Monday, April 7, 2008

What’s It All About?

Up until two weeks ago, I never had a blog. I’ve been to a few, but never had one of my own. Now I’ve got two. (Okay. To be honest, I do have an apologetics website,, but that doesn’t count.) Why do I now have two blogs, when I previously had none? Because they canceled Issues, Etc., which pushed me well past the line of "uncommitted."

This event was so significant for so many people that Megan Brown called it "the Great Cancellation of 2008." For the uninitiated, Issues, Etc. was the synod-sponsored conservative talk radio program on the synod-owned St. Louis radio station KFUO. The show addressed, in a Confessional yet unthreatening manner, the great religious issues of the day with a diverse range of guests. It was a blessing to us all. The show was canceled without warning on Tuesday of Holy Week. The host, Pastor Todd Wilken, and the Producer, Jeff Schwarz, summarily fired.

To give some sense of the genuine sorrow and outrage which this has caused, I offer the following descriptors of the event which people posted on Pastor Wilken’s page at The Wittenberg Trail:

"persecution," "It makes absolutely no sense," "misguided decisions," "completely stunned," "absolute disappointment," "deeply shocked and saddened," "this travesty," "the synod’s unconscionable decision," "illogical termination," "incomprehensible," and the one that hits closest to home for me, "I grieve."

There are also many people who gave witness to the show’s value. Here is but a sampling:
"I will always be thankful for Issues and its uncompromising stand for confessional Lutheranism."

"You have a true gift for proclaiming and defending the truth of Jesus Christ and have inspired me in so many ways. Thank you. I used to dream there would be a program like Issues etc in Australia, I never imagined there would cease to be one at all."

"It was a theological lifeline for me as I have experienced LCMS congregations that, IMHO [in my humble opinion], strayed from the Christ-centered, Cross-focused preaching and teaching that your show had."

"I grew up in the Missouri Synod, but it was only through listening to your show (and reading "The Spirituality of the Cross") that I came to understand the beauty of the Gospel, the centrality of the sacraments, and the comfort of the cross."

"Your show has been a refreshing and sustaining well of Christ-centered, confessional Lutheran broadcasting."

"You tackled issues that I wrestled with and you helped me sort out the difference between what is right and what is easy."
The show’s cancellation has spawned a whole cottage industry of dissenting blogs. But my "issues" go much deeper than the cancellation of Issues, Etc. The obvious question is "Why was the show canceled?" The synod states that it was because the show was losing money. Many people doubt that, and there are those who wonder if financial impropriety has taken place.

Issues, Etc. was one of the few remaining jewels the LCMS had left in it’s crown. The center stone of that crown, the ultimate jewel of infinite value, is the theology on which this synod was founded, our Confession. That stone is loose in its mount, not due to neglect, but due to a continual chipping away by those in our synod who want to preach a different Gospel. This didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen in a corner. It happened in plain sight.

For years, our synod has been undergoing doctrinal creep, the slow degradation of the Truth due to practices that have influenced our doctrine. By now, we have ripped so many pages out of The Book of Concord that it’s the thickness of a comic book. Hence our current crisis. We’re beyond practice influencing doctrine, our poor doctrine has now influenced our practice, which may explain the cancellation of Issues, Etc.

Pastor Todd Wilken, the host of Issues, Etc., never backed down from his defense of the Gospel, yet for all the years the show was broadcast, he did so with grace and without rancor, even when addressing people whose views were radically different than his own. Yet he was fired. Why? Galatians 4:16 gives the answer: "Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?" And the enemy which Pastor Wilken confronted was not always from without, at times it was from within our own synodical leadership.

Issues, Etc. critiqued a broad range of topics, including several which are very near and dear to some of our synod’s leaders. The most notable of these topics is the Church Growth Movement. Many of the gears of our synod’s machinery are now chained to Church Growth Movement philosophy, the most obvious of which is the numbers counting game known as Ablaze!

Simply put, Issues, Etc. may very well have been canceled because it could not exist in the same synodical factory with a Church Growth Movement worldview. That the Church Growth Movement and Confessional Lutheranism are so far apart as to be called differing worldviews is no exaggeration. They are as far apart as Reformed Theology is to Lutheran Theology. They are as far apart as the Theology of Glory is to the Theology of the Cross, and in fact, that is in many ways what each represents. Let me be clear. I am not talking about Church growth, but rather a certain type of "mindset" which I call Church Growth Movement philosophy. Everyone wants to see the Church grow, but there are many who don’t want to see the Church grow at any cost, and especially not at a doctrinal cost.

To be sure, there are other issues that threaten to widen the split in our synod, but the Church Growth issue is the most visible and one of the most divisive of those issues. It is the purpose of this blog to explore those issues, and other issues outside the synod as well, that threaten the Bride of the Lamb. Through exploration, education, and hard work, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can stem the tide of doctrinal creep.

My other blog can be found on The Wittenberg Trail. If you’re a Confessional Lutheran, I’d highly encourage you to join.


Anonymous said...

I think the dividing line, as you so well stated, is between the Theology of the Cross and the Theology of Glory. That's the linchpin. That's the difference between seeker sensitive style and confessional, traditional Lutheranism. For sure.

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