Give the Koinonia Project Some More Time, by Pr. Rossow

Like most of the other conservatives, I am frustrated with the lack of progress of the Koinonia project but on the eve of a new calendar year, upon further reflection, I think it deserves some more time.

There is more going on than the average person may percieve. It was never presented to be a quick fix. If it is to accomplish anything it is going to take a long time. Also, upon further reflection, it is not going to be as easy as one may have first thought.

There are now in place at least three pilot district Koinonia programs. There is one in my own district (Northern Illinois) and it appears that there is a good mix of pastors in the group. I have also heard of some good folks involved in the other districts.

One of the major reasons the Koinonia Project was delayed is that President Harrison and his team were faced with a huge challenge that no administration has ever faced. They were tasked by the convention with implementing the synod reorganization. This was a massive task and it is still not complete. From my vantage point, Harrison is working slowly, methodically and in good order, to implement the changes and in so doing, the nature of synod is changing like the proverbial frog in the ketttle. Out with the old and in with the new.

The people that Harrison is putting in place have a totally different view of church, doctrine and practice than what we had for the previous nine years. Their impact on the synod is going to be almost imperceptible at times but it will be positive and confessional. Harrison is to be commended for following the wisdom that all of us pastors and laity ought to strive for and that is “teach first then make changes.”

I am not all that interested in synod politics but BJS has given me insights that the average pastor may not have (people send me info all the time) and I am convinced that there is a slow, good-order process in place that is pleasing to our Lord. That same Lord may on occasion give the LCMS tests that need to be passed in the meantime, that are outside a slow and methodical process, but for the most part, slow and steady is the godly way.

When candidate Harrison first rolled out the Koinonia project it made a great splash and with good reason. It was refreshing to see someone putting doctrine and practice at the heart of synodical issues. Those questions are still at the heart and the center of the Harrison adminsitration. Upon further reflection, when I go back and read the document “It’s Time,” it is clear that it was never presented as a program but as an organic process. It was also presented with a long-range horizon in mind.

Even though I am encouraging patience on the process, I am concerned that it is now in the hands of the DP’s. That almost guarantees that it will become programmatic and die a slow, useless, meaningless bureaucratic death. (DP’s please see this as a challenge to do something rather than an excuse to do your usual passive-aggressive whining about the evils of the internet.) Even so, there is a dialogue going on that has not gone on formally for years. The right questions are being asked. I am not sure if we are going to get the right answers, but at least the effort is being made. Without that effort, nothing happens.

So everyone, pray for the Koinonia project, look for your own little Koinonia moments (I need to ressurect the Mini-Koinonia project I launched here on BJS a few months ago) and stay faithful.

Patience does not mean closing the critical eye. Gadflies on the behind of the LCMS like BJS and the ACELC are doing a good thing. Pointing out error is a part of the Koinonia process.

God bless the LCMS. More importantly, God bless His Church as we make our way to glory by faith.

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.


Give the Koinonia Project Some More Time, by Pr. Rossow — 134 Comments

  1. @Ryan Fouts #47

    @Ryan Fouts #28: “The point I was ultimately trying to make is that at some point, if our purpose is to absolutely purge our theology (better, our expressions of it) of any imperfections, we will engage in an unending task and never get to proclaiming it.”

    I would call that a false dichotomy and a strawman in a single sentence, wouldn’t you?

    False dichotomy: the unending task of purging our theology vs. proclaiming it.

    Strawman: “our purpose is to absolutely purge our theology (better, our expressions of it) of any imperfections”


  2. I accept your correction that words don’t derive their meaning from context. When I referred to Casey’s portfolio, which I admit was a bad analogy, I was indeed referring to a boy’s office, despite my hearer’s (in)ability to grasp my frame of reference. Any lack of clarity on my part can only be clarified by more words. Good point. You have stated it much better than I did. As I think about it, perhaps my mistake was to equate “frame of reference” and “context.” The word, “context,” seems to suggest that meaning is somehow socially constructed, which is absurd. Of course, I’m always willing to learn more about all this semiotics stuff; I’ve never had Voeltz as a teacher, and–I confess–I’ve never read his book. My interest is theology, not the philosophy of language.

    If you read over my post, you will find that I never said that words could mean something different from what the author of the words intended them to mean. They can be twisted, but that’s not what they mean. Nevertheless, the hearers of words cannot properly understand words until they understand where the speaker is coming from–hence the need for constant clarification. That is why I wrote: “Then you are not familiar with my frame of reference, and my words mean nothing to you–although they do mean something.” I hope you caught the last words. Words do mean something, even if their meaning is not evident to everybody. In order for me to understand what you are saying, however, I need to know your frame of reference, which is simply to say, I need to inquire: “What do you think you are saying?” Constructive dialogue cannot take place until one person attempts to understand what the other person thinks he’s saying. Otherwise, one is playing chess, and the other is playing dolls.

    You write: “You are not even aware of what your epistemological skepticism is doing to your hearers.” I certainly wouldn’t want my hearers to foist a meaning upon my words that I did not intend. So let me clarify. First, I am fully convinced of the so called “correspondence theory of truth.” God is as real as the person who thinks about him is as real as the time and place where he thinks. I take this as a metaphysical necessity. But I am not interested in showing on some anthropological basis how or to what extent the human mind is capable of comprehending the truth. This has never been my objective. That the Scriptures are clear and able to be understood–that they are able to convict and condemn, comfort and save–does not depend on how well I am able to demonstrate that human language is inherently understandable. God makes himself understood in Scripture, the Holy Spirit causes me to confess the gospel with my mouth, and I am saved accordingly.

    Second, quite the opposite of skepticism, I have made it very clear that I expect nothing less than full doctrinal consensus on the basis of Holy Scripture. I am confident in Scripture’s ability to persuade. And I know that the truth can be known by me or you or anybody in the world because God has so promised in Jer. 31:34. But we will get nowhere together as long as we are intent on building and assassinating straw men. Tolerating for a while, and for the sake of reference, a person’s inadequate forms of speech, his defective theological systems, or his deficient theological method is not the same thing as casting suspicion on the truth. It is not at all the same. We assert the truth, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” When somebody reaches for a false redeemer, we clarify the truth–“that Redeemer”–and so we work towards verbal consensus. Such a consensus requires a common frame of reference. Do you understand what I’m saying?

  3. @Todd Wilken #1
    By definition, in order to he a strawman I would have to assign that perspective to someone. I haven’t done that. My point is that when “refutation” dominates our theological development, to the neglect of positive and constructive theology… The agenda of errorists becomes the agenda of my own theology. It is not to accuse anyone of doing this per se. I think on Issues, Etc. you have always maintained a significant balance between positive and negative theology. This site does too. My purpose is to encourage MORE positive theology, and discourage refutation as if it were our primary task. It is secondary, and error is never really dealt with by refutation nearly as effectively as when it is simply contrasted with truth. I think, even if not intended, we can allow the fear of error to prevail over our trust in the efficacy of the word. And, frankly, when we get a bit too trigger happy over refutation, we very well may end up casting unfair judgments on brothers. While it may be commonplace nowdays to mock 8th Commandment concerns, as I have often seen done here, we still have to obligation to put the best construction on one another, and steove to understand each other before blasting them with accusations. Koinonia won’t be possible so long as we are intent on these uncharitable forms of refutation. Again… You can shout strawman all day… Buy I am simply making assertions that I think would apply to all involved in Koinonia, not accusations. If you feel threatened by those assertions, to the point of citing logical fallacies that don’t actually apply, then you can evaluate what that means to you.

  4. Ditto all that David said.

    I also always felt that words meaning is affected by context long before I took Voelz. It simply seemed like common sense. Still does. That said, it never occured to me how this fact would somehow compromise the concept of truth. I don’t think it does. It doesn’t make any ontological statement about truth. It only tells is that truth can only be communicated to human beings, who have to understand words, to understand the truth conveyed. The words I choose have meaning according to use, but the meaning also must be received or that truth isn’t communicated. If someone misunderdtands or misapplies my words, then a different message has been communicated than what was intended. There is no slippery slope toward relativism here, it isn’t even close. It is precisely because we value the message, the truth, we wish to communicate that we take the hearer’s context seriously. My goal is that he would hear the truth! Now, proclamation of course relies on the efficacy of the Word through the Holy Spirit who creates Faith. That is a given in the discussion. In the context of a discussion about Koinonia, though, the original point is that we do well to consider a very diverse milieu of American culture and recognize that our evaluation of each other needs to account for the fact that one may be speaking differently, to different people, because being faithful actually demands diversity. This does, of course, undermine the notion some have perpetuated here than uniformity (in worship, for example) would establish more unity. I argue the opposite. Uniformity would actually guarantee disunity. Careful diversity in form, language is essential… Precisely because we value the truth… Not just “truth” as a concept, but truth that is meant to be heard.

  5. David,

    When you hear the phrase “frame of reference” you need to translate it this way: “the resulting narcissistic epistemology after the Cartesian turn into the self, the Marxist dethroining of God, the existentialist move to make everything about will and feeling, and the post-modern arrogance of skepticism.”

    Once you start talking about the importance of the frame of reference the discussion is over. They have tricked you into locating truth in the reader-perciever.

    Frame of reference has some validity. I painted a watercolor the other day of two friends kayaking in Lake Superior. The reference photo I used was taken by me in my kayak. They were ahead of me so the painting is mostly of their backs. A viewer would need another frame of reference to tell who they are. (They won’t get it from my brush because I am not so good at faces but they could get it from camera, but I digress.)

    But notice, if they got that other frame of reference, it is not the framer (perceiver-reader) that is making the difference but the stuff percieved, i.e. their noses, lips, foreheads, etc. Knowledge is based in sense perception and our God-given ability to percieve it.

    We have names for poor perceiving – mental illness (those who imagine perceptions or can;t tell the difference from the real and their imaginations) and the blind, deaf and dumb. These are the things that hinder truth. We are not surprised that in the psychological era the focus was on the self and his bias, but these are simply biases or as I said above, mental or physical deficincies.

    What is really cool is when you start to think about the incarnation and epistemology. God was happy to bring us salvation within the bounds of our perceptions, sense perceptions that is. AS a matter of fact, that is the only way he could do it. We know God through our sense perceptions (or the record of the Apsotles who first saw, touched, heard and ate with Jesus). That is how God designed it. He sent his son in the flesh. In the sense-perceptible flesh he took on sense-perceptible nails that shed his blood for our forgivness. And the beat goes on, he still gives us his grace in the sense perceptible means of words on a page, water with those words and bread and wine with those words. Cool! Way cool!

    Extra credit challenge for you – all knowledge is derived from sense perception. Most Christians think we are to avoid such a truth like the plague because it sounds so materialistic but the fact of the matter is it is true. Name for me one piece of knowledge that anyone has that is not derived from sense perception. That will be impossible because if you try to communicate it to me you will need to use sense-perceived categories to describe it to me. There is no knolwedge that does not derive from sense perception. Now we can certainly deduce truths from sense perceptions but those truths start in sense perception.

    Enough for now…

  6. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #34

    Ok – had a chance to listen to his video. I don’t disagree with his video. I also think it’s excellent. What I’m talking about is not how true doctrine is, or even whether or not I can be certain of it… but how I should go about teaching it, communicating it, proclaiming it. The sort of posture we should have in “Koinonia” discussions with one another, where we all value pure doctrine and recognize that one another at least intends to practice in accordance with it. I simply reject that the only way to be faithful to the pure doctrine, for example, is through particular rites and ceremonies. I believe that many of my brother pastors have contemporary services, with Lutheran presuppositions, precisely IN ORDER TO better uphold and proclaim pure doctrine to the people they are serving, in their context. Pure doctrine is never in danger of being “wrong,” but my understanding and application of it always is. I am thankful when a brother shows concern about my practice (though, I’ve never conducted anything other than a service from one of our hymnals to date), though I would hope before lobbing condemnations or accusations my way he would take the time to understand my reasons for why I practice what I do. At the end of the day — it is because I value the same pure doctrine he does… whether we agree or not about whether or not a certain practice best upholds it, or whether we would advocate that such a practice be engaged in beyond a particular context and circumstance.

    Pure doctrine is always true — my intellect is always tainted with sin. I believe in the pure doctrine of Christ, even when I don’t quite understand it… even when I recognize I might speak it wrongly, or imperfectly. Though, I think watching this helped me understand what the “suppressed binary opposite” (lol couldn’t resist the Voelzian language) that you’re guarding against here.

    @Pastor Tim Rossow #5

    This note to David gave me a bit more insight where you are coming from. My argument isn’t “where is truth located?” but how do we responsibly communicate that truth in a way that best ensures it not be misunderstood. Those who study sociology often talk about “high context” and “low context” cultures. The difference is simply where the onus, or responsibility, for communicating truth actually lies — in the speaker/sender, or on the hearer/receiver? This isn’t an absolute law — it’s just a cultural expectation that various from place to place. North America is actually, some have observed, in transition from one to the next so it makes sense that we’d have these tensions in how we’d suggest truth is best communicated. You’ve argued that the onus lies on the receiver/hearer to adequately appropriate the words/signs received, and to “do the work” themselves, to understand the language from the perspective of the speaker. If something is misunderstood, you seemed to suggest, it is the fault of the hearer not the speaker. Our culture, though, is shifting more and more in the other direction where the “speaker” is expected to translate his message into the language of the hearer. If miscommunication happens, it’s the fault of the speaker, not the hearer. I’m not suggesting one way is necessarily right or the other is wrong — it’s just a cultural expectation that we have to deal with one way or another. Being that our culture is shifting more into the “speaker is responsible” sort of schema, I think it actually means we can no longer afford to preach without getting to know our hearers… something pastors should do anyway.

  7. @Ryan Fouts #6
    You will never convince me that by breaking with the catholicity of the church in worship you are doing anything better than others in whatever context you call it. Innovative and separatist worship practices are not Lutheran and could never be Lutheran. What is more important, the whole of the Church or the local expression of it? Your contextualization puts emphasis on the local at the expense of the whole – and that is not what we are to do. Aren’t we calling people out of the world and into the Church? They join with angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven.

    It seems to me that much of what you are discussing really grates against the Third Article of the Creed – both the work of the Holy Spirit for the individual (local) and for the whole (Church, all believers).

    I am glad you appreciated the video from Pr. Fisk – he does good work. And in regards to error – yes, that is why we pray Lord keep us steadfast in your Word. Our Old Adam is a horrible but very reasonable theologian, often tempting to listen to – just as the church of the Old Adam seems more reasonable and attractive also.

    With all that you confess concerning your intellect being fallen, why do you engage in such philosophical and intellectual understandings of theology, rather than simply sticking with the sound pattern of words (timeless) we have been given? Isn’t there a greater security from error by sticking with the things as they have been said and done for a long time?

  8. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #7

    Frankly — I’m not so sure that “uniformity” in worship really is “catholic” in the best sense of the word. You will never convince me that Lutheran theology depends upon de iure humano rites and ceremonies in order to faithfully proclaim the truth. If that were the case… I’d think we’d need to reevaluate what Lutheran theology is. Pure doctrine doesn’t depend upon human rites and ceremonies. Luther is actually quite clear about that.

    There is no “expense” of the whole — unity doesn’t demand uniformity. It actually demands diversity. As I just posted on Facebook:

    Uniformity and Unity are not coterminus. In fact, uniformity actually millitates against unity. Where “uniformity” is pursued, an artifical mold that people are expected to “fit” begins to undermine and undervalue community itself. What good is community, when all members are uniform? How can each member benefit from those who are identical to self? Should the foot behave as a hand? Do not both serve the body, in their uniqueness? The irony is that true unity actually demands diversity. This diversity, nonetheless,.persists toward a common value our purpose. That common pursuit, through diversity, is how community actually shares communion.

    Great music actually contains great harmony, rather than monotone unison. Harmony, of course, ought to share a proper key lest it become a cacophany. It is a common “key” that brings people together toward a greater purpose. What good would it be to have 100 trumpets playing the same notes in uniformity? Diversity is not only valuable, but essential if genuine unity is to be pursued.

    It is no mistake that churches who try to accomplish unity by way of uniformity are usually the most divided, and divisive. The same is true of a business, or a political party, or any institution. Until we learn to not merely tolerate, but actually embrace diversity, in pursuit of common values and goals, unity will always remain a pipedream.

    In other words — my call is first to the people I serve… not to pacify the demands for “uniformity” by other pastors who have no concern for my pastoral context. Unity shouldn’t demand that I pacify such unreasonable demands… if it does… we really don’t understand what unity is, or should be.

  9. P.S. I’m engaging in a philosophical discussion precisely because FIRST, I was challenged philosophically here… and SECOND, because I feel that our great unity in doctrine is being tested by differences that are more philosophical in nature. I’m not the only one who has philosophy working here…

  10. @Ryan Fouts #8
    You are at odds with what our Synod (see the Constitution on Uniformity) has said about uniformity, and also what our confessions teach (which yes, they don’t talk about uniformity as a requirement in the Church, they nonetheless call it a good thing)- it is a laudable goal, not one which should be shunned for the latter days ideal of diversity.

    You said:
    “Until we learn to not merely tolerate, but actually embrace diversity, in pursuit of common values and goals, unity will always remain a pipedream.”
    So unity is found in something we do? Our unity is found in our doctrine (which the Holy Spirit has given to us in the Word and draw us together through). That doctrine naturally produces actions which align (not diverse).

    I live in Wyoming wear boots and a cowboy hat, but you are the cowboy pastor – going your own way and doing your own thing – to heck with the other pastors out there – especially ones who care enough about me to actually be concerned about me! Your call may be to your people, but it is not to serve their own felt needs and whims (or even what you think their context is) – but to serve them as one sent by the Lord to do so in the ways in which He has said to serve. Do you see how my earlier comments about you being separate (local vs. Church) find their fulfillment in your lack of care over brother pastors or congregations other than yours?

  11. @Ryan Fouts #9

    You were challenged philosophically because of the philosophical jargon you are using to explain your position concerning unity and the state of the synod. I believe Pr. Scheer is correct, it is better to stick with theology (and its “language”) first and explain ourselves from the Scriptures… something I haven’t done in this thread.

  12. Tim,

    Would “point of view” be an acceptable alternative to “frame of reference?” Is it appropriate for a person to try to understand his interlocutor’s point of view, or is that too much of a concession to the narcissistic turn to the Cartesian self? What is this phenomenon going on when a person says: “What do you mean?” or “Oh, I see what you mean.” How is that not the discovery of a frame of reference? And yet, to repeat, I never said that the meaning of words is constructed by the reader/responder. If I am using “frame of reference” in a different frame of reference than the one in which you have learned the phrase, then I am willing to accept your instruction. Meanwhile, do me a favor, and read Richard Muller’s Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms, and then ask yourself whether Muller, a Calvinist, is using theological terms the same way as Lutherans are using them. Take Robert Preus’s Theology of Post-Reformation Lutheranism, find the term, verbum endiathethon, and then compare it to Muller’s use of this term in Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics. You will find that the various uses of the term depend on various frames of references, Lutheran and Reformed. (At least, that is how I have been using the term.)

    Now, would you help me to understand your position? Are you saying that it is necessary for us to adopt an Aristotelian epistemology, or perhaps Scottish “common sense,” in order to understand the Scriptures? Are you claiming that the incarnation of Christ depends on the perception–>word–>reality scheme that you endorse? Could it be that you are confusing general metaphysics with epistemology? One chapter of my dissertation deals with the Lutheran answer to the Calvinist/Helmsted-Lutheran notion that the use of the syllogism is necessary for theological discourse. The reason Lutherans argue that the syllogism is not necessary isn’t because they reject a one-to-one correspondence of reason to reality (adaequatio intellectus ad rem) — as their opponents claim — but because the Bible establishes its own understandability; human epistemology does not. I realize how convenient it is to cram my position into existentialist philosophy, but I don’t think anybody would think to charge Lutheran orthodoxy with existentialism. Like I said, I am willing to be instructed on the question of semiotics and its implications for biblical hermeneutics. I’m all ears. But please don’t imply to my readers that I am somehow lodged in the CSL hermeneutical spiral of post-modern narcissism. My teacher is Rolf Preus. His teacher was Robert Preus.

    Sometimes people are just talking past each other. Thanks for the discussion!

  13. @Ryan Fouts #3: “By definition, in order to be a strawman I would have to assign that perspective to someone. I haven’t done that.”

    But indeed, you have, when you stated “…if our purpose is to absolutely purge our theology (better, our expressions of it) of any imperfections, we will engage in an unending task and never get to proclaiming it.”

    Your “opponent” in this claim is those among “we,” in your January 4th post #28, who have been discussing and promoting faithful adherence to Lutheran doctrine. It is those of “we” who you associated in January 3rd post #12 with having such an emphasis “on ‘being right’ that ‘righteousness’ has been reduced to some sort of academic concept for many.” The “opponent” is those of “we” to whom you claimed in your December 31st post #7, who will find themselves left with an unending task and never content if they “[want] a ‘purge’ of those whom you disagree with in some sort of fantastical dream of pre-parousia doctrinal purity.”

    And most recently, in your January 5th post #3, your “opponent” is those among “we” whom you characterize with “when we get a bit too trigger happy over refutation, we very well may end up casting unfair judgments on brothers.”

  14. Just a small point on low context vs. high context. Low context is like getting info from the user’s guide of your iPhone. You don’t need to have any friendship with anyone from Apple or their store to get and trust the info in that user’s guide. Your faith in the truth of what is in that user’s guide is not based on a personal relationship with anyone. High context is when you believe your brother more than the guy at the Apple store because after all, he is your brother, so you should trust him. Never mind that the guy at the Apple store has been trained and has experience with the product. You don’t have experience with him, so you prefer to get your info from your brother than the guy at the Apple store or from the user’s guide. High context is that phrase that goes something like people don’t care what you know until they know that you care. Some people and cultures are like that, but our culture historically has been lower context than many others.

  15. @Pastor Tim Rossow #5

    @David Preus #12

    I would like to offer a comment regarding the term “frame of reference” to see if it is helpful here. If I am not mistaken the term does indeed imply relativism. The term has evolved in meaning from Einstein’s theory of relativity and the whole discussion over an observer’s vantage point when travelling at the speed of light. We also have Kant’s “copernican revolution” to thank here, too, since after him we became trapped behind a veil never able to have knowledge of anything other than the phenomena experienced behind our eyelids, so to speak. Some philosophical circles borrowed from the theory of relativity and argued that there is no such thing as non-perspectival truth. Knowledge and truth can’t be had from any angle of perspective, or “frame of reference.” The best we can talk about is what is “true” given a certain point-of-view, but there is no such thing as a “God’s eye perspective” from which we can have knowledge and truth. That is, there is no such thing as objective truth, in such a view.

    So, when I read, or hear others talk about, a “frame of reference” , or a “point-of-view” with regard to understanding, or knowing, what is meant with a word, I think about all the relativistic baggage that comes with those terms.

  16. Frame of reference does make sense for some of these spatially defined natural phenomenon like in physics, but like any analogy it eventually breaks down.

    If I throw you a baseball, the ball appears to go up and come down or almost come directly toward you, a very narrow parabola. If you are the bird overhead, it looks like a straight line. If you are an observer on the ground looking from the side, the path is a broad parabola.

    You can see the analogy to all kinds of human transactions among givers, receivers and observers. But analogies are not in fact the same thing as the objective facts. They may help or they may distort, but they are not the same thing as what actually happens.

    So, if you use analogies as a step in the reasoning process, you have to come back to reality at some point and not get stuck in the analogy step. The analogy must not dictate. The frame of reference analogy has been allowed by some to cloud their objectivity and view of reality rather than just facilitate reasoning.

  17. “The best we can talk about is what is “true” given a certain point-of-view, but there is no such thing as a “God’s eye perspective” from which we can have knowledge and truth.” Ah but there is a “God’s eye perspective”. It is called scripture.

  18. Thank you, Tim, Jim and Mrs. Hume. So that’s where the phrase, “frame of reference,” came from. I think you’ve all convinced me to stop using it. Regardless of what I thought I was saying when I used it, it seems to have conjured up in my readers a different semantic range from the one I had in mind when I used the phrase. Sounds like a common problem! Well, anyway, this has been quite the learning experience. I truly do appreciate it!

    @Jim Pierce #15
    How would you explain the phenomenon of one person not quite grasping what another person is saying and needing clarification by means of an example, an analogy, or an actual instance? What, if anything, necessitates the common expressions, “Okay, let me put it this way…,” or “Let me give you another example…,” or “Don’t get me wrong…”? I study historical theology. Good historical method is to pursue the question: “What did [Balthasar Meisner] think he was doing when he wrote…?” rather than to distill his contributions to theological jargon and then fix them onto a timeless topical grid. Does semiotics done correctly allow for a similar procedure? What word or phrase would you suggest for me to use when I would otherwise use “frame of reference?”

    @Mrs. Hume #16
    You write: “But analogies are not in fact the same thing as the objective facts. They may help or they may distort, but they are not the same thing as what actually happens.” What if I said that “analogies” are to epistemology as “what actually happens” is to general metaphysics? In that case, isn’t it a question of who makes the analogy, and who doesn’t? Take the incarnation, which actually happened: there, through his assumption of human flesh, God strikes an analogy with humanity. The fact that the darkness does not comprehend it, doesn’t negate the Light. I thank God that he has hidden these wonderful things from the wise and revealed them to babes. That is to say, I thank God that we don’t relate to Christ through our own epistemology; but he relates to us in his Word, and that is what forms our knowledge and understanding of him.

    Again, thank you all for the discussion. I’ve learned so much! Now back to my sermon…

  19. @David Preus #18

    Pastor Preus,

    My explanation would be very close to how you just explained the misunderstanding. For example, “I think we are not understanding each other.” However, I also think that understanding the circumstances in which the term is being used is helpful, too. I know people who use terms such as “point-of-view” and “frame of reference” colloquially. I don’t get hung up on their colloquial use of those terms, since they typically don’t mean to say that truth and meaning are social constructs. However, if I am talking about truth and meaning, then I definitely don’t use those terms and would offer gentle correction to those who do… in that context 🙂 .

    God’s blessings to you!

  20. @Ryan Fouts #8

    You wrote:

    You will never convince me…

    Wait, I thought you were one who is always willing to consider the possibility that you might be wrong, always willing to consider the possibility that your opponent might be right.

    I thought you were the one who wrote in your comment #7:

    If there is no humility, or recognition that as sinners, each of us (on either side) could be wrong and the other could be right, discussion will always break down.


  21. It is the Liberal Lie that states: “All beliefs are to be tolerated except those that are not tolerant.”

  22. @Ryan Fouts #8
    Uniformity of worship is required by your ordination vows (AP XV); not because de iure humano rites and ceremonies are required in order to faithfully proclaim the truth, but precisely because they are not. As a result, we are free to prioritize unity and universality (catholicism) of praxis out of love and clarity of confession.

    What Lutherans unequivocally reject in AP XV is the power of Bishops “to institute services, as though they justified, or were necessary for justification.” As you are right in saying “Pure doctrine doesn’t depend upon human rites and ceremonies” what is your excuse for instituting new services w/in your pastoral context? If historical Lutheran worship is no more or less able to faithfully proclaim the truth than Neo-Evangelical innovative worship, what would be the reason for rejecting the former in preference to the later? If historical Lutheran worship is no more or less able to faithfully proclaim the truth than Neo-Evangelical innovative worship, are you not bound by AP XV to prefer such public harmony as could indeed be produced without offense to consciences to all other advantages? To me, breaking unity of praxis only makes sense if you are saying that new services ARE somehow required to meet today’s generation where they are. In that case you appear to be “instituting new services as though they justified,” and advancing the argument that your NEW human rites and ceremonies ARE somehow necessary in order to faithfully proclaim the truth in your (atomistic) pastoral context.

    Like many pastors in our synod today, you seem to have authority issues. I said it before: you are called to be the friend of the bridegroom, not the bridegroom; the steward not the owner of the vineyard. You are acting as though you owned that which you are only called to tend.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  23. @Matthew Mills #22

    Where did you get the idea that I have ever instituted new services in my context? I haven’t. Every service at Holy Cross is directly taken from Lutheran Service Book. Why do you make these assumptions about how I conduct pastoral ministry? I serve in the same circuit as Pastor Wilken. He attended one of our services last September, and gave me no inclination of disapproval. Neither he, nor any other pastor in the circuit, has ever criticized anything I’ve done in worship. I actually wrote the CPH Lifelight study… on Worship.. which is all about the Liturgy.

    I simply don’t see why those who do differently should be condemned, or exorcised from our fellowship. If they can make the case that changes serve the Gospel, I have no reason to judge their practice. I follow our Lutheran services not because I see any problems with variations… but precisely because I believe the serve the Gospel for the people I’m called to serve.

    I don’t agree with that interpretation of confessional subscription in the ordination vow — it basically makes the Book of Concord another sort of Canon law… and actually violates what the Book of Concord says about itself… exceeding what even the Formulators expected at Bergen.

  24. Holy cow Ryan, what in the world did you subscribe to in your ordination vows? This language thing has really gotten you screwed up!

    I think Matthew is right. You also have a problem with authority. The Book of Concord is not some paper that the Pope makes you agree to as though it were canon law. It is the pure and accurate exposition of the Gospel.

    You just may be a protestant and not a Lutheran at all. Lutherans have no problem with authority when it is the authority of the Gospel.

  25. The authority you are speaking of is not an authority of the Gospel. It is a notion that rites neither commanded nor forbidden in scripture should be coerced upon churches. That is not what we subscribe to.

    I don’t have authority “issues.” But think what you will.

  26. The ordination vow is pretty clear — we subscribe to the Confessions BECAUSE of their relationship to Scripture. The authority of the Confessions, as they also indicate, as a derived authority because of their exposition of Scripture. It follows, both according to the grammar of the ordination vows and also according to what the Confessions say about themselves, that we subscribe to doctrine as it is drawn from scripture — not historical determinations about what they were doing in the 16th Century German Churches regarding liturgical reforms.

  27. That said — I’ve had enough of trying to talk sense to brick walls. Evoking Romans 16:17-18 I’m out of here. You can question my Lutheranism, but the attitude that prevails here is schismatic, divisive, and not remotely even Christian.

    When brothers are being chastised, and told to repent, of things they didn’t even do…. yeah… time to mark and avoid. Peace out.

  28. @Ryan Fouts #27

    Again, you wrote:

    I’ve had enough of trying to talk sense to brick walls. Evoking Romans 16:17-18 I’m out of here. You can question my Lutheranism, but the attitude that prevails here is schismatic, divisive, and not remotely even Christian.

    Again, I thought you were always willing to consider the possibility that you might be wrong, always willing to consider the possibility that your opponent might be right. But it sounds like you have made up you mind about the others on this thread. In fact, in looking back at your comments in this thread, I don’t know if you ever considered the possibility that you might be wrong, and the brothers attempting to correct you might be right.

    Remember what you wrote in your comment #7:

    If there is no humility, or recognition that as sinners, each of us (on either side) could be wrong and the other could be right, discussion will always break down.


  29. Last post here — I recognize, in my last post, I spoke to harshly and I apologize to Tim and company for it. It came from genuine frustration. I think you will find that when posters have addressed me respectfully, and actually engaged the substance of what I have said, I’ve been more than willing to examine things. The entire reason I’ve changed my position on the necessity to condemn one another over rites is precisely because I was able to admit that, in the past, I’ve been wrong.

    When my comments are dismissed off hand, or caricatured, and people begin to question my Lutheranism merely because I am open to casting a “wider net” than they in regard to what kinds of practice could best proceed from our doctrine… my patience is tried. The simple statement that we should consider one’s context, and allow then an opportunity to express their basis for changes in practice, before condemning them somehow led to accusations of relativism.

    Again, Todd… you’ve joined us for Divine Service and you know you are always welcome. Have you witnessed any practices that I engage in that are beyond the scope of Lutheran doctrine and practice? This thread is about Koinonia…. my intention for joining this discussion is precisely because I have seen good fruit… Lutheran fruit… emerge from a variety of practices in Synod. I’ve also seen people go too far. My intention is simply to challenge the brothers to reconsider some of the things that have been so vehemently condemned, and that are not explicitly condemned in Scripture…and the insistence that unity somehow demands uniformity. Even Rome allows for a number of orders, practices, etc., even while maintaining universal rites. I simply ask many reconsider that some variety in practice very well may be due from an actual desire to be Lutherans… not because they have some sort of affinity for heterodoxy.

    Frankly — the way things that I value — like the historic liturgy — are being argued for as if we are bound to them by some sort of law… and that we have to jump on anyone who we suspect might be in error and condemn them accordingly… sort of robs me of my joy. This manner of theological discourse, where there seems to be a constant fear of not only error, but also potential error, and actual productive and positive theology blends into the background… really robs theology of its joy… And theology not pursued out of joy, is rarely good theology. I value our historic liturgy — but that’s because I appreciate all it is, and stands for. I would never dream of compelling it upon anyone, though. It is better not to be used at all, than to be used under compulsion. If it needs to be taught to the people, how will it be taught effectively by those who are following it out of compulsion, rather than because they actually value it themselves? Hardly. We’re barely taught much about the liturgy at all at Seminary as it is, and are ill-equipped to teach anyone about it unless we’ve pursued it in independent study. How much would consciences be vexed and troubled if we were to suddenly take generations of Lutherans across Synod and begin compelling them to follow these rites, as if by their mere performance they were more than vain ritual?

  30. @Ryan Fouts #23
    Pastor Fouts,
    I believe you when you write that “Every service at Holy Cross is directly taken from Lutheran Service Book.” I am therefore sorry for accusing you of breaking unity of praxis w/ the historical Church.

    I still think that your argument in support of (or toleration for) those who do break unity of praxis basically defeats itself. Either you can say w/ Luther, and the Confessors that pure doctrine doesn’t depend upon human rites and ceremonies, or you can assert that, in some contexts, changes are necessary to serve the Gospel. Those who change our praxis unilaterally because they assert it is necessary to reach the (fill-in-the-blank) demographic w/ the Gospel are in basic disagreement w/ the Lutheran premise that pure doctrine doesn’t depend upon human rites and ceremonies. Asserting that NEW rites and ceremonies are required to effectively present the Gospel is the same basic error as asserting that OLD rites and ceremonies are required to effectively present the Gospel.

    If we start w/ Luther’s position, we should end up w/ his conclusion: we are free to worship as the church has always worshipped out of love, and unity of confession.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  31. A fair point Matt. Though, even Luther saw it necessary to implement liturgical changes (even in areas of adiaphora) when such changes were necessary either to prevent consciences from being vexed, or would be helpful to extol the Gospel more clearly.

    Let me put it this way — we have people who have been raised in Lutheran Churches that have not used the historic liturgy their entire lives. I was raised without it, and it was actually took a very long time (through seminary study, and beyond) before I began to appreciate it. I have no delusions — the people at the congregation where I was raised, if suddenly compelled to abandon their regular manner of worship in favor of a hymnal, would be incredibly troubled in conscience. The reality of the situation is that we have tolerated a very wide degree of liberty in the area of worship in our churches for decades. I’m sure some have taken it too far (i.e. rewritten creeds, would be an example), others have only changed instrumentation and made a few acceptable modifications to the normal order of things. When I defend the right of some churches to exercise their liberty — I am taking into account the consciences of those who have been raised in the faith totally unaware of a liturgical tradition in Lutheranism. There are more people in this category than you might realize. If I were called to a congregation, should I feel compelled by some sort of rule or law to immediately change everything? Further, if what they are doing is still acceptable and extols the Gospel… should changing it even be a goal? I often hear people lament about how people have forced contemporary worship upon congregations, and “ruined” their churches by it… If we do the exact opposite, and force liturgical rites upon congregations and the people there who are totally unfamiliar with it (and the pastors there, who don’t even understand or value it because of a deficit in their seminary education), the result would be devastating.

    To be totally honest — I’m thinking about people like my mom.. a faithful woman.. she confesses everything we all do doctrinally. She has raised my brother and I faithfully in the Lord. She has never worshiped regularly in a congregation that uses the rites in Lutheran Service Book. She attends my services when in town, she finds no problem with it, but still finds it odd and difficult to grasp.

    To address your point, more directly, of course the efficacy of the Word does not depend upon appealing rites, etc. That said, it is the nature of the Word Made Flesh, to actually dwell among us. Jesus didn’t enter into the world and begin speaking in some sort of cosmic, divine, language… he spoke to people in a manner of speech and through stories, as people of his day were open and conditioned to hear. St. Paul, similarly, speaks and writes differently to different churches. Liberal scholars try to say his differing style indicates different writers. Hardly… he writes with a different style both because he often uses an amanuenses, but also because he is writing to different people at different times. Is the Holy Spirit able to work through cumbersome language? Of course… the Holy Spirit can even work through foreign languages to create faith in the heart of a hearer (as the Scriptures also bear witness to). That said, it is quite normative that the Spirit works through common language, the language of ordinary people, at the dirt level. St. Paul spoke accordingly. Luther preached accordingly. Even his German translation of the mass reflects this.

    If you’d like to carry on this conversation further, feel free to do so via e-mail. Frankly, I find that few are able to carry on public conversation here without it getting too heated. It becomes cumbersome, and frankly, out of anger for how some of my posts have been handled it tempts me to sin against brothers. So, I cordially invite you to continue this discussion privately if you desire: [email protected]


  32. David and Ryan,

    Please come to grips with the fact that Wittgenstein and Saussere do not believe in objective reality, do not believe that there is a god, and do not believe that we can communicate truth to each other. (For that reason they are rotting in hell. Please do not tell Lauderback that I said that or he will come over to this string and drop 100 comments on us all defending the possibility that Wittgenstein might be in heaven.)

    My point is this. They start thier reasoning with the presuppositions of a pagan academia that objective truth is not possible to be known.

    Because they disavow the ability of humans to know truth, all they are left with is context. (You and I believe wholly in the ability of humans to know truth. After all, John says that he and the other apostles ate with, touched, saw and heard Jesus of Nazareth who claimed, via the communication of words, to be the Son of God.) Saussere pointed out interesting and helpful matters of context that fine tune our notion of communicating the truth we know via words but he never really threatened the notion of objective truth. Wittgenstein is such a clown and a skeptic that in the end he is really not that useful. The culmination of thier work – post modern linguistics, as explicated by none other than our own Dr. Voelz, takes Saussere and Wittgenstien even further by locating the meaning of language in the never-ending web of the perceiver’s mind. When meaning is located in context, there is no more chance for there to be truth. I have my context and you have yours. They can never be identical and so we can never achieve a shared truth.

    Thank God for dictionaries and for the simple act of pointing. We learn language by having people point to things and then memorize the word for the thing pointed to. When you forget what a cat is I simply point to Happy Bob (the cute little guy in my avatar) and voila, there is objective truth communicated in language without any need for context to bolster it. It is simple pointing and memorizing.

    Skeptics like Saussere and Wittgenboob make fine sounding and clever arguments for the false view that human beings are not capable of knowing anything truly. They do such ultimately in a sort of demonic say. The devil is the first and reiging champion of skepticism. You are playing with fire men, and for all I know firemen as well. 🙂 You have been messed up intellectually. Run as fast as you can from anyone who undermines the human mind’s ability to know truth objectively.

  33. Tim, I’ve read every word David has posted on this thread and it appears to me that he has come to grips with the issues quite well. I would respectfully suggest that you should come to grips with the fact that your philosophical quarrels with men most of us have never heard of have nothing to do with the points that David has made in this thread. Put a bit of ointment on that itchy finger, and keep it off the trigger long enough to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest what your brother is saying.

    I don’t pretend to understand post-modernism. I’m not sure I want to. I tried to read Voelz’s book years ago when it first came out and I found it very annoying. It was way too abstract for my taste and, while I suppose there might be something theological in it, it was so boring that I didn’t read long enough to find out.

    What was it Luther said about Aristotle and theology? The very idea that I must know the Philosopher before I can become a theologian rubs against my Lutheran grain. I don’t need to study either Aristotle or post-modernism. I don’t need to get myself all bogged down in epistemological debates. I certainly don’t have to wade through that tedious book by Jim Voelz, either to employ his insight or to refute it. The theologian lives on God’s word.

  34. @Ryan Fouts #31
    Dear Pastor,
    We do have people who have been raised in Lutheran Churches that have not used the historic liturgy their entire lives and that is a legitimate pastoral concern. Still, if I had a point when I wrote: “asserting that NEW rites and ceremonies are required to effectively present the Gospel is the same basic error as asserting that OLD rites and ceremonies are required to effectively present the Gospel” then we need to start by admitting that the men who originally moved these congregations from historical Lutheran worship to non-historical American Evangelical worship did so based on a heterodox view of worship (i.e. my new rites and ceremonies ARE required for salvation.)

    These situations are genuine pastoral challenges. Your dear mother and many more like her have been robbed of their birthright, and given a bowl of pottage. That should make you angry. Now, the question of how best to move a congregation back into historical worship might legitimately have many different answers and many different timelines, but again, toleration and continuation of practices based on a heterodox theology of worship (i.e. my new rites and ceremonies ARE required for salvation) is clearly not an option for a faithful Lutheran pastor. A loving combination of catechesis, patience, and incremental change are probably the best answer; continuation of a long-dead heterodox pastor’s “pottage ministry” in perpetuity is just not a faithful option.

    The fact is: the ethos of the Church has never been the ethos of the world; this wasn’t the case in the 1950’s, the 1550’s the 1050’s or the 50’s. Friendship with the world has always meant enmity with God (James 4:4) and a theology of worship based on bringing the prevailing world ethos into the Church in order to bring the Church to the world is wrong on many levels. The Bride of Christ needs to learn her Husband’s language, and adopt the ethos of His kingdom. I’m afraid it means hard and perhaps thankless work for the poor pastor who inherits one of these robbed congregations, but that’s what it means to be a faithful steward.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

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