Saturday, May 3, 2008

Recommended Reading: “The LCMS–Its Past and Future," by Pastor Wallace Schulz

Pastor Wallace Schulz’ article “The LCMS–Its Past and Future” is one of the best articles I’ve seen on the current state of the LCMS, how we got where we are, and what we should do about it. I highly recommend it. I’ll quote a few areas of his essay to give you a sense of what he’s saying.

The thing I like most about Pastor Schulz’ suggestions and conclusions is that he puts God in the driver’s seat, not us - a virtue that we sinners often seem to lack. He states “THE KEY TO RESOLVING ANY CRISIS IN CHRIST’S CHURCH ALWAYS HAS BEEN, AND ALWAYS WILL BE, A RETURN TO GOD’S WORD.

This is a comprehensive article. He begins with a history of past major crises in the LCMS: the Altenburg crisis, the predestination controversy, the statement of the “44,” and Seminex. He analyzes the response of each of our Synod’s President’s to each of the crises (Walther in the first two, President Behnken in the second, and J.A.O. Preus II in the case of Seminex.)

In each of the first two controversies, “Walther turned the church back to the Lord’s healing Word.” “Walther wrote compelling Scripture-based essays for the pastors,” and he wrote essays for the lay people which “showed how God’s Word resolved the issues. The way God used C.F.W. Walther to resolve the Predestination crisis cannot be emphasized enough,
especially for our church’s current crisis
.” [emphasis in original in all cases]

In the third crisis, a debate over ecumenical relationships, President Behnken “
did not clearly explain the issues facing the LCMS
,” and never “directly applied” God’s Word, resulting in a failure to clearly resolve the issue.

In the case of Seminex, Pastor Wallace concludes that while the “plumb line” of Scripture was used in some ways, political maneuvering became the hammer used to eliminate the dissidents in the seminary, which ultimately could be considered a failure. “...The
use of the cliche’“the end justifies the means’ is precisely what bedevils and divides the LCMS. Intended or unintended, this was a precedent begun in the handling of Seminex that is being used widely and freely. Does anyone believe this produces peace?”

...In very recent years, the LCMS president has used, in an unprecedented way, authority given to his office to appoint members to the CTCR [Commission On Theology and Church Relations], the CCM [Commission On Constitutional Matters], and other committees, thereby producing tools for taking care of any dissent, or any one who does not believe according to the wishes of those politically in power. The question here is whether a Synodical president is operating by the letter or spirit of the handbook. Here also is another lesson for the conservative wing of the LCMS: the so-called conservative wing of the LCMS helped create the tools your previously-elected President designed to eliminate others–now your tool is being used on yourselves. What goes around comes around!

If Walther had faced the Seminex issue, surely he would have isolated the issues of Seminex on the basis of the Word of God and the Confessions. He then would have worked toward a resolution of the Seminex problem on that basis.

Anyone trying to argue for the necessity of a politically dominated church on the basis of the kingdom on the left is going to be appealing to a God, or a god, who is not listening! ‘They will call on Me, but I will not answer’ (Proverbs 1:28).
Pastor Schulz then moves on to the fifth major crisis, now. He discusses the major influences on the LCMS over the past forty years: religious television, interfaith marriage, Protestant evangelism methodologies, Protestant fundamentalist media, Protestant-Charismatic music, the inerrancy litmus test, and Ablaze!®.

Before getting into the specifics of each influence listed above, he first addresses Fundamentalism in a general way. Lutherans have at times allied ourselves with Fundamentalists to fight common threats. This alliance has had the unfortunate side effect of undermining our own doctrine. He describes it in this way:
...Fundamentalists have a different guideline for understanding what is important for nourishment. They have an understanding of the nature and character of the Word that is different from that which is in the Scriptures, and what Christ Himself teaches. God teaches His Word is living, efficacious, and active. This “Word power” gives divine power to the sacraments. Because of their blindness based on human reason, Fundamentalists first deny the living Word and thereby see the Sacraments–Baptism and the Holy Supper–as little more than ordinances that have no regenerative, life-giving power. In other words, they believe a church can remove the living and life-giving Word in preaching and the Sacraments from the Christian’s diet, in spite of the fact that Christ Himself demands they be part of the diet!

...Fundamentalists are promoting a spiritual diet that causes Christians to be vulnerable to all kinds of satanic infections and other spiritual weaknesses. ...We as followers of Christ vigorously oppose any movement that eliminates the Sacraments and the living Word as part of the necessary diet for everyday living.
I am only going to review three of the specific threats here; they are Protestant evangelism methodologies, the inerrancy litmus test, and Ablaze!®. The other threats are also important, and I’ll refer you to Pastor Schulz’ paper for those.

Regarding Protestant evangelism methodology, he states
The devil seduced LCMS leaders to believe that Lutheranism was strong theologically, but inherently non-evangelistic. Of course, this was a lie cooked up in the deepest caverns of hell. In actuality, those involved simply did not even begin to understand how evangelistic and aggressive Lutheran theology was from its inception.

...These same, well-intentioned but misguided LCMS evangelism leaders unknowingly brought foreign methodologies into the LCMS as a huge Trojan horse. And, at least to a degree, I participated. ...A new Department of Evangelism was created to breed and reproduce Protestant and Fundamentalist methodology and, by default, its theology. People in these positions of top LCMS missiological influence began visiting and drinking deeply of the man-centered evangelistic techniques of Protestant and Fundamentalist churches and parachurches, thereby integrating them into their personal thinking and also into the Synod at large. ...Ever since, the LCMS has experienced increasing missiological hell!
The next threat, using the belief in the inerrancy of the Bible as a litmus test, seems like it wouldn’t be a threat. Pastor Schulz explains:
LCMS conservative leaders, embattled with Seminex, sought fellow soldiers to fight a common enemy: liberals. They found these brothers in Protestant and Fundamentalist individuals such as Francis Schaeffer, Harold Lindsell, and others. Once the inerrancy vs. Seminex liberal battle was over, many, if not most, LCMS leaders, saw no problem continuing to be fellow-travelers with Protestants and Fundamentalists in other matters also. ...This faulty judgment has had, and will continue to have, long range negative implications for LCMS missiology. ...This great deception of Satan has become the sword driven into the heart of Christ-centered Bible-based Lutheran theology.

...If the post-Seminex LCMS leadership had made as their litmus test for the LCMS’s future the “efficacy” of the Word ...instead of the inerrancy of the Word, this reprioritization would have prevented much current confusion and division. It would have caused the entire Synod to have the proper and most important “WORD” orientation, therefore also helping the LCMS to remain on the historic “middle road,” a road between Catholicism and the rest of Protestantism, a lonely way, but a God-pleasing way. ...”Inerrancy” is not the doctrine of Christ that drives Lutheran teaching. It is rather Jesus’ teaching in John 6:63, “The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and are life.”
The last threat discussed is Ablaze!® Pastor Schulz points out that Ablaze!® was begun with the aid of secular consultants, not pastors or seminary professors, resulting in a program that is not consistent with Lutheran theology and practice, and makes no provision for infant Baptism. The Ablaze!® terms “committed” and “uncommitted” have “...not been the way the LCMS has historically spoken of those outside of Christ...”
Not long ago, I received material published in First Things in which Timothy George writes that Baptists are increasingly concerned that their members are picking up too much theology reflecting God’s initiative and role in salvation. This trend, they say, plays down man’s role and therefore lessens the desire for people to be evangelistic.
There you have it
! In their own words! In other words, the devil has gotten us in the LCMS to believe that, in order to increase our evangelistic fervor and outreach, we must, like the Baptists and Fundamentalists, put man in the driver’s seat of salvation. We have to start using the expression “uncommitted” rather than “unbaptized.” Such was not the case when Lutheran outreach burst forth in the Reformation, and it does not have to be the case now.
He continues a little later:
The scribes and Pharisees enjoyed endless arguments in fine points of theology. We in the LCMS are daily tempted to do the same–to criticize and whine endlessly, all the while having our finger pointed, with no vision to set forth. Thus, unless we can show in a compelling way how our concerns about doctrine and practice significantly impact the daily life of the average LCMS member, God will not only hear, but will condemn our worthless whining. “Do not complain, brothers, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door” (James 5:9).

To be sure, those promoting Ablaze!® and “Igniting Congregations” definitely have a sincere goal to make a difference in the LCMS. I wholeheartedly agree: Ablaze!® and “Igniting Congregations” theology and practice will definitely affect the LCMS; but, with Ablaze!® seed sown in the mulch of Fundamentalism, the potential for making a negative difference is much greater than the chance of making a positive difference.

...By encouraging so-called “blended theology” (so-called “alive” churches within the LCMS as the example of what all pastors should strive for, according to “Igniting Congregations” and what the laity now increasingly demand)
all the while not explaining the fundamental day and night difference in how Lutherans and Fundamentalists differ in their understanding of an “alive” church
(as Jesus explains in Revelation 3), will only produce an endless stream of those migrating from so-called outwardly “dead” LCMS churches to “alive” fundamentalist churches. In this sense, the Ablaze!® and “Igniting Congregations” initiative will be seen as extremely impressive in the short run, yet will be deadly for LCMS communicant membership in the long run.

...A second decisive difference in Ablaze!® and “Igniting Congregations” stems from using “witnessing” as the driving force, or the engine, of a churches missiology. President Kieschnick is to be highly commended for encouraging all LCMS members to be a witness to Christ whenever and wherever possible. However, simply being a “witness,” as important as that may be... is not the engine of Christ’s Great Commission. Historical LCMS missiology and historic Christian missiology has always been built upon solid foundation of Christ’s command to preach, baptize, and teach. As noted in Matthew 28:19-20, there is a crucial difference between these activities, a difference glaringly seen when Ablaze!® theology and methodology are compared to historic Christian and Lutheran missiology.
He goes on:
Regarding LCMS missiology, the devil has played the same trick. In recent decades, as LCMS leaders have searched high and low for an evangelistic “methodology,” the devil has blinded them from seeing what Jesus has always placed in front of our noses: preaching, baptizing, and
, teaching, teaching, all He has commanded!

Earlier in the essay, I expressed disagreement with a mission staff member who claims Ablaze!® is characteristic of traditional LCMS missiology. LCMS history shows otherwise. LCMS forefathers were focused not primarily on witnessing, as important as that is, but rather on Christ’s more central and demanding element of the Great Commission: Teaching!
As an example of teaching as the fundamental missiology basis, Pastor Schulz points to Rosa Young, the black woman who a century ago started
school after school. Through this first step
via education
, God used Rosa to establish church after church [all LCMS] all across Alabama, and even into other areas of the south. Her work was very, very hard, much harder than mission work is today. In addition to the physical hardships, she was bitterly opposed by other denominational leaders. She was always out of money. Yet, she soldiered on.

The devil might tempt us to believe that Rosa Young had greater and easier opportunity than we do today. This is not the case. Since historic LCMS’s middle name is “education,” anyone aware of the current desire many U.S. parents–black, white, Asian, and Hispanic–have for good schools knows our church’s great potential. We don’t have to look for a new missiology. Like Poe’s purloined letter, it sits under our nose! Our history reveals effective missiology! We in the LCMS have a long tradition of responding to Jesus’ words to go and “teach” as away of reaching people with His Gospel.

But let’s not be mistaken. This teaching approach that Christ has commanded as a fundamental part of His Great Commission, involves very, very, hard work, and much sacrifice. It will not be don by simply driving your comfortable Buick up to your local Lutheran church, which is using Protestant singspiration to comfortably attract people into man-pleasing experiential religion via the “worship experience.” What Jesus did in His teaching was hard; what Paul did in his instructing was demanding; what Luther did in his theological teaching, and also in helping to straighten out the schools across Germany, was difficult. What Rosa Young, and others, have done in our Synod to bring thousands into the faith has sometimes been more than the flesh could bear. “We shall through much trouble enter into the Kingdom,” even as we bring others with us through teaching. As Walther said of the lazy Lutherans in Germany, they need to “get off their duff” and get to work.

Why has the LCMS gotten so far off-track from the Great Commission to teach? Why has the LCMS in recent decades, like a “wild donkey in heat” (Jeremiah 2:23), gone whoring after all kinds of Protestant, man-centered methodologies for outreach, especially after the Lord has given the LCMS its magnificent historic harvesting machine (John 4:35) in its vast educational system.

A now famous Wall Street Journal article gives a clue as to why some of us have been tricked into whoring after other Protestant methodologies. In explaining the sudden rise of Rick Warren (who now claims to have trained 400,000 pastors around the world) and his Purpose Driven Life, or, as ABC now reports, his “Purpose Driven Strife,” the Wall Street Journal reveals that, ahead of others, Warren understood how to get in front of the pack. He was savvy enough to obtain large mailing lists of pastors. He then dangled in front of them the most effective bait possible: success stories.

People want success; LCMS pastors yearn for success; LCMS mission execs demand success or, as they say in the Reporter, your LCMS church has no reason to exist. (This is further expanded upon in Appendix 9, titled: “Late Bulletin! Many, If Not Most, LCMS Churches Have No Need To Exist?”) Thus, if we are going to get back on track—if we expect to be blessed by God—we need to retool LCMS evangelism and missiology, away from that which has been borrowed from endless Protestant “success stories,” and return to Jesus’ Great Commission command: “Teach.” We need to study the story of poor Rosa Young. What God did through Rosa, He can do through all of us. Effective evangelism in God’s eyes is possible, as Jesus said to the rich young ruler: “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible!” (Matthew 19:26).

...So, for decades the LCMS has been “reeling to and fro like a drunkard” (Isaiah 24:20) trying to find his way home. All the while, to overcome the staggering of the LCMS, some have been searching for the CEO or the politician who will bring all the parties together. This maneuvering has been tried and tried again, only to fail repeatedly. God is not interested in bringing parties together. He is interested only in one who will disregard all party spirit and lead only by His Word. Thus, we need to repeat one last time what has been said before, especially since our missiology has now become increasingly and inextricably intertwined with our governance, that, unless and until the LCMS finds a theologian like Walther who can sort out the issues and provide the appropriate Word from God’s all-powerful healing Scripture in a simple and easy to understand way (as Walther did), helping the man in the pew sort out the issues, there will be no peace. There can be no peace! This leader will have no choice but to deal, as Walther repeatedly did, with Protestant and Fundamentalist teachings now undermining the LCMS, especially in missiology. Why? By their very nature, Protestantism and Fundamentalism are not only opposed, but are also deadly destructive to Bible-based, Christ-centered Lutheran theology, to such an extent that Fundamentalist teaching dare not be used even as a supplement to the efficacy of the Word-driven Lutheran theology and practice. “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?” (1 Corinthians 5:6).

To blame the current LCMS president for all present LCMS ills is not only foolish—it is sinful. Our most serious LCMS ailments, such as our missiological crisis, have been festering for decades. Yet, they have never been clearly diagnosed, nor clearly addressed with God’s living Word.

The first thing a newly elected LCMS president should do is to say: “To hell with all political parties, especially those who operate secretly.” Second, the newly elected president needs to grasp with one hand the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). With his other hand, he needs to grab the shepherd’s crook of God’s Law and Gospel and walk before the sheep—leading them, not coming behind them with the stick of man-made rules, convention resolutions, and commission rulings, thereby dividing the sheep by beating them.

If the struggle in the LCMS is essentially spiritual, and it is; and if the so-called conservatives are going to try to challenge the current LCMS president using political and logistical tactics, they might as well fold up their tents, put their six guns back into the holsters, and ride back to Dodge City. By his unprecedented use of the CCM and CTCR, the current president has these well-intended conservatives outmanned and outgunned 1,000 times over.

Is anyone listening? Here is what God says about the struggle in the LCMS: “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood.” This is to say, our battle is not with each other in the LCMS, but with the devil (Ephesians 6:12). Why does God make this distinction? Because the devil gets into all of us and uses each of us, including myself. Therefore, all involved in contending for the truth (Jude 1:3) must say, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are of the flesh but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations in every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3–5). Therefore let no one, absolutely no one, plan to arrive at the bar of Justice on Judgment Day, chest thrust forward, to try to impress Christ with how he/she saved His church with political maneuvering!
Towards the end of the Pastor Schulz’ essay he makes a couple of statements that form a nice closing:
For LCMS pastors to provide their members the comfort found only in the Words of Christ and His Sacraments (as urged in this essay), and not be sucked into mainstream Protestant Fundamentalism, is an
life-and-death struggle. Certainly, outside influences will always flow in upon us. However, when we first take the term “inerrancy” (a term that describes the heart of Fundamentalist theology), and adopt it as our litmus test for Lutheranism; second, when we absorb Fundamentalist terms which carry their distinctive theological meaning, such as “uncommitted” instead of “unbaptized,” thereby adopting, consciously or unconsciously, Fundamentalist views of man, God, His Word, and their missiology; third, when we base our outreach missiology on Acts 1:8 (which omits the Sacraments) instead of on Christ’s Great Commission in Matthew 28:19–20 (which includes the Sacrament); fourth, when we introduce Protestant hymnody and get our people to sing Fundamentalist theology, thereby making fundamentalist lyrics our theology by default, then, along with Ablaze!® theology, as a consummating force, these Fundamentalist ingredients will combine to produce a result from which the LCMS will never recover. In other words, when we adopt Protestant Fundamentalist ways of thinking, speaking, and singing about faith and outreach, “as a man thinks, so he is” Proverbs 23:7), we will become part of the larger flow of Protestantism, forever losing our Gospel-centered, Christ-centered identity. For an example of how music helped move one denomination into non-existence, see endnote 9.

...Finally, there may be those in the LCMS who want to turn back the clock. I am not one of them. I agree with Walther who said, “Those who call our theology the theology of the seventeenth century do not know us.” The Lutheran church of the Reformation, by nature, always looks ahead. Basing its theology on the living Word means the Lutheran church is always being renewed and recreated by God’s living Word. We follow Jesus who says: “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working” (John 5:17). We need to stimulate our youth and pastors to constantly create new Word-driven hymns and Word-driven art work to adorn our worship. We need to be always encouraging new ways to teach, so that the Gospel of Christ might be understood and rejoiced in! We need to explain to our people, in a loving way, that a true “Confessional” Lutheran church is not just an adjective Lutheran church, but also an adverbial Lutheran church, a church where “confessional” means a church vigorously flowing with acts of love to all around us. In this new LCMS, as the Trinity continues to work among us with His living Word, He will permit old institutions to disappear, even as He did the Temple, and new ones to be established. Yes, even in the LCMS, the Father and the Son are “working still!” (John 5:17). Praise the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
I would encourage you to read Pastor Schulz’ article in its entirety. Don’t forget the endnotes and the appendices, which also contain helpful information.


Duane Smalley said...

Thank you Scott, for this WT alert and link to this summary. 'Tis a joy to share the air in our region, despite the problems!

Kathrine said...

Thanks for the nice synopsis. I look forward to reading the article in its entirety later on.
I would also like to point you to an interesting discussion called "We Teach Our Own" (and how we're not doing that)on the Classical Lutheran Education group.