Soon, you'll be walking into a Hobby Lobby looking for Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations and you'll see the posters and signs for the annual Samaritan's Purse "Operation Christmas Child" Shoebox Campaign where we are told that "The Amazing Journey Of A Shoebox Gift Begins With You And Results In Evangelism, Discipleship, And Multiplication!"
That's right, my dear friends, it's a Christmas gift for the less fortunate that's worthy of the passionate support of all Five Two Sacramental Entrepreneurs everywhere, which leads me to my main reason for writing this today.
So, what happens when you're not just seeing promotional material for this annual campaign at the local Hobby Lobby or Chik-Fil-A, but finding it in the binders and folders in your kids' backpacks who both attend a private Lutheran Day School and the LCMS church affiliated with it?
LCMS Church/School: "We are proud to help Samaritan's Purse fulfill their mission." Social Gospel sowing confusion! https://t.co/nWioNqtmjn— LutheranLayman (@LutheranLayman) November 6, 2016
What happens is you calmly explain to your wife and kids (and anyone else who will listen to the "truth in love"; Ephesians 4:15) that while those doing obvious good works who are also exhibiting good intentions and who mean well, this is probably not the best way for us/them to do the same since we do not share the same beliefs, teachings, and confessions as those behind the very popular Samaritan's Purse organization.
Be prepared for them to look at you like you're nuts or like you just told them that you're into "Spirit Cooking" too, because it will be difficult for most to understand why we Lutherans should resist partnering with groups for causes like this and pursue other official avenues through the LCMS instead.
Bottom line? As we've been saying for years now, good intentions and sincerity from well-meaning Christians does not automatically equal Biblical truth.
Unfortunately, this is what happens when we place love and unity over and above faithfulness to doctrine. I know, I know, there's that dreaded D-word again, right? Plus, some of you might be thinking that this is precisely why the post-modern mantra of "Deeds Not Creeds!" was necessary. Others might even be thinking, "Oh, come on, Jeff! Are you seriously going to complain about the importance of doctrinal purity and unity at the expense of these poor children!?! Boy, that's really quite 'loving' of you! If that's your brand of 'love thy neighbor' that Confessional Lutheranism adheres to an expects, then I want nothing of it!"
Yes, this is the kind of response you might get if you're anything like me and you merely suggest that such LCMS churches and schools do not need to partner with non-Lutheran organization like Samaritan's Purse when we have always had so many different domestic and international opportunities to give to others who desperately need it.
Better yet, doing so through these distinctly Lutheran channels will ensure that our consciences remain clear and that we are adhering to the very things we claim we believe, teach, and confess.
What's that? You didn't know that we Lutherans shouldn't be partnering with other Christian organizations whose confession differs from our own? Me neither, until I learned about the dangers of promoting heterodoxy to the helpless and spiritually impoverished around the world through the vehicles of syncretism and unionism under the guise of love and unity.
Anecdotal evidence indicates that the average LCMS pew-dweller has a superficial grasp of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, mixed with a distaste for Synodical machinations. What happens to this half of the Synod membership when they are confused by the careless “cooperation in externals” by LCMS entities? This is not a call to play to the lowest common denominator (our seminaries, synodocrats, and pastors have a duty to fix the catechism problem). It is a plea to take greater care lest we weaken or destroy the faith of others by ‘disappearing’ what is essential for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Unfortunately, our leadership and institutions can be too casual in dismissing objections to their activities as the wailings of fragile pietists, or pharisaism, or a lack of education and sophistication, or the old favorite – breaking the Eighth Commandment. It is attractive to dwell on “Christian unity” where it focuses on areas of agreement whilst sweeping disagreements under the rug. The problem is that the disagreements invariably reduce to blaming doctrine, and the people who desire to uphold pure doctrine, as divisive. Pure doctrine becomes the problem rather than the solution it is.
We struggle continually with syncretism and unionism questions, but the Small Catechism keeps it simple. It teaches: “we should avoid false teachers, false churches, and all organizations that promote a religion that is contrary to God’s Word” (Question 179, Answer C). The SC makes it clear that our standard for “collaboration in externals” is not whether full altar and pulpit fellowship is being pursued, but simply to avoid false teachers, churches and organizations. There are too many instances where we run toward them and embrace them. Our LCMS institutions can be far too careless with the articles of faith when it is convenient. That has a great cost.
This is most certainly true.
What does the LCMS reap by sowing confusion among its members?
In a Lutheran layman's terms, it's only perpetuating the very problem it should be trying to combat, and it's doing so by sowing confusion through the Social Gospel rather than song hope and life by confessing the true Gospel of Jesus Christ in all its glory.
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!