Saturday, March 6, 2010

Far more Lutheran? Really?

I received an anonymous email a few days ago regarding my last post titled, "Envied Unity."  Here is the email in its entirety (I simply copied and pasted the exact contents of the email):
Dear Pastor Messer,
You are wrong about President Kieschnick.  He is FAR MORE LUTHERAN than you and all other nasty "confessionals" who think that everything has to be done in exactly your way.  True Lutheranism is all about the Gospel and the Gospel ALONE!  That's what President Kieschnick is about - THE GOSPEL!  You know, the GOOD NEWS ABOUT JESUS!!  What are YOU about?  Making sure everyone has the kind of liturgical worship YOU prefer?  That is NOT Lutheran!  Haven't you studied Lutheran history?  Martin Luther rebelled against the idea of liturgical uniformity.  He introduced new forms of worship that spoke to the culture of his day.  He used popular music that people enjoyed and understood.  He would be ashamed of those, like you, who want to make everyone worship in the same way, with the same old liturgical forms, as if those who actually FOLLOW IN HIS FOOTSTEPS and make worship contemporary and enjoyable are wrong.  YOU are wrong, not those who make worship contemporary and enjoyable.  YOU are not following in Luther's steps, THEY ARE!  President Kieschnick understands this because he is the TRUE Lutheran!  And I pray that he will be re-elected this summer so that our synod can continue to follow his LUTHERAN leadership.  You should be ashamed of yourself for your personal attacks against this GOOD MAN and TRUE LUTHERAN!  Don't you "confessionals" have better things to do with your time than to live on the internet and spew forth your hatred?  While you spend your time doing that, President Kieschnick and those TRUE LUTHERANS like him are out there sharing their faith with the lost, doing WHATEVER IT TAKES to win people for Jesus!  What are YOU doing?  Maybe you should think about that and pray for the Lord to forgive you for spreading lies about TRUE SERVANTS OF GOD like President Kieschnick!!!
That's it.  No signature.  No name.  No identifiable email address (three letters, four numbers @  I sent a response to whoever this person is, but have not heard back.  I guess he/she said his/her piece and that's that.  Fine.

But, since this person stumbled onto my blog and had this reaction, I feel compelled to respond to a few things, just in case there are others who feel similarly.

First of all, as someone who has studied Luther pretty extensively (I'm one of those geeks who has actually read nearly every word in the American Edition of Luther's Works), I am extremely confident that he would be none too happy about what's passing itself off as "Lutheran" in many places within our synod today.  The idea that the renovations to the liturgy made by Luther in the 16th century are equivalent to those pastors and congregations today who abolish the Mass (Divine Service) and replace it with a "contemporary praise service" (or, "worship experience"), replete with "praise songs" which promote doctrines contrary to our Lutheran doctrines, is, well, simply, and most assuredly, absurd.  This is a myth - a popular myth, to be sure, but a myth nonetheless.  Luther was quite liturgical and very serious about retaining a true theology of worship in the Mass.  And, as for music in the Church, Luther was extremely careful about defining what was, and was not, acceptable during Mass.  He would have never allowed the kind of "happy-clappy, get-down-with-Jesus" stuff being sung in Lutheran churches today.  No way!  Give this short CTQ article by Rev. Daniel Reuning a read.  It's an oldie, but goodie, and dispels the myth that Luther would be down with the popular music being used in many places today.   

Secondly, I agree with this person that President Kieschnick promotes the idea that it is perfectly Lutheran to do whatever it takes to make worship contemporary and enjoyable.  That's kinda my point.  That idea ain't Lutheran.  Never has been.  Never will be.  True Lutherans do not adopt the "whatever it takes" philosophy.  True Lutherans believe, teach, and confess that our Lord has revealed to us the exact means by which people are brought to, and sustained in, the faith, namely His Holy Word and Sacraments.  Thus, true Lutherans are not wont to search for "whatever" new fad or gimmick might work in reaching people for Christ.  True Lutherans are content with the means their Lord has instituted.

Thirdly, I do not get to define Lutheranism as I see fit.  Neither do you.  We have a book which defines Lutheranism for us.  It's called the Book of Concord and contains our Lutheran Confessions, to which true Lutherans subscribe unconditionally, because they believe that these Confessions are a true exposition of the doctrines taught in Holy Scripture.  Thus, there cannot be different "kinds" of Lutheranism.  This idea that we can have different "versions" of Lutheranism which are all legitimately Lutheran is a product of post-modernism, which posits that people can define truth as they see fit, and that even if their truth-claim directly contradicts another's truth-claim, both truth-claims can coexist as equally true.  This worldview is incompatible with Christianity, where truth is truth and falsehood is falsehood.  Further, you are not a true Lutheran simply because you say you are, even as you are not a true Christian simply because you say you are.  You are a true Lutheran if you believe, teach, and confess what is contained in the Lutheran Confessions, which define Lutheranism.  Believing, teaching, and confessing means more than simply saying, "I'm a Lutheran."  As our Lord says, "You will know them by their fruits."  True Lutherans are recognizable not only by what they claim to believe, teach, and confess, but also by how they put what they claim into practice.  It is quite impossible, no matter how popular the idea may be today, to be truly Lutheran while testifying publicly with your practice like a Methobapticostal.  You simply can't be Lutheran and worship (or evangelize, or develop programs, etc.) like a non-Lutheran.  And, again, just to be clear, you and I don't get to decide what is or is not Lutheran - that's already been decided for us.

Fourthly, by commenting upon President Kieschnick's book or his actions as president of our synod, I am not attacking the man personally.  My conclusions about his book and about his actions are objectively based on whether or not they jive with what Lutherans believe, teach, and confess, as defined, again, by our Lutheran Confessions.  It is not personal.  I don't hate President Kieschnick.  I don't wish him ill.  On the contrary, as a brother in Christ, I love him and wish him well.  I pray for him privately and corporately.  I believe he is a Christian.  I believe he has a passion to spread the Gospel and reach the lost.  I also think he is a talented speaker and that he honestly believes that he is leading our synod in a faithful direction.  I will even go so far as to say that I believe he is a conservative Christian, and I appreciate that much of what he believes is in concord with what I believe.  And, I commend him for many social statements he has produced from his official capacity as our synodical president.

With all that said, I do not believe that his public testimony is in line with what Lutherans believe, teach, and confess.  President Kieschnick believes that we can remain Lutheran while practicing like those whose doctrines contradict ours.  I don't believe that, because I don't believe that our Lutheran Confessions allow for such.  President Kieschnick has enthusiastically endorsed those "Lutherans" in our midst who believe it is necessary for us to adopt the principles of the "church growth movement," and has a long track record of putting these "Lutheran" pastors and congregations before us as "perfect examples" to follow.  Having studied the classic and modern texts of the "church growth movement," and having spent countless hours in consultation with an LCMS pastor who earned a degree in "church growth" from Fuller Theological Seminary, and having witnessed that same congregation undergo a stunning transformation following the new vision of this pastor, I am convinced, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the "church growth movement" principles are wholly incompatible with Lutheranism, and that adoption of them by Lutherans, no matter how hard they may try to "Lutheranize" them, inevitably results in an abandonment of true Lutheranism.  But, this is a moot point anyway, since President Kieschnick has consistently publicly promoted and endorsed pastors and congregations in our synod who do not even try to "Lutheranize" these non-Lutheran principles.  Insofar as he has done so, and continues to do so, he has shown himself to be no friend to true Lutheranism.

Fifthly, this idea promoted so often in the blogosphere that we "nasty confessionals" are demanding some sort of "liturgical uniformity" which requires everyone to do everything exactly the same way, with no variations whatsoever, is a big, fat, juicy red herring.  I don't know a single pastor who would be identified by others as a "nasty confessional" who promotes such nonsense.  There is quite a difference between demanding that Lutherans worship like Lutherans and demanding that Lutherans must dot every liturgical "i" and cross every liturgical "t" in the same exact manner.  True Lutherans recognize that there is great freedom in the way in which the liturgy is conducted, but that that freedom is not limitless, and that when that freedom goes beyond the pale of our theology of worship by employing practices which contradict our doctrines, it has ceased being Lutheran.  I've stressed this many times here and in other places, as have numerous others.  Those who continue to misrepresent our position either a) have not listened or b) do so purposely to avoid having to engage in a substantive discussion.    

Sixthly, yes, I do have better things to do with my time than to sit on the internet all day.  I have a flock to tend, sermons to write, bulletins to create (or proof), shut-in and hospitalized members to visit, Bible Studies to prepare, meetings to attend, a wife and four children to spend time with, sporting events and choir concerts to attend, newsletters to edit, phone calls to make and receive, follow-ups on visitors to make, Confirmation classes to teach, books to read, TV to watch (mostly sports, but I do so enjoy a good movie now and then and don't like to miss an episode of "The Office"), family to stay in contact with as time permits, and so much more.  All of which is why I am not able to post things here on my blog or on the blogs (or forums) of others very often.  Is it okay if I do post my thoughts from time to time, as I am able, though, without being falsely accused of "living" on the internet?  Good grief!

Seventhly, I admit that I am not doing "whatever it takes to win people for Jesus."  What I am doing is preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments, baptizing and catechizing, hearing confessions and pronouncing absolution in Christ's stead and by His command.  Oh, and I do my best to confess my faith to others when given the chance, even as I teach the flock committed to my care to do the same.  All of this (along with the other things mentioned in the previous paragraph) keeps me pretty busy.  And, last I checked, these are the things I've been called and ordained to do.  

Lastly, if President Kieschnick is "far more Lutheran" than myself (or other "nasty confessionals," like me), how in the world could he possibly promote the congregation depicted in the videos below as a "perfect example" to follow?  I know it seems like I'm picking on "LakePointe," but this is a congregation which President Kieschnick promoted as a "perfect example" to follow in a letter he wrote to all LCMS pastors over a year ago, and this congregation has made synodical news on a few occasions since then.  I have yet to hear President Kieschnick retract his statements about this congregation, so I assume he still feels strongly that this congregation is not only acceptably Lutheran, but that it is a "perfect example."  Indeed, "LakePointe" fits well with the vision President Kieschnick has for the direction he believes our synod must go, embracing the "whatever it takes" philosophy to win people for Jesus.  As I said above, that ain't Lutheran.  You can judge for yourself - but, remember, your judgment must be based on our Lutheran Confessions, since you and I don't get to define Lutheranism as we see fit.  I am thoroughly convinced that if you put this congregation to the test against our Lutheran Confessions, you cannot possibly conclude that it is Lutheran.  But, President Kieschnick does, and so I rest my case (at least, for now).    


sag said...

Was that the pastor in the second video or the little league coach? Will he be serving Word and Sacrament or just a pot luck and handing out canned goods? Is there another Lutheran church in town I can attend? You defended yourself very well although it's unfortunate you had to take time to do that. Thanks for all you do (I got exhausted reading that list!).

IggyAntiochus said...

Repeat after me: practice = doctrine.