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If the Church were to go through another Reformation today, what do you think needs reforming? What are the issues today?
gospel reductionism is one of the biggest issues of the day.
Blind acceptance of anything that uses the name “Christian.”
It seems that God is not portrayed as holy. God’s holiness makes us uncomfortable, so, for the sake of our comfort, God must be our fun-loving buddy. Then we style our Divine Services to drive home that point — worship that caters to man’s liking and makes man comfortable.
It should also be noted that God as holy and God as Redeemer are not mutually exclusive things.
I did a short post on this the other day:
I think the issue is the same today.
The issue is always the issue: Salvation by grace through faith without the works of the Law. We can look at Christianity in the US and see clearly that many if not most of the denominations practice what is essentially a medeval RC view of salvation from singing songs like I Have Decided to Follow Jesus to failing to celebrate the Sacrament according to God’s desire, to teaching that our works contribute to God’s saving grace. This is the doctrine on which the Church stands or falls and the one which is most attacked.
In the church overall, I would say shallowness is the biggest problem. For whatever reason, in our teachings, debates, and evangelism, we seldom move past the most basic assertions of the faith and rely on rote traditional sayings for our arguments and explanations.
Denominationalism, a result of the Reformation, needs to be dialed back to remind us of the things which were not in controversy at the time of the Reformation and should not be even now; notably the Three Eccumenical Creeds which define The One Holy Christian and Apostolic Church in response to the subjectivism which even now defies the Historic Faith. In other words, we in the church have also forgotten that there are certain Absolutes from which we all begin. The problem is not that there are many teaching contrary to these absolutely essential truths, but that even they are being considered subjectively.
Perhaps more fundamentally, the Church needs a theological reformation regarding the formal and material principles. To put it differently, “What things must the church teach and do (theology and practice) in order to be the church vs. all the secondary or tertiary teachings and activities which the Church has taken up as a result of being a collection of believers?”
Both of these, I believe, have been obscured during the 20th Century and stand to be even more so during the 21st Century: salvation by denominational affiliation where denominations (or even congregations now) claim the exclusive right to be call the “true” church by theological and practical emphasis on formal or material teachings.
Matt C @7 referred to “rote traditional sayings for our arguments and explanations.” That’s my point: we have forgotten the content and meaning of the Scriptures (they’ve become “rote traditional sayings”) but we know lots about “being a welcoming church” or “reaching out to the de-churched” or “fanning into flame” the faith so that we can be “ablaze” while we don’t know what is being fanned or what it is that is “burning in our hearts.”
#6, I agree. Sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, solo Christo, soli Deo gloria.
As Todd Wilken has often said on his Issues Etc.
radio program, “It’s not about YOU, it’s about Jesus!”
Most churches need to be reformed to reflect this.
We do not have a proper understanding of the Gospel. We speak of it as if it ends with the Resurrection of our Lord, while our Lord Himself claimed that He was sent to proclaim the “Gospel of the Kingdom.” Therefore we must understand what it means to be a member of the Kingdom, including the indwelling of the Lord, the Holy Spirit (not some kind of a “substance” which we fill up with through the means of grace). We have to understand that we do not, as many pastors teach, do the will of God “out of gratitude for what He has done for us,” but because, being children of God, in whom God Himself dwells, we have the same will, and now do His will simply because it is our will also. That is what happens in baptism. “Out of gratitude” is like repaying a debt. But “if the Son has set you free, you are free indeed.” Yes, yes, still peccator, and we still need the Law, but this is the Gospel of the Kingdom.
Peace and Joy,
George A. Marquart
What false teaching is most universally accepted across the spectrum of the church today? (Yes, among Lutherans.) (Yes, among confessional lutherans.)
-“I can be a believer and live however I want.”
This false teaching is devastating the witness of the church at a time of tremendous opportunity, not to mention the danger it presents to personal salvation.
It is often avoided with many theological sounding phrases, but it must be addressed. (I don’t say this to point fingers, but to bring it out as an “issue” for today.
Sola Gratia is always an issue, to be sure. Nevertheless, Christianity in the US is not the same thing as Medieval RC theology. It’s not even close. If we brush everyone into the same category because they get the gospel wrong, it will be tough to have a meaningful debate.
People today, for the most part, are not living with consciences burdened by the Law. They are living with no fear of God.
While I don’t think the primary/secondary doctrine distinction is particularly helpful for scaling it back, denominationalism is certainly a part of the shallowness problem. I once received this question on a quiz (by Lutherans) on Lutheran doctrine:
In the Lord’s Supper, we receive:
A)Bread and wine
B)Body and blood
C)Body and blood with the bread and wine.
The most complete answer among those listed is C. However, the test-giver deemed B to be the best because the phraseology in C… has been used by the Reformed! (dun dun DUNNNN!). True, C does not necessarily require receiving the body and blood with your mouth, but then, neither do any of the others.
I’ve frequently observed a very tragic fear of having too much in common with other denominations. Of course, we ought not pretend there are no important differences, but the proper way to avoid this misconception is through providing people with a proper understanding of the doctrines, not by chaining all discussion to rote repetitions of the phraseology of the 16th century. We need to remember that we have not been given a spirit of fear.
Yes, our Reformation today would be very much like the one led by the Blessed Martin Luther. Namely, Grace Alone, Faith Alone, and Scripture Alone. (Is there any significance to the order?) This would naturally lead to a greater appreciation for the Holy Sacraments of Baptism, of the Altar, and of Absolution, and the proper distinction between Law and Gospel.
There are those who would have you believe that a new Reformation would be steered toward environmentalism. But I say with Solomon that without God that too would be meaningless.
George & Dan, good points.
We need to be wary of works-righteousness creeping in, but I sometimes get the impression that works are so far removed from salvation that Jesus saved somebody like me who will suddenly spring into existence on the Last Day. Pastors often seem to inadvertently work hard to completely remove the living me who daily lives and acts from the Gospel. I know I contribute nothing to my salvation, but surely it is I who am saved!
Re. Dan Kemplin’s comment, “I can be a believer and live however I want.” From my life long experience, this is a statement mostly made by pastors about lay people. In my 73 years of life, I have never met a lay person who believes that. I have also met a number of Eastern Orthodox priests and lay people who believe that this is what “by faith alone” means.
I am not a believer in the civil religion of sports celebrities, but there is truth in what most coaches say, “When there is a problem, go back to the fundamentals.” Amazing what you will find. In my lifetime I have met fewer than 10 pastors who preached the Gospel in such a way that their charges had any confidence in the promises of the Gospel. And I did not lead a sheltered life.
Peace and Joy,
George A. Marquart
Pastors followed by laity learning how to rightly distinguish between law and gospel in the proclamation of God’s Word. Legalism would shrivel, antinomianism would die, the saints would find real comfort in the gospel, and our witness to the world would not be self-righteous. We would readily confess our need for grace and mercy to the world and that our only comfort in life and death is Christ!
Interestingly, Michael Spencer wrote a post for his blog today on how the culture war hurts church reformation. He’s not Lutheran (shock! horror!) but it might add an interesting flavor to our discussion.
Of course they don’t BELIEVE it–who would say that? My point is that it is being accepted–tacitly, for the most part–by the church at large. There are churches and pastors who are loving enough to deal with the very difficult issue of discipline and rebuke, but the majority seem content to leave well enough alone. Perhaps I am wrong, but this issue seems much more acute in the church of today than it was even a generation ago.
+1 to your comments on gospel preaching.
If people would think for a change, especially if they thought about the Bible, allot of things would take care of themselves.
Actually, J.K. has a good point. It is so hard to shepherd people today because they can’t think and have zero attention span.
However, I think the greatest thing that needs reforming is regenerate church membership. In fact, the entire doctrine of regeneration has been largely lost. Mind, I am Baptist, so keep my context in mind.
A contemporary reformation needs to do the same thing that the great reformation did. Take the church back to the basics. Sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, solo Christo, soli Deo gloria.
Also, “Carnal Christianity” must be fought today with as much fervor as “works righteousness” was then. Not physically, but with spirit-filled words and actions of loving kindness.
Lay people need to be educated and given the fortitude to stand up to their errant pastors and elders.
Dan #13 said: “What false teaching is most universally accepted across the spectrum of the church today?. . .’I can be a believer and live however I want.’”
There is truth to this, but Christianity is not first and foremost about the changed life, is it? Doesn’t that put the focus on us outwardly and take it off Jesus? You can get the “good life” in other religions.
There is nothing more paralyzingly dismal than leaving a church because its people weren’t living the “right kind of life,” then joining a church (one of many) whose people profess to live better than those lesser previous churchlings, when in actuality they are as vile as anyone else. They simply proclaim that they are different because they have “been born again,” or “have accepted Jesus into their hearts.” This is pharasaical.
As was said, it’s not about us, it’s about Jesus. *No matter which church you are part of, there will still be vileness within, mostly because you are there.* (“You” meant in a general sense.)
Who is to say the the Lord is not working a reformation in our midst as we speak? We are not far from the kingdom of heaven. We look for signs, but while God is working a reformation, the only sign we will be given, and that we need, is the sign of Jonah.
Who works Reformations? Of course, the things that happened between, say 1517 and 1535 were exciting; momentous. But so much of the work of the “Reformation” actually took place before the Reformation took place. Martin Franzmann was fond of quoting Luther, saying something to the effect that “When God begins a great work, it always seems as though nothing happens for a great long time.” I assume, in these dark days, only victory for Christ’s church.
Christ-less preaching in our pulpits. Pastors need to repent.
@ 18 “Pastors followed by laity learning how to rightly distinguish between law and gospel in the proclamation of God’s Word.”
This, too, would be one of Luther’s three “ladders” by which people attempt to climb up to God: Right Thinking. By this line of thought, if we could only teach the right doctrine to pastors and laity, then they would follow it, and then they would be saved.
The proper distinction of the Law and Gospel is not the “Chief Article” or the material principle of Scripture. It is an art which the Christian Pastor learns to apply to the people in his care. I’m sure that the demons know how to rightly distinguish the Law and the Gospel, but in their hearts (so to speak)they have refused to cling to the Gospel. So likewise, there may be many pastors and laity who can rightly distinguish these, but remain without faith — indeed, faith is precluded because they trust in their right doctrine, their right thinking, to save them.
So proper Christian proclamation of the Gospel is not the teaching of the distinction between the Law and the Gospel. Christian preaching is the right application of the Law and the Gospel to the hearers. This would be similar to the difference between a surgeon who explains the procedure and the surgeon who performs the procedure.
Hey, Joe @ 26 we already got a Joe around here, me 🙂 Mind, using a different handle to cut down on confusion?
“We have to understand that we do not, as many pastors teach, do the will of God “out of gratitude for what He has done for us,” but because, being children of God, in whom God Himself dwells, we have the same will, and now do His will simply because it is our will also.”
Excellent point I had never heard. Wow. You are talking here about sanctification and it´s fruit, which the concordia says happens “spontaneously”.
Would you agree also, that that will of God is the SAME will visible done by the unregenerate in keeping the second table, and the keeping you are talking about is that invisible heart change that is the weak start of keeping the 1st table.
meaning that the difference, works-wise, between christian and pagan is an invisible one, and also the SAME message of law and gospel should be preached to both those inside and outside of the church?
I sure wish I could talk to you more George about these things.
Reforming the dumbed-down, happy-clappy liturgies that are so prevalent in our church. Ditto the feel-good theologies that seem to ignore the simple truth that following Jesus means not curling up with an electric blanket, but carrying a cross.
Ignorance and falling for every slick telepreacher on the planet….
Also the health and wealth “gospel”
You illustrate my point.
I did not say (#13) that Christian piety is the central teaching of the faith–by no means. I said that godless/lawless living is a false teaching that is causing damage and needs to be addressed. There seems to be an inability to talk about this without playing the trump card of justification–and thereby avoiding the issue itself.
It is certainly about Jesus. Amen to that.
And this is a false teaching that is tearing our churches apart. (The warnings of Rev. 2-3 come to mind.)
The teaching of the Gospel . I am amazed at people in my Church who have missed out on the whole Gospel ,including teaching about Heaven ,Hell and Sin.One woman does not like sin to be called sin but rather as being negativity!!! Another clammed up at our Bible study over hell as she felt people who preached on it manipulated others. i asked what about the work of the Holy Ghost ,convicting people sin and their need for righteousness.
“The Church” as a whole probably cannot go through another reformation as is; the Reformation is when the church, as an organized institution, split, due to the determination of the Catholic leaders to misguide their flock. As the church spreads throughout the world, we find different areas in need of “reform”. When I look at the church in the First Nations communities, there are an entirely different set of needed changes than what is in the mainstream North American cultural church; not only are there cultural differences, they are the differences of baby churches and big brother churches. When you ask a question like this, I assume you are referring to the mainstream North American evangelical Bible-believing Christian churches, the Body of Christ that is amongst the mainstream culture. We do see some of the other minority cultures affecting the previously Euro-centric culture overall, and no less in the churches. Perhaps instead of asking only the choir if they sound good or not, should we be asking our brothers and sisters from other cultures who have a good perspective on what we are like?
1. Christ centered preaching Joe, #26 above got it right.
2. Get rid of leaders who don’t know the right answer to this question.
3. Get rid of the notion of lay-elders and the two elder system.
4. Require all elders to be progressing in Greek and Hebrew (yeah, yeah, I know, they are too busy laboring in the translated word to study it in its actual language).
5. Take denominational names out of the names of churches.
Wow, not one word about families and especially fathers. A reformation should hammer fathers hard with the law (Psalm 78), and the preaching would reflect the same. Where are the fathers?
Mark @ 37,
“Where are the fathers?”
Alot of them were divorced by the mothers. Others have no idea what place a father has in a family now that “Father” merely means co-parent (this is particularly true in families where wives insist of being defacto heads of household). I think each gender has areas of the Law which they have not heard for a long time; let’s not restrict our hammering to fathers.