Friday, December 5, 2008

A Christmas miracle

The Christmas miracle is the birth of our Lord and Savior. Yet at some WELS churches it might be a miracle if you find the church doors unlocked. I am curious as to why a WELS church would not want to celebrate this holy day of Christmas with a divine worship service (with communion too). As some travel to church on this holy day we might just hear the women respond, "the church is empty."
It seems to me that this Holy Day should be set aside for the church family to gather and worship the birth of the King. Yet search a bit and you will see that the very WELS churches that don't admit they are Lutherans are the same ones following the evengelical trend of not having a worship service on Christmas Day. They love the pregame Rock show on Christmas eve but don't show up for the actual event on Christmas Day.

This trendy thing to do started in the non-denominational churches several years ago. These churches say they will meet you where you are. That is as long as you don't go to their church on Christmas Day.

Heb. 10.25 "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as we see the Day approaching."

These Rock and Roll churches of course balk at the liturgy and the liturgical calendar. They scream we don't have to go to church on Christmas. We don't have to use the liturgy. We don't have to follow the liturgical calendar. Again the identity of the Lutheran church is lost as they follow the trend of the non-demonational church down the road.


Benjamin Tomczak said...

As a vicar in a southern state, I was surprised and a little dismayed as well to find that Christmas Day was not traditionally celebrated by most churches, and so was not a habit for the mostly non-WELS background mission congregation I served.

The ostensible reason given (by those around us) was that Christmas Day is a day often spent with family and so many churches did not want to disturb that. It's a similar rationale as is sometimes used for having worship on Thanksgiving Eve rather than Thanksgiving Day (which I can swallow much easier than the Christmas Day example).

(Of course, there are certainly some having an ultra-anti-papal reaction and excising all things sniffing of the papacy from the calendar. In doing some research I discovered that when the Puritans were in charge in England they literally canceled Christmas, making it a crime to celebrate that festival of the year because it was a popish invention. I hardly think any of our congregations have that as their motivation. Though if we took to calling the Festival of the Nativity the Christ Mass, some might be rankled...;))

However, soon after the end of my vicar year, that same congregation began celebrating Christmas Day services in addition to their Christmas Eve Candlelight. Patient instruction, careful planning, and now the Festival of the Nativity is given a second day of celebration. Praise the LORD!

In a similar way where I currently serve, which has always (to my knowledge) celebrated the Festival of the Nativity, I didn't immediately, without discussion beforehand set up communion on Christmas Day members be darned. After one Christmas, I talked to the Elders and said, "Hey, wouldn't it be most appropriate and fitting, on the day we celebrate the Word become flesh that we would consume the Word made flesh as He gives Himself to us?" And they said, "Yeah, that would be appropriate." Now, joyfully we commune on the Festival of the Nativity. And one day soon, I pray that we will also commune on Easter. And soon after that, I pray we might add a third monthly celebration, perhaps even get to celebrate every week. But patiently, slowly, not dragging, but motivating with the Gospel, driving them to hunger and thirst for the Bread of life!

Is it possible that other churches are doing the same? Moving slowly for the sake of some whose old habits die hard, with a a goal of adding a Christmas Day service to the worship year. Applying Law and Gospel in appropriate ways and amounts, letting the Spirit move them where they need to be through His Means.

The example I'm always reminded of is Luther with the institution of both kinds in the sacrament. Though he knew what was the right thing to do, that is commune in both kinds, he did not force it upon people not yet ready to handle the situation. He taught patiently, until it was clear that consciences could or should no longer be in the way.

We should be just as pastoral in our care of souls. Especially when we remember that the celebration of Christmas as a festival isn't a direct command of God -- as partaking of both kinds is. If Luther could be charitable there, can we not also?

Pr. Benjamin Tomczak

Anonymous said...

Our WELS church, which is in the state of Ohio, also does NOT celebrate Christmas Day. I am not sure why.

Also, our church does NOT celebrate New Years Eve (granted, New Years Eve is not a traditional holy day, but it is the end of the year and the beginning of the new year).

Anonymous said...

Pr. Tomczak, it's refreshing to hear from a pastor such as yourself who is implementing such beneficial practices with careful education and patience. I can imagine some of the difficulty of your position. I think you'd find many who blog here to be in full support of your efforts and understanding of the necessity for proceeding slowly in love.

I think the "lack of charity" you might interpret here is due to churches and individuals implementing non-Lutheran practices as opposed to what you are embracing. Forgive our impatience, but it's really more being frustrated with the discarding of the rich heritage of the fathers of the Reformation in exchange for failed and empty church growth methodology, not the pace of implementing confessional worship and practice.

Blessings in your continual pursuit to preserve (and implement) the true blessings as found in the confessions of the Lutheran church. Your parish is blessed to have that.


John said...

Pr. Tomczak,

Thank you for your post. I concur with Rob's thoughts too. So I wonder if these churches that don't have Christmas day services are trying to educate the congregation as you are. Where is the mas(s) in Christmas?

Anonymous said...

"I think the "lack of charity" you might interpret here is due to churches and individuals implementing non-Lutheran practices as opposed to what you are embracing."

No, I think the lack of charity he's talking about comes from the rabid Motley Magpie crowd, who used to be extremely vocal here. The MM people have accused faithful pastors like Pastor Tomczak of horrible things like "withholding the Sacrament" and "starving his people" simply because he did force weekly communion onto his congregation the Sunday he got there. What they don't understand is that being a real pastor means having patience and moving slowly for the sake of the flock. Through their harshness, the MM crowd are harming their own cause and hurting faithful pastors.

Anonymous said...

As far as the Motley Magpie "crowd" is concerned, I don't know, but I subscribed the Motley Magpie itself, read every word, and Pastor Tomczak did precisely what the writers of the Motley Magpie encouraged, patient catechesis to this end. Either he read that journal or the Confessions, they said the same on the issue.

Anonymous said...

Boy John the the Baptizer was harsh with those brood of vipers too...

Benjamin Tomczak said...

While I am a big fan of maintaining the Festival of the Nativity, I think we want to be careful in making whether or not Christmas is celebrated on December 25 and whether or not it's celebrated with communion a test of someone's orthodoxy.

Could it be? Sure. Just as once the kind of vestments someone wore were a sign of their theology. Are there perhaps places and situations where whether or not someone has church on Christmas Day determines their theology? It's possible. I'm not sure I can point to any specific situation of which I have knowledge that this is the case. That's not to say there aren't any.

Either way, we want to be careful not to say TOO much. Paul in Romans 14 says, "One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special does so to the LORD" (Romans 14:5-6).

Also, consider how the Formula of Concord dealt with this issue in article X (from the Epitome):

"3] 1. For settling also this controversy we unanimously believe, teach, and confess that the ceremonies or church rites which are neither commanded nor forbidden in God’s Word, but have been instituted alone for the sake of propriety and good order, are in and of themselves no divine worship, nor even a part of it. Matt. 15, 9:In vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

"4] 2. We believe, teach, and confess that the congregation of God of every place and every time has the power, according to its circumstances, to change such ceremonies in such manner as may be most useful and edifying to the congregation of God.

"5] 3. Nevertheless, that herein all frivolity and offense should be avoided, and special care should be taken to exercise forbearance towards the weak in faith. 1 Cor. 8, 9; Rom. 14, 13."

And later:

"5. We believe, teach, and confess also that no Church should condemn another because one has less or more external ceremonies not commanded by God than the other, if otherwise there is agreement among them in doctrine and all its articles, as also in the right use of the holy Sacraments, according to the well-known saying: Dissonantia ieiunii non dissolvit consonantiam fidei, Disagreement in fasting does not destroy agreement in faith."

I'm not trying to make the "We're free not to do it argument." That's somewhat annoying to me, kind of childish, and it's not very pastoral, "I'm not doing it because I don't have to." I prefer Prof. Tiefel's, "Sure, you can do it, but why would you?" Why would you not preach a sermon, not offer the sacrament, not celebrate Easter, or Christmas?

While none of us would regularly remove the sermon from worship, while we would never consider abolishing the sacrament, nor would we ignore every high festival of the Church year, yet, we must admit, that we can make no law that says, "Every service MUST have a sermon. Every service MUST offer the sacrament. Every church MUST celebrate Easter. Every church MUST celebrate Christmas."

We do those things out of the incredible freedom that is ours -- freed by the gospel to respond with fruits of faith in joy. As Luther so beautifully discusses in his section on the Sacrament in the Large Catechism (part 5, para. 42-52):

"42] Now, it is true, as we have said, that no one should by any means be coerced or compelled, lest we institute a new murdering of souls. Nevertheless, it must be known that such people as deprive themselves of, and withdraw from, the Sacrament so long a time are not to be considered Christians. For Christ has not instituted it to be treated as a show, but has commanded His Christians to eat and drink it, and thereby remember Him.

"43] And, indeed, those who are true Christians and esteem the Sacrament precious and holy will urge and impel themselves unto it. Yet that the simple-minded and the weak who also would like to be Christians be the more incited to consider the cause and need which ought to impel them, we will treat somewhat of this point. 44] For as in other matters pertaining to faith, love, and patience, it is not enough to teach and instruct only, but there is need also of daily exhortation, so here also there is need of continuing to preach that men may not become weary and disgusted, since we know and feel how the devil always opposes this and every Christian exercise, and drives and deters therefrom as much as he can.

"45] And we have, in the first place, the clear text in the very words of Christ: Do this in remembrance of Me. These are bidding and commanding words by which all who would be Christians are enjoined to partake of this Sacrament. Therefore, whoever would be a disciple of Christ, with whom He here speaks, must also consider and observe this, not from compulsion, as being forced by men, but in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to please Him. 46] However, if you say: But the words are added, As oft as ye do it; there He compels no one, but leaves it to our free choice, answer: 47] That is true, yet it is not written that we should never do so. Yea, just because He speaks the words, As oft as ye do it, it is nevertheless implied that we should do it often; and it is added for the reason that He wishes to have the Sacrament free, not limited to special times, like the Passover of the Jews, which they were obliged to eat only once a year, and that just upon the fourteenth day of the first full moon in the evening, and which they must not vary a day. As if He would say by these words: I institute a Passover or Supper for you which you shall enjoy not only once a year, just upon this evening, but often, when and where you will, according to every one’s opportunity and necessity, bound to no place or appointed time; 48] although the Pope afterwards perverted it, and again made a Jewish feast of it.

"49] Thus, you perceive, it is not left free in the sense that we may despise it. For that I call despising it if one allow so long a time to elapse and with nothing to hinder him yet never feels a desire for it. if you wish such liberty, you may just as well have the liberty to be no Christian, and neither have to believe nor pray; for the one is just as much the command of Christ as the other. But if you wish to be a Christian, you must from time to time render satisfaction and obedience to this commandment. 50] For this commandment ought ever to move you to examine yourself and to think: See, what sort of a Christian I am! If I were one, I would certainly have some little longing for that which my Lord has commanded [me] to do.

"51] And, indeed, since we act such strangers to it, it is easily seen what sort of Christians we were under the Papacy, namely, that we went from mere compulsion and fear of human commandments, without inclination and love, and never regarded the commandment of Christ. 52] But we neither force nor compel any one; nor need any one do it to serve or please us. But this should induce and constrain you by itself, that He desires it and that it is pleasing to Him. You must not suffer men to coerce you unto faith or any good work. We are doing no more than to say and exhort you as to what you ought to do, not for our sake, but for your own sake. He invites and allures you; if you despise it, you must answer for it yourself."

And when it comes to Christmas, we have to speak even more carefully -- for there is no divine ordinance, command, or institution to celebrate that day. There is only the general command: "Gather together around Word and Sacrament!"

And so, even though as a Christian, I ask, "Why would we not want to celebrate this happiest of all days on the very day?" I still cannot say, "Thou must, and if thou does not, thou art not a Christian."

Benjamin Tomczak said...

And, to schmear further from Prof. Tiefel, "Don't make me defend something I don't like."

Anonymous said...

"Boy John the the Baptizer was harsh with those brood of vipers too..."

So, your contention is that every new pastor should go into his congregation treating his members as a brood of vipers?

Or is your contention that the entire WELS ministerium is a brood of vipers, giving the MM an excuse to be harsh?

Either way, what you said is completely idiotic, a perfect example of the MM's style of dialogue--heavy on broad accusations, light on encouragement and edification.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Jennifer...

Anonymous said...

To the contrary. As a graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, I learned more about the central role of the Sacrament of the Altar in the initial article in the Motely Magpie than I did in three years at WLS.

Anonymous said...

Who is Jennifer?


Freddy Finkelstein said...

Rev. Tomczak,

Thank you for your thoughtful and pastoral contribution to this blog. I must say, it is a delight to hear/read one of our Pastors make his point by quoting the Lutheran Confessions. Thank you.

I do need some clarification from you, however. You state: “While none of us would regularly remove the sermon from worship, while we would never consider abolishing the sacrament, nor would we ignore every high festival of the Church year...” Could you please define your use of the terms “regular,” “abolish” and “ignore?” Are you using minimalistic definitions here? Does your natural understanding of these words change as you consider that the Confessions define Lutheranism as “catholic,” and as a church of the Western Rite? Also, when you speak of “remov[ing] the sermon from worship,” which Ecclesiastical rite are you referring to when you use the term “worship” -- or are you referring to any rite at all?

You make much of Christian freedom – as one should. But permit me to respectfully point out that your latest post is rather imbalanced. It is a celebration of freedom without mention of its many boundaries. You may not realize it, but this is an overriding strategy of C&C Church Growthers who only know (or speak of) freedom, without mention of limits. As a result, they consign liturgical worship to the category of “tradition” so as to offer condemnation of it, not in so many words, but as a result of a common understanding that “human tradition” is condemned as Roman Catholic work righteousness. Yet, AP XIV carefully distinguishes between Ecclesiastical rites and human traditions, embracing the former and rejecting the latter. Further, you specifically mention FC X (Epitome) in favor of freedom. Let me quote from this same article in favor of boundaries:

“Under the title and excuse of outward adiaphora, things are proposed that are in principle contrary to God's Word, although painted another color [like fundamentally anthropocentric worship practices replacing christocentric practices, which openly conceal the Marks of the Church by removing the Sacrament from every Divine Service, which adopt worship practices defining the human act of worship as a Means of Grace, and which promote human experiences as assurance of salvation]. These ceremonies are not to be regarded as adiaphora, in which one is free to do as he wants. They must be avoided as things prohibited by God [like immersion, for instance]. In a similar way, in such a situation ceremonies should not be regarded as genuine free adiaphora, or matters of indifference. This is because they make a show or pretend that our religion and that of the papists [or the Reformed, or the Baptists, or the Pentecostals...] are not far apart in order to avoid persecution, or they pretend that the papist's ceremonies [or those of the Reformed, or the Baptists, or the Pentecostals...] are not at least highly offensive to us. When ceremonies are intended for this purpose, and are required and received (as though through them contrary religions are reconciled and became one body) we cannot regard them as adiaphora. When returning to the papacy [or turning to the Reformed, or the Baptists, or the Pentecostals...] and departing from the Gospel's pure doctrine and true religion should happen or gradually follow from such ceremonies, we cannot regard them as adiaphora.” (again, quoting from my Readers Edition of the BOC, since my wife is rather possessive of our Trigolotta recently...)

Rev. Tomczak, this entire article of the Solid Declaration is replete with immediate application today with reference to the excesses of the C&C Church Growthers among us, which many of us find not only offensive but alarming. It is true, there is no law demanding that we observe the Festival of the Nativity. Yet it's observance is long-standing catholic practice, which we Lutherans embrace in the Confessions. While, perhaps under different circumstances, most of us would be willing to be tolerant of a congregation's choice to observe this Festival, John's blog entry was addressing specifically the rejection of this catholic practice by the Rock'n'roll churches in our midst – in conjunction with their adoption of anthropocentric practices as outlined above (and as discussed ad nauseum on this blog...). These churches are not finding their way to Confessionalism, but are leading an exodus away from it in a way that not only leaves it behind, but which casts aspersion on our catholicity or at best only pays lip-service to it. The reaction of many who contribute to this blog is the same as our wholesome Lutheran rejection of the practice of immersion: under normal circumstances, we would be free to use this mode of baptism; however, due to the perversion of this practice by our adversaries and the fact that it has been made synonymous with the false teaching of the immersionists, we Lutherans reject it as prohibited by God, just as SD X insists that we should. Would we stand by as Lutheran congregations, “in their freedom,” adopt immersion as common practice? No we would not, nor should we. By the same token, we should not stand by as Lutheran congregations, “in their freedom,” adopt the worship practices of the pop-church Evangelicals (given the false doctrine which is assimilated on by this practice, not to mention the inevitability of being identified with those who teach such doctrines). Pardon us if, when these same congregations adopt further pop-church Evangelical practices, such as their overtly anti-catholic failure to observe the high festivals of the Church year, our suspicion and concern is aroused even further.

I appreciate your warning, to be tolerant and to respect adiaphora. Believe me, I love my Christian freedom as much as the next person. But we should not patiently allow error to stand alongside truth. We ought to give error a wide berth as we seek to give expression to the Truth in our practice by recognizing boundaries to our freedom and exercising our freedom well within those boundaries. Certainly, congregations moving toward more Confessional practice are in an entirely different category than those moving away from such practice. Perhaps we on this board ought to be more diligent and purposeful in recognizing the difference, and of being more charitable towards those moving toward Confessionalism. On the other hand, those who chastize us ought to recognize the difference as well, and in recognizing the difference also recognize that there is a significant and vocal faction among us in the WELS that is deliberately moving away from Confessionalism, adopting the unique practices of the heterodox, calling others to join them, and generally confusing the laity. This faction is the target of our polemic, and I (we?) would call others to join us in raising the alarm.


Freddy Finkelstein

Benjamin Tomczak said...

Forgive the delay, I'd like to continue the discussion. I planned to reply to Freddy's post -- but I just haven't had the time this week. I hope you'll forgive me for using Advent and Christmas preparations, a circuit meeting, Bible classes, Catechism, Christmas for Kids (tomorrow), a conference paper, and my family as an excuse. ;)

May the joy of having Immanuel -- God with us -- with you continue to fill your hearts with joy and increase your faith in your coming King!

Freddy Finkelstein said...

Rev. Tomczak,

No problem -- I've been busy myself this week, on the road again for business. Catching a red-eye back home this evening, I'll mention and recommend a book that I have been reading here at the airport (which I mentioned on this blog some months ago): The Confessional Principle and the Confessions of the Lutheran Church, by Schmauk and Benze. Published in 1911 (and recently reprinted by CPH), it is a follow-on of C.P. Krauth's Conservative Reformation. Old, yet surprisingly contemporary in application, here are some quotes: "Change in itself is not progress, and the right of every individual to think as he pleases is not, it itself, the attainment of [Christian] liberty..."; "the currents of knowledge are flowing away from a fixed faith, and are beating against a fixed Confession..."; "The enemies of the Church's doctrine and Confession are often her own most brilliant and thoughtful sons... the Mother sees her own offspring repudiate their material birthright, even when -- at times -- they are proud to bear her face and name..."; "...the Source of [our] Witness [is] the Word, and the standard of [our] Witness, the Confessions, are central..."; " is impossible to maintain uncritically the dogma of Biblical infallibility, in the same breath with a loose, critical and destructive dogma of confessional fallibility. The quill that bristles against the Confessions, cannot successfully spread its shelter over their Source." (from the Introduction and Preface).

Freddy Finkelstein

Benjamin Tomczak said...

Greetings in the name of Jesus! Again, hearty apologies for the lateness of this reply. I wish I had every hour in the day to do all those things I begin my day's to-do list with.

When I referred to worship, I was referring to any gathering of God’s People around Word and Sacrament, regardless of the rite being used on that occasion, especially since we make it our practice to include some sort of proclamation based on Scriptural texts every time we gather.

Of the items in my list – the sermon, the Sacrament, and the festivals of the Church year, of course there’s a little apples and oranges difference. Two out of three of those items allow us a certain amount of freedom and latitude. We are free to work out our own particular ways to proclaim the Word in our gatherings, so long as we are properly dividing law and gospel and proclaiming Christ crucified. It may be the “classic” proclamation sermon. It may last 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, or more minutes. It may be broken up into discourses on individual lessons. It may be one preachment on one text. It may be more of a discussion and dialogue (hard to fit into the order and solemnity of a liturgical rite, of course, but theoretically possible). I agree with Luther that to gather together without the proclamation of the Word makes it pretty much pointless to gather, but, we remember, that the Word is proclaimed in lessons and hymns, in canticles, prayers, responses, and Sacramental Meal (hence the liturgical argument – you can’t screw up gospel proclamation because the rite is full of it!). So, if we were to not have the sermon for some reason (and find me some good reasons not to – though I’ll offer one occasion when I didn’t preach a “sermon” – Christmas Eve 2007, with nine lessons [each briefly introduced] and the beautiful carols of Christmas, I thought Christ was proclaimed quite well that night without me adding my twenty minutes worth – though, I am preaching a sermon this Christmas Eve with essentially the same rite), we would still be gathering together around the Vine Jesus, connected to Him through the Spirit’s means.

The same goes with the Church Year. Of course we’re free to use or not use it. Luther, in his explanation of the Third Commandment reminded us that the Church Year is really in place not for the spiritually mature, but for the spiritually weak, for our sinful natures.

“Therefore, according to its outward meaning, this commandment does not concern us Christians. It is an entirely external matter, like the other regulations of the Old Testament associated with particular customs, persons, times, and places, from all of which we are now set free through Christ. But to give a Christian interpretation to the simple people of what God requires of us in this commandment, note that we do not observe holy days for the sake of intelligent and well-informed Christians, for they have no need of them. We observe them, first, because our bodies need them. Nature teaches and demands that the common people—menservants and maidservants who have gone about their work or trade all week long—should also retire for a day to rest and be refreshed. Second and most important, we observe them so that people will have time and opportunity on such days of rest, which otherwise would not be available, to attend worship services, that is, so that they may assemble to hear and discuss God’s Word and then to offer praise, song, and prayer to God” (LC, 3rd Commandment, para. 82-84).

This of course, follows right along with Jesus’ words in Matthew, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Also, Paul’s words to the Colossians, chapter 2, “Let no one judge you, etc.” Hence, the Confessors noted that the true marks of the Church are the Gospel rightly preached and the Sacraments rightly administered (AC VII). Thus, “it is not necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies instituted by men, should be the same everywhere” (AC VII, 3-4).

But we are reminded that we don’t use our freedom willy-nilly, adding or discarding what we’d like as if there is no one else around us in the world. We don’t simply use freedom to discard. Paul discusses how he gives up his freedoms for the sake of the consciences of others (1 Corinthians 8-9, for example). Yet, on the other hand, Paul also uses his freedom to do those things that still held meaning to him as a Jew. He was free to both do and not do things as the situation called for, hence the discussions in Galatians 2.

The Confessions hit this note, not just in FC X, but also in AC XXVI, on the distinction of meats, “Nevertheless, we keep many traditions that are leading to good order [1 Corinthians 14:40] in the Church, such as the order of Scripture lessons in the Mass and the chief holy days. At the same time, we warn people that such observances do not justify us before God, and that it is not sinful if we omit such things, without causing offense. The Fathers knew of such freedoms in human ceremonies. In the East they kept Easter at another time than at Rome. When the Romans accused the Eastern Church of schism, they were told by others that such practices do not need to be the same everywhere. Irenaeus says, ‘Diversity concerning fasting does not destroy the harmony of faith.’ Pope Gregory says, in Dist. XII, that such diversity does not violate the unity of the Church. in the Tripartite History, Book 9, many examples of different rites are gathered, and the following statement is made: It was not the mind of the apostles to enact rules concerning holy days, but to preach godliness and a holy life” (AC XXVI, 40-45).

Of course, FC X, had to deal with the developing situation in the Interims where demands were made upon Lutherans and some wanted to cave and compromise. In those cases, the Confessions agreed with Paul that sometimes adiaphora does not remains adiaphora. And Article X laid out some of the helpful determining factors for deciding when adiaphora is no longer adiaphora:

1) when it’s to be regarded as divine worship, that is, necessary
2) when it’s forced upon us violently or by coercion of some sort
3) when a clear confession is required in a time of persecution so as to hold the Holy Gospel above all falsehoods
4) when ceremonies are required or abolished as if we were no longer free to use them
5) when doing so would imply that we are in fellowship and unity with the enemies of the Holy Gospel (specifically in this article referring to Rome, but of course we broaden it to all enemies of the Holy Gospel).

And we would probably also add, based on Paul’s words to the Corinthians, reflected in AC XXVI:

6) when it would cause offense (which of course all five above do)

The third item, the Sacrament, allows us far less freedom. We are in no way allowed to abolish it. Jesus says, “Do this,” and that’s enough for us. Yet we work to remove all coercion and compulsion from people’s reception to the Sacrament so as to avoid a new slaughter of souls, as Luther put it. Thus, we have the great debate – “How often is ‘as often as’?” Luther’s fine discussion in the Large Catechism sums it up best on this point.

Valuable points are made by those both advocating freedom and those advocating uniformity and catholicity. We want to avoid falling off either side of the donkey. The Lutheran middle way, which always strives to maintain careful balance between antinomianism and tyranny of conscience by law (which both tend to end up in the same place anyways) is the hardest path to walk. How do we confess our freedom, maintain our distinction from Gospel enemies, and yet at the same time confess our oneness with the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church? Without at the same time also causing offense to someone, somewhere for what we are doing or not doing? (The answer is we probably can’t avoid causing offense – someone, somewhere will not like what you are or are not doing. This is why there is constant need for preaching and catechesis.) Luther noted this in 1525, when he wrote to the Livonians (Luther’s Works, 53:45-50):

“This causes confusion among the people. It prompts both the complaint, “No one knows what he should believe or with whom he should side,” and the common demand for uniformity in doctrine and practice. In times gone by, councils were held for this purpose and all sorts of rulings and canons made in order to hold all the people to a common order. But in the end these rulings and canons became snares for the soul and pitfalls for the faith. So there is great danger on either side. And we need good spiritual teachers who will know how to lead the people with wisdom and discretion.

“For those who devise and ordain universal customs and orders get so wrapped up in them that they make them into dictatorial laws opposed to the freedom of faith. But those who ordain and establish nothing succeed only in creating as many factions as there are heads, to the detriment of that Christian harmony and unity of which St. Paul and St. Peter so frequently write. Still, we must express ourselves on these matters as well as we can, even though everything will not be done as we say and teach that it should be.

“And first of all, I hope that you still hold pure and unblemished the teachings concerning faith, love, and cross-bearing and the principal articles of the knowledge of Christ. Then you will know how to keep your consciences clear before God, although even these simple teachings will not remain unassailed by Satan. Yes, he will even use external divisions about ceremonies to slip in and cause internal divisions in the faith. This is his method, which we know well enough from so many heresies….

“Now even though external rites and orders—such as masses, singing, reading, baptizing—add nothing to salvation, yet it is un-Christian to quarrel over such things and thereby to confuse the common people. We should consider the edification of the lay folk more important than our own ideas and opinions. Therefore, I pray all of you, my dear sirs, let each one surrender his own opinions and get together in a friendly way and come to a common decision about these external matters, so that there will be one uniform practice throughout your district instead of disorder—one thing being done here and another there—lest the common people get confused and discouraged.

“For even though from the viewpoint of faith, the external orders are free and can without scruples be changed by anyone at any time, yet from the viewpoint of love, you are not free to use this liberty, but bound to consider the edification of the common people, as St. Paul says, I Corinthians 14 [:40], “All things should be done to edify,” and I Corinthians 6 [:12], “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful,” and I Corinthians 8 [:1], “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Think also of what he says there about those who have a knowledge of faith and of freedom, but who do not know how to use it; for they use it not for the edification of the people but for their own vainglory.

“Now when your people are confused and offended by your lack of uniform order, you cannot plead, “Externals are free. Here in my own place I am going to do as I please.” But you are bound to consider the effect of your attitude on others. By faith be free in your conscience toward God, but by love be bound to serve your neighbor’s edification, as also St. Paul says, Romans 14 [15:2], “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him.” For we should not please ourselves, since Christ also pleased not himself, but us all.

“But at the same time a preacher must watch and diligently instruct the people lest they take such uniform practices as divinely appointed and absolutely binding laws. He must explain that this is done for their own good so that the unity of Christian people may also find expression in externals which in themselves are irrelevant. Since the ceremonies or rites are not needed for the conscience or for salvation and yet are useful and necessary to govern the people externally, one must not enforce or have them accepted for any other reason except to maintain peace and unity between men. For between God and men it is faith that procures peace and unity.”

Maybe I should have just dropped in the Luther quote and left it at that. But I just can’t. As a pastor I suffer from the diarrhetic pen. Finally (dangerous words), I do truly understand the concern you express over a move away from Confessional and Scriptural principles. I’m not convinced (based on what and who I know) in every case in every church and situation that worries you that that is indeed what is happening. I know that it has and is happening in some cases and some places. So we must always watch and pray and confess. God grant that we continue to search for answers in God’s Holy Word, the source and norm of all our thoughts and decisions, and not in our own sinful minds always eager to compromise, corrupt, and destroy.

Pr. Benjamin Tomczak

Freddy Finkelstein said...

Rev. Tomczak,

I’ll begin my response where you left off. I have no problem whatsoever with your “diarrhetic pen” – I have the same problem myself. It is a “relieving” and healthy exercise, if I do say so myself… I’ll trust that your personal knowledge of situations is as you represent – external measures are not always necessarily indicative of the internal (congregational) struggles faced/waged by our pastors and/or laymen. Please understand that I am, in principle, reticent to be critical individual Pastors for this reason and endeavor to direct my negative comments at “movements” or ideas, rather than individuals. I don’t always succeed, however, as some situations and issues require mention of some specific names. Nevertheless, those Pastors and laymen engaged in struggles where they are legitimately working to reverse the damage wrought by the seeping influence of pop-church Evangelicalism in their congregations(s), and to deliberately move toward Biblical and Confessional practice, can take heart – they are free to identify with the Confessional Movement in WELS, if only delicately, or only secretly, for the time being. Personally, I’ll extend my personal thanks and respect to you, for publicly and ideologically representing your thoughts on this matter. Other blogs may suggest that such candor may put you at professional risk, but so far you have my support.

Now to your comments:

You state: So, if we were to not have the sermon for some reason…
My Response: If the context of your statement isn’t an apology for the permanence of the liturgy, let me supplement it with the following brief anecdote. Through my teenage years, my family was a member of a non-WELS, Lutheran congregation (not LCMS, not ELCA). They observed a loose liturgical form including only the Confession of Sin, the Absolution, and the Apostles Creed. Everything else was free. The preaching during this time, however, was the worst kind of overt moralizing I have ever endured (well, OK, not quite… Bill Gothard was worse…). I knew even as a teenager that it wasn’t Biblical. But the pastor was such a kind-hearted and well-meaning soul, that I, and my family fully supported him. Later, as an undergraduate, a good friend of mine from this congregation, just prior to departing for the Evangelical Free Church, confessed to me, “The only substance that has kept me a Christian over the past several years has been the liturgy…” Every pastor has a bad Sunday. But a bad career? It is the congregation’s duty to continually assess the teaching of a pastor, and to remove him from the pulpit when they decide that he is no longer capable of faithfully administering his Office. It is the Synod’s duty to the greater Fellowship to do the same. But they must assess and decide. Such pastor’s can go pound nails for all I care – but they better not mislead my Brothers, or my children.

You cite from AC XXVI: …We warn people that such observances do not justify us before God
My Response: I don’t believe that the discussion at hand concerns whether teaching, or failing teach, that rites Justify is Biblical. Such teaching is not Biblical. AP XIV, as in previous comments stated above, affirms this, as does the Source of our Confessions, the Holy Scriptures. However, this was the challenge that was facing Luther and Melanchton when they penned this Confession. The context of this Confessional statement is directed at observance of practices that were required of Christians for their Justification. Ecclesiastical Rite and Tradition were means of Justification, and remain so for the Romans. This is not the issue today, for us Lutherans, however. Any so-called Lutheran who argues such ought to be chastised, and who persists, ought to be excommunicated. Observance of Rites do not Justify. Period. However, AP XIV vigorously affirms the practice catholic Ecclesiastical rites, and delineates such rites from human traditions which were defined by the Romans as Meritorious practices. They are not Meritorious, they do not Justify, nor do they contribute to our Justification, yet the Rites of the Western Church are embraced by us Lutherans in our Confessions.

C&C Church Growthers in the WELS paint Ecclesiastical Rite as human tradtion – human tradition which Rome insisted was necessary for Justification, and which was repudiated by the Augsburg Confession and Apology. No one among us even comes close to suggesting this – that certain rites are necessary for Justification. Despite such disingenuous suggestions of the C&C Church Growthers, the debate ensues, not over whether rites are necessary for Justification, but whether they are Confessional.

You state: …When doing so would imply that we are in fellowship and unity with the enemies of the Holy Gospel
My Response: I don’t mean to be critical of you, however, I must make clear that to suggest that adopting the methods of pop-church Evangelicals does not suggest to them that we are making overtures of Fellowship, is ignorance of disqualifying magnitude. In the most positive construction, it is a display of monumental ignorance. For crying out loud, listen to pop-church Evangelical radio – only listen with a critical ear, not with an empty-minded hunger for supposedly wholesome entertainment! Among pop-church Evangelicals, entertainment-grade worship experience is a primary criterion for measuring the Holy Spirit’s endorsement of a congregation’s ministry! Just three weeks ago, I was forced to countenance by own sister-in-law's lament that she did not feel the Holy Spirit at work in recent congregations that she had visited! GACK! Make no mistake, such criteria proceeds from their theology! Please read the following posts on this blog: Lithrugical –vs- non-liturgical -- especially my explanation of the sources of the pop-church Evangelical worship of Church Growthers, and Rooting out CG.

You cite from Luther’s letter to the Livonians: Now when your people are confused and offended by your lack of uniform order, you cannot plead, “Externals are free. Here in my own place I am going to do as I please.” But you are bound to consider the effect of your attitude on others.
My Response: This is an interesting quote. Luther’s Exhortation to the Livonians was published in 1525. But why single out this letter? Why not focus on his prior commentary accompanying the publication of his Order of Mass and Communion the Church in Wittenburg in 1523, or that of his subsequent German Mass and Order of Service in 1526? Luther clearly did not represent in these publications what modern, pop-church Lutherans divine from his letter to the Livonians, did he? No, he most certainly did not. Luther was a notorious bombastical commentator, making use of striking hyperbole to galvanize the attention of his readers to focus them on the Word over Tradition -- for us, in this discussion, begging the question, Did he really mean what he said? OR, did he mean what he did. His letter to the Livonians is what he said. What he did is recorded in the publications of his liturgies. I’ve read Luther’s letter to the Livonians. I appreciate it, but in the end dismiss it because I have read his liturgies and the commentaries accompanying them. I understand the context in which they were published. More importantly, I have also read the Lutheran Confessions, which, despite Luther’s pre-Augsburg letter to the Livonians, represents a decisive stance in favor of catholic and liturgical practice.

Rev. Tomczak, it is late, and I am writing from a hotel room on the West Coast (business travel, again…) – kindly forgive typos, above. However, I enjoy our friendly, though challenging, repartee. I understand that any response forthcoming from you may be delayed – it is a busy season, and your first priority ought to be your congregation and preparation for Advent and Christmas services. Thank you again for your contribution here, and for your service to the Church of Christ.

Freddy Finkelstein

Benjamin Tomczak said...

Melanchthon concludes Apology XV thusly:

"And nevertheless we teach that in these matters the use of liberty is to be so controlled that the inexperienced may not be offended, and, on account of the abuse of liberty, may not become more hostile to the true doctrine of the Gospel, or that without a reasonable cause nothing in customary rites be changed, but that, in order to cherish harmony, such old customs be observed as can be observed without sin or without great inconvenience. 52] And in this very assembly we have shown sufficiently that for love's sake we do not refuse to observe adiaphora with others, even though they should have some disadvantage; but we have judged that such public harmony as could indeed be produced without offense to consciences ought to be preferred to all other advantages [all other less important matters]. But concerning this entire subject we shall speak after a while, when we shall treat of vows and ecclesiastical power."

It does seem like we are living in a liturgical age of the Judges -- where everybody does as he sees fits. And not just the WELS. But, of course, we are most concerned with the WELS since that is home for us.

Certainly we are not given the right to do that -- whatever we want for our own sake. Nowhere in Scripture, the Confessions, or in the great Lutheran Father is this advocated.

It would appear to me, from my reading of Scripture, the Confessions, Luther's pastoral comments in his writings and in the Large Catechism, that we keep in mind a variety of factors in these issues:

1) The proclamation and preaching of the Gospel, which is of paramount import as it is the job of the Church, 2 Tim. 4:2, "Preach the Word, etc."

2) Making clear the Lutheran Church's unbroken faithfulness to orthodoxy and rejecting the claim that we are the innovating sect, hence our faithfulness, as the AC says, to the Mass, and our adherance to those rites and traditions and ceremonies which are not contrary to the Gospel.

3) A healthy concern for the spiritually weak.

I like Melanchthon's way of dealing with question in the paragraph cited above -- We cannot require any man-made traditions are necessary (where God has not spoken, we dare not); there are questions and doubts about throwing out everything (hence the Reformers refusal to do so, but simply to REFORM); but there are also concerns when teaching absolute freedom that leads us, as mentioned above, to say, "I'm free to do whatever I want!"

As Luther said well in the above cited quotation from the LC on the 3rd Commandment. We maintain Sunday worship on Sunday and the liturgical rites and the celebration of Holy Days not for the spiritually strong. The spiritually strong know we don't need them, and themselves don't need them. They worship in spirit, as Jesus directed in John 4. However, for the spiritually weak and for our own sinful natures, so as to make sure the Gospel is preached and Christ crucified in taught (as well as to maintain our continuity with the Holy Christian Church), we do observe Sunday worship, liturgical rites, and holy days.

I agree that we must exercise care when we use worship forms popularized by other confessions. The law of praying is the law of believing. Perception can become reality. And we must assess whether the things we do are giving impressions they ought not give (and this argument plays for liturgical worship too -- and that's the direct shot FC X was taking -- against given the appearance of reunification with Rome).

That's why using Luther's four worship principles is so helpful in determine what we're going to do and why:

1) Let the Gospel predominate
2) Let the people participate
3) Let the history of the Church be honored
4) Let all God's creation be used

This does not exclusively define the liturgical rites of the Western Church, but they sure are a fine fulfillment of these principles and, as your personal anecdote noted, a worthy protector (a bulwark, we might even say)against the poor preaching and outright false teaching of some pastors.

Something that gives me heart is to see that there is a growing recognition of the value of liturgical worship among us, of understanding the value of the traditions we've inherited. This is happening at the same time as some are continuing to experiment with less liturgical forms. Thus it is, and thus it ever will be.

Pr. Benjamin Tomczak

Anonymous said...

"The spiritually strong know we don't need them, and themselves don't need them.

How does one know they are spiritually strong?


Benjamin Tomczak said...

Here's how Luther put it (which I was paraphrasing):

"...note that we do not observe holy days for the sake of intelligent and well-informed Christians, for they have no need of them."

Strong is obviously a subjective term. One person's strong (or weak) is another person's weak (or strong). Spiritual strength can be (and dangerously so) in the eye of the beholder.

I suppose it would be similar to the situation in the early Church with old Jewish rites and new Christian freedom. You know you are intelligent and well-informed when you can eat kosher with the Jews and non-kosher with the Gentiles; when you can circumcise Timothy but not Titus; when you can take a vow in Jerusalem, yet be as one without the Law to those without the Law.

I suppose I might revise my words above regarding spiritually strong versus spiritually weak. It sounds somewhat condescending, as if the Festival of the Nativity is for the spiritual children, while WE adults know much better. That's silly. Especially since Luther goes on to say that we continue to celebrate holy days for our bodies (whether weak or strong), which need the rest, and to provide opportunities that might not be (or are not) otherwise available to gather around the means of grace.

Another answer to "How does one know that they're spiritually strong?" would be -- look at the fruits being produced. James 2 talks about how we see that people are justified (since we can't read hearts): we observe their deeds. Paul talks about the obvious fruits of the spirit and of the sinful nature in Galatians 5. In those ways we see how living, busy, and active our faith is.

Pr. Benjamin Tomczak

Freddy Finkelstein said...

Rev. Tomczak,

I think the right answer is, "We don't know, and we can't know." The conclusion is, keep the rites. The consummate arrogance of C&C Church Growthers is precisely here -- they presume for themselves the freedom to jettison the rites and Lutheran catholicity embraced in the Confessions because they think they are more Spiritually mature than everyone else, and apparently others are willing to identify them as such. This is Pietism to the core -- creating levels of Christians based on presumed Spiritual maturity, granting to them different status within the church as somehow more evangelical, more relevant, more authoritative, etc. Leaders among the C&C Church Growthers enjoy near celebrity status in our Synod, are hired as "consultants," are asked to travel from speaking engagement to speaking engagement where they spew their special wisdom for consumption by doting fans. This is ecclesiolae in ecclesia. Their followers behave the same way, lecturing the rest of us weak, ritually dependent Christians, as if we have something to learn from them, and acting as if they are more devout because they have the supposed creativity and the boldness to walk away from Lutheran catholicity, retire the liturgy and genuine Lutheran hymnody, and adopt the entertainment forms of secular pop-culture.

I noted above, in a previous post, that I spent my teenage years among non-WELS, non-LCMS, non-ELCA, Lutherans. The Lutherans I spent my time with were from the fourth largest, and swiftly growing Lutheran group in America. They have tripled in size over the past two decades. And they are bona fide Pietists. Left overs from Norwegian Haugianism, they make celebrated study not only of him, but Spener, Francke, Zinzendorf, Rosenius, and others, and have been actively advertising Pia Desideria for years now. They have held on in America over the past 150 years, and are now making a strong comeback. Permit me to recognize Pietism when I see it -- and it is alive and well among us.

The ridiculous fact is this, on the basis of their supposed Spiritual maturity, C&C Church Growthers walk away from liturgical practice -- only they do so for the sake of the weak among them. In the end, all they succeed in doing is reinforcing them in their weakness. Yes, I know how this works, too -- been there, done that.

You state that we need to be diligent to assess our practice. Yet the Confessional mind necessary to properly assess practice is being methodically wiped out in our Synod by the Pietistic sentiments of Church Growth and the Church Changers who still embrace and promote it. The collective Lutheran mind is diminished by them as a result, not strengthened. The fact is, by the time folks generally recognize the damage created by Pietism, and generally agree that something needs to be done, it will only be because it has gotten so bad that it can't be ignored anymore. The Cancer will have metastasized and become terminal, leaving the faithful with no choice but to walk away. The time to do something is when something can still be done, the time to cut out the Cancer is before it's going to kill you anyway, whether folks generally realize on their own that something is wrong or not. This takes leadership, not forbearance. Are there any leaders among the clergy, or will they continue to forbear?

I will post again later today on this topic, with links to Confessional and liturgical resources I have recently discovered.

Freddy Finkelstein

Anonymous said...

Fortunately, this wonderful Advent can assure us that He became weak by being born a Man. And that, in weakness, He died on the Cross that we might be made alive. So a smoldering wick of faith is sufficient for He is strong and He has overcome the world. Thanks be to God for His mercy, baptising us into His Body, and for the feast of the Holy Supper, the living Word in flesh and blood, reassuring us and delivering forgiveness to those of us with such spiritual frailty.

Blessings to you and yours this Christmas.


Freddy Finkelstein said...

Rev. Tomczak,

Thanks again for sharing your insight. I've posted the link to the following article here a couple times before, but I'm going to do it again: Why is the Lutheran Church a Liturgical Church? -- A Confessional Anthology. This article was compiled and edited by Rev. David Jay Webber of the ELS, and was published originally in 1992, in their theological journal, Lutheran Synod Quarterly. This online version includes an addendum that has since been included, indicating the suitability of certain Byzantine Rite liturgies in addition to the Western Rite, based on the recent experience of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church.

I include the link here, again, for several couple reasons. (a) It continues to be relevant and comprehensive, yet succinct. (b) It defends the liturgy rather than merely allow for it alongside other supposedly equal practices. (c) It identifies and emphasizes the importance of catholicity in our practice – use of the liturgy itself does not carry the Roman associations as the poorly catechized among us may accuse, rather it celebrates the continuity of a single apostolic church in a way that is impossible for modern forms. We are catholic, and there is no shame in this. There is, however, great shame in sectarianism, and to adopt practices that overtly celebrate anti-catholic sentiment, such as the practices of modern Baptists, who themselves have never claimed to be catholic and instead herald their lineage through leaders who have been shunned by the New Testament church over the past.2000 years of its existence. (d) It demonstrates that catholic liturgical practice both results from and maintains sound Orthodoxy. Popular alternatives do not function this way – they result from impatient dissatisfaction with Confessional restrictions, loosen Fellowship standards, make Orthodoxy a byword, and teach the theology of the sectarians. And (e), it includes four very useful appendices.

I would ask you to take a look at these appendices, especially Appendix II and III (and for the full context of Walther’s quote in Appendix III [from The True Visible Church] read the “Related to this Topic” section at the bottom of this brief article: Why Use the Historic Liturgy). The Lutheran way of worship has always been “out of style” in America. Our current struggle is nothing new. Lutherans of the 19th Century struggled with the impact of Charles Finney and the allure of the Anxious Bench. In those days, many Lutheran congregations cast an envious eye in the direction of the Revivalists, adopted the songbooks of the American sects, and experimented with alternative worship forms. In these two appendices, notice Walther’s leadership. He rejects the worship practices of the sectarians on two grounds: (1) it teaches the false doctrine of the sectarians, i.e., application of lex orandi, lex credendi, and (2), makes overtures of Fellowship with the heterodox from whom such practices are borrowed.

The Old Norwegian Synod addressed the issue of non-Lutheran worship practice as well. The following was found in one of its early hymnaries, "We should teach our children to remain in the Lutheran Church instead of to sing themselves into some Reformed sect." This quote is taken from the article O Come, Let Us Worship! A Study in Lutheran Liturgy and Hymnody, a 1995 ELS Convention paper by Mark DeGarmeaux. The footnote accompanying this quote adds a thought from Matthew Lundquist, a Lutheran hymnologist: “Many American Lutheran churches do not sing Lutheran church hymns at all. How deplorable! We often attend Lutheran church services where not a single Lutheran church hymn or Lutheran chorale is sung. Here is a serious flaw in American Lutheran education and leadership. How about the hymn singing in our American Lutheran Sunday schools? Would it not be well to sing at least one Lutheran church hymn each Sunday? Or shall we permit Lutheran hymnody to die? Is great Lutheran hymnody a thing of the past?” (Hymnological Studies, 1926) A serious flaw in leadership. A serious flaw in catechesis. Indeed! And what courage it must have been for him to say so!

Our own John Schaller had a bit to say about distinctively Lutheran liturgies and hymnody, as well. A brief compilation of quotes by Rev. Webber entitled, Wisdom from the Fathers Pertaining to the Establishment of Lutheran Home Mission Congregations includes the following by Schaller: “The first care, then, of all who work in the field of English Mission, pastors and laymen alike, ought ever to be that they steadfastly adhere to the biblical doctrine in all its parts. Lutheran hymns, Lutheran liturgies, Lutheran prayers, above all Lutheran sermons ought to be heard wherever our missionary work is carried on. True Lutheranism need not fear any criticism. It has stood the test of centuries, and no modern weapon of offence will subvert it. It is an impregnable fortress. Be not afraid, then, to show its beauties to all who come to hear. They expect to be treated to something new in our churches, and they ought not be disappointed. To follow the example set by sectarian clergymen, to sermonize on anything else rather than upon questions of doctrine, or to fill the hearers’ ears with weak generalizations and pasture them on fine, poetic language alone, would be worse than folly. To make a good impression, to effect some real, living good, solid meat must be offered, which alone can satisfy the soul’s desires. Emphasize doctrine, if you would accomplish your aim. Else why should we expend money and labor, only to do what others may do as well?”

In the past, strong Lutheran leaders have stepped forward to repudiate sectarian challenges. We need the same sort of leadership today, not the soft permissiveness that has brought us to the current crisis. Maybe I’m blind, deaf, or simply uninformed, but I’m not aware of any such leadership among us, at least none with the celebrity of C&C Church Growthers. Recognizing none, I look back to the leaders of the past, to the form of leadership we need today on this issue, and quote a letter from Walther (from Appendix A of DeGarmeaux’s article, Sacramental Worship, Sacramental Preaching: Treasures of our Lutheran Church)

Honored Sir,

This morning I received your worthy letter, written on the 19th of the month. In your letter you ask for my opinion on whether it is advisable to introduce the singing of Methodist songs in a Lutheran Sunday School. May what follows serve as a helpful reply to your questions:

No, this is not advisable, rather very incorrect and pernicious.

1. Our church is so rich in hymns that you could justifiably state that if one were to introduce Methodist hymns in a Lutheran school this would be like carrying coals to Newcastle. The singing of such hymns would make the rich Lutheran Church into a beggar which is forced to beg from a miserable sect. Thirty or forty years ago a Lutheran preacher might well have been forgiven this. For at that time the Lutheran Church in our country was as poor as a beggar when it comes to song books for Lutheran children. A preacher scarcely knew where he might obtain such little hymn books. Now, however, since our church itself has everything it needs, it is unpardonable when a preacher of our church causes little ones to suffer the shame of eating a foreign bread.

2. A preacher of our church also has the holy duty to give souls entrusted to his care pure spiritual food, indeed, the very best which he can possibly obtain. In Methodist songs there is much which is false, and which contains spiritual poison for the soul. Therefore, it is soul-murder to set before children such poisonous food. If the preacher claims, that he allows only "correct" hymns to be sung, this does not excuse him. For, first of all, the true Lutheran spirit is found in none of them; second, our hymns are more powerful, more substantive, and more prosaic; third, those hymns which deal with the Holy Sacraments are completely in error; fourth, when these little sectarian hymnbooks come into the hands of our children, they openly read and sing false hymns.

3. A preacher who introduces Methodist hymns, let alone Methodist hymnals, raises the suspicion that he is no true Lutheran at heart, and that he believes one religion is as good as the other, and that he thus a unionistic-man, a mingler of religion and churches.

4. Through the introduction of Methodist hymn singing he also makes those children entrusted to his care of unionistic sentiment, and he himself leads them to leave the Lutheran Church and join the Methodists.

5. By the purchase of Methodist hymn books he subsidizes the false church and strengthens the Methodist fanatics in their horrible errors. For the Methodists will think, and quite correctly so, that if the Lutheran preachers did not regard our religion as good as, or indeed, even better than their own, they would not introduce Methodist hymn books in their Sunday schools, but rather would use Lutheran hymn books.

6. By introducing Methodist hymn books, the entire Lutheran congregation is given great offense, and the members of the same are lead to think that Methodists, the Albright people, and all such people have a better faith than we do.

This may be a sufficient answer regarding this dismal matter. May God keep you in the true and genuine Lutheran faith, and help you not to be misled from the same, either to the right or to the left.

Your unfamiliar, yet known friend, in the Lord Jesus Christ,

C. F. W. Walther
St. Louis, Missouri
January 23, 1883

Freddy Finkelstein

Freddy Finkelstein said...

Here are a couple more interesting resources on these topics, for everyone's reading pleasure...

From Rev. Webber's collection of articles:
In Defense of Historical Worship, From a Former Advocate of Contemporary Worship (Rev. Sean Rippy, LCMS)
How Festivals are Observed in Our Churches in the Fear of God (Martin Chemnitz, Examen)
Martin Chemnitz on Rites and Ceremonies (Taken from following full article by Rev. Charles Henrickson, LCMS -- Chemnitz on Rites and Ceremonies: Confessional Principle, Confessional Practice)

From Mark DeGarmeaux's BLC Homepage:
Memoirs of the Lutheran Liturgical Association
Vestments and Liturgies

And finally, a authoritative source for Sacred music for the Church:
The Good Shepherd Institute: Pastoral Theology and Sacred Music for the Church

Benjamin Tomczak said...

Thanks for the voluminous resources. I'll copy some of those links and add them to my "to-read" pile. It keeps growing! Everytime I get something off of it, ten more things get put back on.

I simply want to clarify or respond to a couple points from a few posts ago.

I did not intend to set up a Pietistic cell-group idea with the distinction drawn between the spiritually strong (intelligent and well-informed, as Luther put it) and the spiritually weak. I realize it sort of sounds like that and I apologize.

I still think it is possible to make judgments about the strength and weakness of Christians based on their words and actions. James 2 and Galatians 5 support this, as do Jesus' words, "By their fruits you shall know them." This is nothing else than carrying out the pastoral duties, and in addition the discipline of the church outlined in Matthew 18.

Related to this, I just happened across a quote from Francis Pieper where he said that we could well use the frequency of Holy Communion as a thermometer of the spiritual wellness of a congregation. He concluded his discussion of the Lord's Supper thus:

"On what occasions and how often the Lord’s Supper is to be received Scripture does not specifically state. Diligent use of it, however, is not only indicated by the ὁσάκις (often) joined to the imperative preceding: “This do in remembrance of Me,” but also follows from the essence and purpose of the Lord’s Supper and from the need of Christians. We may well call the more or less frequent use of the Lord’s Supper one of the thermometers of the spiritual life of a congregation. On the diligent use of the Sacrament there is hardly a finer and more comprehensive discussion to be found than Luther’s in his Large Catechism (Trigl. 761, 40–87)" (Chr.Dogmatics, III:392).

What that doesn't do is allow us to make judgments about hearts and the absolute existence of faith -- that's God's domain.

Nor does this allow us to seek some platonic congregation of spiritually intelligent and well-informed that will allow us to jettison all rites, ceremonies and traditions. Because that will never happen. Because the truth is that I'm intelligent and well-informed today and weak tomorrow, just as Paul confesses about himself in Romans 7, "The good that I would, etc."

I agree that we drift into arrogance when we suddenly decide for ourselves that we are strong. Wasn't it Luther whose final words are, "We are beggars, it is true"? Paul concludes that he is a wretched man. Who am I to say that I have come to such a place of strength that I have no need of those things the Church has used to proclaim Christ for centuries.

I think Luther's distinction (a distinction Paul also drew in Romans 14), is best applied individually, not corporately. Paul says, "To one man one day is holier than another." He doesn't say, "To St. Mark congregation, one day is holier than another." I, for myself, may hold the Festival of the Nativity in higher regard than December 23 or 26; or, I may say, "December 25 is a day like any other, I celebrate the Incarnation every day." Yet, even in my intelligence and well-informedness, who am I to say, "Hey, YOU don't need the Festival of the Nativity. Get off that crutch!" Nor will I suddenly stop observing the Festival, because I will never stop gathering around Word and Sacrament, even though I don't need the excuse of a certain, special day to do it. But this is the day, and this is the way, the Church has organized itself by God's grace to do it. And, as the LORD tells us, "Let us not give up meeting together, etc."

Thanks for a great discussion, food for thought, concern for the Lord's Church. I've got to get gone, sermons to write, for, ironically, Christmas Day and the Commemoration of Holy Innocents.

Pr. Benjamin Tomczak

Freddy Finkelstein said...

Rev. Tomczak,

Thank you, as well, for your input and for the discussion. I really enjoyed your final post, above.

Blessings to you in your work,

Freddy Finkelstein

LCMSwasWELS said...

One need only look to the Missouri Synod to see that the CG method does not work for Lutherans. It only strips away the confessions, symbols and Lutheran identity and tarnishes the Sacraments.

Anonymous said...

Jesus commanded that we must gather every year on Chrismas Day to ceelbrate his birth. You are therefore sinning if you do not do this. All C&C churches should be excommunicated.