this chant over and over when you rise and when you are ready for bed: “In the Synod we all believe the same thing, we just have different practices!”

    If you don’t feel any better after doing this for a few days, then join the ACELC in our effort to put an end to this kind of foolishness . . . You can visit our website at http://www.acelc.net

  11. September 27th, 2012 at 12:05 | #11

    We were discussing the 2nd Commandment this morning. My 8th grade students were wondering why so many who claim to be spiritual Christians routinely violate the 2nd Commandment. During the discussion one of them speculated that without doctrine (she used that word) that any practice would occur. I think she nailed it.

  12. rev. a. eckert
    September 27th, 2012 at 12:58 | #12

    nice article by Pastor Poppe.

    i might add that one reason the lcms has made itself so vulnerable to these things is that the “great commission” is seen as the central doctrine, not justification by grace through faith in Christ Jesus.

  13. Carl Vehse
    September 27th, 2012 at 13:30 | #13

    @Lumpenkönig #8: “Hey Carl, maybe district president Rev. Robert Newton or one of the LCMS pastors from his district can assist me in contacting one of my deceased grandparents.”

    Well, it is California! So, if some potent spiritual hallucinogens were involved, there could be some claims about contacting the deceased.

    But just walkin’ ’round a labyrinth? Naaaa….

  14. Lumpenkönig
    September 27th, 2012 at 21:21 | #14

    @Carl Vehse #13

    Let’s all get High on Jesus:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKUrUUvpMxE&feature=fvwrel

    Once the Episcopal Christian mystic Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress obtains widespread credibility throughout the LCMS, then it is only a matter of time before non-denominational mystic pastor John Crowder is invited by one of the LCMS district presidents to provide a workshop.

    The Church Growth movement marches onward! It’s not your grandpa’s church anymore. Indeed!

  15. sue wilson
    September 28th, 2012 at 09:13 | #15

    @ Redeemed.

    The church is not God, nor is God the church. The church is His body on earth, yes. And we are charged to reach the lost–how that is done can change many times in history. It is the Gospel of Salvation; the truth of Jesus Christ that cannot change.

    How we teach and preach that Gospel can be in many ways and many languages, even in this one country. Music changes, idioms change, people’s ways of understanding change.

    As to this current string–the woman presenter at the “spiritual” conference is a nut–there I certainly agree with you, because she has perverted and added to the Gospel, bringing it into a realm of our own meditative talents. Why an LCMS pastor is there is a question–does he agree with her, or is he there to represent the truth? I think we need more information on that.

  16. sue wilson
    September 28th, 2012 at 09:20 | #16

    @ Lumpenkön #7

    Hearing another view does not mean that we are being taught that view or accepting it. I listen to many views of religion every day so that I can better understand how to answer falsehood.

    An error that the LCMS has had since its beginning is that to listen to another view means that we will somehow be mesmerized and accepting to that view. In taking this attitude we have willingly entered a closed society that cannot understand and do battle with that to which we have not listened.

    The woman in question in this string is a nut! However, I would like to hear her in order to better understand this weird practice that seems to be growing in our country. How can I argue against its practice if i do not understand it? How can I understand it if I do not listen to her “teach” it?

  17. September 28th, 2012 at 09:52 | #17

    sue wilson :
    @ Lumpenkön #7
    The woman in question in this string is a nut! However, I would like to hear her in order to better understand this weird practice that seems to be growing in our country. How can I argue against its practice if i do not understand it? How can I understand it if I do not listen to her “teach” it?

    There’s a big difference between you going to something to find out what’s wrong with it or to understand it better, but this thing is being advertised as having LCMS presenters, maybe even sponsors. That’s a far cry from what you suggested.

  18. September 28th, 2012 at 15:08 | #18

    Has anyone dissected (not “deconstructed”) just what “Spiritual but not Religoius” means, signifies, or portends?

    This seminar ought to literally “scare the hell” out of us, and the occupants of the Purple Palace.

    On another note, any DP whose “practice”, irrespective of his professed adherence to doctrine, is in violation of the first priority of Synod’s objectives (see handbook, Article III), and ought to be called out. For that matter, so ought pastors and laity who are so inclined.

  19. September 28th, 2012 at 18:56 | #19

    Seriously? The contemplative spirituality movement has found its way even here?

    The first Lutheran church I visited after leaving my Nazarene church was advertising a study involving Beth Moore. She’s at the very least supportive of this movement, and I was pretty shocked to see her being promoted at this particular Lutheran church.

    Run away from the contemplative spirituality/labyrinth garbage, folks. It’s spiritually killing the evangelical church.

  20. helen
    September 28th, 2012 at 19:38 | #20

    @Lumpenkönig #8
    maybe district president Rev. Robert Newton or one of the LCMS pastors from his district can assist me in contacting one of my deceased grandparents. How about it?

    How much is it worth to you? ;(

  21. Carol Broome
    September 29th, 2012 at 11:40 | #21

    Lumpenkönig :
    Hey Carl, maybe district president Rev. Robert Newton or one of the LCMS pastors from his district can assist me in contacting one of my deceased grandparents. How about it?

    I keep returning to this sentence because I find it quite disturbing. I know that it’s a joke, but this would be such a serious thing to accuse someone of that it doesn’t seem quite right to kid about it.

  22. Jason
    September 29th, 2012 at 11:59 | #22

    @Carol Broome #21

    I think what is most troubling is that it might not be a joke, that is is a little too much truth in it. The host congregation is LC-MS, and its pastor advertises being certified in the Labyrinth paganism. And then, instead of the DP correcting this, Newton ACCEPTS an invitation to also be a presenter. Maybe the accusation needs to be serious. (wouldn’t it be nice if someone filed a complaint, just to see what Harrison would do about Newton) Disturbing is just the beginning.

  23. helen
    September 29th, 2012 at 12:06 | #23

    @Jason #22
    I think what is most troubling is that it might not be a joke, that is is a little too much truth in it.

    Agreed, Jason.
    Paganism is being endorsed and not just in “nutty” California. There was a photo here of a labyrinth on the chapel floor of Concordia, St Paul.

  24. Lumpenkönig
    September 29th, 2012 at 12:13 | #24

    @J. Dean #19
    Many naive LCMS pastors were deceived into thinking that if they were to embrace contemplative spirituality and the purpose-driven, seeker-driven, emergent, church growth movement, then the pews would be overflowing with the same young people who currently attend the massive non-denominational seeker churches.

    Surprise! The church growth movement promotes a theology that is incompatible to Lutheranism. Many LCMS pastors are slowly waking up from this deception. Unfortunately, the LCMS district presidents are taking longer. Many of these “leaders” are approaching retirement. Please have patience.

    I hope the Koinonia Project will address these issues.

    @helen #20
    For every “new” and “unique” spiritual idea, find the pastor who first promoted it, and then investigate who taught it to him/her. Have you noticed that every single “new” idea promoted by the emergent church leaders has roots in occultism? Example: The Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress was the first Christian pastor to promote Labyrinth spirituality and ministry. She was instructed by occult practictioner Jean Houston.

    I never thought I would live to see a district president embrace and promote pagan theology.

  25. Carl Vehse
    September 29th, 2012 at 14:11 | #25

    @Lumpenkönig #24: “Unfortunately, the LCMS district presidents are taking longer. Many of these “leaders” are approaching retirement. Please have patience.”

    It doesn’t matter if they’re 5 years or 5 minutes from retirement, or whether their best friend is a mutt. President Harrison needs to drop-kick their heretical heinies right out of the Synod.

    The Synod has enough problems to work on without adding a bunch of labyrinth zombies.

  26. helen
    September 29th, 2012 at 14:20 | #26

    @Lumpenkönig #24
    Many of these “leaders” are approaching retirement. Please have patience.
    I hope the Koinonia Project will address these issues.

    @helen #20
    For every “new” and “unique” spiritual idea, find the pastor who first promoted it,

    Do you think the “generic protestant leaders” are approaching retirement without training their clones? Ask CTS profs [if they dare to be honest] or look at CSL [again].
    Why do you think we [really] have “SMP”?

    Nothing new or unique about the idea being promoted from Texas!
    Before Joel Osteen, there was his father, not quite so flamboyant but just as worshipful of “big” and money. For the last 20 years we’ve been watching our former DP/SP trying to catch up with his [hometown] example.

    What blows my mind is that the rest of the District/Synod aided and abetted it!

  27. Lumpenkönig
    September 29th, 2012 at 21:19 | #27

    @Carl Vehse #25
    @helen #26

    Oh, you might see a letter of admonishment sent from Synod to the various district presidents every so often. Since the districts view Synod as “advisory” only, expect to see those memos placed in File 13.

    The church growth movement is a failed experiment, but the original promoters refuse to admit their multi-million dollar mistakes. To assume responsibility would make them look bad in front of their colleagues. I would like to think that the younger generation is a lot more pragmatic than the “hippy dippy” older pastors who attended seminary in the 1960s and 1970s. For the sake of the Church, I hope there is some truth to this. If not, then we are doomed.

  28. September 30th, 2012 at 04:37 | #28

    Carol Broome :

    Lumpenkönig :Hey Carl, maybe district president Rev. Robert Newton or one of the LCMS pastors from his district can assist me in contacting one of my deceased grandparents. How about it?

    I keep returning to this sentence because I find it quite disturbing. I know that it’s a joke, but this would be such a serious thing to accuse someone of that it doesn’t seem quite right to kid about it.

    It certainly is disturbing, but not far removed from some of the outlandish things some DPs are already doing. It wasn’t too many years ago that it was totally preposterous to even imagine our beloved synod doing many of the things she is currently doing.

  29. September 30th, 2012 at 06:02 | #29

    If you wonder what preposterous things I’m talking about, here is a short list: http://acelc.net/page/acelc_admonition__error_documents

  30. helen
    October 2nd, 2012 at 12:28 | #30

    Note from the UT “Pagan Students Association”:
    “See you all Wednesday to work on writing our Samhain ritual. Remember, if you have any ideas, to let our Master of Rites and Riches know.”

    @Pastor Ted Crandall #28
    It wasn’t too many years ago that it was totally preposterous to even imagine our beloved synod doing many of the things she is currently doing.

    Among the activities of the “Pagan Pride Day” held on Sept 22 at UT, were drum circles (seen and heard at youth gatherings and reported on line) and the labyrinths discussed here.

    [I’ve spoken to a “Wiccan” (Baptist, when he’s at home in West Texas). This sort of thing can attract our own Lutheran students, if they are not properly taught the dangers of it.
    When I was growing up, I heard that “witchcraft” as listed in the Small Catechism, was obsolete.
    When my children were growing up in NJ, some high schoolers were killing and skinning cats on Halloween in imitation of pagan rituals as they had come across them.

    Now we have recognized student organizations for pagans (although the parallel PETA may keep the cat skinning in check). ;\

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