(This is the fourth in a seven part series on Christology in practice in the LCMS.)
The theology of the old St. Louis Seminary was repudiated by the church. But heresy is like a bulge in a balloon. If you squeeze it down here than it pushes up there. So, even while the St. Louis fiasco was winding down the charismatic movement began to exert some influence within our church and with it came a variation of the Nestorian heresy.
One of the spokesmen for the claims of the charismatic movement among Lutherans in the early seventies was a Valparaiso professor named Theodore Jungkuntz. He wrote an article which was published in the 1971 issue of the Concordia Theological Monthly, the journal of the St. Louis Seminary.
Before we cite Jungkuntz’s article let’s review the particular false doctrine of the charismatic movement. Drawn from Pentecostalism, the charismatic movement holds that subsequent to baptism and regeneration there is an experience called the “Baptism of the Spirit” which every Christian should ardently seek. You will know you have had this expression when you speak in tongues. The experience of the Baptism of the Spirit is said either to complete baptism or to bring one into a more complete awareness of the potential of baptism.
OK. So that is the distinctive theology of the charismatic movement. This theology was promoted by a group called RIM (Renewal in Missouri) for about 25 years from the mid seventies through the early part of the 21st century. They wanted to bring the claims of the movement into the Missouri Synod. Shortly after the election of President Kieschnick RIM ceased to exist claiming that their goals had been largely attained.
But I digress, sort of. At any rate Jungkuntz tried to show that Jesus had a type of baptism in the Spirit in his article which was called “Secularization Theology, Charismatic Renewal and Luther’s Theology of the Cross.” (CTM 1971, p. 5-24) This is what he said:
He (Jesus) did not perform miracles by the occasional use of his rightful power, as the question in Schwan’s edition of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism maintains…, but rather by virtue of the fact that He had received the power of the Holy Spirit when He was baptized. This model suggest further that believers today receive the same Spirit and are supposed to be able to do the works that Jesus did and thus continue His ministry on earth in its fullness. (p. 7)
Jungkuntz then goes on to discuss the importance of experiencing the Baptism of the Spirit with its charismatic gifts. He figures that if Jesus could do miracles by the power of the Spirit then we can too. He does concede that this view “seems to conflict with the Lutheran confessional writings,” but is quick to add the confessional “writings do not rule out the possibility that the Baptism by the Spirit was a major source of His power.” ( p. 8 )
Lest the reader misunderstand let me explain this a bit further. It’s one thing to say that Jesus was lead by the Spirit or that the Spirit gave him strength. He was a man like us in every way. We are lead by the Spirit and the Spirit gives us strength by God’s word. It is something altogether different to say that Jesus’ power and authority – demonstrated occasionally while even while he was in his humbled state – was not because he is God. To say that his miracles or his ability to shine like the sun was because he was anointed by the Spirit is implicitly a denial of his deity.
Not coincidently the Jesus of the Charismatic movement is a Jesus who models the distinctive false doctrine of that movement. So yet another Jesus has been created in the image of false movements within the church.
Now all of this may seem very unimportant for us in the church today. Isn’t that just ancient history? Aren’t you engaging in some incessant doctrinal purification? The synod seems to have survived the threat of the charismatic movement and all the false doctrine of the seventies. Or did we?