The Saving of Souls: the Ultimate Purpose, End, and Aim of our Joint Work

What would happen if we really would make the saving of souls the ultimate purpose, the end and aim of our joint work? . . . Even though all kinds of strife-causing questions might arise yet, the question:  ‘Which course is best for the salvation of souls?’ will quickly give the right solution … Whatever will win the most souls for Christ, that would decide between us …” – CFW Walther, Address to the 1st Session of the Synodical Conference, 1872.

walther-ultimatepurpose2-600x300-2As I unwound from Holy Week, I was perusing some of the books I received this past Christmas and ran across a full translation of CFW Walther’s address to the first session of the Synodical Conference in a translation of “From our Master’s Table” by CFW Walter, published in 1876, and republished in translation by Mark V publications in 2008. I’m grateful for the work of Rev. Joel R. Baseley to translate so many of the treasures of the past. They are such a joy to read!

The words quoted above have been featured prominently in some circles since 2009 when they were included in the restructuring report of the Blue Ribbon Taskforce of our beloved Synod.  I’ve numerous times heard them repeated since then, most recently at a meeting welcoming new pastors into my district.

The quote is most often used to quell theological concerns and as a hedge against “incessant internal purification at the expense of the eternal destiny of the souls of men and women for whom Christ died.”

As presented apart from its original context, the above quotation seems to support this kind of view, calling us to use the very pragmatic question, “Which course is best for the salvation of souls?” to decide in when “strife-causing questions” arise.  But, as with any sort of sound-bite proof texting, it is always wise to find the original and read it in context.

Now that I have read the entire address, it is clear to me that this text has been misunderstood and misapplied if it is taken to mean that Walther placed “mission” in any sort of opposition to the maintenance of pure doctrine.

First, it is to be noted that Walther based this address on 1 Timothy 4:16, which reads, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers (ESV).” That, in itself, should be reason enough to stop anyone from trying to assert that Walther had in view a need to back-burner theological purity for the sake of mission.

But even if this is not conclusive enough, we have the following, from the very same address, that makes the point that doctrinal purity and mission go together and must not be separated:

Oh, how important it is, therefore, my brothers, that, above all, we make the salvation of souls the ultimate goal of our common labor in the kingdom of Christ! Then it is impossible for us not to ‘give heed to the doctrine’ and thus not to remain vigilant, not to flag in faithfulness to God’s Word in any way. Then, whatever doctrine it might be, we will neither allow it to be silenced nor contradicted, nor retreat from it, so we will always explain: ‘Should we take away even one means that God has given for a person dead in sins, that can awaken him from the dead? Should we take away even one comfort extended by God for a person troubled by his sins, that might restore him? Should we take away even one medicine given by God for a person lying ill in his sins, which could make him well? Should we take away even one weapon, bestowed by God for men battling for their salvation against sins, the world and Satan, by which he might protect himself and conquer? Should we extinguish even a single star, lit by God for men, wandering in error in the darkness of this world, which might be his guiding star to the blessed goal? In short, should we take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs? No, no, so we will cry out, as dear as is our salvation and that of our fellow redeemed, so faithfully will we desire to preserve, to the least letter, this Word, this gracious aid, as God’s true aid for us.’

And this is a blessed war, this war for pure doctrine, when it has the salvation of souls at its root! It is truly precious that we allow ourselves to be scorned as loveless and quarrelsome because of it. It may here be buried in shame, but there it can be expected to be crowned in eternal glory.

With a “changing of the guard” here at Steadfast Lutherans, I believe our readers have every reason to be confident that in this respect, nothing has changed.  It is clear that the regular contributors and new editor of Steadfast Lutherans share with Walther and the former editor the strong conviction that the salvation of souls is and always ought to be the ultimate goal of our common labor in the Kingdom of Christ and, for that reason, it is absolutely impossible not to, “give heed to the doctrine.”

With all Christians who have as their goal the salvation of souls, it is recognized that we must remain vigilant, steadfast, and immovable and not in any way flag in faithfulness to God’s Word nor allow it to be silenced nor contradicted nor retreat from it.

Because our salvation and the salvation of our fellow redeemed is so dear, we share the desire of every true Christian to faithfully preserve this Word, this gracious aid, as God’s true aid for us in this life which leads us as a guiding star to our blessed goal even if we must allow ourselves to be scorned as loveless and quarrelsome because of it. For, “It may here be buried in shame, but there it can be expected to be crowned in eternal glory.”

About Pastor Matthew Dent

I'm a life-long Lutheran who, prior to formal preparation for the ministry, learned most of my theology from good preaching, solid hymnody, and the consistent pattern of sound words found in the church's liturgy in a small church in Western, NY. A "first generation" pastor in my family, I took the "long route" to seminary, working in startups and small companies in the technology and internet sector for 10 years before completing my Bachelor of Arts at Concordia University, Ann Arbor in December of 2004 and continuing my studies at Concordia Theological Seminary, graduating with my M.Div. in 2008. I completed additional residential studies toward an S.T.M. at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and was ordained and first installed in July, 2009. Since January 2014, I have been serving Jesus' Church as pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Standish, Michigan where I live with my wonderful wife, Kelli, and my two kids, Jonathan and Natalie.

Comments

The Saving of Souls: the Ultimate Purpose, End, and Aim of our Joint Work — 68 Comments

  1. Excellent article.  What does this mean for an individual Christian?  For example, should I financially support the Salvation Army?  They reach families and homeless folks beyond our small synod’s capacity to be out in the streets.   Would we be better off if support for the Salvation Army would dry up?  I’m asking because I don’t know the answer – not intending to make a point.

  2. @John Rixe #1
    John Rixe…..for my two cents worth….yes you should support the Salvation Army with your donations. They do not follow Lutheran doctrines, true enough, but if you were to reserve support for other believers on this basis….like you said…..the homeless and poor might not be helped. What about the Baptists in n area operating a soup kitchen or food bank? Should you help? Yes….you must help. But faithfulness to the core principles of the Faith is still important.

  3. It’s better to support the Salvation Army, which spends all of its disaster relief contributions on disasters, (none on its private affairs) and is on the spot almost immediately. The people of Red Cross, whose first thought when a disaster strikes is to appeal for money, overpay their figurehead leadership, and may get around to the disaster a week later.

    Salvation Army has cooperated with other Christian groups. The “Red Cross” has refused to let a Lutheran chaplain mention the name of Jesus.

  4. “They reach families and homeless folks beyond our small synod’s capacity to be out in the streets,” is an assertion I can’t accept. The Salvation Army has about 1.4 million members around the world (Source: http://www.salvationarmy.org/ihq/statistics), the LCMS has about 2.2 million, “in the streets” in our own country (and Canada). Last I checked, 2.2 million > 1.4 million and the geographic disparity must also be taken into account. So the assertion that they have capacity to reach “beyond our small synod’s capacity” fails by mere statistics.

    “Would we be better off if support for the Salvation Army would dry up?” If support for the Salvation Army dried up because members of LCMS congregations became more humane toward their neighbor and took on the responsibility given by God when He commanded Adam and Eve to “subdue the earth and have dominion over it,” rather than pawning that responsibility off through a financial donation, then, I would say, “Yes. We would be better off,” because that would be true love that fulfills the Law of God, not a fake love that all to often seeks to absolve our conscience through a payoff – or worse, use “mercy” work as a hook for the Gospel and call it “missions”.

    Add to that the reality that those organizations pedal a false creed through the provision of soup or a sandwich, is it really worth it? Is it “loving” if the eternal salvation of the recipient is put in jeopardy by the false Gospel of works righteousness that’s served as a side-dish?

    That said, I would note that none of this falls under the category of “joint work,” as Walther is discussing it. Doing the things described concerning the Salvation Army and the Baptist Soup Kitchen is merely being a human. The “joint work” of the Gospel (which is Walther’s topic) is separate and distinct and emanates from the fact that in Christ, God has redeemed humanity and seeks to rescue and save humanity from sin and He has established His Church as the outpost through which forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation are dispensed.

    Our ability to truly be human and fulfill the law of love emanates from this Gospel which recreates us as true stewards of His creation (though still weakened by the sin in our flesh). THIS is what it means for the individual Christian. If we are believers in Christ, we will be seen at the forefront of this love for our neighbor, but often not in big-splashy-obvious ways. Most often through our humble service to our neighbor in our community, in our church or in our own home – not really the thing of front-page news.

    We don’t fulfill our God-given responsibility as those created as His Stewards to love and serve our neighbor by supporting an institution – religious or otherwise. We fulfill that responsibility in our vocations – our daily life and work. We fulfill our obligations and responsibilities as God’s stewards by being a good father or mother, a good aunt or uncle, a good neighbor, a good employee and a good employer, a good citizen of our community, our state and our nation. Because we are Christians, these are holy offices of service to our neighbor in the Name of God.

    As Christians, we have the added command to make sure that the poor and the widows and the needy within our own gatherings of the Church (i.e., our congregations) are first and foremost well cared for and supplied so that they don’t need to call the Salvation Army or visit the local Baptist soup kitchen.

    If the reasonable and responsible needs of the congregation for securing a place and supplies for worship, a school for the education of our youth that protects them from the atheistic-secular-humanist philosophy of the culture, etc., AND there is nobody with any need within the local congregation (including the staff and clergy) AND we know of no sister congregation who has unmet needs in these areas, THEN we do as Moses did in Exodus 36:6-7 and restrain our people from bringing more because what was already brought was more than enough for the work given to the church.

    In this way, we free those within our congregation to participate in their communities as God’s stewards of His temporal gifts by being active as one who, having been given a heart made new by the Gospel, truly loves and cares for his fellow man in every way – temporal and spiritual. We free them to do what God through Paul directs, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” We free them to reach out with God’s provision through creation.

    We also help the work of the Gospel, that is, the speaking of the forgiveness, life and salvation brought by Jesus. Whenever possible we point those whom we know and love to the place in the local community where they can hear the Gospel purely proclaimed and receive the Sacraments rightly administered and we diligently apply ourselves to the task of assuring this to be true by ourselves knowing the doctrine and “keeping watch over it” so as to save those who hear what is preached and taught out of our pulpits and classrooms.

    Anyway – this got too long… Let me end with the basic takeaway —-> God gives daily bread through creation, He gives forgiveness and everlasting life through the Gospel within the Church. If we began to recognize this, we would not have the confusion we do about “mission” and “mercy” work. And we certainly would be very careful about using “mercy” work as a “hook” to manipulate people and claim it is “missions”.

  5. Having worked 16 years for The Salvation Army (TSA), here’s a few insights & thoughts:

    1) All: “The” is always before the word Salvation & is capitalized, thus the acronym “TSA”

    2) John: That depends on which side of Galations 1:8-9 you think they land doctrinally. They’re an Arminian-Wesleyan-Holiness “church” that denies Baptism and piles a whole bunch of holiness-obedience markers on a convert that I’ve seen make some “twice as much a member of hell…”. It’s your money and your conscience, but don’t let anyone tell you they divorce their brand of Christianity from their otherwise outstanding mercy ministries.

    3) Helen – gauging the effectiveness of a charity by how little they pay their “figurehead” is so outdated that even folks like Charity Navigator have pretty much stopped doing it (at least as a primary indicator) realizing that like anything outside religious ministry, you usually get what you pay for. Google “Dan Pollatta Ted talk” sometime to see what I mean. Having said that, the comp’s in salaries between the two org’s aren’t distinguishable, especially as TSA doesn’t have to publish their 990.

  6. @Pastor Matthew Dent #4

    Having some trouble understanding this but I appreciate the response.

    1.  Comparing membership statistics seems irrelevent.  Many (most?) of the Salvation Army members focus their full-time efforts on saving the lost among the destitute and homeless.

    2.  Are you saying that since the Salvation Army puts the eternal salvation of the recipient in jeopardy by the false Gospel of works righteousness Lutherans should oppose them and not contribute anything?

    3. My question had nothing to do with “joint work.” It was all about the individual Christian and maybe was off topic.

  7. @John Rixe #5

    Let’s see if I can summarize the points specific to your question (I hastily edited my previous response down, and may have taken out too much to make it intelligible):

    What is the individual Christian to do? It seems to me that Scripture provides something analogous to the following: (Generally summarized from Walther’s “Proper Form of a Christian Congregation Independent of the State”)

    1) Be faithful in the stations to which God has called you – husband/wife, parent, aunt/uncle, grandparent, congregation member, employee, employer, next-door neighbor, citizen of your community, citizen of your state and your nation. These are God given stations (Holy Orders) through which you actively love and serve your neighbor according to God’s command and calling.
    2) (a)Attach himself/herself to a local gathering of the Church whose pastor properly preaches the Gospel and rightly administers the Sacraments in accordance with the Scriptures and the institution of Christ. (b)If such a local gathering of the Church does not exist, organize local believers to call a pastor and supply their needs in order to serve the local community properly with the Gospel and the Sacraments.
    3) Learn the Scriptures and, when needed, seek to restore your pastor(s) and your brothers and sisters in Christ to the sound teachings of Scripture when they stray.
    4) Provide for the construction and/or upkeep of a suitable meeting place for the congregation as well as the necessary vessels and resources to conduct worship (hymnbooks, agenda, communionware, etc.).
    5) Provide for the education of the congregation’s children according to a proper understanding of reality including the revelation of the truth of Holy Scripture, protecting them from the destructive influences of the atheistic-secular-humanism taught through the indoctrination occurring in the public schools – all without insulating them from opportunities to be an influence on the culture.
    6) Make sure there is nobody in need within your local congregation – first seeing to the needs of the clergy and staff for whom the congregation has made themselves responsible by calling them into office (in the case of clergy) or hiring/contracting them in the case of staff – then, seeing to the needs of all the individual members.
    7) As Paul sought to do with his collection for the Church in Jerusalem, provide for the needs of the larger church by making sure all congregations faithful to the Scriptures and the pure preaching of the Gospel and the proper administration of the Sacraments are able to accomplish 2b,4,5 & 6 in their local contexts.

    Then, when all of these things are done, be the new human recreated in Christ to be – providing for the needs first of all of those whom you personally know, where possible, joining with others from the community (including fellow believers and unbelievers) to see to the larger needs that individuals cannot undertake themselves. Finally, if resources of time, talent and treasure aren’t yet exhausted, assisting the larger church to undertake and accomplish the same in their contexts.

    And do all of this while being always prepared and ready to give answer for the hope that you have in Christ who has recreated you by the power of His Holy Spirit so that you no longer hate God’s good creation and your neighbor, but willingly pour out yourself in love and care and concern in whatever way possible.

    Just my 2 cents, but my sense is that, if we were to apply ourselves to these things, most individuals would find no resources remain and so the question of whether we should or should not support the Salvation Army (or comparing our current structures with how diligently they apply themselves as volunteers to their God-given tasks) would be moot. Consider, in our day, there are a large number of small urban and rural congregations who properly teach, preach, and give out the grace of God in faithful Word and Sacrament ministry that are threatened with closure because of financial insolvency and whose members will be found going without the pure Gospel in their midst. Maybe it’s only me, but one has to wonder what Jesus would say about allowing faithful ministries to be snuffed out by worldly influences while at the same time even deliberating lending support to those who pervert the Gospel and deny the power of God’s Word and His means of grace. It’s not a question of “opposing” them, but of being faithful and diligent with what God has given us to do.

  8. [2nd try sending this…hope this works]

    Having worked 16 years for The Salvation Army (the original TSA), here’s a few insights and thoughts:

    1) ALL: “The” is always before the word Salvation & is capitalized, thus the acronym “TSA”.

    2) John: That depends on which side of Galatians 1:8-9 you think they land doctrinally. They’re an Arminian-Wesleyan-Holiness “church” that denies Baptism and tends to pile a whole bunch of holiness/obedience markers on a convert. Often when I saw this happen, it reminded me of Christ’s words to those who add works to the Gospel, “…and you make them twice a child of hell as you are.” Something tells me our Lord might indeed mind if you support that kind of stuff, but it’s your money and your conscience, so I won’t judge. That said, don’t let anyone tell you they divorce their brand of Christianity from their otherwise outstanding programs. That’s balderdash – usually said to get a gov’t or United Way grant.

    3) Helen – gauging the effectiveness of a charity by how little they pay their leadership is so outdated that even the folks at Charity Navigator have pretty much stopped doing it, realizing that, like anything outside religious ministry, you usually get what you pay for. Google “Dan Pollatta Ted Talk” sometime to see what I mean. The combined comp’s and salaries between the Red Cross and TSA are barely distinguishable, especially as TSA does not have to publish their 990.

  9. In “providing for the needs of the larger church”, I personally tend to include The Salvation Army (though heterodox) as part of the larger church.  

    Thanks Pr Dent, Mr Marc L, Mrs Helen, and Mr Flanagan for giving us good information and much to think about.

  10. @Marc L #8

    Marc, You are right about the Arminian aspect of the TSA, and it is troubling. However, I suppose I am looking at their works of mercy primarily. I might add this comment, which will probably make some people disagree, but I assure you it is a biblical thought. I believe that since God saves and pulls His elect out of all kinds of false teachings and apostasy, it is not possible to “indoctrinate” permanently even one soul God has predetermined to salvation (Acts 13:48). Eventually, in God’s timing, by the drawing and sanctification charged to the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, the individual child of God will “come out” of false teaching and abandon false doctrines. By the reading of God’s word alone, a Christian will see the problem with Arminian thinking and a Gospel of works. James tells us to demonstrate our faith by our works, an outward manifestation of our obedience to God, and even this does not say we are saved by works….but it is evidentiary that the Gospel is working within us…and not just head knowledge. I have known many people who were entrenched in Catholicism, Arminianism, Mormonism, cults…..and left to join faithful churches. Salvation is of the Lord.

  11. @John J Flanagan #10

    That God graciously grants release from the falsehoods of the Papists, the Mormons, the Arminians, and even the Turks through the scraps of the truth that remain in those thought systems is cause for great rejoicing, indeed! But is no excuse for a lack of diligence on our part to maintain doctrinal purity for the sake of the salvation of souls and providing souls thus released with a refuge in the truth as they continue to sojourn through this valley of the shadow of death.

    Wherever the Word is, there is the Spirit to do His Work, but if the salvation of souls truly is our aim and our goal, as Walther says, it will be of utmost priority to hear and heed that Spirit who spoke through the Apostle Paul and said, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers (ESV).” In fact, if the salvation of souls is our concern, “It will be impossible not to give heed to the doctrine.” (Walther)

    Plain and simple, souls are saved through hearing true/pure doctrine and having the pure sacraments – souls are put in jeopardy by any admixture of falsehood. Jesus, Himself, teaches this when He says “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.”

    So, those who REALLY are concerned with the salvation of souls show their faith (James) in the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God by their diligence “to keep *everything* Jesus has commanded,” (Matthew 28:20) including His teaching concerning the application of salvation and forgiveness to the individual through the means of grace lest by our insolence and apathy we cause those whom God has elected to salvation further doubt and insecurity and distress in the midst of this temporal life by not providing a refuge in the truth and instead simply “trust God” to keep them in the midst of their confusion and the false teaching in the world.

  12. @John J Flanagan #6

    Jesus wouldn’t care that people twist His words, mis-teach His truth, teach that His Baptism unto you and His Supper for you are worthless ritual, just as long as you do works of the Law for poor people, Jesus approves and wants you to support their causes?

    Do not give aid and comfort to a heterodox church. Rather do works to the poor as Lutherans without supporting their confession of faith by helping the Army do them.

  13. @Pastor Matthew Dent #11

    I agree we must be diligent to teach the truth, but your statement that “souls are put in jeopardy” by false teaching is erroneous. Those whom God elects by grace and according to His own omnipotence and sovereignty can NEVER be lost simply because He is the author of salvation and He will ensure they are saved. In your own life and mine I am sure you may have sometimes fell into doubts, misinterpretations of God’s word, and perhaps began to follow some false ideas, albeit temporarily, or disobeyed God in many ways…truly grieving the Holy Spirit. Yet…the Lord pulled you away…restored you. It was and is the work of grace, not your own decision to adhere to certain doctrines while disavowing others. Believe it or not, and I say this as a brother Lutheran, know for certain that Heaven is not reserved exclusively for Lutherans alone, but salvation is a work of God, who knows the hearts and minds, who determines and judges, and will save many souls in spite of their ignorance of the Lutheran Confessions.

  14. @Pastor Matthew Dent #11

    Lumping Mormons and Turks with Papists and Arminians as all dispensing “scraps of truth” is sort of out there IMO.  Papists and Arminians are our (heterodox) Christian siblings. We can rejoice that their names are written in the Book of Life. Mormons and Turks aren’t Christian. This is way off topic – sorry 🙁

  15. @Rev. Weinkauf #12

    The Salvation Army was able to secure New Testaments for our Lutheran chaplain to pass out to relatives gathered at the [deliberate] plane crash in Pennsylvania, [9/11], after the Red Cross refused to let said chaplain lead a Christian devotional service for them.
    The Salvation Army brought its soup kitchens to a flood in central Texas and worked with the county ministerial association (as represented by a local LCMS Pastor appointed to lead the recovery efforts in the community). They did not come to proselytize.
    I am aware of other places where Salvation Army was in the front lines (and Lutherans nowhere to be seen). When I have contributed to the local congregation, Lutheran Heritage Foundation; Augustana Ministerium (for CRM’s); [where LCMS contributes much more to the problem than to the solution!]; Marquart’s interests in Haiti, and a few other projects, Salvation Army will continue to be on my giving list.

    YMMV

    I forgot to mention a “Crisis Pregnancy Center” but it’s run by my cousin, who is Reformed, so (never mind that lives are saved) I suppose it should be ‘off my list’!

  16. @John J Flanagan #13

    My brother Lutheran, I’m a bit perplexed and confused at your statement, “Believe it or not, and I say this as a brother Lutheran, know for certain that Heaven is not reserved exclusively for Lutherans alone, but salvation is a work of God, . . . [who] will save many souls in spite of their ignorance of the Lutheran Confessions.”

    I hope I am misunderstanding when I conclude that you, my “brother Lutheran,” are somehow asserting that I don’t believe that statement. Otherwise, and I say this NOT as a brother Lutheran, but as a brother Christian, I would hope you would approach me to clarify before you reproach me publicly.

    More to the point of Walther’s comments, Walther is talking to teachers, not hearers. Those who become teachers will be judged more strictly – and are tasked specifically with following the pattern of sound words, avoiding leaven, and as Walther points out from the instructions of the Holy Apostle, Paul, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.”

    That many will be saved in spite of hearing from false teachers is a statement I’ve already agreed to, my Lutheran brother.

    @John Rixe #14

    That there are Christians in Papist and Arminian congregations, I have no doubt, and I agree that these Christians are our siblings in Christ – just as there are some Christians even in Lutheran congregations (gasp! I know, right?!). That some of the teachers and preachers in those churches are Christian, even, I can agree. I’ll even raise you one better – based on some of the conversion stories I’ve heard from Arab countries of Isa coming to people in a dream and telling them to become Christian, I would say there are those who, even though the Koran has corrupted, twisted and distorted the truth of Christianity almost beyond recognition, the Holy Spirit has touched them through the truth buried within Islam insofaras it does still exist in their [un]holy book and teachings and He has given faith to believe and trust in Christ and become Christians without ever hearing about the Book of Concord (SHOCKING, I KNOW!).

    But the fact that there are Christians hiding out in Islamic Mosques does not make Islam to be “Christianity” – likewise that there are Christians in Papist and Arminian congregations does not make Papist teachings or Arminian teachings to be “Christianity.” It’s an important distinction to make.

    And, far from off-topic, I think this is exactly the discussion that Walther’s quote needs to engender. There are many who have reduced the definition of Christianity down to the “fundamentals” and made substantial portions of Christ’s teaching non-binding. In stead of teaching “everything I have commanded,” they teach “these 5 points we need to agree on, feel free to think whatever you want about anything else…”

    That some scraps are larger and some smaller – that some contain more nutrition and some less – doesn’t negate the fact that the faith of our Christian brothers and sisters who find themselves in Papist and Aminian congregations is starved compared to what Christ intended when He handed over the teachings to the Apostles for the benefit, nourishment and sustaining of the Church.

    Besides, we still have the Holy Spirit’s Words, “Keep watch over the doctrine, by doing so you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Let’s start there, and then pray the Holy Spirit to keep His end of the bargain – rather than presuming that the Holy Spirit will pick up our slack so we can just do whatever we feel like and teach whatever we want.

  17. And, why, pray tell, would anyone truly saved by trust in Christ remain in their mosque, where the Trinity and Incarnation are considered the ultimate blasphemy? Why would they want to continue to associate with a false religion while at the same time embracing the truth? People such as these would be syncretists if they didn’t leave their mosques, some of which raise money towards the cause of wiping out Christianity.

    Thank you, Zwingli, Wesley and C.S.Lewis for inclusivism! Thank you, Rahner, for the doctrine of the “anonymous Christian”! Thank you, Rick Warren for “Chrislam”!…Ugh!

  18. But the fact that there are Christians hiding out in Islamic Mosques does not make Islam to be “Christianity” – likewise that there are Christians in Papist and Arminian congregations does not make Papist teachings or Arminian teachings to be “Christianity.” It’s an important distinction to make.

    I’m no expert,  but I feel the overwhelming focus of Papist and Arminian teachings is Jesus Christ as Savior – hence “Christianity.”

    “While Lutherans believe any doctrinal error has the potential to distort or deny Scripture’s teaching regarding salvation, we also believe that anyone (regardless of denominational affiliation) who truly believes in Jesus Christ as Savior will be saved.” – LCMS.org

  19. Without getting overly theological, every time I think about dropping money in the little red kettle I realize there is someone in my congregation that I already know who could use the money. Maybe instead of Salvation Army, why not put an anonymous envelope with the money in it under somebody’s windshield wiper after church? Or ask the pastor to anonymously pass it along?

  20. @Rev. McCall #19
    Rev McCall…..come on! And yes indeed….you must refrain from being too theological. Dropping some spare change or a buck in the red kettle will help some troubled youth, maybe an unwed mother, perhaps a recovering drug addict. Didn’t anyone posting here in the last few days, including some pastors, learn anything at all from reading the word of God? Jesus described the kindness of the Good Samaritan towards a stranger in need. Jesus didn’t indicate if the issue arose as to which doctrines each one believed, but some of you might hesitate or justify denying assistance because organizations like the Salvation Army do not follow the Lutheran way. This is false pride and contrary to Our Lord’s teachings.

  21. Maybe I’m missing something here. Defending & upholding Lutheran Faith & Doctrine, is different, than the anon charitable acts, someone does. I use my time, talents & gifts, to serve my Congregation, which I do firstly & as primary. The charitable acts, I do, is because I am Lutheran & a child of Christ. Those are opportunities, for me, to be an example & if found worthy, to open a dialogue, or offer aid, comfort, or to encourage. It’s a great thing, to be asked, what Church I go to or you’re Lutheran?
    What am I missing here?

  22. @John J Flanagan #20

    There’s no false pride or pride at all in what I’m trying to say. Do you seriously not know anyone who is in need in your own congregation? Instead of dropping a dollar in the kettle every time you walk past, why not save it up and give it to someone in your congregation that could use it at Christmas? It seems pretty stupid to me that one would be more worried about the random stranger they don’t even know than the friend and fellow church member in their midst. And unless you attend some super exclusive church, I am willing to bet there are people in your own congregation who are struggling to pay bills, have alcohol problems, or can’t put food on the table. Imagine how foolish it looks to go thumping ones chest to them in church about how wonderful one is for helping some random stranger with the Salvation Army when they, as a part of the body of Christ in your own congregation, are hurting.
    There is no comparison to the Good Samaritan with the Salvation Army bucket. None. If you want to help a stranger, dropping money in a bucket merely gets you off the hook for having to do anything yourself. If you want to emulate the Good Samaritan go find someone hurting and take them to the doctor or to get a meal or help sponsor them through AA. The bucket is a cheap excuse to assuage ones conscience while in reality letting someone else do the actual work.

  23. @John J Flanagan #20
    Yes, let’s read Scripture! Go check out Walther’s “Duties for a Christian Congregation”, which is chock full of Scriptural references! Then tell me where he mentions “randomly donating to heterodox church bodies”. (I still want you to read it, but here’s a huge hint, you won’t find it! 🙂 )

  24. Pastor McCall,
    Not linked to the red kettle conversation.
    But this is what I was taught: Family 1st, biological & Congregational. Not every request, receives a yes, before you look elsewhere, family 1st. Then, with the elsewhere’s, be wise & good stewards. I support charities, that have taken care or, aided in some way, those I know directly or indirectly. Always, upholding my Lutheran Faith & the Christian Faith, before all else.

    For example, 1st Responder/Armed Forces Supports, for the families, left behind, of those who lost their lives, in the line of duty. Hospitals, Ronald McDonald houses, Project Smile, things like that.
    I take care of family 1st, because I privately call & ask my Pastor, Elder, or member, if no need is listed or if one is. I do not support, every RSO, that comes into my Congregation. Not every need is always upholding our Doctrinal Foundations.

    I have to be & am charged, to be a wise & good servant/steward of the talents, gifts, $$$, & time, I have been given.

    That is what I was taught, at home & at Church, 3rd generation taught on both accounts.

    Is what I was taught, wrong? I really do want to know. If I have to tweak, I will. Don’t assume, I don’t do both, I do.

  25. John,
    Do you in private, call your Pastor & ask, if there is? There are some, the bigger & more private the requested need, the more likely, it won’t show up, in the weekly info.

    If ya doubt me, try it, just once. Not just w/$$$$. That’s too easy. Family 1st.

  26. @Dutch #25
    But this is what I was taught: Family 1st, biological & Congregational. Not every request, receives a yes, before you look elsewhere, family 1st.

    Many religions are taught the same… and are astonished that Christians will serve a need outside the family/congregational circle! It gives them food for thought.

    “But as much as lieth in you, do good to all men, especially those who are of the household of faith.”

    Note that it doesn’t say, “all Christians” or even “all Lutherans”, exclusively. If it did, how would you take the story of the good Samaritan, the woman at the well, the Canaanite woman who pleaded for her daughter, the centurion who sought help for his servant? All these, and more, were examples provided by our Lord.

    Remember, I did not put The Salvation Army first. But it’s on my list because they go where “middle class Lutherans” are likely to cross to the other side.

  27. Some of you are really getting carried away. We are simply talking about being generous to others in need, and the Salvation Army is a good cause. I have supported my Lutheran church continually, as well as regular donations to a local community food bank, a prison fellowship operated by a non denominational Bible church, and a Gospel Recue Mission in our urban Tucson inner city. I give to panhandlers, and there are many, and none of this is done to brag at all, because our works of charity are null in the eyes of God if done in a prideful or vain state of mind. Some posting here have raised the dialogue beyond reason, and if you must avoid rendering assistance without first consulting your church so that you may determine if someone else in your congregation is more worthy….than you have lost the spirit and intent of the parable of the Good Samaritan.

  28. Helen,
    Way to go!!!! Thank you so much! When we do, actually in Christian Faith, with our Lutheran Faith, go outside, it is, at it’s core, what makes us different & does set us apart. We are charged to be ever careful, not just outside (that’s easy peasy) but inside, as well!

    I love it, when anyone, asks me, if I am a Christian or better yet, is shocked to find out I’m LCMS. Those moments, make it a really great day. I get to give account, on/for both counts. Besides, when it comes to what I do support outside our Denom, it may be the only way, I can say thank you or, I remember. Either way, for me, that is a great day.

  29. John F. #29,
    You should never feel, that you need to list, what you do (do all in private, making no show) as a defense, not here, at BJS. I listed mine, as example only, as a question, for a Pastor. John R., Helen, & myself, are discussing, the original article, what we were taught, mistakes made, and our choices.
    I cannot speak for anyone, but myself. It has never been, what I have done, that I have had to defend my Lutheran Faith, let alone as a Christian. Those moments, were when I said, “No.” Yes, is always easy, no, not by a long shot. Hardest? When the no comes, inside the 4 walls of my, Family 1st.
    Carried away? How so? I must have missed something.

  30. @Dutch #32

    This shall be my last posting on this topic. You know that being “carried away” was used here not as a personal attack, but merely to point out the idea we need not have a theological discourse every time we donate to some charity.

  31. @Pastor Matthew Dent #16
    Dear Pastor,
    Can I assume that based on your ‘likewise that there are Christians in Papist and Arminian congregations does not make Papist teachings or Arminian teachings to be “Christianity.” ‘ comment that you are a restorationist? If not, why not?
    Puzzled,
    -Matt Mills

  32. @Dutch #25

    Dear Dutch, thank you, thank you, thank you! Absolutely right. The Good Samaritan tells us that everyone in the world is our neighbor, but wait, that’s billions of people! How in the world do I love them all?! First and foremost I pray for them. Then, as you said, I do “triage” so to speak. How do I determine who my neighbor is and who I help? How do I determine my priorities? God does that for me through my vocation! My neighbors, the ones that I am in contact with every day, are my family. My wife and kids. Are they taken are of? Are they fed? Are they clothed? Then what about my other vocations of biological family? Father, mother, grandparent? siblings? Are they fed? Clothed? in need of help in any way?
    Got that covered? Ok then what about spiritual family? My brothers and sisters in Christ at my congregation? (1 Timothy 5) are they fed? Are they clothed? Are the widows and orphans taken care of? Is anyone in need of medication? Can anyone not feed their family or pay their bills? is any one of my brothers and sisters, the body of Christ, at my church struggling with alcohol or drugs? Any teenage moms or broken homes? Is your church able to make budget? What about your synod? Are all the missionary’s funded? Any money needed for the mercy work of synod? Help them.
    Now what about my secular neighbor? Does anyone on my block need assistance? Any elderly struggling? Any single parents? Anyone needing help with drug addiction or alcohol?
    So where does putting money in the kettle of a heterodox church fall in all this? Pretty darn low, if at all. If I have taken care of all those other neighbors that God has placed in my life through my vocations and somehow I still have money left over to give to other heterodox churches, well, then I guess I have an awful darn lot of extra cash lying around. But I find that when I look at all the vocations God has given to me, I don’t have to ask the Salvation Army to find somebody to help with my money, I already have an exhaustive list of my own. So to me, to give money to the Salvation Army is to say that I have not been able to find any neighbor within my own God given vocations who needs ANY help from me. I think if we are truly honest with ourselves there is never a need to have the Salvation Army go out and find a neighbor for me to help with my money, I have a pretty darn good list already given to me by God. 🙂

  33. @Rev. McCall #35

    Well said.  Where we may differ is that I include all Christians in my spiritual family and my secular neighbors (literally) include the inner-city.  

    – librul pietist 🙂

  34. Please give to the Church of the Salvation Army. Money from the kettles also pays their pastors and supports their worship services which tells lies about Jesus. Jesus doesn’t care as long as they help poor people. It cost thousands to put on decision-theology TV commercials too. Please give. There are no Lutheran charities or congregations that need spare change or help the poor.

  35. Dear Pastor McCall,
    Whew, crisis averted.
    I don’t have a lot of money lying around, but when I do, I ck family 1st & then discern the “boots on the ground” ops. First fruits family, I always try to keep a something, for other opportunities. Usually speaking, the most dire needs, are never $$$$.
    I need to thank you, Pastor. It isn’t often, one hears the 1st 10 words you typed, to me. Tells me I was taught & trained well. And in my turn, taught my children well! Pax

  36. Just a thought, folks.
    Maybe, this would be a great thread, to take a lead, from Pastor McCall.

    Family 1st, given.

    Who is my neighbor & how through my Faith 1st/Lutheran filter, do I help my billions of neighbors? Billions, and billions…

  37. I volunteer with a black Baptist church in my neighborhood that provides food and then cooks and serves it at the salvation army homeless shelter Then TSA provides resources to help them out their pitiful state.

    I can assure you that there are no black and Hispanic homeless women with children at my Lutheran church or any other I know in the lily white affluent suburbs where they are situated.

    Lets keep telling ourselves that the Lutherans are really the only true churches.It must make us feel good about our feeble efforts in reaching the destitute not to mention our maybe one hundred overseas missionaries?

    The last I heard the Salvation army and other churches preach Christ crucified and salvation by faith and the deity of Christ yet you put them in the category as the Mormons and Muslims. Do LCMS Christians have any shame about our slander of other Christians?

    Of course I sincerely hope that the Lutheran churches will help their congregation families so that they do not ever become homeless. I belonged to one once that would never have allowed that to happen.

  38. @Dutch #39

    It’s interesting to note that the charity work in the New Testament is
    1.) primarily directed from believer to believer
    2.) primarily kept on a local level

    Outside of contributions taken for struggling congregations, the implication is that the church is to be taking care of her own with charity, and not spreading it to the world at large.

    Of course, on an individual level, there’s certainly a place for us to help our neighbors. If I personally know somebody who is in dire need and can help at that immediate moment, I help him or her regardless of whether or not that person is a Christian. That’s a good thing, and something we ought to do.

    But that being said, there is a real and legitimate danger in charity work overshadowing the church as the church. The Salvation Army, whether or not it is doctrinally faithful to Scripture, is now known in the secular world as “that place where the poor are helped.” Well and good, but those who patronize it seem to rarely, if ever, catch the gospel in the process.

    Works are good, and should be an extension of doctrine. But when works obscure doctrine or minimize it, there’s a problem. Muslims are charitable too. So are some Buddhists and Hindus. So are some Wiccans. So are some atheists.

    Christians can be and ought to be charitable, but being charitable does not make one a Christian.

  39. J Dean #40,

    Ok…kinda thought, Pastor McCall, John R., Helen & I, covered this. I asked a Pastor. He answered, not just me, but with what is written on Luther’s Seal, & basic, foundational doctrine. If my agnostic neighbor, looses a loved one, I still bring a meal. If my RC friend, needs a ride, to the Dr., I still take them. If my friends family, lost everything in a tornado, need toothbrushes, toothpaste, & size 2 & 6 kid size shoes, I make sure, if I can, they get them.

    I never mentioned the Red Kettle group. Nor do I intend to. You are mixing my comments, with others. Pastor McCall answered, the question, I asked him, as a holder of the Office. Feel free to comment, on my question or his answer. Direct those, to the Holder of the Office, first. I’m just a sheep. I know what is expected of me from Above. I know who my neighbor is. This isn’t rocket science. I am called to give account, to where my Hope comes from. I’m Lutheran, I am a child of Christ. That is my filter. If my neighbor, we have billions, has a need, I do what I can to make sure that need is filled, thru my filter. 147 Christians died, in Kenya, do you think, when I prayed, for those left behind & that country, I cared, what Denom? No. If your family, lost everything, w/just the clothes, your kids had no shoes, no water, would you say no, if those were offered to you, because they were not Lutheran?
    No, you wouldn’t. At least, I wouldn’t. Why? Because I am, someone’s neighbor, too.

  40. @J. Dean #40

    I think we agree with you. Some of us are just saying that TSA is included in the household of faith and we’re taking care of our own.

  41. #42 John R.
    Thank you. I don’t know how to make this more simple. It’s not rocket science, it never was. It’s kinda weird, the questions are directed at we laity, & not the Pastors, here. For my part, I’d do not think of the red kettle, as a faith based group. They do not fit, thru that filter. I’m glad my kids, didn’t know what some thought! I taught them, to give willingly, w/a quarter, when they were toddlers. Willingly giving & thinking of those, who don’t have, what they do. It’s there, a quarter a kid, to be able to explain what our Doctrine, does teach.
    Who is my neighbor? Pastors, (Bueller) Pastors, (Bueller)….

  42. @Dutch #41

    You kinda lost me, dude… I think we are talking past each other and agreeing on the same thing.

    I was simply stating to your question about “Who is my neighbor?” that, while all people are our neighbors, and we can and should individually help others in our capacity (Gal. 6:10), the idea of organized charity in the church appears to be reserved for the believing body of Christ.

    In relation to that, it was simply pointing out that, if you’re not careful (not “you” personally, but Christians in general) you can let charity, as good as it is, obscure the gospel.

  43. The folks that walked past the samaritan where the best at putting money in the bucket of the temple (which probably actually did do lots of good work with the money). But as they were looking all over for good works to do, they missed the neighbor God put right in front of them. That’s one point.

    The other point is clear, don’t mix in false doctrine. Don’t make excuses for it. Don’t try to justify it away with good works. Call it what it is for what it is. Don’t call evil good. God’s way of church is orthodoxy with His blessing, as a blessing. Heterodox only exists with God’s permission, not blessing, and it isn’t a blessing. How much should we overlook is for the sake of good works? Yikes! We are not to have as much concern for what can harm the body as we are to have concern for what can harm the soul. If God’s word says things can harm the soul – things can harm the soul. Don’t justify that by saying the HS will fix it.

    For good works don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. For doctrine, keep an eye on your left hand so it doesn’t rob your soul, or your neighbor’s soul. Am I missing something here?

    Dave

  44. @Rev. Weinkauf #37

    I may give 50 cents to the bell ringer because I like listening to him better than “Here comes Santa Claus” inside the store. Otherwise, I was discussing disaster relief.

    God bless!
    Helen

  45. @Dutch #43

    I thought Comment #7 on above would have covered your question. God puts individuals with needs in our path through our vocations in our daily life. It may be a person you meet on the way to work, it may be your spouse, it may be your employer, it may be an employee (if you are the employer) these are, first and foremost, your neighbor. Those you personally contact through your daily vocations. It is your God given duty to care for and serve them – according to your station. I don’t want to rewrite what I had previously written, but if there are specific questions, I’ll answer as time allows. Pastor McCall also did a good job at summarizing a decent way to “triage”.

  46. @Matt Mills #34

    I suppose, inasmuch as you may consider Luther and the Lutheran Confessors at Augsburg to be “restorationists,” you could probably consider me to be one. But I’m really not sure what you are driving at with your question.

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