Resisting the Influence of Evangelicalism, Conclusion ““ How are Lutherans to Respond to All of This? by Pr. Klemet Preus

(These posts are adapted from a presentation Pastor Preus made in Sweden for the North European Luther Academy in 2006 and which was republished in the recent edition of Logia, A Journal of Lutheran Theology. We recommend both groups to the Brothers of John the Steadfast. The other posts in this series are archived in the Brothers’ Cafe under Klemet’s name.)


How are Lutherans to respond to all of this?


We should learn the lessons of the past. The Roman system of Luther’s day promoted practices – the sale of indulgences, the sacrifice of the mass and the collection and viewing of relics. These practices were attacked and exposed by the Lutherans. In their place laudable customs were established. Liturgical changes were made. We have historically enjoyed uniformity in worship. Catechetical instruction was enjoined. And the Lutherans realized that the Roman practices were false just as theirs were both true and necessary. The Lutherans, in fact, never distinguished between their doctrine and the practices which promoted it.  


Today Lutherans should respond to the Evangelicals in much the same way. First we should recognize and believe that salvation was earned once for all by Christ through his vicarious life and death. This salvation is offered and bestowed through the ministry of the gospel and sacraments which forgive sins and create faith in Christ’s salvation. “So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the gospel and administering the sacraments was instituted.” [1] This is our soteriology. God creates faith through the same means that He employs to forgive sins. Faith and forgiveness through the gospel and sacraments – this is the key to understanding Lutheran soteriology.


Second, our practice should reflect this soteriology. We rejoice in the Divine Service of the preaching of the gospel and administration the sacraments. We rid the Divine Service of anything which smacks of human works, preparedness, efforts, openness, striving, seeking, cooperation, emotionalism, enthusiasm or any other human contribution. The divine service is God’s gift of forgiveness to us. The uniform and historic Divine Service should be employed. Didactic hymns will be sung. Frequent communion will be extolled. Since saving faith does not just happens but is taught, we will employ the catechism. Other salutary practices, not analyzed in this paper, will be followed such as requiring ordination for all preachers, the vesting of pastors, following the pericopal system, closed communion and limiting pastoral leadership and office holding to men.


Third, we need to expose the false practices of the Evangelical community. Luther was not content to preach the pure doctrine in some type of theoretical and platonic manner without applying it. He showed how the true doctrine precluded the false practices of the Roman church of his day. So must we. It is wrong to advocate religious experience as possessing some value in itself. Worship practices intended to produce an emotional experience are simply wrong. It is wrong to evaluate the service by how it affects people. It is wrong to use driving, Christless, popular music in order to cause an experience. Tongues, the way they are defined and practiced in our day, are simply not of God. They are wrong. They should be discouraged. We need to warn our people of these things with as much ardor as we caution them against the practices of Rome.


Fourth, we should be profoundly cynical of any practice that is promoted among us which does not have historical roots in our church. Most of them are uncritically and unknowingly taken from Evangelical circles. Simply don’t do anything new unless you are completely certain where the practice comes from and why it is used. And then introduce it only upon teaching its use to the people of the church.


Fifth, we should continue to study both the Scriptures and the Confessions of the church. These will teach about our Lord and his infinite mercy in Christ. They will teach us of the way of salvation that God offers through the gospel. The Scriptures and the Confessions will also clearly show the symbiotic relationship between our theology and our practice as well as the soteriological function of most church practices.


[1] AC IV, Kolb 41

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.


Resisting the Influence of Evangelicalism, Conclusion ““ How are Lutherans to Respond to All of This? by Pr. Klemet Preus — 3 Comments

  1. You go, Klemet. Thanks for a great series. This is most certainly true.

  2. What bothers me in our LCMS is that when E-Free worship style in our congregations (or mission starts) is challenged, the response given is the “..As long as it is Doctrinally Pure”. This “doctrinally pure” mantra of course can be very relativistic as to its interpretation, not to mention its enforcement. While just having the stipulation Synodically-approved also has it’s risks, especially nowadays, might not a combination of both “Doctrinally Pure” and “Synodically-approved” tighten things up a bit, while yet giving a way out if what is Synodically-approved is not deemed to be Doctrinally Pure according to the judgment of a pastor and his elders of a congregation on the basis of the Scriptures and Confessions? I seriously ask this question, as I’m trying to crack the nut of how to contend against LCMS pastors/congregations using non-Lutheran worship materials who immediately defend themselves by asserting: “Look at the lyrics! They’re doctrinally pure!” Any help to my query on this is appreciated.

  3. I have yet to hear one that is doctrinally pure. Texts may be perfectly pious and marginally Biblical, but doctrine is generally absent.
    Generally, their appeal lies in their being so easy to play and to sing, and they emotionally stir so many. But that’s seldom part of their defense.
    They are the Easy Button, that supposedly solves (i.e., sweeps under the nearest rug) so many problems Lutherans face: low attendance; catechetical, theological, and historical ignorance; envy, or the presumption that success–numbers–is the church’s Job #1.
    People claim they miss something from liturgical worship; that’s why they go contemporary. But what they miss entirely is the whole point of the exercise: being given to; being fed; being refreshed by the very Word of God. As if Very God Himself giving us every word to say and sing, as well as to hear and to taste–and momentarily shutting out our own vapid words, thoughts, and desires–were the hardest thing of all.
    It’s not even about being contemporary; it’s about being–remaining–pop. If it were about doctrine, the trade-off on style would never enter into the discussion.
    I think the churches that ‘offer’ both styles are the most dangerous to the Lutheran culture. They truly stand on the premise that one’s as good as another; and they truly prove that it’s really about personal preference. So, no matter which service members attend, they’re making a choice all about style; personal preference; what I feel like doing.
    they’ve already ceased to be Lutheran. They’ve dis-united themselves; they’re no longer one. They simply meet under one roof.

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