Dialogueolatry

SuessDialogue is not the infallible cure-all that we often make it out to be.

There comes a point when we simply need to call a spade a spade, to call sin to repentance.

To have dialogue after endless dialogue is to prize the most abject form of unity above God’s Word.

It’s to fear the judgment of man above the judgment of God.

It’s to substitute dialogue for the call to repentance.

It’s to deny the existence of absolute, objective truth.

It’s to commit dialogueolatry.


Comments

Dialogueolatry — 30 Comments

  1. Satan made his first conquest just by talking….and people who should know better have been trying to “engage in dialogue” with him ever since. He will talk you to death, if you let him.
    And so will those who are leading others away from Lutheran practice and faith in this generation. Their god is their own egos. Satan couldn’t be more pleased….

  2. Interesting, in connection with Helen’s comment, that when Jesus encountered those with unclean spirits, He would not allow the spirits to talk. They wanted to dialogue, too, but not for our Lord! Thanks for the connection.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  3. @J. Dean #3
    Well said. “Dialogue” seems to be the code word for “compromise” now.

    As has been seen in secular “dialogues” there is no “compromise” … there is only total victory for the for the “liberals”. They will be satisfied when the faithful are beaten into silence, or eliminated.
    10 years ago the mantra was, “This isn’t your grandfather’s church; if you don’t like it, leave.” That attitude has not changed and certainly not gone away; it’s just “dialoging” until it can take over again.

  4. Excellent article Rev. Andersen. As we all know, some even believe that prayer in contemporary times is a “two-way” conversation and we must listen to our “inner-voice” and have a dialogue with God. Very unfortunate that God’s Word and Sacraments are not enough for many.

    PS: I can’t wait for the Greek analysis of the origin of Dialogueolatry…………

  5. For certain. I don’t remember the exact quote from Luther, but he said he had no use for those who debate on all sides yet conclude nothing.

    You will never succeed if your intent is to compromise. If you approach a situation desiring an equal outcome for all, your opponents will run roughshod over you, because they may not share your egalitarian spirit.

    If you consider yourself open-minded, but can’t come to a conclusion, you are just weak. Open-mindedness may be necessary when CONSIDERING opinions and ideas, but not the result of that consideration. If you don’t decide anything, ideas are worthless.

    Let’s dialogue from our conclusions, with the goal of persuading. On doctrinal matters, we have the infallible Word as our norm and standard, and don’t have to make stuff up!

  6. Wow. A pastor finally had the guts to say it?

    Natural 20 hit. For the last 10 years, every time I hear the words “dialogue,” “reconciliation,” or “conversation” I recoil and growl.

    Less yap more tap.

    Oh wait, it’s almost Christmas! In the spirit of St. Nick, less yap, more slap!

  7. Pastor Anderson, I agree wholeheartedly. The problem is that the issues which seem to generate the most heated, longest running differences in our church have fault on all sides, including that which calls itself “confessional”. The unfortunate fact is that no one seems willing to admit that they might be in error.

    Helen in comment number 1 makes a valid point, but something else to consider is that Satan can do a dandy impersonation of a faithful church member. From where I sit, the most acrimonious debates in our Synod often seem to revolve around those things which are either a matter of pastoral care(such as who is and who is not admitted to receive the Supper at a specific table), or a matter of Christian liberty(such as the form of the service).

    Maybe we all should be a little more gentle and understanding in our discussions?

  8. @David Hartung #10
    So, what yer sayin’ David, is that we need to “dialogue” about it?

    I don’t see our Lord being so ‘gentle and understanding’ with false doctrine or practice, and neither were His apostles, right?

    Pastors who “care” don’t let people who are not clearly and officially LCMS confessing possibly eat & drink damnation on themselves at the Lord’s Supper. The form of the service as Christian “liberty” is just a liberal shibboleth to introduce practices that confess bad doctrine. Liturgia Divina non Adiaphora Est.

    And, why should confessional pastors or laity admit they “might be in error?” We don’t vote on doctrine; nor do we have a post-modern outlook on it: “Oh, I think this is right, but it could be wrong. Maybe you’re right? Maybe we’re all right and nobody’s wrong?”

    I’m to young to be this much of a grumpy old German! Hahahahaha!

    But, there it is.

  9. I’ll give you a good example on this one: contemporary worship vs sound liturgy. Ever notice that those who want to dialogue almost always seem to insist that it’s the liturgical side that must make concessions?

    Ayn Rand, who was not a Christian, nevertheless said it quite well: when good and evil come to a compromising table, it is only evil that comes away with any advantage.

  10. Dialogue has limitations, but it is also how two people converse. Dialogue can be humanizing & eye opening. Dialogue can be productive. Dialogue should be where a spade is called a spade, and where fear of the judgment of God is explicitly shown. Dialogue depends on an existence of absolute truth, and God can work through dialogue. I have little idea what you are talking about. Are you equating mindless, heedless chatter with dialogue? I know dialogue has become a go-to word empty of result, but speaking against conversation–in a Church founded on the Word–seems really odd to me. Dialogue is not another word for compromise. Dialogue is a discipline I wish more would reclaim.

  11. David Hartung :
    The unfortunate fact is that no one seems willing to admit that they might be in error.

    Mr. Hartung, typically when something like this is said by someone it is sophistry. Nobody argues a point unless they believe themselves to be correct. Humility is showing meekness even though one knows they have truth. There are circumstance where we absolutely know we are right and it is impossible to be wrong (e.g. my sins are forgiven me because of what Christ has done). In those circumstances we don’t have to feign some sort of false humility where we claim we could be wrong in order to placate those who disagree with us.

  12. @Eric #11

    I think you just made my point for me.

    We can differ, but there are both productive and non-productive ways of discussing differences. All to frequently we are non-productive. The two examples I gave were just that, examples. You can pick just about any issue and you will find that both sides have those who argue in a manner which is non-productive, and who seem more interested in declaring the other side wrong, than they are in resolving the issue in a Christlike manner.

  13. @Jim Pierce #14

    Mr. Hartung, typically when something like this is said by someone it is sophistry. Nobody argues a point unless they believe themselves to be correct. Humility is showing meekness even though one knows they have truth. There are circumstance where we absolutely know we are right and it is impossible to be wrong (e.g. my sins are forgiven me because of what Christ has done). In those circumstances we don’t have to feign some sort of false humility where we claim we could be wrong in order to placate those who disagree with us.

    Defending one’s convictions is not the problem. What so often happens is that we talk at each other rather than to each other. You and I have both seen this.

  14. David Hartung :
    @Jim Pierce #14

    Defending one’s convictions is not the problem. What so often happens is that we talk at each other rather than to each other. You and I have both seen this.

    I don’t think we are suffering because some talk “at” us rather than “to” us. I think you are arguing a popular psychological point given to us in the 20th century.

  15. @Mary Moerbe #13
    When it comes to adiaphoric matters, we can dialogue freely. And as well we ought to.

    But when it’s an issue that’s clearly defined by Scripture, there is no “dialogue.” Remember, it was the serpent who wanted to “dialogue” with Eve.

    There is no “dialogue” when it comes to an unscriptural view of the Godhead.

    There is no “dialogue” when it comes to an unscriptural view of the Bible’s inerrancy and authority.

    There is no “dialogue” when it comes to sin as clearly defined in Scripture.

    There is no “dialogue” when it comes to justification by faith alone.

    There is no “dialogue” when it comes to the roles of men and women in the church and in society.

    There is no “dialogue” when it comes to the sanctity of human life and the Biblically defined role of sexuality.

    The problem is that, as has been indicated before, “dialogue” is being used as a way to blunt the authority or sufficiency of Scripture and the doctrine it proclaims. And far too often when those who buck against Scripture and sound tradition claim they want to “dialogue,” the truth of the matter more often than not is that they have no interest in listening; they only want us to listen to them and accept what they say, even if it’s in little, seemingly insignificant doses.

    I’ve seen this happen time and again in other Christian denominations: just a “dialogue” about what it REALLY means to believe that Scripture is inerrant; just a “dialogue” about what Scripture REALLY means by creation in six days; “dialogue” about what the Bible REALLY says about Original Sin; “dialogue” about the Trinity; “dialogue” about the Person and Work of Christ; “dialogue” about justification; dialogue about faith and works; about the sacraments; about the gifts of the spirit and charismatic/pentecostal (enthusiast) practices and customs; about whether or not clearly defined sins should really be counted as sins; about personal experience and its perceived role in shaping our Christianity; about redefining the office of pastor; about turning the gospel into a social change activism. And on and on it goes, until the Christianity of today looks far less like authentic Biblical Christianity and more like the American evangelicalism hybrid that now pervades many of our churches.

    Please don’t misunderstand me, Mary, this isn’t directed at you personally. You’re right: dialogue, when it is properly used, is a good thing. But the world and the polluted wing of the church will not do so. They see “dialogue” as nothing more than a manner of subverting true Christianity in any and every way they can through persuasive and repetitive weakening of Christian resolve by clever, man-made arguments based upon corrupt human reason. And there must come a point when the Church stands up to the world and says “Here is where we stand, based upon God’s Word. The ‘dialogue’ on this point is now over,” and simply end the conversation.

  16. @J. Dean #19

    J. Dean, well put!

    I’d also like to add that dialogue is often the weapon of choice for those with a weak or errant argument. In other words, dialogue about such matters that you keenly listed can simply be a stall tactic used to buy time or wear the opposition down. Unfortunately, as you and others have stated, this tactic can be quite successful for the errant-minded.

  17. The Holy Spirit can work through dialogue in that dialogue can be in and with the Word. Yes, a point can come where a person walks away from another, but if I don’t dialogue with those who do not know my views, my beliefs, my perspective–such as new friends or growing acquaintances –then I have seriously limited myself and kept the Word from an aspect of my life. For that matter, without dialogue we let others define the terms & control the media.

    Yes, dialogue has become a notorious catchphrase for forming a committee to waste time, but dialogue don’t poorly, or left undone, does not undo the good that dialogue can do.

  18. @Mary Moerbe #13
    You are right, Mary. And so is Pastor Andersen. It all depends on which kind of situation you are talking about, who is encountering whom, and how.

    There can be no dialogue with the evil spirits, nor any authentic dialogue with their obstinate allies; with them no “dialogue” would be authentic anyway, because of their dishonesty. But with the merely unenlightened and the ignorant there can and must be authentic dialogue, so as to learn exactly what it is that they do not understand, and what it is they have misunderstood, and in what they need to be proven wrong – all in order to win them over, and therefore also in order to argue in a such manner that they actually have the possibility of being won over, rather than with an attitude that would actually rather have them walk away hurting than have them won for the love of Christ, who died for them.

    I think this might be what you are referring to with your statement that “I have little idea what you are talking about.” – that different situations call for different attitudes.

    Pastor Andersen is talking about applying “dialogue” where discipline is called for and commanded by God; and about the “dialogue” that consists in pretending that rejection of the faith is something that should be debated and “dialogued” about – as if those who reject the faith are, nonetheless, faithful, and their rejection of the faith is an expression of authentic faithfulness, and with the ultimate goal of false teachings being accomodated, eventually to the exclusion of the truth of God and those who adhere to it.

    And just as there are situations in which “dialogue” is not at all what is called for, and “dialogue” would be disobedience against God, and just as there are ways of talking about “dialogue” that are nothing but thinly veiled dismissal of the authority of Holy Scripture, so there are also ways to abuse the obvious truth (although, for the record, I do not know the seemingly levelheaded Pastor Andersen to be an example of that) that “there are times when a clear confession is called for” – namely when this translates into something along the lines that “There is a time, and it is always now, when it is appropriate for a Christian to act as if he or she were not a Christian. There is a time, and it is always now, when it is appropriate for a Christian to be rude and crude and untruthful. There is a time, and it is always now, when it is appropriate for a Christian to ridicule the heartfelt concerns of others. There is a time, and it is always now, when it is appropriate for a Christian to refuse to explain, as well as to listen to explanations. There is a time, and it is always now, when it is appropriate for a Christian not to listen to what others are actually saying, but rather respond rudely, pretending that they have said something they never said. There is a time, and it is always now, when it is appropriate for a Christian to contemptuously snub a Christian brother encouraging you to behave like a Christian.” And so forth, and so on.

    And the time might very well be right now – and months later, when it is clearly about somebody else’s behaviour , you can perhaps place a posting to the opposite effect ….

  19. This discussion makes it clear to me that, while an educated laity is crucial, we (the laity) must also always remember that we’re not the called servants. That concept is hard for some to accept in this post-modern age of “everyone is a minister” of something.

    We (the laity) should realize it’s not a sign of weakness to “punt before 4th down” when it comes to some matters involving scriptural dialogue that surpasses our understanding and ability to properly discuss. In other words, SEEK A CONFESSIONAL PASTOR for guidance.

    Otherwise, we can easily get ourselves into a scriptural tailspin while the proverbial trees are getting bigger by the second.

  20. @Randy #23
    Brilliant observation, the tail spin thing.
    I guess an Air Force man would be able to relate.
    But that is beside the point. Brilliant observation.

    Does it go without saying that we Pastors need to keep an eye on ourselves and our own conduct and constantly allow ourselves to be reminded of what is proper etiquette, ethics, and attitude?

  21. I would also add that, when legitimate dialogue can take place, it is the Holy Spirit and not our brilliance or eloquence which opens eyes and regenerates hearts.

  22. @J. Dean #25

    Indeed.

    I suggest that the tone or manner of the dialogue is given way too much importance. Yet when one acts in a way that is unchristian*, he gets himself in the way and the truth may not shine forth as brightly. On the other hand, when one ignores the truth because his feelings are hurt by unchristian behavior, he is allowing his feelings to get in the way of the truth and he has succumbed to the Devil.

    Ultimately, to place so much importance on the manner and tone of the “dialogue” is to place ourselves above Holy Scripture, making us the norm that norms and the Bible the norm that is normed.

    There can be no dialogue on any other topic of theology unless it has first been established between the parties that God’s Word is what God says it is, the infallible, inerrant, inspired Word of God, and as such, is the final “arbiter” of the dialogue.

    *”unchristian” behavior does not mean anything that simply hurts someone’s feelings as is so often charged. The law hurts all our feelings, right? sometimes a brother must speak the law to you, just as Jesus did and as Jesus commands

  23. “Dialogue” is NOT conversation. It seems to me that most calling for it is usually pushing a bold faced lie. When you hear somebody asking for a “conversation,” what they usually mean is: “Let’s put back on the table this controversial issue about which the church has always enjoyed consistency and unity, about which the Scriptures have been thoroughly studied, and let’s work through the process completely all over again because those people probably got it wrong. All I’m asking is for an opportunity to debate this again so that this time, my agenda has a chance to win. I don’t really want to talk about this, I want to politic the issue to enact my will upon the church body, to hell with what our fathers thought and what we know the Scriptures clearly say.”

    Additionally, anybody wanting a “conversation” about a particular issue is being disingenuous because by the time they ask, the “conversation” is actually already happening. What they are really asking for is an authoritarian level re-negotiation. Talk is free, but that’s not what is really wanted. I’m more than willing to “talk” about why I think you’re wrong and vice versa; we should always have the humility to recognize we could be wrong about our understanding of things. But those conversations happen on a personal level, not the synodical level. Anyone pushing for a national level conversation is clearly already affiliated with the wrong denomination. Quit trying to turn the LCMS into the ELCA and just jump ship already. All denominations do not have to be dogmatically identical. “Conversation” is too often just code for ideological fascism.

  24. Miguel :
    … conversations happen on a personal level, not the synodical level.

    Agreed.
    “Conversation” on the national level is rarely genuine conversation.
    It almost always seems to end up in this weird LCMS phenomenon: on the part of one side (that would be us) a shouting match, and on the part of the other side a hand wringing competition as to who can say in the sweetest tone that they love those whose faith they are trying to eradicate, or weep the saltiest tears over the persecution they are suffering from those whom they are trying to drive out of the LCMS.

    Either that, or in the perpetual “dialogue” of conferences and conventions leading nowhere.

    Or in any combination of the two …

  25. Miguel and Rev Tinglund,

    I believe you both have nailed it regarding “conversation.” I will add my own perspective. I believe that “conversation” and “dialogue” at the District level is also sometimes less than genuine. I suppose it depends on the district though. I have seen what appears to be a very confessional DP take a confessional stand in one area of the church only to be open to “conversation” and “dialogue” regarding CoWo and heterodox preaching in another. I have no proof, but believe that money and status is at the heart of so much destructive behavior. That is nothing new though, is it………..?

  26. @Eric #16

    A good question, and it revolves around how we treat the issue. On personal issue I have when discussing things, is that I am far less interested in what the other person has to say, than I am in saying what I wish to say. I have learned that I am not the only one with that problem, in fact that seems to be the usual way of discussing things in our culture. Were we to actually listen(read) and understand what the other person is saying, I believe that differences will be resolved with a lot less anger and resentment on all sides. That is what I mean when I say “in a Christlike manner”.

    There will be situations whine no amount of discussions will resolve issues, but again when we actually listen to others, I suspect that the resulting discussion would be much less acrimonious.

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