Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Augsburg Confession on Worship

I would like to point the many readers to this fine article by a WELS pastor on worship (you will certainly note that Rock and Roll is not apart of this WELS view). Yet mission dollars seem to be pouring into the Rock and Roll churches. I wonder if this will stop with the renenewed financial crisis? Is this a call to repentance?

Key Words In Lutheran Liturgical Worship
By Charles L. Cortright

For many of us the study of language and its meaning has been a large part of our education and is a large part of our work. As we gather for this seminar on worship in our Lutheran Church, I would like to focus briefly with you on what is meant by the phrase “Lutheran liturgical worship,” and what it means to appreciate such worship.

Please note that I say “appreciate,” which is not synonymous in every instance with “like.” Appreciation involves awareness and sensitivity towards its subject; it involves recognition of values that have established themselves over time. Appreciation transcends the sometimes narrow confines of our individual tastes. Unfortunately, it happens all too often that people assess the worship practice of the church on the subjective basis of their likes and dislikes with little appreciation for the heritage they have received as Lutherans. But the corporate worship of the church ought not be determined by whim and fad, but upon solid, scripturally consonant, confessionally consistent principles and practices. So we look briefly at the key words “Lutheran,” “liturgical” and “worship” with an eye to being renewed once again in our appreciation of such worship.


Our first task is to understand what we mean by “worship.” Most often we use this word to label the corporate activity of a congregation, but we must remember that corporate worship flows from that worship which encompasses the entire life of the believer: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Thus, our Lutheran Confessions (particularly the Augustana and the Formula of Concord) profess on the basis of Scripture that the true worship of God is essentially faith in Christ. If our lives are not rooted and grounded in this faith, then any corporate worship we do becomes a form of hypocrisy. Remember the Lord’s indictment of Israel’s worship because of hypocrisy: “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies .... Away with the noise of your songs!” (Amos 5:21ff). And so also that of our Lord Jesus: “They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men” (Mt 15:9).

When the Holy Spirit gathers believers together into the Church, he also gathers them as the body of Christ in the outward activity we call worship. It is interesting that we often refer to the corporate worship of the Body as the “service.” But whose service? and for whom? Lutherans use the word “service” in English as a clipped form of the German Gottesdienst, “Divine Service.”

“Divine Service” does NOT refer to a worship service that is sublime in its language, or aesthetically beautiful in its celebration, or emotionally moving in its effect. (“How was the service?” “Oh, it was simply ‘divine’!”) Indeed, such criteria belong to the Reformed concept of worship with its emphasis on the feelings, emotions, needs, etc. of people. Yes, we Lutherans certainly do hope that corporate worship among our people is moving; and we should place a high premium on the competency and grace of the celebrant, preacher, and musician, but these things do not constitute the substance and worth of our worship. Nor is “Divine Service” to be thought of as service rendered to God as something that is owed, a duty exacted by a demanding God, or worse, as something which is meritorious before God. Such is the Roman concept with its emphasis on law works and sacrifice. Yes, we do owe God our heartfelt adoration, this is a First Article truth to us—but that is not the essential aspect of the Divine Service.

Divine Service is rather that service which God graciously gives to us. Lutheran worship is focused on the Means of Grace, on the blessed gospel proclamation in Word and sacrament that comes to us from the holy Trinity. God speaks to us his words of absolution and comfort; he reminds us of the blessed covenant of grace granted through Holy Baptism; he feeds us with the precious body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Lord’s Supper. God comes to us and serves us (!), and only afterward comes our response. So we characterize our worship properly as theocentric as opposed to a focus on ourselves, and as evangelical as opposed to a focus on the performance of certain functions or law duties.


We modify our understanding of corporate worship with the description “liturgical.” What does that mean for our worship? “Liturgical” does not mean simply “having a liturgy” or following a certain so‑called “order of service.” Many Protestant sects that eschew the characterization “liturgical” nonetheless follow a regular pattern or order in their worship. Nor does simply utilizing a form of the historic liturgy necessarily mean one is liturgical.

Lutherans usually understand liturgical worship in terms of following the historic liturgy of the western Church, but liturgical worship especially emphasizes the ecclesiastical year with its cycle of seasons and celebrations. And it needs to be said in this regard that the church year is greater than a mere rehearsal of the life of Christ as we move around the cycle—Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Passion Week, Easter, etc. The liturgical celebration of the church year is more than the rehearsal of history and more than “sanctified nostalgia”; it is walking with Christ via the liturgy: celebrating his grace, sharing in his sorrows, exulting in his victory by means of the rich rites, practices, and propers of the liturgy.

In that connection, and perhaps somewhat tangentially, we should stress how false the notion is which some advance that theological conservatism is best expressed (and preserved) by liturgical minimalization, that is, by ignoring the seasonal emphases of the church year and scorning the rubrics of the liturgy. Proponents of this notion sometimes like to recall a romanticized version of the “primitive simplicity” of the early church’s worship, citing it as the paradigm of “true worship.” Limitations of time do not permit us to look more closely at this notion now; a corrective to this point of view may be found in the first chapters of the Manual to Christian Worship.

But by the same token and for the sake of balance (since we are already on this tangent), equal care needs to be taken lest emphasizing the form and practice of the liturgy becomes an end in itself. The liturgy is rightly treasured as a time‑tested vehicle for celebration, but it is only a vehicle. The proclamation of the gospel through the means of grace is the substance of the Divine Service. If liturgical minimalization is wrongly conceived of as a hallmark of orthodoxy, liturgical maximizing can lead to the sad state of affairs in which form obscures orthodox content altogether!

To return to our main point, in the Lutheran Church worship practice that is determined to be liturgical traditionally conceives of itself in terms of a form of the Common Service of the Western Church. It celebrates the Divine Service of the Lord through Word and Sacrament in accord with the church year and by means of the order and rubrics of the “holy mass” (CA, Art. 23) as developed in history under the Lord of the Church. And it does so in accord with the meaning of the third key word before us, that of “Lutheran.”


Calling our worship “Lutheran,” of course, is not meant by us as merely a label or simply to distinguish our liturgy from that of other traditions (e.g., Lutheran vs. Anglican). We use the designation to mark our worship as being consonant with the Confessions of the Lutheran Church.

In this connection the name Lutheran as applied to the liturgy first denotes a tradition that is free under the gospel. As mentioned earlier, the Lutheran Confessions carefully distinguish the true worship of God—faith in Christ—from the man‑made forms of the liturgy (FC, ThD, Art X, 8). Thus, “the congregation of God of every place and every time has, according to its circumstances, the good right, power, and authority to change, to diminish, and to increase them [i.e., liturgical ceremonies] . . . as . . . may be regarded most profitable, most beneficial, and best for preserving good order, Christian discipline, and the edification of the Church” (FC, ThD, Art X, 9). Lutheran worship is worship undertaken in this gospel freedom. In Lutheran liturgics there is no sense of a “divinely ordained” form of worship as in Orthodox or Roman liturgics. Confessional Lutheranism, in fact, will always strenuously oppose any such notion as being contrary to our freedom in Christ. But having declared and affirmed that freedom, it is interesting to note the example of the Lutheran Confessions with respect to the liturgical heritage which the Lutheran Church holds in common with the Western Church. Indeed, the Augsburg Confession points to the retention of the customary ceremonies of the western mass—purified of Roman dross—as evidence against the charge of sectarianism (CA, Conclusion.) Martin Luther founded no church of his own; by God’s providential grace, he sought to reform the one he loved. As a result, the Lutheran Confessions uphold everywhere the understanding that the Lutheran Church is the purified “Church Catholic” (CA, Art 24, Concl; Ap, Art 24) and points to her liturgy as prima facie [primary fact]evidence of this.

A contemporary understanding of what it means to be Lutheran in terms of the liturgy, then, assiduously arms the freedom that is ours under the gospel on the one hand. On the other, Lutheran liturgical understanding regards highly the liturgical heritage of catholic Christianity, in its freedom adapting it as necessary to the changing exigencies of history and culture, but treasuring and conserving it with all deliberateness for its time‑proven utility and for the continuity it visibly proclaims with the Church catholic of ages past. To borrow a phrase from Charles Porterfield Krauth, the continuity of the Lutheran liturgy is one of the most visible aspects of the grace given the “conservative reformation.”

So, what is Lutheran in liturgical worship? I believe it is precisely the dynamic of this tension: freedom that seeks to celebrate the Divine Service meaningfully, culturally, and relevantly in the context of the liturgical heritage of the historic liturgy. It is this dynamic that has produced the significant and distinctly Lutheran alterations and additions to the liturgy such as hymns, the corporate confession, and the like, all the while preserving the rich, time‑proven order of the service: Kyrie, Service of the Word, Preface, etc. for the celebration of the ecclesiastical year. Speaking of Lutheran liturgical worship in terms of a “dynamic tension” leads us to view the practice of the liturgy as one that demands an on‑going investment of our time, understanding, awareness, and sensitivity. In a word, it means appreciating it!

May our praise in our Lutheran liturgical worship remain a fit response to the One who has served us and continues to bless us through Word and sacrament in Christ Jesus.

When this article was written, Charles Cortright was a professor at Northwestern College, Watertown, WI. In the Summer of 2000 he began serving St. Paul, North Hollywood, Calif.
This is an adapted version of an address given at the WELS Christian Worship seminar at Calvary Lutheran Church, Thiensville, WI, on July 15, 1994.

CA: Confessio Augustana, The Augsburg Confession (1530)
Ap: Apology of the Augsburg Confession (1531)
FC: Formula of Concord (1577); ThD: Thorough Declaration (also called Solid Declaration), part II of FC.


Anonymous said...

I can't help but feel that your opening remarks are at the very least legalistic and at the worst judgemental. To say that high church liturgical is the only way to do corporate worship flies in the face of The Augsburg Confession and more importantly the Bible. I would be glad to discuss in detail point by point. My blog or yours?


John said...

You call me judgemental, yet you don't address Pr. Cortright's fine article. I will especially point you to this sentence. "It celebrates the Divine Service of the Lord through Word and Sacrament in accord with the church year and by means of the order and rubrics of the “holy mass” (CA, Art. 23) as developed in history under the Lord of the Church."

I would suggest you continue on in your reading of the Augsburg Confession. "Falsely are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass; for the Mass is retained among us, and celebrated with the highest reverence AC 24."

Tim Niedfeldt said...

These articles are oft repeated yet I fail to find the "command" from Luther that the Divine Service is unalterable. In the these two articles you see a definition of how worship was achieved in 1530. Speaking to a bunch of Catholics of the day it was important to define that Lutherans were not tossing out the historic Liturgy (although they did throw out the bad and add some new stuff. undoubtedly the CG of the least to the Catholics I could just imagine, "oh those darn Lutherans they just throw out whatever part of the mass they don't like, they throw out Latin, they let any old person take the wine at communion, they sing twice as many songs. they're just trying to get people into church with their crazy methods")

How do these articles turn into a command or ordinance to maintain the Divine service in this pristine 1530 state? Where is the command to stop the liturgy from developing in time? Can we revere the liturgy in a modern setting? People have used the phrase "who are we to throw out 2000 years of wisdom?" well it should be corrected to just say 1500 years of wisdom because changing the liturgy post 1500's is really the crux of the entire matter we "debate" here. If the liturgy should not change then really we should all be using the Jewish liturgy still I guess. Apparently there has been no wise people in 500 years so the Divine Service stands until we come up with one.

This is why the few "C&C" or "CG" folk who even find out these debates exist, try to offer up answers. after all this time and I think I found this site about 7 months ago now, I want to hear someone say that in my contemporary service that my invocation is not the correct invocation, that my confession and absolution are not a correct confession and absolution, my old and new testament readings are not the correct ones to read, the gospel lesson is not correct, the sermon is not law and gospel, my confession of faith is no confession at all, The prayers of the church are not good enough, The blessing is not a valid blessing.

So when I see.

"It celebrates the Divine Service of the Lord through Word and Sacrament in accord with the church year and by means of the order and rubrics of the “holy mass” (CA, Art. 23) as developed in history under the Lord of the Church."


"Falsely are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass; for the Mass is retained among us, and celebrated with the highest reverence AC 24."

I go "Right On!" That is exactly what we believe.

Then I read further:

"Our churches also teach that there is and always will be one holy church. The church is the gathering of all believers, in which the gospel is purely preached and the holy sacraments are properly administered.

For true unity in the church, it is enough to agree about the teaching of the gospel and the use of the sacraments. It is not necessary that human traditions, that is, rituals or church ceremonies that have been set up by humans, should be the same everywhere. As Paul says, "One body and one Spirit - just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all" (Ephesians 4:4-6)." AC VII

and then I read.

This is what our churches teach about chruch customs. Church customs that were set up by humans may be practiced only if they can be used without sinning. Customs should be followed if they are useful for peace and good order in the church, such as celebrating particular holy days, festivals and the like.

But people must be strongly reminded that such customs must not harm the consciences of others, as when it is taught that such customs must be followed in order to receive salvation...." AC XV

Somehow out of that we are not abiding by the confessions?

You'll have to go much deeper than that.

So that just leads me to believe that it really is only the music, the AV, the casualness, the "rock and Roll" or whatever modern thing that has been incorporated into the Divine Service is what bothers people. It would appear that you can't find reverence in any of that. However reverence is not a prescribed thing...well for us C&C'ers it isn't. Its a personal thing and if you don't like it..don't attend. Stick with what matches your personal definition of reverence.

My father felt that anyone who showed up at church in any capacity including board meetings and elder visits with less than a suit and tie was an apostate. Singing the alternate tune to A Mighty Fortress (the best tune of them all of course) was wrong. Not having I Know That My Redeemer lives as hymn 200 was wrong. Any church that played "The old rugged cross" was wrong. Any music audible to humans was too loud. If my father could blog on a selectrix and was still alive he could've started this site to begin with.

The thing is, what my father believed, was his personal view of reverence and was not wrong. However his judgements of others who didn't "pass muster" was certainly not biblical. Its the same deal here.

We all agree as Lutherans to John's Headline (I desperately wanted to say vision statement but I'll be considerate :-) ) "To be Lutheran is to always be pointing to Christ." Even us C&C folk agree. We agree with the confessions too. So what's the problem? Its the definition of what pointing to Christ is and the many different ways you can do that...or the very few ways you can do that ...sort of a glass half empty/ glass half full kind of thing.

Can music from a band point to Christ? Yes. Can it not point to Christ? Yes. Can organ music point to Christ? Yes. Can it not? Yes. Can a sermon in a traditional service not point to Christ? Yes. Can a sermon in a contemporary service point to Christ? Yes.

I guess you'll have to show me first how modern enhancements to the divine service are against the confessions. Then you'll need to work real hard to show that the Confessions are a type of canon law prescription for worship as opposed to a confession and definition of "this is what we are doing in our churches right now.."

Your annoying friend


Anonymous said...

Wow. Tim, that was probably the best disertation on the the whole subject I have ever read. I'm going to copy and paste it in Word for future use. Very eloquently and lovingly stated. God Bless.


Anonymous said...

"John said...
You call me judgemental, yet you don't address Pr. Cortright's fine article. I will especially point you to this sentence. "It celebrates the Divine Service of the Lord through Word and Sacrament in accord with the church year and by means of the order and rubrics of the “holy mass” (CA, Art. 23) as developed in history under the Lord of the Church."

I would suggest you continue on in your reading of the Augsburg Confession. "Falsely are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass; for the Mass is retained among us, and celebrated with the highest reverence AC 24."

November 12, 2008 10:52 PM"

Its very ironic that you use this text. Firstly you are pulling it from context. Secondly, you are accusing some of us of the very thing that Luther was defending against. We (at least my church) has not withheld any of the important elements, namely Word and Sacrament. I think you need to review articles 7 and 15 again.

In Him,

Anonymous said...

I've always looked at Wall Street as another Las Vegas without the sleeze. As far as a call to repentance; I might look in the direction of ill gotten gains and depending on them for income instead of folks who are merely exercising their freewill in a different form of worship.

John said...

Maybe the point that is being missed is that we are a Lutheran church. Once we establish the importance of the church's identity then maybe we can move forward. It is interesting to note that many of the churches that have shed the liturgy have also dropped the name Lutheran. This is a telling sign.

Now as we move to the divine service we see that the heart of worship is focused on Christ and the forgiveness of our sins. The liturgy, using scripture, beautifully points us to Christ. The liturgy provides the framework for the service. You state that you still have the important elements of the worship service, the word and sacrament. Yet the congregation does not have a framework for these elements. I imagine the sermon/bible study is at the heart of your service. Yet what then leads to communion in your service? Does the rock and roll service take the form of a Lutheran divine service or is it a reformed "worship gathering?"

I would ask the pastoral folk to jump in as I have been reading Acts 13:2 which points to the early Christian church's use of the liturgy.

The Confessions do clearly teach that modifications or changes are to be made only when necessary. So it is time for the rock and roll church to explain why the change is necessary.

Anonymous said...

Golly. How do you get that out of Acts 13:2? Prayer, fasting and laying hands...none of which I have ever seen practiced with any regularity in a Lutheran church.

Our service always points to Christ. As far as Lord's Supper (and I know there are some real opponents to this) we offer it in a separate service before regular worship on two Sundays a month to members only who have been confirmed in the faith. Isn't this really 'closed communion' anyway? You have to remember we are in the southern Bible belt where the Supper is not taken as seriously and if you attend one of the reformed flavors around here, its pretty much carte blanche.


Tim Niedfeldt said...

I fail to see how these services despite their musical nature are not using the liturgy. I concede there are services that do not use it out there no doubt. I'd have to attend the service to really decide if the service pointed to Christ and the Sacraments. Is it because they are not followed out the hymnal? Is it because the parts of the liturgy are renamed. (i.e we call the confession/absolution "Forgive Us, Renew Us, Lead Us") well actually we don't rename too much else. I know other churches do. A liturgical element is a liturgical element whether you call it a Worship gathering or a Divine Service. Whether you call it a NT reading or an Epistle its still liturgy. I think some folk should do some research and find out how much liturgy is missing from the R&R churches. I don't predict that people will be happy with how much is/isn't there but I think they will be surprised that contemporary worship is mostly a modified common service. I mean I know we don't have the psalms in there although that is a more recent addition to the Liturgy.

I'd be curious where the confessions say "only when necessary.." Then of course the debate could focus on the definition of "when is it necessary" I've got some confessional references as to when that is if we get that far though.


John said...

"We keep traditional liturgical forms, such as the order of the lessons, prayers, vestments, etc. (Apology XXIV:1)"

"We gladly keep the old traditions set up in the church because they are useful and promote tranquillity, and we interpret them in an evangelical way, excluding the opinion that they justify. Our enemies falsely accuse us of abolishing good ordinances and church discipline. We can truthfully claim that in our churches the public liturgy is more decent than in theirs, and if you look at it correctly we are more faithful to the canons than our opponents are. (Apology XV:38-39)"

..."no novelty has been introduced which did not exist in the church from ancient times... (Augsburg Confession XXIV:40)"

I am waiting to hear why the changes have taken place.

Tim Niedfeldt said...

We have to stop using the same portions of the confessions to defend our positions.

#1 above ..agreed
#2 hear hear! couldn't agree more
#3 depends what novelty is I suppose. An organ could be a novelty, singing the hymns like Luther did could be a novelty. Using the language of the people could be a novelty. But if having a service that has singing, scripture readings, preaching, sacraments, prayers and blessings is a novelty then I guess we're all in trouble.

I'm not seeing anything we do outside the confessions yet.


Anonymous said...


You quote the AC like it is the Bible. At least that is the impression I get.

If you can go to church every week where little changes and you are OK with it, then so am I. Some folks are uncomfortable with change. I have always been of the 'variety is the spice of life' camp. As long as it does not go against the Bible; our worship is sacramental and not sacrificial, then there really is no debate. Mundane can be just as dangerous as change.

Sing to the Lord a new song!!!


Anonymous said...

We subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions because they are a faithful exposition of God's Word.

Anonymous said...

"Sing to the Lord a new song!!!


I can just hear you rocking it now with the bass quitar on lead...Sunday bloody Sunday...

Anonymous said...

Tim, and now JK, are relentless advocates for contemporary services. Well done, guys. Well done. Rock on. You obviously have what you like and are defending it here for some unknown reason. Is anyone at your local church trying to take your contemporary worship away from you?

Sporting Tim, I know, has been presented with many arguments, factually based (think Freddy Finkelstein) against the dangers of the secular invading the divine, the anthropocentric versus the Christocentric, etc. Yet, he refuses to accept any of it, and returns - admittedly for sport - to this blog out of love for us lost, I assume. And JK has the rock and roll church he desires. If it is not rock and roll enough for you, I doubt we'll be helpful in persuading them to include your favorite secular artists or whatever else it is you seek to include and or replace from the divine service buffet.

Some of us confessional elitists don't "have what we want" in the form of the ancient liturgy at our churches and are feeling the invasion of your contemporary influences. But that seems to be OK with you for some fair, loving, civil, god-based reason.

We're ancient relics without a love for the lost of this generation. Pharisees and legalists, we view the confessions as holy documents. We're trying to ram the traditions of men down throats in the form of weekly communion.

My bad.


Tim Niedfeldt said...

I defend contemporary because I'm told its wrong and its a problem and its not Lutheran. That there is no support for this kind of worship in the confessions. etc.. we don't have to repeat everything. The people here don't fight for the option of the ancient Liturgy nearly so much as they fight for the expulsion of contemporary.

See I appreciate the worship you strive for...plenty. I had the opportunity to be at a church with contemporary and traditional and I would alternate. Now they are adding your dream service with all the pomp and circumstance too. There's your full menu. I personally would suggest they run a nightly taize service too and that is not for everyone either.

so I argue because the people here can't accept that contemporary is an acceptable worship style and within scripture and the confessions.

I do not argue for anyone here to like it and convert to it. I'd probably rather you stayed where you were. Basically just let it be what it is. A valid modern Lutheran confessional service style that some people choose.

Those who don't? fine go to a traditional service. Our church has sent several families to other churches like this because contemporary isn't their thing.

I always have the caveat that a contemporary setting should NEVER replace a traditional service. They should only be added as a new ministry. Never take away the options that were there. I can empathize that if I were in some church in the middle of Montana or something and it had one service a week and was 300 miles from another and they said, "hey lets go contemporary" I would not be happy.

So thats the rub. I don't think you're lost and I don't care which worship you like.

However if you want a service with the ancient liturgy then organize and get it done. The contemporary services started with the pastor and eventually 50 other people who got together to make it work, plan it out and get it approved. When it went before the congregation it passed with flying colors. It took nearly two years from concept to the first service including a year of Bible study on the subject. All it needs is a leader. To sit and whine that you're not getting the service you want, then you are not organizing and taking your pastor to task and studying the issue and determining interest. Its your congregation.

As to the last paragraph. Its a little edgier description than I would use but well...


Anonymous said...


With all due respect, reverence and the fear of God are prescribed things, if you want to put it that way. I prefer to phrase it differently: the fear of God is not an adiaphoron.

Moses does not tell the voice from the burning bush "No thanks; I'd be more comfortable with my shoes on." Isaiah does not say "This Holy, Holy, Holy bit is boring; let's change it into something that speaks to me." Moses stands barefoot on holy ground; Isaiah declares "Woe is me." They knew the fear of the Lord.

That is what is lost when we make our services intentionally casual. Conversely, liturgical worship done well and liturgical worship that retains ceremonies communicates the fear of the Lord. As Cortright so nicely puts it, even if you don't like this, you at least need to appreciate it.

You agree that we ought always to be pointing to Jesus. To which I say Amen. But which Jesus? The Jesus sipping a Starbucks with you, telling you that you're not that bad? Or the God before whom we must bow in awe and wonder (as Moses) and whose wrath we must fear (as Isaiah)? I struggle to see how anyone--regular member or visitor--will come to the fear of the Lord when the service and its music is fit to their taste and the whims of personal likes and dislikes.

Anonymous said...

Tim, why do you waste your time writing on this blog? John isn't going to agree with you, no matter what you say. Writing on Bailing Water is an exercise of futility.

Anonymous said...

Before we start criticizing Tim and JK here, perhaps we ought to take a look at what they are doing in worship.

The following link will take you to a recording of Tim and JK rocking for Jesus at a recent worship service:

This is what contempo worship is all about.

Tim Niedfeldt said...

Interesting thoughts actually anon 9:51. I'm not sure the analogy's follow. The Fear of God employed when standing in his very presence is probably not the same prescription we use entering church. If we did we'd have big shoe boxes outside our church doors for everyone to enter the house of God for the last 4000 years. Are we actually striving for throwing ourselves on the ground and hiding our face from God in abject despair? This is THE prescription for the Fear of God?

I appreciate the liturgy... additionally I even like it too and I'm not talking the current CW one either. I'll take TLH's any day. I don't argue anything about the value of the Liturgy. I only argue that there is flexibility in how you use it. I argue that you don't know diddly about using a liturgy in a modern setting and that regardless of music style the Liturgy still works.

No the Jesus I point to is the Jesus sipping Samaritan Springs water telling me my sins are forgiven now go and sin no more. He's the Jesus who walks up when I'm condemned with the futility of my own efforts and my own sin and says let he who has not sinned cast the first stone. He's the Jesus who on my death bed will say despite my sinful past that I will be with him in paradise. The Jesus I point to never says I'm not so bad. He lets me know I'm sinful. Then he follows up with the reassurance of his forgiveness. Its straight law and Gospel. Its the Word and Sacraments. The Jesus I point to didn't have any shoe or falling prostrate requirements either before he chastised someone with the law and then forgave them with the gospel.

Since there seems to be a few questions now and resentment that I write on this site, I will explain further. If this blog was the "bloggers for the enrichment and promotion of the Ancient Liturgy" or "WELS Confessions Study Gang" I would not write here. But the blog is called Bailing water. It is about addressing issues in the WELS. It pretty much lends itself to a site where there should be debates and positions supported and defended. If this sites intention is to be a mutual admiration society well perhaps it should change its advertising a bit. Otherwise if it wants to call something an issue that one group calls Biblical it should expect some to drop in and call you on it. You have to admit that a lot more conversation is fostered when an opposing viewpoint drops in and I offer that freely...and now with my new bff Joe.

Rob mentions my previous references to the sport of it. Well for my type of person any debate is a sport but really that doesn't apply here because I'm not concerned about the outcome or results. I don't care what John or really anyone thinks. I'm not here to convert you to contemporary. Just to call you out on the calling what is Biblical unbiblical. Trust me, as Rob pointed out, this is the last group I'd expect to be open-minded. On the otherhand I have learned a lot. I enjoy just learning what makes people tick. There have even been some decent points made that I now use to measure what we do. I keep my law/gospel meter running to make sure that we always properly balance them at church. I am more attentive to the lyrics in the songs I play for pre/post service. Basically my sensitivities are just more heightened that as we work in the world of contemporary that we don't lose what we have in the Lutheran church.

All the evil you have mentioned could certainly happen. Some mistakes may have occurred. The small handful of evidence that is posted here and might have been/might not have been mistakes, depending on the full context of the situation, are not even close to proof that the concept is worthless.

Of course there could be a danger that a WELS church could go overboard. Perhaps some have but I don't judge until I see the weight of everything they have done. Mistakes will happen but that is what admonition is for. By listening to what is said here, I can know a lot more about what things we want to avoid. There is no shortage of listing the dangers of what we do here. I think Rob was expressing some of that as he mentioned that I ignore what has been presented (I actually store off what freddy says in my personal archive) Well I don't ignore. I just appreciate the risks more and work that much harder to make sure we don't let the "potential" become a reality if only to prove naysayers wrong.


Anonymous said...


Allow me to make myself more clear: I am not prescribing taking off one's shoes; I AM saying that we ought to confess the fear of God when in His presence--this is what we can take from Moses, Isaiah, and many others in Scripture. And my concern is that this DOES NOT happen in contemporary worship, intentionally designed to be casual. To me, a casual attitude when in the presence of God (which we are when the church is gathered for worship--for there God comes in Word and Sacrament to give us salvation and life)is incompatible with the fear of God.

The fear of God is NOT despair in his presence. It is the holy angels in Isaiah 6 who veil their faces and hands and feet in the presence of God. It is the saints triumphant, delivered from the tribulation, who fall prostrate before the Lamb and before the throne in Revelation. This is the fear of God when before Him: awe and reverence in the presence of the Almighty and forgiving Lord.

I would like to think that I do, in fact, know "diddly" about using the liturgy in a modern setting. I have taken part in many, many blended worship services over the years. And, having joined in them, I see them as emptier and emptier all the time--because they give us no chance to confess the fear of God, nor do they communicate the awe and reverence that all ought to express in the presence of God. Instead, they are suited to our tastes and our likes--centered on us, not God.

Are we free to modify the liturgy? Yes. Are we free to change the musical style? Yes. But not everything that is permissible is beneficial, nor will I be mastered by anything. If we are going to change the music in the liturgy, we need to show that this is beneficial, not just permissible, not just expedient, not just designed to fill pews.

Church music done well unites the body of Christ; music suited to one particular taste or another divides it, leading churches to send members away to find one more suited to their tastes. What is permissible is not beneficial in this case: it divides the church and loses the fear of God.

Anonymous at 9:51

rlschultz said...

OK Tim, you win. Let's see where your congregation is 5, 10 or 20 years from now. You simply do not see the arguments against your position.

Ben said...

I have to say that I agree with Tim's agruments here. He is not saying that traditional services should be replaced with contemporary services. He is saying that adding contemporary services can be beneficial.

One argument is that a contemporary service does not instill the fear of God in people like a traditional service does. To be honest, I don't see the fear of God in people's eyes or behaviors when attending traditional services.

Another argument is that contemporary services are too casual. Is wearing jeans and tennis shoes too casual? What about shorts and sandals? Should we have a dress code (coat and tie) for our services and turn people away at the door if they are dressed too casually? Is it too casual to say the Lord's Prayer using the NIV version?

I guess I just don't get it. It seems like people are arguing over style, not substance. There are infinite styles of worship as long as the substance is pure.

Another comment was about our church services becoming too secular. Aren't a lot of the Christian and Lutheran traditions based on secular traditions or holidays... Christmas for example?

Finally, I really don't understand this fear about wanting to fill the pews in our WELS churches. Isn't that the great commission? Don't we want as many people in our churches as often as possible so that they here the true Word, Law and Gospel, preached? We don't compromise on substance, but if we can add other styles that attract and retain people, why not do that? Why do we want to shutter ourselves off from the world instead of reaching out to it?


Anonymous said...

This is probably opening up a can of worms here, but isn't that what blogs are all about? So here goes:

I'd wonder about a pastor who felt comfortable conducting a traditional service and then following it up with a contemporary service. I'd question how true to the confessions the traditional service was if the pastor turned around and did a contemporary service later. It seems to be a contradiction to me - and a "why would you even want to" type of thing. I guess that hits at the heart of Tim's, JK's and now Ben's argument for the concurrence of both.

I haven't had to decide about something like that to date, but we don't have a lot of options around here so I don't know that I'd have a lot of options.

Have at it, fellas.


Anonymous said...


I agree with you on one thing. There is little conception of the fear of God within WELS traditional services. How that came to be would be an interesting question to track down.

The question is: what do we make of this? As John has so appropriately cited Hebrews 12, reverence and awe before God are not optional; nor is the fear of God. (Read the rest of that chapter for a picture of what is going on when we come before God.) Yet, as I have written above, I see no concern for this in contemporary services that seek to be casual when in the presence of God.

The details of how we show reverence, awe and fear are up for discussion. I'm not trying to institute a dress code here. My bigger concern is that too many in the WELS--contemporary and traditional alike--have no concern for awe and reverence when in the presence of their Lord and Savior.

The lack of this in the WELS (where I agree with you, Ben) is not an excuse to dismiss it, anymore than the number of couples living together outside of marriage is an excuse to dismiss the sixth commandment.

How might we recover such awe and reverence? I think an excellent way is to make use of the ceremonies the church has used for centuries. This is what (among other things) the Motley Magpie was setting out to do: to recover ancient ceremonies that express awe and reverence when coming before God, truly present in His gifts to save us. Such ceremonies also teach his awe and reverence--the fear of God.

Before we dismiss the ceremonies as too Catholic, or as those advocated by those touchy, touchy Bergs in a mean tone and therefore wrong, we need to ask what value they have in themselves. A great part of their value is instilling the fear of God within people as the ceremonies (bowing, crossing, etc.) remind us of whose presence we are in when we gather for worship.

Now, what in contemporary worship is geared toward instilling such awe and reverence? I maintain that its emphasis on pleasing the people and its intentional casualness are directly opposed to working such awe and reverence.

Anonymous at 9:51