I set out to write about Prof. Herb Hoefer‘s ideas for making worship more Muslim-friendly (which, I hesitate to say, I saw first in Something News–can’t quite recall its full title at the moment…), only to find out it had already been done, and probably better than I could have done it. See Father Hollywood’s remarks here.
Prof. Hoefer is a professor at (again, I hesitate to say it) my alma mater, and he has long been involved with the mission work of the Missouri Synod and the Northwest District. I know the man, and I say nothing bad about him as a person. Out of the professors under whom I studied there, he was the least hostile to the traditional tenets of orthodox, Lutheran Christianity–at least, I thought so before I read his article (which can be found at the end of Father Hollywood’s post, but, curiously, no longer on the CU-P website; it can be found here also). Prof. Hoefer’s article is the extreme end of what many LCMS congregations currently do under the guise of missional concern. Be all things to all people, they say. Isn’t that what St. Paul said? Lest anyone be fooled about where such logic leads, simply read Prof. Hoefer’s paper.
Apparently, not only should we dumb down our liturgical heritage to make people “comfortable” and so they can “understand it,” we should also remove anything remotely offensive to a religion antithetical to Christianity, Islam. Should we remove all things that talk about Jesus as Messiah so we do not offend Jews, who might then be “attracted” to Christianity? I understand that Prof. Hoefer is speaking about a particular context, say, in a Muslim country, but his examples come from the U.S. Is the U.S. now a Muslim context? I mean, we’re not Great Britain, for pity’s sake!
But this sort of emphasis, on removing or changing elements of the faith once delivered to the saints, has behind it a false understanding of conversion. What happened to the bound will, unable to come to Jesus or believe in Him without the Holy Spirit working repentance and faith? We do not attract people to the Church so that they will then believe. This is directly opposed to the total depravity of the will worked by sin. More likely, people will be driven away from the Gospel, because that’s what often happens when the Gospel confronts sinners. People will never be saved unless they encounter the full, condemning Law of God and the full, saving comfort of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man. Will this offend Muslims and others?
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, andwho it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” (John 6:60-67, ESV)
Thus stands the question of Jesus to Prof. Hoefer, and to us as well.