Monday, November 17, 2008

Freddy says

Thank you for sharing Freddy...well put!!!

Freddy said...


It is good that you are investigating these things. I take your posts to be those of genuine interest (and, I think, from one who has been exposed primarily to Church Growth perspectives). Much of what you bring up in your post has been directly dealt with, relatively recently, on this blog. I’ll briefly answer some of the points you make, and then forward you to several posts that deal with these points more fully. If my tone seems sharp, don't take it personally -- I am speaking to the ideas, not at you.

You Question: Are electric guitars evil? How about drums…

My Answer: In your statement you make the fundamental assumption that forms, including music and instrumentation, are amoral. This is a false assumption, and the liturgical principle of lex orandi, lex credendi informs us of this. You further (apparently) assume no distinction between Ecclesiastical and Secular forms, that they are (or ought to be) equally nothing but worldly reflections of popular culture. This is also wrong. Just as the Church is distinct from the World, so are its forms and its culture, reflecting our true citizenship in and of the Kingdom of Grace. Moreover, under these false assumptions, you draw the conclusion that popular forms taken from Secular pop-culture apply without negative consequence in an Ecclesiastical setting, that lyrical content alone constitutes the “substance” of worship. Again, this is wrong. Forms are of great substance, which is why we confess in AC XXIV that Rites are necessary to teach the people what they believe. The corollary is that we avoid practices that do not teach what we believe, especially those that overtly teach what we believe to be false. The fact is, “contemporary” worship forms, which Lutherans are increasingly guilty of borrowing from Evangelicals, Charismatics, and Pentecostals, including their music and instrumentation, have been carefully chosen and developed by these heterodox to teach their false doctrine – namely, Worship as a Means of Grace, and Religious Experience as Assurance of Salvation. Since, for them, overt zeal in worship is no small factor, the music they have developed for the worship setting is chosen in a calculated attempt to manufacture and manipulate powerful emotions. Worse, under a (now defunct) Church Growth paradigm, such forms have been further exploited to “draw the un-churched” by transforming the Divine Service into entertainment-grade performances, thus taking the focus off of Christ (christocentrism) and placing it on man (anthropocentrism). While many among us are becoming entranced and seduced by these powerful gimmicks, the rest of us are active sounding the alarm and feverishly working to reverse the damage, before we ourselves are compelled run in horror. Here are some previous entries from this blog that you may find interesting: Alternative Missions (or, Tim’s Debut) & Liturgical vs. non-Liturgical

You Question: What about the pure joy that people feel after hearing the Gospel? Is it sinful to express that joy during a service?

My Answer: Of course it is not sinful to express “pure” Joy in the Gospel! By asking this in the context of a defense for contemporary forms, however, you erroneously equate the use of contemporary forms with the expression of “pure” Joy. “Pure” Gospel Joy bubbles uncontrollably out of a true Christian, with or without musical accompaniment. In the context of the Divine Service, such expression is present in his Worship sacrifice (as it would be in all expressions of his faith), as he joins those with whom he shares Unity, and in unison with them confesses his faith and expresses his Joy and Gratitude in word and song. In such a setting, the emphasis in worship expression is not on the individual; rather, it is on the unified and corporate expression in which the individual takes part. This corporate expression, which cannot function outside of the context of unity, is guided by a liturgy addressing two parties, the Minister and the Congregation, and carries them together through the Divine Service, keeping them together centered on Christ, rather than themselves or the antics of others. An orthodox hymnody is essential support to the objectives of the liturgy, likewise is accompaniment to serve the liturgy and hymnody without interfering with it. Accompaniment should not be used as a catalyst for emotions which ought to already be present “purely” as a result of the Gospel, nor should it be allowed to develop into such a crutch for Christians in any congregation. In such a case, accompaniment replaces the Gospel, and is employed to artificially manufacture what true Lutherans place their faith in the Holy Spirit to produce through the Gospel alone. Here is a previous entry from this blog that you may also find interesting: Difficulty in Rooting Out Church Growth

You State: The world is diverse, therefore worship forms ought to be equally diverse (my summary from your first paragraph)

My Answer: You seem to be unaware of what our Confessions mean when they define Lutherans as “catholic.” By this, we certainly do not confess that we are “Roman Catholic,” but that we are a church which “remembers” and “imitates” (Heb. 13:7-9) those who have faithfully served the Gospel throughout the church’s history. Dr. C.P. Krauth describes it best, I think, when he declares that the church catholic thus represents the outflowing of 2000 years of Christian faith and practice into the present, and projects it into the future (in his context, he is speaking of the utter necessity of well-educated Pastors, fully trained in Church History and Classical Studies like Western Civ., etc., and that those without such rigorous training are not fit to be Pastors, because they are incapable of effective catholicity). And so, in terms of our Rites, our Confessions inform us that we use nothing that has not been with us since the earliest of times (and this excludes, of course, what may have existed in earliest of times, but has been since rejected and is no longer “with us” – such as supposed “Apostolic Rites” dredged up by those who despise the Western Rite). In context, this applies directly to the Western Rite, but by extension, also to modified forms of the Eastern Rite (which is also a catholic Rite). In terms of our hymnody, catholicity is an aggregate of expression from across all cultures over the history of the Church. And so, worship cannot be said to be “catholic” if historic forms do not dominate, especially if there is disproportionate representation from strictly “contemporary” sources or modes of expression. Since the heart of Lutheranism has historically been Germany and Scandinavia, it makes sense that hymns and musical settings from these parts of Europe will have greatest representation in orthodox Lutheran hymnody. Over time, this will (and has been) change(ing), as Lutheranism spreads and as influences of orthodox Lutheran expression from a broader cultural spectrum find their way into our hymnody. In short, practices derived exclusively from, or dominated by, either “contemporary” influence or “local culture,” are not catholic and therefore, not Lutheran.

Here is a useful article addressing this topic (along with others): Why is the Lutheran Church a Liturgical Church?Related to this point, you also seem to define “culture” as “what is contemporary” – which isn’t true at all. In fact, the reverse is true. Those who understand and benefit from culture are not so narrow as to insist that “culture” is what’s “contemporary,” but have and express an active knowledge and appreciation for what makes a culture what it is: its history. Thus, a cultured individual can appreciate a performance by local (contemporary) talent at the corner establishment on Friday night, can enjoy a Saturday evening Classical concert, and arrive at Church on Sunday morning eager to engage the Rites of the Divine Service in distinctly Ecclesiastical musical forms. A cultured person is one who understands and appreciates artistic expression for what it is in its native context, but doesn’t demand that all artistic contexts coexist in some sort of shared artistic hegemony, or worse, as a lowest common denominator of pluralistic equivalency. Those who make such demands are neither wise nor “cultured,” but ignorant and narrow.

The point is, the Church is distinct and separate from the World, just as the local bar (and the musical entertainment it provides) is distinct and separate from a concert hall. There is every proper expectation for the Church to have its own “other worldly” culture and forms of expression. On the other hand, it is individual Christians, in the Domestic Estate, who are in both the Kingdom of Grace and the Kingdom of Power, not the church; but, while we are in both Kingdoms, we are only of the one Kingdom, not the other. Our expression, including our forms, ought to represent this fact unreservedly and most pointedly – especially when we are on our home turf (at church, that is). Here is another pertinent blog posting: CG vs WELS ContemporaryIn your final paragraph you make the assumption that the Divine Service is, or ought to be, focused principally on Evangelism and/or Outreach. This is a false assumption and an abusive redirection of the purpose of the Divine Service that is being promoted by C&C Church Growth advocates. Evangelism is specifically not the purpose of the Divine Service, nor should any self-respecting Lutheran allow it to become the purpose of the Divine Service. The Divine Service, as a worship setting, is a forum in which the believer is focused on Christ and His completed work on our behalf, is guided in responsive expression that only believers can offer to God, and which climax’s as Christ is joined with the believer in a most intimate way, as he receives His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins in Holy Communion. Reducing the Divine Service to (the now defunct theories of) Church Growth anthropocentrism, by refocusing the service on the pleasure drives of the unregenerate and concealing the Sacrament to spare them offense, is nothing short of tragedy. If you have followed any of the above links, you, no doubt, have already read the following, but I think it is worth repeating: “‘Any practice which elevates worship experience as an Evangelical tool, to a status anywhere near equal to the proclamation of Law and Gospel, is abusing both Worship and the preaching of Law and Gospel. Worship is a forum in which those with faith in the objective promises of God's Word offer their sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to Him on the basis of His completed work on their behalf. Those without faith have nothing to offer in such a forum. In fact, their offerings are offensive to God -- the Bible states directly that He turns Himself from such offerings, and rejects them. To draw unbelievers into the church on the pretense of worship experience is to sinfully draw them in on the false pretense of the efficacy of their worship sacrifice. The fact is, God hates the worship offerings of the unregenerate...’ Worship is not evangelism. Worship is what those with faith in the objective promises of God do, it is not what the unregenerate do, nor is it a forum which God has provided for them. We should avoid giving such indications in our worship practice.”

Just Trying to Help,

Freddy Finkelstein
November 17, 2008 4:47 PM


John said...


Thank you for your thought-filled and well-presented comment. The argument against liturgical worship continues to be one of changing as our culture shifts. These shifting sands will not cease. It is unfortunate that the Rock and Roll churches toss aside the liturgical forms of worship and fail to look back at the worship foundation that has continued throughout history. It seems when we fail to look at the past we sink into the quicksand of the culture. Our Lord knows that we have a human tendency to forget. Simply, look to the Israelites and the golden calf. How quickly they forgot that God had parted the sea. How quickly they took the local culture's god.

Freddy, thank you for painting a wonderfully colorful and beautiful picture using the various tints and hues of Scripture both OT and NT.

So as Rob would say...what he said...

Anonymous said...

Ben said...


Thank you for taking the time to respond so thoroughly and thoughtfully! I do not have time tonight to study your response and your links to other posts. I will take the time in the next day or two, though, and then respond back with any thoughts or questions I may have.

I will try to share a little information about me so you know where my questions are coming from. I think I mentioned some of this in a previous post, so forgive me if I'm being a little redundant. I have been a life-long WELS member, since birth, for more than 30 years now. I have always attended traditional worship services. I don't recall ever attending a contemporary Lutheran worship service. In fact, I had never heard of Church and Change or Church Growth prior to visiting this blog several months ago. To be honest, I had never put much thought into why our traditional church services are the way they are, or why contemporary services would be looked down upon.

Unfortunately, while attending the same services year after year since childhood, I have most likely become complacent and simply follow routines without giving the service much thought, especially when going through the liturgical parts of the service. If nothing else, these discussions are helping me refocus on the worship service and helps me think about what I'm doing and why.

Thank you again for taking the time to give an in-depth response to my questions. I will definitely spend time studying your response, so know that your time spent answering my questions was not wasted!


Anonymous said...

It interesting.. the CWers rant and rave. Freddy points them back to scripture and pure silence.

Listen..the rock and roll band has stopped playing..

I think you can hear the crickets chirping...

chirp ...chirp..

Anonymous said... could read the previous post over again and see that "Ben" intends to respond...he just didn't have the time to do so immediately. Rather, he was going to digest it and respond accordingly. Who is to say that others aren't doing the same?

I think I can hear unwarranted chest thumping.



The Humility Police

Anonymous said...

"Points them back to Scripture"

Where did he do that? I did note many imperatives but none from Scripture.

Just shout'in

Freddy Finkelstein said...

I'll agree with Mr. Humility Police -- there's a lot to absorb, and to do so thoughtfully takes a bit of time. No chest-thumping here! I'm personally waiting to hear Ben's response before replying further.

Freddy Finkelstein

Anonymous said...

I didn't take it that Ben had already sold out to C&C, just as bored with his traditional service and curious about contemporary. I also took him seriously inquiring as Freddy did, and thought he was approaching it rationally. That is unlike many C&C advocates who I think would find Freddy's argument difficult to refute.

It's interesting to me, in viewing a bit about Ed Stetzer, it seems his battle is against the conservatives in the Southern Baptist denomination as well, not unlike what the church growth crowd finds in WELS. That really defines it as a methodology for me.

And, as kind of an aside, it is curious to me that WELS (even conservative WELS) would rather read something from outside of Lutheranism than something from someone from Missouri. Just an observation.

I read Parton's article about white-wine pietists, written over a decade ago, and things haven't changed much. An interesting short read if you have the time.


rlschultz said...

Your observation about conservative WELS laity reading outside of Lutheranism is spot on. I have noticed that in my own WELS congregation. Lifelong WELS members quickly jump on the latest evangelical book offering without being faithful Bereans. It is very disheartening. One explanation that I heard is that that there is so much that is wrong in the secular realm, that we should use whatever we can from "Christian" resources. All that glitters is not gold. As a WELS lifer, I can say with a great degree of certainty that we have been taught in a subtle way to hate Missouri. Yes, NPH sells some of the more common books of Walther, etc. Apparently, the synodical conference breakup has created a lot of bad blood. Still, it would be great to see WELS members think outside of the synod box. Unfortunately, my assessment is that there is a great degree of ignorance of the Lutheran Confessions among WELS laity. This may explain why we are in the current mess.

Anonymous said...

"my assessment is that there is a great degree of ignorance of the Lutheran Confessions among WELS laity."

Which comes from their pastors which comes from the Seminary. Sad, but true.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I think you are seeing a subtle shift in some of the younger fresh-out-of-seminary pastors, who seem to be taking a more confessional stance. Maybe it's just me, but that's my take.

Also, I would suggest that anyone who has any interest in worship (and it seems like most here do) read "Gathered Guests" by Timothy Maschke. It is wonderful book that I found I couldn't put down. It is a book that the worship mavens in WELS think highly of (the Aaron Christies etc.), and is considered to be one of the top resources on Lutheran liturgical worship.

Mr. Humility Police

Anonymous said...

I don't know...One side says there is danger in changing things. I think if you are prudent, change is OK. On the other hand I see this clinging to tradition just as dangerous. I mean, the sects in Jesus time thought they had everything right. And look what happened. I'm just saying.

Anonymous said...

"One side says there is danger in changing things. I think if you are prudent, change is OK. On the other hand I see this clinging to tradition just as dangerous."

No! This is the biggest strawman fallacy in this entire debate. The Church and Changers try to portray liturgical worship as a stagnant clinging to the way things have always been done. This is stupid and untrue. The liturgy is very accepting of change. That's why it has been used by Christians across the world across the centuries. The liturgy is the basic framework upon which all sorts of different musical styles and settings can be placed. High mass at the Vatican and a liturgical service in the African bush will look completely different, yet they are both the liturgy, they both focus on Christ, no man.

Contempo worship, on the other hand, is not about small, prudent change. It is about abandoning 2000 years of wisdom and history and tradition for the sake of modern trends. Think about that for a second. This is the first time in the history of the Church in which Christians have seen fit to reject wholesale everything the Church has ever done for the sake of doing their own thing and following their own desires. That's what is truly dangerous.

Anonymous said...

I think we are talking about two different things. If I keep the important elements and use a different music style, I believe there is nothing wrong with this. What's wrong is clinging to high church litugical saying this is the ONLY way and not willing to budge one iota. That is dangerous.

Anonymous said...

Part of the CG methodology is to start small or as an addition or as a temporary trial. Well, a little yeast leavens the whole lump. And dynamic change is the professed goal of church growth advocates. So it won't stop - as evident by those having their foot in the door already.

What's interesting, though, is the research has been done (as Freddy's posts have attested) and the methodology is a documented failure. Yet, for some reason, we should give it a shot in the Lutheran church to see what the Holy Spirit can do with it here. We're trying the same failed methods but expecting a different result. Insanity. Maybe this time it will be different...

I think it's difficult to be prudent with the experimentation because it opens up so many subjective alternatives - making church a social science project; constantly having to reinvent itself to keep up pace with the culture - a culture that abhors Christ. And once we see church as a place to go for what becomes primarily an emotional experience, we'll see the mega-church down the street can do it much better.

What is the purpose of church? Is it not to feed the sheep - even, gasp, those in the fold? What is the need that everyone has and everyone needs to feel? Forgiveness of sins. That doesn't need to be marketed, it just needs to be proclaimed. You can't minimize the Law to lessen its offensiveness. The Gospel isn't sweet without knowing the fatal situation of the flesh. This can't be watered down to make people feel comfortable. This can't be marketed to convince people it's a good buy. The Gospel doesn't need man's innovation. It only needs proclamation.

The beauty of the Divine Service is its Gospel proclamation in a reverent fashion before a Holy God with a focus on Christ. Rock and roll was designed to be associated with rebellion and to focus on man. Well, let's try hip hop then, or country, or whatever ... as long as the words include Jesus.

I believe that many of those entrapped by the CG methodology really have good intentions with a love for the lost. But we all know where even best intentions can lead.


Anonymous said...

"If I keep the important elements and use a different music style, I believe there is nothing wrong with this."

And what exactly would you consider "the important elements"? And who are you to get to decide what's important or not? Two-thousand years of church history have taught us what's important and what's not.

Besides, the contempo crowd does not advocate retaining the liturgy while changing musical styles. The contempo crowd favors dumping the liturgy in favor of chancel dramas and reading mission statements in the middle of worship. Or are those the things that you deem to be "the important elements"?

Ben said...

Thank you again, Freddy, for your thoughtful analysis and explanation. I've had some time to read through your post and the relevant discussions you linked to. I think most of my questions were a result of my ignorance of the definition and methodology of church growth. I understand more clearly now the differences between our historical liturgical service and the new contemporary church growth services. I think one of the most important realizations I've had is the difference between the church service and evangelizing. They are two very different and distinct activities. Thank you to everyone here for the knowledgeable, and mostly civil :), discussion!


Freddy Finkelstein said...


I'm glad you found the postings useful. Thanks for sticking around, and don't hesitate to continue offering your own thoughts and questions!

Lord's Blessings,

Freddy Finkelstein