Alright I have been silent for many months in the area of debating those I affectionately named the Confessional Crusaders. It has been a lesson about be careful the terms you coin, you just might become one.
I have spent the time still observing debates but moreso just studying and absorbing than participating. I would like to announce that my views are quite a bit different and muted than they used to be when I took up the supposed arguments. So to update those who may care, here is a more revised statement on the issues I used to fight for so much in the past.
Indeed we still participate at Victory and are active there. We are active there because I believe Victory is still true to its Lutheran origin. We work hard to maintain our Lutheran hymns in worship despite their being done in a contemporary way. We stick with the basic CW liturgy. We visibly and regularly promote the Sacraments and pastor still gives law/gospel sermons of his own creation (not hijacked from some non-dom site like lifechurch or groeschel). However, I will confess this, as the church grows the dangers of evangelicalism and non-dom’s that many have warned of are there and continually and increasingly require attention. Increasingly I hear comments by newer members who want to reduce the number of hymns and replace it with that ewwy gooey modern crap that use endless refrains to say absolutely nothing. Members who want to be even more contemporary than we are. Basically new Christians (praise God) that want the more emotion based worship (sigh!!) Now we are working on calling a second pastor and hopefully the introduction of a pastor that can work with new members and lead bible studies and congregation education can add more meat and potatoes to the new Christians we are gaining. This is ever so important so as not to develop a church that has no knowledge of what it means to be Lutheran.
Doctrines and Trends
This is my biggest fear. That if the vigor of maintaining Lutheranism ever waned at Victory, that it too will fall the way of other WELS churches that seem to be caving in totally to the non-dom or emergent church model. It is sad enough to see some relatives fall away from the doctrinal soundness of the confessions, and forgoing the benefits of the sacraments, the dangers of decision theology, and focusing on all the sanctified living kind of thing of a Baptist non-dom but at least it is clear because it is a non-dom. You expect a kind of “feel good” church light in doctrine and heavy on goo when you think of that model. It is so much worse if a Lutheran church pretends to be Lutheran but in its essence is a non-dom. That is the sad part of what I have been observing more recently in some WELS experiments.
I think that a number of WELS churches and ministries are starting to cross the lines of Lutheranism. It is sad that we are not doing more to draw some lines in the sand. I have heard some sermons at some of the oft cited synod “bad boys” churches and have to admit they were poor. Basically more about sanctified living and vague gospel notions. No law…very light on the proclamation of the gospel work of Christ as a response to the preaching of the law. I think it is unfortunate these kinds of churches are not called on the carpet more often. There is no excuse for borrowing from other denominations for sermon series. There is no excuse for preaching a watered down message filled with sanctification and “goodness”. It is sad that a church who I think does traditional Lutheran music in a contemporary way probably the best as can be done, then blows it big time with a sermon that is filled with blehhh. However it’s not just the churches the WELS is cropping up all kinds of ministries…particularly on campuses…that if adopted to the WELS mainstream will put the confessional stance of the synod in serious jeopardy.
There is a particular debate that continues nearly non-stop regarding universal objective justification that I must say I have learned a lot about and definitely feel the synod should clean up its position on. Their statements on this doctrine are sloppy and misleading for some. I think most people like me who were confirmed 30 years ago (using the old brown KJV Luther’s catechism from days of yor ) the doctrine is clear and often in the debates we are all arguing for the same thing using different definitions for terms trying to find a way to make the current statement on justification from the WELS fit the doctrines we learned years ago. In this department I have appreciated the debate and the clarification of terms. I regret many of my statements of two years ago and I will say that I have grown a lot in this area. I have elected Joe Krohn to be my spokesman in this area and rarely need to add more.
To one degree I wonder what difference the minute distinctions being made effect the day-to-day life of the WELS churches as so far I have not seen a WELS church take the implications of a poor understanding of UOJ to the ultimate extreme warned about and illustrated in the Blogosphere. However I guess I do see it illustrated in what is loosely called a Lutheran (or even Christian) church, the ELCA. So whereas I don’t see the WELS sloppiness on the issue leading to such dire consequences…it is something to watch out for… just like those members who want to take the church the non-dom route. I guess as I read out there somewhere “What is the harm of clarifying this one up all nice and tidy?”
What does this sum up to? I am definitely a more cautious individual and I scrutinize a lot more. If I hear a song played in worship that reeks of sanctification I call it out. If a sermon is weak in law or gospel I make a note of it. I want to promote the sacraments more. I am studying a lot more and am more cautious about a blanket endorsement of all things contemporary. Restraint and respect for Lutheran doctrine are still necessary and even moreso today. We need to police ourselves better and resist the urge of ecumenism and doctrinal compromise. To undo the statement of Groeshel who said “we must do everything short of sinning to reach people.” I say not true as ignoring doctrine in order to reach people is not doing any Christian a service. So I guess when I use the term Confessional Crusader these days I don’t mean it with derision as I use to. I have found it is indeed something we need to keep close and study or indeed we will lose the truth restored to us at the reformation one little piece at a time.