(The other posts in this series can be viewed by clicking on the Editor’s Blog in the Brother’s Cafe.)
President Kieschnick told the Northern Illinois District convention that “the synod is overwhelmingly in doctrinal unity…We are not debating major issues.” This was after he had given his legalistic recitation of the true LCMS doctrine to which he holds. (See Part IV of this series for details.) He then went on to say that there are differences in our synod but that we are only debating minor issues such as open communion, the role of women, worship practice and inter-Christian relations. I was shocked that President Kieschnick called these things secondary matters.
In my last post in this series I asserted that President Kieschnick came off like a Fundamentalist because like the Fundamentalists what he portrays as his ultimate concern is the moral decay in our culture. With his listing of fundamental and secondary doctrinal matters he once again comes off as a Fundamentalist. Understanding Fundamentalism and President Kieschnick’s eerie similarity to it will help us all in part understand how the LCMS has gotten to where it is today.
Fundamentalism flourished in the first half of the last century. The Fundamentalists identified a common enemy and then circled the wagons around a few “fundamental” doctrines. The common enemy was liberal Christianity and the fundamental doctrines were things like the blood atonement, the inerrancy of Scripture and the doctrine of the Trinity. Fundamentalism is Protestantism in its most essential form. There are three basic expressions of Christianity in the Western world, one true and two false. The false expressions are Roman Catholicism (belief in the means of grace but with a false connection to penance as the key to overcoming guilt) and Protestantism (rejection of the means of grace which leads to trust in emotions and low liturgical expression). The Fundamentalists properly rejected Roman Catholic penance but they created a false piety that was not fundamental, but impoverished because it rejected the crucial Scriptural teaching of the means of grace.
The means of grace are God’s word and sacraments. Fundamentalists do not believe that God works solely through his Word and the Sacraments. For all their faults Roman Catholics at least accept the means of grace which is why they have a rich liturgical piety. The Fundamentalists falsely teach that God comes to them immediately (the Holy Spirit apart from the word) and that he does not bring forgiveness of sins through baptism and the Lord’s Supper and so their worship style is simple and fundamental, but unbiblical because it does not revolve around the preaching of the powerful word of God and the administration of the sacraments. One does not see pure Fundamentalism so much anymore since Protestantism has now morphed into the church of Rick Warren and the Church Growth Movement which are interested in meeting the culture’s felt needs.
The problem with Kieschnick’s fundamentalism is the basic problem in the LCMS today. We are sacrificing historic Lutheranism to the gods of culture and outreach. Communion practice, worship style, women’s issues and inter-Christian relations are not secondary matters but are at the heart of historic Lutheranism. For example, I can say that I believe in the real presence of Christ in His supper, as President Kieschnick did in his legalistic recitation of pure doctrine, but if I assert that the question of who communes is a secondary matter like Kieschnick does then I really do not believe in the real presence. If I assert that the Bible does not allow women’s ordination but then slowly but surely increase the role of women to include activities that overlap the authority of the office of the ministry (as Kieschnick’s LCMS has done allowing women elders, communion assistants and congregation chairs) then I really do not believe in the Scriptural definition of the role of women. If I claim to allow only theologically acceptable music in worship but then in practice allow the use of emotion based contemporary models of worship like Kieschnick does, then I really do not believe in a true Lutheran worship ethos.
Ironically Fundamentalists tout their belief in the inerrant word of God. The historical Fundamentalists left out the guts of the authority of God’s word – the means of grace. President Kieschnick does likewise. According to the Bible our common enemy is the devil and his chief tactic is to twist and pervert the word of God. He did this in the Garden of Eden (“Did God really say…”), he did it when tempting Jesus, he did it in the early church (see Galatians 1:1ff) and it is still his chief tactic today in the Lutheran church (e.g. sexual tolerance in the ELCA and the use of church growth principals in the LCMS). President Kieschnick’s claim that we have an overwhelming unity of doctrine in the LCMS is just not true. Do we all pay at least lip service to Lutheran doctrine? Yes we do. Do we all practice the faith in ways that genuinely express that doctrine? No we do not and that is the real story about the unity of doctrine, or lack thereof in the LCMS.
President Kieschnick has chosen to ignore the fact that we are doctrinally fractured in the LCMS. We hope that the Lord will raise up candidates for the LCMS presidency that will be honest about this problem and address it. One has already done so. In his paper “It’s Time” Matt Harrison does not hide his head in the false sands of Fundamentalism but openly admits that we have doctrinal disunity and proposes a plan for addressing it.
Once again, I find that I am not able to finish my critique of President Kieschnick’s presentation to the NID convention. There is more of interest. In the next installment I will share with you his Fundamentalist approach to LCMS history.