Friday, May 11, 2007

Poping, or Crossing the Tiber

It seems another Lutheran pastor has gone over to the Bishop of Rome. I am tired of reading stories like these, it is very saddening and demoralizing. Though Darel E. Paul is not LC-MS (though he was about 5 years ago), he has some stinging comments re: Lutheranism in general and the LC-MS in particular. His former Lutheran body, the ELCA, gets the brunt of his criticism, and I really cannot disagree with him. About the LC-MS, he says we are subject to the same problems only in a conservative culture. What pushed him out, so to speak, is the ultra-liberalism and ungodly doctrines of the ELCA. He writes:

...Particularly serious are the ELCA’s “full communion” agreements with several Reformed churches and The Episcopal Church (and soon with the United Methodist Church as well). The ELCA confesses through these agreements that the gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments are rightly administered among these non-Lutheran bodies. It thereby also confesses that Reformed doctrine is as true as Lutheran doctrine, and that the Evangelical Lutheran Church has no unique claim to be the visible Church of the Creeds. I do not believe what these agreements confess, particularly regarding the sacraments (viz. the Real Presence and baptismal regeneration) and the establishment of what is in effect a visible united ‘American Liberal Protestant Church’.

More recently I have become troubled by what I consider to be a pervasive and pernicious antinomianism (i.e. moral lawlessness) spreading throughout the ELCA and its full communion partners such as the Church of Sweden and The Episcopal Church. It is now common to hear (such as at the 2005 ELCA Churchwide Assembly or the 2006 General Convention of The Episcopal Church) proclamations of the Gospel over against the Law, or teachings that the Gospel somehow abrogates the Law. What has been particularly troubling, however, is how this antinomianism is defended as an eminently Lutheran confession of salvation by faith alone, imputed righteousness and simul justus et peccator.

This testimony sounds familiar, unfortunately. In my opinion, what initially drives "converts" away from Lutheranism is usually a combination of liberal nuttiness and denial of Christian truth, which then engenders seeking an authority to simply stop the arguing and constant infighting between the "progressives" and the traditionalists. When I say "liberal nuttiness" I mean saying things like it is OK to be in communion with a church body which denies the bread and wine are truly the body and blood of Jesus Christ, which has a like, modern, "relevant" "liturgy"--man, which ordains actively gay clergy, which is not a prophetic voice against the world, but which functionally parrots the party line of one political party or another, which indirectly pays for the murder of unborn children, which believes the only "tradition" which matters is the authority of liberals to impose their innovations upon traditionalists. In short, this happens when a church body places other agendas above that of the Gospel, and the Gospel becomes another word for the other agenda, whether that is feminism, being "relevant"--i.e. conforming to the spirit of the age, or any other number of ideologies which obscure the cross. And who can really blame someone for leaving a church like that? I do not believe many Lutherans wake up one day and say "Hey, the Confessions are just wrong, wrong, wrong!" and then go out to find the nearest RC/EO church. They usually have some sort of crisis (in the LC-MS it is usually caused by some "liturgical" innovation or power politics, which the "conservatives" introduced BTW). This crisis is caused by ungodly innovations according to the wisdom of this age instead of the wisdom of God.

So, what to do? Dr. Luther at says we should preach the pure Gospel. That is true, and as he says that is all our Lord asks. But I would go further, at the risk of adding to what our Lord has commanded us. I would ask all of our "progressives"--Anglican, Lutheran, even Roman Catholic, to look at that their innovations are doing to the Body of Christ, and whether things are better outside the particular obsessions they have--feminism, liturgical silliness, gay rights etc. How many people have left for the RCC or the EOC because we retained our liturgy, because we retained the teaching of the law AND the Gospel, because we remained true to our roots--not only back to the Reformation but all the way back to the Apostles! And please, don't tell me that the liturgy drives people away--the EOC is growing and it has a very "old" and "outdated" liturgy! Please don't tell me that when I approach the ultimate Judge of the Universe for the forgiveness of my sins that I have to be entertained if I am to receive his gifts--something no one expects from an earthly judge! Please don't tell me that we have evolved beyond God's law so that what was universally believed a sin is now something to celebrate--as if God's word is not eternal and has an expiration date! In other words, before we ask the Church to change according to our tastes, please make sure you are on firmer ground than modern fads like feminism. As for "conservatives", how about prayer and more prayer, and maybe a little more prayer--alone and together, and only THEN organizing for earthly political battles.

OK, I will end my rant.

In any case, I don't think the LC-MS is a gonner, nor am I attracted to the RC/EOC (though I flirted as recently as two years ago). But f the last major confessional Lutheran Church collapses in on itself, where can I go? Thankfully, I don't believe the Lord will put me in such a position.


Preachrboy said...

Darel Paul dismisses out of hand the "microsynod", which doesn't sound like a bad idea to me, if the waters of Missouri become un-navigable.

He seems to say that doing so inidcates a pick-and-choose mentality and sacrifices unity. But whatever happened to unity being based in the truth?

And why does one HAVE to be in a synod at all?

I am like you, Ed. I think there is hope yet for Missouri. But we sure have some work to do.

Edward Reiss said...

I can't explain why I believe Missouri will survive, I just believe it. I suppose one reason is that I keep meeting more and more like-minded Lutherans in person and online. :-)

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