The basis for picking a church

This weekend I talked with someone whom I think highly of who told me all of the different churches he has been a member of. At various times, depending on where he has lived, he has attended Presbyterian, Anglican, Bible, Evangelical Covenant, Campbellite, Christian Missionary Alliance, non-denominational, and house churches.

Whereas for me (even before I became a Lutheran), the criteria for which church I joined had to do with what it believed. For him–and I suspect there are a great many like him, possibly a majority of evangelicals–the criteria has to do with the people in the different congregations, the kind of “fellowship” they experience and whether they like the pastor. Theology is something held by the individual, with these different churches being more or less OK with whatever the individual member believes, within a few parameters, so that these churches today assert few theological distinctives for themselves.

According to the Lutheran mindset, the heart of a church body, the basis of fellowship, and the definition of unity must be its confession. Whereas for much of American Christianity, fellowship and unity are the heart of a church body, which allows for diverse confessions.

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.

  • Bruce

    Now, if we could only have the Lutheran mindset in more Lutheran churches.

  • Bruce

    Now, if we could only have the Lutheran mindset in more Lutheran churches.

  • Paul

    A truly interesting and helpful observation for this parish pastor. While it is indeed true that in Christ God died “for me” and for “my salvation”, the Biblical stress is that He has done this “for us” and “for our salvation.” Why the difference? Why is it more proper to emphasize the Church rather than the individual as the “beloved of the Lord”? I would think that it is because our natural sinful tendency is to make Him “my God”; i.e. “of my making.” Instead, He comes to us through the Means which are administered by the Church so that we hold each other accountable to the “holy, Christian, and apostolic faith.”

    The image of receiving an inheritance is apt: it is best held in trust so that it is not squandered. If this faith which is believed were my own, I shudder to think of what I might do with it.

  • Paul

    A truly interesting and helpful observation for this parish pastor. While it is indeed true that in Christ God died “for me” and for “my salvation”, the Biblical stress is that He has done this “for us” and “for our salvation.” Why the difference? Why is it more proper to emphasize the Church rather than the individual as the “beloved of the Lord”? I would think that it is because our natural sinful tendency is to make Him “my God”; i.e. “of my making.” Instead, He comes to us through the Means which are administered by the Church so that we hold each other accountable to the “holy, Christian, and apostolic faith.”

    The image of receiving an inheritance is apt: it is best held in trust so that it is not squandered. If this faith which is believed were my own, I shudder to think of what I might do with it.

  • Deb C

    I have seen this mentality more than once. I grew up baptist. When people consider a church it is often about the programs in place and how do I like the people. While I see this being a consideration if you are roughly equal distance from two churches of your own denomination I don’t see it as being a determining when to switch.
    Often the people who are called church hoppers are looking for something in the church that only Christ can provide or they are looking for a “nice” group of friend who will increase their social standing. (once while living in another state I went to the same church as the school superintendent we had a bunch of employees of the school board join the church )
    Also I have found that terms like theology turn off many in the south they believe that if it doesn’t come straight from the bible or personal experience it is not worthy of being mentioned in church.
    I’ve rambled enough but Dr.Veith touched a nerve.

  • Deb C

    I have seen this mentality more than once. I grew up baptist. When people consider a church it is often about the programs in place and how do I like the people. While I see this being a consideration if you are roughly equal distance from two churches of your own denomination I don’t see it as being a determining when to switch.
    Often the people who are called church hoppers are looking for something in the church that only Christ can provide or they are looking for a “nice” group of friend who will increase their social standing. (once while living in another state I went to the same church as the school superintendent we had a bunch of employees of the school board join the church )
    Also I have found that terms like theology turn off many in the south they believe that if it doesn’t come straight from the bible or personal experience it is not worthy of being mentioned in church.
    I’ve rambled enough but Dr.Veith touched a nerve.

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  • http://www.homesteadblogger.com/gonorthyoungpack Jenn W

    Ok, I confess, we skipped church at the confessional Lutheran church we’ve visited for the last 4 weeks because after four weeks we’d only had 3 couples actually put forth effort to welcome us (passing smiles, handwaves, and “Hi’s” don’t count) and they were all fellow military (who usually are like that b/c they’ve been the “new guy”). No, we didn’t skip church, we went to the only other confessional Lutheran church in a 40 mi radius of our house. We were welcomed with open arms and fed the word and sacrament. I think there were two adults who did not talk to us – one hand waved – one didn’t talk at all. So, while we used doctrine to narrow down our search (to two, remember?) we used friendliness and welcoming attitude to help.
    Note, we have not yet decided to become members, specifically b/c the pastor was on vacation so we have to hear his sermons and bible studies to decide that. But, probably especially b/c we’re in the military, a church family is high ranking on the importance scale since we don’t have biological family nearby. Because of that, friendliness (not feel good) counts.
    But all of this is different than the friend who picks a church b/c it gives them the warm fuzzies. We pick initially based on theology. When we have options within theologically sound congregations then we look for a Church family. And if the not so friendly congregation was our only option, we’d worship there b/c we’d be fed spiritually there and that is the most important!
    my 2cents!

  • http://www.homesteadblogger.com/gonorthyoungpack Jenn W

    Ok, I confess, we skipped church at the confessional Lutheran church we’ve visited for the last 4 weeks because after four weeks we’d only had 3 couples actually put forth effort to welcome us (passing smiles, handwaves, and “Hi’s” don’t count) and they were all fellow military (who usually are like that b/c they’ve been the “new guy”). No, we didn’t skip church, we went to the only other confessional Lutheran church in a 40 mi radius of our house. We were welcomed with open arms and fed the word and sacrament. I think there were two adults who did not talk to us – one hand waved – one didn’t talk at all. So, while we used doctrine to narrow down our search (to two, remember?) we used friendliness and welcoming attitude to help.
    Note, we have not yet decided to become members, specifically b/c the pastor was on vacation so we have to hear his sermons and bible studies to decide that. But, probably especially b/c we’re in the military, a church family is high ranking on the importance scale since we don’t have biological family nearby. Because of that, friendliness (not feel good) counts.
    But all of this is different than the friend who picks a church b/c it gives them the warm fuzzies. We pick initially based on theology. When we have options within theologically sound congregations then we look for a Church family. And if the not so friendly congregation was our only option, we’d worship there b/c we’d be fed spiritually there and that is the most important!
    my 2cents!

  • CRB

    Paul,
    Your post reminds me of an excellent sermon I heard yesterday which is available here. The text is from
    Luke 16.
    http://www.stpaulbluepoint.org/page1/page3/page3.html

  • CRB

    Paul,
    Your post reminds me of an excellent sermon I heard yesterday which is available here. The text is from
    Luke 16.
    http://www.stpaulbluepoint.org/page1/page3/page3.html

  • Nemo
  • Nemo
  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I think out here in the west life is much more transient. I have a lot of people in which this has been their first experience with Lutheranism. It has changed their attitudes quite a bit as to what they look for in a Church. It is frustrating though when people don’t come back because the youth group isn’t active enough. I think to myself stay and make it active. But that aside. I normally followup on visitors at any chance I can and explain to them what they should be looking for in a Church, the Gospel and the Sacraments Administered according to Christ’s institution. There have been instances where after explaining this, the people haven’t failed to come back amazed that they never thought that way before.
    I am not sure though if it is that these churches don’t care about what the individual believes. The Lutheran church has radically different doctrine than most other protestant Churches. The reformed have historically been divided more over polity, then doctrine. I think they are finally waking up to the fact that polity doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I think out here in the west life is much more transient. I have a lot of people in which this has been their first experience with Lutheranism. It has changed their attitudes quite a bit as to what they look for in a Church. It is frustrating though when people don’t come back because the youth group isn’t active enough. I think to myself stay and make it active. But that aside. I normally followup on visitors at any chance I can and explain to them what they should be looking for in a Church, the Gospel and the Sacraments Administered according to Christ’s institution. There have been instances where after explaining this, the people haven’t failed to come back amazed that they never thought that way before.
    I am not sure though if it is that these churches don’t care about what the individual believes. The Lutheran church has radically different doctrine than most other protestant Churches. The reformed have historically been divided more over polity, then doctrine. I think they are finally waking up to the fact that polity doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things.

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    I go to a Lutheran church that isn’t very Lutheran at all :-( I try to participate in the church community, but don’t really feel a part of it. It is also important to me to worship within my own community, which is why we don’t drive down to Dr. Veith’s church about one or so hours away. I’ve been frustrated at my church and my good friend and neighbor has invited me to hers. Incidently, it happens to be Josh Harris’ church, too! They take theology very seriously there and the teaching is serious and extensive. We have doctrinal differences, sure. I think that Lutherans have very good, very solid theology, not one of us has the whole thing right. So, I am in a quandry. Do I remain unhappy in a Lutheran church or go to a thriving, albeit aesthetically weak and slightly doctrinally different, where I have actual friends.

    Community is very important, too, so I wouldn’t come down too hard on folks who go to a church because they feel a part of that community.

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    I go to a Lutheran church that isn’t very Lutheran at all :-( I try to participate in the church community, but don’t really feel a part of it. It is also important to me to worship within my own community, which is why we don’t drive down to Dr. Veith’s church about one or so hours away. I’ve been frustrated at my church and my good friend and neighbor has invited me to hers. Incidently, it happens to be Josh Harris’ church, too! They take theology very seriously there and the teaching is serious and extensive. We have doctrinal differences, sure. I think that Lutherans have very good, very solid theology, not one of us has the whole thing right. So, I am in a quandry. Do I remain unhappy in a Lutheran church or go to a thriving, albeit aesthetically weak and slightly doctrinally different, where I have actual friends.

    Community is very important, too, so I wouldn’t come down too hard on folks who go to a church because they feel a part of that community.

  • Don S

    Hear, hear, Sarah in Maryland! None of us have the whole thing exactly right, including Lutherans. We will all find that out in heaven. I have very much enjoyed learning about the Lutheran faith and confessions on this blog, and there is much to give one thought concerning a new way at looking at the Sacraments and salvation for an old fashioned Baptistic evangelical like me. The basic Gospel is simple and profound, and we Evangelicals have that in common. Many other aspects of doctrine are not black and white Scripture, but interpretations of Scripture, and in these areas we differ in good faith. Paul himself acknowledged this when he mentioned the issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols. Some Christians were OK with eating it, because their theology differed from others who were not OK with it. Paul appeared to be saying that both views were within the bounds of acceptable Christian faith, and the important thing is that we are sensitive to other brothers and sisters who have differing interpretational views, so that we do not cause them to stumble in their own relationships with God.

    To bring that point back to this discussion, I think the process of finding a good church requires that you be comfortable with its theology, sufficiently that you can attend and sit under its leadership without reservation, because we are commanded to spiritually submit to our church leadership. This does not mean that we must agree on every single point doctrinally, but it certainly means that we need to agree on the black and white points, and that we must agree on any other point that would otherwise cause us to dissent from church leadership and thus harm the Body and ourselves.

    It is also important that we respect and like the folks we are worshiping with. They are our fellow family members, and we need to be working side-by-side with them continually in close quarters in order to fulfill the mission God has set before us here on Earth. For that reason, community is indeed important. Paul and Barnabus split up over “community” issues, because of a human disagreement about the role of John Mark in their ministry.

    The bottom line is that finding a church should be a very infrequent process, necessary only when you move to a new geographic location or the church you are attending changes doctrinally or in some other profound way. It is important to choose a local church, and then pour yourself into it in a committed fashion. You commit to family through the good times and the tough times, and this applies especially to the Church.

  • Don S

    Hear, hear, Sarah in Maryland! None of us have the whole thing exactly right, including Lutherans. We will all find that out in heaven. I have very much enjoyed learning about the Lutheran faith and confessions on this blog, and there is much to give one thought concerning a new way at looking at the Sacraments and salvation for an old fashioned Baptistic evangelical like me. The basic Gospel is simple and profound, and we Evangelicals have that in common. Many other aspects of doctrine are not black and white Scripture, but interpretations of Scripture, and in these areas we differ in good faith. Paul himself acknowledged this when he mentioned the issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols. Some Christians were OK with eating it, because their theology differed from others who were not OK with it. Paul appeared to be saying that both views were within the bounds of acceptable Christian faith, and the important thing is that we are sensitive to other brothers and sisters who have differing interpretational views, so that we do not cause them to stumble in their own relationships with God.

    To bring that point back to this discussion, I think the process of finding a good church requires that you be comfortable with its theology, sufficiently that you can attend and sit under its leadership without reservation, because we are commanded to spiritually submit to our church leadership. This does not mean that we must agree on every single point doctrinally, but it certainly means that we need to agree on the black and white points, and that we must agree on any other point that would otherwise cause us to dissent from church leadership and thus harm the Body and ourselves.

    It is also important that we respect and like the folks we are worshiping with. They are our fellow family members, and we need to be working side-by-side with them continually in close quarters in order to fulfill the mission God has set before us here on Earth. For that reason, community is indeed important. Paul and Barnabus split up over “community” issues, because of a human disagreement about the role of John Mark in their ministry.

    The bottom line is that finding a church should be a very infrequent process, necessary only when you move to a new geographic location or the church you are attending changes doctrinally or in some other profound way. It is important to choose a local church, and then pour yourself into it in a committed fashion. You commit to family through the good times and the tough times, and this applies especially to the Church.

  • http://www.patrolmag.com Nathan

    But Dr. V…
    it´s just theology…how important could that really be? Shouldn´t we just find a church that loves people?
    That has a bigger gospel than just inside the four walls?
    Shouldn´t we find a place that you actually are cared for?
    ;)

    I´ve been reading Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones on Spiritual Depression this summer and he would be appalled by the idea of people picking a church for any other reason than a like-minded confession.

    That being said, being in Costa Rica for two months and counting has let me see the absolute necessity of being completely involved in a church.

    It is the body of Christ and when you are cut off from it, you feel less of a Christian.

    Spurgeon, Owens and Jones can´t replace the fellow’ship of like minded believers.

  • http://www.patrolmag.com Nathan

    But Dr. V…
    it´s just theology…how important could that really be? Shouldn´t we just find a church that loves people?
    That has a bigger gospel than just inside the four walls?
    Shouldn´t we find a place that you actually are cared for?
    ;)

    I´ve been reading Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones on Spiritual Depression this summer and he would be appalled by the idea of people picking a church for any other reason than a like-minded confession.

    That being said, being in Costa Rica for two months and counting has let me see the absolute necessity of being completely involved in a church.

    It is the body of Christ and when you are cut off from it, you feel less of a Christian.

    Spurgeon, Owens and Jones can´t replace the fellow’ship of like minded believers.

  • Paul

    It is important to distinguish in this discussion between doctrine and devotion. Doctrine, per se, carries the weight of “thus spake the Lord” while devotion is my response to the faith given to me.

    For example: I was raised with the notion that Lutheran’s don’t “cross themselves”. Roman Catholics do that; and it is a knee jerk thing for too many people. But over the years, my personal devotional life has led me to also appreciate how making the sign of the cross on ones self is a reminder or Whose we are: we have been marked by Christ the Crucified. For my particular spiritual state, it is important for me to be reminded of this daily lest I start to believe that I have somehow chosen Him or have been raised above the level of a poor miserable sinner.

    I have found that this distinction between that which is Docrtinal (as in the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar) and that which is devotional (as in whether I receive the break and wine/Body and Blood in my hand or directly to my mouth) to be helpful to me and also to the people I work with. We can rejoice in and appreciate our devotional differences — but there is only One Christ and One Gospel who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

    So find a doctrinal church, and then feel free to take devotional matters in stride. Some people are “cold” because they stand mute before God in proper respect. Some people are vocal because they cannot keep silent about the Gift they have received. Some do not eat meat because it draws them back to their life under the Law while others eat freely knowing that all things have been made Clean. For both, the Doctrine is the same: Christ has made us a new creation – the former things are already passing away.

    The problem I see in those who choose a congregation based on friendliness and youth groups etc. is that they are frequently seeking the devotional over the doctrinal. As for me, I would much rather hear a good Law/Gospel sermon from a grumpy Pastor than have the most gregarious Pastor who can’t apply the Word. But maybe I’m being defensive (wink!).

  • Paul

    It is important to distinguish in this discussion between doctrine and devotion. Doctrine, per se, carries the weight of “thus spake the Lord” while devotion is my response to the faith given to me.

    For example: I was raised with the notion that Lutheran’s don’t “cross themselves”. Roman Catholics do that; and it is a knee jerk thing for too many people. But over the years, my personal devotional life has led me to also appreciate how making the sign of the cross on ones self is a reminder or Whose we are: we have been marked by Christ the Crucified. For my particular spiritual state, it is important for me to be reminded of this daily lest I start to believe that I have somehow chosen Him or have been raised above the level of a poor miserable sinner.

    I have found that this distinction between that which is Docrtinal (as in the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar) and that which is devotional (as in whether I receive the break and wine/Body and Blood in my hand or directly to my mouth) to be helpful to me and also to the people I work with. We can rejoice in and appreciate our devotional differences — but there is only One Christ and One Gospel who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

    So find a doctrinal church, and then feel free to take devotional matters in stride. Some people are “cold” because they stand mute before God in proper respect. Some people are vocal because they cannot keep silent about the Gift they have received. Some do not eat meat because it draws them back to their life under the Law while others eat freely knowing that all things have been made Clean. For both, the Doctrine is the same: Christ has made us a new creation – the former things are already passing away.

    The problem I see in those who choose a congregation based on friendliness and youth groups etc. is that they are frequently seeking the devotional over the doctrinal. As for me, I would much rather hear a good Law/Gospel sermon from a grumpy Pastor than have the most gregarious Pastor who can’t apply the Word. But maybe I’m being defensive (wink!).

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Good post; the reality is that all too many have decided that “doctrine divides” to the point that they never bother to learn any, even among the pastorate. The consequence is that the church members are left to choose not on the basis of theological stands, but on what “programs” the church offers. Sometimes even the very Gospel is downgraded to avoid controversy.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Good post; the reality is that all too many have decided that “doctrine divides” to the point that they never bother to learn any, even among the pastorate. The consequence is that the church members are left to choose not on the basis of theological stands, but on what “programs” the church offers. Sometimes even the very Gospel is downgraded to avoid controversy.

  • FWw

    Paul! I needed to hear what you had to say here. Thanks!

    I went to a small els church in tacoma washington and the pastor there , now deceased, pastor Wm McMurdie went out of his way to welcome me into his church. Invited me as a single guy into his home many times for dinner, along with anyone else I had invited to come with me to church on that sunday…. when I called to find his church he took the time to drive a half our and meet me and lead me to the church…. amazing.

    I think this is probably better for the members to take upon themselves, but it is VERY good for pastors to make themselves available for casual encounters with members and prospects.

    I think often pastors feel they need to be involved in the administrative part of the church. maybe because the members don´t volunteer for that and the pastor is always around the church grounds, or maybe because the pastor, while complaining that members dont get involved, doesnt leave members make mistakes through trial and error and so discourages a “sense of ownership” on the part of members without being aware of it…..

    I would love to see a pastor limit himself to prayer, study, visiting members and hanging out at the local starbucks with his clerical collar on in his neighborhood and inviting people to come to church or to a pizza and beer bible study and leave the administrative busywork, even if it doesn´t get done…..

    before communion, it would be great for the pastor to just be available for those wanting to commune in a “closed communion” setting and not be busy getting ready for the service. the hour before and after the service should be completely free for the pastor to visit.

    members can be welcoming, but at a certain point they are the funnel that directs people to the pastor…. and he needs lots of free time to handle that end point of evangelism. end point being a person becoming baptized , examined and communed and placed under the care of a shepherd.

  • FWw

    Paul! I needed to hear what you had to say here. Thanks!

    I went to a small els church in tacoma washington and the pastor there , now deceased, pastor Wm McMurdie went out of his way to welcome me into his church. Invited me as a single guy into his home many times for dinner, along with anyone else I had invited to come with me to church on that sunday…. when I called to find his church he took the time to drive a half our and meet me and lead me to the church…. amazing.

    I think this is probably better for the members to take upon themselves, but it is VERY good for pastors to make themselves available for casual encounters with members and prospects.

    I think often pastors feel they need to be involved in the administrative part of the church. maybe because the members don´t volunteer for that and the pastor is always around the church grounds, or maybe because the pastor, while complaining that members dont get involved, doesnt leave members make mistakes through trial and error and so discourages a “sense of ownership” on the part of members without being aware of it…..

    I would love to see a pastor limit himself to prayer, study, visiting members and hanging out at the local starbucks with his clerical collar on in his neighborhood and inviting people to come to church or to a pizza and beer bible study and leave the administrative busywork, even if it doesn´t get done…..

    before communion, it would be great for the pastor to just be available for those wanting to commune in a “closed communion” setting and not be busy getting ready for the service. the hour before and after the service should be completely free for the pastor to visit.

    members can be welcoming, but at a certain point they are the funnel that directs people to the pastor…. and he needs lots of free time to handle that end point of evangelism. end point being a person becoming baptized , examined and communed and placed under the care of a shepherd.

  • Brian

    I too am shriveling at my LCMS parish. While I remain a Lutheran (at least sacramentally and liturgically), I at least felt part of the church community before I became so.

    And no, programs and groups don’t make a church community (the true community and fellowship is around the eucharist – this I know), but it would be nice to see happy friendly people who smile, say hi, and care to converse, and aren’t so damn stoic.

  • Brian

    I too am shriveling at my LCMS parish. While I remain a Lutheran (at least sacramentally and liturgically), I at least felt part of the church community before I became so.

    And no, programs and groups don’t make a church community (the true community and fellowship is around the eucharist – this I know), but it would be nice to see happy friendly people who smile, say hi, and care to converse, and aren’t so damn stoic.

  • http://www.christlutheran.net Jeff Samelson

    Well, Sarah in Maryland, how far ARE you willing to drive? :)

    I invite you to visit us some Sunday at Christ Lutheran in Clarksville, MD (just west of Columbia on MD 32). We have members in Frederick and New Market who drive in every week. You can check us out “virtually” at http://www.christlutheran.net — or meet us halfway Aug. 2-9 at our booth at the Howard County Fair.

    Let me know if there’s anything we can do for you in the meantime!

  • http://www.christlutheran.net Jeff Samelson

    Well, Sarah in Maryland, how far ARE you willing to drive? :)

    I invite you to visit us some Sunday at Christ Lutheran in Clarksville, MD (just west of Columbia on MD 32). We have members in Frederick and New Market who drive in every week. You can check us out “virtually” at http://www.christlutheran.net — or meet us halfway Aug. 2-9 at our booth at the Howard County Fair.

    Let me know if there’s anything we can do for you in the meantime!

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    I hate to admit that I definitely “dated” churches for many years. My criteria, in order, was: 1. emotional and contemporary music, 2. Sermons based on scripture, 3. friendly pastor and people. Good list except that it didn’t actually work. I spent 30 years judging churches by whether or not they had “contemporary music”. What can I say? I was very poorly catechized. Now, I won’t go near a church that advertises “contemporary” services. If people need “contemporary” music to appreciate church, then I don’t expect that they have a timeless liturgical approach.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    I hate to admit that I definitely “dated” churches for many years. My criteria, in order, was: 1. emotional and contemporary music, 2. Sermons based on scripture, 3. friendly pastor and people. Good list except that it didn’t actually work. I spent 30 years judging churches by whether or not they had “contemporary music”. What can I say? I was very poorly catechized. Now, I won’t go near a church that advertises “contemporary” services. If people need “contemporary” music to appreciate church, then I don’t expect that they have a timeless liturgical approach.

  • Nemo

    Don,

    Thank you for your thoughts, especially your reminder that no church is perfect. Since we are all Christians, shouldn’t we focus more on what we have in common than where we differ? How important are theological distinctives, and is there ever a danger in inventing new ones (or clinging to invented ones) in order to separate us from each other?

    Sarah, I personally would strongly recommend Josh Harris’ church. But if you can find a church where you are fed on grace and sound doctrine, by all means go there.

    I posted earlier referencing Josh Harris’ book “Stop Dating the Church”. In it he presents ten questions that believers should ask when choosing a church. I’d like to hear your thoughts.

    Is this a church where God’s Word is faithfully taught?

    Is this a church where sound doctrine matters?

    Is this a church in which the gospel is cherished and clearly proclaimed?

    Is this a church committed to reaching non-Christians with the gospel?

    Is this a church whose leaders are characterized by humility and integrity?

    Is this a church where people strive to live by God’s Word?

    Is this a church where I can find and cultivate godly relationships?

    Is this a church where members are challenged to serve?

    Is this a church that is willing to kick me out?

    Is this a church I’m willing to join “as is” with enthusiasm and faith in God?

  • Nemo

    Don,

    Thank you for your thoughts, especially your reminder that no church is perfect. Since we are all Christians, shouldn’t we focus more on what we have in common than where we differ? How important are theological distinctives, and is there ever a danger in inventing new ones (or clinging to invented ones) in order to separate us from each other?

    Sarah, I personally would strongly recommend Josh Harris’ church. But if you can find a church where you are fed on grace and sound doctrine, by all means go there.

    I posted earlier referencing Josh Harris’ book “Stop Dating the Church”. In it he presents ten questions that believers should ask when choosing a church. I’d like to hear your thoughts.

    Is this a church where God’s Word is faithfully taught?

    Is this a church where sound doctrine matters?

    Is this a church in which the gospel is cherished and clearly proclaimed?

    Is this a church committed to reaching non-Christians with the gospel?

    Is this a church whose leaders are characterized by humility and integrity?

    Is this a church where people strive to live by God’s Word?

    Is this a church where I can find and cultivate godly relationships?

    Is this a church where members are challenged to serve?

    Is this a church that is willing to kick me out?

    Is this a church I’m willing to join “as is” with enthusiasm and faith in God?

  • orthodachshund

    Pastor William Cwirla wrote a witty little essay a while back entitled “A Guide to Church Shopping”. It’s well worth perusing. A very attractive version of it is available at: http://www.zionnaperville.org/Guide.pdf

    Perhaps I’m in the minority here, but I do happen to believe that the Lutheran Confessions, to which I subscribed at my ordination, do have it exactly right. Otherwise I would not be a Lutheran.

    The problem I see with claiming that no church’s theology is all right is that you’re well on the path toward relativism. If they all have errors, then choosing a church becomes a matter of choosing which errors you can live with — either that or indifference to theology altogether.

  • orthodachshund

    Pastor William Cwirla wrote a witty little essay a while back entitled “A Guide to Church Shopping”. It’s well worth perusing. A very attractive version of it is available at: http://www.zionnaperville.org/Guide.pdf

    Perhaps I’m in the minority here, but I do happen to believe that the Lutheran Confessions, to which I subscribed at my ordination, do have it exactly right. Otherwise I would not be a Lutheran.

    The problem I see with claiming that no church’s theology is all right is that you’re well on the path toward relativism. If they all have errors, then choosing a church becomes a matter of choosing which errors you can live with — either that or indifference to theology altogether.

  • Edward

    I’m guessing a lot of this hinges on the question, what is the purpose of the church institution now? Not the Universal Church, but the common church institution as found in America. What should it’s purpose be?

    It’s a very basic question, but I’m wondering how many people have a different answer.

  • Edward

    I’m guessing a lot of this hinges on the question, what is the purpose of the church institution now? Not the Universal Church, but the common church institution as found in America. What should it’s purpose be?

    It’s a very basic question, but I’m wondering how many people have a different answer.

  • Don S

    Nemo @ 13 — A great list of criteria for selecting a church. Thank you.

    Orthodachshund @ 14 — I love your handle! :)

    As for your comment, relativism is when you consider the canon to have errors. Scripture is inerrant, and absolute truth, there is no question about that. But to equate extra-canonical (is that a word?) church doctrine with Scripture, and to claim it is error-free is unbiblical. There is nothing wrong with believing your church’s doctrine is correct, and the best interpretation of scripture. However, church doctrine, whether it be Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Wesleyan, etc. does not have the force of scripture. All such doctrinal interpretations are likely wrong in some respects. But we can rest assured that those church doctrines which hold the Scripture to be the inerrant, inspired Word of God, and do not add to the Canon, will get the big things right, praise God!

  • Don S

    Nemo @ 13 — A great list of criteria for selecting a church. Thank you.

    Orthodachshund @ 14 — I love your handle! :)

    As for your comment, relativism is when you consider the canon to have errors. Scripture is inerrant, and absolute truth, there is no question about that. But to equate extra-canonical (is that a word?) church doctrine with Scripture, and to claim it is error-free is unbiblical. There is nothing wrong with believing your church’s doctrine is correct, and the best interpretation of scripture. However, church doctrine, whether it be Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Wesleyan, etc. does not have the force of scripture. All such doctrinal interpretations are likely wrong in some respects. But we can rest assured that those church doctrines which hold the Scripture to be the inerrant, inspired Word of God, and do not add to the Canon, will get the big things right, praise God!

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    I’m not trying to be a relativist here. There are essentials and non-essentials and churches break up over both. Scripture is inerrant, but the men who read it aren’t.

    Ideally, I would LOVE to be in a church that meets Harris’ criteria. Does it exist? I’ve never been 100% satisfied with any church I’ve *ever* been to. That’s because churches are made up of sinners. I’ve been to churches that have sound doctrine, but no love. And if we do not have love, we are just clanging cymbols. My current church is wishy-washy on doctrine, but some of the kindest most loving people I know. Harris’ church (Sovereign Grace) has integrity and solid teaching, but aesthetically it is hard for me.

    Breaking up with our church has proven harder than we ever imagined it would be. My husband became a vibrant believer there, we met there and got married there. Hubby is a hard-core Lutheran who feels like he is cheating if he is at another church! I’m a lot more orthodox than he is, yet am more comfortable in any denomination. A paradox for sure.

    Clarksville is a bit far, but we’d love to come visit! We took NFP classes at a Catholic church there before we got married and always enjoyed the Great Sage restaurant after class. I’m a true Crunchy Con!

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    I’m not trying to be a relativist here. There are essentials and non-essentials and churches break up over both. Scripture is inerrant, but the men who read it aren’t.

    Ideally, I would LOVE to be in a church that meets Harris’ criteria. Does it exist? I’ve never been 100% satisfied with any church I’ve *ever* been to. That’s because churches are made up of sinners. I’ve been to churches that have sound doctrine, but no love. And if we do not have love, we are just clanging cymbols. My current church is wishy-washy on doctrine, but some of the kindest most loving people I know. Harris’ church (Sovereign Grace) has integrity and solid teaching, but aesthetically it is hard for me.

    Breaking up with our church has proven harder than we ever imagined it would be. My husband became a vibrant believer there, we met there and got married there. Hubby is a hard-core Lutheran who feels like he is cheating if he is at another church! I’m a lot more orthodox than he is, yet am more comfortable in any denomination. A paradox for sure.

    Clarksville is a bit far, but we’d love to come visit! We took NFP classes at a Catholic church there before we got married and always enjoyed the Great Sage restaurant after class. I’m a true Crunchy Con!

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Don,
    You see we disagree even on what the big things are. I do agree with you that inerrancy of Scripture is one big thing. However, I also believe that consensus in things like our Lord’s last will and Testament are huge. Denying infants the grace of God in baptism is a grevious sin. And a person who agrees that the Bible is God’s word, yet thinks disagreements in these areas do not matter is still a relativist.
    The fact that you don’t believe things matter, is of more concern to me than the fact that you don’t believe the same as I do concerning them. The Bible is not as indifferent as you are, if it was we wouldn’t have half the Pauline Corpus.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Don,
    You see we disagree even on what the big things are. I do agree with you that inerrancy of Scripture is one big thing. However, I also believe that consensus in things like our Lord’s last will and Testament are huge. Denying infants the grace of God in baptism is a grevious sin. And a person who agrees that the Bible is God’s word, yet thinks disagreements in these areas do not matter is still a relativist.
    The fact that you don’t believe things matter, is of more concern to me than the fact that you don’t believe the same as I do concerning them. The Bible is not as indifferent as you are, if it was we wouldn’t have half the Pauline Corpus.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    by the way,
    when I do follow up visits, I hand our “The spirituality of the Cross” like candy. Last night I found out that once again it worked its charm. Praise be to God.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    by the way,
    when I do follow up visits, I hand our “The spirituality of the Cross” like candy. Last night I found out that once again it worked its charm. Praise be to God.

  • Don S

    Bror:

    We have had this discussion before, but to my knowledge the Bible does not discuss a single instance of infant baptism. It is Catholic and Lutheran doctrine, extrapolated from Scripture. As is the case with Paul’s example of partaking of meat offered to idols, it clearly is true that for you, given your interpretation of Scripture, it would be a grievous sin to deny your infant baptism. On the other hand, for me, who interprets Scripture on baptism differently, as an ordinance for the purpose of having a new believer identify with Christ, to baptize my infant would be wrong. In fact, my 10 year old son, now a believer himself, will be baptized this Sunday before friends and family, as he takes his first step in faith to identify with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

    There is only one path to God, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and by means of His magnificent sacrifice and resurrection on our behalf. However, Scripture teaches that there are multiple paths for believers to practice their faith once saved. You and I are taking two different paths. I think Acts 15 is instructive here. The Jerusalem Council was an attempt to resolve dissension which was arising because of doctrinal differences between Christians. After discussion (and much prayer, and prompting by the Holy Spirit), they determined to deliver encouraging letters to the Gentile brethren of Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, advising that there were only a few regulations which these Christians should keep. It seems to me from the context of this Scripture and other passages that I have mentioned before, that the practice of one’s faith, in Christ alone, is a grace-filled endeavor. God wants our love and devotion, and our acknowledgement that our salvation is solely through Christ’s provision. The New Testament did away with the complicated legalism of the Old.

    It’s not that I don’t think things matter. It’s that I think the inerrance and completeness of God’s Holy Scripture, and its simple teaching that Christ is the Messiah and our sole means of salvation, is THE big thing. There are no other big things, compared to this. I can accept the differences I have with fellow believers on the specifics of the faith, rejoice with them in our mutual salvation, and joyfully work with them here on Earth to preach the Gospel to as many lost as possible.

  • Don S

    Bror:

    We have had this discussion before, but to my knowledge the Bible does not discuss a single instance of infant baptism. It is Catholic and Lutheran doctrine, extrapolated from Scripture. As is the case with Paul’s example of partaking of meat offered to idols, it clearly is true that for you, given your interpretation of Scripture, it would be a grievous sin to deny your infant baptism. On the other hand, for me, who interprets Scripture on baptism differently, as an ordinance for the purpose of having a new believer identify with Christ, to baptize my infant would be wrong. In fact, my 10 year old son, now a believer himself, will be baptized this Sunday before friends and family, as he takes his first step in faith to identify with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

    There is only one path to God, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and by means of His magnificent sacrifice and resurrection on our behalf. However, Scripture teaches that there are multiple paths for believers to practice their faith once saved. You and I are taking two different paths. I think Acts 15 is instructive here. The Jerusalem Council was an attempt to resolve dissension which was arising because of doctrinal differences between Christians. After discussion (and much prayer, and prompting by the Holy Spirit), they determined to deliver encouraging letters to the Gentile brethren of Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, advising that there were only a few regulations which these Christians should keep. It seems to me from the context of this Scripture and other passages that I have mentioned before, that the practice of one’s faith, in Christ alone, is a grace-filled endeavor. God wants our love and devotion, and our acknowledgement that our salvation is solely through Christ’s provision. The New Testament did away with the complicated legalism of the Old.

    It’s not that I don’t think things matter. It’s that I think the inerrance and completeness of God’s Holy Scripture, and its simple teaching that Christ is the Messiah and our sole means of salvation, is THE big thing. There are no other big things, compared to this. I can accept the differences I have with fellow believers on the specifics of the faith, rejoice with them in our mutual salvation, and joyfully work with them here on Earth to preach the Gospel to as many lost as possible.

  • Nemo

    Orthodachshund @ 19
    I looked through the article you posted, and found it slightly concerning that, while the liturgy and creeds are part of the “big ones”, doctrinal truths such as the inerrancy of Scripture, the Trinity, and original sin are just there to “round out the list and give you some things to think about.” Furthermore, church discipline, evangelism/missions, and fellowship seem to be missing.

    Don @ 21
    Right on.

    Sara @ 22 & 25
    I don’t see Harris as setting up impossible criteria. He is not saying that you must find the perfect church, but that your church should be striving after these things. The last point, in particular, draws this out–any church will be imperfect, but so are we. No church this side of heaven will be perfect—yet another reason to long for the day when we will be united with Christ in perfect unity.

    You also mentioned aesthetic concerns the Sovereign Grace church (I am guessing this is in reference to their music style, etc.). I encourage you to listen to a sermon preached by Bob Kauflin, the music director at the church, explaining their theology of music. I think you might be surprised with the amount of Luther you find here. http://www.gracecommunity.ws/node/6537.

    Bror @ 23
    Here you are bringing up this whole “Testament” argument again. In short, my CPH published Study Bible (http://www.cph.org/cphstore/Category.asp?find%5Fcategory=79997&find%5Fdescription=Concordia+Self%2DStudy+Bible&find%5Fpart%5Fdesc=) does not make the distinction you are insisting on, and neither does the Q&A section of the LCMS website (http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=6638). I understand your translation issue, but where is the LCMS effort to correct it? What consensus are you referencing—there appears to be disagreement about this within your own denomination? (Or, at least, it is not deemed important enough to issue a statement on.)

  • Nemo

    Orthodachshund @ 19
    I looked through the article you posted, and found it slightly concerning that, while the liturgy and creeds are part of the “big ones”, doctrinal truths such as the inerrancy of Scripture, the Trinity, and original sin are just there to “round out the list and give you some things to think about.” Furthermore, church discipline, evangelism/missions, and fellowship seem to be missing.

    Don @ 21
    Right on.

    Sara @ 22 & 25
    I don’t see Harris as setting up impossible criteria. He is not saying that you must find the perfect church, but that your church should be striving after these things. The last point, in particular, draws this out–any church will be imperfect, but so are we. No church this side of heaven will be perfect—yet another reason to long for the day when we will be united with Christ in perfect unity.

    You also mentioned aesthetic concerns the Sovereign Grace church (I am guessing this is in reference to their music style, etc.). I encourage you to listen to a sermon preached by Bob Kauflin, the music director at the church, explaining their theology of music. I think you might be surprised with the amount of Luther you find here. http://www.gracecommunity.ws/node/6537.

    Bror @ 23
    Here you are bringing up this whole “Testament” argument again. In short, my CPH published Study Bible (http://www.cph.org/cphstore/Category.asp?find%5Fcategory=79997&find%5Fdescription=Concordia+Self%2DStudy+Bible&find%5Fpart%5Fdesc=) does not make the distinction you are insisting on, and neither does the Q&A section of the LCMS website (http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=6638). I understand your translation issue, but where is the LCMS effort to correct it? What consensus are you referencing—there appears to be disagreement about this within your own denomination? (Or, at least, it is not deemed important enough to issue a statement on.)

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Don,
    Thanks be to God that your son has lived long enough to be baptized. I rejoice that he will recieve that sacrament this Sunday.
    Baptism and the issue of meat offere to idols are two very different issues. You are comparing apples and oranges here. And yes we have had this argument before.
    However, each and every one of your answers shows the complete divide we have between us. you talk about grace, but you mean something completely different by it then I do. Tell me why only now at ten years old is your son being baptized? Did he not believe before? Is faith a gift of the Holy Spirit, or is it a work. If it is a gift, then why have you so long denied your son the gift of the Holy Spirit promised in Baptism, which same promise I do believe encourages the baptism of Children.

    Acts 2:38-39 (ESV)
    And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. [39] For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Don,
    Thanks be to God that your son has lived long enough to be baptized. I rejoice that he will recieve that sacrament this Sunday.
    Baptism and the issue of meat offere to idols are two very different issues. You are comparing apples and oranges here. And yes we have had this argument before.
    However, each and every one of your answers shows the complete divide we have between us. you talk about grace, but you mean something completely different by it then I do. Tell me why only now at ten years old is your son being baptized? Did he not believe before? Is faith a gift of the Holy Spirit, or is it a work. If it is a gift, then why have you so long denied your son the gift of the Holy Spirit promised in Baptism, which same promise I do believe encourages the baptism of Children.

    Acts 2:38-39 (ESV)
    And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. [39] For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Don,
    sorry, you answered my question:On the other hand, for me, who interprets Scripture on baptism differently, as an ordinance for the purpose of having a new believer identify with Christ, to baptize my infant would be wrong.
    Baptism for you isn’t about a blessed gift bestowed on us, it is not about grace. It is about casting the yoke of the law back on the believer.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Don,
    sorry, you answered my question:On the other hand, for me, who interprets Scripture on baptism differently, as an ordinance for the purpose of having a new believer identify with Christ, to baptize my infant would be wrong.
    Baptism for you isn’t about a blessed gift bestowed on us, it is not about grace. It is about casting the yoke of the law back on the believer.

  • Nemo

    For some reason this did not go through the first time, my apologies if it ends up being posted twice.

    Orthodachshund @ 19
    I looked through the article you posted, and found it slightly concerning that, while the liturgy and creeds are part of the “big ones”, doctrinal truths such as the inerrancy of Scripture, the Trinity, and original sin are just there to “round out the list and give you some things to think about.” Furthermore, church discipline, evangelism/missions, and fellowship seem to be missing.

    Don @ 21 & 25
    Right on.

    Sara @ 22
    I don’t see Harris as setting up impossible criteria. He is not saying that you must find the perfect church, but that your church should be striving after these things. The last point, in particular, draws this out–any church will be imperfect, but so are we. No church this side of heaven will be perfect—yet another reason to long for the day when we will be united with Christ in perfect unity.

    You also mentioned aesthetic concerns the Sovereign Grace church (I am guessing this is in reference to their music style, etc.). I encourage you to listen to a sermon preached by Bob Kauflin, the music director at the church, explaining their theology of music. I think you might be surprised with the amount of Luther you find here. http://www.gracecommunity.ws/node/6537.

    Bror @ 23
    Here you are bringing up this whole “Testament” argument again. In short, my CPH published Study Bible (http://www.cph.org/cphstore/Category.asp?find%5Fcategory=79997&find%5Fdescription=Concordia+Self%2DStudy+Bible&find%5Fpart%5Fdesc) does not make the distinction you are insisting on, and neither does the Q&A section of the LCMS website (http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=6638). I understand your translation issue, but where is the LCMS effort to correct it? Why is there no mention on the LCMS page discussing bible translations, or evein on the accompanying article? (http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=2203) What consensus are you referencing—there appears to be disagreement about this within your own denomination? (Or, at least, it is not deemed important enough to issue a statement on.)

  • Nemo

    For some reason this did not go through the first time, my apologies if it ends up being posted twice.

    Orthodachshund @ 19
    I looked through the article you posted, and found it slightly concerning that, while the liturgy and creeds are part of the “big ones”, doctrinal truths such as the inerrancy of Scripture, the Trinity, and original sin are just there to “round out the list and give you some things to think about.” Furthermore, church discipline, evangelism/missions, and fellowship seem to be missing.

    Don @ 21 & 25
    Right on.

    Sara @ 22
    I don’t see Harris as setting up impossible criteria. He is not saying that you must find the perfect church, but that your church should be striving after these things. The last point, in particular, draws this out–any church will be imperfect, but so are we. No church this side of heaven will be perfect—yet another reason to long for the day when we will be united with Christ in perfect unity.

    You also mentioned aesthetic concerns the Sovereign Grace church (I am guessing this is in reference to their music style, etc.). I encourage you to listen to a sermon preached by Bob Kauflin, the music director at the church, explaining their theology of music. I think you might be surprised with the amount of Luther you find here. http://www.gracecommunity.ws/node/6537.

    Bror @ 23
    Here you are bringing up this whole “Testament” argument again. In short, my CPH published Study Bible (http://www.cph.org/cphstore/Category.asp?find%5Fcategory=79997&find%5Fdescription=Concordia+Self%2DStudy+Bible&find%5Fpart%5Fdesc) does not make the distinction you are insisting on, and neither does the Q&A section of the LCMS website (http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=6638). I understand your translation issue, but where is the LCMS effort to correct it? Why is there no mention on the LCMS page discussing bible translations, or evein on the accompanying article? (http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=2203) What consensus are you referencing—there appears to be disagreement about this within your own denomination? (Or, at least, it is not deemed important enough to issue a statement on.)

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com Theresa K.

    Don wrote “…and its simple teaching that Christ is the Messiah and our sole means of salvation, is THE big thing. There are no other big things, compared to this.”

    You just illustrated well the problem I have with ecumenicalism. I hope you don’t think I’m splitting hairs or picking on you, but Christ isn’t our Messiah and sole means of salvation simply because He existed. His suffering, death and resurrection to pay the costs of our inborn sins because we are incapable of saving ourselves is our sole means of grace. It was accomplished years ago and that message is what needs to be proclaimed. I, too, can accept the differences I have with fellow Christians on the specifics of the faith, as long as they don’t bring their denial of Christ’s directive to baptize all into my family’s church. How can I rejoice with those same people over our mutual salvation when we can’t agree on how one becomes saved? And how can I joyfully work with them here on Earth to preach the Gospel to as many lost as possible when we can’t agree on what the Gospel is?

    One of the first things I learned during my adult catechism class five years ago is that the word, Doctrine, means the teachings of Christ. Yes, we have to agree on doctrine – we have to agree on what Christ taught…and on who He was and what He did for us. To try to gloss over those points doesn’t not work…it does not make a church here on earth.

    BTW, I do consider your son, at age 10, to already be saved. He was saved by the proclamation of the gospel which he surely has already heard in his home. The power of the Word saves, as does the water used with the word, but baptism isn’t required for one to be saved. I’m thinking that you are having him do it publicly so that he can claim it as his own, or something like that. Surely, you already believe he is indeed saved, am I correct?

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com Theresa K.

    Don wrote “…and its simple teaching that Christ is the Messiah and our sole means of salvation, is THE big thing. There are no other big things, compared to this.”

    You just illustrated well the problem I have with ecumenicalism. I hope you don’t think I’m splitting hairs or picking on you, but Christ isn’t our Messiah and sole means of salvation simply because He existed. His suffering, death and resurrection to pay the costs of our inborn sins because we are incapable of saving ourselves is our sole means of grace. It was accomplished years ago and that message is what needs to be proclaimed. I, too, can accept the differences I have with fellow Christians on the specifics of the faith, as long as they don’t bring their denial of Christ’s directive to baptize all into my family’s church. How can I rejoice with those same people over our mutual salvation when we can’t agree on how one becomes saved? And how can I joyfully work with them here on Earth to preach the Gospel to as many lost as possible when we can’t agree on what the Gospel is?

    One of the first things I learned during my adult catechism class five years ago is that the word, Doctrine, means the teachings of Christ. Yes, we have to agree on doctrine – we have to agree on what Christ taught…and on who He was and what He did for us. To try to gloss over those points doesn’t not work…it does not make a church here on earth.

    BTW, I do consider your son, at age 10, to already be saved. He was saved by the proclamation of the gospel which he surely has already heard in his home. The power of the Word saves, as does the water used with the word, but baptism isn’t required for one to be saved. I’m thinking that you are having him do it publicly so that he can claim it as his own, or something like that. Surely, you already believe he is indeed saved, am I correct?

  • Nemo

    Theresa,

    How can you, on the one hand, assert that you cannot agree with Don on what the gospel is, and then turn around and say that the incorrect form of the gospel as Don explained it to his son is effective for salvation? Doesn’t your assertion that baptism is not required for one to be saved undermine your objection that you cannot work together with those who deny the saving power of baptism?

  • Nemo

    Theresa,

    How can you, on the one hand, assert that you cannot agree with Don on what the gospel is, and then turn around and say that the incorrect form of the gospel as Don explained it to his son is effective for salvation? Doesn’t your assertion that baptism is not required for one to be saved undermine your objection that you cannot work together with those who deny the saving power of baptism?

  • Don S

    Bror:

    Yes, we do disagree. I think we agree that baptism is not required for salvation. We disagree on the purpose of baptism. You believe it is an actual instrument for transmitting Christ’s grace to a person and I believe it is a symbol and public acknowledgment of Christ’s grace having already been transmitted to that person. My son is already saved, and he is about to identify publicly with Christ through baptism. It is a very important step of faith for him.

    To say that baptism, as I see it, is somehow a casting of the yoke of law back on the believer, or that it is somehow not about grace is a statement which reflects a profound misunderstanding of what we believe. It is most definitely about the grace of Christ. It is not necessary to salvation, so it has nothing to do with the “yoke of law” (you may be thinking of the Church of Christ, which indeed teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation, a serious misinterpretation of Acts 2:38). An ordinance, in Baptist parlance, is something God wants us to do as believers. Whether or not we do it is not relevant to our salvation, but to our obedience of Him as believers. To not do it is to miss a profound blessing.

  • Don S

    Bror:

    Yes, we do disagree. I think we agree that baptism is not required for salvation. We disagree on the purpose of baptism. You believe it is an actual instrument for transmitting Christ’s grace to a person and I believe it is a symbol and public acknowledgment of Christ’s grace having already been transmitted to that person. My son is already saved, and he is about to identify publicly with Christ through baptism. It is a very important step of faith for him.

    To say that baptism, as I see it, is somehow a casting of the yoke of law back on the believer, or that it is somehow not about grace is a statement which reflects a profound misunderstanding of what we believe. It is most definitely about the grace of Christ. It is not necessary to salvation, so it has nothing to do with the “yoke of law” (you may be thinking of the Church of Christ, which indeed teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation, a serious misinterpretation of Acts 2:38). An ordinance, in Baptist parlance, is something God wants us to do as believers. Whether or not we do it is not relevant to our salvation, but to our obedience of Him as believers. To not do it is to miss a profound blessing.

  • Don S

    Theresa,

    Ecumenicalism is something very different. It is a movement to eliminate denominational differences and to somehow merge the various Christian faiths together into a unified whole. I, by no means, promote this, and I stated that very clearly in my original comment. In fact, I said quite the opposite. It is my belief that God intended for believers to worship Him in different ways and in different traditions, with the commonality being that we rest, for salvation, on Christ’s grace alone. Now, I am disappointed when Christians of different traditions cannot set aside their differences to work together in various ways to minister to their community. When they are so busy squabbling about the “rightness” of their various traditions that they forget their larger mission here on Earth. I left a church because a pastor refused to ever work with other churches on any larger community outreach projects, because he was constantly nitpicking relatively minor doctrinal differences with each of those churches. We weren’t asking him to worship with those other churches, just to be willing to work alongside them. The fields are ripe unto harvest and we need to be about the Father’s business. This was the point of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 — let’s settle our differences, agree on a few non-negotiable points, and get on with the Lord’s work!

    I’m struggling with this statement: “but Christ isn’t our Messiah and sole means of salvation simply because He existed. His suffering, death and resurrection to pay the costs of our inborn sins because we are incapable of saving ourselves is our sole means of grace. It was accomplished years ago and that message is what needs to be proclaimed”. My problem is, how in the world did you get the idea that I believe anything different than this?

    As far as my son’s salvation goes, as I explained above, we don’t baptize until a person is already saved. Baptism is a proclamation of Christ’s saving grace bestowed upon us for salvation. He is already saved.

  • Don S

    Theresa,

    Ecumenicalism is something very different. It is a movement to eliminate denominational differences and to somehow merge the various Christian faiths together into a unified whole. I, by no means, promote this, and I stated that very clearly in my original comment. In fact, I said quite the opposite. It is my belief that God intended for believers to worship Him in different ways and in different traditions, with the commonality being that we rest, for salvation, on Christ’s grace alone. Now, I am disappointed when Christians of different traditions cannot set aside their differences to work together in various ways to minister to their community. When they are so busy squabbling about the “rightness” of their various traditions that they forget their larger mission here on Earth. I left a church because a pastor refused to ever work with other churches on any larger community outreach projects, because he was constantly nitpicking relatively minor doctrinal differences with each of those churches. We weren’t asking him to worship with those other churches, just to be willing to work alongside them. The fields are ripe unto harvest and we need to be about the Father’s business. This was the point of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 — let’s settle our differences, agree on a few non-negotiable points, and get on with the Lord’s work!

    I’m struggling with this statement: “but Christ isn’t our Messiah and sole means of salvation simply because He existed. His suffering, death and resurrection to pay the costs of our inborn sins because we are incapable of saving ourselves is our sole means of grace. It was accomplished years ago and that message is what needs to be proclaimed”. My problem is, how in the world did you get the idea that I believe anything different than this?

    As far as my son’s salvation goes, as I explained above, we don’t baptize until a person is already saved. Baptism is a proclamation of Christ’s saving grace bestowed upon us for salvation. He is already saved.

  • orthodachshund

    Don S @21 –

    I don’t believe we’re quite on the same page.

    Would you say it is possible to formulate a sentence that is in agreement with Holy Scripture?

    Is it possible to formulate a paragraph that is in agreement with Holy Scripture?

    Is it possible to formulate a sermon that is in agreement with Holy Scripture?

    You can see where I’m headed. I’m having difficulty figuring exactly where the line is where it becomes no longer possible to correctly express the Truth God has conveyed to us in His Word. I certainly don’t see such a line being crossed by the Lutheran Confessions.

    At my ordination I was asked, “Do you believe the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments to be the inspired Word of God and the only infallible rule of faith and practice?” I still do.

    Then I was asked, “Do you accept the three Ecumenical Creeds, namely, the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creeds, as faithful testimonies to the truth of the Holy Scriptures, and do you reject all the errors which they condemn?” I still believe they faithfully testify to the truth of the Scriptures.

    Then I was asked, “Do you believe that the Unaltered Augsburg Confession is a true exposition of the Word of God and a correct exhibition of the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church; that the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Small and Large Catechisms of Martin Luther, the Smalcald Articles, the Treatise on the Authority and Primacy of the Pope, and the Formula of Concord–as these are contained in the Book of Concord–are also in agreement with this one scriptural faith?” Yes, I still believe these Lutheran Confessions are in agreement with God’s Word, a true exposition of it.

    Because the Lutheran Confessions agree with Holy Scripture, I have to believe the Lutheran church does have it right.

    You might object that because men have written these documents, they must, therefore, contain error. I disagree. While we would admit that the possibility for error in our Confessions does exist, the possibility by no means ensures the reality. We certainly make no claim of inerrancy for our Confessions; only God’s revealed Word can claim that. If an error were found in our Confessions, we would be the first to repudiate it, because our ultimate goal is to conform ourselves and our teaching to God’s Word. For over 400 years the enemies of our church have tried in vain to find an error in our Confessions, but they’ve failed to find any contradiction to Scripture.

    I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. If everyone did, we’d all be Lutherans. But to say that no one quite has the truth sounds to my ears like a variation of the post-modern claim that “your truth is different from my truth.”

  • orthodachshund

    Don S @21 –

    I don’t believe we’re quite on the same page.

    Would you say it is possible to formulate a sentence that is in agreement with Holy Scripture?

    Is it possible to formulate a paragraph that is in agreement with Holy Scripture?

    Is it possible to formulate a sermon that is in agreement with Holy Scripture?

    You can see where I’m headed. I’m having difficulty figuring exactly where the line is where it becomes no longer possible to correctly express the Truth God has conveyed to us in His Word. I certainly don’t see such a line being crossed by the Lutheran Confessions.

    At my ordination I was asked, “Do you believe the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments to be the inspired Word of God and the only infallible rule of faith and practice?” I still do.

    Then I was asked, “Do you accept the three Ecumenical Creeds, namely, the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creeds, as faithful testimonies to the truth of the Holy Scriptures, and do you reject all the errors which they condemn?” I still believe they faithfully testify to the truth of the Scriptures.

    Then I was asked, “Do you believe that the Unaltered Augsburg Confession is a true exposition of the Word of God and a correct exhibition of the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church; that the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Small and Large Catechisms of Martin Luther, the Smalcald Articles, the Treatise on the Authority and Primacy of the Pope, and the Formula of Concord–as these are contained in the Book of Concord–are also in agreement with this one scriptural faith?” Yes, I still believe these Lutheran Confessions are in agreement with God’s Word, a true exposition of it.

    Because the Lutheran Confessions agree with Holy Scripture, I have to believe the Lutheran church does have it right.

    You might object that because men have written these documents, they must, therefore, contain error. I disagree. While we would admit that the possibility for error in our Confessions does exist, the possibility by no means ensures the reality. We certainly make no claim of inerrancy for our Confessions; only God’s revealed Word can claim that. If an error were found in our Confessions, we would be the first to repudiate it, because our ultimate goal is to conform ourselves and our teaching to God’s Word. For over 400 years the enemies of our church have tried in vain to find an error in our Confessions, but they’ve failed to find any contradiction to Scripture.

    I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. If everyone did, we’d all be Lutherans. But to say that no one quite has the truth sounds to my ears like a variation of the post-modern claim that “your truth is different from my truth.”

  • Don S

    Orthodachshund, it sounds like we are exactly on the same page. I am not saying that no one quite has the truth. I believe that I have the truth, or I would not believe what I believe. Everything that I believe, to the best of my knowledge, lines up with Holy Scripture. However, I am not so arrogant as not to acknowledge that the Lutheran Confessions are also a valid interpretation of Holy Scripture. I appreciate the work of Martin Luther and believe he was ordained by God to bring about a Reformation of the Catholic Church at his moment in history. It just so happens that some of what he confessed does not square up as well with Scripture as subsequent Protestant interpretation of Scripture, in my judgment. I believe he was still quite influenced by things that the Catholic Church had added to Holy Scripture, and this Catholic influence affected his view of some portions of Scripture.

    I’m not saying this to be inflammatory at all. It’s just my viewpoint based upon my own study of Scripture and my upbringing in a Baptist church. The bottom line is we agree. You admit that there could be error in the Lutheran Confessions, and I admit that there could be error in my Baptistic doctrinal positions. On the other hand, one of us might be totally right and one of us might be totally wrong. We just don’t know for sure. What I think we also agree on is that we will have the opportunity, in heaven for eternity, to find out which of us was more right, because we both believe on the sacrifice of Christ for our sole means of salvation.

    Ugh — one thing I am definitely not is “post-modern”. :)

  • Don S

    Orthodachshund, it sounds like we are exactly on the same page. I am not saying that no one quite has the truth. I believe that I have the truth, or I would not believe what I believe. Everything that I believe, to the best of my knowledge, lines up with Holy Scripture. However, I am not so arrogant as not to acknowledge that the Lutheran Confessions are also a valid interpretation of Holy Scripture. I appreciate the work of Martin Luther and believe he was ordained by God to bring about a Reformation of the Catholic Church at his moment in history. It just so happens that some of what he confessed does not square up as well with Scripture as subsequent Protestant interpretation of Scripture, in my judgment. I believe he was still quite influenced by things that the Catholic Church had added to Holy Scripture, and this Catholic influence affected his view of some portions of Scripture.

    I’m not saying this to be inflammatory at all. It’s just my viewpoint based upon my own study of Scripture and my upbringing in a Baptist church. The bottom line is we agree. You admit that there could be error in the Lutheran Confessions, and I admit that there could be error in my Baptistic doctrinal positions. On the other hand, one of us might be totally right and one of us might be totally wrong. We just don’t know for sure. What I think we also agree on is that we will have the opportunity, in heaven for eternity, to find out which of us was more right, because we both believe on the sacrifice of Christ for our sole means of salvation.

    Ugh — one thing I am definitely not is “post-modern”. :)

  • LAJ

    Interesting discussion. Don, was your son a believer before he made a decision to believe? Was he a believer at age 2 or 5 or 9? My son became a believer the day he was baptized a few days after he was born. God’s Word was the power that brought him to faith through his baptism.

  • LAJ

    Interesting discussion. Don, was your son a believer before he made a decision to believe? Was he a believer at age 2 or 5 or 9? My son became a believer the day he was baptized a few days after he was born. God’s Word was the power that brought him to faith through his baptism.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    So Don,

    You’ve got me slightly confused as well. You’re sure the Baptists have the faith once delivered to the saints right and Confessional Lutherans like Orthodachshund are sure that the Lutheran Confessions have the Bible right but we have to both agree that one or the other might be right only we have to wait and see until heaven to know for sure? I’m confused over how you live in this sort of certain-yet-not-so-certain world.

    How in the world could one ever hope to find a truly faithful Christian church?

    Or the real question I have for you is this: Jesus died and was raised to life a long time ago for the sins of the world. Here I am living right now. How does what He did on the cross so long ago get applied to me personally in your view? Am I supposed to bridge the gap or is God? Or is it something else, do we both meet somewhere in the middle, let’s say 957 A.D.? I’m being silly. I’m sorry, but I really don’t see how the Baptist has any real claim on the cross except for what’s going on in his/her head. The Lutheran has real sacraments that physically unite the believer to the once-for-all historical event of the cross because Jesus says they do. Which words of Jesus do you hang it all on to know you are crucified with Christ? I wonder.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    So Don,

    You’ve got me slightly confused as well. You’re sure the Baptists have the faith once delivered to the saints right and Confessional Lutherans like Orthodachshund are sure that the Lutheran Confessions have the Bible right but we have to both agree that one or the other might be right only we have to wait and see until heaven to know for sure? I’m confused over how you live in this sort of certain-yet-not-so-certain world.

    How in the world could one ever hope to find a truly faithful Christian church?

    Or the real question I have for you is this: Jesus died and was raised to life a long time ago for the sins of the world. Here I am living right now. How does what He did on the cross so long ago get applied to me personally in your view? Am I supposed to bridge the gap or is God? Or is it something else, do we both meet somewhere in the middle, let’s say 957 A.D.? I’m being silly. I’m sorry, but I really don’t see how the Baptist has any real claim on the cross except for what’s going on in his/her head. The Lutheran has real sacraments that physically unite the believer to the once-for-all historical event of the cross because Jesus says they do. Which words of Jesus do you hang it all on to know you are crucified with Christ? I wonder.

  • Nemo

    If the baptist has no real claim on the cross, how can he have a real claim on salvation? It sounds as if you believe Christ’s death is not applied to him. After spending a few days on this blog, I am really beginning to wonder, will there be any non-Lutherans in heaven?

  • Nemo

    If the baptist has no real claim on the cross, how can he have a real claim on salvation? It sounds as if you believe Christ’s death is not applied to him. After spending a few days on this blog, I am really beginning to wonder, will there be any non-Lutherans in heaven?

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I understand your critique and elsewhere on the blog I have always maintained the wonderful Gospel of God’s grace for the Baptist that God will save him/her because of their faith in Christ, even though they despise God’s best gifts for connecting us to himself. What I don’t understand is what the Baptist hangs onto to know for certain that they are crucified with Christ (as I asked above)? And is faith the doing of the Baptist, God, or both? What does Don actually believe about these particulars. I am curious and trying to understand where he’s coming from, that’s all.

    Baptists don’t do sacraments. They are extremely important for the comfort of Lutherans. I’m just wondering how the Baptism really gets connected. The sacraments for Lutherans actually involve real stuff. Christ attaching real promises to physicality. I find that really nice and also conforming well to our understand of God’s blessing of physicality in the promise of the bodily resurrection. For God, who created it, stuff matters. What is the stuff of Baptist theology. Don has confused me as I said above and I really am looking for clarification.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I understand your critique and elsewhere on the blog I have always maintained the wonderful Gospel of God’s grace for the Baptist that God will save him/her because of their faith in Christ, even though they despise God’s best gifts for connecting us to himself. What I don’t understand is what the Baptist hangs onto to know for certain that they are crucified with Christ (as I asked above)? And is faith the doing of the Baptist, God, or both? What does Don actually believe about these particulars. I am curious and trying to understand where he’s coming from, that’s all.

    Baptists don’t do sacraments. They are extremely important for the comfort of Lutherans. I’m just wondering how the Baptism really gets connected. The sacraments for Lutherans actually involve real stuff. Christ attaching real promises to physicality. I find that really nice and also conforming well to our understand of God’s blessing of physicality in the promise of the bodily resurrection. For God, who created it, stuff matters. What is the stuff of Baptist theology. Don has confused me as I said above and I really am looking for clarification.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    …how the Baptist really gets… (sorry)

  • Bryan Lindemood

    …how the Baptist really gets… (sorry)

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I shouldn’t have used the word “despise” in post #37. I’m sorry.

    Perhaps a kinder construction of Baptist theology around Christ’s gift of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper would be that they are more human centered than the Lutheran View that God is delivering Himself through these means.

    I recently spent some time visiting with some dear Baptist friends and was amazed at the piety with which they surrounded their practice of the Lord’s Supper even though they didn’t do it very often and certainly didn’t believe that Christ was really offering His body and blood to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of sins. We didn’t agree but we did rejoice in our common faith in Christ crucified for sinners. I still don’t understand how my friends are comforted the way I know I need to be by Christ and His gifts.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I shouldn’t have used the word “despise” in post #37. I’m sorry.

    Perhaps a kinder construction of Baptist theology around Christ’s gift of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper would be that they are more human centered than the Lutheran View that God is delivering Himself through these means.

    I recently spent some time visiting with some dear Baptist friends and was amazed at the piety with which they surrounded their practice of the Lord’s Supper even though they didn’t do it very often and certainly didn’t believe that Christ was really offering His body and blood to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of sins. We didn’t agree but we did rejoice in our common faith in Christ crucified for sinners. I still don’t understand how my friends are comforted the way I know I need to be by Christ and His gifts.

  • Nemo

    “I have always maintained the wonderful Gospel of God’s grace for the Baptist that God will save him/her because of their faith in Christ, even though they despise God’s best gifts for connecting us to himself.”
    And the Lutheran is saved on account of his faithfulness to God’s word? Of course the Baptist is saved by grace, we all are.

    “What I don’t understand is what the Baptist hangs onto to know for certain that they are crucified with Christ (as I asked above)? And is faith the doing of the Baptist, God, or both? What does Don actually believe about these particulars. I am curious and trying to understand where he’s coming from, that’s all.”
    The Baptist hangs on to God’s word and promise, just like you. He certainly doesn’t save himself. I can tell you that, and I’m not even Baptist. :-)

    Baptists practice both the Lord’s Supper, and Baptism. Doesn’t Luther say that God is present in them, even for unbelievers (Large Catechism)? How much more will it benefit one who has faith? If the Baptist “converts” to Lutheranism, would you have him rebaptized? If not, his baptism must have been legitimate.

  • Nemo

    “I have always maintained the wonderful Gospel of God’s grace for the Baptist that God will save him/her because of their faith in Christ, even though they despise God’s best gifts for connecting us to himself.”
    And the Lutheran is saved on account of his faithfulness to God’s word? Of course the Baptist is saved by grace, we all are.

    “What I don’t understand is what the Baptist hangs onto to know for certain that they are crucified with Christ (as I asked above)? And is faith the doing of the Baptist, God, or both? What does Don actually believe about these particulars. I am curious and trying to understand where he’s coming from, that’s all.”
    The Baptist hangs on to God’s word and promise, just like you. He certainly doesn’t save himself. I can tell you that, and I’m not even Baptist. :-)

    Baptists practice both the Lord’s Supper, and Baptism. Doesn’t Luther say that God is present in them, even for unbelievers (Large Catechism)? How much more will it benefit one who has faith? If the Baptist “converts” to Lutheranism, would you have him rebaptized? If not, his baptism must have been legitimate.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Nemo asks: “Doesn’t your assertion that baptism is not required for one to be saved undermine your objection that you cannot work together with those who deny the saving power of baptism?”

    No. Not at all. Perhaps a pastor can explain it better. Otherwise I’ll respond in the morning.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Nemo asks: “Doesn’t your assertion that baptism is not required for one to be saved undermine your objection that you cannot work together with those who deny the saving power of baptism?”

    No. Not at all. Perhaps a pastor can explain it better. Otherwise I’ll respond in the morning.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Don S. wrote: “I’m struggling with this statement: “but Christ isn’t our Messiah and sole means of salvation simply because He existed. His suffering, death and resurrection to pay the costs of our inborn sins because we are incapable of saving ourselves is our sole means of grace. It was accomplished years ago and that message is what needs to be proclaimed”. My problem is, how in the world did you get the idea that I believe anything different than this?”

    Because you didn’t mention it. I was merely asking for clarification because of what you had (or hadn’t) written. A blog, at its worst, is a poor place to have a dialogue! ;)

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Don S. wrote: “I’m struggling with this statement: “but Christ isn’t our Messiah and sole means of salvation simply because He existed. His suffering, death and resurrection to pay the costs of our inborn sins because we are incapable of saving ourselves is our sole means of grace. It was accomplished years ago and that message is what needs to be proclaimed”. My problem is, how in the world did you get the idea that I believe anything different than this?”

    Because you didn’t mention it. I was merely asking for clarification because of what you had (or hadn’t) written. A blog, at its worst, is a poor place to have a dialogue! ;)

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Don, one more thing. Don’t get hung up on my use of the word “ecumenical”. It was the only word that came to mind. Erase that word…my statement still stands: no doctrinal agreement, no fellowship…at least here on earth. In heaven, we will be one. :)

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Don, one more thing. Don’t get hung up on my use of the word “ecumenical”. It was the only word that came to mind. Erase that word…my statement still stands: no doctrinal agreement, no fellowship…at least here on earth. In heaven, we will be one. :)

  • Paul

    In #2 of this discussion, I suggested that the distinction between doctrine and devotion can be very helpful. I now suggest that we remember the differeneces between proclamation, polemics, and apologetics – things which LCMS pastors should be aware of.

    Taking the last first, “apologetics” is the explanation of what one believes through further clarification. This should be a friendly, mutually beneficial discussion so that we might better understand each other. I see several comments and portions of comments here that reflect good apologetics.

    Polemics, on the other hand, the assertion of the proper understanding and expression of a truth over-against the assertion of others. I find that polemics is best left to the true theologians who already understand each other fully and are ready to battle it out in hopes of reaching one statement that all parties can agree upon.

    Finally (or perhaps first, actually) is proclamation. Like good preaching, proclamation takes the Word of God, both Law and Gospel properly divided and applies it to individual hearts in a winsome manner.

    What are we trying to achieve here: the conversion of other Christians into Lutherans, the defense of our denominational belief and practice, or the salvation of souls?

    I would hope that we are not herein trying to save souls but can recognize the confession of saving faith in Christ by (nearly) all who post here.

    I would also hope that we recognize that not very many of us are thoroughgoing theologians who have already come to a full understanding of the others’ positions and are engaging each other in challenging the expressions of our faith. In other words, I don’t think we’re going to sway Lutherans away from the Confessions or Baptists toward infant Baptism. We just don’t have that much influence over each other.

    So that leaves apologetics which, again, focuses on trying to state our beliefs clearly toward fuller understanding and Christian dialogue.

    With that in mind, perhaps I may add a few clarifications:

    Nemo @29 : Lutherans can allow that Baptism is not necessary in order for God to save us while also asserting the true nature of Baptism. In my mind, it would be like allowing someone to be an American even though they don’t vote. For me, voting is of the essence of being an American. But you can also be an American without properly understanding what it is.

    As to the nature of Baptism, I have always found it helpful to understand it like a little child on the Titanic while it is sinking. Even though the infant doesn’t know it, it still needs to be saved. Baptism is like the life preserver God puts on the infant even though the infant doesn’t understand it. Certainly God would not wait to give a life preserver only to those who know enough to ask for it. Therefore, ‘salvation’ is God’s doing when He marks me as His own and bestows on me His saving gift. I think that would be a non-polemical way to bring clarification to the Lutheran (and I believe Biblical) understanding of Baptism.

    To Bror and Bryan: we have clashed a bit before even though we share the same subscription to Scripture and the Book of Concord – which I do not question in you. However, our theology does allow for what the orthodox Lutherans called a “happy inconsistency” meaning that faith in the heart can be inconsistent with our understand and words. This would be a good or ‘happy’ thing if the expression of faith in word and deed was contrary to the one true faith which is believed in the heart – that Christ alone saves us. With that in mind, we can put the best construction on those who have, as we understand it, a faulty expression of faith while at the same time helping them to see a truly better way of understanding and expression. Too often I fear we give others the impression that unless they say it ‘our way’ we believe them to be lost. Not at all! It is Christ who saves – not proper behavior, feeling, or understanding/expression.

    I pledge myself to articulate the Biblical doctrine (teaching) as I have come to understand and confess it without passing judgment on whether or not others have saving faith with the hope of bringing glory to Christ through the most God-pleasing (i.e. faithful) proclamation of His Word. I address this to my brothers in Ministry and shared Confession so that others may hear how we hope to proclaim the Word.

  • Paul

    In #2 of this discussion, I suggested that the distinction between doctrine and devotion can be very helpful. I now suggest that we remember the differeneces between proclamation, polemics, and apologetics – things which LCMS pastors should be aware of.

    Taking the last first, “apologetics” is the explanation of what one believes through further clarification. This should be a friendly, mutually beneficial discussion so that we might better understand each other. I see several comments and portions of comments here that reflect good apologetics.

    Polemics, on the other hand, the assertion of the proper understanding and expression of a truth over-against the assertion of others. I find that polemics is best left to the true theologians who already understand each other fully and are ready to battle it out in hopes of reaching one statement that all parties can agree upon.

    Finally (or perhaps first, actually) is proclamation. Like good preaching, proclamation takes the Word of God, both Law and Gospel properly divided and applies it to individual hearts in a winsome manner.

    What are we trying to achieve here: the conversion of other Christians into Lutherans, the defense of our denominational belief and practice, or the salvation of souls?

    I would hope that we are not herein trying to save souls but can recognize the confession of saving faith in Christ by (nearly) all who post here.

    I would also hope that we recognize that not very many of us are thoroughgoing theologians who have already come to a full understanding of the others’ positions and are engaging each other in challenging the expressions of our faith. In other words, I don’t think we’re going to sway Lutherans away from the Confessions or Baptists toward infant Baptism. We just don’t have that much influence over each other.

    So that leaves apologetics which, again, focuses on trying to state our beliefs clearly toward fuller understanding and Christian dialogue.

    With that in mind, perhaps I may add a few clarifications:

    Nemo @29 : Lutherans can allow that Baptism is not necessary in order for God to save us while also asserting the true nature of Baptism. In my mind, it would be like allowing someone to be an American even though they don’t vote. For me, voting is of the essence of being an American. But you can also be an American without properly understanding what it is.

    As to the nature of Baptism, I have always found it helpful to understand it like a little child on the Titanic while it is sinking. Even though the infant doesn’t know it, it still needs to be saved. Baptism is like the life preserver God puts on the infant even though the infant doesn’t understand it. Certainly God would not wait to give a life preserver only to those who know enough to ask for it. Therefore, ‘salvation’ is God’s doing when He marks me as His own and bestows on me His saving gift. I think that would be a non-polemical way to bring clarification to the Lutheran (and I believe Biblical) understanding of Baptism.

    To Bror and Bryan: we have clashed a bit before even though we share the same subscription to Scripture and the Book of Concord – which I do not question in you. However, our theology does allow for what the orthodox Lutherans called a “happy inconsistency” meaning that faith in the heart can be inconsistent with our understand and words. This would be a good or ‘happy’ thing if the expression of faith in word and deed was contrary to the one true faith which is believed in the heart – that Christ alone saves us. With that in mind, we can put the best construction on those who have, as we understand it, a faulty expression of faith while at the same time helping them to see a truly better way of understanding and expression. Too often I fear we give others the impression that unless they say it ‘our way’ we believe them to be lost. Not at all! It is Christ who saves – not proper behavior, feeling, or understanding/expression.

    I pledge myself to articulate the Biblical doctrine (teaching) as I have come to understand and confess it without passing judgment on whether or not others have saving faith with the hope of bringing glory to Christ through the most God-pleasing (i.e. faithful) proclamation of His Word. I address this to my brothers in Ministry and shared Confession so that others may hear how we hope to proclaim the Word.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    I thought we were discussing how we choose/chose our current church. I don’t think we veered off of that discussion, though our doctrinal differences shone through pretty clearly. ;)

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    I thought we were discussing how we choose/chose our current church. I don’t think we veered off of that discussion, though our doctrinal differences shone through pretty clearly. ;)

  • Paul

    Theresa: I am concerned when I hear things like that written by Nemo at #38. He wrote:

    “If the baptist has no real claim on the cross, how can he have a real claim on salvation? It sounds as if you believe Christ’s death is not applied to him. After spending a few days on this blog, I am really beginning to wonder, will there be any non-Lutherans in heaven?”

    In ‘the old days’ at the seminary, doctrine, apologetics, and polemics used to be taught separately which is one reason I think we had such a strong history of outreach and mission work – because we could distinguish the three.

  • Paul

    Theresa: I am concerned when I hear things like that written by Nemo at #38. He wrote:

    “If the baptist has no real claim on the cross, how can he have a real claim on salvation? It sounds as if you believe Christ’s death is not applied to him. After spending a few days on this blog, I am really beginning to wonder, will there be any non-Lutherans in heaven?”

    In ‘the old days’ at the seminary, doctrine, apologetics, and polemics used to be taught separately which is one reason I think we had such a strong history of outreach and mission work – because we could distinguish the three.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Paul, thanks for your helpful comments, especially at #2. I look forward to some Baptist theologian (everyone’s a theologian) actually trying to tackle my honest questions. And by the way, I really appreciate Don’s voice on this blog. The variety of backgrounds is what I like about Cranach: The Blog of Veith (thanks, Veith).

    Thinking more on the basis for picking a church: Someday I may be in the blessed situation of trying to find a faithful church to go to with my wife. My children will probably be grown so I won’t care one iota for “programs”. What I will be looking for is a congregation with a Pastor who takes seriously the Lutheran Confessions, where I can hear God’s Word rightly divided so that God’s Law smites me with all of His ferocity and His Gospel sooths and comforts me better than the finest of Bourbons and where I can come to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion often (hopefully every Sunday). If I can find that when I know I’ll need it so bad, ooh, life will be sweet indeed!

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Paul, thanks for your helpful comments, especially at #2. I look forward to some Baptist theologian (everyone’s a theologian) actually trying to tackle my honest questions. And by the way, I really appreciate Don’s voice on this blog. The variety of backgrounds is what I like about Cranach: The Blog of Veith (thanks, Veith).

    Thinking more on the basis for picking a church: Someday I may be in the blessed situation of trying to find a faithful church to go to with my wife. My children will probably be grown so I won’t care one iota for “programs”. What I will be looking for is a congregation with a Pastor who takes seriously the Lutheran Confessions, where I can hear God’s Word rightly divided so that God’s Law smites me with all of His ferocity and His Gospel sooths and comforts me better than the finest of Bourbons and where I can come to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion often (hopefully every Sunday). If I can find that when I know I’ll need it so bad, ooh, life will be sweet indeed!

  • Don S

    Well, I see that this thread has taken a very nice turn since I was last on. Thank you, Bryan, for your kind word. I, too, enjoy the diversity of Christian perspectives on this blog. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the Lutheran faith, as it is very articulately presented here. Paul, your wisdom and insight is much appreciated.

    When I first commented, I had no intention of debating Lutheran v. Baptist theology (I’m not even Baptist, though I was raised as one).

    To respond to the last few questions: LAJ @ 36 — the salvation of infants and the profoundly disabled is an interesting and difficult issue. Many Protestants rely on the so-called “Age of Accountability” doctrine to comfort themselves regarding the salvation of those who die without the ability to understand God’s plan of salvation. I can’t find a whole lot of Scriptural support for that, so my comfort derives from my certain knowledge that God is just and wise, and a belief that the Holy Spirit in His almighty power is certainly capable of granting saving faith to such folks, reaching them in whatever condition they are in. So, to answer your question specifically, I don’t know precisely when my son became a believer, but I know when he was able to express his understanding of the Gospel and his belief in Christ as his sole means of salvation.

    To turn the question around a little, for purposes of understanding more about the Lutheran point of view, would your son have been saved if he had passed away prior to his baptism? Was his soul in mortal danger during those few days after his birth until the baptism could be performed? What if he had died in utero?

    Bryan @ 37: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house”…. “For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son that WHOSOEVER believeth on Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. ” Another great passage is I Cor. 15:3-5. Need I go on? I believe the promises of my God, just as you do. I commune with Him regularly in prayer and fellowship, and I read His Word. Why should I not be assured? You have a misconception concerning my so-called “certain-yet-not-so-certain world”. The Gospel is certain, as certain as can be.

    Bryan @ 39 — Ignoring “despise”, and accepting your later apology for what could easily be taken for a slur, I agree with you that salvation is entirely a gift of God, and not in any sense involving the work of man. We are entirely incapable of saving faith on our own. It is the Holy Spirit which draws us unto Himself. In human terms, we sometimes say that we made a decision for Christ, or accepted Christ, but we know with all our being that it was not we, in our own power, who made that choice. Nemo, at 42, said this quite well.

    Theresa @ 45 — “no doctrinal agreement, no fellowship”. Really? Do we have NO doctrinal agreement? We share, due to the grace of almighty God, eternal salvation in Christ. I would be more than pleased to fellowship with you and all of the other good Lutherans on this blog, and suspect we would all be the richer for the experience. More to the point I was making originally, although our faith practices may be quite different, I would be pleased to minister side-by-side with confessional Lutherans in fulfilling the Great Commission of Matt. 8:28, which is, after all, our purpose for being here.

  • Don S

    Well, I see that this thread has taken a very nice turn since I was last on. Thank you, Bryan, for your kind word. I, too, enjoy the diversity of Christian perspectives on this blog. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the Lutheran faith, as it is very articulately presented here. Paul, your wisdom and insight is much appreciated.

    When I first commented, I had no intention of debating Lutheran v. Baptist theology (I’m not even Baptist, though I was raised as one).

    To respond to the last few questions: LAJ @ 36 — the salvation of infants and the profoundly disabled is an interesting and difficult issue. Many Protestants rely on the so-called “Age of Accountability” doctrine to comfort themselves regarding the salvation of those who die without the ability to understand God’s plan of salvation. I can’t find a whole lot of Scriptural support for that, so my comfort derives from my certain knowledge that God is just and wise, and a belief that the Holy Spirit in His almighty power is certainly capable of granting saving faith to such folks, reaching them in whatever condition they are in. So, to answer your question specifically, I don’t know precisely when my son became a believer, but I know when he was able to express his understanding of the Gospel and his belief in Christ as his sole means of salvation.

    To turn the question around a little, for purposes of understanding more about the Lutheran point of view, would your son have been saved if he had passed away prior to his baptism? Was his soul in mortal danger during those few days after his birth until the baptism could be performed? What if he had died in utero?

    Bryan @ 37: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house”…. “For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son that WHOSOEVER believeth on Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. ” Another great passage is I Cor. 15:3-5. Need I go on? I believe the promises of my God, just as you do. I commune with Him regularly in prayer and fellowship, and I read His Word. Why should I not be assured? You have a misconception concerning my so-called “certain-yet-not-so-certain world”. The Gospel is certain, as certain as can be.

    Bryan @ 39 — Ignoring “despise”, and accepting your later apology for what could easily be taken for a slur, I agree with you that salvation is entirely a gift of God, and not in any sense involving the work of man. We are entirely incapable of saving faith on our own. It is the Holy Spirit which draws us unto Himself. In human terms, we sometimes say that we made a decision for Christ, or accepted Christ, but we know with all our being that it was not we, in our own power, who made that choice. Nemo, at 42, said this quite well.

    Theresa @ 45 — “no doctrinal agreement, no fellowship”. Really? Do we have NO doctrinal agreement? We share, due to the grace of almighty God, eternal salvation in Christ. I would be more than pleased to fellowship with you and all of the other good Lutherans on this blog, and suspect we would all be the richer for the experience. More to the point I was making originally, although our faith practices may be quite different, I would be pleased to minister side-by-side with confessional Lutherans in fulfilling the Great Commission of Matt. 8:28, which is, after all, our purpose for being here.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Don s,
    Sorry to have ben absent so long from the discussion. don you make baptism a matter of obediance, that really makes it a matter of the law. If the Holy spirit is not attached to it then there is no grace to it. I would like to discuss it with you more, but i don’t have time now.
    Nemo,
    go to abe books and order martin Chemnitz “The Lord’s Supper.” Lutherans in theenglish speaking world have never really made any official statements about translations of the Bible. Certainly you won’t find one on the web page. However, that does not mean that we don’t at time have some serious objections to how it is translated in certain areas. As for the Testament/covenant thing. Though we have been making a switch to the ESV for the readings during the church, which uses covenant exclusively for the Lord’s Supper. The Words of Insitituion in the hymnal still say Testament, for good reason.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Don s,
    Sorry to have ben absent so long from the discussion. don you make baptism a matter of obediance, that really makes it a matter of the law. If the Holy spirit is not attached to it then there is no grace to it. I would like to discuss it with you more, but i don’t have time now.
    Nemo,
    go to abe books and order martin Chemnitz “The Lord’s Supper.” Lutherans in theenglish speaking world have never really made any official statements about translations of the Bible. Certainly you won’t find one on the web page. However, that does not mean that we don’t at time have some serious objections to how it is translated in certain areas. As for the Testament/covenant thing. Though we have been making a switch to the ESV for the readings during the church, which uses covenant exclusively for the Lord’s Supper. The Words of Insitituion in the hymnal still say Testament, for good reason.

  • Another Kerner

    Brothers and sisters…….

    Scripture tells us that before the foundations of the world were laid, God purposed and chose His elect that they should be holy and without blame before Him.
    Ephesians, Chapter 1.

    As regards a babe in the womb, we must bring to remembance the Word in Luke.

    John the Baptizer “leaped for joy” in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary announced the coming Messiah and sang the Magnificat to the cousin and her yet to be born child.

    The criminal on the cross next to the Christ, looks into the face of Truth, and pleads: “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

    And our Savior responds with the words of promise and grace……

    “Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise …. ”
    Luke 23:43

    A child in the womb and a death bed convert, the believing babe yet unborn and the dying criminal, covered by the blood of Christ……..

    I believe that the Lutheran Confessions are in agreement with Holy Scripture. Else I would not be, obviously, a Confessional Lutheran.
    So it is to the Lutheran font and altar I go.

    Still, couldn’t we Lutherans apprehend rather easily the joy that Don S. expresses at the faith of his son?

  • Another Kerner

    Brothers and sisters…….

    Scripture tells us that before the foundations of the world were laid, God purposed and chose His elect that they should be holy and without blame before Him.
    Ephesians, Chapter 1.

    As regards a babe in the womb, we must bring to remembance the Word in Luke.

    John the Baptizer “leaped for joy” in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary announced the coming Messiah and sang the Magnificat to the cousin and her yet to be born child.

    The criminal on the cross next to the Christ, looks into the face of Truth, and pleads: “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

    And our Savior responds with the words of promise and grace……

    “Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise …. ”
    Luke 23:43

    A child in the womb and a death bed convert, the believing babe yet unborn and the dying criminal, covered by the blood of Christ……..

    I believe that the Lutheran Confessions are in agreement with Holy Scripture. Else I would not be, obviously, a Confessional Lutheran.
    So it is to the Lutheran font and altar I go.

    Still, couldn’t we Lutherans apprehend rather easily the joy that Don S. expresses at the faith of his son?

  • LAJ

    Good answer, Don. God worked faith in your son’s heart through His Word. Luther was tremendously comforted once he understood the Gospel by the fact that he was baptized. We take great comfort and assurance in the fact that God came into our hearts when we were baptized even though we were already God’s children in utero. God promises that “Baptism doth also now save us.” We believe that promise as well as all the other ones in God’s Word.

  • LAJ

    Good answer, Don. God worked faith in your son’s heart through His Word. Luther was tremendously comforted once he understood the Gospel by the fact that he was baptized. We take great comfort and assurance in the fact that God came into our hearts when we were baptized even though we were already God’s children in utero. God promises that “Baptism doth also now save us.” We believe that promise as well as all the other ones in God’s Word.

  • Abby

    If you just want theology, you can read a book at home. Church is to provide support for you so that you can stand strong in the world. The best church, then, would have a vibrant combination of theology and community support within the church.

    Yes, church programs are important, especially if you have children. Parents are happy to send their children to church-related activities when they are available. Children need support even more than adults sometimes.

    I do believe in flexibility, meeting the needs of the church members. Why in the world would you not want to do that?

  • Abby

    If you just want theology, you can read a book at home. Church is to provide support for you so that you can stand strong in the world. The best church, then, would have a vibrant combination of theology and community support within the church.

    Yes, church programs are important, especially if you have children. Parents are happy to send their children to church-related activities when they are available. Children need support even more than adults sometimes.

    I do believe in flexibility, meeting the needs of the church members. Why in the world would you not want to do that?

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