Sadly, this False Doctrine Fest is being perpetrated by the very same Christians who should know better since they're the ones who bear the name of those early Christian believers who fiercely opposed false doctrine nearly 500 years ago.
My goodness! You can imagine my my disgust and horror (and maybe you had the same reaction) in response to the latest controversy to emerge from pseudo-Lutheran circles, and this time involving the Holy Sacraments and the Lord's Supper.
It's just mind-blowing and defies all explanation except when you consider the spiritual component that's contributing to this perpetual and serious lack of discernment leading to outright deception and lies.
As a result, I thought of a couple of old posts by Bible, Beer And Babies over the course of the past 24-48 hours ("5 Signs You Should Not Be On Social Media" and "5 Tips to Better Serve Your Neighbor...Or...How Not To Be A Total Jerk Face").
See, it's not every day that I spend several hours at a time engaged in some sort of discussion and/or debate with people I don't even know personally on Social Media.
In fact, to date, I can count on one hand (using only 3 fingers) the number of times this has happened in all the years that I've been on Facebook and Twitter and have been using them as a platform to preach Christ crucified for the sins of all mankind.
Sometimes the objections to the things I write are from non-Christians. This is good.
Sometimes the objections to the things I write are from Christians. This is better.
"Better? Why in the world would engaging with other Christians be better than engaging with non-Christians?"
Well, because a non-Christian may not know that they are sinners in need of a Savior.
This certainly isn't a "good" thing, but it could be worse.
After all, how can we be upset with non-Christians for not believing what they don't already know, especially if they have never heard Law and Gospel before?
Christians, on the other hand, already profess to believe that they are sinners in need of a Savior, but if they are wrong about how one receives the gift of salvation let's say, and then proceed to share that false belief, teaching, and confession with others (like other previously mentioned non-believers), then we've got a serious problem, don't we?
Galatians 1:8-9 (ESV) But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
Galatians 5:9 (ESV) A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
So, it was quite unexpected when all was said and done recently.
In short, what started out innocently enough with an orthodox quote or two by me, turned into a full-fledged "False Doctrine Fest" with people chiming in with their two cents all the way from left field where a majority of the tares can be found.
Here's what I personally learned (or was reminded of) when the dust settled...
What Twitter Taught Me About Christians
1. Every Christian thinks they're right about what they believe, teach, and confess. None of us is immune to this way of thinking. However, there can only be one truth. In other words, when two Christians disagree about a particular doctrine, those two people can both be wrong, but they both can't be right. God's Word is clear, but because of our own ignorance and/or presuppositions, there is confusion and debate over doctrine.
This is most certainly true.
Now, if you want a more pastoral treatment of this critical subject, then here's something that Rev. Joshua Scheer once wrote that I think is definitely worth your time...
It doesn’t take long being Facebook “friends” with a bunch of pastors to see it unfold – fighting, feuding, snark, mockery, and downright cruelty. This is conduct unbecoming the called and ordained (1 Timothy 3:2-3) but it happens. In the short term it means a lot of passive-aggressive behavior, taking the battle to the blogs and comment threads, and who knows where else. In the long term I fear it will have a much more destructive effect.
Doctrine is important, we get it. Pastors strive to make sure we have the proper teachings and preserve them for the good of our hearers. We strive to be the best preachers and teachers we can be. Pastors also strive to live a godly life, not as perfectionists, but as examples to the flock to which the Holy Spirit made us overseers. This means “good” behavior, but more importantly Christian behavior – confessing our sins and having faith in Christ’s work for our forgiveness.
In studying church history and even in knowing older pastors today, this rivalry and even bitterness towards brother pastors is nothing new. The anger at each other, talking past one another, insulting one another, breaking the 8th against one another, and holding onto lifelong grudges has been and continues to be found among the clergy (of course laity also). What is changing is the rate of which the offenses can come in an environment ruled by 255 characters or less, statuses and comments that take seconds to type but have lasting repercussions, and blog posts indirectly directed at your perceived foes.
It is a death match that is happening. We are grudging ourselves to death, and bitterness is taking root. It can be seen in communications between known opponents of the theological debate du jour. Each one rallies others to the cause, and pretty soon it is more about who can out-snark the other and come up with more “likes” or simply mock the other ones with sarcasm and plain cruelty.
Fellow pastors, what is this doing to our Life Together? If we can sense grudges among men of God who could only communicate through letters and printed words, how much worse is it getting for we who can in a moment’s notice burn down the reputation of one another through a comment firestorm? Is “winning” the status comment war worth it? What will the ministerium of the LCMS look like in ten years? If the opportunity for offense and the temptation to trample underfoot is so easy to fall into because of the disconnected nature of this social media, should we caution ourselves and pause before entering the flame wars?
There is time for debate and arguments over our beliefs and practices. This can happen on social media. It is difficult to have happen, but it can be beneficial. It can help us be better pastors, teachers, and preachers. I am not advocating having no debates. I am pleading that such debates do not have to leave wounds which form into scars on the surface with roots of bitterness running down to hearts hardened by grudges. Even if you “win” in such a situation, the Church loses, and even if your cause is truth, the truth is lost to those you had to kill to prove yourself the victor.
Writing this has caused me to reflect on my own actions online. They have not been what they should. There is a time for repentance and it is always right now. Pastors need Jesus, and it does not take long lurking and reading the Facebook feed to understand that. Pastors, you have Jesus. The same one you preach for your members is for you. He is for you and for your conduct on social media. As you type the keys in front of you, remember that your unclean hands have been washed clean by your baptism and that means something.
"Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace." Romans 6:12-14
Ouch! I needed that though.
I need to try to remember this whenever I happen to encounter a False Doctrine Fest anywhere online from now on.
I need to try and remember this whenever I happen to encounter a False Doctrine Fest anywhere offline from now on too.
In a Lutheran layman's terms, there will always be a False Doctrine Fest of some sort or another that we'll have to deal with, but the key is to recognize what such debates on Social Media continues to teach us about ourselves and about other Christians, so that we can at least try to offer a more appropriate Biblical and Christian response.
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. 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 repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) 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!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, 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 they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I 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 footnotes 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 both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). 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 "Christian 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. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!