Great Stuff — Do Not Give What Is Holy To Dogs

Found over on Musings of a Country Parson Just another small town preacher:


UPDATE: I repent of saying that it was a sin for synod officials not to walk out of the service. I know there are many ways to address this, some publicly some privately. It is difficult to know how to respond to such a stunning display. I went too far in saying that not leaving was sinful. I have corrected the post accordingly, and have asked that it be updated as well on those sites that may share it.

***

I love my dog. I’ve always thought dogs were the coolest. And I think it really stinks that, because we sin, dogs have to die after only about 15 years or so.

However, dogs are not sentient beings. They can intuit a great deal. My dog knows if someone is having a bad day, and will hang out with them until they feel better. Other dogs can herd cattle more effectively and quickly than people.They do attend to their office as God has given it to them. They bark. They wag tails. They guard things. But they can not reflect on the meaning of being a dog. They can not hear the Gospel.

But they are not baptized. They can not confess the faith. And despite my claims that the first dog we got when we were married was rather obviously a Calvinist, they can not join churches.

Jesus even says, “Do not give what is holy to dogs.”

How far has our synod fallen from the gold standard of “adherence to the word of God”?

Last night, in the chapel at one of our seminaries, a dog was brought out during the sermon. A sermon titled “Man’s Best Friend.” I don’t know the man who preached. I did not hear the sermon. But Jesus used small words, so even pastors should be able to understand. “Do not give what is holy to dogs.” How much greater an offense is it to call the dog a holy thing in itself. And that is what happened.

In the Old Testament, when Nadab and Abihu entered the holy place with “unauthorized fire” they were consumed by fire as a warning. We had a high official, who thought that instead of preaching Christ Crucified, he should show everyone a dog, in front of the altar of God.

So far, people at the synod headquarters are more upset with how heathen will market our materials than they are that one of our own defiled God’s House, made a mockery of Christ in a sermon, and did so at the very moment when we are sending men out as sheep among wolves – and wolves are directly related to dogs. You want to know what to avoid, what to shield your people from, according to Holy Scripture and the word of our risen and ascended Lord? Look at the picture. There. That is what you are up against.

I love my dog. She’s “The Best”. But she is content to remain in the place God has given. And that is not among the holy things. My dog knows better than our own synod officials.

This isn’t a close call. This is a direct “We’re asking for fire and brimstone” moment of sin.

Our synod has officials who are given the responsibility of oversight even of district presidents. Those who are given authority in this situation must use that in a godly way, with a call to repent for the violation of God’s word that occurred there.

Next week we have a district convention. There is question time with the President of Synod. I think I may have a question for him.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

Great Stuff — Do Not Give What Is Holy To Dogs — 40 Comments

  1. I am in agreement with you. Sadly, what we often hear nowadays is stuff to “make us feel good”. Warm and fuzzy stuff. When what we need to hear is Christ crucified and His love for us to take upon Himself our sin so that we may live in eternal paradise. I am so thankful that our Pastor (Thomas Block) strictly adheres to that glorious message week after week and somehow makes it fresh and relevant every time. However difficult it is to brings things things to light, it must be done. God bless your efforts to do this and may they come to see the error of their ways and repent.

  2. Wait… a blog post criticizing a sermon that the author admits he didn’t listen to? If the author is going to skewer one of our district presidents, don’t you think he should at least pay him the curtesy of listening to his sermon first? And I notice he did not provide the reference for Matthew 7:6. Maybe he was hoping no one would look it up and notice that it is ripped out of context and really has nothing to do with his criticism of the sermon.

  3. So this blog post is considered “Great Stuff” on the web? Certainly there are better things than this! OP says, “I did not hear the sermon.” but then asserts “How much greater an offense is it to call the dog a holy thing in itself.”

    So did the preacher even call the dog holy? I didn’t hear the sermon so I am simply going to trust the preacher was faithfully proclaiming Christ crucified. How is simply using a dog as an illustration- in this case bringing it forward- giving “that which holy to dogs?” What’s far more concerning to me is that a called pastor is quick to write a condemning blog post without even giving 20 minutes of his time to listen to the sermon in question, nor is he able to properly exegete a verse as simple as Matt. 7:6. If using an object (or an animal) as a means to communicate God’s Word to people, consider me guilty as charged!

  4. Norm,

    I just listened to the sermon. At no time does President Dwayne Lueck call dogs “a holy thing”. Although he made preaching choices that I wouldn’t (method, not message), he gave a sermon that pointed to Jesus, spoke of the work those receiving calls are about to do, the needs of Jesus’ flocks that they are being sent to. And he did it in a way that was understandable by the least to the greatest in that congregation.

    You need to retract this article.

  5. Critics: ZOMG!!!!! THIS GUY DIDN”T EVEN LISTEN TO THE SERMON!!!!1!!!!!!!!

    (all the while seizing on a provocative title that makes the point in the article they probably didn’t read)

  6. The preacher was DP Dwayne Lueck from North Wisconsin. He and I were classmates at Concordia Milwaukee High School (graduated 1971) when LCMS still had the old “system” of training Clergy. He is one of two HS classmates who are now DP’S. I thought the sermon was great and Spirit lead. Please also note that he encouraged everyone, especially the candidates, to get out from behind the computer screen and get connected with the community. I am thankful this is the direction LCMS seems to beheaded. I pastor in the Michigan District. We have a Comfort Dog. I spend most of my ministry time connecting with people in the community.

  7. Oh, my. An LCMS comfort dog was used as an illustration of the importance of giving comfort to those who hurt or grieve, even noting that Noah (the dog) provides an opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus with those in pain.

    A 2 minute illustration produced a rant about defiling God’s House, authored by someone who admits to not having any idea what the pastor was talking about.

    I’m not so sure that this is “great stuff.”

  8. Last week it was pizza. *Detroit Style* pizza.

    :-/

    @#9, “Beheaded.” Lol. Great slip there.

  9. @Norm,

    I misread the OP, I thought you had written that. For that I’m sorry. However, having now read the original author’s refusal to retract the article, this needs to be pulled from Steadfast Lutherans. It does this site no good to propagate this vileness.

  10. Norm is right on here. I listened to the whole “sermon” and heard him refer to the “comfort dog’s ministry”!? As a dear friend and fellow confessional Lutheran pastor said to me in an email: “I thought Pastor meant shepherd, not German Shepherd!” There are so many troubling things with the entire CSL call service, worst of all the “sermon”… And it all started with the silly swirly gigs processed in flanking (distracting from) the processional cross… I was left thinking: “Is the circus in town?” Then it all went to the dogs, who have trained their owners quite well. Kyrie Eleison!

  11. I watched the service and recalled that dogs actually appear in churches quite abundantly in 17c. Dutch painting. Granted, the churches were hollowed out and whitewashed by the Calvinists during the Beeldenstorm. They had destroyed vestments, statues, paintings, and most of which we would regard sacred. Some art historians consider that dogs illustrated that there is nothing sacred about the church. In fact, they were painted pissing and defecating to prove it, as if their mere presence didn’t reflect it enough.

  12. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    If you want my opinion on this, I think the “Comfort Dogs” are a great idea. Lutherans have been involved in social ministry of all types from the earliest days. I recently had published an essay titled “Is Charitable Work an Expression of the ‘Social Gospel’ or Jesus’ Gospel?” (see Ross Johnson and John Pless, eds., The Mercy of God in the Cross of Christ: Essays on Mercy in Honor of Glenn Merritt [Saint Louis: LCMS, 2016], 487-500). It is mostly a historical look at the subject, with some comparison with the Social Gospel (which “Social Gospel” I strongly disagree with). Luther, Walther and our LC-MS founding fathers were involved and supported, in various ways, social ministry too.

    Tim Hetzner and Lutheran Social Services of Illinois get credit for the idea and work on “Comfort Dogs.” Does it replace Gospel ministry? Certainly not. Should our pastors spend most of their time in social ministry? Certainly not, they are called to a Word and Sacrament ministry. But that does not prohibit them from encouraging our people to support Lutheran social ministries that agree with our theology.

    Every congregation has to decide, based on its resources of financial assets and volunteers, how and when and where it can be involved in social ministry. At the very least, they need to “take care of their own.” If they are blessed with dollars, members, and volunteers, then there are many things they can do, to the glory of God, the benefit of our neighbors, and the upbuilding of God’s kingdom—and much better to do this through Lutheran social services than others.

    Do dogs belong in church? If they are guide-dogs for the blind and well-behaved, most certainly, because they help those they serve to participate in Word and Sacrament in the community. Otherwise, no, they don’t belong there. “Comfort dogs” belong to places where tragedy strikes, to people who are grieving, and to people who are lonely (e.g., nursing homes).

    Our seminarians should become familiar with all the missions, ministries, and services that our synod and its various agencies offer, while they are still at seminary. These are not things you will find in textbooks. They are real people and real institutions. We are truly blessed, as a synod, to have so many missions, ministries, and services that we can support or benefit from. Our synod and district presidents, when they are visiting the seminaries, need to be educating our seminarians about these things—in appropriate ways in coordination with the seminary administration, of course.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  13. The dog was used for less than 3 minutes as a sermon illustration. I feel the Bible is silent on the use of dogs in church for assistance to the blind or for a rare brief sermon illustration. I may be wrong.

  14. FYI: the toy dog was on the pulpit longer than three minutes!

    I couldn’t find anything in Joel about dogs. Please enlighten me. Is there a reference to sheep dogs anywhere in scripture?
    Dogs are used in disparagingly comments in OT references, as far as I can tell.

  15. @LG #16

    To the best of my knowledge, although dogs are not unclean animals, they were looked down upon in Israel, because the Old Testament speaks badly of them.
    As far as I could find out, dogs were first used to herd sheep in Scotland and England in the 16th century.
    European shepherds differ from Middle Eastern shepherds, in that in the Middle East, at the time of our Lord, the shepherd walked at the head of the herd. The European ones walk behind. This is why our Lord said that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him.
    I have always sympathized with animals, because, although they did not sin, they suffer because of human sin.
    There is also the question whether there are animals in heaven, or will be in the New Earth.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  16. The blog & the comments do not even talk about the reason this dog was used as an illustration. I was in attendance, and while the sermon was a bit “fluffy” for this occasion, in the entire context of the Scripture, the message (not so much a sermon) the hymns (solidly Scripture based), and the theme of this Call Service, total in worship & prayer for these men receiving their calls for service to the Good Shepherd, and guiding & comforting with the Gospel the sheep to which they will be working, it all fit very appropriately, and to the Glory of God, unlike the blog which here has been written. Sad to have this photo & the article so poorly distort that which the writer admits to not even having heard the sermon, nor having been there. Not exactly the Biblical way to handle this! As to the statement, “one of our own defiled God’s House,” (defiled??? with a dog???), God’s House (where is that, truly, & Scripturally??)_ And, “made a mockery of Christ,” (How’s that?? I didn’t hear or see any of that. Only Christ was glorified as the Good Shepherd… is that a mockery of our True Good Shepherd??) As for the use of the “Comfort Dog” illustration, perhaps a Shepherd’s sheepdog, ie, pastors of sort that are called to guide the sheep of their congregations and to provide them, yes, “COMFORT” of the Gospel… thus, Noah, the comfort dog… ever use an object lesson when teaching??? For shame, not for the use of the dog, but for this blog article. For shame!!

  17. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. Romans 14:21

    I have a different take on this latest dustup. In the context of the deplorable and continuing saga of the “us vs. them” state of affairs in the LCMS, where confessional Lutherans are hypersensitive to the missional propensity to improvise worship practice to fit the cultural zeitgeist of the times, choosing to theme the call service even with the most lovable of pooches was probably not a good idea in retrospect. Did the CSL leadership truly believe this service would not be provocative to other quarters of Synod?

    I am a confessional Lutheran and I drink beer, wine, and occasionally a postprandial single malt Scotch whisky (thank you Pastor Thoma). However, I am scrupulous not to drink alcoholic beverages when dining in the presence of Reformed or Evangelical friends because I know that it would cause them distress. I realize that they are misinformed but I would not want to wound their consciences or cause a scandal.

    Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 1 Corinthians 8:12

    That is not to say that confessional Lutherans are weak by any means but the concept is the same. The pattern is the same: CSL provokes and BJS (or the Wyoming District) reacts. Then, after sticking their finger in the eyes of the more conservative brothers and sisters, CSL dismisses the ensuing criticism as the jealous, ill-tempered ravings of the surly fringe in the Synod. Where are the adults? Look past the pros and cons and symbology of incorporating a comfort dog into the Call service and ask whether the decision makers at CSL could have been more empathetic to the broader Synod and prevented yet another feather ruffling for the greater good of living in unity of Spirit in the bond of peace and in righteousness of life.

  18. Pastor, I love the article, but I wish you would not have backed off of “saying that it was a sin for synod officials not to walk out of the service.” It’s possible that someone did have good intentions by not walking out, but we know all about good intentions from St. Bernard of Clairvoix. And, the most likely reason they did not walk out is the default reason that pervades these folks: ““They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace.” — Jeremiah 6:14

  19. Correction — not pastor (sorry, did not realize you were not a pastor). Mr. 🙂

  20. Sorry, I glanced too quickly at the byline. It see now it was “posted by” Norm Fisher, from Pastor Winters work.

  21. Abominations are best when they are impromptu and improvised. You just gotta let the Spirit lead you where he wants to go, man.

  22. Watch the Sermon, 27:-47: on the video. ALMOST NO GOSPEL in a 20 minute sermon; more attention/words given to a dog/dog ministry/dog motifs than Jesus. This is not opinion but objective fact. And Pastors and people actually defend this stuff in a sacred House of worship?!

  23. I’m not going to listen to the sermon, and for that reason I’m not going to comment on the propriety of the dog’s presence. Would I do it? No. But I won’t criticize a sermon I’m not willing to listen to.

    Once as a circuit visitor I was told by someone that when their pastor didn’t preach from the pulpit he diminished the power of the Word. I advised that pastor that I believed that Article X of the Formula of Concord prohibited him from preaching from the pulpit until the person repented.

    If the Scriptures do not prohibit using a dog as a sermon illustration and one of us claims that the Scriptures DO make that prohibition, maybe all of us pastors who are cat people should buy dogs and keep them in the chancel with us. 😉

    I really hope not, because my kids are afraid of dogs. But I think that we should be careful here.

  24. It appears this dog is in the chancel. Dogs have their place, and it isn’t in the chancel which is set apart for the ministry of Word and Sacrament, as defined by our Lord in the 28th chapter of Matthew where he commissions the Apostles. In our religious climate we no longer have respect for what is sacred, and we pay dearly for it when the world mocks and scorns us, not for bearing the Lord’s cross, but for being silly and shallow. Those involved in this did a disservice to the body of Christ and will give an account for sowing discord with their innovative practices.

    Regards,
    Rayn Wilson

  25. @Jason #32

    But this is the synod to which my church belongs, and the seminary in question trains its pastors. I didn’t leave loony evangelicalism for this. If pastors in chapel behave as if the chancel is common, the seminarians will likely do the same and so will their people.

  26. @Jason #32

    It’s not a congregation.

    I think we need to be careful about how we argue against this practice. The OP argues on the basis of OT purity laws, which is bad.

    Mr. Wilson argues on the basis of reverence, which is better, but still incomplete.

  27. I don’t know if this got passed on to President Harrison not but…

    Dear Pastor Harrison,

    I have heard you may face some questions here at the Wyoming convention regarding the comfort dog ministry. For this reason I wish to express my appreciation for the comfort dogs and, especially, for the work they did in Orlando following the Pulse Club shooting as well as their presence in a Seminary chapel service.

    I have known I was attracted to other boys instead of girls since I was about 11. Even a handful of years before that, like most gay people, I had come to the realization that I was different, that I did not fit in, and that this difference was not something good or acceptable. In my early teens, knowing that my attractions were toward males, I carefully researched Scripture and it was clear that sex is allowed only between a man and a woman in marriage. As such, I had chosen celibacy at a time when my peers were falling in love for the first time and thinking ahead to marriage and family. And for most of my life, I have looked for forgiveness and compassion in what Christians say about homosexuality and gay people. When one has a need, one is more acutely aware of where to go to fulfill that need.

    Unfortunately, that need for forgiveness and compassion are not met in the Church.

    When pastors and Christians speak of homosexuality, the Gospel is rarely included. And if it is, it is almost always brief. There have been less than a handful of exceptions to this but, for the vast majority, a sentence or two stand in answer to the mountains of law proclaimed from the same source if, in fact, the Gospel is present at all.

    As an example of the paucity of the Gospel, I would ask you to read through the materials from the Task Force on Sexuality present on the LCMS site. Were you aware, when you called for materials to minister to those “struggling with same sex attraction,” that the particular phrasing of that label is not a generic term for people who are attracted to their own sex? The term “Same Sex Attracted” or “SSA” came into usage during the heyday of ex-gay ministries when, in order to distance themselves from the political and social goals of what some term the “LGBT Community,” these ministries were looking for another way to identify themselves. To further emphasize their separation and the fact that they were striving to avoid acting on their temptations the words “struggles with” were often added. In theological terms, then, “struggling with same sex attraction” is specific for “a repentant sinner.” Can you honestly say that the balance of Law and Gospel in the material produced is appropriate for ministry to repentant sinners? Keep in mind, also, that communion, baptism, the liturgy of the divine service are essentially absent. Also absent is any hint of what the Church can do to fulfill the special needs same sex attraction might produce in a person who, in keeping with the biblical view of sexuality, chooses celibacy or marriage to a person of the opposite sex. At a minimum, compassion would call for a special effort of friendship and fellowship for those who choose to obey the Bible rather than their desires. But such basic acts of compassion were utterly absent from the materials. Was this the best, or even the minimum, our Synod has to offer same sex attracted people within our walls?

    Our LCMS teaching of Law and Gospel emphasizes that proclaiming the Law without Gospel to repentant sinners will produce despairing sinners. And this is precisely what is happening in the way in which homosexuality is handled. Theology is not a philosophy. Theology impacts real, breathing and hurting people. The absence of the Gospel is driving people to despair.

    It is, perhaps, no surprise, then, that a recent study from the University of Texas demonstrated that while straight youth are less likely to be suicidal if religion is important to them, the reverse is true for LGBT youth. For LGBT youth, holding religion to be very important coincides with a dramatic increase in suicidality. Unfortunately, the church has little compassion and little Gospel for LGBT kids. Advice yes. Instructions on living, yes. Warnings about same sex marriage and against sex, yes. And jokes from pastors about waiting on court house steps in order to lovingly shoot gay couples when they come to get married, yes. The Gospel and practical evidence of compassion, no.

    I say all of this, not for sympathy, but because I want you to understand what a deep impact it made on me to read about the LCMS comfort dogs being sent to Orlando following the Pulse Club shooting. As I mentioned earlier, throughout my life, I can think of a couple of times pastors at least tried to apply forgiveness in more than a sentence of two when speaking of homosexuality. But I have searched my memory for several days and I can not think of a single time when LCMS pastors, congregations or organizations did anything for LGBT people that was practical and compassionate. It is easy to say we love people – much harder to actually show it. In 56 years, this was the first time I ever saw a recognized service organization from any conservative church do anything truly compassionate for LGBT people.

    It has been said, in opposition to the work of the comfort dogs in Orlando, that the only comfort the Church should offer is that of repentance and forgiveness and that offering comfort dogs in Orlando somehow gets in the way of this. It is certainly true that salvation is the greatest comfort and the goal of all we do. But it is not being done. How can anything get in the way of what is not being done anyway? Rather, what was done by the comfort dogs in Orlando demonstrated to me that some in the LCMS are beginning to think of LGBT people as people. And that means, maybe, someday, we will see some real effort put into the applying the Gospel. If compassion is present, can I, perhaps, hope that real Gospel with real meat will eventually follow? And that little glimmer of hope means more than I can express. What those comfort dogs mean is that maybe, just maybe, if Christians are willing to do something compassionate for LGBT people outside our walls there is some hope that eventually the Gospel will be given to those who remain inside our congregations. The comfort dogs’ work in Orlando was much bigger than letting some people pet dogs. It is a moment of hope for those longing for the Gospel to one day be given.

    For this reason I am glad the dogs were present in chapel. No, they are not a means of grace by any account. But they are a reminder that the means of grace are not divorced from compassion and they are a hope that where compassion is present the Gospel may someday follow.

    So I want to say thank you those who handle the comfort dogs and praise to God for the work of those comfort dogs, especially in Orlando, and for their presence in the chapel service as a reminder to our young men who will be pastors compassion is an important part of what the Church is called to do.

    Yours,
    Matt Andersen.

  28. I still don’t understand this Cult of Anubis. I guess it has to do with taking one’s mind of a terrible tragedy with a distraction?

    I mean, I am not a massive gamer, but maybe if I were and the Synod rolled up on a tragedy I was part of with a truck of Xboxes and VR goggles, maybe that would help distract me from the horrors I had seen, which might relax me. OK, great, but that is not any different than giving out warm food and drinks, in my opinion. It’s salutary “mercy” work, but has little spiritual value. And, I certainly would not be (1) calling it a “ministry” (2) be pseudo-ordaining Xboxes as members of congregations’ clergy (3) Giving sermons obsessing on Xboxes at a seminary chapel, etc.

    I guess I am missing something.

  29. @Matt Andersen #35

    I can’t figure out what “gospel” you mean as surely most if not all pastors have preached the Gospel of Jesus’ birth, life, crucifixion and resurrection along with the Law. It’s what they do. And they administer the Sacraments.
    Do you expect them to tell you LBG activities are alright, with Scripture to prove it? You must know that Scripture says otherwise!

    [***A and many “mainline” churches may agree with you. If you are determined to “have it your way”, go there.
    Don’t complain about people who preach from the Bible.]

    Taking the dogs to Florida was good publicity but what eternal good did it do anyone, since their handlers are not allowed to speak of Christ’s death and resurrection to anyone on these “disaster” trips? IOW, “no Gospel”!

  30. @helen #37

    Actually, the handlers can talk about the Gospel on these “disaster” trips. And Matt was pretty clear that he’s not looking for LGBT behavior to be justified. But he has a point–rather than treating LGBT folks as pariahs, merely being there while they are in pain is worlds better at creating openings to share the Gospel with them.

  31. Helen – please be careful of your facts before explaining everything in the kindest way. Blessings on your day.

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