Friday, August 10, 2018

Difficult but untried. . .

It was Chesterton who said: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”  It was Weedon who said: "Lutheranism has not been tried and found wanting.  It has been found difficult; and untried."  Both are great quotes.  They beg us to remember them when we are daily been warned that Christianity is dying or Lutheranism is dying and that unless we do this or do that, the Church will be judged irrelevant or it will cease entirely in the next generation.

Now let me be clear here -- I am not at all suggesting that we should ignore the warning signs or live in the fairy tale land of happily ever afters for a people who do nothing at all.  No, indeed.  Neither is Chesterton.  Neither is Weedon.  Both compel us to engage Christianity in its fullest, and, for Weedon, Lutheranism at its fullest.  Christianity will not die because it was preached and lived in its fullness and its God and the means of grace with which He has endowed His Church failed to deliver on their promise.  No, Christianity will die because we have lost confidence in God, no longer trust His Word, and have replaced His truth with the changing and temporary truths of the moment.  In the same way, Lutheranism is not at risk because it was taken too seriously but precisely because we lost our connection to the confessors who once roused a corrupt and moribund church to hear and believe the Gospel.  Lutheranism is not at risk because we are too Lutheran but because we are not sure what it means to be Lutheran or we don't care anymore.

Surely it should be obvious that we live outside our fathers in the faith and have attempted to reduce Christianity to a series of moralisms and Lutheranism to an idea.  It should be obvious but it is not.  Not only do the people inside think that our homogenized idea of Christianity and our comfortable idea of Lutheran Lite is the real thing, but the people outside the Church see through the pablum of our offering in their quest for something real and have rejected us precisely because we were not who we claimed to be.

Christianity is daily under fire from those who find its truth untenable and its history unacceptable -- and these are supposedly our friends and neighbors in the faith.  From the halls of universities to the kitchen tables of America, we no longer know the Word of God and so we are susceptible to error and tempted beyond our ability to withstand to substitute our ideas for God's truth.  Reason and experience have been joined by feelings and the pursuit of happiness as the judges of what is good and right and true and the first things to be cast aside are the things that form the heart and core of the Gospel -- sin and forgiveness, death and life.

In the same way Lutheranism has its harshest critics among those on the inside who will retain the idea of Lutheranism while gutting its convictions with whatever they think will work to save the structure.  Lutherans were once known for getting everyone together on the same page (Formula of Concord) but now they are so diverse that our identity is complete chaos. We live in more fear of what others might think of us than we do what God thinks of us and we dread offending others with the truth more than we have confidence in the truth to set us free.  Our Sunday mornings betray the fact that even so-called orthodox folks are more interested in today than in eternity and think of the goal of worship as more a path to guide than mind that the mystery of the ages to save.

So here is my plan to save Christianity and Lutheranism.  Go in full force.  Believe it all.  Live it all.  Let us not fail because we were too timid with the Truth and too hesitant to stand on our confession.  Let us fail because we grasped as fully as mortals may the unchanging truth and the grandest of mysteries in the God who has become our Savior -- but, of course, if we do this, we will not fail.  At least we will not fail God -- even though things may not pan out according to our own agendas.  But who cares.  If the Word of the Lord is preached and taught faithfully and we meet the Lord in the means of grace where He serves us with His gifts, God will be glorified and that is all that matters.


Anonymous said...

Sounds good, but how do you respond to those who think believing and living it all means denigrating CSL, banning girl acolytes and women readers, eliminating women's suffrage in the congregation, building a confessional box in every congregation, questioning the orthodoxy of any congregation that doesn't meet standards of liturgical correctness, opposing contraception, viewing the law in a Pietistic way, promoting "Godly patriarchy," and eschewing evangelism? Do we meet these concerns in Luther and the confessions? Is this what it means to be a Lutheran to the fullest?

Anonymous said...

You have some very valid concerns! I hope and pray that you might begin to find your confidence in Christ and your baptism. Allow the Lord’s Word to inform your worldview rather than culture inform your meditation on His Word. You can start with the brief notes below, but get pastoral guidance for how and what to study…

means denigrating CSL: If CSLs teaching goes against the Lord’s Word, which is does at times, then yes (Galatians 5:9).

banning girl acolytes and women readers: Yes, this isn’t a new thing (1 Cor 14, 1 Timothy 2). In fact, the whole point is for the women to be served by the men (pastors, fathers, husbands). This is not about capability or contribution. The fact is, we go to church to passively receive. Consider the incredible blessing of being able to do that while pastors and elders serve.

eliminating women's suffrage in the congregation: Either way, but shouldn’t be an issue. A loving husband or father should be catechizing at home such that a family is on the same page when it comes to the vote (Eph 5). If this is an issue, get pastoral care for your marriage, then worry about voter’s meetings. Realize this does NOT mean your husband/father agreeing with you. This means your husband/father ensuring you are properly taught the Lord’s Word at church and home (3, 4 Commandments).

building a confessional box in every congregation: A box is neither here nor there, but promoting private absolution is a major blessing. After getting pastoral care for your marriage (see above), you can receive the Lord’s forgiveness with certainty for all your 4th/6th commandment transgressions (John 20:22ff).

Anonymous said...

questioning the orthodoxy of any congregation that doesn't meet standards of liturgical correctness:
What is meant by “doesn’t meet the standards”? Removing scripture and order from the service to be seeker-friendly? Wrong (Rom 3:11). Not chanting because the pastor’s voice is terrible? Fine, just realize you lose some good things, not the least of which that chanting helps us and our children memorize and have the Lord’s Word readily on our lips (Psalm 119).

opposing contraception: generally, yes (Gen 1:28). Contraception (NOT birth control) for the health of a mother should be a choice for a husband and wife to make together. This is not about power, it is about God’s ordering of the world and a husband’s love. Contraception for convenience or because of fear of the unknown should be discouraged and counseled as not in accordance with God’s will (1, 9, 10 Commandments). Potential fathers and mothers who DO fear the unknown, which we all do, should confess and be absolved, and counseled with the Lord’s Words of comfort. (Also, I think you made this distinction, but birth control which has ANY chance of killing a baby, should be condemned strongly, 5th commandment. This include almost all hormonal methods and IUDs as well as plan B and abortions. Many do not realize that the pill/pop’s third effect is to prevent embryo implantation, killing the baby.)

viewing the law in a Pietistic way: I’m not sure what you mean. Generally, Lutherans are against pietism, are for piety, and view the law in a vocational way. In fact, most of your issues here are with Lutheran *doctrine*, showing that they don’t view the law in a pietistic way. Of course, Lutherans should not be antinomian.

promoting "Godly patriarchy,": Again, I’m not sure what you mean by putting this in quotes. God has clearly ordered the world and family in a way intended to bless us (Gen1-3, Eph 5). Sin often makes this ordering painful, but the fault of that lies with the sin, not God.

eschewing evangelism: Evangel simply means Gospel. If a church is not preaching the Gospel of Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins, they are not Christian, much less Lutheran (1 Cor 2:2). I would challenge several other churches who say that evangelism means telling your neighbor how to live or how to have a better life here and now, which is in fact legalism, not evangelism.

Anonymous said...

1. CSL has some serious problems.
2. girl acolytes are a non-issue. They light candles.
3. female lectors are problematic. Reading the Scriptures in the Divine Service is a public teaching activity. it is a public interpretive activity. We should not have female lectors.
4. very few are pushing to eliminate women's suffrage. Suffrage itself is an adiaphoron. My problem is that we vote on things we should not vote on. Doctrinal issues should not be voted on.
5. I'm guessing by "confessional box" you mean a confessional booth. Haven't seen or heard of that. But it would be impious for us not to teach and seek to restore the availability of private absolution. Try it.
6. orthodoxy and liturgics - try reading Augsburg and Apology XXIV. FOrmula X does not negate that. Adiaphora is not license to import ceremonies and theology from charismatics, Baptists, and Methodists.
7. contraception opposes "be fruitful and multiply"
8. viewing the law in a Pietistic way? not really. I think you may be viewing the law in a neo-orthodox Barthian, Gerhard Forde way.
8. avoid Arminian, free will Evangelistic methods is not eschewing evangelism. Defining evangelism as the stuff Reformed, Methodists, Baptists and George Barna think are evangelism is a straw man.

Just because you have strong feelings on something doesn't mean you know what you're talking about. You can have your own opinion, but not your own facts.

Anonymous said...

The first comment illustrates exactly what Pr. Peters is critiquing. Methodism calling itself Lutheranism.

Anonymous said...

The LCMS has decades old positions on all of these issues:

Girl acolytes and lay readers of either gender are fine. Schoolboys read the lessons in weekday church during the Reformation. It is not a unique prerogative of the pastoral office.
Women's suffrage is not an issue.
Private confession has never been abolished. To identify it as somehow more valid than general confession is to ignore Luther's approval given to the city of Nurnberg for this practice in 1523.
FC X speaks to the reality of diversity in Lutheran practice durning the Reformation.
The LCMS has no position on contraception. Or the age of the earth.
The law always accuses and is to be used to convict the sinner and preach the Gospel. It is not to be used in a Reformed way to set up new laws like godly patriarchy and boy acolytes.
Walther and Pieper both recognized the highest duty of all Christians is to win souls for Christ. If you think this is Methodism, your opinions are wrong.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the inset picture of Weedon in this thread. I was not
aware that he wears a vest.