A Tent is not a Castle, by Gene White of the CLCC

(Editor’s Note: Confessional Lutherans for Christ’s Commission (CLCC) is one of the many confessional   organizations  that have a regular column on the BJS website. Their special concern is to educate laymen and women of the LCMS through seminars and district chat groups.)

In past weeks Pastor Jarvis wrote an article in which he mentioned tents, which reminded me of this article which I had written a couple of years ago. Nothing was done with it, I merely wrote it to vent my frustrations prior to the 2007 convention. Perhaps now is the time to give it the light of day, you decide.


The purpose of this article is not to just draw comparisons between tents and castles, but rather once we have explored them to use this information as an analogy to an actual situation. Once that is accomplished some questions will be presented.


First, let’s talk of similarities between the two types of structures. Both provide shelter for those within, i.e., protection from the elements and similar characteristics. Both are engineered and designed to fulfill a specific purpose, but this is also where one of the distinctions comes in. A castle can be used for many things besides its primary designed purpose, defense. Tents on the other hand are designed for more singular purposes, with defense not being one of them, and attempts to modify them generally wind up detracting from their overall structural integrity. For example adding a side room to a tent could have a lot to do with a general weakening of its wind rating, not to mention leaks and stress on its structural members consisting of poles, ropes, struts, eyelets, etc. A castle can usually be modified structurally without weakening the original structure and degrading its usefulness.


Now let’s use the tent as an analogy by stating that the tent represents LCMS, with its structural supports being Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. The covering of the tent would be church polity, starting with what existed in the time of our 100th anniversary as a Synod, i.e., the writings of Walther.


Since the time of our Synod’s 100th anniversary we have seen an ever-increasing parade of one group or another pushing or pulling at the walls of the tent to such a degree that some modifications to its basic shape have been made. Have we forgotten the basics? “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God.” Dt. 4:2.” Yet the pushing and pulling continues, all of which results in a weakening of the supporting structure of the tent, Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. The polity (covering) of the Synod is, in the human sense, flexible to an extent, but what supports this covering is not, as it is God’s immutable and timeless truth. Thus this is always where the stress will be noticed, on the supporting structure of the tent. In all things physical, tents or castles, there are always design constraints, where exceeding these parameters causes structural failure. When a structure fails there are two types of fatalities, the structure itself and the people that are within it.


In the case of a tent those in the center of the tent are not causing the problem, but could be worsening the problem by ignoring it. The reality is that many (especially the laity) do not realize the pushing and pulling on the outside walls is taking place because their attention is focused on their vocations, expecting their pastors and elected leaders to keep them informed on church matters. However, some in the middle of the tent have noticed this pushing with alarm and have vacated the structure (back door losses). They sense the danger, but apparently do not have the means, or know how, to stop the pushing and pulling. (How much money do you put into an older car that is becoming untrustworthy before you just get a new one?) However, when the tent collapses all are impacted equally, the remaining innocent and the guilty. This is not the same analogy or situation used in Isaiah 54, where we are encouraged to expand the tent through evangelism and strengthen the stakes, etc. to handle the increases.


These questions beg to be asked; “Can the tent be repaired?” “What price are we all willing to pay to save the tent?” Another pertinent question is; “Are those pushing and pulling at the walls willing to further weaken the tent to achieve their ends, even to its destruction?” I have no way of knowing your individual responses to these questions, but I do have one additional question for you. Would it not be better for all, if those pushing and pulling at the walls of the Synod’s tent would simply accept they are in the wrong tent to start with and find one that meets their needs or vision, or are the health benefits and retirement too good to leave? In other words, if you want to accept Methodist theology, then be a Methodist, not a Lutheran trying to make your environment Methodist. A by-product of this last question would be that the innocent would not be forced to vacate the tent, which they are doing in ever increasing numbers. More importantly the structure could perhaps be saved from self-destruction.

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