Monday, August 12, 2013

Sources of Catechesis. . .

We Lutherans love big words -- Latin are good, Greek and Hebrew better, but German, well, that is the language of God, after all.  All joking aside, we use words we should not when speaking to those outside the Church and we do not teach people the vocabulary of Scripture, Confession, and tradition once inside the Church.  It is a lifelong path of learning and this cannot and should not end simply with new member instruction or youth confirmation.

While reading a number of different sources, it occurred to me that from various sources (Baptist to generic evangelicalism to more new age Christianity) I found the same thing -- catechesis tends to come from books by popular Christian authors and not by intentional resources or programs within their various churches.  I have to admit this was a shocking revelation to me.  Not surprising but still shocking.  My fear is that much of what Lutherans get in the way of instruction in the faith (at least post new member class or youth confirmation) may similarly be from popular Christian authors (books and articles).  Although it was not specifically mentioned, I would also suggest that popular Christian music (the radio kind and the banter between the songs) probably constitutes another significant source of adult catechesis.

Surprising no, but shocking yes...  what I mean is that I am not at all surprised by this conclusion even though it is a shocking, dare I say "alarming!"  Some may be credible conservative evangelical sources (John MacArthur or Max Lucado or the like) but others are on the fringes of Christianity -- people whose orthodoxy is at best unknown or at worst downright suspect (Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, T. D. Jakes, etc...).  Yet these popular writers wield great influence over what Christians believe and how they understand Scripture and the Christian faith.  Without the benefit of a creedal or confessional identity, this means that the vast majority of Christians within the conservative evangelical and non-denominational spheres read diverse sources and are influenced by authors who may or may not reflect anything close to the theological position of the local congregation to which these folks connect.

In essence, one can no longer presume that members and attenders of a congregations are actually adherents to the faith officially confessed by that congregation (or, in some cases, denominations).  This diversity of thought is fed and even encouraged by the vast Christian marketplace of books (from the realm of inspirational to formally dogmatic) and from the popular Christian media (internet and print).  Among other things, some blogs have been talking about Calvinistic Baptists and wondering of there are such things as Lutheran Baptists out there.  As a Lutheran I am much concerned about whether there are Baptist Lutherans out there (among other strange bedfellows of Christian theology and thought.

Some years ago a fellow in my parish died and his funeral was attended by a large cross section of public employees more of the Baptists or evangelical persuasion.  In the funeral we confessed the Apostles' Creed and my members mentioned that they have friends and acquaintances who were shocked by the creed (especially the assertion "He descended into hell...").  Where did that screwy idea come from?  Is that some sort of Lutheran thingy?  One mentioned how she brought her Luther's Small Catechism to work and left it on her desk for folks to borrow because of the many questions.  For months Luther's words the and questions of the Synodical catechism made the rounds.  People were impressed by the clarity, conciseness, and Scriptural basis to this exposition of the faith.  Most of them had never read such a book before and many of them were set to thinking about what they read.

Lutheran faith and practice is not informed by the most recent gleanings from Saddleback and Rick Warren.  We are not shaped by popular Christian radio music and the the segues of CCM disk jockeys.  We are a people taught by catechism, creed, and confession.  We do not believe whatever prevails in the marketplace.  We believe, confess, and teach the Scriptures and the glorious evangelical and catholic faith espoused by our Confessions and summarized by two of those Confessions -- Luther's Catechism and the Augsburg Confession.  We have forgotten who we are and have forsaken the great legacy of the Reformation when we are satisfied by the uncertain, bland, and scandalous assertions of the latest and greatest authors or Christian celebrities.  This is not strictly a Lutheran problem but it is a problem for Lutherans in particular.  We claim a doctrinal standard which is specific and we adhere to the tenets of a faith which do not change with whim or trend.  We insist with Luther:  Here we stand.  But this may be merely a matter of words unless and until we disown the teaching magisterium of popular Christian authors in favor of the one tie that really binds.

I hate it when our laity walk around with purpose driven or best life now stuff.  I hate it when some Lutheran Pastors betray the faith by recommending and leading studies of these Christian celebrities and best selling books.  I hate it when we listen to so much pop Christian radio that we have lost our taste for the great Lutheran chorales that actually sing the faith and not simply how I feel about it.  I hate it when we abdicate our identity to the fads of Christian marketing.  We have good resources available -- solidly Scriptural, theological, and accessible.  We have a great publishing house that has these things available for reasonable cost (have you ever priced some of the Christian authors in the local bookstores?).  The real question is do we have the will and the courage to make this case to our people and live as examples (at least the Pastors) to those sheep entrusted to our care?


Anonymous said...

Yes, there are "Lutheran Baptists" out there, it's called the "Lutheran Orthodox Church" (LOC) [sic]. This is the only church body which claims the name "Lutheran" [sic] and embraces the heretical theory of the Rapture! According to the LOC's website, they've even been "praised" by Jack Van Impe! Spare us, good Lord!

Janis Williams said...

@ Anon. How in the world can they call themselves, Orthodox? Not orthodox catholic Christians. Maybe "orthodox" Baptists....

Spot on, Fr. Peters.

We came to the Lutherans late in our lives, after years of dissatisfaction with the Baptists & Presbyterians. I have been involved in church libraries all along. I hate to say it, but most catholic (small "c") libraries look just like (at least) our library.

I know many of our members would look askance at me when I retch reading a title someone has donated to our collection.

The major part of the problem is the lack of reading skills in adults. Many read that last required book in High School or College, and never pick up any reading material further than the newspaper.

Another problem is the cost of good Lutheran books. I hate to say it but they're out of the reach of some, and over priced for tightwad Germans (sorry).

One solution for those who do read may be in the making. There is an LCMS pastor from IA who has a combination blog, podcast, and is an author: His name is Jordan Cooper. He is formerly Reformed, now as Lutheran as you can get. His blog/podcasts are great. He has authored several of his own books.

More importantly, he and his wife are in process of re-publishing old public domain Lutheran books. New forwards, bringing language up to current, and breaking up some of those 4-page paragraphs. I encourage those who read this blog to check out Don't stop reading this blog; add a new one to your list!

Janis Williams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janis Williams said...


For those of your readers who are unaware: T.D. Jakes (Time cover pic.) is a heretic. He is a modalist who does not believe in the Trinity.

Anonymous said...

There is very little good Christian writing today on theological matters. With the exception of C.S. Lewis and Peter Kreeft, I am hard pressed to think of any 20th/21st century writers that I can recommend (well, I should take that back: Bo Gertz, Dietrich Bonhoffer, Benedict XVI, and a few others are also quite good).

Most of the pop theology stuff is simply trash, and I would discourage anyone from reading any of it. Rick Warren, Rob whats-his-name from Mars Hill Church, Osteen, etc. do much damage to the Christian faith, and should be carefully avoided.

Fr. D+

David Gray said...

Lewis has his moments but he also wonders if the imprecatory psalms are really inspired. He is somewhat sub-Reformational. Francis Schaeffer is better.

Lutheran books are rather more expensive than Presbyterian books. I think one factor may be that I think Presbyterian laity (in the orthodox Presbyterian churches) is quite aggressive in their reading habits, of serious theology, so it enlarges the market a bit.

Anonymous said...

If increasing numbers of LCMS pastors are abandoning the catechism and the hymnal in favor of Calvinist-Baptist authors Rick Warren and Beth Moore, would this mean that the pastors believe that Luther was wrong.

I overheard my LCMS pastor state that CPH is a wonderful publisher of academic materials. Regarding books and videos for the average layman - Not so much. Therefore, CPH is shunned by my pastor. The small groups need something to read, after all.

David Gray said...

It is hard to take someone seriously who describes Rick Warren or Beth Moore as Calvinists.

Anonymous said...

David Gray,

If it suits you, then please disregard the Calvinst-Baptist authors label and replace it with "Calvinist and Evangelical authors." Neither type of theology has any business in a Lutheran church.

Would the preference for Calvinist and Evangelical authors mean that the LCMS pastors believe that Luther was wrong or is, at best irrelevant.

David Gray said...

None of the people you mentioned are even vaguely Calvinist. Might as well call Benny Hinn a Lutheran.

scredsoxfan2 said...

amen pastor,

i think this too scares me and that kind of study is what kept me from being a Christian...then I found a Catechism. A Catholic one, and I am a Catholic, but I can certainly identify with your words here. We need the Church for She was given the responsibility of teaching...not random various authors and part-time "theologians."

In Christ

Anonymous said...

Please answer the question:

Would the preference for Calvinist and Evangelical authors mean that the LCMS pastors believe that Luther was wrong or is, at best irrelevant.

Steve Finnell said...


If you are searching for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, who and what are you going to consult? If you are looking for advice, information and instruction on how to be saved from sin and how to live the Christian life, where can you find God's inerrant truth.

Are you going to consult books written by:
Clement of Rome
Irenaeus of Lysons
Augustine of Hippo
Polycarp of Smyrna
Bishop Fulton Sheen
Martin Luther
John Calvin
John Knox
George Whitefield
Charles "Chuck" Colson
Cotton Mather
Jerry Falwell
Billy Graham
John Piper
Max Lucado
Alexander Campbell
T. D. Jakes
Oral Roberts
Dwight Moody
Joesph Smith Jr.
Mary Baker Eddy
Charles Taze Russel
Sun Myung Moon
L. Ron Hubbard


As for me I trust the book written by these men:

I trust the book that was inspired by God.
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God....



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