Thursday, April 10, 2008

Unsettling Questions

In a comment on a previous post, -C asked if attempting to reform the LCMS was worth the fight. Since Lutherans are, by definition, reformers, one may be led immediately to say "Absolutely!" But here is how I responded to her in another comment:

It is worth letting people know what is going on, as a lot of this is below the radar of the average layperson. Someone wise once told me, "If the house is on fire and you can't put it out, you exit it. If you are concerned with others, you run out yelling that the house is on fire."

I followed with a few questions, expanded here:

Is the LCMS a house on fire? Is it possible to quench this house ablaze?

Is it even possible to fight for Confessionalism within the LCMS or has the battle already been lost?

Is Confessionalism just an -ism? That is, are we fighting for ideology or for theology, or for faith? In other words, if our complaint is worth exiting the Synod if the ship cannot be turned, is it even possible to have what Confessional Lutherans desire?


  1. David said...

    The battle is NOT over for the soul of the Missouri Synod, contrary to what many within and without the LC-MS says.

    The battle is fought one parish at a time, one parishoner at a time. How do pastors fight the battle? They do what's been given them to do. They preach and teach and administer the Sacraments.

    As the people of God grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ, the pastor can bring his flock up to speed on the issues in the Synod. But the people of God should know well the Gospel before confronted with troubles.

    Others may disagree, but that's the way I see it. Give and teach the Gospel first, then talk about problems in our fellowship. Going about it the other way might cause anger and frustration.

    Should the LC-MS see fit to throw me out of the Ministry because I preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments faithfully rather than push their programmatic drivel down the throats of my flock, that's their problem, not mine. But I'm not leaving.

  2. John Hogg said...

    With all due respect, you are leaving. Like it or not, you are mortal and someday, another will inherit your flock.

    If the Scriptures warn us against putting our trust in "princes and sons of men," how much less should we trust in our own abilities! This, to me, is as much an example of "ark steadying" as those who promote the Ablaze! program.

    One day, you will die. God grant that it may not be soon, but all of us must die someday.

    And then?

    Grace and peace,

  3. David said...

    John, I thought you were Orthodox. Why should you care about Lutherans. You cannot say whether we are "church" or not.

    Leave Lutherans alone as I leave the Orthodox alone. You will not convert me.

    Thank you.

  4. John Hogg said...

    Pr. David,

    I am Orthodox. But I don't believe that I ever said anything in my post about whether you are "church" or not.

    In terms of telling me to leave, I believe that's Pr. Hall's request to make, if I have somehow behaved inappropriately.

    In any case, I'm sorry if I caused you offense. However, regardless of who is asking the question, don't you see a problem with basing the future of your congregation on yourself and your own efforts and strengths?

    Surely, the days of a man are like the flower of the field.

    Grace and peace,

  5. Christopher D. Hall said...

    "David" Welcome! Your Blogger profile is unavailable, and you give no last name. I do allow pseudonymous comments here, but I wonder why your comments sound so defensive and angry. I am glad you are reading here, but I do ask you to please refrain from assuming the motives of others, namely why J. Hogg is here.

    And I believe John Hogg raises a good point (welcome, BTW) about the reality of the body we live in. We cannot stick our necks in the sand and remain uninvolved from the larger picture.

    As a Good Lutheran consider for a moment if Luther had just remained faithful to his little flock and his students and never published anything for others to read?

    You may not have the gifts of leading a revolution/reformation (I don't), but we are part of a much larger picture we would be averse to ignore.

  6. Rev. Eric J Brown said...

    There are times I wonder the same thing myself. Sometimes I think that it might be time to fly to another Synod - or maybe even help form a new one. That day may come - but it should be a day that this is forced upon me.

    There are times I even wonder about flying to another communion - but every communion has the same problems that are present in the world, every communion has some nasty fights. Rome has some ugly ones - you never know which bishops are in communion with each other in the East - African Anglicans might be a fairly good place to take a stand, but there are fights they are facing aplenty.

    Everywhere and anywhere where one would preach the Gospel, there will be conflict, there will be struggles. Sometimes we can think it will be less elsewhere - but Satan will follow us wherever the Gospel is preached. We could even put our heads in the sand and think how nice it is in X location. . . but only ignoring what is going on over the hill, or in the next state, or in the next district or bishopric.

    It's always the same, all throughout history. Walther thought he would flee the idea of Unionism in Germany, only to arrive in America where the Lutherans were already unionists of their own volition - and then spent the rest of his life fighting against the New Measures and revivalism. We call them the golden and silver ages of orthodoxy - only because there was so much heresy which had to be written against.

    Wherever I am at, as long as I remain faithful, the struggle will be there. The only question is, is it worth it struggling here?

    Yes, the LCMS has a changing identity. It once stood for being the Confessional Lutheran Church. . . many people even think of it that way to this day, not knowing the division. But in theory, we haven't publicly changed our stance, our subscription - so I think I can rightfully be here - and see what happens.

  7. David said...


    It's Pastor David Juhl here. You've commented on my blog recently.

    First, my apologies to Mr. Hogg. My tone was harsh. I beg your forgiveness.

    Second, I am not banking anything on my successes in the Ministry. Christ alone is what I hope comes from my lips when they open.

    Third, each pastor must weigh for himself what to do for the sake of his parish. I am teaching my people the Gospel. I am not trying to start a revolution. When the time comes to confess, I will confess with great boldness. But I am not leaving the Missouri Synod, nor the Lutheran Confession, in her hour of need.

    If my Synod sees fit to remove me for faithfully preaching Christ crucified and not another gospel (which is not a gospel at all), that's her problem, not mine.

    I agree with Pr. Brown. Missouri has yet to change her public confession. When that day comes, God forbid, then it will be time to put up or shut up.

    O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise.

    God grant it for the sake of Christ.

  8. Rev. Eric J Brown said...

    Wow. . . I wouldn't have guessed that "David" was you Juhl. . . your always either "Juhl" or "Dave" in my head. In fact, I don't know if I've ever actually called you David.

    I find that one of the the reasons I get frustrated boils down to the fact that I know that I am in a struggle, that there will be things that will be difficult - and I get really annoyed when I perceive someone telling me to quit - either by heading to another confession, or to another Synod - to wherever things are "better". This is where I am at, for good or for ill, and it is my duty to preach and teach here - the time may come when I'm not going to be here, but it would be faithless of me to hasten that departure because I tire of struggle. Hence I almost viscerally react to "Oh, well you should move to _______" as an attack on my honor, my character, and quite often my confession. Although I know it's not - that's almost what it ends up feeling like.

  9. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Pr. Juhl--I've enjoyed your blog for some time. Thanks for visiting here, and for sharing you name. I don't require it here, but it is nice.

    And thanks for your further comments. I'd like to respond, but don't have the time now. But do feel free to keep the discussion going!

  10. Past Elder said...

    This issue is deeply felt on "the other side of the pulpit" too.

    I was raised in a huge, well-known church which about forty years ago had a well-known council, the result of which is that to find the faith as I was taught it one must now go outside the formal boundaries of that church. Ironically, unlike LCMS, which insists it isn't the same ("your grandfather's) church, this one insists it IS the same church.

    For a time I hung around another church, very small but nonetheless afflicted by a revisionist element of the same kind but in that context. I never joined. Since that time, the revisionist element won, it now has a different name altogether -- a more seeker-friendly name -- and has become quite the opposite of its former self, including women clergy.

    I professed Lutheranism in WELS in 1996 and ten years later joined LCMS, quite aware of its controversies of late.

    So I am no stranger to finding the most resistance to the faith one was taught right in the very place one was taught it. One expects resistance from the world, but from the church?

    This development is not an LCMS phenomenon. Every denomination, except those that started on the revisionist basis, is undergoing this, or has undergone it -- and for the latter group, the revisionist element has won.

    From my days at a university part of one of that large church's leading centres for "reform", which was during the Seminex era and all eyes were watching to see if LCMS would shed its mediaeval, repressive, patriarchal shell and get with it, LCMS has stood as the one major denomination that did not jump into the abyss of its version of the same revisionism that overtook all the others. And, officially at least, that remains the case.

    We are in a struggle IMHO no different that the one to which Pastor Brown refers about Walther, the "new measures" and revivalism being simply updated but essentially the same. Pastor Harju has an excellent post on his blog about the theological underpinnings of all this. However, I don't think theology is in the minds of those seeking this revision, however accurate the theological analysis may be.

    It strikes me that those who are "ablaze" for souls speak much the same language our CEO does at work in laying out the importance of hitting our numbers to continue to be successful. Frankly, I think it's about institutional survival, period. Or more exactly, jobs and money. The product needs a make-over to sell. If sales decline, while the competition gains market share, there goes the company with its jobs and money. And one can hide from this if one thinks the product is good for you and still the same, even if it isn't.

    And that's the key. They don't see a different product, just better ways to sell it. We see a changed product to make it sell better. Which means, the two camps are not agreed on what is essential to the product. What they would see as not essential and no more than a former packaging no longer appealing, we see as part of the product.

    That is why I do not think they began with a theological error and went from there. They began with a concern for numbers, be it souls or souls who show up and put something in the plate, and to attract the numbers compromised the product and ended up in theological error. They didn't see that the packaging resulted from the product itself, and to borrow the packaging that resulted from a different product that has better numbers leads one to that product itself.

    There's an old maxim for precisely this phenomenon: lex orandi lex credendi. When one begins to pray in a way that derives from beliefs that our not ours one begins to believe that way too and usually without knowing it since officially nothing has changed.

    That is the struggle. Both sides are aware that nothing has changed, officially. What we know is, to worship as if it had will eventually make it so. One simply cannot graft worship born of a denial of the sacraments as we understand them on to that understanding without at some point losing it. One prays as one believes, and if one prays as someone else believes one will believe what someone else believes.

    So that is our message too.