Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Watch What You Read

On Sunday a member handed me a photocopy of a devotion from a devotional book she was using. This person is well informed, well read, and Scripturally competent. The devotion was on immersion and the author had a line in it about the abominable and terrible doctrine of baptismal regeneration which Scripture does NOT teach. In addition, the passages he marked with the word immerse were not in any way connected to baptism at all -- according to his opinion. We spoke briefly about it and my answer to her question about this was fairly simple - He is wrong!

Which brings me to these points. We live in a world when there is big money in publishing religious books and most of the book publishers of religious books are no longer in any way affiliated with a church. In fact, most are profit making companies whose interest in the religious market is one thing -- money. So the first rule of the religious marketplace is that books are published not because they represent truth but because publishers feel they can make money publishing them.

Second, there is no doctrinal review of these books so as long as it sells this is the only review of the content that takes place (unlike our own Concordia Publishing House which submits all of its products to theological review and clearly marks those items that have worthy material in them but come from other or non-Lutheran sources). So caveat emptor -- buyer beware, or, in this case, reader beware. The truths in these books may not square with the Truth of God's Word and the faithful confession of the Church through the centuries. This is especially true in any subject that deals with the end times, the last days, the rapture, etc...

Third, if you read something that sounds wrong, don't let the wrong headed stuff sit in your mind without finding out what is True. The longer these wrong headed things sit in our minds, the more we begin to question, doubt, or even disregard what is faithful and true. Deal with these questions and seek out answers which rest on something more than an authors opinion. Seek the wisdom of the Church, the church fathers, and the church teachers whose orthodoxy is without question.

Fourth, when it comes to what faith is, matters of Law and Gospel, the Sacraments, the means of grace, etc... if it bears the imprint of a general publishing outfit or a for profit religious publishing company, it is probably incompatible with Lutheran faith and teaching. Lutherans do not get published by these folks. And in case you are wondering, you are not in the minority as Lutherans in your take on these areas -- the vast majority of Christians disagree with American evangelicalism, with the Joel Osteens of this world, and with the lunatic fringe (like the Copelands, for example).

Fifth, if you find a few things that stick out, things that do not square with the faith, get rid of the book. It is not worth your time. Read something that gives you more and not something that offers you less. Dig into Luther. Dig into the Lutheran dogmaticians (Chemnitz, Gerhard, Krauth, etc...). Dig into the current offerings at Concordia Publishing House. Take note of the big four (Lutheran Service Book, The Lutheran Study Bible, Luther's Small Catechism, Concordia - the Lutheran Confessions) and when you master them, you will be alert to the stuff that floods the religious marketplace with fluff, half-truths, distortions, and downright lies.

Just because it has been published, it does not mean it is credible... We Lutherans are creedal and confessional people. We insist we are not innovators. We do not cotton to theological novelty. We stick with the Truth that has always been confessed. We are catholic and not sectarian. We are Law/Gospel people... That is our strength... don't let it become our weakness by paying too much attention to those authors and those books that challenge, demean, distort, or dispute what we know to be Truth, catholic Truth and evangelical Truth... in the best sense of those terms...


Rev. Allen Yount said...

What I'd like to do one of these days is get a bunch of copies of Luther's Small Catechism in pamphlet form. Then every time I'd see a bookshelf in a store displaying Joel Osteen's theological fluff/heresy, I'd put a few copies of the catechism next to Osteen's grinning face along with this sign:

<------ Never mind this (Osteen)
Read this (the catechism) ------->

Of course, as soon as my modifications to the display were discovered, store personnel would promptly throw them in the trash. And I'd probably be banned for life from that store.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Pastor Peters. We are indeed Confessional and Creedal and there's an awful lot of spiritual garbage out there. CPH has been producing excellent resources, we are so blessed to have such a fine publishing house.

I am currently reading through "Hammer of God." What a wonderful book about Law and Gospel.