Friday, February 25, 2011

Fisky Friday

A Great Greek Tuesday


A good friend of mine directed me to this excellent blog post by Pr. Mark Love, where he discusses how the "magisterial" use of reason has given way to the "magisterial" use of emotion in our day and age, which results in "Meology."

I think he hits the nail squarely on the head here, and nowhere can this "Meology" be seen more clearly than in the realm of worship, as indicated by the video I shared in the previous post, and by these two oldies, but goodies:

Granted, these videos are an exaggeration - parodies meant to be funny - but they touch upon the "Meology" that plagues the Church today.  In our own circles, I hear Lutheran pastors arguing that we need to take the likes, tastes, and desires of the "unchurched" into consideration when it comes to worship, the idea being that if we don't make worship more appealing to people, we won't be able to get them through the doors.  And, what is appealing to people in our day and age, especially here in America?  Entertainment.  The solution:  Make worship entertaining.  The result:  Meology at work. 

But, where in Holy Scripture does God ever take into consideration what people like, or leave us with the impression that we should do so, when it comes to worship?  Where?  I've asked this question of many Lutheran pastors, who employ "contemporary worship," over the years, and I have yet to receive a satisfying answer.  Oh, I have received the expected responses, pointing me to David dancing before the Ark or St. Paul's statement about becoming all things to all people in order to win some, and so forth, but none of these responses actually backs up the assertion that God desires us to consider what people like in worship.  On the contrary, the responses I've received ignore the fact that God is pretty clear throughout Holy Scripture in revealing to us how He desires to be worshiped.  He spends ample time on this particular issue in the second half of Exodus and throughout Leviticus, as He is forming the Israelites into a nation.  And, as we make our way through the rest of the Bible, all the way to the end of Revelation, He never erases the principles of worship He lays forth there.  You simply cannot read all that God reveals to us about worship in Holy Scripture and come away with the idea that worship should be based on what people like (and, people outside of the Church, no less!), or that it should be fun and entertaining.  Unless, of course, you employ the "magisterial" use of emotion as you read and interpret Holy Scripture.  Well, then, sure, you can make the Scriptures say whatever your little heart desires about worship.  But, you wind up in the same boat as those who employ the "magisterial" use of reason when reading and interpreting Scripture - a different boat than the Holy Ark of Christ's Church.   

Sorry, Jesus

A Plan to Save the Seminaries

A week and a half ago, Pr. Heath Curtis posted a plan he developed to save our seminaries over at Gottesdienst Online.  I wanted to post something here about this back then, but haven't had much time to blog lately, so I'm just now getting to it.  Pr. Curtis' post was also posted over at the Brothers of John the Steadfast site and led to a very insightful and interesting discussion, which you can read here.   
I don't know if Pr. Curtis has covered everything in his fine article, but at least he has put forth a plan that addresses both the theological and practical issues which continue to plague our current system.  And, it's a plan that takes an honest look at where we've been, where we are now, and what the future may hold.  I love the way he ends:  "This is my plan.  What's yours?"  It's a great question.

He has identified all of the "elephants in the room" (e.g. our betrayal of AC XIV, the pastoral shortage myth, the abuses of the SMP program, the debt seminarians are forced to accumulate, and the very real threat our seminaries face if we continue with the status quo).  We simply cannot continue to ignore these things, pretending as if they don't exist.  And any plan that does not seek to tackle all these "elephants" is really no plan at all - it would be like trying to treat cancer with a band-aid and a bottle of aspirin.  But, that's precisely the sort of plans that have been put forth in the past, plans that seek to treat the symptoms, rather than the disease itself.

The disease with which we are currently afflicted began long before 1989 in Wichita, when we decided that AC XIV could be ignored (for those of you wondering what AC XIV is, it is Article XIV of our Augsburg Confession, which states:  "Our churches teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church, or administer the Sacraments, without a rightly ordered call").  Our betrayal of AC XIV with the introduction of "lay ministers" was/is abhorrent and we need to right that wrong straightaway, but it only caused the cancer with which our church body was already afflicted to spread like wildfire.  That cancer crept into our church body long ago when we stopped considering the training of pastors to be a primary reason for our synod's existence.  The training of pastors and the sending of missionaries were the two primary reasons for the formation of our synod.  There were other reasons:  Doctrinal accountability and supervision, the dissemination of our confession of the faith through publication (i.e. establishment of a publishing house), and so forth.  But, the two big daddies were training pastors and sending missionaries.  Can anyone honestly say that we have remained true to those two primary reasons?  Not if we follow the money.  Approximately 2% of our annual budget goes to our seminaries.  2%!  Doesn't sound like a primary reason to me.  And, yeah, I know, I simply don't know all the ins and outs of running a synod, and there's a lot more to the story than meets the eye, and yada, yada, yada.  But, as complex as all the numbers may be in our synodial budget, the bottom line is that we give a pittance of our coffers to our seminaries.  We give even less to the sending of missionaries, if we're going to define missionaries as they were originally defined, and should be defined, that is.

I'm for any plan that seeks to refocus our attention to the primary reasons our synod was formed in the first place.  Pr. Curtis' plan is a step in this direction.  And, it really should be appealing to everyone (except those who believe AC XIV can continue to be ignored, of course), since it provides a way to save/sustain our seminaries that doesn't involve a complete overhaul of our overabundant bureaucracy, and puts an end to all anti-AC XIV "lay ministry" with a common sense approach.  Unfortunately, I doubt that his plan will get much consideration.  But, again, he asks, "What's your plan?" 

What I find most refreshing about Pr. Curtis' post is the honesty.  We could use a lot more of that in our synod, especially when it comes to training pastors.  Many of us were sold a false bill of goods when encouraged to go to seminary.  No one bothered to tell us about the massive debt we would be accumulating during our years of pastoral formation.  Instead, we were told that there were so many ways seminarians were assisted that, while we might accumulate a little debt, it wouldn't be that bad.  The picture painted for us was anything but accurate. 

Consider my story:  My wife and I uprooted our family (four kids) and headed to seminary debt-free and with very solid credit ratings.  We also had nearly $20,000 in our TESPHE (Tax Efficient Savings Plan for Hourly Employees) accounts, which we had accumulated working at Ford Motor Co.  Four years later, our savings were completely spent and we exited the seminary over $80,000 in debt with falling credit ratings and tax issues.  We were forced to make some insanely ridiculous financial decisions during our time at seminary, like using credit cards to keep the electricity and heat flowing, and getting new credit cards when those we had were maxed out.  We also had to take the enormous risk of having my wife and children go without health insurance for nearly a whole year, due to the fact that we simply could not afford to have our whole family on the seminary's plan.  I don't know how it is now, but when we were there, I was required to be on the seminary's plan, but we had to look elsewhere for coverage for the rest of the family.  Were it not for the food and clothing co-ops, the debt we accumulated would have been even more massive. 

$100,000 in four years!  That's our story, and it's a story we share with a great many other families.  It's also a story that men and their families, who are considering going to seminary, need to hear.  And, another part of the story needing to be heard is that all those scholarships people promise you aren't real.  At least, they weren't for me.  I graduated Concordia, Ann Arbor cum laude and maintained a 3.90 GPA while at seminary, but never received one academic scholarship.  I received a few "scholarship achievement" awards over the years, but never any money - I would have much rather received the money! 

So, yeah, a little honesty about all this is refreshing, and needed.  It shouldn't be this way.  I'm all for making sacrifices while pursuing the Office of the Holy Ministry.  But, shouldn't leaving a good job, moving away from family and friends, and uprooting your children be sacrifice enough?  Must we also cripple our future pastors with enormous debt as well?  Debt that they take with them into small parishes where they receive salaries that make it impossible to start paying down that debt, which, of course, means that the debt just continues to build.  Not only is this a burden pastors and their families shouldn't have to bear, but it's a burden the congregations they're sent to serve shouldn't have to bear. 

I love being a pastor.  Besides the financial woes accumulated there, I loved studying at the seminary.  I left a job as a Machine Repair Journeyman at Ford Motor Company, where I made lots of money, had great benefits, and enough seniority to hold day shift for as long as I was there, because I wanted to serve our Lord and His Church.  I am joined by a great many other men who gave up just as much, if not more, than I did, for the same reason.  It's a crying shame that what we gave up was not sacrifice enough.  None of us went into this gig for the money, but I doubt any of us ever dreamed that our pursuit of the Office of the Holy Ministry meant taking a vow of extreme poverty, being imprisoned by debt with little to no chance of parole.  New pastors have enough to deal with when they begin their ministries; they really shouldn't have to endure having a black cloud of debt constantly hanging over them.  It's sad.  And depressing.  It shouldn't be this way. 

Hmmm, come to think of it, maybe Pr. Curtis' plan would be more appropriately titled, "A Plan to Save the Seminarians."   

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Simply Excellent!

Below is video of Pres. Harrison's presentation to the LCEF back in November, which was posted today over at the "Witness, Mercy, Life Together" blog.  Thirty minutes well worth your time!  

Another Everlasting Extra

Great explanation by Pr. Fisk of the theology of glory vs. the theology of the cross!

Monday, February 14, 2011

BJS 2011 National Conference

Had a great time at the Brothers of John the Steadfast Conference this past weekend (for more info and commentary, check out the many different posts over at the BJS site).  Great to see many old friends, to finally meet in person some friends made via the internet, and to make new acquaintances.  The hospitality by the wonderful group at Bethany Lutheran was top-notch again this year.  The friendliness and fellowship there is every bit as delicious as the tasty food they always serve their guests.

This year we were treated to a marvelous banquet on Friday evening, with none other than LCMS President Matt Harrison as the keynote speaker.  What a blessing for our synod to have him at the helm.  I know I say that a lot, but I am just more and more impressed with his careful, considerate, compassionate, and confessional leadership.  He has a wonderful sense of humor, stands ready and willing to answer questions on the spot (how refreshing is that?), is Lutheran through and through, and most importantly, recognizes himself to be a sinner in need of a Savior.  Plus, he teaches right from his shabby, worn out, Greek New Testament, which is a rare thing these days, but warms this fellow "Greek Geek's" heart.   Here's a pic (yeah, that's my bald head front and center - well, actually not center, but right):

He spoke for a bit regarding the new emphasis for our church body, introduced by he and his team:  Witness, Mercy, Life Together.  The more I consider and study this three-fold emphasis, the more I love it.  The best thing about it is that it is purely catechetical, begging to be unpacked and taught.  As I've said in the past, when asked what I thought Pres. Harrison and company could accomplish for our synod, the best thing they can do is promote, endorse, and teach our Lutheran confession of the faith.  That's all.  Just be Lutheran.  I think this will do wonders for our synod, because I happen to think that when Lutherans learn what Lutherans actually believe, teach, confess, and practice, they'll love it, as I do.  If they don't, well maybe Lutheranism isn't for them.

Anyway, here is a short video clip of his presentation.  Below that is his full presentation in audio.

After Pres. Harrison's presentation, we gathered together for Evening Prayer, during which Rev. Jon Vieker - Assistant to the LCMS President served as liturgist and Cantor Phillip Magness, along with the talented musicians and choir members of Bethany, led us in song.  Here's a clip of the closing hymn Pr. Fisk uploaded at his youtube page:

After Evening Prayer, Lisa and I went to Quigley's in downtown Naperville for a couple of drinks with Larry and Andrea Elliott, good friends and members of our congregation, which was good fun. 

Saturday morning brought us a tasty "Manly Breakfast."  Larry, Andrea, and I were privileged to sit at the same table as Pres. Harrison.  Lisa decided to skip the morning sessions and veg out in the hotel.  My plan was to go pick her up at lunch time, as she wanted to be there for the Divine Service in the afternoon.  Unfortunately, the schedule got changed and they moved the Divine Service up to before lunch, so she missed out on that. :(  Anyway, back to the "Manly Breakfast."  Great food, and good entertainment, as Pr. Charlie Henrickson led us in a couple of his song parodies, which you can read about here.  Larry and Andrea were thrilled to have the opportunity to chat with Pres. Harrison, and to have him sign their copy of his "A Little Book on Joy":

After the "Manly Breakfast," we listened to a fine presentation on "Witness" by Cantor Magness, who did a wonderful job unpacking that first emphasis in our synod's new three-fold emphasis, leading me (and I'm sure many others) to ponder some things I hadn't pondered before.  Cantor Magness' presentation was followed by a presentation on "Mercy" by Mr. Tim Hetzner, President of Lutheran Church Charities.  There were many nuggets to be gleaned from his presentation, which was delivered enthusiastically and passionately.  I didn't agree with a couple of his interpretations of our Lord's parables (I'm guessing he expected that, since he prefaced his comments by stating that some of us may not agree with portions of his presentation), but he was spot on in emphasizing the fact that our lives in Christ are lived out in acts of mercy toward others.

After those two presentations, we took a short break and then gathered together for Divine Service, which was beautiful.  Our Lord delivered His Divine Gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation to us through His Holy Word and Sacraments, employing Pr. Tim Rossow (Bethany's Senior Pastor and gracious host of the conference) to serve as Liturgist and Celebrant, and Pr. Jonathan Fisk, whose excellent Worldview Everlasting videos have been a tremendous blessing to many this past year, to serve as preacher.  The whole Divine Service was Christ-centered and Cross-focused, including the excellent sermon by Pr. Fisk, which makes it an A+ in this Lutheran's book.

After the Divine Service, I was blessed to spend some time chatting with Missionary Pr. James May of Lutherans in Africa, who shared some of the challenges and blessings he and our Lutherans brothers and sisters in Africa experience.  Please consider following that link to learn how you can support this important mission work.  A pic of Pr. May and yours truly (just ignore the goofy half-smile on my face):

Unfortunately, my chat with Pr. May concluded the conference for me.  By the time I got back to the hotel to pick up my lovely wife and pack up for the trip home, it was too late to get back for Pr. Rossow's presentation on "Life Together," so we decided to head for home a bit earlier than we had planned.  That traffic is something else, let me tell you - took me about twenty minutes to drive the five miles back to the hotel!  So glad we live in the middle of nowhere. :)  Larry and Andrea filled me in on what Pr. Rossow had to say and told me it was a great presentation.  Hopefully, they'll post it at the BJS website sometime soon so that I can listen to it.

I was thrilled to finally meet in person my good "internet buddy," Jim Pierce, who traveled all the way from Seattle to attend.  It was great chatting with him and a blessing to have him sign my copy of his book, "Wittenberg Confessions," which is an outstanding read.  A pic of Jim and me:

It was also wonderful to spend a little quality time with my lovely wife.  We traveled down Thursday afternoon, so we were able to enjoy time together Thursday night and lounge around together all day Friday before the conference began at 5:00 p.m.  We even got to eat at our favorite restaurant, Olive Garden, during our trip, which is a rare treat for us, since we don't have an Olive Garden anywhere near us.

It was a great time away.  The only thing about the conference I would change is to bring back the "No Pietists Allowed" Parties next year.  Our group missed those, and I heard others saying they missed them, too.  Oh, wait, a couple more things:  As beautiful as the Evening Prayer was, I was a little disappointed that there was no homily.  Yeah, I know we don't have to have a homily during Evening Prayer, but there are many of us pastors there who cherish those rare opportunities we get to sit in a pew and hear the Word of God proclaimed.  The other thing:  If y'all are going to make last minute schedule changes, please change the schedule on the website.  Some of us dummies are not smart enough to look at the schedule in our packets.  Other than that, another great BJS Conference, and I look forward to attending again next year.  Thanks to Pr. Rossow, Cantor Magness, and all the folks at Bethany for putting together, and hosting, another top-notch conference.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

An Everlasting Extra

This one prompted me to remember an incident I had with a "charismatic" man in a Wal-Mart several years ago.  I went there to get some trimmer line, since I was in the middle of doing yard work and had run out.  My goal was to run in, get some trimmer line, and run out.  Five minutes, tops.  In and out.  The only time I make a trip to Wal-Mart is in such an "in-and-out" situation; if I'm in there for longer than ten minutes, I get itchy.  On this particular trip, I got real itchy, since my five minute "in-and-out" trip turned into about a half hour.

It was my fault, though.  I made the mistake of wearing a t-shirt that had "John 3:16" printed across the front in big, black, bold font.  It was this t-shirt that prompted the man in the lawncare supplies aisle to say to me, upon my arrival to that aisle, "Yeah, but do you know what it says?"  Having no clue what he was talking about, I said, "Excuse me?"  "The Bible verse on your shirt," he said, "do you know what it says?"  I looked down and noticed I was wearing my "John 3:16" shirt.  "John 3:16?" I responded.  "Absolutely I know what it says."  As soon as those words exited my mouth, he said, "Well, let's hear it.  What does it say?"  Ready for the challenge, I spoke the verse clearly and quickly.  He was impressed and told me so.  We smiled at each other, and I looked back to the shelf, trying to locate the trimmer line I needed.  Little did I know . . .

"But, do you know what it means?" he asked.  I was a bit surprised by his follow-up; I thought we were done.  Nevertheless, I was game.  "I sure do," I said, and then proceeded to explain to him that God so loved the world that He sent His Son, Jesus the Christ, to live the perfect life in our place, die on the cross to pay the price for all of our sins, and to rise again from the tomb to open the way to everlasting life to all who believe.

"But, do you believe it?" he asked.  "Absolutely!" I said.  "Do you?"

Ignoring my question, he asked, "When were you saved?"  (Poor guy.  He thought he was going to save a lost soul, but ran into a stubborn Lutheran - and one who was attending seminary and studying to be a pastor, to boot - oops! :) 

I responded, "I was saved when my Savior bled and died on that hill outside of Jerusalem.  I received this salvation personally when I was born again from above in Holy Baptism.  What about you?  Do you believe?  When were you saved?"

Again, ignoring my questions, he asked, "But, have you accepted Jesus into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior?"

Knowing exactly where this was going, I responded, "Jesus chose me by leading me to the baptismal font, where I was washed clean, filled with the Holy Spirit, covered in Jesus' perfect holiness and righteousness, and welcomed into His kingdom, which has no end."

This caught him off guard.  He wasn't ready for it.  He delayed.  So, I asked, "Now, what about you?
Do you believe in Christ?  When were you saved?"

He still looked a little taken aback; it was obvious that he was thinking hard about what to say next.  For a moment, I thought he might turn tail and walk away.  But, he didn't.  Instead, he finally obliged me with an answer:  "I was saved on November 15, 1982 (the only reason I remember the date is because November 15 is one of the greatest National Holidays of the year for me - Opening Day of rifle season for deer hunting).  It was on that day that I finally made the transaction and accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.  And it was all due to the Prophet So-and-So (he told me a name, but can't remember) at the Church of God of Prophecy.  I learned from him how to make that transaction with Jesus and how to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, and my life has never been the same.  I received the water baptism you're talking about three times in my life, but it wasn't until I was baptized in the Holy Spirit that I became a true believer.  I owe my life to Prophet So-and-So.  He showed me the way.  I'd love to introduce you to him . . ."

He pulled out a business card and reached it out to me.

I didn't take the card.  Instead, I said, "You began our conversation by asking me if I knew what John 3:16 meant.  It sounds to me like you're a little confused by it yourself, because it seems like you attribute your salvation more to Prophet So-and-So than to Jesus.  So, what does John 3:16 mean to you?"

This led into a very interesting exchange, which took me well over my 10-minute Wal-Mart limit.  He quoted Scripture passages and I took my time to explain what those passages actually meant.  He quoted more; I explained.  More; explained.  He wasn't liking it at all, but, to his credit, he kept at it.  He spent 25 minutes trying to save me, but he wasn't getting very far, since, well, I had done already been saved.  He kept trying to get me to focus on what I must do, and I kept telling Him what Jesus had done and continues to do for me.  In the process, I kept trying to get him to understand that he was a sinner, so that he would realize His need for Jesus, but he kept responding, "I have rebuked and conquered sin in my life."  This so-called "Prophet" had really done some damage to this poor soul.  He believed he could "speak in tongues" and told me that he had just recently been blessed with the power to heal.  I know I gave him a lot to think about, but, alas, he was too deep into the muck of the false "charismatic" theology to be pulled out.  I stood firm and did my best to confess the faith and point him to Jesus.  And, I'm happy to report that he was the one to finally cry "uncle."  I would have stood there in that aisle for as long as he wanted to talk, but, really, he was just hearing too darned much about sin and grace, Law and Gospel, and especially about Jesus and His Cross.  It was a passionate, but pleasant, conversation, but, eventually he had just had enough.  He said, "I'll pray that you experience the 'believer's baptism' someday."  "Please don't," I said, "I already have Jesus.  He's all I need."  Then, he walked away.

All this because I made the mistake of wearing that "John 3:16" t-shirt.

Or, maybe it wasn't a mistake at all . . . :)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Saturday, February 5, 2011

I Don't Hate You . . .

I just want to know if you're a Lutheran.  That's all.  Quit responding with, "Why you hatin', playa?"  I'm neither hating nor playing.  I'm actually trying to have a serious conversation with you about what it means to be a Lutheran, and trying to determine, in the course of that conversation, whether or not you are a Lutheran.  I'm sorry, but I'm not convinced that you're a Lutheran simply because you say, "I'm a Lutheran."  There are many people out there who claim to be Lutheran, but are not.  You know that as well as I do.  That I'm not convinced that you are Lutheran simply because you claim to be has nothing to do with how I feel about you personally.  If you're not a Lutheran, that doesn't mean I hate you.  I have many non-Lutheran friends and acquaintances.  I don't hate them.  Lutherans are not haters.  They are serious about their confession of the faith.  They are zealous about maintaining that confession and passionate about defending it.  But, they're not haters.   

So, why do you keep resorting to playing "the hate card"?  I just want to know if you're a Lutheran.  And the reason I want to know is because, if you are a Lutheran, then my being a Lutheran is called into question.  Why?  Because, well, we define Lutheranism differently.  You define it one way, I define it another way.  We both can't be right at the same time.  Either you are right and I am wrong, or I am right and you are wrong - or, we're both wrong.  That's why we're engaged in this conversation, to determine who's right and who's wrong, or whether it may be that we're both wrong.  I know that's not a popular idea in our politically-correct, still postmodern, day and age, where truth is relative and contradictions are ignored.  But, we're operating from the principle that there is truth and there is falsehood.

One of the reasons I am calling your claim to be a Lutheran into question is your continued insistence that I must simply trust you when you say, "I'm a Lutheran."  And then, when I won't simply trust you, but press you to back up your claim, you accuse me of being mean, hateful, and even of "tearing the Kingdom down," whatever that's supposed to mean.  Lutherans do not operate this way.  Lutherans do not resort to saying, "Hey, just trust me."  Instead, Lutherans are always ready, even eager, to confess what they believe and why they believe what they believe.  Lutherans are the "This is most certainly true" and "Here I stand" people.  Thus, it is odd, and rather suspicious, for you, one who claims to be a Lutheran, to expect me to simply trust you.  I don't.  Neither do I expect you to simply trust me.  That's just not the Lutheran way.

Another reason I am suspicious of your claim to be a Lutheran is that you keep telling me to mind my own business, as if I am out of bounds for having concerns about what I hear you saying and see you doing in public.  Again, Lutherans do not operate this way.  Lutherans are confessional, and they realize that what they say and do in public confesses what they believe.  Lutherans are happy to have their public confession questioned and examined, for this gives them the opportunity to explain and defend their confession, and, if need be, to accept the admonishment of their fellow Lutherans to bring their public confession back in line with what Lutherans believe, teach, confess, and practice.  In other words, Lutherans want to hear what their brothers and sisters have to say about what they're saying and doing, for Lutherans are always interested in confessing the truth in word and deed.  Thus, it is odd, and rather suspicious, for you, one who claims to be a Lutheran, to tell your fellow Lutherans to mind their own business and leave you alone.  If you really are a Lutheran, then what you say and do is the business of your fellow Lutherans.  It really seems as though that should go without saying.    

Still another reason I am suspicious of your claim to be a Lutheran is the claim you keep making that doctrine and practice need not go hand in hand.  That's not a Lutheran idea.  Lutherans believe that doctrine and practice do go hand in hand.  Lutherans practice what they believe.  Lutheran practice is Lutheran doctrine in action.  It cannot be otherwise, for to be otherwise is to forsake the confessional nature of Lutheranism, which bears itself out not only in words, but also in deeds.  Lutherans are not fundamentalists.  Our Lutheran Confessions cannot be reduced to some neat list of core doctrines to which we adhere, for they not only confess what we believe, but how we put our beliefs into practice.  Thus, it is odd, and rather suspicious, for you, one who claims to be a Lutheran, to insist that your Lutheranism is not affected by your employment of non-Lutheran practices, especially when those practices come from those whom our Confessions condemn.

I could continue rambling on here, but the main point I want to drive home is that I don't hate you.  It is actually out of love that I am discussing things with you.  And, please remember that you are the one who has put out for public consumption the things which have prompted our conversation.  It is not as though I am some sort of "heresy hunter," out there searching for the next Lutheran to devour, and it is completely unfair for you to claim, or imply, as much.  The things you're doing were brought to my attention because you put them out there for the world to hear and see.  Why should you be surprised, shocked, or amazed to receive a response to what you're saying and doing?  Shouldn't you expect as much?  And, as a Lutheran, shouldn't you be more than ready and willing to explain your words and deeds to fellow Lutherans who have concerns about what they hear and see you doing?  Playing "the hate card" and refusing to explain your actions to your fellow Lutherans is the real hateful behavior.  I mean, to write your brothers and sisters in Christ off as "haters" without answering their concerns, no matter how passionately they've expressed their concerns, is not a very loving approach.  Neither is it very Lutheran.  Which is kind of the point.

I don't hate you.  I just question whether or not you are Lutheran.  If you are, show me.  If you're not, maybe you should just admit it and prayerfully consider whether or not it is good for you to go on pretending as if you are.  But, even if you're not really a Lutheran, but insist on continuing to call yourself a Lutheran, I still won't hate you.  I may not respect you as much as I do those who align themselves with those with whom they are really in fellowship, but I won't hate you.  How could I?  You confess Jesus as Savior, just like me.  We were both marked and redeemed by Christ the Crucified.  Hate?  No, I love you.  You're a brother (or sister) in Christ.  And, even if you weren't, I still wouldn't hate you, for my Lord commands me to love even those who are His enemies. 

But, that we share that blessed fellowship in Christ does not mean that we share a common confession of the faith.  I don't doubt at all that you are a Christian.  I just have doubts about you being a Lutheran Christian, who subscribes unconditionally to the Book of Concord as a correct exposition of Holy Scripture.  Those doubts come when I hear and see you saying and doing things which appear to contradict what we Lutherans believe, teach, confess, and practice.  And, no, those doubts do not come because I am some fanatical "purist" or "ultra-confessional" or whatever other derogatory term is so often used by many to cleverly avoid discussion and debate.  Besides, if you believe these labels do aptly describe me (or others), then don't just hurl them at me (us) like some rebellious teenager, but love me (us) enough to show me (us) the error of my (our) ways.  That would be the Lutheran thing to do, after all.

Anyway, again, I don't hate you.  I just want to know if you're a Lutheran.  If you are the Lutheran you claim to be, all of this should make perfect sense.  If it doesn't . . . well, that would seem odd and suspicious.