“Issues, etc.” according to the Wall Street Journal

M. Z. Hemingway explains everything you need to know about the current controversy over the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod’s cancellation of “Issues, Etc.” in a story in no less than the Wall Street Journal. Her piece is entitled Radio Silence. After discussing the cancellation, including the synod’s latest explanation that the show lost too much money and had too few viewers, Hemingway puts the incident in a larger context and concludes:

The program was in all likelihood a pawn in a larger battle for the soul of the Missouri Synod. The church is divided between, on the one hand, traditional Lutherans known for their emphasis on sacraments, liturgical worship and the church’s historic confessions and, on the other, those who have embraced pop-culture Christianity and a market-driven approach to church growth. The divide is well known to all confessional Christian denominations struggling to retain their traditional identity. . . .

[The program's] attacks against shallow church marketing included mention of some approaches embraced by the current leadership. It opposed, for instance, the emergent church — an attempt to accommodate postmodern culture by blending philosophies and practices from throughout the church’s history — and the Purpose Driven Church movement, which reorients the church’s message toward self-help and self-improvement.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • organshoes

    MZ Hemingway gets religion and she gets journalism.
    Such clarity shouldn’t be so amazing, but there you go.

  • organshoes

    MZ Hemingway gets religion and she gets journalism.
    Such clarity shouldn’t be so amazing, but there you go.

  • Richard Lewer

    I read that she was also once a member of the Synod’s Board of Communications. Probably not likely to be appointed again by the current administration.

  • Richard Lewer

    I read that she was also once a member of the Synod’s Board of Communications. Probably not likely to be appointed again by the current administration.

  • http://blog.gpiper.org/ Glen Piper

    Word is that the COP is already not pleased with the ‘tone’ of the piece, and are viewing it as ‘drive-by’ type of thing.

    Obviously, I disagree. I think Mollie’s spot-on…

    -ghp

  • http://blog.gpiper.org/ Glen Piper

    Word is that the COP is already not pleased with the ‘tone’ of the piece, and are viewing it as ‘drive-by’ type of thing.

    Obviously, I disagree. I think Mollie’s spot-on…

    -ghp

  • http://puttingoutthefire.blogspot.com Frank Gillespie

    Glen,

    Fortunately, Mollie’s pension isn’t tied to synod, she isn’t under any ecclesiastical superior’s control, and she isn’t afraid to speak the truth.

    I wonder if the COP is at all concerned with “tone” of the canceling of the most listened to program on KFUO and the firing of Wilken and Schwarz?

    The problem for the COP is that Mollie’s piece exposes LCMS’s dysfunction for all the world to see. Over and over we are told that it is the Church that needs to change to remain relevant. That sin needs to be exposed.

  • http://puttingoutthefire.blogspot.com Frank Gillespie

    Glen,

    Fortunately, Mollie’s pension isn’t tied to synod, she isn’t under any ecclesiastical superior’s control, and she isn’t afraid to speak the truth.

    I wonder if the COP is at all concerned with “tone” of the canceling of the most listened to program on KFUO and the firing of Wilken and Schwarz?

    The problem for the COP is that Mollie’s piece exposes LCMS’s dysfunction for all the world to see. Over and over we are told that it is the Church that needs to change to remain relevant. That sin needs to be exposed.

  • http://www.AtlasTakesAim.com Mason Ian

    To be the voice that goes against the flow here, I wonder how impressed God is with our “emphasis on sacraments, liturgical worship and the church’s historic confessions”. Especially in light of the fact that there are those whose life and energy is consumed with attacking other genuine followers of “the Way” who happen to have “embraced pop-culture Christianity and a market-driven approach to church growth.”
    I have a gut feeling that God cares less for systematic theologies, clarified positions on the eucharist and liturgical traditions than He does for seeking and saving the lost.
    That is not to exonerate all modes of the “emerging church” (term used loosely to encompass the Church as it manifests in this age, that is, in-touch with popular culture).
    On the other hand, surely we cannot be so naive and bull-headed to think that traditionalism in all forms is Christ-like and pleasing to God.
    I suggest to you that the Church DOES change in order to remain relevant… not that it MUST change, but that it just DOES. There is no use denying the fact that the very traditional, historic, systematic, etc, reformed Lutheranism that some here uphold as absolute dogmatic Truth, is in fact evidence that the Church does change to remain relevant. The Reformed theology that you and I both thank God for was the “emergent” Church of its day.
    I grant that to ignore the great wealth of history and tradition passed down to us by our long-dead brethren is very sad… However, I cannot agree with the absurd statement implied by some that “change in the church as it relates to the current culture of the world” is a sin.
    We can argue all day about which Church model is most Godly, which view of the culture surrounding us is correct, we can argue about transubstantiation and all the articles that make up the distinctions between the denominations within Christendom. But when it all comes down to it, God wants to see changed lives more than He wants to see fastidious doctrine. He wants people to come to Him, the weary, the broken, the lost. These people don’t care about the finer points we love discussing and parsing so much.
    So the question is… who is reaching them? When we get to heaven will we be the ones with poor answers like Jesus’ parable: “when did I see you hungry or thirsty Lord?”
    Just maybe, possibly, in this grand scheme of the Makers, there is enough room for Martin Luther and Rick Warren, Calvin and Calvary Chapel. What if the Church of our Savior is bigger than our doctrines?
    Maybe we sometimes mistake our good-intentioned pursuit of sharply-defined theology for the pulse of the Father’s heart.
    I’m just playing my favourite role: subversive.

  • http://www.AtlasTakesAim.com Mason Ian

    To be the voice that goes against the flow here, I wonder how impressed God is with our “emphasis on sacraments, liturgical worship and the church’s historic confessions”. Especially in light of the fact that there are those whose life and energy is consumed with attacking other genuine followers of “the Way” who happen to have “embraced pop-culture Christianity and a market-driven approach to church growth.”
    I have a gut feeling that God cares less for systematic theologies, clarified positions on the eucharist and liturgical traditions than He does for seeking and saving the lost.
    That is not to exonerate all modes of the “emerging church” (term used loosely to encompass the Church as it manifests in this age, that is, in-touch with popular culture).
    On the other hand, surely we cannot be so naive and bull-headed to think that traditionalism in all forms is Christ-like and pleasing to God.
    I suggest to you that the Church DOES change in order to remain relevant… not that it MUST change, but that it just DOES. There is no use denying the fact that the very traditional, historic, systematic, etc, reformed Lutheranism that some here uphold as absolute dogmatic Truth, is in fact evidence that the Church does change to remain relevant. The Reformed theology that you and I both thank God for was the “emergent” Church of its day.
    I grant that to ignore the great wealth of history and tradition passed down to us by our long-dead brethren is very sad… However, I cannot agree with the absurd statement implied by some that “change in the church as it relates to the current culture of the world” is a sin.
    We can argue all day about which Church model is most Godly, which view of the culture surrounding us is correct, we can argue about transubstantiation and all the articles that make up the distinctions between the denominations within Christendom. But when it all comes down to it, God wants to see changed lives more than He wants to see fastidious doctrine. He wants people to come to Him, the weary, the broken, the lost. These people don’t care about the finer points we love discussing and parsing so much.
    So the question is… who is reaching them? When we get to heaven will we be the ones with poor answers like Jesus’ parable: “when did I see you hungry or thirsty Lord?”
    Just maybe, possibly, in this grand scheme of the Makers, there is enough room for Martin Luther and Rick Warren, Calvin and Calvary Chapel. What if the Church of our Savior is bigger than our doctrines?
    Maybe we sometimes mistake our good-intentioned pursuit of sharply-defined theology for the pulse of the Father’s heart.
    I’m just playing my favourite role: subversive.

  • HFB

    #5 You state, “I have a gut feeling that God cares less for systematic theologies, clarified positions on the eucharist and liturgical traditions than He does for seeking and saving the lost.” Tell me , *how* does God
    save the lost, through the lies of such as those espoused by the likes of Rick Warren, et al? Luther said that *in that place* (that is, wherever it is spoken) where lies are told about God’s Word the Holy Spirit is NOT working!

  • HFB

    #5 You state, “I have a gut feeling that God cares less for systematic theologies, clarified positions on the eucharist and liturgical traditions than He does for seeking and saving the lost.” Tell me , *how* does God
    save the lost, through the lies of such as those espoused by the likes of Rick Warren, et al? Luther said that *in that place* (that is, wherever it is spoken) where lies are told about God’s Word the Holy Spirit is NOT working!

  • Kelly

    What if “our doctrines” aren’t ours, but God’s, and that maybe he had a very good reason for continually reminding us in his Word to hold fast to them without changing a thing? Ultimately, the Gospel is at stake.

    I think Chris over at Extreme Theology got it right… the theology of “changed lives” as the center of our faith rather than “Christ crucified” has taken over the American church… and any means justifies the end.

  • Kelly

    What if “our doctrines” aren’t ours, but God’s, and that maybe he had a very good reason for continually reminding us in his Word to hold fast to them without changing a thing? Ultimately, the Gospel is at stake.

    I think Chris over at Extreme Theology got it right… the theology of “changed lives” as the center of our faith rather than “Christ crucified” has taken over the American church… and any means justifies the end.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Nolt changed lives, mason ian, but saved sinners.
    The lost to be found, not by catchiness, kitschiness, cleverness–not by technique at all–but by the Word.
    That’s why liturgy is so important: not because it preserves a precious style or format, but because it preserves the Word of God.
    We can change our own lives in innumerable ways; we can even change our hearts. But those changes don’t save us, and aren’t even reliable evidence that we’ve been saved.
    We cannot save ourselves.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Nolt changed lives, mason ian, but saved sinners.
    The lost to be found, not by catchiness, kitschiness, cleverness–not by technique at all–but by the Word.
    That’s why liturgy is so important: not because it preserves a precious style or format, but because it preserves the Word of God.
    We can change our own lives in innumerable ways; we can even change our hearts. But those changes don’t save us, and aren’t even reliable evidence that we’ve been saved.
    We cannot save ourselves.

  • Just another joe

    Personally, the agreement lies between the two extremes. Which is why we have things such as the BoC to keep us true to the beliefs that lie in God, not some made up idol of today. However, we need to be careful on both ends, one end not to become like the Pharasees of Christ’s day, on the other not to become lost in the ‘numbers game’. I liken it to popular hymns of the last couple centuries. Music evolves and society appreciates the different styles. So we update the key, or the tune, but should never change the original lyrics.

  • Just another joe

    Personally, the agreement lies between the two extremes. Which is why we have things such as the BoC to keep us true to the beliefs that lie in God, not some made up idol of today. However, we need to be careful on both ends, one end not to become like the Pharasees of Christ’s day, on the other not to become lost in the ‘numbers game’. I liken it to popular hymns of the last couple centuries. Music evolves and society appreciates the different styles. So we update the key, or the tune, but should never change the original lyrics.

  • http://www.AtlasTakesAim.com Mason Ian

    well said “just another joe”.
    i am glad that discussion was stirred up a little.
    let me, though, respond to kelly, who took issue with me calling it “our [human] doctrines.”
    (however, this post is so buried in the past it is likely no one will read my response, so perhaps I give it to satisfy my own peace of mind.)

    It was posited: “What if ‘our’ doctrines are God’s foundational Truths?” Or more bluntly: Doctrine is God’s Truth.
    (i hope i represent this correctly, forgive me if i do not)

    However, i would argue that doctrine is of man. Let me explain: Doctrine is the human attempt to codify, define and parse God’s revealed Truth. The truth doesn’t change, it is not relative; however, by defining the Truth we are severely limited (by space, time, the vagaries of language, etc) and thus our doctrines can never wholly define the Truth.
    Doctrine is not evil, no one ought to mistake me on this. Doctrine is the human mind reaching out to understand the truth of God. And let us be honest, it sometimes becomes an idol to us in place of God.

    And on a side note: “Susan aka organshoes” misunderstands when she thinks that I only mean changed lives as if it were a thing that happens independently of salvation, and “Christ crucified” in this context. In fact, in general, among the traditional set there is a profound lack of understanding about the meanings of terms used by “those pop-theology-churches.” It is like someone who speaks medieval latin trying to discuss theology with someone speaking classical latin. The words may often be the same, but the meaning is different for each speaker. When the term “Changed lives” is attacked as somehow precluding or excluding “Christ crucified” I can only wonder how far removed the limbs of Christ’s Church have grown from one another.
    Saved sinners are changed lives. We would all agree. It is the transforming power, the renewed mind, the salvation of God through the cross that the “warrenites” claim– even though the terms may be different than traditional ones.
    I am not so sure that the Word doesn’t sometimes get eclipsed by our liturgy, especially when we mistake it for a saving knowledge of Christ.
    the things you label catchy, kitschy & clever are not claimed by anyone as being the means of salvation. If you disagree with them at least don’t misrepresent them.
    Liturgy is man’s attempt at reaching God. yes, surely some will respond “but we can’t do anything to reach God” but that doesn’t nullify the fact that this is what liturgy is. It has value, it has meaning, but it is not infallible. Nor is it the same as Truth. Liturgy, sacraments, tradition: none of these are Truth, they are only approximations. We may be nearer or farther, sharpened and more refined through deep theology. But the moment we grasp at these human constructions and call them “God’s whole Truth” we have succumbed to the sin of the pharisees.

    Again, I am merely playing my role as the dissenter. My own views may be different than any of you know. (for all two of you who read this post.) :)

  • http://www.AtlasTakesAim.com Mason Ian

    well said “just another joe”.
    i am glad that discussion was stirred up a little.
    let me, though, respond to kelly, who took issue with me calling it “our [human] doctrines.”
    (however, this post is so buried in the past it is likely no one will read my response, so perhaps I give it to satisfy my own peace of mind.)

    It was posited: “What if ‘our’ doctrines are God’s foundational Truths?” Or more bluntly: Doctrine is God’s Truth.
    (i hope i represent this correctly, forgive me if i do not)

    However, i would argue that doctrine is of man. Let me explain: Doctrine is the human attempt to codify, define and parse God’s revealed Truth. The truth doesn’t change, it is not relative; however, by defining the Truth we are severely limited (by space, time, the vagaries of language, etc) and thus our doctrines can never wholly define the Truth.
    Doctrine is not evil, no one ought to mistake me on this. Doctrine is the human mind reaching out to understand the truth of God. And let us be honest, it sometimes becomes an idol to us in place of God.

    And on a side note: “Susan aka organshoes” misunderstands when she thinks that I only mean changed lives as if it were a thing that happens independently of salvation, and “Christ crucified” in this context. In fact, in general, among the traditional set there is a profound lack of understanding about the meanings of terms used by “those pop-theology-churches.” It is like someone who speaks medieval latin trying to discuss theology with someone speaking classical latin. The words may often be the same, but the meaning is different for each speaker. When the term “Changed lives” is attacked as somehow precluding or excluding “Christ crucified” I can only wonder how far removed the limbs of Christ’s Church have grown from one another.
    Saved sinners are changed lives. We would all agree. It is the transforming power, the renewed mind, the salvation of God through the cross that the “warrenites” claim– even though the terms may be different than traditional ones.
    I am not so sure that the Word doesn’t sometimes get eclipsed by our liturgy, especially when we mistake it for a saving knowledge of Christ.
    the things you label catchy, kitschy & clever are not claimed by anyone as being the means of salvation. If you disagree with them at least don’t misrepresent them.
    Liturgy is man’s attempt at reaching God. yes, surely some will respond “but we can’t do anything to reach God” but that doesn’t nullify the fact that this is what liturgy is. It has value, it has meaning, but it is not infallible. Nor is it the same as Truth. Liturgy, sacraments, tradition: none of these are Truth, they are only approximations. We may be nearer or farther, sharpened and more refined through deep theology. But the moment we grasp at these human constructions and call them “God’s whole Truth” we have succumbed to the sin of the pharisees.

    Again, I am merely playing my role as the dissenter. My own views may be different than any of you know. (for all two of you who read this post.) :)

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