If I were the Devil, by Pr. Klemet Preus

If I were the devil I would try to get people to stop singing hymns. What a great idea, if I were the devil. It seems like such a benign idea. That’s what makes it so diabolically clever. It’s not really awful like fornication or murder. And if I were successful I would make the lives of Christians less beautiful, which if you’re the devil is an added bonus. Beauty comes from God and has a type of self-corrective force within itself. Take away beautiful hymns and you take away a bit of beauty and you win twice. You make people less joyful and they aren’t exactly sure why. But especially I would try to get people to stop singing hymns because such a strategy would disarm them of the weapons they use to fight against me (the devil).


If I were the devil I would convince people that the traditional Lutheran hymns actually get in the way of an evangelistic worship service. These hymns can’t touch the lives of people and give them a palpable sense of God’s presence. That’s would I’d get them to believe. Think about it. Get the people to stop singing hymns. Make them believe that hymns are too difficult, boring and old fashioned. Make them think that hymns are not in the heart language of the culture. Make them think that the old Lutheran hymns are just too, well, too German. Aren’t the Germans the ones who started the world wars and aren’t most movie villains afflicted with broad German accents? Didn’t the wicked warden in “Shaw shank Redemption” whistle the tune to “A mighty Fortress” when he went about his work. And he was really bad. No German hymns for us.  


Then Christians will trade in their hymns for shallow ditties or, better, a praise band which stylizes its music so much that people really can’t participate at all. They’ll think they’re actually doing God a service.


Christopher Boyd Brown says, “The Lutheran hymnals unhesitatingly affirmed the prerogative of the laity to apply the comfort of God’s Word to themselves and their families, and not a few writers, both clergy and laymen averred that such lay use of the hymns might well be of at least as much spiritual help as the pastor’s sermon.” [1]


Brown also says, “By means of hymns, the laity…were able, even in the absence of Lutheran clergy, to appropriate the Lutheran understanding of the Bible for themselves, to comfort themselves and others in time of need, to instruct their children, and to sustain their Evangelical faith and identify in the face of opposition and persecution.” [2]


Don’t you see? By taking away hymns and getting the people to stop singing them I could hurt the people in three ways


First I could make them defenseless against the Baptistic, Methodistic, American Evangelical forces which permeate the culture. Heavens, the culture’s mine. Why shouldn’t the churches be too? If somehow I could get a congregation to call a pastor who was weak on Lutheran doctrine, the people would not have the hymns to correct him when he strays. And I know I could trust such a pastor not to reintroduce the hymns.


Second, if I could get people to stop singing hymns then I would be trashing the Lutheran emphasis on the Royal Priesthood since Lutheran laymen have always taught each other and themselves with Lutheran hymns. Hymns would no longer teach and laymen would no longer be teachers. Parents would no longer catechize their kids by teaching them hymns.


Third, I have been working for over 2000 years to afflict the church with boring pastors and boring sermons. When God reformed the church through the Lutherans, not only did preaching improve, but the Lutherans also almost single-handedly restored to the church a rich hymnody. That way if the pastors still preached bad sermons at least the people got a mini-sermon in the hymns. And they could whistle the sermon all week long. But, if I can get the people to stop singing hymns then I can concentrate more fully on making the sermons dull. And I make it more difficult for the sermons which are comprehensible to be reinforced by hymns.

But how do I get those Lutherans to get rid of such a wonderful God given and God pleasing blessing? I’ve got it. I’ll use the pastors. I’ll send them to Fuller Seminary and other Church growth centers. I’ll get them to read and heed George Barna, David Luecke and Kent Hunter. Oh, Sweet, Satanic, Irony. The first Lutheran pastors gave God’s people hymns so that they would not have to depend solely on the pastors. I’ll use the pastors to take away the same hymns so the people must rely solely on the pastors.


Then I’ll have ’em. And then watch me work, if I were the devil.    

[1] Christopher Boyd Brown, Singing the Gospel (Harvard University Press 2005) 24.

[2] Ibid. 23-30.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


If I were the Devil, by Pr. Klemet Preus — 36 Comments

  1. Great post, Pastor!

    I’d add that in keeping with tearing down hymnody, the devil would get the pastors to think that the hymns are so much less important than what they, the pastors, have to say in their sermons that pastors would thus be tempted to take breaks during the hymns, chat with the acolytes and fellow pastors during hymn introductions, announce unplanned cuts of stanzas whenever they decided more time was needed for more important things (longer sermons, getting out to coffee ‘fellowship’ on time, ‘ministry’ announcements), establish policies against having more than 3 or 4 stanzas of a hymn, and be sure to agree with all parishioners who complain about hymns being difficult – even though they are the simple folk music of our faith.

    Thanks for reminding us that hymnody is not some burden we have to carry around because we are Lutheran, but rather another means by which the Spirit carries us around – by equipping the church to sing faith into our hearts.

  2. Is your name Screwtape or Wormwood? I can’t remember which was the apprentice…

    Well written! 🙂

  3. This post encapsulates just some of my own reasoning about why I despise contemporary worship.

  4. I realize you are NOT the Devil, Pastor Preus, but you are as wise as that serpent.
    The truth is, though, that the devil does not make us do it. We gladly submit–we nearly always will submit–to anything that affirms our belief in ourselves.
    We are always his willing prey.

  5. Pastor Preus’ article ended with how the devil might use pastors to take hymnody from the Church. As a Cantor, I’ll extend this to how the devil tempts musicians as well:

    * view the hymns as “songs they’ve played for years” so that they don’t approach them each Sunday with due diligence.

    * get them to think that the organ literature they play is the “real contribution” they are making to the service, so that they spend all their time polishing up Voluntaries and Postludes rather than focusing first on what they are called to lead the congregation in singing. Even when those pieces are based on hymn tunes, few people listen to them when the hymns themselves aren’t led in a way that makes people know, embrace, and love the tunes.

    * encourage them to think that the hymnal harmonization is THE way a hymn should be played, so that they lose sight of the tune (the real means by which the text is conveyed).

    * develop a “simplest is most humble, reverent, and best” piety, so that they never move beyond the hymnal harmonizations in two or three pre-set settings. This way hymns all sound alike and texts are never highlighted through the musical resources of the organ, voices, or other instruments. Keep composition from magnifying the text.

    * conversely, develop a love of the organ over the people’s song, so that the hymns all become concert opportunities! Make composition so elaborate that no one pay attention to the text. Better yet: play so loud that the people can’t hear each other sing (that way they can’t sing faith into each other’s hearts)!

    * get them to spend lots of time on musicals and other programs, rather than focusing their main energies on the Divine Service.

    * make them think that hymn-playing is easy, and that their real growth as a musician comes through developing repertoire. Make them think also that they can’t improvise or arrange. Above all, keep them on the organ bench when they practice so that they never simply sing a hymn by themselves in the sanctuary, walk to the tempo of the hymn, consider how the congregation will breathe, and muse on how they might accompany the people’s song.

  6. Very well put, Pr. Preuss!

    You can use much of the same remarks when it comes to the way Satan has led people to denograte chanting. Many a contemporary worship groupy ridicules chanting as archaic, “Catholic,” and out of date.

    Often, the argument says that chanting takes the joy and heart out of worship “experience.”

    Well, enemies of chanting need to realize that its use is yet another evidence of the Church’s rich, historical character. Chant is practical in that it projects the vocal clarity of the liturgy. It naturally transitions pastor and congregation between hymns and readings.

    Historically, chanting the liturgy binds our practice with the generations and saints who have gone before us and how they clearly carried out the clear, eloquence of God’s Word during the Divine Service.

    Not that chanting is an absolute necessity! I’m not saying that at all. Yet, it is another liturgical practice at which Satan has fired more than a few ad hominum, flaming darts!

    Thanks be to God for His preserving chant in the Divine Service down through the centuries!

  7. Disclaimer: I am not trolling here, and do not want to start an argument. I also love the old Lutheran hymns as much (or more) than the next person- the older and more German, the better. However, if we’re discussing what the devil might do, I’ll play devil’s advocate.

    What about songs with lyrics taken from Scripture, set to contemporary music? How can the loss of traditional hymns prevent the laymen from 1) correcting a pastor when he strays and 2) teaching each other and their children, when the laymen still hear Scripture read aloud in church every Sunday? Not to mention the fact that they can read God’s Word for themselves and teach it to their children with or without the aid of hymns. (When I hear false teaching, I refute it directly from Scripture, not from hymn lyrics.) What if the devil would cause Christians to focus so much on how they dislike other Christians’ worship music that it takes the joy out of their own worship of the Lord?

    In closing, here’s one more disclaimer: the above was meant in a spirit of friendly discussion and open debate, another fine German tradition. It is not meant as a personal attack on the poster or any of the commenters. I am genuinely confused and curious about this topic.

  8. Tlotliso,

    I do not understand your first point. Can you explain it again?

    Concerning your second point (the devil causing Christians to dislike other Christians music…), I can only speak for myself. Doing such does not take any joy away from me. I think you are foisting that lack of joy on me. My toes are constantly tapping when singing traditional hymns even though I join Pastor Preus in criticizing bad church music. Also, we do not have a choice in this matter. It is Christ’s command to us to discern the spirits whether it robs us of joy or not.

    Pastor Rossow

  9. Hello Pr. Rossow-

    I’m not quite sure what you were referring to as my first point, but here’s a stab at some general clarification. Regarding contemporary songs with lyrics taken from Scripture…I wondered if Pr. Preus is implying that all Christian contemporary music (anything that doesn’t qualify as a traditional Lutheran hymn) is a result of the devil’s work to tempt the church away from the truth. If so, I was wondering how contemporary songs with lyrics taken straight from Scripture would be classified. What about contemporary, non-Lutheran Christian music that is Bible-based and does not contradict Lutheran doctrine? For that matter, what about the hymn lyrics written by Charles Wesley? Do those leave us “defenseless against the…Methodistic…forces which permeate the culture”?

    Regarding the loss of traditional hymns and its effect on laymen…I was finding it difficult to picture how this would negatively affect the Lutheran emphasis on the Royal Priesthood of all believers, since the laymen still have the Word. It’s not as if removal of hymns would remove their access to Scriptures.

    Regarding the point that you answered, may I gently refer you back to the disclaimers with which I opened and closed my first comment? I am not foisting a lack of joy on anyone. There’s a reason why these points are phrased in the form of questions to be considered and answered. Thank you for your personal input on this question- I am glad to hear that your criticism of other forms of worship music does not rob you of any joy in your own times of worship. May that be true of us all.

    Finally, we are indeed commanded to discern the spirits, and I think that is really my main point. If our discernment relies on criteria other than God’s Word, then it may be somewhat lacking. What exactly is being criticized here? Lyrics written after a certain year? Lyrics from non-Lutheran sources? Lyrics set to music of a certain style? Or lyrics that are doctrinally shallow/ promote false doctrine? There are contemporary Christian songs that I would find very difficult to categorize as part of the devil’s plan.

  10. ‘There are contemporary Christian songs that I would find very difficult to categorize as part of the devil’s plan.’
    In the spirit of friendly discussion and open debate: Please name one.
    I can: What Is This Bread, by Baue and Baue; 1991, making it contemporary to all the readers of this blog, but truly not of the Devil.

  11. Thanks, Susan. I see that it’s been included in our very own Lutheran Service Book, #629. Here’s another one- Lamb of God, text and tune by Twila Paris, 1985 (Lutheran Service Book #550).

  12. Tlotliso:
    Regarding your question:
    What if the devil would cause Christians to focus so much on how they dislike other Christians’ worship music that it takes the joy out of their own worship of the Lord?
    I know it wasn’t addressed to me personally, but I find it a rather loaded question.
    What if ‘other Christian’s music’ was a bone of contention because other Christian’s music was indeed such a departure from what Lutheran hymnody (which doesn’t necessarily mean hymns written by Lutherans–Charles Wesley is indeed represented in our hymnals, as are RC hymns, and early church pre-denominational hymns, etc.; and that’s precisely because of what the hymns say, as well as how they say it), and was seen by some Lutherans as not only a threat to the integrity of our hymnody, but to the overall confessional nature of our hymns?
    Surely by now, people understand what’s meant by ‘contemporary music in the church’, and that we’re not just talking about when hymns are written, but the style of the music and the manner of its delivery: what instruments, where they’re located in the sanctuary, what style.
    Writers can base their texts on scripture all day long. It doesn’t necessarily follow that it’ll be a proper representation of scripture and how Lutherans read and understand holy scripture. I’ve seen some hymns in other hymnbooks that make political stands on feminism, the environment, culture, war, etc., that quote the scriptures but do not accurately reflect what the scriptures say on those matters. They reflect what the writers think about them, and how some denominations have come to regard those matters, but not what scripture in its fullness has to say.
    There is a fullness to the scriptures that must be reflected in the hymns. There’s the all-encompassing Christ-throughout-the-scriptures that must be at the center; not just some Bible-words or verses that uphold some political idea or human ideal.
    It’s not just praise bands that are the problem; it’s the shoddy theology, and the humanism of much contemporarily-written church-music.
    There’s a beautifully-composed Lenten choral piece I considered using for years. I love the music. It’s solemn and moving and fits my little choir’s abilities. But it’s last verse speaks of God gathering in all His people–Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc., into His sanctuary for His blessing. Unfortunately, many of our congregation would probably welcome the sentiment expressed in that music (by the way: it’s contemporary! The composer still lives!) But, under my watch (and my faithful pastor’s) it’s at the bottom of my piano bench. I’m literally sitting on it. I like to play the music sometimes, because it’s so pretty. But the words are dead to me. It’s useless. But I’m sure it’s sung somewhere during Lent. And probably by Lutherans. Being contemporary.

  13. Tlotliso,

    I am sorry that I have not responded. I have been busy with other things. In the meantime, Susan R’s comment above is spot on. I will try to get back to the discussion later today.

    Pastor Rossow

  14. Tlotliso:
    Back to that question about us confessionals removing the joy, etc.:
    Here’s what’s loaded in that question, or, put another way, here’s the undue–and misplaced–burden of that question: It places the burden of joy-stealing and joylessness on us confessionals, and not on those who, from within our ranks and using our very own means [hymnody], would deny the joy of the gospel already firm within our hymnody.
    One can’t be two things at once, and remain in truth. One can’t confess Christ crucified, but also sing of a God of equal rights for women or who commands that we save the planet, or even that we ask Jesus into our hearts. That’s confessing two different gods, which is clearly rejecting One True God.
    Alas, we ever want it both ways, with our way on top.
    If we’re not careful with our hymns, we’re not careful with our theology. Period.
    But, if we want what we want, and want it badly enough to turn our theology on its head, then we’ll by-gum get it, won’t we, and justify it all the way, using God’s own Word against Him in the process.

  15. Hello Susan-

    Thanks for your input on this question. Yes, it is loaded for the purpose of starting discussion, and that it has done. I’m glad to see that Pr. Rossow has expressed his agreement with your comment, and it makes perfect sense to me as well.

    I agree 100% with the examples you gave of the type of songs that should not replace the traditional hymns nor be used at all. Those fall outside the category of music I’m trying to explore here. Please note that by “Bible-based” I’m not including lyrics which quote the Bible and twist it to support some agenda. That’s why I referred to “music that is Bible-based and does not contradict Lutheran doctrine”.

    I’m a big proponent of the idea that while stereotypes do not always reflect reality, they are based on a critical mass of cases for which they hold true. I’ve often encountered the stereotype that all contemporary worship is bad. This is based on many very real cases of “the shoddy theology, and the humanism of much contemporarily-written church-music.” However, I believe this stereotype is made up of several parameters that should be considered separately.

    As you yourself have pointed out, there are both traditional and modern lyrics from non-Lutheran sources that are worthy of being included in our hymnal. Again, as you rightly maintained, the important thing is whether those lyrics contain a correct interpretation of God’s Word.

    Now I will introduce another music question that may be a bit controversial, if I correctly interpret your mentions of “the manner of its delivery: what instruments, where they’re located in the sanctuary, what style” and “It’s not just praise bands that are the problem”. (Again- all in a spirit of friendly discussion!) Scenario A: a praise band comprised of keyboard, guitar, bongo drums and voice stands in front of the sanctuary and leads the congregation in a psalm of David set to contemporary music. They do this in a spirit of humble worship and give the glory to God. Could this be part of the devil’s plan?

    Finally, I’d like to repeat the question that started this whole discussion: “What if the devil would cause Christians to focus so much on how they dislike other Christians’ worship music that it takes the joy out of their own worship of the Lord?” This is not “about us confessionals removing the joy” or placing “the burden of joy-stealing and joylessness on us confessionals,” though I find it interesting that both you and Pr. Rossow seem to have interpreted it that way. My question would also apply to those who “would deny the joy of the gospel already firm within our hymnody.” I personally don’t like to see anyone putting down the preferred worship style of anyone else who already has good, doctrinally sound lyrics sung to music of any style, in a manner that directs all worship, praise and glory to God. This cuts both ways, doesn’t it?

  16. You say:
    They do this in a spirit of humble worship and give the glory to God.
    Who says they do? What says they do? What about their actions and their mode of delivery says it is humble and giving glory to God?
    Also, you write:
    “What if the devil would cause Christians to focus so much on how they dislike other Christians’ worship music that it takes the joy out of their own worship of the Lord?”
    I don’t get the point of the question, then, if I’m not interpreting it as you mean it.
    If you wish to indict us, however, for being too focused on the music of ‘other Christians’, to our detriment, well, I’d have to say you could be partly right, but only insofar as we not only don’t want the music of ‘other Christians’ polluting our services, we have conflict with our own people in preventing or forestalling it.
    We have a solid hymnody that is not at all opposed to new harmonies, new poetry, new rhythms: all the elements of music. But we want it to be Lutheran: confessional, Christ-centered, and useful for *all members of the congregation to sing*. Our liturgy is a common practice among the people of the congregation; not a specatator event.
    Beyond that, I don’t occupy myself with what other Christians are doing; only when it’s being imposed on–and superceding–Lutheran worship.

  17. Who says they worship humbly and give God the glory? Ultimately only God really knows whether anyone does or not, since only He can see what is in our hearts. Still, I think this might be one of those areas where we can exercise some spiritual discernment.

    I’ve seen praise bands and worship leaders in contemporary-style services who do display this humility in their actions and mode of delivery. There are some external hints, such as body posture, facial expression and modest clothing. There’s also verbal direction of praise and worship to the Lord during the service, and giving God the glory if receiving compliments after the service. There’s the perception of the worshipers that they are being led to focus on the Lord instead of being distracted from Him. Granted, if contemporary worship simply is not your cup of tea, you may not be able to focus on the Lord regardless. That does not mean it affects everyone this way.

    I personally know some people involved in praise bands and can vouch for their attitude of humble service. This is also displayed in how they live their lives, and in a prayerful approach to their involvement in leading worship.

    I’ll assume that you’ve attended services at a wide range of congregations with differing worship styles, and that you have been comfortable enough in each situation to refrain from forming an opinion on the worship leaders’ sincerity until after you’ve had a chance to participate in their service. In which case, I’ll also assume that for some reason you’ve just never happened upon a contemporary worship service led by a praise band that does what it’s supposed to do.

    My personal experience has been different, as I’ve heard (at least as I perceive it) grandstanding praise bands & worship leaders in the front of sanctuaries and grandstanding choirs and organists in the back of sanctuaries. I’ve also heard humble and worshipful examples of both contemporary and traditional styles.

    “What if the devil would cause Christians to focus so much on how they dislike other Christians’ worship music that it takes the joy out of their own worship of the Lord?” Think general. You’ll be right on target with the interpretation of this question if you don’t assume that “Christians” are confessional Lutherans and “other Christians” are everyone else. The proposition here is that the evil one might not find prompting a change in worship style to be as profitable as prompting a conflict over differing established worship styles.

    I’m simply trying to ferret out some definitions and get a clearer understanding of what exactly is being criticized & the basis on which it is being criticized. So far, I think the main concern is with the doctrinal purity of the lyrics, and I agree with that wholeheartedly. A separate concern seems to be that praise bands are putting on a show instead of leading worship, and that not everyone is able to participate in such services. As explained above, I believe there are praise bands that do not approach worship as a spectator event. I do agree that not everyone is able to participate if not everyone is comfortable with a contemporary style of worship. That is why a change of worship style should not be forced on anyone.

  18. A praise band is an unnecessary addition to a Lutheran service. By its nature, it is not confessional, regardless of the attitude or demeanor or faith or expertise of its members. It is only in a Lutheran sanctuary because people want it there, and they only want it there because they are in the mode of rejecting: First of all, rejecting what the Divine Service really is, which is God speaking to us, giving to us, saving us and keeping us thru His word; second of all, rejecting not only church history and tradition, but rejecting the connection that history and tradition offer us with the saints and martyrs of the past, who lived and died in the faith of *their* fathers, not in search of a new or more appealing thing.
    There are those who claim the traditionalists (a usefully dismissive term) make an idol of the worship service, or of tradition, or os traditional hymnody; as if breaking away from it is the only thing that can free us from such idle idolatry.
    But I submit that those Lutherans who contend for contemporary worship–not a healthy helping of contemporarily composed confessional hymns, but the full-blown contemporary thing: the praise band, the lights, the songs and the singers–have made several idols for themselves, chief among them their emotions and emotional responses, but also their own words, their own manner of conduct, and their own deeds. They presume to not only serve God or to show Him their intent and intensity, but also to direct the same from the congregations they lead. How if, in a contemporary service, all the worshipers simply sat on their hands, instead of rising to clap and sway and sing and shout? What if they weren’t moved by what was happening before them? Would that be someone’s fault? The worshiper’s? The praise band’s? Some leader’s? Would it be less of a service if no one responded? Would the praise band be fired, or would the next week’s songs be different, or things altered until the right response was achieved?
    The contemporary service is built around two things: What people want and people’s response. Period. It’s fashioned after the people, not after the Word. It has no place in history or in tradition, but especially it has no place in the true meaning of Divine Service, which is the Divine serving us.
    It can be justified (or justification can be attempted) by pointing to the performers and their attitude and conduct. But that’s dismissing right out of the gate that the Divine Service is anything other than what we do. It’s completely fashioning it into WHAT WE DO and HOW WE DO IT, but chiefly, WHAT WE WANT and HOW WE WANT IT.

  19. It’s a beautiful new year’s day here. Cold but sunny. Lazy, but promising. Things to do, but seemingly all the time in the world to get them done. What a special treat this sort of day is!
    Blessings to all.

  20. I want to know that I can go into a (LCMS) church anywhere in the world and receive the Divine Service, the Word rightly preached and sacraments correctly presented. The liturgy and hymns assure me that, regardless of the preacher’s sermon or preaching skills, I will receive God’s body and blood, and hear his word of forgiveness . The liturgy and the hymns in LSB are there because they have been tested against God’s word, sometimes for hundreds of years, and meet the standards necessary to be included in the liturgy.

    I doubt if any other church body gets the Bible right in the service as much as the time-tested, cross-focused, Christ-centered Lutheran Divine Service.

    If I want contemporary worship, I’ll go to a non-denom or mega church and get that “experience”. We can never do the experiential worship thing as “good” as they do, so why even try??? Keep that style in the churches where it fits their doctrine, and out of Lutheran churches.

  21. A final PS to Tlotliso:
    I don’t think I need to discuss this any further. I don’t imagine their is any justification (I certainly have never heard or read one) for comtemporizing the Divine Service that doesn’t have at its root ‘what people want.’ That in itself makes it something of a Golden Calf, regardless of the other arguments attempted on its behalf.
    Call it a matter of taste or style, call it narrow-mindedness or close-mindedness on my behalf, call it anything you will, all arguments made for it try to put the burden onto the confessional Lutheran, before the full justification *for* this new and aberrant form has been fully made. In the end, it is foisted upon folks, whether it’s uniformly and universally desired or not.
    Likewise, point to its ‘success’ in bringing folks in or firing folks up or getting folks involved, what’s still not being addressed is what it is and what’s going on: a departure from the Divine Service, and an attempt to make it something it’s not: the same thing only different. It’s only different.
    Be a Lutheran. Be a confesser, and be one who is given to. That’s all the Divine Service is meant to accomplish: the pouring onto us that which we, by ourselves, cannot even want or know about. It’s not meant to grow or to appeal to or to arouse us; it’s only there to give to us–the faithful (and that, not of ourselves)–and to keep us in that one true faith.
    If liturgy doesn’t cut it for people–if it’s not enough–then they’ve not come to church to be given to. It’s that simple. They’ve come for something else.
    Paraphrasing what Issues, Etc. so rightly says: It’s not about me; it’s about Christ for me.
    And, as my pastor so rightly says (again paraphrasing): It isn’t up to the liturgy to say what I mean, but up to me to mean what the liturgy says.
    It says it *all* for us, lest we say something new…and different…and in error–in and of a different spirit.

  22. Thanks, all, particularly Susan, for taking the time to comment on my questions. You clarified what the main issues are, so that I knew where to look to clear up any other questions that arose on points of doctrine. I’ve enjoyed our discussion and found it very enlightening. As I’m not too good at interpreting people’s emotions in online communication, I’m sorry if I’ve offended or caused any undue frustration in the process. I suppose this website is mainly intended for use by people who are all on the same page where these issues are concerned, so you’ve been very patient with me. With that I’ll sign off….Blessed New Year!

  23. Was this just another hit-and-run, rather than a real quest for answers?
    I posit that, rather than actively seeking out a confessional position and the reasons behind anti-contemporarianism, contemporary enthusiasts most often seek to accuse confessionals of lacking interest in and respect for diversity of opinion (guilty!), but on a matter where opinion is entirely irrelevant.
    It can never be proved to the contemporarianists that we confessionals aren’t defending our opinions or our tastes or preferred styles, when their presumptions about the efficacy of contemporary styles have grown solely out of that presumption: that it’s about me and what I like.
    The devil’s work (made easy) is to let us than think that it’s not at all about me, but about others (our neighbors).
    One of the great post-modern traps is the projection–or the imposition–of our egos and even our ideals onto everything we do or experience. The ego gets to have its way, but also to presume that it’s absolutely the opposite at play: it’s all about making a difference and reaching out and effecting change and making the world a better place–all while following in no one’s footsteps. (But all the while never stepping beyond the footsteps of Adam and Eve.)
    There really is the presumption that *this* is better because *we* are better, and thus *know* better than anyone before us.
    Those of us who believe differently–who hold to history, tradition, and our understanding of true human nature–are simply, and gladly, left behind, along with history, tradition, and any understanding of true human nature.

  24. Wow Susan! That was a great post, rather profound and I think right on. It sure does look like another “hit and run.”

    Pastor Rossow

  25. Don’t they always ‘come in peace’? Just seeking information and clarification…
    Then leave with a veiled insult: ‘this website is mainly intended for use by people who are all on the same page’
    By now, I can’t remember the first time I heard that, but I’m sure this won’t be the last time.
    Like I said, they must go to church with the same motive: to achieve satisfaction from themselves, beyond (disregarding, even) the satisfaction God offers; certainly not to be given to.

  26. Dear Susan,

    It seems that your need to discuss this further has returned, so I will feel free to sign back on as well.

    Perhaps I should explain what I meant when I wrote that “you clarified what the main issues are, so that I knew where to look to clear up any other questions that arose on points of doctrine.” I honestly was seeking information and clarification. After reading your comment #22, I still had some questions and so was disappointed to read at the beginning of your comment #25 that you were exiting the discussion.

    However, after reading all of #25, I had a sufficient grasp of the main issues to realize that I needed to research Luther’s teaching on the Divine Service in order to answer the rest of my questions. That is where I found that this issue is not one of opinions, tastes or preferred styles, but rather one of essential Lutheran doctrine. As you already pointed out, the Divine Service is only for receiving from God in his Word and the sacraments. Our natural response of serving Him by serving others comes after the Divine Service (vocation). Thus worship can not be defined as a response to God, such as praise songs, since worship is all about God’s action and not our own.

    Please excuse my ignorance on this and other issues. My Lutheran education only extended through high school, after which I attended a secular university.

    I am sorry that you were insulted by my comment on this website’s intended use. It was an honest assumption based on what I’d read up to that point- posts followed by comments expressing the readers’ agreement. Later I found a comment in disagreement while reading the December 6, 2008 post on the Texas Youth gathering (comment #17 by Richard). I was impressed by comment #20 by Dr. Matthew Phillips. Dr. Phillips managed to explain and defend his position as a confessional Lutheran while maintaining a loving tone. It was then I began to see that this website might be for educating others as well as supporting those “who are all on the same page.” The January 1, 2009 post on website statistics from 2008 then made it clear to me that this site is not just for confessional Lutherans but for those who would like to learn more about confessional Lutheranism.

    Finally, let me reassure you that when I recently moved to a new area I sought out (and am currently attending) an LCMS congregation with liturgical worship and no “contemporary” option. There I gratefully receive God’s gifts through his Word and Holy Communion. I was interested in discussing this issue further because I couldn’t understand why contemporary worship is considered incompatible with correct Lutheran doctrine. I thought of contemporary praise songs as being the outward expression of God’s gift of faith and a response to God’s gift of grace, rather than a way of trying to earn it. Now that I understand the incompatibility and see that it is not a mere matter of preference, I can understand Pr. Preus’ post. I am not trying to force contemporary worship on anyone and have no desire to debate this issue with Dr. Luther!

    Thank you again for pointing me toward the answers, and please feel free to correct me on any point that I’m still misunderstanding.

  27. You might have expressed your having come to understand, rather than to simply say ‘you’re all on the same page’ or words to that effect. Not having done that, you left the impression–along with your parting shot–that you had only gleaned that we’re a ‘members only’ bunch and you were outta here.
    As for this:
    ‘I am sorry that you were insulted by my comment on this website’s intended use’:
    How about an honest apology? ‘I’m sorry for my offending comment. To offend was not my intention.’
    Once again, you’ve displaced the error.
    Beyond that, I’m glad you were able to understand the grave importance of our liturgical tradition. It always does me great good to see the hymns reflect the day’s readings, and even inform me as to my response to the words of the scriptures. When we’re moved by the truth, towards the truth, we’re truly helped.

  28. I will apologize that I wrote what I supposed to be true before delving deeper into the website and finding out that it’s not true. I am sorry that I leaped to that judgment.
    I would also like an apology for having doubt cast on my motives both for discussing this issue and for going to church, after you thought that I was a hit-and-run commenter who was no longer reading. You could have questioned me directly about my motives if you were in doubt, just as I could have read further in this website before drawing conclusions about its intended audience.

  29. Susan R & Pastor Rossow – I know we’ve had trouble with hit and run comments here and a major problem with trolls, too -but could we try to give new commenters the benefit of the doubt? It sounded to me like Tlotliso’s comments were offered in a spirit of trying to understand a point of view she/he wasn’t familiar with. Just because someone signs off as having no more time to discuss things, doesn’t AUTOMATICALLY mean they’re a troll like our friend “Martin Luther”

    I’ve been online along time, and I’m pretty decent at smelling trolls. Trolls get angry and start calling names. I didn’t see that here.

    -Jenny/ elephantschild

  30. Tlotliso,

    I am happy you are still in the discussion. Hopefully we can all continue to learn from each other.

    You have asked me to apologize. I would be happy to apologize but I really meant what I said. I get frustrated when people enter into a discussion on a website and then “sign off” when it appears that they aren’t getting the result they want.

    I have never thought of you as a troll. To me a troll is someone who simply is looking for attention and uses we discussions to do that. That is not you. But as I said above, it looked like “hit and run” described your approach when you signed off a few days ago.

    Again, thanks for your participation on our website. I look forward to your future comments.

    Pastor Rossow

  31. Dear Pastor Rossow,

    Thank you for taking it upon yourself to apologize, though you only expressed agreement with the idea that my comments looked like a hit-and-run. Actually, I was referring to comment #29, which is something I’d prefer not to find being said about me in my assumed absence.

    I also apologize for my ignorant use of the phrase “sign off.” It was a clumsy attempt at withdrawing from active discussion after finding the answers to my main questions.


  32. Tlotliso,

    No problem. Because it is immediate and a written medium there are these sorts of misunderstandings on blogs. We seek to be straight-forward on this website in order to avoid the non-commital nature of our culture and sometimes that leads to hurt feelings but none are intended. This is a classy group of readers and I appreciate their directness, it is a breathe of fresh air,

    Pastor Rossow

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