Sunday, August 17, 2008

The difficulty in rooting out CG

In response to a question on why the WELS leadership doesn't discpline the CG gurus in the WELS....
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Anonymous said...

The problem with the CG movement is how subtle and insidious it is. It can be easily "covered up" by pastors and churches who hide their false motivation and lack of faith in the Means by saying the right words. Because of this, it can be very difficult for leaders to identify and discipline CG supporters. A CG pastor might indicate by his worship styles and practices that he doesn't trust the Means of Grace, but when a DP talks to him and he says, "Don't worry, I trust the Means, I'm just trying something new", what exactly can be done? There isn't really any hard evidence of false doctrine.

You asked specifically about teaching decision theology and sacraments as ordinances. Would CG pastors in the WELS ever admit (to themselves even) that they believed or taught these things? No way. But do they teach them by the way they worship? Absolutely. (But of course, CG teaches that worship style has nothing to do with doctrine, and thus they can't understand how their worship actually is teaching these things.)

With that said, though, I certainly wish our leaders had the courage of Luther to say of the CG pastors, "They have a different spirit," and to remove them from fellowship.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

Am I to understand that this blogger can read the hearts and minds of "CG" pastors (unidentified)? Can he give an example of a "CG pastor" conducting a service that indicates "he doesn't trust the Means of Grace"? Watch your heads, the samurai strawman is swinging his dull katana!

Please read Pastor Kelm's worship paper for some perspective.

Just shout'in

Anonymous said...

While I understand we should refrain from trying to read hearts, we ARE encouraged to listen to the confession of words and watch what is "confessed" by actions.

Please don't refer anyone to Kelm's paper unless you are pointing out how far one can stretch their definition of christian freedom and the danger thereof.

Always Classy

Anonymous said...

"Please read Pastor Kelm's worship paper for some perspective."

If you'd like to know my perspective on that paper, kindly read the comments for the next post down.

Anonymous said...

"Am I to understand that this blogger can read the hearts and minds of "CG" pastors (unidentified)? Can he give an example of a "CG pastor" conducting a service that indicates "he doesn't trust the Means of Grace"? Watch your heads, the samurai strawman is swinging his dull katana!"

Who's judging hearts? As Classy pointed out, Christ has asked and commanded us to judge all teachers by their fruits. This means their words and actions. If a teacher minimizes or denies the Means of Grace by their words and actions, they are a false teacher.

I'll make it very simple. CG teaches that the Means of Grace don't work. Contemporary worship is nothing more than CG principles in action. Thus, if a pastor conducts contemporary worship, he is putting CG principles into action and teaching that the Means of Grace don't work.

Anonymous said...

"I'll make it very simple. CG teaches that the Means of Grace don't work. Contemporary worship is nothing more than CG principles in action. Thus, if a pastor conducts contemporary worship, he is putting CG principles into action and teaching that the Means of Grace don't work."

Your first two premises are faulty. Your logic is also flawed with generalities and personal preference (see example below)

Roman Catholicism teaches work-righteousness. Liturgical worship is used by the Roman Catholicism. Thus, if a pastor conducts liturgical worship, he is putting RC principles into action and is teaching work-righteousness. This example, too, is faulty because of generalization.

"If a teacher minimizes or denies the Means of Grace by their words and actions, they are a false teacher."

Who, in the WELS,that is using a contemporary worship format is minimizing or denying the Means of Grace? How? Specific examples would be helpful in this discussion rather that gross generalities. Who has removed Baptism or the Lord's Supper or the Scripture readings from the service?

Anonymous said...

"Roman Catholicism teaches work-righteousness. Liturgical worship is used by the Roman Catholicism. Thus, if a pastor conducts liturgical worship, he is putting RC principles into action and is teaching work-righteousness. This example, too, is faulty because of generalization."

Ah! I just knew someone would use this argument. Too bad it doesn't work. Here's why: Liturgical worship was not designed by Roman Catholics. It was designed by our apostolic and post-apostolic fathers. It was later perverted by the Roman church. (Notice that Luther was adamant about retaining the liturgy, stripped of its Roman perversions.)

You see, our early Christian fathers needed a worship style which matched the teaching of the apostles. They came up with the liturgy. Thus, we can say that the liturgy is the apostolic doctrine in action.

Contemporary worship on the other hand was designed by false teachers. It is CG in action.

This is the fundamental difference. The liturgy was designed by orthodox teachers to communicate their orthodox doctrine. Contemporary worship was designed by false teachers to communicate their false teachings.

This is why worship style is not just a matter of personal preference. This is why it's not just a matter of different styles.

We are talking about 2 very different things designed for two very different purposes.

Anonymous said...

"Who, in the WELS,that is using a contemporary worship format is minimizing or denying the Means of Grace? How?"

How many times must this be explained? Contemporary worship is designed specifically to minimize the Means of Grace in favor of emotion. Lutherans can try to claim that they have changed or sanitized it to the point where this isn't true, but it just can't be done. Contemporary worship will always accomplish what it was designed to do--put emotion over means. Thus, whenever a WELS pastor uses contemporary worship, he is minimizing the Means, whether he intends to or not.

On the other hand, the liturgy will always do what it was designed to do--proclaim Christ. How do you think that the Church survived so many centuries of Roman false teaching? Because they continued to use the liturgy, and the liturgy continued to do what it was designed to do--proclaim Christ--despite the abominable Roman additions to it.

Our forefathers didn't say, "lex orandi, lex credendi" for nothing. How one worships has profound influences on doctrine--influences that are sometimes subtle and can only be felt over the span of generations. This is why removing the liturgy, which has served the church well for thousands of years, in favor of trendy new forms is far more serious and dangerous than short-sighted people understand.

"Who has removed Baptism or the Lord's Supper or the Scripture readings from the service?"

Crosswalk in Phoenix (or is it Crossroads? I get my ultra-hip-sounding church names confused.) They have removed the Lord's Supper from worship (too offensive). They offer it other times, not connected with worship.

If you need more examples before you're convinced, let me know.

Anonymous said...

"Who has removed... the Lord's Supper... from the service?"

Sadly, most Wisconsin Synod churches.

Anonymous said...

"'Who has removed... the Lord's Supper... from the service?'

Sadly, most Wisconsin Synod churches."

I guess in this regard the "traditional" churches are not much different than the "church growthy" ones.

Anonymous said...

This is all very interesting to me. For those who prefer the historical liturgy, is there one service that is most historically accurate, sound and correct? The current hymnal at our WELS church offers several different forms and I understand an additional versions have been created for use in a supplement. Is there a correct version within this hymnal or do I need to look elsewhere?

Rob

Anonymous said...

Definitions, people! Definitions! Define "contemporary".

I, for one, after looking at St. Mark's link (and visiting), think their "contemporary" version doesn't look much different than the format in CW. The music and instruments are different (and yes, they focus on both justification and sanctification just like the hymns in CW - I've been there three times). St. Mark's "contemporary" service seems to offer all the same "gatherings" as the Service of the Word in CW. And by the way, neither one offers the 5 or 6 great songs of the liturgy.

Their praise team is off to the side. They clearly display only three things on the altar (the Means), and they offer the Supper every weekend. In view of what the Baptist church does and preaches down the street, I would not call what St. Mark does "contemporary. (at least by most definitions)"

As for "lex orandi, lex credendi" , can someone give me a biblical reference for this? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Anon @1:25PM -- I am a little confused by your response to the Anon previous to you. He gets his premises from the arc of an ongoing discussion. Read these previous Blog entries to get a good context of this discussion: (WELS Worship Wars, Worship Conference, Alternative Missions, and Pre-service Communion).

Briefly, his first premise is, in fact, valid, not because Pentecostals, Charismatics, and pop-church Evangelicals teach falsely regarding the true Means, make Worship into a Means through which the Holy Spirit works to strengthen faith, and then also just happen to engage in “Contemporary Worship” practices, but because the “contemporary” phenomenon known as “Contemporary Worship” was itself invented to teach and reinforce such false doctrines. Not the "contemporary" rubric only, but especially the anthropocentric, experiential nature of the music and instrumentation that is elemental to “Contemporary Worship.” One cannot separate from the experiences engendered by “Contemporary Worship” what those experiences were designed to teach. Again, I encourage you to read the context on this from the previous Blogs.

His second premise is also, in fact, valid. Again, previous Blog entries cover this. To see it's validity one needs only to understand the development of modern CG with respect to the rise of Charismaticism in the 1970's. Not only is the previous Anon's second premise valid, the fact is, CG and “Contemporary Worship” are mutually inseparable. They lead to and depend on each other.

I understand your Roman Catholic example to be one of faulty reasoning. And it is faulty. But it is not the reasoning used in the previous Anon's argument – although, I'll admit, it may not be obvious from the manner or immediate context in which he stated it. However, it is well worth noting that advocates of “Contemporary Worship” often emphasize their disdain for liturgical worship by pointing at the Romans. My response has become, “I am not Catholic, but I am catholic. We Lutherans celebrate this fact.” I don't run from the word “catholic,” or from catholic associations inherent to use of the liturgy.

Related to this fact, and not many Lutherans realize this, but another reason “Contemporary Worship” is-what-it-is today, is particularly the sort of anti-catholic sentiment displayed by those who accusingly point their finger in the direction of the Romans when the topic of the liturgy comes up. Baptists (who account for the vast majority of pop-church Evangelicals, today), insist that they are not a “Church of the Reformation,” that they had always existed outside of the organized Church, that they descend directly from Apostolic times through a lineage of “teachers” that the Church consistently repressed or persecuted. They insist that they are not catholic. They don't want to be catholic. And they are more than happy to herald this fact in worship forms that are decidedly non-catholic. Pentecostals, although they must trace their existence through Methodism back to the Anglican Church (which also insists that it is not a “Church of the Reformation,” but which is catholic), reject their recent lineage, and instead claim for themselves the label “Apostolic.” Like it or not, “Contemporary Worship” mimes the anti-catholic sentiments of modern Evangelicals who developed it, the vast majority of whom despise the notion of catholicity entirely; and when Lutherans adopt the contemporary/charismatic/CG forms favored by pop-church Evangelicals, they can't help but mime anti-catholic sentiments right along with them.

As to your last point, you emphasize important concerns to be aware of, and to be clear on. But these concerns are addressed in the greater context of this discussion, as well, in the previous Blog entries. Please read them. They will clarify these concerns for you. In brief, first, I don't think that anyone has reported systematic removal of Baptism from the Divine Service. However, at least two "innovative" congregations have reportedly removed the Supper from the Divine Service. The prime concern, of course, centers on the detrimental impact of contemporary/charismatic/CG forms whether the Marks are central to a congregation's practice or not.

Hope this helps,

Freddy Finkelstein

Anonymous said...

"Definitions, people! Definitions! Define "contemporary"."

Please read the comments that have been posted on several recent posts. "Contemporary" has been defined many, many times. Read any post by Freddy. They explain in detail the history and development of contemporary worship.

"I, for one, after looking at St. Mark's link (and visiting), think their "contemporary" version doesn't look much different than the format in CW. The music and instruments are different..."

You are making a classic contempo argument by making a false distinction between substance and style (i.e. saying, "The style might be different, but the substance is there!") This line of argumentation doesn't hold any water. Style and substance are intimately linked. Read recent posts by Freddy for an explanation.

"In view of what the Baptist church does and preaches down the street, I would not call what St. Mark does "contemporary.""

A second classic contempo argument: "Well, just compare it with the Baptists, and it's pretty good." So we should be OK with comtempo worship at St. Mark simply because it's a little bit better than heretical churches? Compared with a true, orthodox Lutheran church, contempo worship at St. Mark isn't good at all.

(On a side note: has anyone else noticed how contemporary Christianity loves being "pretty good". It thrives on mediocrity. Just go to any Christian bookstore and look at all of the cheap little trinkets. Go to any contemporary worship service and listen to the mediocre praise band. Such things can't even compare to the genuine majesty and beauty of the liturgy done well. It's like comparing a fine wine with kool-aid.)

"As for "lex orandi, lex credendi" , can someone give me a biblical reference for this? Thanks."

Yup, we have a trifecta of classic contempo arguments. Many contempos (especially WELS contempos) are Biblicistic to the core. They believe that everything we do or say has to be specifically delineated in Scripture. They deny that the Church has produced any wisdom or wise teachers in the two millennia since the Bible was written. If only such people would do some reading and research in church history. They might come to honor and respect the great men who have come before us, and not be so eager to discard everything they lived for and worked for (and sometimes died for).

Anonymous said...

I love how the people who support contemporary worship don't respond at all to the thoughtful criticism of contemporary worship here. They just keep repeating the same arguments that were shot down a long time ago.

That tells me that contemporary worship supporters really haven't thought out the implications of what they've done; they rely instead on simplistic arguments quickly thought up to justify what they've already decided they wanted to do.

Anonymous said...

Someone asked "As for "lex orandi, lex credendi" , can someone give me a biblical reference for this? Thanks" and was jumped on for it.

I think that is a fair question. So I Googled "WELS" and "Lex orandi, lex credendi" and the second hit (after an ELCA thing) was this article in which the phrase and the history of it are explained. The link is:

http://www.motleymagpie.org/v1n3_a5.htm

Anonymous said...

Looks like I messed up the links in my previous post. Let me try this again. For yesterday's Anon @1:25PM (and Anon @7:41PM), and anyone else missing the context of this discussion, the following links to previous Blog entries should help fill in the missing context for you: WELS Worship Wars, Worship Conference, Alternative Missions, and Pre-service Communion.

Freddy Finkelstein

Tim Niedfeldt said...

The pendulum swings back and forth throughout history between RC and CG (for simplistic terms) Usually this occurs as a reaction to extremes and the resulting abuses that occur as illustrated by Rome or by Pentecostalism. Lutherans try to be in the middle. I am in no ways saying that we should minimalize 2000 years of history that has allowed the church to survive. However it is also pretentious to believe that nothing new will do. For contempos this statement right here is the warning bell:

"Many contempos (especially WELS contempos) are Biblicistic to the core. They believe that everything we do or say has to be specifically delineated in Scripture. They deny that the Church has produced any wisdom or wise teachers in the two millennia since the Bible was written. If only such people would do some reading and research in church history. They might come to honor and respect the great men who have come before us, and not be so eager to discard everything they lived for and worked for (and sometimes died for)."

Where the Lutherans I know put the bible as the sole authority and the confessions and church tradition etc..beneath it this type of statement seems to slide church tradition out and start moving up on the outside. Actually thats how much of the talk here "feels" to a contempo (that is what we do after all). That most anything outranks the Bible as an authority.

Maybe non-contempos make that mistake because the confessions never talk about the inerrancy of the Word or many other things that were not relevant to the abuses of the day or issues of the day and have forgotten where to look if the confessions don't cover something.

The problem is not that we think the Bible has to state everything we say or do...it is that the Bible does not state what we must say or do. Some will defer their Christian freedom to the wisdom of church tradition. Not necessarily bad unless those that do it forget about that silly ol' Bible and rely on tradition more and don't do the work of the Bereans(read: they become Rome). There has to be some balance. Similarily throwing out both the caution of the Bible and the solid wisdom of Church tradition to create some rockin soiree is not desirable either.

See Contempos believe in "lex orandi lex credendi" as well, we just don't believe the assertion stated earlier "CG and “Contemporary Worship” are mutually inseparable." The problem with this statement is that this is only true depending on how you define contemporary. If you define contemporary as "praise songs" instead of also including "modern hymns" then yes contemporary is CG. If you define contemporary band music as only capable of creating emotional responses then yes contemporary is CG. If if you define contemporary arrangements of absolution and confession or the psalms as anthropomorphic then contemporary is CG.

Contemporary is only CG if you make your contemporary CG.

Tim

Anonymous said...

You can't quote from the Magpie!! Those guys are flaming closet Catholics!! They call each other "Father"!! They want to force us to take communion EVERY Sunday!!

Sorry, I was just choking on some Holy Ghost feathers ;-) !!

ELSer

PS- Another great post, Freddy. It is unfortunate, however, that history and its lessons are in general despised.

Anonymous said...

"Those guys are flaming closet Catholics!!"

Closet? No, I think they came out. Check out this pic.

http://www.hopelutheranfremont.org/

(Communion EVERY Sunday, what a crazy notion...)

Tim Niedfeldt said...

I agree. I like Freddy's posts as well. I may not agree with everything he says but I definately appreciate his approach as stellar.

Tim

Tim Niedfeldt said...

I agree. I like Freddy's posts as well. I may not agree with everything he says but I definately appreciate his approach as stellar.

Tim

Anonymous said...

"For contempos this statement right here is the warning bell...'Many contempos (especially WELS contempos) are Biblicistic to the core'...Where the Lutherans I know put the bible as the sole authority."

Tim, Tim, Tim. Do you know what it means to be a Biblicist? Believe me, it's not a good thing. Being a Biblicist does NOT mean, as you seem to think, making the Bible the sole authority. Do some reading and research. Discover what these terms mean. Then come back and post.

"Some will defer their Christian freedom to the wisdom of church tradition. Not necessarily bad unless those that do it forget about that silly ol' Bible and rely on tradition more and don't do the work of the Bereans(read: they become Rome)."

Seriously, do people even read the previous posts? Why do you once again use the argument that using the liturgy inevitably leads one to "become Rome". It's not true! The liturgy was around long before the Roman church. The liturgy is Christian and apostolic, not Roman. Rome hijacked and abused the liturgy, they didn't create it. Thus, if you use the liturgy, you won't "become Rome", you'll become Christian.

"See Contempos believe in "lex orandi lex credendi" as well, we just don't believe the assertion stated earlier "CG and “Contemporary Worship” are mutually inseparable."

But of course they are inseparable! Contemporary worship was created and designed by CGers. They needed a worship form to express their particular false doctrines. Contemporary worship is what they came up with. Contemporary worship is literally CG theology in action.

"Contemporary is only CG if you make your contemporary CG."

No! Contemporary worship is always CG, because that's what it was designed to be. A hammer is designed to pound nails. That's what it was designed to do; that's what it does. It is always a hammer; it will always be effective in pounding nails. Now, you could take that hammer, use it (somehow) to screw a screw, and then say, "No, look it's a screwdriver." But that's not true! It will always be a hammer, even if you try to use it for another purpose.

In the same way, contemporary worship will always express CG doctrine (even if you try to make it do something else) because that's what it was designed to do.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous on August 20, 2008 at 4:31 PM said:

"'Who has removed... the Lord's Supper... from the service?'

Sadly, most Wisconsin Synod churches."

This is a most serious charge, one which I do not believe to be true at all. However, if you are going to make such a charge or broad sweeping generalization, please offer us the concrete evidence you have that proves "most Wisconsin Synod churches" have removed the Lord's Supper from their services. Hearsay will not do. Citing a rouge congregation also will not do. If you do not have irrefutable proof, I ask you as a Christian brother or sister to repent and repeal your statement in which you effectively label most Wisconsin Synod churches as despisers of the Lord's Supper.

With Brotherly Love

Anonymous said...

With Brotherly Love,

Yikes, umm, settle down there buddy. I wasn't the one who wrote that most WELS churches have removed the Supper from worship, but it's true. Almost all WELS churches have removed the Supper from worship by not offering it every Sunday in worship. That's obviously what the person who wrote that meant. So, if a church offers the Supper on the 1st and 3rd Sundays, they have removed it from the 2nd and 4th Sundays. Perhaps you should turn your obvious anger around upon your self and other WELS churches, not the one who pointed it out.

By the way, this post has nothing to do with communion frequency, let's not start it again, ok?

Anonymous said...

"If you do not have irrefutable proof [of churches removing the Lord's Supper from the service].."

Correction. You are correct, they didn't remove it, just don't have it 'cept the first Sunday, or the first and third, or the second and fourth.... despite people asking for it.

Tim Niedfeldt said...

I have no problems with the liturgy. My contempo church uses the liturgy. I don't doubt the faith of a single person here who loves the liturgy (I actually don't know anyone who actually criticizes a liturgical worshipper)

What I am saying is that those who swing too far in their reliance of church tradition risk the same error of Rome in placing Church tradition above scripture and above Christ. So in that light I don't think it is wise to criticize people who rely on their Bible...its sorta the thing I believe Luther relied on.

I like the liturgy quite a bit myself. I was a church organist for awhile there and played the liturgy and all those great hymns. If I sit down to play I will pull out TLH to do it. A good hymn sing without the TLH te deum is hardly a hymn sing at all.

The short of it is that I think those who say we can't play a modern liturgical service, are imposing guidelines that don't exist. You're sounding warnings that are valid..yet with good stewardship can be addressed. You're protecting the weak I suppose with some nice rules so they don't have to be discerning..probably like the peasants of Luther's day.

How small is the instrumentation box or style limits that can't be exceeded? I don't even know what the liturgical standard for music should be then. I love good pipe music, I love brass, violins are good...what else fits the sanctimonious liturgical requirements?

I believe that many can't allow a band to be a liturgical musical choice because they just don't like the sound. For them modern music is designed to do something as some have stated here. It has to be about emotions(for some). However, not all people think that way. I can listen to "Crown him with many Crowns" on a piano, a nice organ (a wimpy organ is no organ at all), or a band and they all can be awesome. Same song, same message, same feelings...3 different types of music.yet one of these things would be called CG in this forum. To me that is simply style snobbery and has nothing to do with CG.

Tim

Anonymous said...

"The short of it is that I think those who say we can't play a modern liturgical service..."

Wait a second, you're changing the subject now. We were talking about contemporary worship, not modern liturgical worship. Is your subtle change of subject a subtle indication that you've realized that contemporary worship is indefensible?

"I actually don't know anyone who actually criticizes a liturgical worshipper...You're protecting the weak I suppose with some nice rules so they don't have to be discerning..probably like the peasants of Luther's day."

Wow, that's some contradiction! So you're saying that those who value liturgical worship are like weak peasants? I sense in your tone the same disdain present in Kelm's paper.

"I believe that many can't allow a band to be a liturgical musical choice because they just don't like the sound."

A true gem of CG argumentation. It's all a matter of personal preference! Sorry, not true. The problem with praise bands is two-fold, neither having to do with personal preference.

First, as you yourself alluded to, praise bands are designed to elicit an emotional response. You try to minimize this by claiming that Lutheran hymnody can also elicit emotions. But the difference is that praise bands are explicitly designed to do this at the expense of doctrine. Lutheran hymnody is designed to teach doctrine, and emotional response is a result of the beauty of the doctrine taught. See the difference? For contempo music, emotion is the goal. For Lutheran music, teaching is the goal.

Second, the other problem with praise bands is that they demand the focus and attention of the worshipers because of the placement of the band front and center and the dramatic performance stylings of the performers. Liturgical choirs sing from the balcony specifically to avoid distracting attention from Christ.

Anonymous said...

But is there one liturgical service that should be used? Does WELS have it in their hymnal?

Rob

Anonymous said...

Tim,

You state, above @9:39AM: “If if you define contemporary arrangements of absolution and confession or the psalms as anthropomorphic then contemporary is CG.”

I think you mean to say “anthropocentric,” not “anthropomorphic.” If this is so, then let me respond to this point (otherwise, I may need a bit more explanation from you...).

I maintain that contemporary, entertainment-grade arrangements are by nature and by definition anthropocentric. If they weren't, then they wouldn't succeed in the marketplace. They wouldn't be “popular” forms. They wouldn't be contemporary.

As naked compositions, contemporary forms are constructed not only to carry the thoughts of the composer, but to recreate the whole experience of the composer's inspiration, including his thoughts, senses, emotions, and drives. This is a consequence of the rise of 19th century Romanticism (as a genre of Classical music), and has really defined the compositional objective of popular forms to this day -- especially forms enhanced by commercial interest and marketed in our society through emotional manipulation rather than rational decision making (ask me sometime what I think of this and the impact it has on the Capitalist notion of the Rational Consumer... perhaps a different Blog...).

As improvisational expression, contemporary forms present to an assembly the performers' interpretation of a composition's whole meaning, giving voice to this meaning in a personal way by calling upon their own pool of emotional energy and channeling it through their instruments. This is the dictum of Hank Williams in action: “Can you make people feel what you feel inside when you bend those guitar strings?” And this is exactly the way that popular instruments are taught to be played these days. Guitarists, for example, are not taught to dispassionately play notes printed on a page; instead they practice scale patterns and chord progressions, and are taught to use them in whatever way will result in an effective conveyance of authentic self-expression. They are taught to use their instrument as an extension of their own soul, making them powerful devices of emotional manipulation.

As public performances, contemporary forms represent nothing but a cycle of emotional feedback between the assembly and the performers, and in familiar venues (like a church, for instance), performers are better able to predict and react to the mood of the assembly -- and to alter it according to their liking. Yes, I've done this before. And it is amazing how much power over people that contemporary performers actually wield, especially when an assembly is willing and eager to be manipulated.

Finally, as objects of commercial interest, contemporary forms are designed to stir vaguely defined sentiments and coerce emotional and physical responses. This is a large part of what makes contemporary forms entertaining and successful from a marketing standpoint. Contemporary culture chooses them as preferred forms because they are successfully marketed. Under such marketing, contemporary forms are designed to target the senses, to elicit expressions of pleasure, and to cultivate a desire for more. Successful contemporary forms are successful principally because they are effective at creating narcotic affective experiences.

And “narcotic experience” is precisely what defines the operative characteristics of “contemporary” worship. Vaguely defined, worshipers attribute to God the emotions that they experience. In Pentecostal and Charismatic circles, they are shamefully unabashed in their assignment of such experiences to the direct working of the Holy Spirit by means of the worshipers' act of worship, and proportionate to the worshipers' zeal. Among Evangelicals in non-Charismatic circles, the experience produced by their use of contemporary/charismatic forms is used to point to the worshipers' fulfillment of God's command to glorify Him, and of God's personal endorsement of their faith. Such forms serve the aberrations of their theology quite well. In all cases, however, use of these contemporary/charismatic/CG forms produces what is called “a religious experience” – an “experience” because that is what these forms are principally designed to do and is what they succeed at doing, and “religious” because they are used in the context of religious practice. The worshiper who worships according to such forms thus has little choice but to attribute his experiences to God, and the congregation which adopts contemporary entertainment-grade forms, whether they reject the efficacy of the recurring experiences produced by them or not, whether they ignore them at first or not, will eventually have no choice but to do the same -- implicitly at first, perhaps, but then explicitly.

By making this last statement, maybe I could be accused of playing the role of a “wild-eyed arm-chair prophet,” who speaks only from his own imagination. I'm not. I'm speaking from experience. I've lived this stuff, I know how it works, and I know especially how "contemporary" worship draws Christians and congregations into accepting non-biblical teachings. It works the same way that a narcotic draws a person into desperate and unlawful acts in order that he may continue to have the experiences he's become dependent on. Only, it's a person's faith that comes to depend on them. And it gets worse over time. Twice I have been part of a Lutheran congregation that has at first experimented with and then fully adopted contemporary/charismatic/CG forms. Today, only one of these congregations still claims the label “Lutheran.” In both cases, I was a participant in the process. I can cite other Lutheran examples, too, with which I am familiar, such as North Heights Lutheran in MN, or Rev. Jack Cascione's (LCMS) old congregation in OH -- which, after he left in the early 1990's, decided to experiment with contemporary worship. Today it is a Pentecostal church. From Biblically grounded Confessional Lutherans to doctrinally aimless Evangelicals, the process is the same – and in the heat of it, participants have no idea what is happening to them.

This isn't to say that Christians do not, or ought not, express emotion, or that emotion is not integral to our faith's expression. We should run from ascetic practices as quickly as we run from narcotic affective practices! After all, how can lost and condemned creatures such as ourselves, devoid of merit before God and otherwise destitute of all hope, possibly squelch expressions of Joy and Gratitude in the face of the Gospel's promises, which are freely given to us through faith? The question isn't one of whether emotion is proper, but of the proper source and motivation of that emotion. Consider how careful our WELS pastors are to avoid giving advice regarding Christian behavior, for fear of eliciting synthetic Christian works, or works motivated from some source external to an individual's faith. These external motivations are motivations of Law. When works motivated by Law are falsely ascribed to the Gospel, when a person is looking to or relying on something other than his faith to motivate particular works, but nevertheless falsely ascribes them to his faith, those works are synthetic -- that is, they appear to be from a genuine source, but they are not. Emotional expression, as an expression of faith, works the same way, and we ought to be just as diligent to avoid eliciting synthetic emotions from external sources as we are to avoid synthetic works (yes, I know, technically, emotions are considered “works” ...).

Thus, systematic use of worship forms as a catalyst for human emotion is abusive anthropocentrism. It replaces faith as the source and motivation of Christian emotions, and teaches the worshiper to focus on his works and emotions over against the Gospel -- to fixate on something that happens to him, rather than what has been done for him, to chase after fleeting subjective experiences rather than rejoice in objective and eternal promises. Likewise, the use of worship forms that are widely known for their power to elicit powerful emotions, whether or not the intention is to elicit and/or abuse those emotions, is at best careless and irresponsible. Regardless of the intention behind their use, “contemporary” forms are anthropocentric. No, in our day and age, in a culture of rampant, libertine narcissism, which makes itself rich on all forms of self-titillation and instant gratification by exploiting the weaknesses of human emotion, we should in no way be trifling with anthropocentric, affective worship forms -- they represent, teach and lead to damning falsehood and feed worldly confusion in the Church.

On the contrary, we should run to the safety of worship forms that reach the heart by aiming at the head, that focus the worshiper on his confession in ways that don't presume to speak for his emotions. I am truly amazed at how well the liturgy and orthodox hymnody through the ages balance head and heart -- it's almost as if the authors of the liturgy had first-hand experience with the extremes of Stoicism and Epicureanism in their culture, and with complacency and zealotry in the Church, and understood very well how to weave a balanced path of worship that avoids extremes and allows the Gospel to work. They also seemed to understand that a separation from worldliness and worldly forms was important and that distinctly Ecclesiastical forms were most expressive of our true citizenship.

Anyway, this has gotten quite long, and it seems that I have begun to wax poetic -- so that's my signal to stop.

Until later,
Freddy Finkelstein

Anonymous said...

"But is there one liturgical service that should be used? Does WELS have it in their hymnal?"

The historic liturgy consists of three things: the Ordinary, the Proper, and the Supper.

The Ordinary would include (but isn't limited to):

Confession and Absolution
The Kyrie
The Gloria
The Creed
The Sanctus
The Agnus Dei
The Blessing

The Proper would include (but isn't limited to):

The Introit
The Prayer of the Day
Old Testament Lesson
Psalm of the Day
Epistle Lesson
Verse of the Day
Gospel
Hymn of the Day

You can find all of these things in the Common Service in CW (though there is an issue with the placement of the Kyrie). I believe that all of these things are also included in both orders of service in the new Supplement (but don't quote me on that--I haven't seen them).

RandomDan said...

Rob,

The answer to your first question is no. Even me being as liturgically minded as I am, there isn't any one service that should be used. I believe our friends in the Ukrainian Lutheran Church put that argument to rest. That being said, the Common Service is the way we inherited the Western Rite most common in Lutheran circles, and is the stronger of the services in our hymnal. I have not seen the new services in the supplement yet, but I have heard good things about them. Namely, I've heard a lot of people complain that they are too "high church."

When we step back and see that there isn't any one service that should be used, the question becomes is there a good reason for us to stick to one service? Yes. Anyone with small children should be very concerned if their pastors change the services every week because their children will never get the opportunity to participate since the service is in a perpetual state of flux. If the service is the same every week, our kids will learn the ordinary parts if the service quickly. If that's not a good reason for keeping things constant, I don't know what is.

Anonymous said...

randomdan, could you provide the URL to the Ukranian Lutheran Church liturgy in English? It opened in this blog, so I went to the site but couldn't locate it in English to print it. Thank you for your help.

One other question/comment to those in favor of contemporary music within church: why should Lutheranism embrace contemporary music? Why do those who are relatively satisfied with a version of the historical liturgy currently used need to accept contemporary music? Of what benefit is it to us? Why does it have to change? Answers from those supporting and promoting contemporary/CG principles in Lutheran churches would be helpful. Thanks.

Rob

Joe Abrahamson said...

For a more objective analysis on some aspects of how the worship forms change take a look at these:

Matins Compared: A Look at what’s happened to Matins since TLH PDF

The Te Deum in Christian Worship: New Worship Settings PDF

These are more "objective" because they actually present the content of the services in comparison. More of this kind of work needs to be done.

RandomDan said...

Rob,

I tried the link and it went right to the English version. I'm not sure what is wrong. Just to give you an idea of what I was trying to get to, the Ukrainian Lutheran Church uses a modified version of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.

Let me try posting the link without the fancy html.

http://www.angelfire.com/ca4/saintsophiaseminary/liturgy.html

See if copying and pasting that link works.

Anonymous said...

That's what I needed. Thank you.

Rob