Monday, March 31, 2008

BCS Vote of No Confidence

The Synod's Board for Communications Services minutes of one year ago, April 2007, include this vote of no confidence for the KFUO management, including Dennis Storz and Chuck Rathert -- so you may wonder why they didn't get fired instead of Wilken and Schwarz):

M/S/C that, based on the written reports from the Executive Director and KFUO's Director of Broadcast Operations on the progress of carrying out the recommendations of KFUO audit committee, the Board express its serious reservations about and growing lack of confidence in the management of KFUO to carry out, at minimum, the recommendations of the committee and to give evidence of initiative in making necessary changes in programming, personnel, and finance.

In regard to the motion, the following areas of concern were expressed:

1. The need for AM staff vision for programs that can be nationally syndicated.
2. The need for the staff to be aware of the precarious future of commercially supported classical music programming as the financial basis of the station. (The content can increasingly be had from other sources, e.g., internet download, satellite radio.)
3. The need to explore the possibility of commercial support for AM.
4. The need to move forward more quickly in effecting savings through automation.
5. The need to develop a new personnel organizational chart.
6. The need to effect the best and most efficient use of time and talents of the staff, with possible job realignments, consolidations and/or staff reductions.
7. The need to be more intentional about the goals of the radio format.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Issues, Et Al.

Etc. is Latin for et cetera, meaning "and all the rest"
Et al. is Latin for et alii, meaning "and other things"

Having served on the LCMS Board for Communications for the most recently passed triennium, I was privy to many of the details regarding KFUO management, finances and programming.

From the posts I have seen around the blogosphere, people have been pretty good at not letting the wool get pulled over their eyes. Perhaps that's because the Issues, Etc. listenership is a rather discerning crowd.

Still, I'd like to give a little more insider information -- and encourage people not to be hateful, but winsome in the way that they speak the truth (but always leaving room for rebuke when it is appropriate, as noted in a previous post).

First of all, the general public needs to understand that David Strand is not the arch enemy. I really don't believe that he was the one who instigated all of this on his own. No way. During my tenure, David was always very forthright in working with the board, keeping the board well-informed. In this Issues, Etc. action, however, it appears that he didn't even let the board members know what he was going to be doing. Still, I believe that he was following directions from someone.

Additionally, we all learned from the time on the board (David Strand included) that you don't just fire anyone without making certain that all your ducks are in a row -- especially with the synod's human services and legal department. This action could not have been spur-of-the-moment. Some serious planning HAD to be done. You won't hear much about that.

The other parties who are involved include Dennis Storz (the KFUO station manager) who for three years stonewalled the board which pressed him hard for details but he gave us information which obfuscated the details, and Chuck Rathert, (the program manager for KFUO) who, in my opinion, distorted the facts and gave us half-truths with regard to ratings details and hits to the Issues, Etc. website.

Supporters of Issues, Etc. have already figured out that a lot of the information presented by David Strand is dubious or just plain bogus. But, you see, David Strand did not make up that information. He is only reporting what was given to him.

Furthermore, the BCS had rejected the Carter policy-based model of governance. (This subject desrves another post). The Carter policy-based model basically says that the executive director can do whatever he wants to do unless the board has placed specific boundaries on his actions. (This is the model of governance used by most of the synodical boards, and I have to say that I really think it is BAD NEWS. In fact, at one point, the synod's board of directors, as noted in their official minutes, even decided to discontinue its use. But the majority of synodical operations still uses it.)

So, if the BCS had returned to this model of governance, I suppose it would have been possible for David Strand to do such a thing on his own initiative. But, imho, that's not his style.

And if the members of the BCS did not direct David Strand to do it, that leaves only a few other possibilities such as the synod's Board of Directors (but they had agreed to a moratorium on selling the KFUO licenses - for proof, check out the BCS and BoD minutes). That leaves someone like President Kieschnick, probably acting in a passive aggressive mode through other agents known to him.

People also need to do some thread-pulling regarding the new/current chairman of the BCS, Mr. Claus. Was he a seminary graduate at the time of Seminex who refused to sign papers stating that he rejected the false teachings of liberal Lutheranism? And also President Kieschnick's personal (non-voting) representative to the BCS. Is this person a liberal Lutheran who was involved in trying to undermine the faithful work of Dr. A.L. Barry?

And finally, there are individuals like the synod's secretary Dr. Ray Hartwig and the BCS's former chairman, Mr. Ernie Garbe (still on the BCS but no longer the chairman), who believed that the Issues, Etc. and KFUO matters could be handled, managed and directed without being radical. I think that this action taken less than a year after the new board was elected shows that they are wrong. So are all the others who imagine that there is no doctrinal problem in the synod and that none of us should be making any waves. Dr. Hartwig and Mr. Garbe are wonderful individuals, talented and discerning in many ways. I hope that they will take a stronger stance against what Dr. Kieschnick and his ilk are fomenting in The LCMS.

There are many other anecdotal pieces of information which made the action taken against Issues, Etc. unsurprising for me. Perhaps more will come out as things progress.

BOTTOM LINE: This whole Issues, Etc. debacle is SYMPTOMATIC. That means, it in itself is not the root problem. Unless Issues, Etc. people realize the underlying theology and practice of synodical officials that led to this action and stand up against it, there will be no change.

Believe me. I was one of those who filed a complaint (not a lawsuit) regarding the Yankee Stadium affair. I have been close to the NICL "That They May Be One" protest. I have been close to those who filed a lawsuit against Dr. Kieschnick regarding his practices. In every case (and these were some pretty weighty matters), it all just went away as Dr. Kieschnick spun his yarns.

Will the Issues, Etc. protest be any different? At this point, I don't know. But I do know that if the laypeople in our synod are not thoroughly grounded in the Word of God, if they do not know how to rightly divide between Law and Gospel and confess the faith as in The Lutheran Confessions, if they are not dogged in their determination to stand up for the faith, there will only be small pockets of confessional Lutheranism surviving for a short while in The LCMS.

KYRIE ELEISON: O Lord, do not let Your Word be bound, but let it be preached and taught with all saltiness and purity to the joy and edification of Your holy people and a generation yet to come for Jesus' sake.

A Perspective from Old Books

C. S. Lewis composed this introduction for a translation of On the Incarnation by Athanasius.

There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about “isms” and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said.

The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.

This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology. Wherever you find a little study circle of Christian laity you can be almost certain that they are studying not St. Luke or St. Paul or St. Augustine or Thomas Aquinas or Hooker or Butler, but M. Berdyaev or M. Maritain or M. Niebuhr or Miss Sayers or even myself.

Now this seems to me topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old. And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet. A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light. Often it cannot be fully understood without the knowledge of a good many other modern books. If you join at eleven o’clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said. Remarks which seem to you very ordinary will produce laughter or irritation and you will not see why; the reason, of course, being that the earlier stages of the conversation have given them a special point.

In the same way sentences in a modern book which look quite ordinary may be directed at some other book; in this way you may be led to accept what you would have indignantly rejected if you knew its real significance. The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity (“mere Christianity” as Baxter called it) which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective. Such a standard can be acquired only from the old books. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes.We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook, even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united with each other and against earlier and later ages by a great mass of common assumptions.

. . .We are all rightly distressed, and ashamed also, at the divisions of Christendom. But those who have always lived within the Christian fold may be too easily dispirited by them. They are bad, but such people do not know what it looks like from without. Seen from there, what is left intact despite all the divisions, still appears (as it truly is) an immensely formidable unity. I know, for I saw it; and well our enemies know it.

That unity any of us can find by going out of his own age. It is not enough, but it is more than you had thought till then.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

In Praise of Rebuke

We are to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15) and we are not to war about words (1 Tim. 6:4). In a recent post, Rev. Cwirla encourages people to keep discussions "civil" in matters pertaining to the Issues, Etc. fiasco.

I suppose that "rebuke" doesn't seem a very civil or polite thing to do these days. What then of the passages in the Scriptures which clearly commend rebuke?

I remember on one occasion teaching a Bible class about Judgment Day to the Ladies Aid group. I pointed to the Scriptures which show that the Lord God will consign unbelievers to hell. One of the elder ladies, upon hearing this, in all earnestness said, “Yes, but He’ll do it in a nice way.”

The challenge for Christians, apparently, is to rebuke in a nice way (1 Tim 5:1) -- but rebuke just the same:

"Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching." (2 Timothy 4:2)

"Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you. " (Titus 2:15)

Do we not also have numerous examples of our Lord and His apostles rebuking others in ways which don’t seem so nice? These were appropriate and not sinful. They did not violate the 8th Commandment.

Jesus refers to Peter as “Satan” (Matt. 16:23) and He tells the Pharisees that their father is not God but rather the devil (John 8:44). John the Baptist refers to the Pharisees as a “brood of vipers” (Luke 3:7). The apostle Paul even said that he wished that those of the circumcision party would go all the way and emasculate themselves (Gal. 5:12).

The latter is not a pretty sight – but it was not sinful to rebuke in that fashion. And I contend that it is not necessarily sinful to rebuke others sharply today:

"For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. One of them, a prophet of their own, said, 'Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.' This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith . . ." (Titus 1:10-13)

The ultimate goal in any case is that people would turn from that which is falsely called knowledge and from vain worship to the knowledge of the truth, living in grace and peace.

Kyrie eleison: Lord, teach us rightly to rebuke all such things as are harmful to faith and life that we may all the more commend such things as are meet, right, and salutary for Jesus' sake.

Accountability Issues

In a recently posted comment on another blog, I formed a hypothesis that the relationship between a synod asking for money and a synod promulgating pure doctrine is often inversely proportional. When the synod's efforts are directed toward the promoting Christ's teachings, there is less of an emphasis on raising money. And conversely, when there isn't as much emphasis on doctrine, there are greater efforts to get more cash to do "great" things. (I think I also wrote something similar in a Logia Forum piece which I'll try to dig up and reproduce here.)

Probably the greater part of the injustice with Issues, Etc. has to do with doctrinal issues which the show addressed so masterfully. But that isn't the only reason. The leaders of synod are desperately looking for more money to cover the growing debt. Some of the leaders have been eying the KFUO licenses as easy income. Therefore, Issues, Etc. and the entire station may be regarded as expendable so that the synod can cover its debt -- or sink more capital into the Fan Into Flame debacle.

The congregation I serve put forth an overture to our Northern Illinois District convention in 2005 calling for a detailed accounting of the Fanning into Flame funds. How much was raised? Where is it kept? How is it being spent? And the like.

After being passed at the NID convention, it was sent on to the 2007 Synodical convention. Overwhelmingly, it passed there, too. Here is how the resolution reads:

To Report Detailed Accounting of Fan Into Flame Funds

Overtures 1-13–14
(CW, pp. 136–137)

WHEREAS, 2004 Res. 1-04 committed the LCMS to a $100-million fund-raising effort to support the Ablaze! initiatives; and

WHEREAS, The fund-raising effort is now known as Fan Into Flame, and more than $20 million in cash and pledges has already been entrusted to the movement; and

WHEREAS, The Synod’s Board for Mission Services is charged with gathering and dispersing these funds; and

WHEREAS, A detailed report to the congregations is being issued at this convention; therefore be it

RESOLVED, That a detailed annual report of the Fan Into Flame funds be written by the Synod’s Board for Mission Services, to be published throughout the Synod.

Action: Adopted (6)

(The resolution as presented by the committee was adopted without discussion [Yes: 1,094; No: 62].)

To date, I am told that about $6-million has been spent promoting the program, perhaps $9-million raised, and some $30-million pledged. I don't really know all the details. I just know that there is SUPPOSED to be an accounting. And I suspect that the synod president and the executive director for missions would prefer to have the accounting reported later rather than sooner, lest congregations get the idea that the fulfillment of their pledges to Fan into Flame is in effect going to pay off the synod debt (and any additional funds needed to promote the campaign).

The last few years in synodical fund-raising have seen what amounts to a clear-cutting of a forest -- not that there aren't funds available from generous mission-minded Lutherans, but rather that people are tired of giving money to campaigns and to an administration which continually adds to the bureaucracy with further financial burdens (cf. Sam Nafzger's newly-created, highly-paid position). In the last analysis, it may be that President Kieschnick will be held accountable for standing at the helm while the synod is bankrupted both financially and theologically.

Kyrie Eleison: Lord, renew the vim and vigor within us by Your holy Word and Sacraments, teaching us true repentance and enlivening us with full forgiveness for Jesus' sake.

Confessional Stewardship

Here's the Logia Forum article I penned, mentioned in the previous post:

Echoes of autumn stewardship programs and drives have probably trailed off by now. Other programs may be pressing for volunteers and donors in our congregations during the Epiphany and Lent seasons. Now, however, may be as good a time as any to consider stewardship from a confessional Lutheran perspective.

“Stewardship” occurs in the Book of Concord in inverse proportion to the number of times it is found in many current church publications. The only occurrence appears in the last article of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession dealing with Ecclesiastical Power. The complaint cited there is that church leaders have grown quite wealthy while congregations and people suffer poverty. God undoubtedly sees and hears them, and it is to him that you will some day have to give account of your stewardship (xxviii, Tappert p. 281 f.).

The word stewardship might not have made it into the Book of Concord at all if the Papists had not misunderstood article XXVIII of the Augsburg Confession. The question about good stewardship was not really germane to the issue at hand (for in this article we have been arguing about something different). Melanchthon digresses, saying in effect, “We weren’t really talking about stewardship, but now that you mention it, you haven’t been such good stewards.” Then he quickly goes on to discuss the real concern.

Was stewardship so insignificant in the sixteenth century that it received so little attention when the Lutheran Confessions were penned? Was stewardship only conceived of in terms of indulgence trafficking and state funding or was there another view quietly maintained among the faithful? Has the Christian Church ever in its history seen the likes of the stewardship programs, campaigns and emphases which are pressed upon us today from every corner? If not, why not?

Perhaps such materials thrive in our century and culture in a way which would not be appropriate in any other. Is the stewardship with which most of us are familiar the necessary form shaped by a Western democracy in the late twentieth century? In any case, these materials are urged upon us presumably because there are so few good stewards. Judge by the statistics apparent in many congregations: 60-70% of the members give less than two dollars per week. They spend twice as much for a single trip to McDonald’s as they do on a weekly visit to the Lord’s house.

Our synod’s problems often seem to be measured in the shortage of dollars. Fund-raising phone-a-thons from our colleges and seminaries smell so very much like manipulative techniques with heavy doses of air freshener, sprayed in hopes of squeezing more cash from members. But even when there are attempts to see self-management in terms of something other than dollars, i.e., in terms of talents and time, the figures are not much better: 10% of the members seem to do 90% of the work.

What procedure could turn these tragic figures around? In the current program-minded approach to stewardship, the Lutheran Confessions seem to have nothing to offer. There are no special worship services, no clever fund-raising suggestions, and no well-produced audio-visual materials. In spite of that, however, the Book of Concord remains one of the best textbooks on stewardship available.

A program approach to stewardship often begins with the assumption that what we need is a better biblical understanding about stewardship. If people understand stewardship better, they will become better stewards. The Confessions do not speculate thus about people. What the Confessions do best for stewardship is when stewardship is not mentioned at all. One does not effect good works by talking about good works. Good works are the consequent fruits of faith.

Broadly speaking, we might say that the Confessions speak in a way that bears stewardship fruits in three ways when it:

1) Removes obligation as a response to gospel gifts,
2) Rejects a partnership understanding of God’s relationship with us, and
3) Remands us to the theology of grace as opposed to a theology of success and glory.

First of all, the obligation of good works is removed from the saving gospel. In our own day, we sometimes get a take-off on the familiar John F. Kennedy quotation: Ask not what Jesus can do for you, but ask what you can do for Jesus. The idea is that Jesus has done so much for you, you ought to be doing something (i.e., giving something) for him. What a commingling of law and gospel in one fell swoop! Now that the gospel has been used to urge obligation, what is left for comfort and joy? That which is to be for peace of mind has been turned into something that incites guilt. What is left to do the work of the gospel when the gospel is doing the work of the law?

Such insidious ideas have slipped into our hymnals. For example, in the hymn “I Gave My Life for Thee” (TLH 405), these words are put into Jesus’ mouth by Frances Havergal:

I gave My life for thee,
My precious blood I shed,
That thou might’st ransomed be
And quickened from the dead.
I gave My life for thee;
What hast thou giv’n for Me?

I suffered much for thee,
More than My tongue can tell,
Of bitt’rest agony,
To rescue thee from hell.
I suffered much for thee;
What canst thou bear for Me?

Here, even what Christ has done for us seems to have strings attached to it. Perhaps this hymn would work well as a strong dosage of law, but how can any gospel be proclaimed since the Savior who has done all and given all seems to be expecting all in response?

In this way God’s gospel gifts in Christ are made to seem like the times when we get an unexpected Christmas gift from someone. But I didn’t get you anything. The guilt which ensues may prompt us to exit quickly and return with a gift of near or equal value. We don’t like being given to when we have nothing to offer in return. We feel under obligation to repay the love shown to us even though we don’t like it if those positions are reversed. We particularly resent the thought that someone’s just doing it because they felt they had to. You wouldn’t have gotten me this gift if I hadn’t given you one first.

In Christ, however, we are simply given to. God is completely satisfied with the obedient faithfulness He has received from his Son, Jesus Christ. In forgiveness, we have the gift of forgiveness, Jesus Christ himself for us. That gift is not something static—it is life itself! What He gives by grace is a new heart and life. It is not up to us whether or not we will choose to do something for God in response to his love. Even our will and abilities are the result of his gifts in Christ (Phil 2:13). Works follow faith as we note in the Apology, Articles IV and XX, in the Large Catechism on the Creed, and in the Formula of Concord, Articles IV and XX.

Secondly, the Lutheran Confessions dismiss a partem-partem view of our relationship with God. That is to say, in no area of life can we mete things out as if this part is God’s part and what remains is our part. Pelagianism divvies up responsibilities with regard to our justification: God does his part for our salvation, now we must do our part.

Similarly, with regard to our sanctification, we do not suggest that God is doing his part in assisting us whenever we feel like we need some help doing our part. It is not as though we as Christians can now act on our own, calling on God only when we need a little divine assistance. Our entire life and salvation depends on the Lord being gracious through his gifts via the means of grace.

When AC VI [The New Obedience] states that such faith should produce good fruits and good works and that we must do all such good works as God has commanded, we ask, From whence comes the will and the ability to do what we must? Is it not the working of God through faith rather than an act of the human will apart from faith? This point was a stumbling block to the likes of George Major and Nicolaus von Amsdorf as handled in FC IV.

Furthermore, the question of whether sanctification is monergistic or synergistic comes into play here as well. If we view stewardship synergistically, we easily take God’s part for granted and our programs become efforts to get us to do our part. While the Confessions do speak at times of cooperation (FC Ep, 18, 19), other portions describe more dearly what is meant Holy Scriptures ascribe conversion, faith in Christ, regeneration, renewal, and everything that belongs to its real beginning and completion in no way to the human powers of the natural free will, be it entirely or one-half or the least and tiniest part, but altogether and alone to the divine operation and the Holy Spirit (FC SD, II 25; see also: LC, The Third Article of the Apostles Creed, paragraph 58, 59; FC SD, III, 28; FC SD, III, 41).

As Adolf Koeberle states in his Quest for Holiness, p. 95, The other and more important result is the fact that sanctification must also be understood as an exclusive act of God. Just as forgiveness is exclusively God’s work and every cooperation or conditioning activity on man’s part is completely excluded, so regeneration is an energy that comes simply out of Christ’s victory and does not require our supplementary efforts. It is not fitting to teach justification evangelically and then in the doctrine of sanctification to turn synergistic.

Possession of time and material goods is not exclusive: “For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come all are yours, and you are of Christ and Christ is of God” (1 Cor 3:21-23). We cannot divide between God’s portion and our portion. The earth is the Lord’s and all that dwells therein. In Christ, we have the blessed communion with the Lord God Almighty, even though it is only seen in this life by faith and not by sight. We cannot think of time as though one day a week were set aside for God while the rest of the week is for ourselves to do with as we please. We must not think of our income in terms of 10% is God’s and 90% is mine. We are Christ’s and He is ours.

God is no “Indian giver.” He doesn’t give us what we have and then ask for some of it back while we keep the rest to spend as we please. By his Holy Spirit at work through word and sacrament, all that we are, all that we have, and all that we do serves the vocation into which He has been pleased to call us in Christ.

Where the gospel is living and active, there stewardship will be living and active. Where the gospel is not taught purely and the sacraments not administered rightly, stewardship also will be on shaky ground. Copious offerings and numerous volunteers may be solicited by artificial means and by the promptings of the law. One must not mistake this, however, for the stewardship which is the result of the gospel.

Thirdly, a theology of success and glory is nowhere apparent in the Confessions. Where faith by God’s grace is living and active, stewardship will be happening even though it be unnoticed. The widow’s last two mites were not especially noteworthy to any but the eyes of Christ who gave his disciples eyes to see what he had seen. Our successes are not measured in terms of dollars and cents, days and hours, or numbers of people. Our successes are measured in Christ and his cross.

In times of plenty and in times of want we know what it means to be satisfied and content, both as individuals and as congregations. We simply rejoice by faith which does not look at statistics and things that are seen, but that the Lord is at work.

If we can be happy to build a large administration, we can also be happy to disassemble a large administration. ff we acquire a large worship facility and many automated gadgets, we will also be happy to lose them all as long as word and sacrament are not taken from us. This is not to say that there is something inherently wrong about large administrations, buildings, and gadgets. Sometimes they can serve the gospel well. At other times they can distract us and rob us of time and freedom to be students of the word and servants of one another. In the end, however, the gospel is what moves Christians—not budgets, programs, or motivational seminars.

Stewardship is not talking people into doing what they don’t want to do. It is not coercing people to give what they don’t want to give. Stewardship is simply a fruit of the gospel stewardship will be found wherever the church and faith are found—and the Church and faith will be found wherever the word is purely preached and the sacraments rightly administered.

This can be stultified and stifled by turning stewardship over to a program mentality. It happens easily enough. Since our congregations have Boards of Stewardship, the pastors have to find something for them to do. Why not a program? Since we are paying men to be stewardship executives at the synod and district levels, it is only reasonable that they earn their keep by developing stewardship programs.

What the Lutheran Confessions do for stewardship is to provide for pure preaching and right administering of God’s gospel gifts in Christ. Therein our hearts rejoice—new life is ours—and stewardship commences like heart beating and lungs breathing. And He who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God (2 Cor 9:10,11).

In our day, we may never know what the Christian life was like before programs. We may never know what the Christian life would be like if stewardship were mentioned as rarely in our church publications as in the Confessions, but our confessional symbols do point to a time when something else was esteemed—something to which a quiet few still cling today.

Kyrie eleison: O Lord, as You continually provide for all our needs in body and soul and as You support and sustain Your holy bride, the Church, until such time as You shall gather Your dear people into the mansions which You have prepared, grant that by Your grace we may heartily participate in true stewardship with such gifts and efforts as You have enlivened within us by Your Holy Spirit at work through the Means of Grace.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Walther on "Pure Doctrine" in 1885

Here is one of the things that C.F.W. Walther, the first president of the LCMS, says about pure doctrine back on September 11, 1885 from one of his lectures in his best-known work, "The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel." It seems as though some things haven't changed in at least 100 years:

Nowadays any one who insists that pure doctrine is a very important matter is at once suspected of not having the right Christian spirit. The very term "pure doctrine" has been proscribed and outlawed. Even such modern theologians as wish to be numbered with the confessionalists, as a rule, speak of pure doctrine only in derisive terms, treating it as the shibboleth of dead-letter theology. If any one goes to the extreme, as it is held to be, of even fighting for the pure doctrine and opposing every false doctrine, he is set down as a heartless and unloving fanatic. What may be the reason? Unquestionably this, that modern theologians know full well that they have not that doctrine which in all ages has been called, and verily is, the pure doctrine. Furthermore, they even think that pure doctrine does not exist (is a non-ens), except in a dream-world, in the realm of ideals, in the Republic of Plato.

The time in which we live is that to which the apostle refers when he says of errorists that they are "ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." 2 Tim. 3, 7.
The spirit of our time is that of Pilate, to whom the Lord had testified that He was a King of Truth in a kingdom of truth, and who sneeringly replied, "What is truth?" John 18, 38. This unhappy man was most likely thinking in his heart that, since the greatest minds for thousands of years had vainly tried to find the answer to the question, What is truth? this poor beggar, this contemptible Nazarene, Christ, made Himself simply ridiculous with His claim that He was the King of Truth and would establish a kingdom of incontrovertible and eternal truth.

Contempt of the pure doctrine is contempt of the truth; for the pure doctrine is simply nothing else, absolutely nothing else, than the pure Word of God. It is not, as some think, the doctrine adapted to the systems of dogmaticians that has been accepted by the Church. Accordingly, contempt of the pure doctrine is proof that we are living in an unspeakably lamentable era. For listen in what terms the Scriptures themselves speak of God's Word and the pure doctrine. In the prophecies of Jeremiah we read, chap. 23, 28: "The prophet that bath a dream, let him tell a dream; and lie that bath My Word, let him speak My Word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord."

David addresses God Himself in these words of Ps. 94, 20: "Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with Thee, which frameth mischief by a law?" By the term "law" he refers, in general, to the Word of God. What says our dear Lord Christ Himself regarding this matter? In John 8, 31. 32 He says: "If ye continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

Over against this, German theologians are not ashamed to say: "Bah! We are seeking after truth, but only a conceited, self-satisfied person will claim to have achieved it." Such talk shows to what depths we have sunk. Does not the Lord say distinctly: "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free"? Jude, the faithful apostle, writes in his epistle, v. 3: "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." The apostle is referring, not to faith in a person's heart, but to faith objectively viewed, that is, to the pure doctrine.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Christian vs. Christian

The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod at its 2007 regular convention maintained that "God has clearly stated in 1 Cor. 6 His intent that brothers and sisters in the faith not enter into lawsuits with one another." This draft raises an objection in order to consider whether or not such a statement does violence to the Holy Scriptures and stands contrary to the Lutheran Confessions, leading the synod to take a position which resembles pietistic, papistic, and Pharisaical errors, proscribing statutes which bind the consciences of godly men and women.

The Confessions by no means make a blanket condemnation that lawsuits among brothers and sisters in the faith contradict God’s Word. On the contrary, forbidding "judicial inquiry" is condemned:

"The spiritual kingdom does not change the civil government. . . . Public redress through a judge is not forbidden but expressly commanded, and it is a work of God accord to Paul (Rom.13:1) . . . . Lawful civil ordinances are God’s good creatures and divine ordinances in which a Christian may safely take part. (Augsburg Confession, Tappert 222-223)

And again,

"It is legitimate for Christians to use civil ordinances just as it is legitimate for them to use the air, light, food, and drink. For as this universe and the fixed movements of the stars are truly ordinances of God and are preserved by God, so lawful governments are ordinances of God and are preserved and defended by God against the devil." (Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Tappert, p. 178)

Our Confessions expressly reject the position which states that . . .

. . . no Christian may with an inviolate conscience use an office of the government against wicked persons as occasion may arise, nor may a subject call upon the government for help." (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Tappert, p. 634)

or restated that

. . . no Christian, without violating his conscience, may use an office of the government against wicked people, and that subjects may not call upon the government to use the power that it possesses and that it has received from God for their protection and defense." (Formula of Concord, Epitome, Tappert, p. 499)

The position articulated in the Confessions is in keeping with Luther’s own thoughts on the matter:

“THUS YOU ARE NOT FORBIDDEN TO GO TO COURT and lodge a complaint against injustice or violence, just so long as you do not have a false heart, but one that remains as patient as it was before, one that is doing this only to maintain the right and to avoid the wrong, out of a genuine love for righteousness. Earlier I cited the example of the saintly Joseph. He lodged a complaint with his father against his brothers when they had done something wrong and had acquired a bad reputation for it. For this the Scriptures praise him. He was not prompted by an evil, talebearing, or quarrelsome heart, as they supposed in their hostility to him, but by a friendly and brotherly heart, interested only in their good, because he did not like to see them acquiring a bad reputation. Therefore this cannot be called vindictiveness or malice, but rather helpfulness, as well as distress over their recriminations” (AE 21:111, emphasis added)

And again, Luther describes three types of “private individuals with their own cases” who would make use of the court system. Luther warns against those who would use the courts to exact vengeance – and he also acknowledges those who are willing to suffer injustice for the sake of the Gospel in not going to court. But by no means does Luther say it is wrong to take another to court. He gives the example in the “third class” that there are those who . . .

“. . . demand back their own property or seek punishment to be meted out, not because they seek their own advantage, but through the punishment and restoration of their own things they seek the betterment of the one who has stolen or offended. They discern that the offender cannot be improved without punishment. These are called ‘zealots’ AND THE SCRIPTURES PRAISE THEM.” (Two Kinds of Righteousness, Vol. 31, Page 306, emphasis added).

1 Corinthians 6 is not, therefore, to be interpreted as a blanket condemnation against lawsuits. Even the recent Synodical resolution acknowledges exceptions to its bald statement that “God has clearly stated in 1 Cor. 6 His intent that brothers and sisters in the faith not enter into lawsuits with one another” when it allows for lawsuits in matters of property rights or contractual matters.

Topics for consideration:

1) Why does synod make exception in civil lawsuits for property rights and contract disputes? What is it about the nature of property rights and contract disputes that makes them different from other issues in which Christians (according to synodical documents and CTCR interpretations of 1 Corinthians 6:1-11) ought to prefer being wronged?

2) If the CTCR and the Synod maintain that the apostle Paul, inspired by the Lord, wrote that the saints should not use the secular courts in civil matters, what do they imagine would have been Paul’s position about a church body which constitutes and incorporates itself according to the laws of the land, as in the case of The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod and the articles of incorporation according to the state of Missouri. Among other things, would it not rather have been better to pay taxes, to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, instead of having the Church incorporated under secular articles? And since the Synod has incorporated itself according to secular law, how can it be wrong if members of the synod seek clarification from those same courts in these matters — as was the case in the recent action taken against President Kieschnick, et al.?

3) When a church is sharply divided theologically, there are no bylaws or statutes which can bring peace and concord. Where there is no satisfactory forum to address theological differences and where there is the complaint that theological concerns are met with bureaucratic roadblocks, members of synod and synodical congregations seek other avenues for recourse, including judicial and political actions.

4) The matter at hand also touches indirectly upon the issue of members having access to an ecclesiastical court to judge theological matters. The confessions speak of a “double tyranny” when pope forbids judicial inquiry”

“Thus the pope exercises a double tyranny: he defends his errors with violence and murder, and he forbids judicial inquiry. The latter does more harm than any cruel act. For the church has been deprived of valid judicial process, it is not possible to remove ungodly teachings and impious forms of worship, and they destroy countless souls generation upon generation.” (The Power and Primacy of the Pope, Sect. 51)

In the “agreement to live and work together,” officers of Synod do violence to relationships when they, de jure or de facto, keep members of synod from seeking “judicial inquiry” through dispute resolution and overtures to district and synodical conventions. It is not wrong to discourage members of synod and Christians in general from making use of the secular courts, but it is an injustice when members of synod and Christians are also kept from having their complaints heard regarding the theology and practice of synodical officers.

5) What does this resolution from the LCMS convention imply about Lutherans who are lawyers? Are they engaged in an ungodly profession? If 1 Corinthians 6 were to be applied in the lives of all Christians as it is to members of synod as stated in the synodical resolution, then wouldn't it seem appropriate to have the same condition for membership in a congregation as this condition for membership in the synod?

6) Some opine that Paul’s ‘appeal to Caesar’ does not apply because his situation was a matter for the criminal courts not civil courts. Is there a distinction to be made in synod about going to court for criminal actions but not for civil matters? I have yet to hear from someone who is an expert in 1st Century Roman law, but was Paul guilty of a criminal offense? Or was he basing his defense on the fact that the case was not criminal but a “civil” dispute that manifested itself in a rather uncivil way between him and the Pharisees and Sadducees? Was our Lord Jesus Christ convicted and condemned because of a criminal offense, or a civil dispute? The Romans might well have deemed civil disturbance as a criminal offense, but was he actually arrested — or detained, as much for his protection as anything; see Acts 23:10.