Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Proven Theologian?

In a post last night, I mentioned that Rev. Chuck Mueller, Jr., a leader in Jesus First, made an appearance lover at ALPB to defend Jesus First's Delegate Letter #9 and to offer further slander toward Rev. Harrison and WR-HC (Pr. Wilken has a post about this over at the Steadfast site, which you can read here).  Rev. Mueller, Jr. concluded his post with the following endorsement of Pres. Kieschnick:
"I'm going for a proven theologian (elected by his peers to chair the CTCR), an able churchman, a confessional pastor, an excellent administrator and a proven leader elected again and again to the office:  Jerry Kieschnick."
First, let's get one thing straight right off the bat:  You do not have to be "a proven theologian" to be elected to chair the CTCR.  You just have to be elected.  As for Pres. Kieschnick being "a proven theologian," one wonders how that possibly jives with his own public confession:  "I am no theologian!"  Besides that, when I think of Pres. Kieschnick, theologian simply doesn't come to mind.  I'm not trying to be rude, just being honest.  I think his confession about himself is much more accurate than Pr. Mueller, Jr.'s flattering depiction.  I've heard Pres. Kieschnick speak and preach many times, I've read his writings, including his recent book, "Waking the Sleeping Giant . . .", and theologian simply doesn't come to mind.  There simply isn't a whole lot of theology coming from the pen of Pres. Kieschnick.  Vision?  Yes.  Bylaws expertise?  Yes.  Political adeptness?  Yes.  But, theology?  Not so much.

Case in point:  I subscribed some time ago to the weekly email messages Pres. Kieschnick sends out.  He calls them "Perspectives."  For the most part, they're rather harmless random thoughts he has about this or that.  Some of them are actually quite good, as Pres. Kieschnick often shares personal experiences and stories from his family life in a humorous and inviting way to make some general points about the Christian faith and life.  Nothing wrong with that.  But, when he tries to get a little theological in these little missives, he is definitely out of his comfort zone.  Consider the latest edition of "Perspectives," received on June 24:
Perspectives - Volume I Number 38
“Command and Promise”
In my chapel homily this week at our Synod’s International Center, I focused briefly on four passages in Deuteronomy. They all contain God’s command and promise. The commands are somewhat different, but definitely related: “Honor your father and your mother … walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you … do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD … obey all these words that I command you …” God always wants His children to do what He knows is best for them.

The promises are somewhat different from each other, but all are tied together with exactly the same seven words: “that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you … that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess … that it may go well with you and that you may go in and take possession of the good land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers … that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever” (Deut. 5:16, 33; 6:18; 12:28). That’s my prayer for you this day and every day—that it may go well with you!
May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always!
Now, I understand that these are just short, little messages meant for Pres. Kieschnick to share some quick thoughts and hopefully inspire the reader.  I don't expect them to be deep theological treatises or anything.  And, certainly I can give Pres. Kieschnick the benefit of the doubt and supply the Gospel which is painfully missing in the message.  But, "a proven theologian" wouldn't dare release this message to the public, especially when that public includes who knows how many laypeople who may not have the ability to supply what Pres. Kieschnick leaves out in the message.  Some may very well come away with the impression that it will go well with them if they obey God's commands, as if they can obey those commands and merit the promises attached to them.  

Now some would decry my criticism here and point out that Pres. Kieschnick recognizes that he is speaking to a Christian audience and is using the Third Use of the Law (guide) here with them.  The problem with that is that the Gospel is what motivates Christians to do what is pleasing in God's sight, and since the Gospel is decidedly absent, his attempt at using the Third Use of the Law fails (if that was even his intent in the first place), and his missive becomes mere moralizing and leaves the door wide open for works-righteousness.  

"A proven theologian" would make sure that his hearers knew and understood, even in the midst of a short little message like this, that "it goes well with them" not because they do what God knows is best for them, but because the Word-Made-Flesh, Jesus Christ, has lived the perfect life they fail to live, obeying and fulfilling the Law perfectly and completely on their behalf, and has paid the price for all of their sins on the cross. 

I simply cannot imagine Pr. Matt Harrison releasing messages like this one to the public, were he privileged to be serving as our synodical president.  He is a definite proven theologian.  The difference in that particular area between he and Pres. Kieschnick is crystal clear.  Pr. Harrison is someone who is completely comfortable having a theological discussion off the cuff, without having to have theological questions screened ahead of time in order to formulate a proper response.  He is a pastor who is well versed in every theological realm - systematic, historical, exegetical, and pastoral.  He can pick up his Greek New Testament and lead a Bible Study.  Comparing his books to the book Pres. Kieschnick recently had published is like comparing Martin Luther to Joel Osteen.  Pres. Kieschnick is gifted in other areas, to be sure, but theology is not one of his strengths, which has nothing at all to do with his intelligence or capabilities, but is due to the fact that he has swam for too long in the waters of those whose theology is simply not Lutheran, as is very evident to proven theologians who read his book.  

Anyway, I would use the same endorsement Pr. Mueller, Jr. uses, but with the opposite candidate and without the phrases "elected by his peers to chair the CTCR" and "elected again and again."  That is, I'm going for a proven theologian, an able churchman, a confessional pastor, an excellent administrator and a proven leader:  Matt Harrison!      


IggyAntiochus said...

It doesn't take a theology degree to figure out Kieshnick is no theologian.

BTW, what is ALPB?

Rev. Thomas C. Messer, SSP said...


Sorry I missed your comment . . . been away and not monitoring the ole' blog lately. Anyway, rather than try to explain what ALPB is, you can check it out yourself by going to


IggyAntiochus said...

No problem! I'll check it out.