We Dis Doctrine, Yes We Do! We Dis Doctrine, How ‘Bout You?

From the time Satan first uttered the words “Did God really say?” Christ’s doctrine has been bent and warped to suit mankind’s own sinful desires. A few examples of those who disrespect doctrine include:

-Robert Schuller: “Protestants quote their Bible, Fundamentalists declare their orthodox theological dogmas, and we are all expected to renounce private reflection and peacefully acquiesce to these pronouncements. And the result is that the dignity of the person is violated by such oppressive, intelligence-smothering forms of communication.”1

-Rick Warren: “The first Reformation was about doctrine; the second one needs to be about behavior…. We need a reformation not of creeds but deeds.”2

-Steve Jobs: “Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”3

Ironically, (and arguably), it’s the secular quote from Jobs that comes closest to the truth of today’s practice. Follow your heart, not revealed truth. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s hottest examples of doctrinal abandonment come from the recent FiveTwo WikiConference 2014. FiveTwo founder and President Rev. Bill Woolsey opined that “Institutions tend to move to a self-fulfilling remnant. Have you heard that lately? It’s like a self-fulfilling remnant. We’re proud to be the few, the chosen. Closed set mentality, with legalistic checklists for pure doctrine, pure worship, and pure pastors.”4 His attack on doctrine in general was followed up by, among other things, continuing the unchecked, blatant march of various pastors, congregations, RSOs, and Districts to ignore Augsburg Confession Article XIV. It reads “Our churches teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church, or administer the Sacraments, without a rightly ordered call.” Note that AC XIV does not end with an asterisk. The Article applies regardless of the geographic size of your district, or whether or not there is an ample supply of pastors or parishioners willing to support them – pragmatic arguments to the contrary are rejected. It’s a horrible and embarrassing day when pastors can stand up and publically advocate laymen doing Word and Sacrament ministry in the face of our Confession, even if the laymen are supervised. Is our Confession, or is it not, a faithful explication of God’s Word? If it is, then stop.

TwoFive

I’d love to continue the conversation on this and other FiveTwo doctrinal aberrations, but the editors have limited me to 17,000 words, so I’ll close instead with two quotes. The first quote comes from C.F.W. Walther:

Nevertheless we consider it our duty to criticize, refute, oppose, contend against, and reprove whatever error becomes manifest in the teaching of those who wish to be our brethren, whether this error pertains to a fundamental or a non-fundamental teaching of the Word of God.5

The second quote comes from a sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther, here discussing Matthew 7:15:

Christ intends to say here, “you will have enemies of another kind. They are not the ones who are on the outside and who deny the doctrine. They are the ones who grow up in your own midst, who bear your name and boast of it. They are the ones who do the greatest harm.”

…Those who are called our brethren and who lay claim to Christian teaching rise up against us. Under the cover of the same name, they abolish the true teaching and introduce a different one, as St. Paul predicts in his warning to his Ephesians (Acts 20:30): “From among your own selves will arise men teaching and preaching perverse things.” It is, I say, particularly deplorable that those who do it should be from and in our own group, people whom we consider to be upright and against whom we cannot defend ourselves until they have started to do their damage.

…The warning is that we should expect this with certainty and that we should carefully watch and protect ourselves so that these sects do not deceive us. We have to arm ourselves against them and learn to know them. When He says, “Beware,” He wants to teach us not to be patient with such people, but to be open-eyed, watchful, careful, and wise. All we need in opposition to those outward enemies is patience, to endure what they lay upon us and to stand firm. But here suffering or yielding to them is not in order. I must be watchful and careful. I must not even confide a word to my brother privately but only look at the Word with sharp and alert eyes, trusting no man who is on my side now; for today he can preach with me, but perhaps tomorrow against me. No one should think that he is secure and not in need of this admonition. This temptation is so dangerous and sly that even the most spiritual have their hands full to avoid being deceived by it.

…He says that they come in sheep’s clothing, that they are irreproachable and outwardly indistinguishable from genuine preachers. These are the two things that do the damage: They have the valid office, and in addition they give such a beautiful impression and appearance that no one can say anything except that they are true, pious preachers, interested in everyone’s salvation. Such is their own precious claim, to which they can even swear, that they use nothing but the name and the Word of God. This makes such a powerful impression that the people are swept away like a flood, and no one can stop it. Who is there among the common people that can oppose these men or dare to denounce them? Who even knows how to protect himself against them, since they claim to come with the name and the Word of God?
Here Christ is warning us about both characteristics of these false prophets. We should not be swayed by the fact that they occupy the office of the ministry, though this is necessary and proper for a preacher.6

Let’s continue to work for a Synod that stands on our Confession, and refuse to tolerate false doctrine in our midst.

Endnotes

1. Robert Schuller, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation (Waco, TX; Word Books, 1982) 153. Quoted from Kjos Ministries: http://www.crossroad.to/Quotes/Church/compromise/self-esteem-schuller.htm

2. Quoted from Modern Reformation: http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=artread&var2=26&var3=main

3. Quoted from Stanford News: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html

4. Quoted from the video of the Day 1, Session 1 presentation: http://new.livestream.com/fivetwo/wiki14/videos/62942517

5. Quoted from C.F.W. Walther’s paper “The False Arguments for the Modern Theory of Open Questions,” available here: http://www.ctsfw.net/media/pdfs/WaltherFalseArgumentsOpenQuestions2.pdf

6. Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, American Edition, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan. vol. 21, The Sermon on the Mount (Sermons) and the Magnificat (Saint Louis: CPH, 1956) 248-51.

About Scott Diekmann

Scott is a lifelong LCMS layman. Some of his vocations include husband, dad, jet driver, runner, and collector of more books than he can read. Oh, and also chocolate lover. He’s been involved in apologetics for over a decade, is on the Board of Regents at Concordia Portland, and is a column writer for the sometimes operational Around the Word Journal. He’s also written for Higher Things Magazine, The Lutheran Clarion, and has been a guest on Issues Etc. as well as the KFUO program Concord Matters.

Comments

We Dis Doctrine, Yes We Do! We Dis Doctrine, How ‘Bout You? — 22 Comments

  1. There is no shortage of irony in your opening quotes:

    1. Schuller was a very dogmatic person who had no qualms denigrating the personal beliefs of those who held to original sin and total depravity. His was not an “intelligence-fostering” doctrine, but rather, shameless pandering for cash.

    2. Rick Warren has abandoned the theology of the Reformation in favor of Methodist sanctification and restorationist dogma. “Deeds not creeds” is the direct antithesis of Justification Sola Fide, which all the reformation churches held to. …and why he of all person would call for a reformation of deeds is beyond me: His congregation is very well known, especially in their local community, for their good works, social development, and outreach to the needy and troubled.

    3. Jobs was only into free-thinking and following your heart until somebody who did it got in his way. Most descriptions of his business practices paint him as quite ruthless and heartless. As a successful businessman, he was well attuned to the opinions of others, especially his customers. “Market research” and “intuition” could be very interchangeable in his position.

    So at the end of the day, “anti-doctrinalism” is rank hypocrisy, period. Anybody selling you something of that flavor is lying through their teeth, because what they really want is for you let go of YOUR doctrine, and embrace theirs, which they are selling as a “non-doctrinal” doctrine. I call bull. The product is doctrinal from beginning to end, even if it is dressed up in hipster fads. Everybody sells doctrine, period. The question is not whether we are doctrinal. The question is whether the doctrine we teach is the same as Christ and his apostles.

  2. Good post, Scott.

    What happened to the promises Pr. Woolsey made when he was ordained and installed? In my experience, such promises (oaths?) often mean nothing. As one former LCMS pastor said, “It got me in the ‘club.’ Now I will do what I want.” That’s a paraphrase but you get the drift.

    It’s all about NEW disciples, no matter what the cost. Paul Borden (“Direct Hit”) the father of TCN, implies that many OLD disciples are just “bosses and alligators.” If they leave, so much the better. Feeding the sheep is no longer top priority–enticing new sheep is.

    Just another mutation of the CG virus. “Doctrine divides” the CG practitioners say, and so it does. The plain fact is that lack of doctrine also divides. This lack of doctrine ought to divide Crosspoint (no “e”) away from the LCMS. I’m not holding my breath.

  3. Thank you, Scott!

    Reminds me of another Walther quote…

    “We would emphasize particularly that confession by deed and action is here demanded of every Christian. Many are often of the opinion that they are not responsible for what their pastors do or do not do, or that they have no right to do anything against the majority which depart from the confession. That is, however, a dangerous error! Does not every individual belong to the whole? And ought he not to be responsible for everything he permits to be done? If church discipline languishes, if false doctrine forces its way into the church, if wrong remains unrebuked, then the responsibility rests on every member who does not witness against it. Truly, the great liberty of a Christian also imposes a great responsibility on him!”

    *- C.F.W. Walther
    Essays For The Church, Vol. 1
    (St. Louis: Concordia, 1992) 198.

    Grace And Peace,
    Jeff

  4. This is all well and good, that pastors are speaking out; I applaud you. Now, when will you have the public and outspoken support of Harrison? When will he be this bold and condemn not only the false doctrine in the LCMS, but also the grape juice, revivalistic worship practices, women preachers, lay-ministry, Intentional Interim Ministry, and the like?

  5. The silence from our church leaders and supervisors of doctrine on this matter is apparent. Very telling, indeed. Anything goes in the LCMS, apparently.

  6. Not daring to speak for each and every member in my own (salt-water) District, it nonetheless seems as though the greater concern, over and above fidelity to both the Scriptures and our confessions, remains “mission-mindedness.” To that end, it would indeed rankle if we were suddenly to lose the regular financial support of those within our midst (even among my own congregation, sadly) who have no interest in the former because it seemingly interferes with the latter.

    Non-doctrinal doctrine for sure. Reminds me of Cameron Crowe’s “Singles” (quote via Kyra Sedgewick): “I think that, a) you have an act, and b) not having an act IS your act.”

  7. @Wyldeirishman #7

    Somewhere along the line, many of our pastors and leaders have forgotten (or never learned) that “Making disciples” is not only about NEW disciples. Making disciples is a life-long process. The “baptizing” part happens once; the “teaching” goes on until we meet Christ face-to-face–we are being “made” into disciples as long as we live. Preaching “repentance and the forgiveness of sins,” (Luke 24:47) is not about new disciples only: We hear (or ought to hear) that message every Sunday, in every devotion, every homily, no matter how brief. But now that we “got saved,” it’s time to “get to work.” I contend that to be “mission-minded” is to preach and teach repentance and forgiveness of sins continuously and to everyone–the already-saved, and the unsaved. It is tragic that Crosspoint’s (no “e”) teaching demonstrates that preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins is not necessary; rather, their website and “five-two” demonstrate that it’s all about the show–the medium is the message. In fact, the medium may even be their (shudder!) doctrine.

  8. Rev. Woolsey comments that “Institutions tend to move to a self-fulfilling remnant. Have you heard that lately?” Yes, I have heard that lately. It sounds like something you’d hear at a corporate board meeting, but that’s not where I’ve heard it. I’ve heard it from change agents working within the LCMS to drive our practice, and hence our doctrine, in a direction that is contrary to Scripture. The practices of business, their goals, and how they do things, change over time. And while we can and should be all things to all people, our doctrine does not change. Our practice should still be to Baptize and teach, to continuously say what Christ has said: “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” The means of Grace have not changed, yet in our desire to be “missional,” we attempt to change them, sort of like offering unauthorized fire. See Leviticus 10:1.

  9. @Rev. Greg Schultz #4

    Despite my impatience w/ the Koinonia Process etc., I’m still a fan of Pastor Harrison. What I think he’s getting wrong here is not the focus on love and unity though, but the focus of love and unity TOWARDS the abusers of the sheep, rather than towards the sheep he has sworn to defend.

    I put this on another thread, but gently reclaiming the heterodox LC-MS clergy to confessional Lutheranism sounds good until we realize that we’re talking about gently reclaiming men who are currently (very successfully in some cases) deliberately leading our Savior’s sheep away from Jesus. We, as a synod, need to start loving the sheep more than the unfaithful under-shepherds.

    Sheep are being abused by their own called shepherds, and the leadership focus has been on reclaiming or protecting the clergy rather than rescuing the sheep. The instinct for institutional preservation has overpowered the call to protect Jesus’ sheep. I’m suggesting it might be time for solid men in positions of authority in the LC-MS to burn their “international brotherhood of shepherds union card” and put their lives and careers on the line for their Lord’s poor, abused sheep.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  10. @Rev. Greg Schultz #4

    Thanks for providing some examples, but can I be so bold as to ask you to go a step further? I’m not exactly “in the know” when it comes to happenings across the entire LCMS, and my experience is limited to basically 2 churches (in different states and districts). Who (or what district) is practicing some of these things? Again, I confess ignorance here, and would like to be informed. My experience with LCMS churches is that they are very consistent with doctrine, and while I expect problems to crop up here and there, this is the first time I have heard of “false doctrine” being openly and knowingly taught, and I’m bit surprised.

  11. @Joseph Gerth #15
    this is the first time I have heard of “false doctrine” being openly
    and knowingly taught, and I’m bit surprised.

    Clearly, Texas is not one of your two.

    Y’all must be from Wyoming.

  12. @Joseph Gerth #15

    Mr. Gerth–If you want to witness a cross-section of what is going on in the LCMS today, simply spend a couple of hours (or more) visiting the websites of, say 20 or 25 churches in your district. Then visit another district or two, and check out 10 or so in each district. Look at the “Beliefs” section, and if sermons are posted, listen to some. If the congregation has mission and vision statements, you’ll get an eye-full.

    My guess is you’ll hear some solid confessional preaching and teaching, but you’ll also hear some Baptist theology (“invite Jesus into your heart”), and plenty of Rick Warren–“You got saved, so now get to work.” Listen carefully to the preaching–does the preacher preach Christ, or does he preach “Christian.” And who is doing the action? Is it Jesus or us? I suggest you keep some kind of list, and see what you come up with. Then, without naming names, perhaps you’d share your findings with us?

  13. Hello all,

    First, I want to say that this is a very good post from Scott. He nails a lot of stuff very well, as is his custom (nice response to Miguel – why are you not a blogger here yet? : ) ).

    I want to encourage any of you who are able to, yes, “build relationships” with those persons you know who might resonate with FiveTwo concerns. As a whole, the desire to reach out to non-believers is a good thing, and I think we need to always make sure we are communicating that. Further, I firmly believe that many persons who resonate with these groups are open to persuasion – in many of them, there is a real desire to be Lutherans. When asked, you find out they really don’t want to give up things like “baptismal regeneration” and the real presence in the Supper. In any case, I want to encourage this, as well as articles written to appeal to FiveTwo people. I just did one last night, and I would invite your thoughts and comments about it (either here or there): http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2014/10/07/to-those-who-confess-i-am-a-lutheran-one-more-appeal-to-my-fivetwo-brethren/

    I’ll admit – I am a bit of a softie. I have friends and relatives I love on both “sides” of the issues. I think sometimes that helps and sometimes can be a real hindrance. But I also will say things like this, which I firmly believe are true:

    https://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=38101&cpage=1#comment-1001018

    This is something I noticed about Pastor Richard Stuckwisch as well, in his second “Freedom and Responsibility” talk posted here by BJS not long ago… No one can accuse this man of being eager to boot people out… and yet, by the end of his talk he is insisting that, if the time sadly came, he does not think it would be “legalistic” to discipline congregations that clearly do not see the sacraments as constitutive of worship.

    I urge you all to pray for these folks. Some will certainly not change. I know that. But think about all those who might… as the Spirit works in their hearts. Be the kind of confessional Lutherans that those who know and love FiveTwo folks would want to introduce them to…

    And with that, I am sure I am talking to the choir. I just know firsthand how things written here and commented on here are often perceived…. (stuff I write to I am sure).

    Not saying Scott should not write that second article either… : )

    +Nathan

  14. Doctrine has been the one human thing that has held churches, congregations, and individuals together since the book of Acts. In the face of open persecution people have clung to their faith and steadfastly held on to the doctrine they have been taught. The churches around the world who are being persecuted hold on strongly to their faith and do not shed doctrine even in the face of great struggles, yet deeds not creeds are what rules the day in the U.S. Sad

  15. @Nathan #18
    Thanks for your comment Nathan. I agree, we should certainly reach out to people who might be attracted to the glow of the FiveTwo flame. I suspect they are often people who have been inadequately catechized, and there’s no reason to believe they would be resistant to hearing a clearer Word taught. Dr. Stuckwisch is, IMHO, one of the best teachers in the LCMS, whether in print or in person.

  16. @Rev. Greg Schultz #4
    When will he be this bold and condemn not only the false doctrine in the LCMS, but also the grape juice, revivalistic worship practices, women preachers, lay-ministry, Intentional Interim Ministry, and the like?

    This summer we have district conventions. How many DP’s will be replaced by faithful men who will support “cleaning house” on false doctrine (instead of standing by while yet another faithful Pastor is put out of his call)?
    Last time, changing men didn’t change much, and most DP’s were not changed at all. Unless you can give Harrison men to work with, you shouldn’t complain that he doesn’t get much done.

  17. ” Closed set mentality, with legalistic checklists for pure doctrine, pure worship, and pure pastors.”4 ”

    Then one has to wonder why he chose to be ordained by such a legalistic group? Why does he not denounce his LCMS ordination? Why don’t they do that for him? From this statement he seems to think it’s legalistic to have to pass some criteria to be a pastor.

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