Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The gates of hell shall not prevail against it. . .

Here is the sad story of a Roman Catholic church building (St. John's in the Minneapolis St. Paul diocese) which was closed, sat empty for a year, and then sold to an Islamic group to become a mosque and Islamic center.  Our Lord said the gates of hell shall not prevail against His church but apparently He did not say anything about the church selling off its property to those who deny Him.

I understand that church buildings become superfluous and that this must be dealt with.  What I do not understand is how the $900,000 debt to the diocese could be so important that a building in which Christ was once preached, His baptismal water showered upon the sinner, His voice of absolution offered to the penitent, and His body and blood given to the communicant could now be desecrated by another god, another gospel, and another faith.  Would it have not been better to demolish the structure and sell the land than to leave the building in place for a non-Christian group to promote a faith that contradicts the cross and empty tomb?

Roman Catholics are not alone.  I watched as a child when a Lutheran church building was sold, moved to a farm, and became a hog house that we were forced to look at every Sunday as we made our way to church.  I know of Episcopal buildings being sold to Islamic groups among other things.  One church became a notorious gay night club.  How embarrassing, shameful, and scandalous! Is our servitude to the almighty dollar so great that we will sell our treasured buildings to the highest bidder without regret over the witness that we give to the world when a known Christian building becomes home to those opposed to the faith?

It may be one thing for such a building to become a community center, art museum, etc...  At least it is not likely a religious purpose opposed to the faith would be the normal activity of such a use of the facility.  But when we willing surrender buildings that once stood for the faith to those opposed to the faith, we not only scandalize the faithful but we give a false witness to the world (such as Christianity and Islam are either equal or complimentary).

Tear it down and return the rubble to the earth but do not surrender historic church buildings to those who would mock Christ by what they do with that structure and confound the world as to the true treasure of grace that we value most of all!


Kebas said...

I presented a paper once on how orthodox Lutheran church property must not be used for heterodox purposes. In particular, not renting space to a heterodox group to hold worship services, not even as a "courtesy" if their own facility is destroyed in a fire, etc. Our Lutheran fathers wrote quite a bit about this, and the forced sharing of buildings with the Reformed in the Prussian Union was a great offense. However, it is a one-way street: the orthodox may utilize the facilities of the heterodox, because we're right, and they're wrong. That was the sticking point for many who heard the paper; it didn't seem fair. I was quite surprised how many of the brothers did not feel there was any problem having the heterodox use orthodox Lutheran sanctuaries and other facilities.

We are updating our congregation's constitution at this time and at my suggestion have added this clause: "No property of any kind of this congregation, including but not limited to the Sanctuary, Fellowship Hall, and church grounds, shall be used for any activity which does not conform to the confessional standard set forth in Article III of this Constitution, including but not limited to weddings, funerals, and other religious services, and receptions, celebrations, and other events, both religious and non-religious. Determination of eligibility shall rest with the Board of Elders, in consultation with the Pastor."

Unknown said...

Just curious: Our congregation opens its parking lot and some facilities for fourth of July parking and viewing to the community. This is a non-religious event. Would it be excluded under your suggested changes?

Kebas said...

No, it does not mean that only activities which promote the confessional standard of the congregation are permitted. Rather, it means that activities conflicting with the confessional standard are forbidden. As a pastor of mission congregations for most of my ministry, I know it is a good thing to have the church facilities such as the fellowship hall and grounds used as much as possible by the community for community activities, something which I encourage. These are generally entirely non-religious and therefore present no issue. While they may not actively promote our confessional standard, neither do they conflict with it, and that is the only concern. Of course even a secular activity could possibly conflict with the confessional standard, or an otherwise acceptable activity could be unacceptable because it is sponsored by a group with positions in conflict with the confessional standard. These would need to be considered on a case by case basis.

Kebas said...

C.F.W. Walther's comments on this in "The Form of a Christian Congregation," quoting an opinion from the theological faculty at Wittenberg:

"Lastly, the congregation shall also see to it that neither the congregation nor the individual church members enter into any church union with unbelievers or heterodox communions and so become guilty of religious unionism . . . Here should be added common worship with the heterodox . . . yielding church buildings to heterodox communions . . . and the like. . .

"Concerning permission for heterodox communions to conduct their worship in Lutheran churches, the theological faculty at Wittenberg in 1650 wrote the following opinion: 'We on our part are of the opinion that neither you nor the minister in [the town of] Buch may, in view of his office and conscience, voluntarily permit that in the church at Buch, in which hitherto the pure Lutheran doctrine without admixture or change has always been taught unhindered, there may be publicly preached, inculcated, and transmitted to posterity also another contrary and erroneous doctrine that is condemned in God’s Word and our Symbolical Books.

"'In the first place, that is directly opposed to the Word of God, for we know well what the apostle John, in vss. 10 and 11 of his Second Epistle, says concerning this matter. If we are not to receive a false teacher into our houses, then much less may we turn over to him our church, which as God’s house is much holier than any other house. If we should not greet him, but as much as possible avoid his company, in order that we may not become partakers of his evil works, how can we yoke ourselves together with him in a church or pulpit or at an altar? . . .

"'In the second place, such a reception of false teachers is absolutely opposed to the honor of God, the sanctifying of His name, and the spread of His Word. By false teaching God’s honor is violated, His name is desecrated, and His Word is falsified and perverted. . . . Should that be permitted in a house that is dedicated to God’s name?

"'In the third place, no Christian who cooperates in this, either directly or indirectly, fosters it, wills it, approves it, or even only does not prevent or hinder it, so far as this can be done by Christian and permissible means, can clear his conscience of guilt, indeed, can pray the Lord’s Prayer, but he must pray against himself and accuse himself before God each day by his own prayer. For how can anyone pray that God’s name be hallowed, that His Word and kingdom be spread, and that all schisms and offenses be hindered, if he permits the very things by which God’s name is desecrated, and so forth.

Kebas said...

"'In the fourth place, it certainly will also give general offense, especially to the common people. . . .

"'In the fifth place, it is also something very dangerous and injurious, for it not only strengthens and hardens the enemies of the divine truth in their errors but also gives them occasion, according to their custom, if not publicly, then at least secretly, to go farther and take over entire congregations. . . . Experience proves that the Calvinists, where once they are received, will cause their error to eat as doth a canker [2 Timothy 2:17] and cast the host out of his own home. This is proved by their practice in the Netherlands, the Palatinate, Hungary, Transylvania, Anhalt, Bremen, formerly in various churches of Danzig and other places. ... It is also well known that wherever the Calvinists were given such permission they secretly crept in under the pretense of the Augsburg Confession or turned a church into an ecclesia pressa (a church deprived of its liberty), and there was no way to censure it. ...

"'Finally, it may be said that such permission might be granted only for the time being (ad interim). However, it is very doubtful whether it can easily be discontinued afterward or abolished altogether. Yet because it is not permissible in itself, but offensive and contrary to God’s Word, we may not in this matter please any man, no matter how long it may last. The apostle Paul did not want to give way to his adversaries for a single hour, and that in adiaphora, which Christian liberty permits (Galatians 2:4).'" (Consil. Witeberg., 1, 493-495) [C.F.W. Walther, "The Form of a Christian Congregation," §32, p. 136ff]

Given what Walther here writes, it may seem surprising, even hypocritical, that his own congregation, historic Trinity Lutheran Church, St. Louis—and in some sense Missouri Synod itself—had its beginnings in the basement of Christ Church Cathedral (Episcopal) in St. Louis. However, orthodox Lutherans have viewed this asymmetrically: It is not unionism for the orthodox to utilize the facilities of the heterodox, but it is unionism for the heterodox to be allowed to utilize the facilities of the orthodox.

Steve Finnell said...


What are the terms for pardon under the New Covenant? Did Jesus give us the terms of forgiveness from sin before He died or after His death and resurrection?


1. Luke 18:18-22 Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? .....20 "You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery,' Do not murder,' Do not steal,' 'Do not bear false witness,' ' Honor your father and your mother.'" 21 And he said, "All these things I have kept from my youth." 22 So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, "you still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; come, follow Me."(NKJV)

Would the rich ruler have been saved had he obey Jesus? Yes. Was Jesus giving the terms for pardon under the New Covenant. No, He was not.

2. Mark 2:1-5....5 When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic,"Son, your sins are forgiven you."(NKJV)

Were the sins of the paralytic forgiven? Yes. Was Jesus saying that under the New Covenant men will have their sins forgiven because of the faith of friends? No. He was not.

3. John 8:3-11....10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the women, He said to her, "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?" 11 She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."(NKJV)

Was the woman condemned by Jesus? No, she was not. Was Jesus saying that under the New Covenant if no man condemns you that I will not condemn you? No, He was not.

4. Luke 23 39-43 .....Then one of the criminals who was hanged blasphemed Him, saying , "If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us". 40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying , "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 "And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds ; but this Man has done nothing wrong."42 Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into your kingdom." 43 And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."(NKJV)

Was the thief saved? Yes. Was Jesus giving the terms for pardon under the New Covenant? No, He was not.


Mark 16:14-16 After He appeared to the eleven...16 "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.(NKJV)

Jesus gave the terms for pardon, under the New Covenant, after He was resurrected.

Luke 24:36-47 ....."and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.(NKJV)

Peter gave us the terms for pardon under the New Covenant at Jerusalem on 33AD. Acts 2:22-41
Peter preached the terms for pardon under the New Covenant.

Faith: John 3:16
Confession: Romans 10:9
Repentance: Acts 2:38
Water Immersion: Acts 2:38

Jesus never told one person that under the New Covenant they did not have to be baptized in order to be saved.

Jesus never told one person that under the New Covenant they did not have to repent to have their sins washed away.

Acts 2:38 And Peter replied, "Each one of you must turn from sin, return to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ; for the forgiveness of your sins; then you also shall receive this gift , the Holy Spirit. (The Living Bible -Paraphrased)