Monday, October 2, 2017
Popular piety slow to catch up to the university. . .
On the other hand, there are times when popular piety, having come under the influence of non-Lutheran preachers, teachers, writers, and hymns, needs the university and seminary to restore the faith. I cannot count, for example, the number of Lutherans who name the current popular contemporary Christian song or an old gospel standby ("In the Garden") as their favorite hymn and who taut the best selling mega church authors or internet sensations as their favorite writers. So when a Lutheran pastor fresh out of seminary comes along with catechism and hymnal in hand, it brings a needed restoration to the folks in the pews.
Popular piety and academia can sometimes appear to be at odds but this tension is not a bad one. Somebody needs to explain to the university types who have fallen in love with the latest source hypothesis theory or church growth guru that what the people seek and need is the faithful preaching and teaching of the Word of the Lord, the catechism, and the hymnal. Somebody needs to explain to the people in the pew why Mr. Osteen or Mr. Jakes are not faithful teachers and why the beating bass of the latest and greatest worship song and its diva's voice are not the same as the creed, confession, and Reformation chorale. If it all works well, God has a rudder through which the great ark of the Church has her course righted and is steered toward the truth that does not change.
We saw in the Synod what happened when a seminary got way ahead of the folks in the pew. I was in the midst of pre-sem college and choosing a seminary when the battle Missouri was taking casualties. My youthful instinct was to be a rebel but my wise father reminded me that my head and the church were not headed on the same path, that it was not a movement with deep support in the pews. It was a good thing that the folks in the pews were slow to embrace the wave of modernity that had splashed over the sem. That does not mean that one side was purely righteous and the other demonic but that one cause was faithful and one was not (as we can see by the relative ease by which Missouri's exiles embraced the ELCA and its course away from historic Lutheranism).
Now we are in another time. Lutherans have fallen under the heavy influence of evangelicalism and the church growth movement. We have found it too easy to separate style from substance and found that diversity of catechesis and worship have costs and consequences. The church now needs faithful voices and pastoral leadership to remind us of God's Word and Luther's doctrine. I am ever so thankful that my alma mater has stepped up to the plate and produces pastors for the church who will help us find our anchor again in God's Word and our confidence in the catechism and our voices to sing the faith the great chorale's confess.