Can’t we have a Nice Conversation around Here? More on the Theses on Worship by Klemet Preus

Just when I want to rise above the rancor and politics of past discussions about worship and actually argue the issues reasonably and openly with the type of candor and self conscious vulnerability that might possibly lead to something helpful and even unifying for the church, someone says something that just drags me down into the synodical gutter of cynicism again and forces me back into that caustic and helpless mood which wants to blast away rather than gently invite. So here goes.

President Forke honestly and refreshingly assured us:

As a member of the COP I can tell you that this type of conversation is precisely what we had in mind. The Theses, as we tried to make clear, are not a declaration. They are our attempt to start a healthy discussion. We seem to have lost our ability to talk with each other for the purpose of edification.

And so we have conversed. What makes the discussion helpful is that there is no convention issue at stake. There is no finger pointing in the theses of the COP. There is no hidden agenda in my heart. I’m not trying to win the argument and strut my victory all over the world of cyberspace. I am not writing to force my will on others and Pastor Forke assures us of the same from the COP. I am not trying to make any political hay from my comments. This discussion may actually transcend both the synod’s skirmishes and the eternal three year cycle in which we LCMSers find ourselves. I was just hoping that we could talk some theology without being partisan. Some of us actually enjoy the process and I for one believe it honors Jesus. And I say this as one who is deeply and unapologetically partisan.    

So imagine my chagrin – no, disgust – that Jesus First and specifically David Luecke take the COP theses and on their basis declare victory in the ongoing worship wars. In the process he vilifies the Ft. Wayne seminary, (“Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne was a center for those who assessed the LCMS as no longer conservative enough and needing to be restored to Confessional integrity. The politics of that movement played itself out in Synodical leadership through the 1990s and early 2000s“), he caricatures the confessional movement (“The Confessional movement’s insistence on uniformity not only in doctrine but also in practices included the newly re-emerging liturgical worship forms as a requirement to be faithfully Lutheran),” and he vanquishes his bizarre and tired straw man which postulates some ridiculous cleavage between the past and the present (“A clash between 20th century interests and 16th century principles is apparent in the vocabulary. “The liturgy” is the favored term now, meaning all the components of the classic Catholic mass, in pre-Vatican II practice).”

Of this last criticism I can only express my weariness at yet another weird and unhelpful distinction. First it was “substance” verses “Style.” Then we were treated to two different types of pastors one who were “ranchers” and the other “shepherds.” In case you haven’t heard of this one the good guys were the ranchers. Then there was the notorious distinction between the “village church” and the “camp church.” More recently we heard of “Confessional pastors” verses “Missional pastors.” Now it is this silly “20th century interest” verses “16th century principle.” Please give us a break from these distinctions which are frankly offensive. They offend logic. They offend those pastors who want to be both ranchers and shepherds or both missional and confessional. They offend any process which wants to do away with categories where I have to be bad and you get to be good. They offend any efforts to unite the synod. And they are offensives to Jesus. They do not put Jesus first. So, Pastor Luecke, stop it.  

Unfortunately the worship wars are not over as Pastor Luecke falsely contends. And when they do end his side will not have won any more than my side. They will be over only when people are able to continue, undistracted, to discuss the issues until a type of agreement can be achieved.

OK, I think that I have gotten that little PQ out of my system and I am going to try to go on being nice for a while as I continue to discuss these matters with President Forke and others who actually don’t care as much about winning and losing as they do about truth.


Can’t we have a Nice Conversation around Here? More on the Theses on Worship by Klemet Preus — 14 Comments

  1. I recall my district’s president using the terms “missional” versus “maintenance” when advising a local Lutheran Mission Partnership as they were preparing to Call a pastor last year.

  2. Let them talk all they want Pastor Preus. “Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.” Psalms 27:3

  3. Pastor Preus,

    I personally understand your frustration. I recently have been reading Matthew Harrison’s book “At Home in the House of my Fathers”, which is quickly becoming one of the top 3-5 books I have ever read. When I compare wannabe’s like Luecke, to those first five presidents of our synod, I catch myself laughing and crying. I laugh, because this guy thinks he’s a theologin, I cry because he actually is one in our synod and in my district. I don’t think any of those first five presidents would have allowed him to even be an altar boy. The sad reality is, Luecke is a brother in Christ, who is in our fellowship and is fallen into err. The COP thesis is an opportunity to deal with him theologicaly and by the power of the Holy Spirit bring him back into the faith handed down to us by our fathers. Now if we can get the little worm to sit at the table and actually debate this from the scriptures and the confessions will be a miracle in of it’s self. “Blessed be the LORD , my rock, who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle; he is my steadfast love and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me”. Psalm 144 1-2 ESV.

    As I reviewed this post, it’s seems to be a little harsh on brother Luecke, it’s a consequence of reading source documents.


  4. So now it’s 20th vs 16th’s? Right, 16th century…do they mean men like Luther, Huss & Tyndale & the authentic reformation? 20th/21st…men like Warren, McLaren, & Bell & the “new & improved” (false) reformation? Is it just me, or are the JF folks comparisons looking reversed? No, it has to be me, could not possibly be them, make a mistake, them….noooo, got to be me. Talk about double speak, goodness grapes! The can’t speak straight or compare straight. Pastor Preuss, hang on & hang in there, correcting, even in the greatest of love, is always vexing! Ask any good parent!

    Reading that article over at Jesus First, then reading yours again Pastor Preuss, this all reminds me of the Book of Jeremiah. Pastor Preuss, you & the others here at BJS sound like Jeremiah & that is a great thing!! Jeremiah 1:19 Jeremiah 12:6, Jeremiah 28, etc.
    Pastor P, remember Jeremiah & what God said to him, it’s why you all at BJS are doing what your doing! For us rams, ewes, & lambs in the pews….the ones already sitting there, I mean.

  5. (sigh). So Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals is even being used effectively within LCMS….

    Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counteract ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.” Saul Alinsky

  6. I am concerned over the format of the proposed “Model Theological Conference” on worship. It suggests that “contemporary worship” (Pentecostal Worship) is an equal to historic Christian worship, such as it is prescribed and commended by Augsburg and Apology XXIV. It puts as-is songs and liturgies from the heterodox, along with charismatic gesticulations, on the same level as the time-tested, catholic, continuity-laden historic body of liturgy and ceremonies the Church has inherited. The format of the conference bespeaks what Krauth speaks of below:

    From Charles Porterfield Krauth:
    When error is admitted into the Church, it will be found that the stages of its progress are always three. It begins by asking toleration. Its friends say to the majority: You need not be afraid of us; we are few, and weak; only let us alone; we shall not disturb the faith of others. The church has her standards of doctrine; of course we shall never interfere with them; we ask only for ourselves to be spared interference with our private opinions. Indulged in this for a time, error goes on to assert equal rights. Truth and error are two balancing forces. The Church shall do nothing which looks like deciding between them; that would be partiality. It is bigotry to assert any superior right for the truth. We are to agree to differ, and any favoring of the truth, because it is truth, is partisanship. What the friends of truth and error hold in common is fundamental. Anything on which they differ is ipso facto non-essential. Anybody who makes account of such a thing is a disturber of the peace of the church. Truth and error are two co-ordinate powers and the great secret of church-statesmanship is to preserve the balance between them. From this point error soon goes on to its natural end, which is to assert supremacy. Truth started with tolerating, it comes to be merely tolerated, and that only for a time. Error claims a preference for its judgments on all disputed points. It puts men into positions, not as at first in spite of their departure from the Church’s faith, but in consequence of it. Their recommendation is that they repudiate that faith, and poistion is given them to teach others to repudiate it, and to make them skilful in combating it.

    (From Charles Porterfield Krauth. The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1872, pp. 195-96.)

  7. Let’s remember something. Lutherans did not intend to start a “new church.” They valued their continuity not only from Holy Scripture but also from the early church fathers. This was reflected in the Book of Concord’s continued use of the Creeds, the early church fathers, the historic liturgical forms, as well as the historic lectionary, vestments, ceremonies, architecture, artwork, and so on (even Latin where people still understood it).

    Justification by grace through faith, not evangelISM, was the criteria for reform. What is called “evangelISM” today is basically Pentecostal worship forms, Arminian recruitment techniques, mere sociological techniques, and fund raising. In many cases it is recruiting people from other denominations or other LCMS churches and not bringing the good news to unbelievers.

    In the aftermath of Pietism, Rationalism and frontier conditions in America we still suffer from eroding forces working against the theology and practice of the Lutheran Confessions. I would urge all laity who read this website to concentrate on Bible, Book of Concord, and a good Lutheran hymnal as the core of teaching and practice in their congregation. To learn genuine Lutheranism we may well need to go beyond “what we grew up with” because it has been hidden for a long time. As Americans we often fall prey to thinking that history began with our own childhood. There are a lot of treasures in the attic of confessional/liturgical Lutheranism that need to be dusted off, studied, and brought back into use.

    Remember what Johann Gerhard reminds us about:
    It is not we who call ourselves Lutherans. Rather, our adversaries call us that. We allow this to the extent that this title is an indication of the consensus that our churches have with the orthodox and catholic doctrine that Luther set forth from Holy Writ. Therefore we allow ourselves to be named after Luther, not as the inventor of a new faith but as the asserter of the old faith and the cleanser of the church from the stains of Papist dogmas. Consequently, we also do not reject the names “Christian” and “catholic,” nor do we render ourselves unworthy of them by the approval of any heretical dogma, as did the Arians, Nestorians, Eutychians, etc. Rather, we are called “Christians” from Christ as the only Author and Teacher of our faith. We are called “catholics” from our consensus with the catholic faith. We are called “Lutherans” from Luther as the asserter and defender of that faith, but especially as the reformer whom God raised up.

    + Johann Gerhard, On the Church (Theological Commonplace XXV), § 156.

  8. Thank you, Pr. Preuss,
    Sadly, the peace of Christ and walking together in faith apparantly doesn’t sell “cutting edge” books for David Luecke. The Theses on Worship work shows everyone getting along too well. It’s hard to figure out the simplistic buzz-words title for the next book, between 16th Century principles and 20th Century needs (let alone how there should be a clash between keeping principles and meeting needs when one confesses Scripture and subscribes to the Lutheran Confessions…), and I won’t hold my breath awaiting the “rim shot” when he announces it.

    In the meanwhile, please continue to care for the Truth in all endeavors! Don’t let those who want to be “them” cause you to stumble.

  9. Randy, so very well said. Let’s all of us, be mindful of where we put our feet, where we stand, & the who’s words our tongues use. That…would be starting with yours truly.

  10. The devil is always quick to claim victory and say “the war is over.” It’s all about power and numbers in his book.

    But, we have a God who has created a different reality. The war was seemingly over for David against Goliath and Jesus appeared to have been defeated on the cross. The reality was that the week and the outnumbered were actually victorious on account of the mercy of God.

    Let us repent and receive Christ’s forgiveness and courage as we bear this cross of living and worshiping as part of yet another rebellious generation.

  11. My dearest CCM,
    I thought I was the only one who knew that book, let alone it’s plans, plots, & what it says!!! If the current LCMS majority, had a textbook, it would be Alinsky’s. Isolate & vilify. But…there is one thing Alinsky, did not take into account. Or rather One, Alinsky didn’t. That One, is the Author of All, our Lord, the Lion of Judah!!!
    Does the LCMS know Alinsky, you bet. Do they know Him, the Lord, the Author of what they “state” they follow & have forgotten to fear? Yes, they have forgotten, but their knowing is irelevant. He knows & remembers them, He knows their deeds, their thoughts & agendas. Let us leave them & those to Him, why….He said to do so. What is our road? To do what we are commanded, to submit & obey Him, that bought us. He is much better at this anyway. No one is that wise or creative!!! He made it, He knows it, He owns it.

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