Sunday, July 09, 2006

Seeing the LCMS as a "template"

Most of us are familiar with a template: a blank frame or set-up that allows us to fill in material.

I am coming to view the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (the LCMS: the church body I'm currently affiliated with) as a template, at least in the sense in which I have been seeing it.

I think it's a template in that people who believe as I do (defined as confessional, conservative, what have you) project our beliefs on to the LCMS, and think that it's like us, when in reality the LCMS has not been "like us" since I've been a member (1978) and probably not in my lifetime.

The LCMS is not confessional, if we define confessional as a material and liturgical adherence to the Lutheran confessional statements. It is a heterodox church body. When I say this, it's not in anger, it's trying to accurately define what's going on.

Confessionalists often defend the orthodoxy of the LCMS by saying that the LCMS has never renounced the confessions. Of course it hasn't. But -- speaking very bluntly here -- I think this is a satanic trick. Because the heterodoxy is not formal, in-your-face, we think it's not there. It is.

The other problem is that confessionalists tend to be educated, verbal, well-read people who view the world through a wordy paradigm. That's not bad in itself, but it can lead to a dangerous tunnel vision.

Because orthodoxy is a fully-orbed question. Orthodoxy is not just a question of statements approved by conventions, although those are important. We have to ask (about any church body) whether -- on the whole -- there's orthodoxy in the church's liturgy, the hymnody, preaching, and creeds. (Cf. the LCMS' 'Brief Statement' of 1932: "29. The orthodox character of a church is established not by its mere name nor by its outward acceptance of, and subscription to, an orthodox creed, but by the doctrine which is actually taught in its pulpits, in its theological seminaries, and in its publications. On the other hand, a church does not forfeit its orthodox character through the casual intrusion of errors, provided these are combated and eventually removed by means of doctrinal discipline, Acts 20:30; 1 Tim. 1:3.")

When heterodox hymns are being used in a church, it is not an orthodox church.

When heterodox preaching is going on, it is not an orthodox church.

When heterodox liturgies are used, it is not an orthodox church.

And when heterodox creeds are recited in the Mass, it is not an orthodox church.

All of the above are true in the LCMS. That I would like the LCMS to be different does not make it different.

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