Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Rev. Zwonitzer's Continuing Book Review of The Best is Yet to Come: Chapter 3

This is the third post in the series of Pastor Rodney E. Zwonitzer's book review of Pastor John Kieschnick's book The Best is Yet to Come: 7 Doors of Spiritual Growth.

Chapter Three: Worship The Door of Wonder

Any theological abnormalities likely will come out here, for as one worships so one believes, as the ancient phrase states: lex orandi, lex credendi.

One quickly finds that this author is primarily concerned with the human response rather than God's actions in the means of grace. His major impetus is that Christians are 24/7 "living the life worthy of their calling" (Eph. 4:1) He sees it as striving to live totally pleasing lives to God, which puts it clearly under sanctification. You will not find a clear reference to Divine Service, but rather to our reaction to worship. What he truly wants to link it is? You guessed it PURPOSE! " He uses Isaiah 6:1 to show this: "In the revelation of his glory, God first overwhelmed Isaiah with his sinfulness and his need for grace, and when the prophet responded in confession and repentance, God gave him a clear, compelling purpose." (page 71) So God is all about purpose for our lives, thus becoming more and more obvious that this is to some degree an attempt to Lutheranize Rick Warren.

Compare this very illustration of Isaiah 6 with what Dr. John Kleinig does in his recently released CPH book on this same topic (spiritual growth). He clearly teaches receptive spirituality and beggars before God's throne, and doesn't move on quickly to the wrongly perceived "get with it" purpose program.

Kieschnick continues his discussion on worship with a purpose with what he calls three truths: possession, presence, and purpose. Possession he says is at the heart of worship and "takes root in our acknowledgment." (page 73) See the theme of "our response to find our purpose?" Sound familiar? It's the way of the law. Listen to this statement which truly is attempting to put the believer back under the law: "The more we realize that we live under the watchful eye of Almighty God, we will respond with respect, obedience, and affection." (page 75) What ever happened to living our entire life as one that has been crucified with Christ and is now lived by faith in Him who loved me and gave Himself for me? (Gal. 2:20) Clear confusion of law and gospel here. Is this what we are to take out of worship, that God has His every evaluative and judgmental eye on us, and we better watch out and get with His purpose for our lives? Rather, that He has redeemed us from our slavery to sin, and now that we are free His loving Gospel motivates us continually to live it out in the calls and vocations He leads us.

Kieschnick sees this life of worship in God's purposes for our lives in our family relationships, at work and school, in the community, and at church. He argues that for many Christians they narrow their worship only to church, and omit all the others. He summarizes what he has been saying with Romans 12:1-2. He wants this purpose driven pleasing 24/7 life to be done in faith, not under compulsion. He doesn't quite escape completely from being close to putting it back under the law: "Growing in our faith, though, doesn't mean we become perfect in this life. In some ways, spiritual growth means that we become more aware of our desperate need for God's grace." (page 86) "In some ways?" In every way! We are continually beggars, and have no right to offer any evidence in our sanctified life other than God's grace upon grace at work. We die to ourselves, and live for the Crucified! Just being honest about our sins is not all that we must confess. We must confess that we do nothing for His kingdom, but His grace living in us does whatever little He achieves through us. In focusing more on our response in the Divine Service, Kieschnick does not focus enough on this important distinction.

Amazingly he writes of the barriers to spiritual growth as being of the stress and depression variety. Solution? "At some point, we need a shot of objectivity from a trusted friend or the tap of God's Spirit to remind us of God's purposes for us. Without that blast of spiritual reality, we continue to suffer the consequences of the stress treadmill." (page 90)

Kieschnick reveals with this chapter where he truly is. He has moved away from his Lutheran roots, choosing to add elements of foreign theologies, e.g. especially in this book his penchant for the purpose driven life. With this comes not only a confusion at points of law and gospel and justification from sanctification, but also an omission of confession and practice of his Lutheran roots by using purpose driven focus. Why the hesitation to write and confess as a Lutheran? It makes any Lutheran reader suspect, and it should. This admixture of foreign themes that are non-biblical causes the discerning Christian to be leery of such a work that doesn't once talk about Divine Service and rather emphasizes the individual's response rather than God working through His means of grace. This is not a simple, unessential nit-picking critique, but it is essential and basic to sound Christian spiritual devotion.

Peace in Christ!

Pastor Rod Zwonitzer

Click here to continue to the next part of Pastor Zwonitzer's review.

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