Me too. Join the club.
There's a reason why it's true that one's practice changes one's doctrine, which is why we should never take these discussions lightly.
A post we published earlier today highlighted a new Lutheran blog I found that's written by a Lutheran Pastor in Texas. Here's one of his more recent articles...
“As we pray, so we believe” is one way of expressing the understanding that what we do informs and instructs how we believe so that when we change how we pray, we are changing what we believe. Another way of saying this more distinctly is that our doctrine, that is what we believe, teach and confess, should determine our practice, that is how we do what we do, whether what we are doing has to do with the way we evangelize, the way we teach, the way we live, and especially the way we act out our faith in Divine Service, or worship. Indeed, we practice our faith in worship in a way that flows out of what we believe, so that in worship we are instructed in what we believe. So these two things, doctrine and practice, or as sometimes stated and equated, style (practice) and substance (doctrine) cannot be separated but go together hand in hand. This understanding of doctrine and practice being inseparable can be seen in what has been happening in the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod over the past thirty-five years as there was an attempt to separate these two entities with the belief that to change how one acts does not affect what one believes. The following is an example of how these two, doctrine and practice do go hand in hand.
The so called “Church Growth” movement of the early 1980s brought many ideas to the table concerning how to “grow” a church. All of the ideas however were ideas from a social or cultural understanding of how people act and respond to, shall we say, “persuasion.” In other words, as a famous movie says, “Build it and they will come,” the church growth strategy was “do this or change that and they will come.” Now, from a strictly social point of view of attracting people, many of the ideas were valid and true. Certainly people are prone to only fill 80% of a space before they feel uncomfortable, except we might suggest being at a concert or ball game of sorts. Certainly it is true that in order to fill a church building that ample parking is necessary. So, we concede that there are obvious (or not so obvious) secular, social, cultural norms that need to be acknowledged and provided.
But what about the very heart of the Church? What about what we believe, teach and confess? Are these things that we believe important, just as important, more important or less important than luring people into our facility? How is it that a person is brought to faith? How is it that a person is strengthened and kept in faith? Where is the power of the giving of faith? What is the means through which one comes into the church, is given faith, and made a member of the Holy Christian Church?
The Lutheran Church has always believed in the “solas”; Sola Fida (faith alone), Sola Gratia (grace alone), Sola Scritpura (Scripture alone) and these three “alones” have guide our faith lives, at least up until recent history. We believe, teach and confess, or at least according to our confessional documents and history, that we are conceived and born in sin, that our will is no longer free but has been tainted by sin, that we cannot come to Jesus nor claim faith in Him but that He must come to us, that He is the one who gives us faith, forgiveness and life, and that He does His work through means, namely the means of grace, that is through His Holy Word, through Holy Baptism, through Confession and Absolution and through His Holy Supper. Thus we believe that we are saved by grace through faith given to us through Scripture as the Holy Spirit works through these means to give us the gifts God has to give.
What we hear today are statements such as, “We have to get out of the way of God’s Word.” “We have to be conscious of the culture in which we are working.” “We have to make God’s Word fitting for the culture we are trying to reach.” These statements not only infer but outright state that we no longer believe that the Word of God is efficacious, but that it is ineffective, and so there is something we must do in order to help God out. Here again, we are not only implying but outright stating that the Holy Spirit is ineffective as well because even He cannot work through God’s Word. So we see that as we have changed something we believe as innocuous as our practice of how we present the Word of God, we have changed our belief concerning the power and effectiveness of that same Word.
So, today the three solas of the church have become the solas of “Sola Cultura,” “Sola Societas,” “Sola Civilis,” that is, culture alone, society alone, and civil alone. It would seem that today we believe, teach and confess that God gives His gifts through how we relate to the culture and society especially in a civil manner. It would seem that today we believe it is our efforts and how we exercise those efforts that are what are effective in giving faith to people.
So, in an attempt to grow the church, we have analyzed the culture, interviewed the society, and have civilized what we do so that we might attract people to be a part of our group. In the process we have given up the true identity of our group and that thing that makes us who we are, or who we were, so that we are no longer that to which we were attempting to draw others to in the first place. Now we are a different body of beliefs and believers practicing a different set of practices which conform to our new beliefs and which teach those beliefs, even if they are not what we profess them to be.
Perhaps it is time to get back to God’s Word and let His Word dictate, guide and instruct us in how we are to be His people and His church. Perhaps it is time to renew our faith in the Good News of Christ alone for our salvation and God’s promise that the Holy Spirit will work when and where He pleases through His Word to give, strengthen and keep in faith. And then realize that means practicing being His people in the way He has given us to be His people, i.e., vocationally with His authority and promise to be with us giving us the words, His Word to speak as we have opportunity and as we are asked, in gentleness with respect and let God be God.
See, the major problem with this kind of Christianity is that it puts our justification in the corner. Once we're saved, it somehow becomes all about the unsaved rather than remaining focused squarely on Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior, or the One solely responsible for our salvation.
Sure, we give lip service "In Jesus' Name!" all the time, but our actions betray us, don't they? How can we say we have the right focus when we preach a "Social Gospel" over and above the pure, unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ? How can we save we have things correct when we preach a "Get To Work!" message instead of an "It Is Finished!" one?
Are we content to "let God be God" or are we so arrogant to assume that He couldn't possibly do anything like save souls without our help and ingenuity?
That piece underscores what we've said before. In addition, it echoes what other Pastors have said about how the so-called "Great Commission" is actually the "Great Confusion" within Christ's Church that demands a "Great Confession" of the truth by those of us who know better.
It is amazing how the Church—the entity divinely charged with preaching and proclaiming the Gospel—continues to muddle, mix, and marginalize the clear Gospel of Jesus Christ.
*- Rev. Woodford
Indeed. This is most certainly true.
Let us cling to the truth and boldly confess it!
The distinction between law and Gospel is an especially brilliant light which serves the purpose that the Word of God may be rightly divided and the writings of the holy prophets and apostles may be explained and understood correctly. We must therefore observe this distinction with particular diligence lest we confuse the two doctrines and change the Gospel into law. This would darken the merit of Christ and rob disturbed consciences of the comfort which they would otherwise have in the holy Gospel when it is preached purely and without admixture, for by it Christians can support themselves in their greatest temptations against the terrors of the law.
*- Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article V, Law And Gospel.
Let's be authentically and courageously Lutheran and pray that we do not abandon the great confession and practice of faith (the explicit distinction between Law and Gospel) that has long been the basis of our identity even in the face of such persistent and widespread pressure to change for sweet sounding half-truths and outright lies masquerading as truth.
In a Lutheran layman's terms, practice can change doctrine, which is why doctrine MUST inform practice instead.
NOTE: I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or a Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this note, I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. 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 inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries. I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a dude's diary in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!