Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dr. Kieschnick, Is Your Church Growing?

The Ablaze! Movement is all about growing the Church. Proponents believe that the church can be grown better and faster by using "contemporary methods" geared towards "seekers" than can traditional liturgy, pure doctrine, and closed communion.

Is it working?

Since Dr. Kieschnick's ascendency, millions of dollars have been pumped into consultants, public relations, fund-raising, conferences, web sites and publications. A big push has brought about a growing number of participants in the Ablaze! movement even while the number of members in LCMS congregations dwindles. Or it may be his belief that he is championing a cause by which the church shrinks more slowly than it did when we stood together with formal worship and pure doctrine, dismissing such congregations as "grandfather's church."

Is it working?

Is the membership of The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod growing now that Dr. Kieschnick has been having his way? Have membership numbers increased? Have financial statistics been getting better?

In fact, the numbers are shrinking -- and on the verge of declining all the more quickly with the dissension he creates by demeaning congregations which promote formal worship and pure doctrine while claiming that churches which don't even use the name "Lutheran" in public and squander thousands for dubious billboards are hailed as churches which are following "best practices."

Perhaps Dr. Kieschnick thinks that churches that are 80+ years old are just too much decaying baggage and that bigger mega-churches need to have more votes (and that they will make the synod even better) -- as is being proposed in his new plans for the restructuring of the LCMS. Perhaps he feels that the synod can afford to lose congregations which are adamantly opposed to his Ablaze! movement. Maybe he thinks that after such congregations are jettisoned, the LCMS will be free to grow faster and bigger like never before.

But if the Ablaze! movement ends up bankrupting the LCMS theologically and financially, who will hold him accountable?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Bugenhagen's Conversion

Kurt Karl Hendel wrote his dissertation on Johannes Bugenhagen's Educational Contributions under Harold J. Grimm. It reads quite well and includes some anecdotes about a Lutheran reformer in the area of education which are not otherwise readily available to English-lubbers like myself.

Bugenhagen was a guest in the house of the Treptow pastor Otto Slutow who had just received a copy of Luther's Babylonian Captivity from Leipzig. Slutow asked Bugenhagen to look at the work. After paging through it quickly, Bugenhagen could not suppress his surprise and consternation and exclaimed: "There have been many heretics since Christ's death, but no greater heretic has ever lived than the one who has written this book."

He then cited the numerous examples of novel and heretical teachings which struck him in Luther's work during his cursory perusal. Bugenhagen did not wish to judge the treatise unfairly and rashly, however. He, therefore, took it home with him and examined it more thoroughly. To his own surprise and the surprise of his friends, he changed his opinion completely. When he met with his companions again a few days later, he remarked: "What shall I say to you? The whole world lies in complete blindness but this man alone sees the truth."

Bugenhagen had discovered Luther and he was to be a faithful follower, co-worker, and companion of Luther from that time on. He was a very stable and uncomplicated personality. Once he had become convinced that Luther was correct, he never wavered in this conviction. He did not experience the spiritual uncertainties and Anfechtungen of Luther. He was certain that God had finally overcome his blindness and he was at peace in this conviction. He strength and spiritual stability were to be of great help to Luther during the years of their friendship.

Bugenhagen immediately began to share his new insights with his friends and students, and an evangelical circle gathered around him. He was also eager to read more of Luther's works and to achieve a better understanding of the evangelical faith. He was particularly anxious to clarify the proper relationship of faith and good works in the Christian life. He, therefore, wrote to Luther and asked him to outline a rule for Christian living. Luther sent Bugenhagen his Freedom of a Christian and added a little note:

"You have written that I should prescribe for you a modus vivendi [manner of living, i.e. how to live life]. A true Christian does not need moral precepts for the Spirit of faith leads him to everything which God wills and which brotherly love demands. Read this therefore. Not all believe the Gospel. Faith is perceived in the heart."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The First LCMS Constitution

Does your congregation -- or church body -- have a constitution? Have you ever read it?

The current constitution of The Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod has gone through quite a few renditions over the years. In this blog, I have included only a few excerpts, but the first LCMS Constitution in its entirety is much shorter than the current version which looks more like canon law than a constitution and bylaws.

The text comes from the April 1943 edition of the Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly.



Constitution of the German Evangelical Lutheran
Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States

I. Reasons for forming a synodical organization.



1. The example of the Apostolic Church. (Acts 15:1-31.)

2. The preservation and furthering of the unity of pure confession (Eph. 4:3-6; 1 Cor. 1:10) and to provide common defense against separatism and sectarianism. (Rom. 16:17.)

3. Protection and preservation of the rights and duties of pastors and congregations.

4. The establishment of the largest possible conformity in church government.

5. The will of the Lord that the diversities of gifts be used for the common good. (1 Cor. 12:4-31.)

6. The unified spread of the kingdom of God and to make possible the promotion of special church projects. (Seminary, agenda, hymnal, Book of Concord, schoolbooks, Bible distribution, mission projects within and outside the Church.)


IV. Business of Synod.


1. To stand guard over the purity and unity of doctrine within the synodical circle, and to oppose false doctrine.

2. Supervision over the performance of the official duties on the part of the pastors and teachers of Synod.

3. Common protection and extension of the church.

4. Publication and distribution of a church periodical.

5. Conscientious examination of candidates for the ministry and teaching profession.

6. To provide for ecclesiastical ordination and induction into office.

7. The preparation of future preachers and teachers for service in the Church.

8. To provide for congregations with out pastors, if the former apply to Synod.

9. To give theological opinions, also to settle disputes between single persons or between parties in the congregations. But the latter is to take place only in cases where all persons involved have applied to Synod for arbitration.

10. To strive after the greatest possible uniformity in ceremonies.

11. To have concern for the faithful execution of all the duties of the ministry, especially of the truly evangelical cure of souls in all its branches; in this respect also to help advance sound catechumen instruction above all, and especially with reference to the false doctrines of the prominent sects; also to institute and maintain catechizations every Sunday for the, confirmed youth.

12. To support indigent congregations who are members of Synod, that they may obtain the regular service of a pastor.

13. To gather church statistics within Synod and also to start a chronicle of American Lutheranism.

14. To establish connections with the Lutheran Church in foreign countries, especially Germany.


V. Execution of synodical business.


(1. - 7. . . .)

8. It is the duty of Synod to discuss and investigate in its annual convention which articles of church doctrine to emphasize or further especially, also against which heresies and weaknesses in life testimony is to be given and the manner in which this is to be done. In accordance with this, Synod is to pass judgment on the work of the editor of the synodical paper and to give him instructions for his future activity. In like manner also Synod is to discuss the needs of the spiritually neglected Lutherans and to supply such needs by supporting those men who out of free Christian love go out among these neglected Lutherans to prepare the way for the organization of sound Lutheran congregations. These visitors are to be trained for their work and examined as to their fitness before they go out, and commissioned with prayer and benediction. The Visitor is to keep a diary and is to submit to the President detailed reports, who is to include them in his annual report to Synod. Synod also holds itself responsible, as much as it is able, to help in the conversion of the heathen. But in no wise shall Synod take part in the unionistic mission projects which are now prevalent.

. . .

14. Synod holds in accordance with the 7th article of the Augsburg Confession that uniformity in ceremonies is not essential; yet on the other hand Synod deems such a uniformity wholesome and useful, namely for the following reasons:

a. because a total difference in outward ceremonies would cause those who are weak in the unity of doctrine to stumble;

b. because in dropping heretofore preserved usages the Church is to avoid the appearance of and desire for innovations; Furthermore Synod deems it necessary for the purification of the Lutheran Church in America, that the emptiness and the poverty in the externals of the service be opposed, which, having been introduced here by the false spirit of the Reformed, is now rampant.

All pastors and congregations that wish to be recognized as orthodox by Synod are prohibited from adopting or retaining any ceremony which might weaken the confession of the truth or condone or strengthen a heresy, especially if heretics insist upon the continuation or the abolishing of such ceremonies. Where private confession is in use, it is to be kept according to Article 11 of the Augsburg Confession. Where it is not in use, the pastor is to strive through teaching and instruction to introduce it. Yet in congregations where the total abolishing of general confession and absolution is hindered by unsurmountable obstacles, general confession may be kept along with private confession. The desired uniformity in the ceremonies is to be brought about especially by the adoption of sound Lutheran agendas (church books).


VI. Rights and duties of the officers and other members of Synod.


The officers of Synod are to assume those rights only which are expressly assigned them by Synod, for all of which the officers are responsible to Synod as also for the fulfilling of their duties. Synod, therefore, may demand that the officers give an account of their official actions at any time.

Worship Wars

In his academic work, Worship Wars in Early Lutheranism: Choir, Congregation and Three Centuries of Conflict (Oxford University Press: 2004), Joseph Herl relates some delightful anecdotes reminding us that some things never change (p. 172).

A well-seasoned traveler in Europe, Charles Burney, describes the singing of a LUtheran hymn he heard sung in Bremen in 1772:

"However, I visited the Thumkirche or cathedral, belonging to the Lutherans, where I found the congregation singing a dismal melody, without the organ. When this was ended, the organist gave out a hymn tune, in the true dragging style of Sternhold and Hopkins [the English psalter of 1562].

"The instrument is large, and has a noble and well-toned chorus, but the playing was more old-fashioned, I believe, than any thing that could have been heard in our country towns, during the last century. [Burney describes the interludes between phrases.]

"After hearing this tune, and these interludes, repeated ten or twelve times, I went to see the town, and returning to the cathedral, two hours later, I still found the people singing all in unison, and as loud as they could, the same tune, to the same accompaniment. I went to the post-office, to make dispositions for my departure; and, rather from curiosity than the love of such music, I returned once more to this church, and, to my great astonishment, still found them, vocally and organically performing the same ditty, the duration of which seems to have exceeded that of a Scots Hymn, in the time of Charles I."

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Controversies in the Church

From This is My Body by Hermann Sasse, p. 107f. (Adelaide: Lutheran Publishing House, 1977).


There is nothing more depressing for the student of church history or for the Christian layman than to read about the great controversies on doctrinal matters that time and again have divided Christendom. At the same time, nothing has provoked more mockery from the world than those occasions when the old saying about the Early Church, “Behold how they love one another” could be changed into an ironical “Behold how they bite and devour one another” (Tertullian, Apology, XXXIX; Galatians 5:15).

How often such controversy has destroyed the missionary opportunities of the church! Was there a greater missionary possibility than at the moment when Constantine recognized Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire? But, to his amazement, the Donatist controversy in Africa, the Arian controversy in the East (which soon spread throughout Christendom), absorbed the strength of the church for generations to such a degree that it could not live up to the task of preaching the Gospel to the millions of Roman citizens as it should have done.

Is not the same true of our centuries, and even of our own age, when Christianity, in a state of obviously-incurable divisions, meets the great world-religions on the mission fields? Politicians inside and outside the church have always regarded these divisions as incomprehensible foolishness and a lack of Christian charity on the part of theologians. Just as Constantine wrote to Athanasius and Arius, expressing his astonishment that they regarded their disagreement on the meaning of a certain Bible passage (Prov. 8:22-31) as church-divisive, and admonishing them to follow the example of the philosophers, who in similar cases always found it possible to agree on a compromise, so Philip of Hesse, the far-sighted politician of the Reformation, did his utmost, in the interest of the common Protestant cause in those fateful years of the Reformation, to bring about an agreement between Luther and Zwingli on the basis of a formula acceptable to both parties. In both cases the well-meant attempt of the secular ruler to restore the unity of the church was unsuccessful.

As Christians we are not allowed to excuse even the slightest of the many sins that have been committed time and again in connection with such controversies. Pride and self-glorification, lack of love and humility, failure to understand the other side’s point of view, and acrimonious speech are some of the sins that threaten the souls of those who have to fight doctrinal controversies. There are sins and dangers in orthodoxy that the world sees with greater clarity than we theologians do, and in many cases the judgment of God on the orthodox defender of the faith may be far more severe than his verdict on the erring soul of a heretic.

In saying this, we do not want to exonerate Luther and Zwingli from the harsh words they spoke against each other. Although the 16th century was used to very rough language, this language is nothing if compared with the cruelty with which other churches and even some non-Roman nations tried to suppress what they regarded as heresy. Neither the night of St. Bartholomew nor the bloody persecution of Catholics in England can justify the way in which Lutherans and Reformed wrote and spoke against each other.

In order to understand the doctrinal controversies that accompany the history of the Reformation, we must keep in mind that according to the New Testament such controversies belong to the history of the church from the days of the apostles to the end of the world: “There must also be heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you” (1 Cor. 11:19). The heretics that Paul wanted rejected after the first and second admonition probably felt themselves to be genuine followers of Christ. The Christian gnostics that John, the apostle of love, criticized so harshly as antichrists, and to whom he refused the courtesy of a greeting, may have been, in their way, lovers of Christ who complained bitterly of narrow-minded dogmaticians that made the doctrine of the Incarnation a church-divisive dogma. Much of the criticism that has been launched against the church of all ages on account of controversies that have divided Christendom could be, and has been, directed against the church of the New Testament.

However, in order to understand that the condemnation of soul-destroying error is more than the rejection of opinions that we do not like, we need only ask what would have become of the Gospel in the world if the apostles and the church after them had been less orthodox and more tolerant, if they had shown more of what the world calls “love” and “toleration.” Just as the distinction between true and false prophets or true and false apostles belongs of necessity to the history of God’s revelation, so the fight against heresy and serious doctrinal controversy belongs to the very nature of the Church of him who called himself the truth.

If this is true of the entire history of the church, how could one expect the church of the Reformation to be an exception to this rule? On the contrary, if in an age of religious decay in the Christian world the question should be raised again as to what the Gospel really is, how could this question find an answer without incurring the most earnest controversies? And how could it be avoided that these controversies centered in the Lord’s Supper, which always has been a center of discussion, because doctrine and liturgy, as well as the life and faith of the church, meet in this Sacrament as nowhere else?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Ablaze! THIS!

The President of the United States has commented on an area of education where the LCMS has served and should continue to serve:

Saying that the country's inner-city faith-based schools are closing "at an alarming rate," U.S. President George W. Bush called on Congress and elected officials at the state and local levels to help preserve such schools and to extend "lifelines of learning" to the children they serve.

At the White House Summit on Inner-City Children and Faith-Based Schools, the president said religious schools are "a glorious part" of the nation's history. "We have an interest in the health of these centers of excellence; it's in the country's interest to get beyond the debate of public/private, to recognize this is a critical national asset that provides a critical part of our nation's fabric in making sure we're a hopeful place."

The president said that between 2000 and 2006, nearly 1,200 faith-based schools closed in America's inner cities, affecting nearly 400,000 students and placing an added burden on public schools.

"In neighborhoods where some people say children simply can't learn, the faith-based schools are proving the nay-sayers wrong. These schools provide a good, solid academic foundation for children. They also help children understand the importance of discipline and character," Bush said.


Now, for the Ablaze! part:


I think you will find, gentle reader, that Ablaze! funds are not being used to help "dimly smoking wicks" (“A bruised reed He will not break, And a dimly burning wick He will not quench.” Isaiah 42:3).

Ablaze! does not have a history of helping the poor, embattled congregations in the inner city. Instead, Ablaze! gives to megachurches and congregations with novel ideas like handing out free diapers so that people who come to church for the Pampers might stay after they realize how loving the members are who give away these disposables. (I'm not making this up.)

The President of the United States recognizes an urgent need for which the President of The Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod senses no urgency. Let me rephrase. I'm not saying that the President of The LCMS isn't compassionate -- or that he is unloving or uncaring. His letters exude love. They are dripping with compassion while his actions show that the places which get attention and funds are those places which show the most promise for growth.

And, heartbreaking as it may be, the inner city just isn't where growth is happening.

So, sorry folks. We hate to cut and run on you. Here's a few computers for your community program. We hope that makes things a little better for you. Good luck and God bless!

Accounting for the Synod

When I served as a board member for the Synod's Board for Communication Services from 2004-2007, I saw many things which troubled me, one of which was the practices which the General Accounting services had in charging synodical agencies, including KFUO for administrative costs.

It's no secret that it costs a lot of money to operate the administration of The Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod. Somebody has to pay and there has to be an accounting for it.

You might think it would be fair to determine what each agency spends on copy machines, paper, office supplies, publication costs and payroll -- and then charge them on the basis of that.

But it doesn't work that way. That's the OLD way which was much too complex.

The new way (roughly speaking) which has been in effect since 2001, is imply to charge synodical departments on a per capita basis. So $X is charged per department based on how many people work there -- not on the basis of how much they spend or generate.

There are at least 2 issues with this: First of all, do you think executive directors are going to be careful about how much their departments spend if they are simply charged on a per capita basis?

Admittedly, they DO have to submit budgets and attempt to stay within them, but do you think the departmental budgets would look much different if they were done the old way? Maybe not.

But the kicker is this: even if a seminary student were to work minimally, part-time in a synodical department, the department would be charged the full amount by General Accounting as is paid for full-time staff. (I won't venture here to state what that charge is currently, but it's thousands of dollars per person.)

Special allowances were made for KFUO, reducing the per capita dollar amount since they were not located at the IC building. But the allotment was still substantial. The station had been operating in the black with at least $100,000 in reserve, but all of that was sucked away and more besides when the General Accounting policies changed in 2001.

SECONDLY, broadly stated, the Communications Services department is to be the clearing house for all material presented to the public (again, please note this is an informal statement/summary). I believe it is a big drain on the efficiency of our synod that every department is doing its own thing. Each department operates its own website with its own staff/webmasters, every department contracts individually for printing materials, booklets, etc.

And to be fair, according to what I have been led to believe, the way that Communications Services had operated prior to 2003 when the departments took things into their own hands, dragging its feet or doing inferior work, practically forced these agencies to have to start up their own mini communications departments. Now that they have these things going, they don't want to give them up. Dr. Kieschnick could do something about it by mandating a change, bringing things back under the auspices of the BCS, but that isn't going to happen even though I think it would save the synod a fairly substantial amount of money.

I think that this reduplication of effort WASTES MONEY BIG TIME. Additionally, it is inefficient and it fails in presenting a unified look and a sense of coherence in the way that the synod presents itself to its constituents and to the public.

I believe that I am justified in saying that the synodical mess is very, very serious -- and that few people, in some cases not even the district presidents, are well-apprised of what is going on in synodical administration.

The current administration would be hard-pressed to spend two days fielding pointed questions from experienced members of synod in the presence of the synod in convention about the way things are managed. I really don't think people would be happy to see the way that things are being done.

Admittedly, it may be a thankless job and it is an Herculean task. Those responsible for running the administrative side of the synod might be upset by criticism when they are struggling to put out many fires.

HUGE lines of credit have been opened to cover the growing debt. I believe that the administrative practices of Dr. Kieschnick results in spending and spending and spending -- together with corporate salaries which distinguish those who get them from common pastors and teachers. People might get an idea by reviewing the minutes of the synod's Board of Director's at the synodical website.

And there are too many pundits complaining about what is going on in synod and recommending courses of action which DON'T get to the heart of the problem. It isn't just a matter of getting faithful pastors and laymen involved. We need to have people who are experienced as well.

Our concerns aren't just theological. Or political. They're financial, too.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Goals of Ablaze!

The achille's heel of the Ablaze! movement is its goals.

I'm not taking the time here to surf the net and literature for examples of the goals which Ablaze! has set for itself on synodical, district and congregational websites. Perhaps respondents would like to post their favorites . . .

The point is, however, that after 7 years of Dr. Kieschnick and Ablaze! is the synod becoming a better place? To be sure, there is a bandwagon full of Ablaze! wannabes, but is the Synod growing numerically?

Is the size of the synod growing . . . or shrinking? Since Dr. Kieschnick has taken office, has the synod become more financially stable . . . or is it becoming more desperate so that funds raised for Fanning the Flame end up going to pay for debt rather than paying for missions?

It is possible to thrill people by touting admirable goals in a grandiose manner. But that "high" is replaced by an even lower low when it all comes crashing down. And the goals of Ablaze! are no less assailable than the guns of Navaronne.

I suppose in the end, Dr. Kieschnick can blame all of the pastor types like myself as somehow ruining Ablaze! or impeding Ablaze! But the fact of the matter is that I have been altogether impotent at getting even a single pastor, layperson, or congregation to repent of Ablaze!

From the President of the Synod to the Council of Presidents, to the District Staff members and the Synod in convention, Ablaze! with all its goals is all the rage. But at some point, I expect a child will point out that the emperor isn't wearing any clothes. Not only can't Ablaze! cover the mission field -- it is losing what it once had. Not only can't Ablaze! maintain a balanced budget -- it is spending the synod into bankruptcy.

In future blogs, perhaps I will move from the general to the specific, but for now the point must be made that if Ablaze! sets goals which it isn't achieving, if Ablaze! is making promises that it cannot keep, then people MUST be held accountable.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Doctrine: Our Only Light

The Preface to the Book of Concord notes the following:

“Troublesome and contentious men, who do not suffer themselves to be bound to any formula of the pure doctrine, may not have the liberty, according to their good pleasure, to excite controversies which furnish ground for offense, and to publish and contend for extravagant opinions. For the result of these things, at length, is that the pure doctrine is obscured and lost, and nothing is transmitted to posterity except academical opinions and suspensions of judgment.”

Luther writes (What Luther Says, vol. 1, pg. 414)

“Doctrine is our only light. It alone enlightens and directs us and shows the way to heaven. If it is shaken in one quarter (in una parte), it will necessarily be shaken in its entirety (in totum). Where that happens, love cannot help us at all.”

And again (AE 13:57),

“Psalm 82:2 says, ‘How long will you judge unjustly and prefer the persons of the godless?’ The godless and the false teachers always have a great reputation in the eyes of reason and of the world. They know, too, how to make a fine appearance before both lords and people, and thus to strengthen and spread their poisonous errors. For, as St. Paul says (Gal. 6:13) ‘Their confidence and boast is not in God; therefore they must seek men to be their confidence and boast.’ This is called, here in this verse, ‘preferring persons,’ or ‘regarding persons,’ when men choose their doctrine, not from love of truth but from the pleasure they take in persons.”

“Everything depends on doctrine. Where doctrine is right, everything is right: faith, works, life, suffering, good and evil days, eating, drinking, hungering, thirsting, sleeping, walking, standing, etc. Where doctrine is not right, everything is in vain, everything is lost, and everything utterly condemned.”

Sunday, April 20, 2008

All Are Not Missionaries / Evangelists

The Ablaze! folk want to press each and every Christian into mission work, evangelizing the world.

In his Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, Walther makes it quite clear that not every Christian may be well-suited for such work:

“There are people who cling to their Savior, but are unable to talk much about their faith, although on other topics they may be ready talkers. Others, again, may not have much experience as regards spiritual affairs and for that reason may not be able to say much.” (Dau translation, p. 315)

Furthermore, the ardent passion for missions is NOT the ultimate goal or the predominant topic in his writings Law and Gospel, Church and Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Lehre und Wehre, or even in his convention essays.

It isn't intellectually honest for the Ablaze! aficionados to be hawking the idea that Walther places great zeal for missions and evangelism on all Christians at all times and in every place. Sure, Walther speaks passionately about missions? When I preach and teach about it, I do the same. But it isn't penultimate.

And Walther can also contend that the reason why so many people are dying apart from Christ is NOT that there aren’t enough workers -- NOT that laypeople are cold towards missions:

“What is therefore, briefly, the reason that so many sinners perish eternally even though God does not desire the death of any sinner? It is this: because so many despise the only means of rescue which eternal Love in Christ has prepared for them and offered to them,” Selected Sermons, p. 114.

The unbalanced emphasis which the proponents of Ablaze! movement propounds of an ultimate single-minded passionate zeal for missions and evangelism is not evident in books on LCMS history such as Zion on the Mississippi, Moving Frontiers, Heritage in Motion, Zeal of His House, Fritz’s Pastoral Theology, The Pastor at Work, and other historic, periodic publications in the LCMS.

While missions and evangelism are seen as important, they are not penultimate — primarily because missions and evangelism are not seen merely in terms of initial conversion but also in terms of conservation and preservation — things which in fact occupy a great amount of time and effort in the lives of congregation members. And appropriately so.

The Half-Truths of Ablaze!

Ablaze! proponents like to quote C.F.W. Walther when he speaks with zeal and fervor about missions. Good on them.

But they are rather selective in their choice of quotes and do not give both sides of the issues. For example, Ablaze! advocates are generally not too enthused about the topic of "pure doctrine," hurling diatribes against "incessant internal purification."

Still, for every fervent Walther mission citation, I think I could find five zealous "pure doctrine" quotes like the following:

“It is true, brethren, as you well know, that in our day it is common for people to say, ‘Emphasizing doctrine so much only harms and hinders the kingdom of God, yes, even destroys it.’ Many say, ‘Instead of disputing over doctrine so much, we should much rather be concerned with souls and with leading them to Christ.’ But all who speak in this way do not really know what they are saying or what they are doing.” Our Common Task - The Saving of Souls, (1872).

“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. (Law and Gospel, 347)

“How foolish it is, yea, what an awful delusion has taken hold upon so many men's minds who ridicule the pure doctrine and say to us: ‘Ah, do cease clamoring, Pure doctrine! Pure doctrine! That can only land you in dead orthodoxy. Pay more attention to pure life, and you will raise a growth of genuine Christianity.’ That is exactly like saying to a farmer: ‘Do not worry forever about good seed; worry about good fruits.’ Is not a farmer properly concerned about good fruit when he is solicitous about getting good seed? Just so, a concern about pure doctrine is the proper concern about genuine Christianity and a sincere Christian life. False doctrine is noxious seed, sown by the enemy to produce a progeny of wickedness. The pure doctrine is wheat-seed; from it spring the children of the Kingdom, who even in the present life belong in the kingdom of Jesus Christ and in the life to come will be received into the Kingdom of Glory. May God even now implant in your hearts a great fear, yea, a real abhorrence, of false doctrine! May He graciously give you a holy desire for the pure, saving truth, revealed by God Himself!” (Law and Gospel)

Want to talk about mission zeal? Great. I'm all for it. But let's do with with pure doctrine. It's what our Lord expects.

Monday, April 14, 2008

What They're Reading

I first became aware of what synod leaders were reading in my seminary days. They were books written by authors like McGavran & Arn and Kennon L. Callahan. At first the books interested me, but then I began to realize that they led people into methods and beliefs which were diametrically opposed to the Scriptures and our Lutheran Confessions.

Over the years, I've seen many other books being read by synodocrats, books on the latest trends in church growth, paradigms in personal relationships, motivational speaking, business management with names like Drucker and Carver -- and most recently, Leonard Sweet. I believe that the adapted strategies of these men are responsible for many of the difficulties we face as a synod today.

When queried, the board members and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies have nothing to do with such pseudo-business pulp-fiction pop psychology. And the books that synodocrats are reading represent management trends which the more gullible and less insightful in the business world left behind 10 years ago.

If we paid more attention to what the synodocrats are reading, we might be able to nip some things in the bud before their dandelions take over our yard.

Do you know what your district and synodical leaders are reading?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Exchanging Missionaries for Ad Campaigns

In the pages of The Reporter (one of the synod's OFFICIAL publications), the announcement was made about the new Thrivent block grant. (Thrivent is that fraternal Lutheran insurance company of the old merged Lutheran Brotherhood and Aid Association for Lutherans). Before I continue, some extended background:

While I was on the BCS, the executive director at that time had written a proposal for the block grant but didn't tell the members of the BCS about it (that's when the BCS was still using the Carver model of governance). It was over $1-million ad campaign to be composed of some 9 full-page ads in USA Today. And this MAJOR communications campaign was not going to be supervised by the BCS, but by the "Corporate Synodical Executives" (CSE's). They are comprised of the executive directors of all the synodical boards.

The CSE's have their own little group now, and even though they have no official status under the synod's constitution and bylaws as a unique entity, they are making all kinds of decisions and spending all kinds of moolah.

We complained. First of all, we believed that the Board for COMMUNICATION Services (constitutionally in charge of how the synod presents itself to the outside world) ought to be supervising the campaign. But secondly, even though a good bundle of cash had already been committed to a top-notch advertising firm, the concept and preliminary scripts of the ads were so unprofessional, incomplete and the so unchurchly, that we wanted to gag.

At that time, the campaign centered around Dr. Kieschnick's phrase: "Christ's love is here for you." The campaign was supposed to precede the convention and then feed into that theme. We objected. The ads were basically saying that if you've had a divorce or lost your job or whatever, Christ's love is here for you. In other words, The LCMS invites people to come into its congregation with all their troubles [read crosses] claiming that the trouble will be handled/ameliorated by LOVE. It wasn't a message of If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me." It was more along the lines of "Having a hard time? Jesus will make you feel better."

We insisted on changing the basic tag-line to "Christ is here for you," an INCARNATIONAL message focusing on Word and Sacraments. Totally unacceptable to Dr. Kieschnick who couldn't understand our concerns.

Well, this story is getting kind of long -- even though I would like to relate more details -- so I'll wrap things up: The Board of Directors which had taken the campaign away from the CSE's and gave it to us then took it away from the BCS and gave the money back to the CSE's to do something else with ALL THAT MONEY (which they then proceeded to do last year).

NOW (getting back to the present) I see that the biggest item of money on the NEW Thrivent block grant distribution (the CSEs are the ones who get together to decide all the projects you see there), there is $500,000 for a USA Today ad campaign.

And once again, the members of the board weren't told about it.

ONE CLOSING THOUGHT: I was recently told the sad account of how a missionary family was just informed that they are being recalled from the field. Ultimately, they were told by the LCMS Missions Department that "World Mission is changing their strategy."

Yes. We're going to spend $500,000 on an ad campaign, and beaucoup dollars on structure-guru-consultant Leonard Sweet . . . and call missionaries out of the field.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Issues, Etc. as the LCMS's "Premier National-Radio Program"

There are tell-tail trails -- if you continue to look in the right places.

Remember the 2007 synodical convention? Each synodical board has to present a written report to the convention. In the case of the Board for Communications Services, guess who wrote the report?

David Strand.

It was shared with the BCS and approved. In that report which I as a board member reviewed, one can find comments like the following:,

(A) "KFUO-AM’s premier national-radio program, 'Issues, Etc.,' travels about the United States, broadcasting from churches and other institutions.

(B) "To that end, a select, four-member team of radio experts was assembled by the BCS to make recommendations on (1) balancing the KFUO budget by Dec. 31, 2007, and (2) finding ways to generate and place other KFUO-AM-produced programming in other markets across America, à la the widely syndicated 'Issues, Etc.'

So, Mr. Strand, what changed your mind in 9 short months? Issues, Etc. was KFUO-AM's premier national-radio program and, being "widely syndicated," it was exemplary among KFUO-AM-produced programs to be mentioned by name.

I hope the public outcry isn't dying down. The discontinuation of Issues, Etc. was an egregious offense -- and it is symptomatic of what the Kieschnick administration is doing. Many of the other outrageous administrative/consultant expenditures and centralization of presidential power are not visible to most people. Would it matter if people knew?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Public Divorce

In the Cambridge University Press publication, Law and Protestantism: The Legal Teachings of the Lutheran Reformation we read on page 252:

"The reformers insisted that divorce, like marriage, be a public act. Just as a couple could not form the marriage bond in secret, so they could not sever it in secret. They had to inform the community and Church of their intentions and petition a civil judge to order the divorce. This requirement of publicity was a formidable obstacle to divorce. Couples who publicized their intent to divorce invited not only the comfort and counsel of friends but frequently also the derision of the community and the discipline of the Church. Furthermore, judges had great discretion to deny or delay petitions for divorce and to grant interim remedies short of this irreversible remedy. Particularly in conservative courts, the petitioner had a heavy burden of proof to show that the divorce was mandated by statute, that all efforts at reconciliation had proved fruitless, and that no alternative remedy was available."

Lutheran Laymen's League Bails LCMS Out of Debt

According to a 1927 CPH publication entitled, "The Concordia Cyclopedia," the original purpose of the LLL was to get the synod out of debt.

Could we call on them to do the same today? PLEASE? The other two original functions of the organization are listed below in the complete entry from the Cyclopedia:

Lutheran Laymen's League. This is a laymen's organization within the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States [the name which the LCMS had before it became The Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod].

At the Milwaukee convention, 1917, Benjamin Bosse (d. April 4, 1922) made the official announcement of its organization. Its original purpose was to collect from wealthy laymen enough money to pay a deficit of $100,000 in the treasuries of the Missouri Synod.

After the deficit was promptly wiped out, the League increased its membership and by an extensive and intensive campaign sought to collect $3,000,000 as an endowment fund, the proceeds of which are to be used for superannuated pastors and teachers and
the widows and orphans of deceased pastors and teachers.

The scope of the League's work, however, has been enlarged so as "to aid the officers and the Board of Directors of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States, with word and deed in business and financial matters." All adult members of congregations affiliated with the Missouri Synod are eligible to membership. The first officers were: T. H. Lamprecht, president; Fred C. Pritzlaff, treasurer; A. G. Brauer, secretary.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Baptism in the Early Church: Pouring

C.F. Rogers, the author of the book Baptism and Christian Archaeology, set out to prove that baptism had to be by immersion in the early Church. He discovered by studying the archaeology of house churches and tombs that this was not the case and came to the conclusion that baptism by immersion was not the predominant manner of baptizing.

The book was reprinted in 2006. You can get a nice preview of the text and archaeological drawings at Google Books.

Good stuff.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Spin, Doctor, Spin

After having read Dr. Kieschnick's response to Mollie Hemingway's WSJ article, the following anecdote struck me as clever but sad.

A professional genealogical researcher, discovered that a politician's great-great uncle (whom we shall call "Billy X") was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889.

The only known photograph of that uncle shows him standing on the gallows.

On the back of the picture is this inscription: "Billy X. Horse thief. Sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889."

The researcher e-mailed the politician for comments. The politician's staff sent back the following biographical sketch:

"Billy X was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to service at a government facility, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Billy passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed."

And that's the way it's done.

In a similar vein, there was reportedly a track meet between the Soviet Union and the United States. On this occasion, the United States' athletes beat those of the Soviet Union quite handily. The next day in the Moscow newspaper, the headlines read: "U.S.S.R. comes in second; U.S.A. finishes next to last."

Confessions or Denominations?

People most frequently use the word "denomination" to refer to the different church bodies we see around us. Denomination, however, implies that they are just variations of the same thing. If one holds this idea, then it doesn't really matter to which "denomination" one belongs. It's seen as being basically all the same thing.

Referring to various churches as "confessions," however, is intended to note that there are substantial differences -- that they aren't all just variations on vanilla with flavorful add-ins.

You might enjoy reading the "We Confess" trilogy, Norman Nagel's translation and compilation of Hermann Sasse's work. Published by CPH. In the first volume, we read:

"Whoever wants to understand the sense of this confession [Jesus Christ is Lord] must first be clear as to what a church confession actually is. Nowadays this is much forgotten, and also theologians seem to be little aware of it. Confession does not belong, as many have thought, to the essence of religion. It does not even belong to the essence of the higher religions. Mysticism, for example, knows nothing of confessions. But from the very beginning it belongs to the essence of the Christian faith, and that threefold: confession of sin, confession of [the] faith, and acclamation of God." (pp. 9-10)

And again, "Confession as response to revelation is the response of the church. It is not the response of just a single believer, even though each believer confesses with the creed "I believe," as at Baptism. Jesus' question was addressed to all the disciples together: 'Who do you [plural] say that I am?' Peter answers in the name of them all, and his answer immediately becomes the confession of them all." (pp. 10-11)

And finally, "Every genuine confession has a polemical character, even if it does not contain condemnations against false doctrine. It separates pure doctrine from false doctrine, the Christian faith from the religions of the world, the church from all that is not church." (p. 11)

There really can be no "denominations" where mutually exclusive doctrines are held. One cannot both say "babies are to be baptized" and also "it is wrong to baptize infants" and still claim that everyone is part of the same faith. One cannot say "the Lord's Supper is just a symbolic representation, a communal meal" and "the Lord's Supper is Christ's true body and blood given and shed for the remission of sins" and still claim that those who hold such disparate positions are part of the same faith.

Well, I suppose in our postmodern world, people can and do say such things. But they are mistaken.

Wine Makes the Heart Glad (Ps. 104:15)

The Psalmist says that wine makes the heart glad. My cousin, Mark [Waldschmidt] Phillips has a video blog on wine tasting that makes the heart laugh. He has also produced a show for PBS now available on DVD. Delightfully interesting (and alas, at times irreverent), his practical tips are quite handy and definitely not for snobs.

[NOTE: The Link is Fixed.]

When the Gospel Isn't "Working"

Attendance at congregational board meetings is falling off. It is becoming more and more difficult to find volunteers to serve as congregational officers and Sunday school teachers. Stewardship wanes despite all the really neat programs and pledge drives that have been tried. Evangelism “cold calls” don’t seem to be turning up many potential new members. Congregational life seems to be in a slump, despite the fact that the same precious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is being purely preached in the word and rightly administered in the sacraments.

Then you receive information about a dynamic new program that promises to be vibrant, sure-fire, and a guaranteed success. It comes professionally printed in bold colors and attractive handouts. You think that it might be used effectively, especially if the program promises results no matter what doctrinal belief system your church may hold. One size fits all. It purports to be purely practical so that you can pour in whatever doctrine you like along the way. Under the circumstances, you may feel that you are ready to try anything if it will just coax a few members out of the starting blocks, if it will just stir up a modicum of enthusiasm to get things “on fire for the Lord.”

At that moment, however, what are you in danger of doing to the gospel? Are you not in effect thinking that the gospel needs a little boost because it doesn’t seem to be accomplishing very much at the moment? Are you not trying to add something to the gospel to make it look more desirable to those whom you hope will receive it with greater joy and heartfelt response?

What you are being tempted to do is doll up the gospel into a painted lady. Its true beauty will be obscured and people will end up loving your new creation not for what the gospel is of itself but for what you have made of it. “Darling! I just love what you’ve done with the gospel! It looks simply marvelous and so appealing! How could droves of people not flock to your pews every Sunday?”

When the gospel does not seem to be working, the problem is not with the gospel. It is not because you have failed to make the gospel look sufficiently sweet, desirable, or appealing with things that attract the attention of the human nature. The problem is with the preaching that leads to repentance.

Perhaps too often we have heard a law preached that threatens instead of the law that kills. Such law will never be appealing for increasing membership, but it is the only thing that prepares one for the gospel. Programs often miss that. The law that would kill the old Adam doesn’t sell as well as a law that merely threatens the old Adam or laments the slip of society into moral degradation.

The law isn't to be domesticated like a house cat. When the Gospel doesn't seem to be working, one doesn't call upon the Law to motivate people, to challenge them, or to manipulate guilt in a way analogous to "Here, kitty, kitty!" The letter kills before the Spirit gives life (which is not to say that the "letter" or law is bad and the Spirit is good. BOTH are necessary: Law and Gospel.)

Many methods want to offer an attractive, friendly, winsome gospel -- and if it is not sufficiently desirable they would dress it up to look appealing to the world. This is roughly equivalent to painting over the natural beauty of a young girl with a whore’s make-up kit. When “experts” are promoting programs that promise the latest sociological designs, market testing, snappy multimedia presentations, and “irrefutable” statistical analyses, they are painting a grace, mercy, peace, and love apart from repentance.

The grass is always greener on the other side: the magazine model or movie starlet may often seem more attractive than what one knows in daily life. The danger comes when people start pursuing their fantasies as if true happiness might be found somewhere along the way. Ever on the rebound, they imagine that the next love will be the real thing, but instead they get one disappointment after another until they become so disillusioned that they are incapable of recognizing or returning to true love.

Luther wrote: “The mad mob, however, is not so much interested in how things can be improved, but only that things be changed. Then, if things are worse, they will want something still different. Thus they get bumblebees instead of flies and in the end they get hornets instead of bumblebees.” (AE 46:112).

Many pastors and congregations are today flitting from program to program when they think the gospel isn’t working, wandering farther and farther from what has marked the church founded on Christ through the pure preaching of the word and the right use of the sacraments. There is no shortage of leadership consultants waiting to coax the offering money out of their treasuries with sure-fire methods that look so alluring. They forsake the proper distinction between law and gospel in hopes of promoting something more effective, which results in stirring up lust instead of faith.

When the gospel doesn’t seem to be working, do not consider what kinds of hymns, worship, or social programs might make the gospel more appealing to the flesh. Rather, consider what is appalling to the flesh. Only where the letter has killed can the Spirit give life—not in lock-step conjunction with our self-approved methods, but when and where He wills.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Let Them Go

On the day that Wilken and Schwarz were at the IC getting fired, President Kieschnick was at KFUO giving an interview.

One of the initial conversations he had with the host considered what the LCMS should do about trying to keep "denominational loyalty." It was noted that sometimes when Lutherans move to a new community, they change churches. They may attend a Baptist church because that congregation has lots of fun activities for the kiddoes. For Dr. Kieschnick, it seemed like LCMS congregations need to do such things that keep us up with the St. Jones's. If we're losing members to other denominations because they have better activities, then, by golly, we ought to make sure that we can offer activities that are just as good.

Thus, the Ablaze! movement moves us into the realm of church marketing and "customer satisfaction." That might not just be limited to extracurricular ecclesiastical activities, but . . . well . . . matters of doctrine, too.

I know what it's like to be told by unsatisfied members that their "spiritual needs" weren't being met. I asked them, "What? Have your sins not been forgiven you? Are you not hearing the life-giving Word of God, rightly distinguished and applied Law and Gospel?" That wasn't the point. That wasn't what they meant by "spiritual needs." They (predating Oprah's comments on spirituality) had FELT needs. Spirituality was something that was more of a feeling than a belief or (ugh) doctrine.

One distinguishing characteristic in Jesus' ministry that appears to be lacking in the Ablaze! movement is an apparent willingness to let people go who are offended by doctrine. This is indicated, for example, in John 6 where the evangelist records:

Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?" When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father." From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.

And Jesus let them go.

Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?" But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6:60-68)

And He let them stay.

Shopping for a Church?

In his KFUO interview, Dr. Kieschnick demonstrates his sincerity for winning souls along the lines of what some refer to as "church marketing." This leads us to a reasonable question: What DO we say to people who are looking for a church to attend?

The text below comes from a brochure I produced some 15 years ago . . . and admittedly, it needs some refining and editing. The point I'd like to make is that our congregations are for sinners. If you're looking for forgiveness, grace, mercy and peace in Christ, then this is the place for you. If you are hoping to find "nice" people in a congregation that is accepting of all the personal beliefs which you hold dear together with wholesome religious activities for the entire family, then let me suggest a church down the way a bit further . . .

Why Not Just Join?

If we like the menu and food at a restaurant, we eat there. If we like the prices and selection at particular grocery store, we buy our food there. If we find a favorite mall, we do much of our shopping there. We are used to choosing where we spend our money and time. Why not do the same with churches?

It is not uncommon to find some people who flitter about from one church to another in their lifetimes. For a while they may prefer the pastor at one congregation, but then they get tired of him and go someplace else. Likewise, they might like the activities and the people at a church, but then a disagreement or falling out occurs, and they leave that church for someplace else. Church membership is only as consistent as a person’s feelings and relationships at the moment.

A Different Kind of Membership

There is, however, another way of looking at church membership, a way which has staying power. It is not ultimately concerned whether the pastor is friendly or inspirational, but whether he is telling the truth about God. It is not concerned whether the members are outgoing or whether the church has enough social activities, but whether the church stands fast upon the Word of God.

If you select a church based on human qualities of the pastor or people you are making a selection which is bound to change as easily as the pastor or people themselves change — like shifting sands in the prevailing winds. That is why we want to direct your attention to the Word of God as it is preached and taught and not on personalities and creature comforts. As 1 Peter 1:24-25 states: “For all men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of the Lord stands forever. And this is the Word that was preached to you.”

In John 8:31-32, we read that Jesus said to those who believed Him, “If you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” We are concerned about abiding in Christ’s Word of truth as His disciples. There is nothing wishy-washy or willy-nilly about abiding as Christ’s disciple. Becoming a member of this congregation is something more than joining and quitting in an easy-come-easy-go way.

Many churches today want to emphasize that they are friendly. Many want to emphasize how many programs for fun, fellowship, and convenience they may offer. But how many claim to have the truth? Friendliness, convenience, and social interaction are all nice things, but they are not what will help you stand before the Almighty Lord God.

Our concern is not in arguing over that claim, but in proclaiming Law and Gospel faithfully. The Law exposes our need for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It shows that we need forgiveness. The Gospel is not for people who think that they are “basically good.” The Gospel is for the broken-hearted sinners who need life which Jesus gives through His gifts.

Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?

Some years ago, there was a t.v. program where a group of three challengers tried to fool a panel of 4 jurors. Each of the contestants claimed to be the same person. The panel members were able to ask a few questions to decide who was really who he said he was. At the end of the session the moderator would say, “Will the real Aletheia Jefferson please stand up?”

Today, all Christian churches teach people to “believe in Jesus.” But not all preach the same Jesus. Some preach a Jesus who says that the Lord’s Supper is just a symbolic ritual for remembering Him, while other churches proclaim a Jesus who says that the Lord’s Supper is His true body and blood given for the remission of sins. Some preach a Jesus who says that babies should be baptized while others teach that babies should not be baptized because they can’t believe. Some preach a Jesus who says it’s o.k. for women to be pastors while others preach a Jesus who says that the Bible is against the ordination of women. Will the real Jesus please stand up? There are many churches preaching many different “Jesuses.” But what is the truth? Matthew 28 records Jesus as saying, Teach them to observe all things that I have commanded you. Likewise, the Bible warns against those who preach false “Christs” and those who proclaim a different Gospel.

Would you vote for a politician who supports ecological concerns to one group but then turns around and is sympathetic to heavy industrialization of forest lands? Would you trust an elected official who says to wealthy businessmen that he favors tax loopholes for them but to the poor he says we need to tax the rich people more heavily? We don’t appreciate two-faced politicians. But then why do we tolerate it with regard to spiritual matters? Many churches and campus ministries give the appearance of being loving and open to everything and everybody. But when churches try to stand for everything, they end up standing for nothing at all.

There is no such thing as generic Christianity. If you are going to believe in Jesus, you must believe in Him as He proclaims Himself. In other words, you must understand and take a stand on the specifics of Holy Baptism, The Lord’s Supper, and the Word of God in the way He gives it. To do anything less is a foolhardy denial of the Gospel. Join a congregation which is gathered around the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and all that He has taught, a congregation which you will not just flitter away from if you even if the pastor is boring or the people are cold. When you find such a church centered on forgiveness rather than commandments, even wild horses won’t be able to keep you away from the joy and peace which are proclaimed in Christ!

Which Church is Right?

People will argue fiercely about which is the best car, beer, or political party. But when it comes to churches, one is supposed to be as good (or bad!) as another. It may be that cars, beers, and political parties really do matter more than churches — or else they have done a better job of convincing their listeners. But let’s face a few simple facts about churches and their differences.

Fact 1: Differences among the churches are real and important. They consist of something more than the trifles about what the pastor wears, customs, or whether the Lord’s Prayer is said this way or that. They deal with the actual basics of the Bible.

Fact 2: The main differences are not too complicated for the average person to understand. True, there are sections of Scripture that are difficult to understand (see John 6:60-69 and 2 Peter 3:15-18). But the basic teachings about life in Christ are clearly laid out in Scripture.

Fact 3: Christ wants us to recognize the differences in doctrine and to remain faithful to the truth. The following Bible passages illustrate this: (Romans 16:17-18) “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.”

(1 Tim. 6:3) “If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing.” (also see 2 John 1:9)

To become a member at this congregation means to agree that these beliefs and practices are faithful to God’s Word — a person must receive what is being preached and taught before believing and agreeing wholeheartedly. If you'd like to learn about these things before making a commitment, then by all means, we'd love to have you!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Oprah's Spirituality

The woman who promoted the Yankee Stadium Prayer Service denies that Jesus Christ is the only say to salvation. Her new age spirituality can be seen and heard from her own mouth. By participating in this event, religious leaders were fitting right into the promotion of her spirituality that no one can claim that there is only one way to salvation. According to Oprah, spirituality is all about feeling, not believing doctrine.

Confessing Christ: Inflexible Obstinacy

In view of the "negative responses" received about Issues, Etc. being too "abrasive" and "hyper-orthodox", consider the following excerpt about how the Romans treated the Christians.

In Ludwig's Handbook of New Testament Rulers and Cities, Charles Ludwig introduces readers to Pliny's letter to Trajan by noting the following (I have highlighted one section in bold which seemed to me to be most significant about how Christians may give the impression of being "abrasive" or "hyper-orthodox" to the outside world -- and suffering as the result):

Pliny -- nephew and adopted son of Pliny the Elder -- had been sent to Bythinia as corrector civitatium [or governor of Pontus/Bithynia from A.D. 111-113] and was answerable to the emperor Trajan. In Bythinia, he learned that Christianity was a force in Christianity. Puzzled about what he should do, he sought the advice of Trajan. After greetings and assurances of loyalty, he wrote:

"I am unacquainted as to the method and limits to be observed in examining and punishing them [i.e. Christians]. Whether, therefore, any difference is to be made with respect to age . . . between the young and the adult; whether repentance admits to pardon; or if a man has once been a Christian, it avails him nothing to recant; whether the mere profession of Christianity, albeit without any criminal act, or only the crimes associated therewith are punishable; in all these points I am greatly doubtful.

"In the meantime, the method I have observed toward those who have been denounced to me as Christians, is this: I interrogated them whether they were Christians; if they confessed, I repeated the question twice again, adding a threat of capital punishment; if they still persevered, I ordered them to be executed; for I was persuaded that whatever the nature of their creed, a contumacious and inflexible obstinacy certainly deserved chastisement." There were others also brought before me possessed with the same infatuation, but being citizens of Rome, I directed them to be carried thither.

"These accusations, from the mere fact that the matter has been investigated, began to spread, and several forms of mischief came to light. A placard was posted up without any signature, accusing a number of people by name. Those who denied that they were Christians, or had ever been so, who repeated after me an invocation to the gods, and offered religious rites with wine and frankincense to your statue (which I had ordered to be brought for the purpose, together with those of the gods), and finally cursed the name of Christ (none of which, it is said, those who are really Christians can be forced into performing), I thought proper to discharge. Others who were named by the informer at first confessed themselves Christians, and then denied it; true they had been of that persuasion formerly, but had now quited it (some three years, others many years, and a few as much as twenty-five years ago). They all worshiped your statue and the images of the gods, and cursed the name of Christ.

"They affirmed, however, that the whole of their guilt or their error was, that they met on a certain fixed day before it was light and sang an antiphonal chant to Christ, as to a god, binding themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but to never commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food -- food of an ordinary innocent kind . . .

"I therefore thought it proper to adjourn all further proceedings in this affair, in order to consult with you. For the matter is well worth referring to you, especially considering the numbers endangered: persons of all ranks and ages, and of both sexes, are and will be involved in prosecution. For this contagious superstition is not confined to cities only, but has spread through the villages and countryside. Nevertheless, it seems possible to check and cure it . . ."

So, like the Bythinian Christians (1 Peter 1:1) , Wilken and Schwarz persevered in their confession brought on by "anonymous" accusers unknown to them. Because they did this on the radio, appearing to be haughty and proud, they were summarily fired from their positions under the guise of financial difficulties.

The Ablaze! movement in effect considers the unwavering confession of pure doctrine to stand in the way of missions and evangelism. How frequently Dr. Kieschnick has railed against "incessant doctrinal purification" as obstructing the proclamation of the Gospel. Because those like Dr. Kieschnick who want to appear at every point to be loving and accepting in order that people be brought to Christ, they fear giving offense by stating the doctrine of Christ as unassailable truth to potential converts. It sounds too sure of itself. It sounds too proud to claim that one actually knows the truth and insists upon it. In this, the Ablaze! movement shows that it is a child of our postmodern times.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Lutheran Hour vis-a-vis Issues, Etc.

What, do you think, are the parallels between the firing of Wallace Schulz and the firings of Todd Wilken and Jeff Schwarz?

From the perspective of BOTH sides of the LLL deal, what was learned?

Is the outcry for Rev. Wilken and Mr. Schwarz comparable to the outcry for Dr. Schulz?

Did protests against the firing of Dr. Schulz bring LLL to its knees? Has The Lutheran Hour recovered with a likable, competent replacement for Dr. Schulz?

Do Dr. Kieschnick & Co. think that they weathered the storm with LLL and they will do exactly the same with KFUO (although they may have different motives, wanting to sell the radio licenses)?

Seriously, since I don't think they will put Issues, Etc. back on the air at KFUO, it's time to sell the station's licenses. It could be that KFUO might weather the storm of these protests, but that is going to take some time. Contributions are going to be down. The debt is going to mount. The firing of Schwarz and Wilken isn't sufficient in itself to help make ends meet.

I say this with sorrow because up till now, I had been an advocate to save KFUO and to build it into the technological flagship of the synod in syndicating and promoting such programming like Issues, Etc. But the fact is, it is quite possible through Web 2.0 and new technologies to "broadcast" and proclaim Law and Gospel without a radio station license. One can do it far more economically and probably just as effectively -- just differently.

Intolerance of the Gospel

For a ten-year period, from 1920-1930, Theodore Graebner received questions from young pastors “in the field.” These men wanted counsel and guidance on particular matters. Dr. Graebner replied with the practical application of Scripture, and in doing so, did not offer anything new. Doctrinally his letters represent the stand of our Lutheran Confessions and the practice of the Church. In 1932 Concordia Publishing House published 112 of these letters in a book titled, Pastor and People - Letters to a Young Preacher. The letters were selected since they were deemed to be of benefit to pastors and clergy alike.

After reading these, one man remarked: "Would that those parish pastors today who had questions on how to proceed in a difficult or unique situation be able to receive the same Scriptural, Confessional, pastoral counsel and guidance that was characteristic in the church when your grandfather was a young man."

Here is one sample:

The Intolerance of the Gospel.

... “Paul’s letters to the Galatians and to the Romans were written for the preservation of liberty; for in one of them he says: ‘Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free’; and yet, for the very purpose of maintaining that liberty, he hurled his anathemas at the Judaizers’ heads. Let us not forget that the Gospel has its intolerance as well as its toleration. There must be no toleration of treason to the Cross; for the toleration of such treason is always treachery. I say not indeed that all such errors should be put down by force, - God forbid! - but I do say that they should be denounced by every loyal servant of the Lord and that the Church should absolve itself from all complicity with the errorists.

And though there are many who would cry out against such a course as bigoted, I would rather, even in the interests of freedom itself, have - if you choose to call it so - the bigotry of Paul than the indifference of him who counts nothing essential and who is everything by turns and nothing long.” Next I was surprised to read this reference to Martin Luther: “Luther was no foe of freedom, but indeed its greatest modern pioneer; and in the proportion in which, like him, we are intolerant of everything that compromises the honor of Christ or the doctrine of His Cross, we shall conserve and widen the liberty which he did so much to secure.

So let us raise anew the shout of Paul, making it our motto, not for the moment of our brief enthusiasm merely, but for all our lives: “God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.”

Friday, April 4, 2008

NeoBaalism

If you haven’t been introduced to the writings of Eugene Peterson, here is a good sample of his work with which you should be pleased to make his acquaintance. It comes from pages 145–146 of his 1980 John Knox Press publication entitled Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work.

Pastors are subjected to two recurrent phrases from the people to whom they give spiritual leadership. Both are reminiscent of Baalism, enough so as to earn the label “neo-Baalism.” The phrases are: “Let’s have a worship experience” and “I don’t get anything out of it.”

The phrase “let’s have a worship experience” is Baalism’s substitute for “let us worship God.” The difference is between cultivating something that makes sense to an individual and acting in response to what makes sense to God. In a “worship experience,” a person sees something which excites interest and tries to put religious wrappings around it. A person experiences something in the realm of dependency, anxiety, love, and a connection is made with the ultimate. Worship is a movement from what a person sees (or experiences or hears) to prayer or celebration or discussion in a religious atmosphere. Subjectivity is encouraged.

The other phrase of “neo-Baalism” is “I don’t get anything out of it.” When it refers to participation in the Christian community it is accepted as a serious criticism and a valid excuse from further engagement in something which personal experience testifies is irrelevant and uninteresting. The assumption that supposedly validates the phrase is that worship must be attractive and personally gratifying. But that is simply Baalism redivivus [renewed; reincarnated], worship trimmed to the emotional and spiritual specifications of the worshiper. The divine will which declares something beyond or other than what is already a part of the emotional-mental construct of the worshiper is spurned. That worship might call for something beyond us is shrugged off as obscurantist.

And so the one indispensable presupposition of Christian worship, the God of the covenant who reveals himself in his word, is deleted. A Freudian pleasure principle is substituted and worship is misused to harness God to human requirements. Worship is falsified into being a protective cover for self-seeking. That the self-seeking is in the area of the psychic rather than the sexual does little to improve the results over old Baalism. We may be entertained, warmed, diverted, or excited in such worship; we will probably not be changed—and we will not be saved. Our feelings may be sensitized and our pleasures expanded, but our morals will be dulled and our God fantasized.

Confirmation Rites

Does your congregation practice the rite of "confirmation" prior to first communion? This adapted excerpt comes from Frank W. Klos’s book, Confirmation and First Communion, prepared for the Boards of Parish Education of the LCA, LCMS, and ALC, and produced by Augsburg Publishing House, Board of Publication of the LCA, and Concordia Publishing House in 1968.

Confirmation practices are well worth reviewing by pastor and people alike. Why do we do what we do—and what does that have to do with the gospel? While Luther himself did not practice the rite of confirmation, he did not discourage those friends who tried to reform the rite in the light of Protestant standards. Just as he encouraged every literate pastor he knew to prepare catechisms of his own, so he supported, although lukewarmly at times we must admit, the efforts of those who were exploring new ways of guiding youth through the critical periods of adolescence.

Consequently, during the latter years of Luther’s life some attempts were made to develop an evangelical rite. Other experiments followed. Soon there were so many varieties of confirmation being offered in Protestant circles that it was almost impossible to keep a box score. It was like the pickle manufacturer’s fifty-seven varieties. For three centuries, Luther’s followers experimented. Each dukedom and principality in the then-fragmented Germany tried to build practical church orders of confirmation of their own.

Attempting to differentiate among the many suggestions offered is like trying to separate strands of various hues from Joseph’s coat of many colors. However, this is a job we must somehow do. The tangled roots of modern confirmation practices, especially in North America, lie buried in this particular period of church history. For convenience’s sake, six principle forms of confirmation are labeled: catechetical, traditional, hierarchical, sacramental, pietistic, and rationalistic. As we discuss these forms, please realize that our analysis is probably oversimplified. There was much overlapping among the influences and counter-influences that swept back and forth across Europe.

Actually, it would be more proper to speak of the six major emphases rather than six forms or types. It is hard to find specific examples of any of the forms followed in complete isolation from the others. Few congregations used any particular form in a completely pure state. Catechetical The catechetical emphasis stemmed from Luther’s program of education for receiving the sacrament of Holy Communion and for making a good confession, which, for Luther, was the prelude to receiving the sacrament. Under this emphasis, pastors were encouraged to preach an annual series of sermons on the catechism for the entire congregation and to hold special classes for children and servants. The young attended catechetical instruction until their early twenties or until they were married. Older people, especially the unlearned, were also expected to attend these classes.

Luther saw this program as an integral part of the church’s pastoral and educational ministry to its people. It is interesting that children, after they were admitted to the Lord’s Supper, were still expected to continue in their catechetical studies; Luther’s idea of the lifelong educative process was taking hold. There was never a graduation short of eternity. Thus, this type of confirmation was, strictly speaking, really not confirmation at all. That is, it was not a process culminating in a church rite, yet it had perhaps the most influence on subsequent practices.

Hierarchical

The term “hierarchical” refers to the governing of a local congregation by its parish clergy and not to the Roman Catholic administrative structure. This accentuated emphasis on disciplinary control came largely through the efforts of Martin Bucer of Heidelberg.

The hierarchical type of confirmation which Bucer recommended received its name because of his insistence that the individual should vow his allegiance to Christ through the church. Besides the Word of God and the Sacraments, Bucer felt that one of the key marks of the true church was discipline. “Where there is no discipline,” he wrote, “there is no congregation.”

The person being confirmed should be asked to testify publicly that he was surrendering himself to Christ, that he was likewise willing to submit himself to the church’s rule for his life. In this way, he would be consciously acknowledging his obligations.

Because of the way Bucer’s contributions show up so frequently in the typical American confirmation patterns, you could call him, as Arthur Repp does, “the father of Lutheran confirmation.” At the same time, however, he complicated the procedure for admitting children to first Communion. He made both confirmation and first Communion the twin goals of catechetical instruction. In so doing, he went far beyond Luther’s understanding that these are but way stations in a lifelong catechumenate.

Sacramental

When Bucer emphasized the laying on of hands in his rite of confirmation as a means of blessing, he had no intention of restoring the Roman Catholic sacramental meanings [i.e., that by being confirmed you get special grace or merit before God]. He stoutly maintained that Baptism was effective and needed no completion. However, there were other Lutherans who followed Bucer’s order and fell into the trap of treating confirmation sacramentally. The prayer of blessing began to include such phrases as “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The implications were evident. Confirmation added things that Baptism could not: the fuller presence of the Holy Spirit, fuller church membership for the candidate.

It should be pointed out immediately that the sacramental emphasis in Lutheran confirmation never existed as an independent type. It was generally hitched on to one or another of the other forms. Many who slammed the front door shut against any interpretation of confirmation as a sacrament went around and opened the back door to allow sacramental notions in. Why? Perhaps they felt that confirmands ought to know that something fine, something exciting was happening to them at confirmation: they were receiving more of the Holy Spirit’s power! Perhaps church leaders thought that this was one way of granting the adolescent more status in the church; he had arrived at a new and higher plateau where he could share more privileges of membership.

The influence of sacramental ideas were quite clearly seen in the practices of both the former ALC and LCA church bodies [forerunners of the ELCA]. The Order for Confirmation in the Service Book and Hymnal (pp. 245–247) uses phrases like “renew and increase in thee the gift of the Holy Ghost” and admittance and participation “in all the spiritual privileges of the Church.” In the Lutheran Agenda of the LCMS, some overtones of the sacramental emphasis also remain, though not as detailed.

Traditional

The fourth major emphasis in Lutheran confirmation has been labeled traditional for want of a better name. This was simply an attempt in various ways to retain the time-honored elements of the church’s confirmation practices without echoing sacramental overtones. These influences may have come from men like Philip Melanchthon and Martin Chemnitz. Admission to Holy Communion was definitely not a part of the rite as far as Melanchthon was concerned. Apparently, he shared a feeling with a number of his fellow theologians that children who have been instructed in the catechism could be brought by their parents to confession and Holy Communion before they were confirmed. The reason given for this view at a 1548 convention in Celle by a number of church leaders was simply summarized by quoting Jesus, “Let the children come to Me, for such belong to the kingdom of God.”

At the same convention the theologians recommended that somewhere between the ages of 12 to 15, children were at an age when they could better understand their faith and their affirmation. Martin Chemnitz felt that confirmation should not exist in a vacuum: it should reflect links with the apostolic, early Christian church. Therefore, when he had an opportunity to work on the rite, he tried to include elements that stressed Baptism (Luther’s emphasis) and that also included the laying on of hands in a Protestant sense of blessing only (Melanchthon’s emphasis).

As the sixteenth century drew to a close, the four major emphases in confirmation we have considered thus far were in full use in one form or another. Little did people realize that the picture would get even more complicated. Within the next two centuries, two additional emphases would be stressed. Each would present a new problem to the theological foundations of confirmation.

Pietistic

The seventeenth century was a violent time with most of the European nations struggling for supremacy. When a sort of political peace did come, religious wars broke out. Some of the most fierce fighting came during these times. These were the days of Puritans and Pilgrims that grew up within the Anglican church.

Among the Lutheran churches in Germany and Scandinavia came Pietism. Philip Spener and other prominent Pietist leaders saw their task of inspiring people with a sense of true Christianity in two ways. First of all, the church should educate the children for committed spiritual living. Second, the church should provide a significant public ceremony where these children could express their personal willingness to believe in Christian teachings and to live a holy life.

The Pietists considered confirmation as an “act of renewal.” Children were instructed not so much in the objective facts of the faith as they were in their subjective acceptance of Christ as their personal Lord. This suggested some real changes in procedure. Catechetical training was redesigned to prepare the young person for a momentous conversion experience. At confirmation, the young person would publicly declare his surrender to Christ.

In addition, he would renew the baptismal covenant by vowing to keep his part of the covenant with God, as long as he lived. Memory verses were often introduced into the rite. Each confirmand would recite his own choice of a scriptural prescription for Christian living. Lurking behind the scenes of this new confirmation rite was the Pietist feeling that Baptism was not completed until the confirmand himself accepted his role as a child of God.

Thus we can see a shift toward an emphasis on the acts of man (law) rather than on the completed work of God in Christ given as a gift through Baptism (gospel).

Two parts of the Pietists’ emphasis have caused the church headaches ever since. One was the notion of the confirmation as a personalized conversion experience. This easily led to vigorous and often morbid self-examination on the part of the young people.

Some youth learned hypocrisy while others worried needlessly about their worthiness to receive Holy Communion. The other burr under the church’s blanket today is directly related: the idea of confirmation and admission to Holy Communion as end products of education.

As these and other pietistic ideas took hold within the church, Baptism (God’s gift) became less and less important to the Christian and Confirmation (man’s rite) became extremely important. Thus, while attempting to become more spiritual, Pietism became more mundane, emphasizing personal faith from inner experience rather than God’s gifts from external Means of Grace.

Rationalistic

Underneath the political and social upheavals of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, modern science was being born. The Rationalists or this new Age of Reason believed that there wasn’t anything that a man couldn’t do if he put his mind to it. Christians are still vibrating from this blast.

Rationalism affected communion in many peculiar ways, most of which as it turned out were harmful. First, there was the matter of the confirmand’s role in this rite. Since Pietism had introduced the subjective, personal experience-centered approach, pastors of a rationalistic bent could carry the implications a step further. It became important that the confirmand be able to list the attributes of God, explain the church’s teachings, and prove the existence of God. Catechetical examinations soon became very academic: confirmands crammed for their finals at church in the same way that they did in their academic subjects at school.

Secondly, confirmation became a kind of graduation ceremony from the church’s rigorous educational program. The newly confirmed were now considered adults in the minds of the congregation. All this happened at roughly the same time the children ended their general schooling.

In a number of places in Europe, they even had courses on health to help those who were about to be married. It was not at all odd to have young ladies postponing their confirmation a year or two so that they could use the occasion as a kind of “coming-out” party to announce to the public that they were available for marriage.

Thirdly, rationalistic confirmation also added some surprisingly sentimental by-products. Confirmands dressed in white robes. Girls often carried flowers. At times, cool intellect merged with tear-jerking emotion. In some congregations, the confirmands left the altar during the rite to go to their parents’ pew. There they confessed their sins against mother and father and asked their forgiveness. Not a dry eye in the congregation! With this kind of family solidarity, confirmation grew into a real family festival. Family dinners and home celebrations abounded. Relatives gathered and gifts were given to the newly confirmed to mark their passage into the adult world. Usually, youth were presented with articles of adult clothing—they now were allowed to dress in the fashion of their elders. Watches were also a favorite gift. In areas where Lutheranism was officially adopted as the religion of the state, the tax list and the voting list both came directly from the confirmation records.

Finally, Rationalism severely wrenched the Lutheran teachings, particularly the doctrines of Baptism and the church. Many pastors frankly proclaimed that confirmation was superior to Baptism; some tried to do away with infant Baptism; others considered abolishing Baptism altogether. In any event, there was little doubt that confirmation was absolutely essential to complete Baptism. Quite a far cry from what Luther had intended for confirmation!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Learning Unimportant Things

Luther quotes the classical author Seneca:

But alas, how deeply we are ensnared in categories and questions of what a thing is; in how many foolish metaphysical questions we involve ourselves! When will we become wise and see how much precious time we waste on vain questions while we neglect the greater ones? We are always acting this way so that what Seneca has said is very true of us: “We do not know what we should do because we have learned unimportant things. Indeed, we do not know what is salutary because we have learned only the things that destroy us.” (AE 25:360; see also my prepublication draft of No Greater Treasure: Foundational Readings in Luther and Melanchthon on Education, p. 139)

Crazy Talk, Stupid Talk

Goethe once commented, “One should, each day, try to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it is possible speak a few reasonable words.”

From radio and television hosts to church consultants and pastoral conference presenters, we hear a lot of religious talk — not all of which is particularly reasonable. In his book Crazy Talk, Stupid Talk, Neil Postman discusses the semantic environment in which we find ourselves. The paragraphs which follow are a brief excerpt from that work (Crazy Talk, Stupid Talk by Neil Postman, New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1976, pp 3-5).

Stupidity is words. It is not something people “possess,” like their kidneys. Stupidity is something we speak, sentences that do not “make sense” or are self-defeating. We may speak such sentences to others or only to ourselves. But the point is that stupidity is something we do with our larynx.

What our larynx does is controlled by the way we manage our minds. No one knows, of course, what “mind” is and there are even those who think it wise to avoid discussing it altogether. But this much we can say: The main stuff of the mind is sentences. “Minding” and “languaging” are, for all practical purposes, one and the same. When we are thinking, we are mostly arranging sentences in our heads. When we are thinking stupid, we are arranging stupid sentences.

I will go so far as to say that the entire subject matter of stupidity is encompassed by the study of our ways of talking. Even when we do a nonverbal stupid thing, like smoking a cigarette (one of my own cherished stupidities), we have preceded the act by talking to ourselves in such a way as to make it appear reasonable. One might say that stupid talk is the generative act from which all the Higher Stupidities flow. The word, in a word, brings for the act.

Moreover, stupidity is something of a linguistic achievement. It does not, I believe, come naturally to us We must learn how to do it, and practice how to do it. Naturally, once having learned and practiced it, we find it difficult, possibly painful, to forget how to do it. Speaking, after all, is a habit, and habits, by definition, are hard to break.

Craziness is much the same thing. Crazy behavior is produced by our generating certain kinds of sentences which we have nurtured and crown to love. When, for example, Lynnette Fromme was sentenced to life imprisonment for attempting to assassinate Gerald Ford, she said, “I want [Charles] Manson out. I want a world of peace.” Considering the hideous circumstances by which Manson came to be imprisoned, and considering what most people mean by “peace,” you might say that Ms. Fromme exhibited an almost wondrous creativity in putting those two sentences together. We can fairly assume that she sees a connection between them. There are, no doubt, several unspoken sentences by which she has formed a bridge between Manson and peace. Even further, there must be still more sentences by which she connects Manson and peace to the assassination of Ford.

Crazy acts are not illogical to those who do them. But the point is that in order to do them, you must first build a verbal empire of intricate dimension. A great deal of crazy talk must be processed before assassination will appear as a reasonable thing to do.