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What Luther Says

Sola Shakespearea or Sola Scriptura?

Please continue to pray for the Lord's church at Trinity Lutheran Church in West Seneca, NY. Please continue to pray for me and my dear brothers and sisters in Christ who attend that church.

We are currently going trough a "transition" (read: an "identity crisis" really) while we search for a new Pastor. As today's post will indicate, we definitely need the prayers! My family and I have only been members for 2 years, but this is our family, and I hate to think what might happen in the days, weeks, months ahead.

Recently, I decided to approach my church's Board of Deacons and Interim Pastor with my heartfelt concerns about the use of "Lay Deacons" within our congregation and during the Divine Service, and how I was convicted that it was in violation to God's Word and our own Lutheran Confessions.

The Board of Deacons met with the Interim Pastor last week Saturday to discuss my letter. While this isn't about me (it's never about me, but always about Him!), it's worth noting that the response has been...mixed.

Out of 12 Deacons, only 2 have approached me to comment on my concerns expressed in my letter, and 1 of those 2 was our Head Deacon. There were 2 others who came up to me after church, didn't say a word, but gave me this look and nodded their heads while putting their hand on my shoulder.

As for the Interim Pastor? Well, let's just say I was surprised (and saddened) by his official response to me after having nearly two weeks to digest things.

On my way out of church last week, or just a single day after he met with the Board of Deacons to discuss my letter with them, he told me to check my family's mailbox because he had left some information in there that he thinks will be helpful in addressing my concerns.

Great! I couldn't wait to see it. Below are pictures of each page that was left in my mailbox (just click each one to enlarge in case you want to read them for yourself).





Lovely, huh? The "It's All Greek To Me!" defense.

So, the official response from our church's Pastor was a lecture on the differences between Hebrew and Greek linguistics and Hebrew and Greek thinking coupled with a treatise on the pitfalls we need to be aware of and avoid at all costs when it comes to reading and understanding the Bible. Otherwise, we're setting ourselves up for "misinterpretation" each and every time.

Call me crazy, but God's Word seems pretty clear to me in cases like this.

2 Timothy 3:12-2 Timothy 4:5 (ESV) 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work ... 1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

I was told I was free to attend that meeting last week, but I decided against it only because I wanted the entire Board of Deacons and the Pastor to be able to discuss things freely and honestly without them thinking twice because I was sitting there with them. Besides, I will gladly sit down with anyone who asks me to now that this is open for discussion. 

Back to the "Interpretive Principles" document I received. That was the response I received from our Interim Pastor who has been in ministry for 50 years. That was the response I received from an LCMS Pastor after I expressed my Biblical and Confessional concerns as they relate to the "Lay Deacon" program at our church.

In other words, that response wasn't really a response at all since there was absolutely nothing said about any of the concerns and points that I made (concerns and points that I made that were backed up by Scripture).

If anything, it's deeply disheartening because it's more a casual dismissal of me and my genuine concerns for the spiritual health of our church and my brothers ans sisters in Christ who make up our church with the standard "Well-That's-Just-Your-Interpretation-And-You're-Wrong-Because-You're-Clearly-Misinterpreting-Things" tactic.

Plus, to make matters worse, his sermon on Sunday (again, just a day after a meeting to discussing my Biblical and Confessional concerns about our "Lay Deacon" program and the use of such during the Divine Service) was based on Luke 20:27-40. The take away message from his sermon was "Customs-And-Traditions-Are-Bad-And-We-Know-This-Because-of-Jesus'-Own-Response-To-The-Sadducees-In-Luke-Chapter-20-Where-He-Rebuked-Them-For-Thinking-Their-Way-of-Doing-Things-Religiously-Was-Better-Since-That-Was-The-Way-They-Had-Always-Done-Them" all because "Jesus-Came-To-Destroy-Religion" too. I kid you not.

Forgive me if I'm wrong here (and please correct me if I am), and with all due respect to my called and ordained Interim Pastor when I am only a layman myself, but isn't the proper exegesis of that passage of the text from Luke 20 to say that the Sadducees thought they were so smart that they tried to trap Jesus by challenging Him on the truthfulness of resurrection?

Jesus swiftly rebuked them not only because they were flat out arrogant, deceptive, self-righteous, and wrong, but because their false teachings threatened to steal the hope that we have in life everlasting through Christ's resurrection from the dead.

Ironic, because I seem to recall something about the importance of "Interpretive Principles" when it comes to reading and studying the Scriptures.

The worst part though? Shakespeare gets to ride shotgun as Luther, Walther, Chemnitz, and Gerhard (Jesus Christ as the Word in Flesh Himself even!) all have to take a backseat.

What do I mean by that? This from Page 1 of that "Interpretive Principles" document:

Shakespeare once said: "Sermons are found in books and trees." You and I know that the message is not in words, in details. It's seen behind the words, and so also in the Scriptures. Our concern is for the message!!! When we get lost in the words and apply a "wooden literalism" to the Scriptures, we put problems into the Bible that do not exist (Isaiah 55:12). The Bible gives religious answers and demands religious questions. Greek questions can lead us away from the religious message to the problems and incidentals, rather than pointing us to the main purpose of God's Word. Greek thinking

That was just an excerpt from Page 1.

It's almost a full week later and I'm still at a loss for words.

So this is what I'm dealing with at my local church, but I will gladly deal with it for His glory, His honor, and His praise. I will respond with confessions of faith, fidelity to Him and His Word, patience and long-suffering, and with love for my brethren. Still, I kindly ask that you would please pray for me and for all of us -- including our Interim Pastor.

Has anyone else experienced this sort of thing before? Is anyone experiencing this sort of thing right now? Please tell me I'm not alone in this.

It's just so frustrating to pour your heart and soul into a 7-page letter, carefully crafting it and backing up each and every point you make with a reference to God's Word and/or our Lutheran Confessions, only to receive a response like this that doesn't address anything at all that I brought up for prayerful consideration and serious discussion.

The sheer irony is that this is all happening so soon after we celebrated Reformation Day. Perhaps Rev. Paul T. McCain was right to ask, "Does Being Lutheran Still Matter?" I encourage you to read his message and to meditate on it.

In a Lutheran Layman's terms, I suppose "Sola Shakespearea" takes precedence over "Sola Scriptura" (fancy schmancy words that mean "Scripture Alone" as in "God's Word Alone" is the final and ultimate authority) these days.

Please click here to discover what Sola Scriptura truly means and what it truly means for the church. Yes, it's that important, my dear friends.

The Bible and the Confessions may not carry the same authority for some in my local church who prefer man's "Interpretive Principles" to have that job, but what they fail to realize is that the holy Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions that point to that same Word are not Greek to me, and they shouldn't be to a called and ordained servant of Christ Jesus either.

[NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with Lutheran doctrine -- in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word -- so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray. Thank you in advance for your time and help. Grace and peace to you and yours!]


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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