I spend more time at the Kulturbrauerei in Heidelberg than I do looking for Disputations, but the Kellerbier doesn’t stop me from thinking about them, by Jon Townsend

(Heidelberg is the site of Luther’s famous disputations with his then Augustinian brothers, thus the title of this post.  Jon’s posts can be seen on the Regular Columns page under the title “God Desires Mercy, Not Sarcasm…)

The fear of loss is the path to the Dark Side.

It turns out that Yoda from “Star Wars” may be the greatest Zen Buddhist philosopher of all time, and in that sense I don’t like to quote him, but in some of my own personal reflections this quote comes up in my mind.

I have been introspective as of late regarding my own doctrinal, rhetorical and philosophical positions in, with and under Lutheranism. I have synthesized my introspection down to this question: Why am I so obsessed with the restoration of historic doctrine and practice within Lutheranism? If I am truly honest with myself, it is fear. The fear is not as much for my fellow Lutherans as it should be, it is for me. I am afraid of losing my doctrinal, homiletical and sacramental home. The nagging questions and answers creep in:

What happens if my pastor takes a call somewhere else, or gets sick or retires? I am going to have to get in on the call process and make sure another confessional man is called. If the vote of the voter’s assembly goes wrong, I will have to find a new home or engage the newly called and previously or newly ordained man in a long debate – a debate in which his formal training is superior to mine.

What if the economy forces me to move? I am going to have to search out a new congregation where the pastor preaches Law and Gospel sermons, the historic liturgy is observed and the sacraments are not placed in the back seat of parish life.

What if either of the above happens and there is no suitable Lutheran parish home to be found? Do I give in and be silent or do I convert?

Being a younger confessional Lutheran (in the JP II definition of “youth”) is like being the child of divorce. My “grandfather’s church” really did not exist during my lifetime, or maybe only for a short portion of it. There was never a time during my life in which a “folk service” did not exist. “Entertainment Evangelism” hit in my teens. Lutheran youth groups provided no doctrine or substance. As a young man I was in a different Lutheran church at least twice a month playing trumpet and many times the only aspect that was the same between congregations was the name Lutheran. One had a worship folder, the next the Blue Hymnal, the next the Red Hymnal, one pastor preached the text, the next talked about the Christian cartoonist Charles Schulz. Growing up Lutheran in the 80’s was like ecclesial joint custody. Dad let you eat McDonalds, drink red pop and stay up late. Mom made dinner and you had to be in bed by 8 pm. Permanence is a word for us that has a definition but was not experienced.

The concept of “our grandfather’s church” sounds appealing living in the present reality of “ecclesial joint custody”, but from what I have heard of “our grandfather’s church”, I am not so sure I would be happy in a world with such infrequent use of the Sacrament of the Altar and Private Absolution.

At an age that was too young and at congregation that went too liberal (ELCA), I was elected to a board. As a member of this board I started to receive a magazine. In the second issue I read an article about a female pastor who wrapped the bread, over which she recited the words of institution (notice I do not write Christ’s Body), in a cloth and rocked it in her arms as Mary did the baby Jesus during the celebration of the Eucharist. Such praise was given to sacrilege and my protests were ill formed and ignored. I was blown off course by this. I drifted away and currents carried me to places I should not have been. The courses in Lutheran High School, although sorely lacking in sacramental theology, had taught me better than to go where I was going. College was like the Bering Sea on an episode of “The Deadliest Catch”. My faith was not seaworthy and I sunk under the misdirection of my own pride.

By the Lord’s grace, I have found myself in a couple of seaworthy parish homes. Sure storms may come, but we have a good spiritual father at the helm. We are well trained sailors on the ship and we are fed the best and most costly food every week. I came from a place of fear without the proper comfort of the Gospel, but I lack for nothing now. The words “Be not afraid” are in my ears. My own son comes home and repeats them to me when he tells me of the bible lessons he learned at school.

Yet the fear still gnaws – THEY are out there! They will board the ship and take your captain. They will water down the Law, they will replace the Gospel with the Law they watered down, they will take away your hymns of doctrine and truth and give you praise mantras, they will dance in front of the altar rather than feed you from the Lord’s Table!

They are right down the street and they are what you are and we are Lutheran.

One logical conclusion of this fear is to question the truth claims of the Lutheran church. “Show me where the Church that is confessed in the Book of Concord exists?” We confessionals would be hard pressed to show this proof. The follow up question comes, “Ok, so you confess and grant that the Virgin Mary prays for us, but do you pray it?” Lex semper accusat and some men who know the Book of Concord better than most of us could ever dream of give up on Lutheranism as an impossible dream and jump from the ship and swim.

Another response is to agitate. Constantly poke at the people and forces that grossly depart from the Confessions. Call them out, point them out. Take the William Wallace approach from “Braveheart” and ride out on the field where the nobles are compromising and “pick a fight.” Some brave people did this last year around this time and the nobles did not come out of their purple palace to address the rag tag group that milled around and asked “Why?” So much space on paper and servers is dedicated to questioning and explaining, but there is nary a response. Our adversaries within Lutheranism have a near flawless PR strategy, they must have learned it from Rick Warren: Deeds not creeds. They do lots of stuff: Fire people. Threaten law suits. Recall missionaries. Start near heretical congregations. Turn sports stadiums into houses of prayer. They debate almost nothing. They explain almost nothing.

Swimming to another boat that does not have the chief article as its compass is not an option. Attempts to agitate our Lutheran adversaries to explain have failed up to this point.

Those that swim do so based on a perception of truth. Those that agitate are looking for an explanation. We can do both in an academic and gentlemanly way that seeks the truth and gives an opportunity to explain. There needs to be a grand “disputation”. Face to face. No blogs. No websites. No message boards. We can do this Luther style. Ground rules can be established with Scripture as the measuring rod and the best theologians from either side can be selected to tackle the issues of liturgy, evangelism, communion practices and preaching. I think Confessionals would gladly put men forth for such an exercise. This is the almost the same suggestion as Rev. Matt Harrison makes in “Its Time”. I suggest a small twist: Perhaps we could even do this between representatives of the Brothers of John the Steadfast and Jesus First. Or perhaps representatives of such congregations as Epic, the Alley and Jefferson Hills would be willing to take part.

I’ve been to Heidelberg at least 10 times – it is close to where I work when in Germany (and it is a lot prettier than Mannheim). Every time I walk through the city I think to myself: Heidelberg Disputation.

Maybe there could be such a disputation for our age. The Detroit Disputation doesn’t sound half bad, but maybe there is another location that would have a more historic ring to it.

Anyone up for the challenge???

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.


I spend more time at the Kulturbrauerei in Heidelberg than I do looking for Disputations, but the Kellerbier doesn’t stop me from thinking about them, by Jon Townsend — 30 Comments

  1. Good luck.

    Something similar was proposed at the 2007 LCMS Convention. Resolution 4-01A (which passed 1014-169) called for a “summit” of “a representative group of respected leaders” for the purpose of initiating a plan to “restore harmony in our Synod.”

    I’m sure many people assumed that the word “summit” meant a face-to-face meeting in a manner similar to the one you described. But then the Synod Leadership starting working on the actual process…

    (The following Quotes are from the Minutes of the Board of Directors November 20-21, 2008 Meeting, par. 80, “Task Force for Concord”)

    The “Task Force for Concord” has decided “to work toward a process rather than an event.” The process will consist of multiple hearings of smaller groups or individuals.

    “Hearings will be conducted in controlled environments with participants selected according to points of view, and will be facilitated by a professional facilitator. Accurate record-keeping of testimony will lead to the creation of a draft, followed by orderly discussion, resulting in a vote to which all will agree to abide.”

    In summary:
    “controlled environment” (controlled by whom?)
    “professional facilitator” (paid by whom?)
    “creation of a draft” (written by whom?)
    and participants must agree to abide by the result before the process even begins.

    Is this what you were hoping for?

  2. Jon,

    Nicely said.

    A good site would be Wittenburg Mo. Historical to The Missouri Synod and The Lutheran Church.

    It has loads of history of the church and by golly you can sure learn a few things from those old dudes.

    Second it is away from all the glitz and glamor of the big city so the delegates can just focus on the debate.

    Also if I remember correctly it has a great boatlaunch at the Mississippi river for those who feel we need to move closer to a popedom.

    Ok so I went too far. But I do agree that it should be handled as Luther and Walther would have. As you have suggested.

    John Hooss

  3. Great post- you forgot to add Lutheran spirituality as practiced by Luther and other confessing Lutherans. Luther was well versed in the art of begging before a Holy God. It seems to me that this is where he got all his power to debate and fight doctrinal battles. Lutheran spirituality, rightly practiced, is what makes it so attractive. It is rare to find it rightly practiced- although it seems to spreading throughout the denomination.

  4. “One logical conclusion of this fear is to question the truth claims of the Lutheran church. “Show me where the Church that is confessed in the Book of Concord exists?” We confessionals would be hard pressed to show this proof.”

    Well said. This is a conclusion so many have arrived at. Some of the best and brightest minds in the Lutheran world have come to this same conclusion (i.e. Jaroslav Pelikan).

    There is no “Lutheran church” – it does not exist. The GAP between what one reads in the Book of Concord and what actually occurs in the local “Lutheran” church is bigger than the Grand Canyon. Even the majority of so-called Confessional Lutheran churches seriously miss the mark in regards to the Confessions.

    Lutheranism is a failed reform movement. It failed to reform the Roman Catholic Church and fails to adhere to its own Confessions.

    The logical conclusion, due to this massive failure, is that the theology in the Confessions is incorrect and unworkable. It is reasonable to assume that errors have been made in the Confessions.

    If you read Pelikan, you will see where he thought the errors were made. While Pelikan was just a fallible man, he was the world’s leading expert on church history. His conclusions and the choices he made later in his life due to those conclusions should be seriously evaluated.

  5. So where will you swim to? Where is the ideal Church of the Scriptures? Rome? Constantinople? Alexandria? Geneva?

  6. #5 I’ve read more rationalizations such as yours than I care to have read. I’m up to here with them.
    Idolizing an ideal is idolatry, nonetheless.
    The confessions call for a unity of confession; not for mere unity.
    However, it seems that unity has become the ideal–or the idol.
    Synchronized swimming! Is that what this is all about!

  7. #5, I wouldn’t go swimming just yet. I’m a convert and can tell you from experience that there is no ideal communion of Rome, Constantinople, or Canterbury either. I can say from experience that Geneva lacks a perfect expression, but history proves that pretty well, I think.

    What I CAN tell you is that the Lutheran Church DOES exist. I see it at Bethany every Lord’s Day. And, though I am known here for lamenting about the diversions I see in my “Not Your Grandfathers’ Church” travelogue, I can assure you that I have seen the Lutheran Church in real-life existence in many other places as well.

    The synod’s current leadership may be pseudo-Lutheran, but authentic Lutheranism is alive and well all over the place – even as swims against the tide of American Evangelicalism and perseveres despite the plunging assaults of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature.

    Jon, thank you for this post. It expresses my fears and the fears of many others as well. Please give this a new title and relaunch this, so more will read it. There are so many who feel the same way as we do: we are afraid of the fellow members of our churches, “Lutherans in name only”, for they know not what they do.

    But fear not, my friends. They will not take the Gospel away from us. Whether in our current congregations or in new places the Lord leads us, we will proclaim the forgiveness of sins in truth and purity, administer the Sacraments rightly and reverently, keep Law and Gospel properly divided, sing our chorales, pray the psalms, and keep our liturgies. Synods may come and go, but the Word of the Lord endures forever!

  8. Susan R, what a great comment! I think you nail this lusting after Rome or Constantinople & their supposed perfect unity & authority on the head. It is idolatry. It is a lusting after a theology of glory as opposed to the theology of the cross. Rome & Constantinople are just like the Reformed; they seek to take the tension out of the Christian life & instead find security in either the Pope or the Liturgy whereas the Reformed seek to take out the tension of the Christian faith by using logic & reason.

    Well, our Lord builds His church upon the Confession of His Name, not upon a person nor upon a tradition or liturgy nor upon reason or intellect. The Lutheran Church doesn’t need more people jumping ship for either Rome or Constantinople or Geneva or Saddleback or Willow Creek; we need more people praying LSB 644.

  9. The logical conclusion, due to this massive failure, is that the theology in the Confessions is incorrect and unworkable. It is reasonable to assume that errors have been made in the Confessions.

    Your logic is off because you are not reckoning the power of sin even in the regenerate (cf. Romans 7). The understanding of Original Sin and, therefore, concupiscence, displayed in the Lutheran Confessions is not only both different from all other understandings and demonstrably in line with Holy Scripture, but it is also the best defense of the Lutheran Confessions against such accusations as yours.

    Take sin seriously and you will know that such ‘failure’ is inevitable. Of course, that fits in perfectly with Mr. Townsend’s title: read Luther’s theses for the Heidelberg Disputation and you will see that today’s situation is always to be expected in the Church. That DOESN’T mean that it is ‘acceptable’ or that we should not constantly be advocates of reformation, just that we can expect it usually to be seemingly thwarted in our experience…just as it always has been, even before Luther came on the scene.

    EJG (Lutheran, not LCMS)

  10. Here are my responses to the questions that have been asked or comments made about my post:

    “So where will you swim to? Where is the ideal Church of the Scriptures? Rome? Constantinople? Alexandria? Geneva?”

    Pelikan and many other intelligent Lutherans reached the conclusion that the real Church is Constantinople. “Ideal” is not the word I would use. I think words like “historic” and “authentic” are best.

    Constantinople’s claim to be the historic and authentic Christian church is a strong one. Lutheranism claim to be the historic and authentic Christian church is a very weak one!

    “Idolizing an ideal is idolatry”.

    I am not looking for some perfect ideal. I am just looking for the real, visible, authentic, historic and true Church that was founded by the apostles. There is no idolatry in wanting to find the real Church.

    “What I CAN tell you is that the Lutheran Church DOES exist. I see it at Bethany every Lord’s Day. And, though I am known here for lamenting about the diversions I see in my “Not Your Grandfathers’ Church” travelogue, I can assure you that I have seen the Lutheran Church in real-life existence in many other places as well.”

    So, based on your assessment, the “Lutheran Church” must be very, very, very, very, very small. Perhaps a few hundred churches spread around the world.

    Lutherans are the very tiny few who are the only people with the correct understanding of Scriptures, church history, the Sacraments and the nature of Salvation. This is quite a claim for a group that has existed for only the last 500 or so years in the 2000 years of church history.

    “I think you nail this lusting after Rome or Constantinople & their supposed perfect unity & authority on the head. It is idolatry. It is a lusting after a theology of glory as opposed to the theology of the cross.”

    Who said anything about looking for or finding “perfect unity”? You are using a straw man.

  11. It seems we all have essentially four options:

    1.) The EO position. The Church founded by the apostles ended up with five Patriarchs – Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. At the “1000 year point” (give or take), the Patriarch of Rome broke away from the Church. He declared himself the only head and the only one who could correctly interpret Scripture and declare the true teachings (sound familiar?). The four remaining Patriarchs stayed together and that Church is still alive and well today.

    2.) The RC position. The Roman Patriarch is the head of the Church and the only one who can interpret Scripture and declare true teachings. The other four Patriarchs were and are wrong. The only real Church is the one that broke away from the other four Patriarchs.

    3.) The Lutheran position . All five Patriarchs were wrong (in whole or part) and only a handful of men 500 years ago figured it all out. The Church of the Augsburg Confession is the true Church.

    4.) Branch theory. There is no “visible” true Church body. The Church is invisible and can be found in all denominations, communions and church bodies.

    It seems that #3 takes the most faith to believe. #4 seems to be a cop out. #2 takes less faith to believe than #3, but it is still suspect. #1 is the easiest to believe and has clear historic support.

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    The Lutheran claims are the most extraordinary.

    Where is the extraordinary evidence?

  12. #11 said, “You are using a straw man.”

    Perhaps. But I find it hard to believe that the options you present in #12 are not all straw man positions either. Have you really & fairly characterized each position & have you not also whitewashed & airbrushed the EO position?

    But it sounds as if you’ve already made your decision & are merely attempting to justify it here. So, go in peace.

  13. I don’t think there is any going in peace, because the diving-in can’t take place until rationalizations have been attached, like swim wings, and aspersions upon erstwhile brothers cast, like too much weight.
    This argument, from post #11, was most shallow, and most troubling:
    ‘So, based on your assessment, the “Lutheran Church” must be very, very, very, very, very small. Perhaps a few hundred churches spread around the world.’
    Yes, that may indeed be so. Were we ever promised otherwise? Are you only looking for safety in numbers, and perhaps with a layer of history thrown in for extra security? Please don’t label this another ‘straw man’, as you brought it up.
    The church is where Christ is; not where the trappings of history or geneology are, and He is most certainly present every Sunday, in my little, insignificant, nearly anonymous Missouri Synod congregation, in a little town in an unremarkable, often overlooked state.
    Is that one of those extraordinary claims?
    I suspect he doesn’t go in peace, revgeorge, but in a fit of fury and fear, not wanting to be left behind.

  14. Jon,
    I enjoyed reading your post. It took me back to the LCMS congregations of my youth in the 70’s and 80’s. There were some innovations taking place in the two congregations I grew up in, but their scope and pace seemed to be slow compared to today. New kinds of music were introduced, but the liturgy was a given. Jesus and His Sacraments were central in our life of worship and prayer and Law/Gospel preaching was the norm.

    My experience in college took a change for the worse. I kept the ship of the Church in view and somewhat regularly came aboard for worship and fellowship, but I was also regularly swimming with the sharks. At the same time I was exposed to and heard of church practices for the first time which were much different than those of my childhood, but for the most part they were still in distant places. Then I attended a Lutheran college as a Junior and Senior where I took part in Evangelical type activities I had never before experienced. It all seemed pretty harmless, but had I stayed on that path it would not have been.

    After college I landed back in grandpa’s church. I knew there were problems in the Church at large and even a some within the LCMS, but I was fairly oblivious to what was goings on outside of my local congregation in the 90’s. Then my wife and I started having children and we moved. We landed in a congregation that still used the red hymnal. I was moving back in time, having spent most of my life with the blue hymnal. I enjoyed praying the liturgy of my early childhood and was glad to see my children experience the same thing, but then came the contemporary praise service in its place. I saw the truth and beauty of traditional worship replaced with disorder and bad theology and and I was angry and frustrated about this. I told my pastor it was time for my family to transfer to another congregation.

    The new congregation my wife and I chose had a Lutheran School. It was the main reason for my decision to go there. I was not sure about some of the preaching or parts of the liturgy (which were written by the pastor), but the heart of the liturgy still seemed to be there and we sang Lutheran hymns, so I plugged my nose where necessary and joined up. My family lasted a few years at this congregation until we could no longer tolerate Jesus being given the week off from the sermon on a regular basis and once the decision was made for the congregation to start a praise band. My family needed a congregation in which Jesus, His cross and Sacraments were central. We wanted more continuity with the historic catholic (universal) Church and a liturgical prayer life for our family that we could learn and use daily and that would stick with us and serve us for a lifetime. Thanks be to God he had another faithful congregation waiting for us.

    Sadly, fear is a strong motivator for me and I can relate all too well with what you have written. My greatest fear is that I or my family would separate or divorce ourselves from Christ and lose our faith for all eternity. I am easily distracted from Him, readily rebellious, and so I need to daily repent, remember my baptism, be in the Word and weekly receive Christ in Word and Sacrament and absolution from my pastor. That is why having a Christ centered Church and congregational family is so important to me. We need Christ, and Him crucified for us, purely preached, taught and given to us by our pastors. We need faithful Christians to serve each other and call one another to repentance so that we will not fall away from the Lord because of our hard hearts.

  15. Susan R., you are right on again in your assessment.

    The comment given in #13 is also troubling & quite, how shall we say, not reflective of the Lutheran position at all.

    “3.) The Lutheran position . All five Patriarchs were wrong (in whole or part) and only a handful of men 500 years ago figured it all out. The Church of the Augsburg Confession is the true Church.”

    I’m not quite sure if this person has bothered to read the Preface to the Book of Concord or the Preface to The Augsburg Confession. Most of his complaints are answered in those pieces of writing.

    But let’s turn this proposition around. A handful of men, 5 Patriarchs in all, several thousand years ago concluded that everyone else was wrong, in whole or part, and that they were the only ones who figured it out thus the churches bound to their patriarchies are the true Church.

    How’s this any different or any better or any more true than the falsely ascribed position given to the Lutheran churches in point #3. Very rarely have I seen people’s conversions to EO argued on the basis of Holy Scripture, only on the appeal to the antiquity of the Patriarchs & the Liturgy.

    Susan R. is again correct in this comment: “Are you only looking for safety in numbers, and perhaps with a layer of history thrown in for extra security?”

    Again, this is probably neither here nor there since this person has apparently already made their decision & just seems to want to justify or rationalize it. So how about I modify my original comment with what I originally intended to say but thought too harsh at the time. Go in peace & trouble us no more.

  16. Lutherans are confident that truth is discoverable from the Scriptures. We accept the Confessions because they are a true exposition of Scripture, period. This is not a historical matter.

    Swimsuit guy – you need to tell us specifically which teachings of the Book of Concord are not true expositions of the Scriptures and then we can talk.


  17. I find it interesting the way we deal with those of us who are tempted to leave for Rome or some other destination. All too often we attack these people personally, question their motives or psychoanalyze them.

    Perhaps this person has not actually made his or her mind up yet. Perhaps this person wants to be shown the arguments for staying.

    It is interesting that so far no poster has offered to help this person or to meet via phone or Internet.

    It seems so many of us are so quick to dismiss a fellow Lutheran as soon as that person gets interested in leaving for another church.

    So, “a Lutheran putting on his swim trunks”, if you are open to talking more about this subject and have not already made up your mind, please visit the Wittenberg Trail (http://wittenbergtrail.ning.com). We have hundreds of Lutheran pastors and laymen who would be more than willing to engage in dialogue with you. In addition, I would recommend Pastor Weedon as a good point of contact.

    You may also want to check out the Internet Monk blog. The “Liturgical Gangsters” is an ongoing post that includes a Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Anglican. Questions are asked and you can read how each tradition answers the question. If you are still undecided, these posts may be of some help.

    In Christ,


  18. Eric,

    In my experience, and I’ve seen a lot of cases lately, once people start talking about their desire to go East, they have already decided to do so & no amount of pointing them back to the Scriptures helps because they’ve already bought into the assumption that the Scriptures are not reliable unless they have all the pomp & tradition of the Church added to them.

    In any case, the tagline A Lutheran putting on swimming trunks hardly indicates someone who is hesitant & still questioning whether they should leave or not. They are leaving. Plus, the comments given by Lutheran swimming trunks indicate that he’s already minimizing & dismissing any counter arguments. See especially responses #11 & 12 regarding his view of the Lutheran church.

    However, this week at least twice, for those who are still questioning whether or not to leave & for those who are trying to help people who are questioning, I’ve already pointed them to Pastor Weedon & also to many resources on The Augustana Ministerium’s website & also Reformation Today. These haven’t been cases on this website and I only mention them now to defend against your assumptions.

    I would point them to The Wittenberg Trail as well but since I no longer follow that site it doesn’t pop into my mind very much when thinking of resources. However, if you think it would help people, I will reference it in future for people I have contact with.

    However, from what I remember of it, the dialogs there are not necessarily any more noble or more charitable than what you’ve criticized here. So, maybe we should both repent & try to amend our sinful lives.

  19. revgeorge:

    Notice I said the way “we deal”, which includes me. I have engaged in this same type of dialog in the past online. You are also correct that many of the discussions on the WT are no different than this thread.

    However, I have noticed an interesting trait – something anyone can see on any Lutheran Internet site, blog or discussion board. I call it the “ugly Lutheran syndrome” (ULS).

    I know we are all sinners. However, it amazes me how rude and “snarky” we Lutherans are to each other and to other Christians.

    revgeorge, notice the “snarkiness” (if there is such a word) in the last paragraph of your post above. It did not offend me. However, it still has a bite to it.

    Perhaps we all (BJS, WT, etc.) can work on minimizing the ULS on the Internet.

  20. Eric:
    You know I have nothing against the dialogue approach of The Wittenberg Trail – I also have no problem with Pr. Rossow’s approach of “Tell me specifically what parts of the Book of Concord that you think are incorrect.”

    It is great when they tell you what is incorrect, because it gives one a chance.

    I would love to see a real in house Lutheran debate, face to face, all cards on the table, no websites to hide behind. Then I think we have a shot at those leaving Lutheranism.

  21. Eric,

    I was not trying to be snarky. Actually I was being serious. Just goes to show that this way of doing things is not the best method of communication. I’m fully aware of my own sinfulness & my need to be more charitable & more patient in discussions such as this. And frankly I don’t think discussion boards like this nor, sorry to say, The Wittenberg Trail, are ever going to rise above such things. It’s the nature of the medium which plays right into our sinfulness.

    So, I will try my best to amend my sinfulness on such boards. I will do that by ceasing to read them or commentate on them. I don’t really see any other way around this because otherwise I get too worked up by seeing the snarkiness of the emergent, purpose driven liberals who think they’re Lutherans but aren’t & by seeing the snarkiness of those people who have left Lutheranism particularly for EO but yet who still hang around on Lutheran boards sniping about every little thing they think is wrong in Lutheranism & crowing about how they’ve finally joined the ONLY Church. Well, nuts to them.

    Throw in us sinful Lutherans & nothing really productive is done.

    The Peace of the Lord be with you.

  22. Revgoerge,

    I don’t think your comments were snarky and hope you will stick around this and other sites.

    Debating theology by the written word is an age old practice. Jon makes a good point that it would be good to have some sort of face to face, but short of that, this is a helpful means for discussing the Word of life.


  23. Ditto Pastor Rossow, revgeorge.
    It’s a curious presumption, that keen wit coupled with hard truth is mere snark. Way to shatter the argument, and to bring it to ground in a zillion unrecognizable and useless pieces. Makes one wonder if the intent of the comments against snark were really just wishes that this whole problem–and its heralds–would just go away and leave us confessionals alone.
    The problem with our confession[s] is not the confession[s], but us confessers. That is as basic and true as a three-times denier being made into a chief apostle. Peter was still a sinner who proclaimed not his own conversion–not even his sorrow over his own bloody hands–but his Lord.
    So it is with us all.
    To believe there is some purity in a gathering because of its people and its history is to believe perhaps, not that Christ raised the temple in three days, but that the temple is under construction, and that we’re its architects. That’s far less inclusive than the Gospel of Christ for sinners. That’s completely missing the Gospel, and going for something else entirely.
    If revgeorge, or I, engage in mere snark, then truth is snark, and Christ has been the snarkiest, saying things like, ‘that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’

  24. I guess I need to define a “snark”. These are some common definitions of the word:

    • Combination of “snide” and “remark”. Sarcastic comment(s).

    • Use of sarcasm or malice in speech. Biting, cruel humor or wit, commonly used to verbally attack someone or something.

    • Verbal ingenuineness that is brief, subtle, yet quite stabbing. Snark is often marked by deep creativity & use of psychological attack. It employs cold-bloodedness and is best served unprovoked. Snark can contain hidden complimentary meaning under a mean face, but it hurts more than it strengthens.

    • Smart ass remark

    All I am saying is that we Lutherans can debate, disagree and boldly state the Truth without malice, biting statements, cruel humor, psychological attacks and general “smart ass” comments. I have seen very serious debates online (BJS, WT, even sometimes on Luther Quest) without a trace of snarkiness.

    I am just calling all of us to elevate our Internet discussions and try to avoid the snark.

  25. Eric,
    I agree that we should elevate our internet discussions, but when someone comes into your house and calls you a liar or tries to tell your family a lie the gloves come off.

  26. Meanwhile, back at the topic at hand:
    What we’ve witnessed here is how not to debate. That is, by anonymously throwing in an irrelevant bone, the debate is deflected. A new subject arises, and an entirely new field is opened. But he who threw in the bone for our contention simply goes [swims?] away. Perhaps he achieved what he wanted. Anyways, it’s ample evidence of a lack of desire for discussion but plenty of appetite for grievance-airing.
    But that’s not all. Another deflector enters, accusing incivility, and in no uncertain terms. But, like the first deflector, offers only accusations, zero examples.
    So, yeah, the internet can be a dangerous, or at least unproductive forum for debate or discussion.

  27. Wow – number 3 above is definitely not the Lutheran position. It’s the position of the radical Reformation and often that of American Evangelicalism today in practice, but not the confessional Lutheran position. If that was the Lutheran position I would not be Lutheran. I’m a Lutheran because I’m Catholic (and vice-versa). 4 is also definitely not the “Branch Theory” – I study Anglo-Catholicism (I’m a British historian) and that isn’t it by a long-shot. 1 and 2 are also caricatures. Someone is either sadly misinformed or has already decided to go swimming and is looking for justification, which is fine and necessary psychologically, just so long as it is not inaccurate.
    Actually, I feel the need to further complain about the “Branch Theory.”
    “4. Branch theory. There is no “visible” true Church body. The Church is invisible and can be found in all denominations, communions and church bodies.”
    According to the “Branch Theory” as it is articulated in the Church of England and among any other Anglophone Christians I have read, there IS a visible true Church body and it CANNOT be found in all denominations. In this theory the trunk of the church begins with Christ (or Adam and the OT church). The trunk splits into ethnically and/or nationally specific branches as the church grows. The first major split is the EO and Latin or Western Church split. Both are equally valid branches of the same church – it has merely split as the church grew geographically. Later, the Western Church split at the Reformation into an English or Anglophone branch and a Roman or Italian branch. (Some might say also into a German branch as well). So now there are 3 legitimate visible branches of the one Catholic Church. Apologists will generally argue that we know these 3 are the only legitimate branches because of apostolic succession. The point of the Branch Theory is that there are at least 3 visible nationally specific branches of the 1 unified invisible church and they can be identified by their priesthood and sacraments. This theory was worked out in great detail by Anglo-Catholic writers in the late 19th and early 20th century in order to justify the supposedly Catholic nature of the Church of England. It can be very detailed. For example, to a true English believer in the branch theory, an Englishman on vacation in Italy would NOT go to the local Anglican church in Rome because the English branch of the one visible church does not have jurisdiction there. Rome is the jurisdiction of the Roman branch of the church. Thus, you would go to the Roman church in Rome and the Eastern Orthodox Church in Moscow. Likewise, many Anglo-Catholics resented Roman Catholic churches in England because they were out of jurisdiction and considered them “Italian Missions.”

    Bethany Tanis

  28. Is it true that the first Christians did not call themselves by that name, but that it was being applied to them & therefore stuck?

    In the same way, is it true that the first Lutherans did not call themselves by that name (preferring Evangelical), but that name was being applied to them & therefore stuck?

    So, when we read this comment from post #12:

    3.) The Lutheran position . All five Patriarchs were wrong (in whole or part) and only a handful of men 500 years ago figured it all out. The Church of the Augsburg Confession is the true Church.

    We conclude the “Lutherans” did not “figure it all out” in order to establish a “new Church”, but rather they were Christians (i.e. the Church) who were summarily labeled “Lutheran.”

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