Notice the Difference?

Martin Chemnitz, in his brilliant work The Two Natures in Christ, emphasizes the importance of using correct terminology to maintain, unadulterated, the doctrine of Christ’s Church. When our phraseology becomes sloppy, our doctrine follows suit. Here’s a little of what “the second Martin” had to say:

Thus it is worthy of effort on the part of all pious and learned men, for the sake of harmony, that we use well-accepted terms, especially those used by the early church when they are proper and meaningful and are not unsuitable. (St. Louis: CPH, 1971, p. 167)

…Let us not busy ourselves with curious questions and useless quibbling, with catchy phrases and provocative words (λογομαχία) – a grammatical war, so to speak. But rather let us direct ourselves to the subject itself, convinced of this matter above all things. We shall base everything on the Scripture, and later on there will be full agreement concerning words and modes of speaking among those who also are zealous for truth and harmony. For if one person can express and render the meaning of Scripture more properly, aptly, and simply than another, then we must surely use our learning and abilities to imitate him. Moreover, we can and ought to accomplish this without dissension and acrimony, in the safest way, by imitating the language of the Holy Spirit and the methods of speaking used in the ancient church and, except in cases of necessity, by abstaining from producing new terminology. (p. 258)

Yet it is absolutely necessary that there be certain definite terms, phrases, and modes of speaking, for the apostle warns us to observe the form (ὑποτύπωσις) of sound doctrine and sound words in the church [2 Tim. 1: 13]. Of all rules it is safest and most correct to speak with Scripture itself and to imitate the language of the Holy Ghost. We have already pointed out the form of this doctrine in chapter 24. And because it is proper for piously educated man to speak with the true orthodox church, that is, to use and retain the terminology which has been used and accepted in the ancient, best, and purest periods of the church, at this point we shall therefore gather from the statements quoted in the preceding chapters some of the expressions the ancients used in the full explanation of this doctrine…. (p. 395)

 

Now consider the words of Rev. Bill Woolsey, the President of FiveTwo, in his blog post titled “Community: Earwig, Big Bang Theory, & Bible”:

Sacramental community is the petri dish for sacramental entrepreneurs. It’s where the crazy idea of starting new to reach new infiltrates your brain, like that earwig from Star Trek. It’s where you encounter a parallel universe of apostolic geeks, like Big Bang Theory meets the Bible.

Sacramental community happens when a gaggle of geeks sold out for Jesus and growing in how His patented presence uniquely shapes them for kingdom-good, commit to walk together. They are crystal on who Jesus made them to be and committed to live out Jesus shoulder to shoulder. That, muchachos, raises the ceiling. Lots of room for coolness.

Try this on: The best way to experience Jesus is in a community of Jesus followers. I can read about Jesus on the pages of the Bible; I can learn of Him through song and Word. But to experience His real presence calls for me to experience His presence in His people. Trusting His forgiveness flows from receiving that forgiveness from His people.

When I celebrate the sacraments of baptism and Lord’s Supper in community with other sons and daughters of Jesus, more than celebrating Jesus’ presence, His Spirit is forming me into Jesus’ presence. He’s preparing me to be His sacrament with others. (Hyperlinks and emphasis in original.)

 

ArmaniCoolness has its place in the world. It’s great if you’re strutting down the runway of an Armani fashion show. It’s marvelous for the Rob Bells of the world pedaling coolness rather than proclaiming truth. It’s not great if you’re a Lutheran pastor using coolness to dispense a soft-serve flavor of ambiguous pietism at the expense of Christ’s presence in His Word. After all, He is the Word. Where His Word is spoken, there He promises to be, bestowing His forgiveness from altar, from font, and from pulpit. Forgiveness is not received “from His people” – whatever that means. If it’s vocation that you’re really talking about, then talk about vocation, not a confusing continuum of sacrament, good works and self-made works. A harrowed set of proof-texted Luther quotes cannot redeem cryptic writing and confused doctrine. Rev. Woolsey should be praised for encouraging others to embody Christ’s love in their outward actions, but he should do so by preaching the Word of God, not the argot of the day. “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” 2 Timothy 1:13-14 ESV

Chemnitz quotes from Chemnitz’s Works, trans. J.A.O. Preus. vol. 6, The Two Natures in Christ (St. Louis: CPH, 1971).  Image credit: Enrique Lin on flickr; Creative Commons license 2.0.

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

Notice the Difference? — 9 Comments

  1. First of all, Mr. Woolsey needs to do his research when it comes to Star Trek, let alone theology. The creature is NOT an earwig. It is called a Ceti Eel.

    Second, what is the deal with people like Woolsey trying to “hip up” Christianity with language like he’s using?

    Third, note that Woolsey’s description of the sacraments as described above is inoffensive to anybody. That wording used does nothing to promote the Lutheran/Biblical understanding of the sacraments. A Reformed or Wesleyan (hip) churchgoer could read that portion without blinking an eye.

    May God save us from those who try to saddle up next to the world in such a way (James 4:4).

  2. welcome to the eastern district and the transforming church network and whatever else non-confessional.

  3. after reading Mr. Woolseys’ comment three or four times I have come to a couple of conclusions. 1 my head hurt after reading them. 2 I still don’t quite know what he really said. I don’t really like headaches and if a Pastor cannot be understood then he has failed in preaching the Word.

  4. “It’s where the crazy idea of starting new to reach new infiltrates your brain, like that earwig from Star Trek.”

    The Ceti Eel from Star Trek removes all control from you, and make suggestable by those around you. Eventually, it causes severe pain and death.

    Is Pr. Woolsey admitting that his “crazy ideas” lead to pain and death, instead of healing and life as Scripture promises when we turn to Jesus?

  5. Dear Captain Diekmann,

    Thanks for an excellent article!

    Our Lutheran Confessions urge us to “follow the advice of Saint Paul to maintain the pattern of sound words as well as the true doctrine itself (2 Timothy 1:13)” (http://bocl.org?SD+IV+36 ).

    Luther was only able to rediscover the Gospel because of his college training in suppositional logic, which sought clarity in the use of terms, grammar, and their meaning. On this, see my essay “Why Am I a Lutheran?” in the book Propter Christum: Christ at the Center (Luther Academy, 2013), pp. 226-231, available here: http://www.logia.org/luther-academy-books/propter-christum-christ-at-the-center

    People who use “hipster hermeneutics” in theology are filling the minds of their hearers with the sort of confused muddle that was so common in the late Middle Ages. Lutherans should be the very last, of all people, to succumb to this!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  6. Emotionalism is the polar opposite of Critical Thinking. Contemporary culture seems to be focused on “feelings” (emotional response)such that critical thinking has faded into the background. Pr. Noland has coined the phrase “hipster hermeneutics,” which is difficult to fathom when critical thinking is applied to it. “Hipster hermeneutics” combined with the form of worship favored by Rev. Woolsey and his ilk, seems to dove tail well with contemporary focus on emotional response.

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