Thursday, June 7, 2012

Rejoicing in, and Celebrating, Our Pretend Unity

Pr. David Juhl has a post over at BJS which shows how the Missouri Synod used to handle difficult doctrinal issues. It is quite eye-opening. Unfortunately, the way we handle difficult doctrinal issues today is nothing like what they did back in 1860. Today, the way we handle difficult doctrinal issues is to simply pretend that they don't exist by claiming that we have God-given unity and Christ-centered diversity, and that we should rejoice in that unity and celebrate that diversity. A good example of this can be seen in the following proposed resolution, which will be taken up in a few weeks at the Michigan District Convention:

(NOTE: This resolution lists four overtures as its reference, one from a circuit forum and three from congregations, my own included, all of which were nearly identical in wording and called for the establishment of liturgical mission congregations in the district. Evidently, the floor committee decided to ignore those overtures and write its own resolution, as the resolution below doesn't even come close to the purpose expressed in the overtures it references, and no other overtures of the nature of this resolution were submitted for consideration. In an ironic twist, they include a "whereas" below which states that our "Life Together" involves trusting one another.)

1-02 To Rejoice in our God-given Unity and Celebrate our Christ-centered Diversity  

Whereas, all members of Synod have pledged to submit to Scripture, have subscribed to the Confessions, and have signed our constitution; and
Yes, because we all know that no one could have ever pledged falsely, and that no one could ever forsake the confession they once pledged to hold, and that our true unity resides in the pledges we made, not in the things to which we pledged.
Whereas, we are commanded in Scripture, "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3); and
Yes, we must make every effort to agree to disagree, live and let live, and keep the peace, for this is the true unity of the Spirit and bond of peace, not the pure preaching of the Gospel and right administration of the Sacraments.
Whereas, Scripture grants Christians a certain freedom in determining how they worship the Lord (Romans 14:5); and
Yes, because Romans 14:5 is all about freedom in determining how we worship the Lord, even though it has nothing to do with that. But, since God is nearly silent in His Word about how He is to be worshiped (except for all the principles He lays forth in the second half of Exodus and Leviticus and throughout the Old Testament, and except for the fact that God Incarnate upheld those principles throughout His earthly ministry and was filled with holy zeal for His Father's House, chasing those who were exercising their freedom out with a whip), this verse was all we could come up with to support the very clear testimony of God in His Word that Christians are free to worship Him however they please.
Whereas, the Confessions assert "For this unity, we say, a similarity of human rites, whether universal or particular, is not necessary" (AP VII) (see also AC XXVI and FC Ep X); and
When you also see AC XXVI and FC Ep X, please ignore all the instances where it sounds like we Lutherans do not have limitless freedom, but focus only on those parts that talk about our freedom and tell us that rites and customs and ceremonies do not have to be the same everywhere, because that really gets at the heart of all that is said in our Confessions about worship.
Whereas, our Constitution lists one of the objectives of Synod to "Encourage congregations to strive for uniformity in church practice, but also to develop an appreciation of a variety of responsible practices and customs which are in harmony with out common profession of faith" (Article 3.7); and
Yes, and "uniformity in church practice" is achieved if you mention Jesus in your Service or "worship experience" or whatever you like to call it, as is "responsible practices and customs." Just make sure to mention Jesus and anything goes in our wonderfully diverse and truly blessed variety of worship.
Whereas, our liturgy greatly aids in grounding, teaching, and exercising its participants in the faith and our confession of the same; and
We added this "whereas" to pay lip service to the overtures sent in, which called for the establishment of liturgical mission congregations in our district, and to make sure that we make it clear that we are willing to tolerate even those liturgical types in our anything-goes freedom when it comes to worship (but, we're certainly not going to allow the overtures they presented to see the light of day among us, since they make the crazy claim that we may not be as unified as we know we are).
Whereas, Walther's Church and Ministry sites Chemnitz as saying "This office [of pastor] has power granted to it by God" to "with the consent of the congregation introduce ceremonies that serve the ministry, are not at variance with God's Word, do not burden consciences, but promote order, dignity, propriety, peace, and edification" (Concerning the Holy Ministry Thesis V); and
Which, of course, means that the pastor is free to develop his own "worship experience," since order, dignity, propriety, peace, and edification can be defined in many wonderful and diverse ways among us.
Whereas, "Life Together" involves trusting one another to understand both the particular needs of the communities in which we serve and to correctly apply Biblical teachings to those needs; so therefore be it
Yes, because we all know that the Bible is filled with verses exhorting us to trust one another (there's so many that we don't even need to reference one here), and we also know that each and every congregation has its own particular needs: Some need Rock 'N Roll Jesus, some need Blended Jesus, and still some others need the old, worn out, Traditional Jesus, and pastors and other church leaders, whom we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we can trust, are capable of choosing which version of Jesus their congregations need.
Resolved, that as People of Hope we imagine a District that rejoices in our God-given doctrinal unity and celebrates Christ-centered diversity in worship practices; and be it further
Yes, because doctrine is one thing and practice is a completely different thing, and just because one congregation removes the altar to make room for the praise band and "rocks out for Jesus" each week, while another congregation retains the altar and kneels before the very Body and Blood of Jesus which is distributed from it, both congregations obviously believe the same exact thing, even though their practices might suggest otherwise. I mean, after all, as we stated in the very first "whereas," we've all pledged the same vows, so we must all believe the same thing.
Resolved, that pastors be encouraged to continue instructing their congregations, catechumens, and new members in the Biblical principles of worship; and be it finally
You know, like the Biblical principles of worship clearly laid forth in Romans 14:5, which we referred to in the third "whereas" above, and which has nothing to do with how we are to worship the Lord, but, again, the Bible is silent on that, so, really, the Biblical principles of worship are that you are free to do whatever you want, however you want, so long as you mention Jesus in there somewhere.
Resolved, that we therefore affirm the Theses on Worship adopted by our Council of Presidents (COP) and commended by our 2010 Synod convention.
Because, of all men, we can trust them most assuredly. Not only have they pledged to submit to Scripture, subscribed to the Confessions, and signed our constitution, but they are experts in interpreting our "covenants of love" and know exactly what God-given unity and Christ-centered diversity mean, in synodical terms. And, besides that, these "Theses on Worship" do a wonderful job of ignoring much of what our Lutheran Confessions say about our Lutheran theology of worship, honing in on those instances where they speak of our freedom in worship, which provides us with the justification we need to produce resolutions like this one that also ignores much of what our Lutheran Confessions say about our Lutheran theology of worship and hones in on our freedom. Furthermore, we really, really, really like the way our COP blames the "worship wars" on those polarizing confessional rascals among us, who have the gall to claim that we are not perfectly united doctrinally just because some worship like methobapticostals and others worship like Lutherans, since, as we have said a few times here, we know that we're all united because we have all pledged the same vows. This provides us with the further justification to ignore all those nasty, polarizing overtures that were submitted in favor of the liturgy (except to give it lip service in that one "whereas" above), since, in our Christ-centered diversity, we know that we can worship like methobapticostals and still retain our Lutheran unity with those who worship like Lutherans. Did we mention that we all pledged the same vows?


Scott Diekmann said...

We are: Unity in Diversity and Diversity in unity.

read it said...

I found this interesting obituary about a man who took a relatively minor stand against personally participating in an activity he felt was unbiblical, and was rejected by his denomination. It shows how adamantly the innovators demand everyone go along with everything they do or say. The innovators do not promote unity by tolerating dissent, or diversity if it holds to any part of orthodoxy.

One man recalled that, "It marked a shift from creeds to constitution for defining the church's beliefs, he said.
"You didn't have to believe everything in the creed. Of course, the constitution cannot be scrupled. It must be obeyed," he said."

Read more: