Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Excuse

If you ask the pastor of a church that has abandoned traditional Lutheran worship forms why they use a contemporary worship style, one of the first things out of his mouth will be "The Liturgy isn’t in the Bible." That in itself is a bit of a sleight of hand, since the Liturgy consists of us speaking back to God what He’s already spoken to us in His Word. It is very definitely "in the Bible."

If you press him a little further and annoy him enough, he might crack open the Book of Concord and point out Article VII of the Augsburg Confession:

For the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree about the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. It is not necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies instituted by men, should be the same everywhere.

He might also point to Article X of the Solid Declaration, which reads "We believe, teach, and confess that the community of God in every place and every time has, according to its circumstances, the good right, power, and authority to change and decrease or increase ceremonies <that are truly adiaphora>." Of course, he’ll skip the next sentence:

They should do this thoughtfully and without giving offense, in an orderly and appropriate way, whenever it is considered most profitable, most beneficial, and best for good order, Christian discipline, and the Church’s edification.

"Giving offense" in many of our Synod’s church services is precisely what’s happening, and one of the reasons why we coexist in a divided Synod. I once suffered through an LCMS service in which a clip of the movie "Braveheart" was shown on the screen, and an elder waved a sword around and shouted something about the blessing we were bound to receive – a reference to The Prayer of Jabez book study this church had foisted on its parishioners. I’ve yet to make the topical link between that film clip and the Gospel, but I did note the link between the elder’s display and paragraph 7 of Article X:

Likewise, when there are useless, foolish displays that are not profitable for good order, Christian disciple, or evangelical practice in the Church, these also are not genuine adiaphora, or matters of indifference.

This particular service had all the marks of useless and foolish, and these types of offense are gradually becoming the approved norm. To quote Pastor Larry Beane, from his article "Are the Confessions Prescriptive or Descriptive?":

When the confessions are taken seriously, one is hard-pressed to find that any of these innovations are in any way compatible with Lutheranism. Indeed, it deems that by their very definition, such willful expressions of worship effectively remove these churches and pastors from our very fellowship.

Our current twisting of the Confession to make it appear as though it favors a liturgical free-for-all in the Divine Service is related to the error of a previous generation. Though the festering wound of the Seminex era of the ‘70's is hidden by a gauze bandage, tape, and a flannel shirt, the wound still weeps. The issue that confronted us at the time of Seminex, the authority of Scripture, is still with us in one form or another. In this sense the threat to our Synod is no different than the horrific threat that is confronting, or has overtaken, other church bodies – but that is no excuse. Though you may claim that you’re not a theologian, ignorance of theology, Synod history, and a willful disregard of our Confession is no excuse for tacking the Synodical boat off the proverbial edge of the earth.

A house divided against itself cannot stand. That we are divided in our worship practice is indicative of a bigger problem, that we are divided in our doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. It is these fundamental articles of faith that are under attack. If it were not so, there would be no divide. Now is the time to stand up and take notice, to take action, and to return our Synod to the Confessional course we once sailed.


photo credit: Mikett

6 comments:

William Weedon said...

Scott,

My favorite question for folks is how they teach to their people AC XV:

Our churches teach that ceremonies ought to be observed that may be observed without sin. Also, ceremonies and other practices that are profitable for tranquility, and good order in the Church (in particular holy days, festivals, and the like) ought to be observed.

This is our Confession. How you doing at teaching it to you people? Interesting that its in the DOCTRINE not the ABUSE section too.

Peter said...

I would like to see the synod expend a little more time and energy getting the untranslated hymns from our German hymnal (and it wouldn't hurt to look at the hymns our sister churches use in Germnay's SELK) translated so they can be offered to our churches for consideration and edification.

Also, if I hear another pastor say, "I'm a pastor not a theologian.".... Man alive, the seminary spent four years teaching us how to BE a theologian. Pastors are supposed to be theologians, and that means continually study in the church's doctrines and reading the Bible.

Kari said...

Yes, Give me a theologian pastor. How can a pastor not be a theologian? He needs to know the doctrine in order to keep it pure. Oh, that's right, some pastors think pure doctrine is the problem for us. That's why they have to claim they're not theologians.

Scott Diekmann said...

Pr. Weedon, Regarding AC XV, it seems that people sometimes focus on the "without sin" portion and ignore the "ceremonies" portion. In other words, they reject the ceremonies that have been previously celebrated in favor of anything that we can do "without sin." Thus an emphasis on teaching what those ceremonies are and why they are important is a great idea, one which I hope more congregations will carry out! Weedon's Blog is a good place to start.

Mark QL Louderback said...

Scott,

If you ask the pastor of a church that has abandoned traditional Lutheran worship forms why they use a contemporary worship style, one of the first things out of his mouth will be "The Liturgy isn’t in the Bible." That in itself is a bit of a sleight of hand, since the Liturgy consists of us speaking back to God what He’s already spoken to us in His Word. It is very definitely "in the Bible."

Well...yes, the liturgy is "in the Bible" but then so is contemporary worship.

The issus is not whether the service is based on the Bible--most contemporary-service-having-pastors would respond that way in opposition to a position that says "The historic liturgy is the only way that Christans can worship." Or perhaps a position that says "One cannot be a confessional Lutheran and use contemporary worship."

In this case, it is a legitimate question to ask: Has God commanded a certain worship style? The answer is "No."

So, the core of some positions boils down to this: "You cannot be a Lutheran unless you follow these man-made rules."

I think that is a position that some of us object to.

I’ve yet to make the topical link between that film clip and the Gospel...

In the movie Braveheart, the wife of Wallace is captured and sentenced to death. As she is tied to a pole, she looks around, searching for her husband to come and save. She scans the horizon but he does not come. She dies looking for him to come. But he does not. So she dies.

That is not the Gospel message...but it is a great scene...and it is applicable to preach in many circumstances.

Paul quotes from a secular poet in his Athens sermon. Why would we not use movies in ours?

Scott Diekmann said...

"Well...yes, the liturgy is "in the Bible" but then so is contemporary worship." Your presuppostion is false.

"So, the core of some positions boils down to this: "You cannot be a Lutheran unless you follow these man-made rules." I'd say a wayward Lutheran, unless you'd removed, or never put, the word "Lutheran" in your church's name. Then you'd have nothing to worry about, at least before men.

"That is not the Gospel message...but it is a great scene...and it is applicable to preach in many circumstances." A great scene, but that's not the scene that was used in the service I'm referring to.

"Paul quotes from a secular poet in his Athens sermon. Why would we not use movies in ours?"
People far and wide who deviate from the doctrine of Jesus Christ quote Paul’s Mars Hill speech to justify their own aberrant teachings. Every third church in the Emerging Church wants to be named “Mars Hill.”
The point is not whether you can use a clip from a movie. The point is why do you use it, and is it appropriate. I saw the pastor use a clip from Star Wars. It contained panentheism. He even said during his sermon, "I probably shouldn't have used this because it makes it look like God is in everything," or something to that effect. But he used it anyhow. He couldn't resist the temptation.

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi

The first rule of holes: When you're in one, quit digging.