The Pastor Challenge
Friday, April 25, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
A few months ago, my Elders and I were studying and we came across the following quotation regarding a church program, or movement, that was marked by:
“. . . reform of theological education, criticism of scholastic theology and theological polemics, advocacy of interconfessional toleration and understanding emphasis on a religion of the heart as well as the head, demand for a faith that expresses itself in life and activity, cultivation of personal holiness with a tendency toward perfectionism, upgrading of the laity, recommendation of private meetings for the fostering of piety, development of the spiritual priesthood of believers, endorsement of mysticism, etc.”
Does this sound like something happening in our synod today? Well, it is a quotation from the introduction of Pia Desideria (p 19), explaining the agenda of Philip Jacob Spener and his pietistic reforms. I think this helpfully illustrates that the battle in the LCMS today is not between the old categories of “liberal” and “conservative,” but between those who advocate a more pietistic, subjective religion, and those who are striving for a more confessional, objective Church.
This is important fact to realize, for when folks try to portray certain people in our synod today as “liberal” they are, well, wrong. They are not in the line of classic liberal Protestantism and what we see happening in so many mainline denominations today. They are in fact conservative by many standards . . . but they are also pietistic, and moving our synod in this direction. We need to understand this, in order to teach rightly and make a positive impact in our synod, and show why many things that are happening are undesirable.
What is at stake? Not just our synod, that is relatively unimportant. Much more critical is the certainty of our salvation, which can be found only in the objective truths of the faith. Once we move to a more subjectivistic, pietistic orientation, and begin to look to ourselves, our efforts, our holiness, our activity, our fire, or whatever else as the evidence of our spiritual life and unity, then we are lost. Then the devil will most certainly drive us to despair. The only certainty we have is the objective truth of the Gospel. The confession of the faith once delivered to the saints. The proclamation of the work of Jesus for us, not primarily His work in us. When we have that, we have everything. When we lose that, we lose everything. And that, my friends, is something worth fighting for.
(For more on this, read also The Lost Soul of American Protestantism by DG Hart.)
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
President Kieschnick has weighed in on the Wall Street Journal article about the discontinuation of Issues, Etc. You can read his response here. Pastor David Peterson has written a good piece about this response here. Please read these.
I simply want to add one point to all of this: while President Kieschnick points to unity in the Ablaze™ movement as evidence of our unity, our synod was founded on an entirely different unity: unity in doctrine and worship.
Here is a good article explaining this understanding about the reasons for the founding of our synod.