Fighting Words

If you wanted some peace and quiet, you are reading the wrong post.

“The Lutheran church is at war, and the result is a wild inconsistency in her churches. There are Lutheran churches trying to do a service largely indistinguishable from Evangelical megachurches like Willow Creek. Then one can find wonderfully orthodox Lutheran churches led by faithful pastors. I have the greatest respect for solid confessional Lutheran pastors and laymen. They introduced me to orthodox Lutheranism and catechized me into Lutheranism’s theology of the cross” (Craig A. Parton, The Defense Never Rests: A Lawyer’s Quest for the Gospel (St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 2003), 116-17).

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9 thoughts on “Fighting Words

  1. Interesting that Parton implies that “orthodoxy = style of worship”. While I will agree that there is hetrodox theology in many “contemporary” worship songs, it is not the style that makes them so, it is the content. Awhile back Pr. Brondos answered my questions about contemporary worship being unbiblical (see http://joelbrondos.worldmagblog.com/joelbrondos/archives/003894.html) with an analogy of idol worship (http://joelbrondos.worldmagblog.com/joelbrondos/archives/004460.html). Aside from offending me, it offered little to answer my questions from the a doctrinal/biblical basis on why traditional, liturgy-based services should be the norm. I understand all of the arguments that these forms have been “tested over time” but tradition is not equal to Scripture. And too often the liturgial arguments are along the lines of “I like it because I’m comfortable/familiar with it”. Show me where non-traditional style is hetrodox from Scripture; don’t attack those who support it as being idolaters.

    John Frame, in his “Contemporary Worship Music: A Biblical Defense” (P & R Publishing, 1997) outlines his view of contemporary worship. (My thoughts above are based partly on his book.) His point is that while there arguments based on instances of questionable theology, “commercialism”, etc., these arguments are not solid enough to write off everything about contemporary worship but serve as warnings for those who travel that road. He argues that contemporary worship music needs to be tested and that, as those old traditional hymns did, the gold will come forth.

    Rather than condemning non-traditional worship outright, show from Scripture where it is wrong. I have yet to see a valid argument based on Scripture or Lutheran doctrine that holds water. As Luther said, if he could be shown from Scripture that his works were unbiblical, he himself would set them to flame. On this issue I must draw parallels and use his example as a model. “Here I stand, I can do no other.”

  2. Scott,

    If you have not yet picked up Klemet Preus’s “The Fire and The Staff,” I’d highly reccomend it for just the very sorts of arguments from Lutheran theology that you’re seeking.

    Many of the confessional Lutheran arguments against CW over the years have tended toward either an over-the-heady loftiness or an under-the-belty cheap-shot hammering away at cliches.

    I mark Preus’s book as one of the first treatments that actually brings “high-theology” out of the ivory towers and into the family room, rising above the low-blow sort of complaining-but-not-teaching which has become all too common in the liturgical vs. contemporary worship discussions.

    I’ve got a couple of excerpts from “The Fire and The Staff” on my blog, related to the praise music topic. I’m not yet 1/3 of the way through the book, but Pastor Preus has an impressive, engaging way of teaching some very profound Lutheran theology.

  3. Preacherman,
    I read the excerpts from “The Fire and The Staff” on your blog and while I will agree with Preuss regarding the “me-centeredness” of many CW songs, the criticisms outlined in the excerpts (maybe he goes further in the book; I might have to give it a read) are along the lines of what Flame brings out in his book. While those criticisms have validity, those criticisms could also be applied to some traditional hymns. So do we get rid of all traditional hymns? No. Flame’s thesis is that regardless of style (and Flame states that he himself prefers the traditional hymnology) we should strive for quality of doctrinal content and music.

    About a year ago I attended a conference on CW and one of the workshop leaders did a session on the current trend toward incorporating traditional hymns into CW. He stated that the traditional hymns are very strong on doctrine because they came out of a time where the doctrines of the church were being attacked so the hymnwriters used the form to restate strong defense of doctrine. CW comes out of the “Jesus Movement” of the late 1960s and early 70s where those involved were searching for, and emphasizing, the relationship aspect of Christianity. The trend now is to blend the two together so that you have the strong doctrine as well as the relationship with God. So for example you have a song such as “The Wonderful Cross” by Chris Tomlin (and Issac Watts) where the verses from “When I Survey the Wonderous Cross” are tied together with the following chorus: “Oh the wonderful Cross, oh the wonderful Cross, Bids me come and die and find that I may truly live, Oh the wonderful Cross, oh the wonderful Cross, All who gather here by grace draw near, And bless Your name”. So what was wrong with the original, you might ask. Tomlin wanted to bring out how that doctrine relates to us so that we are moved closer to Christ.

    As I’ve thought about what I wrote yesterday, and this issue of traditional vs. contemporary, some events from my own worship life have come to mind. When I was a student at Concordia (then “College”), Seward, some of the greatest worship experiences were the festival services when all of the college choirs, brass, and students and faculty would fill St. John with music and praise in what was clearly a window into heaven. Another occurance comes to mind of the same CW conference I mentioned before where I was on my knees in tears of repentance during a time of non-traditional worship. Are both experiences valid expressions of worship? Yes. Are both of them a small piece of my relationship with God? Yes. Is one better than the other? No, but the 2nd experience is harder within the context of the 1st, IMHO.

    Both sides of the “war” need to repent of their pride and arrogance regarding their point of view on worship and be reminded that God the Father seeks those who worship in spirit and truth. Does either side have exclusive right to spirit and truth? NO!!

    LCMS “policy” (not sure what is the best word at the moment) allows for diversity in practice among its congregations while “requiring” unity in doctrine. As I see it at this point, “style” is not unbiblical or heretical. We need to be vigilant in weeding out the heresy. As Pr. Preuss alludes in the 1st excerpt on Preacherman’s blog (regarding his daughter’s suitor), we need move our worshipers (and ourselves) to greater understanding of why we love Christ, to move them from milk to meat. Are the higher things done exclusively within a traditional liturgy? Maybe, maybe not. These battles are as old as church history. They occured when the organ was introduced into the church and we’ll have them when the next new style is introduced. Labeling one or the other as heterodox without examining them in light of Scripture and teaching in such a way to bring us closer to orthodox is not helpfull. And IMO Parton does not do that in the excert cited by Michael.

  4. Not being a Lutheran, I’m new to the phrase “confessional” in this context, but I gather it’s considered an adjective rather like “orthodox.” Nobody describes HIMSELF as “heterodox,” it’s always applied to the other guy.

    Is this the case with “confessional?” Are there Lutherans who describe themselves as “non-confessional?”

  5. Joel asked, “Are there Lutherans who describe themselves as ‘non-confessional?'”

    Not really, but there are Lutherans who readily admit that they do not hold the Lutheran Confessions to be an authority for doctrine and practice.

    But you are right. Just as everybody likes to call himself “orthodox,” a lot of Lutherans like to call themselves “confessional.”

  6. “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24 (NIV)

    “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24 (ESV)

  7. Excellent proof texting. Now exegete it.

    If you think that Jesus means that the Father is looking for them because He’s going to find some people who earnestly are seeking, (and if you’ve got the crazy idea that you’re one of them!)…then I’ve got some proof texts of my own that you should look at, like 1 Cor. 10:12, and 2 Cor. 5:10, Mark 7:21 and, especially, Romans 3:11:

    “no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.”

    If God is seeking to find true worshipers on this planet (vs. seeking to create them,) then He’s going to be waiting for a long, long time.

    God does not seek something lovable to love. He creates it. More so, in Christ, He has done the miraculous work of creating something lovable to love out of the most unlovable things of all: you and me.

    Its the difference between “glory” and the “cross.” The clarity is evident. Taking such a position in order to persuade critics to give into the contemporary worship movement as being capable of maintaining pure “cross theology” is truly counter-productive to your cause.

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