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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.