Trying to make Christianity cool

Twenty-something Brett McCracken is put off by what churches are doing to attract him:

Increasingly, the “plan” has taken the form of a total image overhaul, where efforts are made to rebrand Christianity as hip, countercultural, relevant. As a result, in the early 2000s, we got something called “the emerging church”—a sort of postmodern stab at an evangelical reform movement. Perhaps because it was too “let’s rethink everything” radical, it fizzled quickly. But the impulse behind it—to rehabilitate Christianity’s image and make it “cool”—remains.

There are various ways that churches attempt to be cool. For some, it means trying to seem more culturally savvy. The pastor quotes Stephen Colbert or references Lady Gaga during his sermon, or a church sponsors a screening of the R-rated “No Country For Old Men.” For others, the emphasis is on looking cool, perhaps by giving the pastor a metrosexual makeover, with skinny jeans and an $80 haircut, or by insisting on trendy eco-friendly paper and helvetica-only fonts on all printed materials. Then there is the option of holding a worship service in a bar or nightclub (as is the case for L.A.’s Mosaic church, whose downtown location meets at a nightspot called Club Mayan).

“Wannabe cool” Christianity also manifests itself as an obsession with being on the technological cutting edge. Churches like Central Christian in Las Vegas and Liquid Church in New Brunswick, N.J., for example, have online church services where people can have a worship experience at an “iCampus.” Many other churches now encourage texting, Twitter and iPhone interaction with the pastor during their services.

But one of the most popular—and arguably most unseemly—methods of making Christianity hip is to make it shocking. What better way to appeal to younger generations than to push the envelope and go where no fundamentalist has gone before? . . .

If the evangelical Christian leadership thinks that “cool Christianity” is a sustainable path forward, they are severely mistaken. As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don’t want cool as much as we want real.

If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it’s easy or trendy or popular. It’s because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It’s because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative. It’s not because we want more of the same.

via The Perils of Hipster Christianity and Why Young Evangelicals Reject Churches That Try To Be Cool – WSJ.com.

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.

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    “It’s because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative.”

    Amen to that. I’m 27 now, so I still count as twenty-something, supposedly. I must’ve said this before, but our congregation in Helsinki (confessional, liturgical Lutheran) is attracting young people especially. We’re not growing very fast (nor does any church in Finland), but steadily. Maybe 1/3 of the people are 30 +- 5 years old.

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    “It’s because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative.”

    Amen to that. I’m 27 now, so I still count as twenty-something, supposedly. I must’ve said this before, but our congregation in Helsinki (confessional, liturgical Lutheran) is attracting young people especially. We’re not growing very fast (nor does any church in Finland), but steadily. Maybe 1/3 of the people are 30 +- 5 years old.

  • http://webulite.com webulite

    Many conservative or reformed/calvinist christians are really bothered by anything that makes christianity appealing, or takes away from their message that mankind are disgusting creatures.

    Cheers! webulite.com

  • http://webulite.com webulite

    Many conservative or reformed/calvinist christians are really bothered by anything that makes christianity appealing, or takes away from their message that mankind are disgusting creatures.

    Cheers! webulite.com

  • Dan Kempin

    Let’s be honest here. There has always been an “impulse” to make the church “cool.” (It has at least been the case since anyone posting here has been alive.) And yes, having been a twenty-something, I can relate to the heart rendingly pathetic spectacle of the uncool trying to be cool–especially when it is in the house of God.

    Still . . . the Church shall never perish, her dear Lord to defend–to guide, protect, and cherish–is with her to the end.

    And as a forty-something now, I can see also the desire of those who, perhaps misguidedly, strive to relate to a changing culture. And I have seen that some people are always reached. I am not as quick to condemn as I was back when I knew everything.

    That’s not to say I support the approach of hipster churches, and I would rule out any approach that compromises the Word and substance of the proclamation, but I wonder if part of the reason twenty-somethings are turned off (take a moment and be honest, now) is that the “cool” of hip churches is already out of date. Flash is out. Substance is in. Real is the new cool.

    That seemed, ironically, to be Mr. McCracken’s conclusion. (And I say “ironically” because after criticizing the willingness of churches to pander, he drives home the point with the phrase, “we want.”)

    And by the way, Christianity IS shocking! Jesus is the Archetype of cool as well as counter-culture. Yet he did not minister to a fallen culture by driving them away, either. Let him who has ears, hear, but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.

  • Dan Kempin

    Let’s be honest here. There has always been an “impulse” to make the church “cool.” (It has at least been the case since anyone posting here has been alive.) And yes, having been a twenty-something, I can relate to the heart rendingly pathetic spectacle of the uncool trying to be cool–especially when it is in the house of God.

    Still . . . the Church shall never perish, her dear Lord to defend–to guide, protect, and cherish–is with her to the end.

    And as a forty-something now, I can see also the desire of those who, perhaps misguidedly, strive to relate to a changing culture. And I have seen that some people are always reached. I am not as quick to condemn as I was back when I knew everything.

    That’s not to say I support the approach of hipster churches, and I would rule out any approach that compromises the Word and substance of the proclamation, but I wonder if part of the reason twenty-somethings are turned off (take a moment and be honest, now) is that the “cool” of hip churches is already out of date. Flash is out. Substance is in. Real is the new cool.

    That seemed, ironically, to be Mr. McCracken’s conclusion. (And I say “ironically” because after criticizing the willingness of churches to pander, he drives home the point with the phrase, “we want.”)

    And by the way, Christianity IS shocking! Jesus is the Archetype of cool as well as counter-culture. Yet he did not minister to a fallen culture by driving them away, either. Let him who has ears, hear, but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.

  • http://RoseFremer@yahoo.com Rose

    Robert K. Johnston of Fuller Seminary once preached a sermon on ‘Bull Durham’. He extolled the quote “I believe in the church of baseball”. He contrasted the dour church lady with the joyful baseball prostitute. To me, it was bizarre. Dr. Veith, what is your impression of his work?

  • http://RoseFremer@yahoo.com Rose

    Robert K. Johnston of Fuller Seminary once preached a sermon on ‘Bull Durham’. He extolled the quote “I believe in the church of baseball”. He contrasted the dour church lady with the joyful baseball prostitute. To me, it was bizarre. Dr. Veith, what is your impression of his work?

  • sg

    Trying to make the church cool is an example of why people think Christians are stupid. Plenty of my rational atheist/agnostic friends find this stuff painfully dumb. None of them think Martin Luther was stupid.

  • sg

    Trying to make the church cool is an example of why people think Christians are stupid. Plenty of my rational atheist/agnostic friends find this stuff painfully dumb. None of them think Martin Luther was stupid.

  • sg

    Rev. Fisk doesn’t get it either.

    BTW Rev. Fisk has been reading Dr. Veith.

    http://twitter.com/RevFisk/status/20971400708

  • sg

    Rev. Fisk doesn’t get it either.

    BTW Rev. Fisk has been reading Dr. Veith.

    http://twitter.com/RevFisk/status/20971400708

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    I have noticed frequently that while youth enjoy the bells and whistles, they also yearn for that sense of real. Our challenge is working outside of our frame of thought and introducing them to the real in away they can assimilate. I think that desire will escalate in importance as communication becomes increasingly impersonal. We are by nature social creatures who need physical proximity with other humans. We in the Lutheran church are well equipped to meet that need theologically speaking. I will always remember the excitement of one of my confirmads after doing Private Confession (we have been stressing it church wide and have incorporated it into our monthly confirmation retreats).

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    I have noticed frequently that while youth enjoy the bells and whistles, they also yearn for that sense of real. Our challenge is working outside of our frame of thought and introducing them to the real in away they can assimilate. I think that desire will escalate in importance as communication becomes increasingly impersonal. We are by nature social creatures who need physical proximity with other humans. We in the Lutheran church are well equipped to meet that need theologically speaking. I will always remember the excitement of one of my confirmads after doing Private Confession (we have been stressing it church wide and have incorporated it into our monthly confirmation retreats).

  • http://www.uppercervicaldocs.com/blog drhambrick

    Whatever happened to the Church as sanctuary?

    Isn’t it supposed to be a little taste of Heaven and a sanctuary from the World?

    If walking through the doors, you get more of the same old World, (regardless of whatever new fad is present) why bother?

  • http://www.uppercervicaldocs.com/blog drhambrick

    Whatever happened to the Church as sanctuary?

    Isn’t it supposed to be a little taste of Heaven and a sanctuary from the World?

    If walking through the doors, you get more of the same old World, (regardless of whatever new fad is present) why bother?

  • http://webulite.com webulite

    I don’t really think people are interested in the supernatural any longer. The supernatural is not something that most people really accept. Except for a radical few, church is a social thing, like the superbowl, and other parts of our culture that we accept but don’t care much about.

    Cheers! webulite.com

  • http://webulite.com webulite

    I don’t really think people are interested in the supernatural any longer. The supernatural is not something that most people really accept. Except for a radical few, church is a social thing, like the superbowl, and other parts of our culture that we accept but don’t care much about.

    Cheers! webulite.com

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

    Webulite has a point…..except when people in this world go to a funeral. When the natural has no power left, you bet they want the supernatural.

    And good point; my church isn’t growing fast, but we are reaching people for Christ. Lots of different people, and we are as boring as anything–praise God!

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

    Webulite has a point…..except when people in this world go to a funeral. When the natural has no power left, you bet they want the supernatural.

    And good point; my church isn’t growing fast, but we are reaching people for Christ. Lots of different people, and we are as boring as anything–praise God!

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

    PS. Glad to hear from SNAFU that there are Bible-preaching churches left in Helsinki…..seemed like a wasteland when I visited.

    (of course, not knowing Finnish, I likely missed many signs of life there….)

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

    PS. Glad to hear from SNAFU that there are Bible-preaching churches left in Helsinki…..seemed like a wasteland when I visited.

    (of course, not knowing Finnish, I likely missed many signs of life there….)

  • DonS

    It’s the “trying to make Christianity cool” mindset that is the problem.

    Think about what that phrase says. 1) Christianity isn’t cool on its own; 2) We as mortal sinners have the power or ability to make it so.

    How about returning to the concept of being the Body of Christ, each of us with our disparate gifts, given by God, working together to reach the world with the Gospel? The natural result, with our differing gifts, will be a variety of churches, missions organizations, and outreaches, all with various styles, methods, and emphases, and, yes, doctrinal statements. These various efforts will appeal to different people, depending upon their interests and tastes. But, it will be the Holy Spirit doing the calling, rather than hipster consultants trying to do God’s work in the strength of man.

    What a concept.

  • DonS

    It’s the “trying to make Christianity cool” mindset that is the problem.

    Think about what that phrase says. 1) Christianity isn’t cool on its own; 2) We as mortal sinners have the power or ability to make it so.

    How about returning to the concept of being the Body of Christ, each of us with our disparate gifts, given by God, working together to reach the world with the Gospel? The natural result, with our differing gifts, will be a variety of churches, missions organizations, and outreaches, all with various styles, methods, and emphases, and, yes, doctrinal statements. These various efforts will appeal to different people, depending upon their interests and tastes. But, it will be the Holy Spirit doing the calling, rather than hipster consultants trying to do God’s work in the strength of man.

    What a concept.

  • M Burke

    I really appreciate this post. Not only is it bad form to try to make church “cool”, church loses it’s meaning in that transformation. No longer do we attend the communion of saints to hear the reading of the Law, the confession of sin, the assurance of absolution and obtain the body and blood of the Savior, instead we’re going to be part of the hipness. It’s neither good drama nor good coffee. It reminds me of most ‘christian’ movies… neither good movie nor good theology.

    Also, I recommend deleting any comments from the webtroll webulite, he and his material is well known elsewhere.

  • M Burke

    I really appreciate this post. Not only is it bad form to try to make church “cool”, church loses it’s meaning in that transformation. No longer do we attend the communion of saints to hear the reading of the Law, the confession of sin, the assurance of absolution and obtain the body and blood of the Savior, instead we’re going to be part of the hipness. It’s neither good drama nor good coffee. It reminds me of most ‘christian’ movies… neither good movie nor good theology.

    Also, I recommend deleting any comments from the webtroll webulite, he and his material is well known elsewhere.

  • http://webulite.com webulite

    I think that what you are finding is that except for a smaller and smaller minority, the supernatural DOESN’T have any meaning. Early man found the supernatural of some value. But we have moved beyond it really being useful. There are some radical conservative type people (I use conservative in the general sense), ie, traditional people that are hanging on to the idea of religion, and church, and all that stuff. But, for most people, the supernatural is simply irrelevant.

    Cheers! webulite.com

  • http://webulite.com webulite

    I think that what you are finding is that except for a smaller and smaller minority, the supernatural DOESN’T have any meaning. Early man found the supernatural of some value. But we have moved beyond it really being useful. There are some radical conservative type people (I use conservative in the general sense), ie, traditional people that are hanging on to the idea of religion, and church, and all that stuff. But, for most people, the supernatural is simply irrelevant.

    Cheers! webulite.com

  • Digital

    I think that people need to remember that the church has always worked at meeting the culture. Over the past 2000 years we have incorporated Jewish and pagan traditions to make things easier. In the past several hundred years we have done the previously unthinkable when we translate the Bible into other languages. Even the last decade has seen re-writings of the Catechism and the hymnals to assist in worship.
    The important thing is that we don’t water down the word. Whether it is bringing in Bach (who at one time was a “cool” new artist) or a reference to a pagan holiday. What matters is Matthew 28, 1 Peter 3, and 1 Corinth 15.
    To sum up, Yesterday’s cool is today’s tradition. Hold fast to the word.

  • Digital

    I think that people need to remember that the church has always worked at meeting the culture. Over the past 2000 years we have incorporated Jewish and pagan traditions to make things easier. In the past several hundred years we have done the previously unthinkable when we translate the Bible into other languages. Even the last decade has seen re-writings of the Catechism and the hymnals to assist in worship.
    The important thing is that we don’t water down the word. Whether it is bringing in Bach (who at one time was a “cool” new artist) or a reference to a pagan holiday. What matters is Matthew 28, 1 Peter 3, and 1 Corinth 15.
    To sum up, Yesterday’s cool is today’s tradition. Hold fast to the word.

  • Booklover

    Dittoes to McCracken’s last paragraph. How, in a formerly “Christian culture,” did we manage to get to this state of a “phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched” culture???

    I wouldn’t mind some of the new changes so much if they weren’t so banal. Yes, Bach was new at one time, but he was never banal.

  • Booklover

    Dittoes to McCracken’s last paragraph. How, in a formerly “Christian culture,” did we manage to get to this state of a “phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched” culture???

    I wouldn’t mind some of the new changes so much if they weren’t so banal. Yes, Bach was new at one time, but he was never banal.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    My general rule of thumb is to ignore advice columns from people with recently published advice books. It’s just an advertisement, after all, and we all know how much truth there is in advertisements. Especially those published in the mainstream media.

    Oh snap! Did I just trump Mr. McCracken? Did I just out-”real” him? Did I just out-cynical him? I win! Who’s the poser now, McCracken? ;)

    Look. I love me some stained glass windows. I like my hymnody written before 1800, either in the central-European SATB style or cribbed from a northern- or central-European folk songs. I love proper liturgical colors and learning more about minor feasts. And every one of these statements starts with “I”. How arrogant would I have to be to assume that every other person on this globe would think the same thing?

    Is there much to lament about in churches trying too hard to be relevant? Sure. But criminy, people, does that mean that we should try our hardest to be irrelevant? No, and nobody thinks that, either.

    In the end, I don’t trust McCracken’s appeal to culture any more than I do some of the ridiculous examples he cites. Yes, “MyNakedPastor.com” and “Biblical Oral Sex” certainly sound over-the-top (I’m not going to waste my time finding out, but I assume they’re not nearly as salacious as they are intended to sound), but it’s also true that a church that can’t honestly discuss sexuality and how it relates to God is being overly irrelevant. After all, the Bible discusses sexuality, and people want and need to know what God thinks about it, because they’re certainly thinking about it themselves.

    And yes, “Twitter and iPhone interaction with the pastor during their services” certainly sounds over-the-top, but would anybody today argue that a pastor with an email address or downloadable sermons are similar manifestations of an “obsession with being on the technological cutting edge”? If your church can’t easily be found on the Web (with at least the address and worship times), or your pastor can only be reached by phone, you are being overly irrelevant.

    And so on. The middle road. Blah blah blah.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    My general rule of thumb is to ignore advice columns from people with recently published advice books. It’s just an advertisement, after all, and we all know how much truth there is in advertisements. Especially those published in the mainstream media.

    Oh snap! Did I just trump Mr. McCracken? Did I just out-”real” him? Did I just out-cynical him? I win! Who’s the poser now, McCracken? ;)

    Look. I love me some stained glass windows. I like my hymnody written before 1800, either in the central-European SATB style or cribbed from a northern- or central-European folk songs. I love proper liturgical colors and learning more about minor feasts. And every one of these statements starts with “I”. How arrogant would I have to be to assume that every other person on this globe would think the same thing?

    Is there much to lament about in churches trying too hard to be relevant? Sure. But criminy, people, does that mean that we should try our hardest to be irrelevant? No, and nobody thinks that, either.

    In the end, I don’t trust McCracken’s appeal to culture any more than I do some of the ridiculous examples he cites. Yes, “MyNakedPastor.com” and “Biblical Oral Sex” certainly sound over-the-top (I’m not going to waste my time finding out, but I assume they’re not nearly as salacious as they are intended to sound), but it’s also true that a church that can’t honestly discuss sexuality and how it relates to God is being overly irrelevant. After all, the Bible discusses sexuality, and people want and need to know what God thinks about it, because they’re certainly thinking about it themselves.

    And yes, “Twitter and iPhone interaction with the pastor during their services” certainly sounds over-the-top, but would anybody today argue that a pastor with an email address or downloadable sermons are similar manifestations of an “obsession with being on the technological cutting edge”? If your church can’t easily be found on the Web (with at least the address and worship times), or your pastor can only be reached by phone, you are being overly irrelevant.

    And so on. The middle road. Blah blah blah.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    @16 Did somebody have an extra helping of snark at lunch today? ;)

    There is much talk about making Christianity relevant or cool by being either cultural or counter-culture, when in reality Christ is neither. Christ is culture, because His story is our story through the grace of God. In replacing, His story with our story, God makes Him our culture. It defines our entire being. Drums, guitars, organs, chanting they do not define our culture. It is the story of Jesus that defines it. His story should be defining the drums, guitars, organs, and chanting. When they are defined in story of God’s redemption they become truly real. It is when we leave the story they become a detriment.

    On the lighter side, this video pokes some fun at the church’s attempts to out do itself.
    http://vimeo.com/11501569

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    @16 Did somebody have an extra helping of snark at lunch today? ;)

    There is much talk about making Christianity relevant or cool by being either cultural or counter-culture, when in reality Christ is neither. Christ is culture, because His story is our story through the grace of God. In replacing, His story with our story, God makes Him our culture. It defines our entire being. Drums, guitars, organs, chanting they do not define our culture. It is the story of Jesus that defines it. His story should be defining the drums, guitars, organs, and chanting. When they are defined in story of God’s redemption they become truly real. It is when we leave the story they become a detriment.

    On the lighter side, this video pokes some fun at the church’s attempts to out do itself.
    http://vimeo.com/11501569

  • Purple Koolaid

    Wow, now Christianity has jumped the shark. Most churches don’t even talk about sin anymore……they never mention the Bible or Hell. Many churches have good doctrine, but they don’t share it until Bible class. Other churches look at their Pastor as a ceo, rather than a spiritual leader. Sad.

  • Purple Koolaid

    Wow, now Christianity has jumped the shark. Most churches don’t even talk about sin anymore……they never mention the Bible or Hell. Many churches have good doctrine, but they don’t share it until Bible class. Other churches look at their Pastor as a ceo, rather than a spiritual leader. Sad.

  • http://blog.captainthin.net/ Captain Thin

    I’ll be a bit more blunt than tODD and suggest that some people deliberately attempt to be irrelevant. I know at least a few who wear their irrelevance as a sort of badge, a sign that they are not “of the world” as it were. But surely attempting to be understandable to the world is not synonymous with being “of the world”. We seem to forget “being relevant” (if we choose to use this term; I avoid it because of its negative connotations) is precisely what the Church has done from the very beginning. The New Testament authors use Koine rather than literary Greek to ensure everyday people could understand it. Paul quotes Greek poets and playwrights a number of times in the New Testament (Acts 17:28, 1 Corinthians 15:33, Titus 1:12). He further uses Greek religious terminology (ie, “the mystery”) in an attempt to make the Message of Christ comprehensible to his audience.

    Engaging with the culture around us in a way to clearly explain the Gospel of Christ is well-established in the Scriptures. To be sure, a lot of people today do it so poorly that they entirely obscure the message of Christ in the attempt; such actions are rightly to be condemend. But on the other hand, withdrawing completely from the world around us leads to the exact same problem: no one has a clue what we’re talking about. And while the message of Christ is surely profound, it need not be confusing. If it were, the whole doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture would have to be thrown out.

  • http://blog.captainthin.net/ Captain Thin

    I’ll be a bit more blunt than tODD and suggest that some people deliberately attempt to be irrelevant. I know at least a few who wear their irrelevance as a sort of badge, a sign that they are not “of the world” as it were. But surely attempting to be understandable to the world is not synonymous with being “of the world”. We seem to forget “being relevant” (if we choose to use this term; I avoid it because of its negative connotations) is precisely what the Church has done from the very beginning. The New Testament authors use Koine rather than literary Greek to ensure everyday people could understand it. Paul quotes Greek poets and playwrights a number of times in the New Testament (Acts 17:28, 1 Corinthians 15:33, Titus 1:12). He further uses Greek religious terminology (ie, “the mystery”) in an attempt to make the Message of Christ comprehensible to his audience.

    Engaging with the culture around us in a way to clearly explain the Gospel of Christ is well-established in the Scriptures. To be sure, a lot of people today do it so poorly that they entirely obscure the message of Christ in the attempt; such actions are rightly to be condemend. But on the other hand, withdrawing completely from the world around us leads to the exact same problem: no one has a clue what we’re talking about. And while the message of Christ is surely profound, it need not be confusing. If it were, the whole doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture would have to be thrown out.

  • http://maanumsmnms.blogspot.com Rev. Ed Maanum

    Thank you for finding and posting this. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m cross-linking this on my blog.

  • http://maanumsmnms.blogspot.com Rev. Ed Maanum

    Thank you for finding and posting this. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m cross-linking this on my blog.

  • Joe

    I think this issue often gets boiled down to a battle of styles – but it really is much more. Luther did not introduce hymns into the service because the Germans of his day were going around town singing secular hymns. He introduced them because they are an easy way to teach illiterate adults and young kids doctrine. Read through the hymns of the reformer, they are catechises sent to music. I admit I prefer the traditional liturgical form of the Divine Service, but it is not because of the style – its because of the substance. I have no problem with church music played on a bongo, or a guitar or a keyboard as long as the text is doctrinally correct and the music is written and played in a way that is designed to draw the congregation’s attention to what Christ has done for them. Much of today’s (and some of the old) worship music is all about what I am doing or what I want. It is also written in a musical style that leads the worshiper to focus on themselves. Also, I have found that it is really difficult for a congregation to join in and sing when the worship leader is emotionally in a quasi-orgasmic state and is breathily moaning into the microphone.

  • Joe

    I think this issue often gets boiled down to a battle of styles – but it really is much more. Luther did not introduce hymns into the service because the Germans of his day were going around town singing secular hymns. He introduced them because they are an easy way to teach illiterate adults and young kids doctrine. Read through the hymns of the reformer, they are catechises sent to music. I admit I prefer the traditional liturgical form of the Divine Service, but it is not because of the style – its because of the substance. I have no problem with church music played on a bongo, or a guitar or a keyboard as long as the text is doctrinally correct and the music is written and played in a way that is designed to draw the congregation’s attention to what Christ has done for them. Much of today’s (and some of the old) worship music is all about what I am doing or what I want. It is also written in a musical style that leads the worshiper to focus on themselves. Also, I have found that it is really difficult for a congregation to join in and sing when the worship leader is emotionally in a quasi-orgasmic state and is breathily moaning into the microphone.

  • ptl

    tODD at 17….you don’t sound so queer here….hopefully there is hope for you :)

  • ptl

    tODD at 17….you don’t sound so queer here….hopefully there is hope for you :)

  • http://lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com Erich Heidenreich DDS

    Check out The Liturgy as Beacon for the Elect. Pr. Curtis exposes the “Functional Arminianism” that is part of the reasoning behind trying to make Christianity cool.

  • http://lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com Erich Heidenreich DDS

    Check out The Liturgy as Beacon for the Elect. Pr. Curtis exposes the “Functional Arminianism” that is part of the reasoning behind trying to make Christianity cool.

  • Pingback: Trying to make Christianity cool | Cranach: The Blog of Veith « Further Thoughts …

  • Pingback: Trying to make Christianity cool | Cranach: The Blog of Veith « Further Thoughts …

  • Bobby

    Erich Heidenreich DDS @24,
    In Pr. Curtis’ paper, it seems that in trying to expose “Functional Arminianism,” he falls into “Functional Calvinism.”

  • Bobby

    Erich Heidenreich DDS @24,
    In Pr. Curtis’ paper, it seems that in trying to expose “Functional Arminianism,” he falls into “Functional Calvinism.”

  • M Burke

    “In Pr. Curtis’ paper, it seems that in trying to expose “Functional Arminianism,” he falls into “Functional Calvinism.””

    What’s wrong with that? ;)

  • M Burke

    “In Pr. Curtis’ paper, it seems that in trying to expose “Functional Arminianism,” he falls into “Functional Calvinism.””

    What’s wrong with that? ;)

  • http://lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com Erich Heidenreich DDS

    No, I don’t believe Pr. Curtis falls into functional Calvinism, by which I assume you mean double predestination. Election is a Lutheran doctrine, but not double predestination. We leave it as a paradox why some are saved and not others.

  • http://lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com Erich Heidenreich DDS

    No, I don’t believe Pr. Curtis falls into functional Calvinism, by which I assume you mean double predestination. Election is a Lutheran doctrine, but not double predestination. We leave it as a paradox why some are saved and not others.

  • M Burke

    “We leave it as a paradox why some are saved and not others.”

    So do Calvinists.

  • M Burke

    “We leave it as a paradox why some are saved and not others.”

    So do Calvinists.

  • http://lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com Erich Heidenreich DDS

    Lutherans reject the Calvinist doctrine of reprobation, which we see as a Calvinist denial of the paradox. The paradox is this: If you are saved, it is 100% God’s doing. If you are damned, it is 100% your doing.

  • http://lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com Erich Heidenreich DDS

    Lutherans reject the Calvinist doctrine of reprobation, which we see as a Calvinist denial of the paradox. The paradox is this: If you are saved, it is 100% God’s doing. If you are damned, it is 100% your doing.

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  • Dan Kempin

    Random thought . . .

    When did “Pr.” become the abbreviation for “pastor?” I think I missed that meeting.

    Perhaps your linguistic expertise could be brought to bear, Dr. Veith. Has this always been around and I just never noticed, or has it risen to prominence in the last 5 years or so, as it seems to me? (I am speaking within lutheranism.)

  • Dan Kempin

    Random thought . . .

    When did “Pr.” become the abbreviation for “pastor?” I think I missed that meeting.

    Perhaps your linguistic expertise could be brought to bear, Dr. Veith. Has this always been around and I just never noticed, or has it risen to prominence in the last 5 years or so, as it seems to me? (I am speaking within lutheranism.)

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  • Bobby

    Erich Heidenreich DDS @29
    Certainly, election is a Lutheran (Scriptural) teaching, but in Pastor Curtis’ paper, he implies a double predestination. We can find this beginning to surface on p. 8 when he criticizes ‘functional Arminianism’ for asking, “If your inaction can damn another–can’t someone else’s inaction damn you?” Yet it is, indeed, human inaction and inability that damns the unbeliever–not only because he “cannot by his own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ” but in some cases, the means of grace have been withheld. God warned Ezekiel that if he did not warn the wicked man he would be held accountable for his blood (3:18). Paul speaks of hindering the gospel and his woe if he does not preach the Gospel though he should (1 Cor. 9:13-16). By taking responsibility from humanity for the damnation of unbelievers, you begin to place the blame on God for that damnation.

    On pp. 14ff., Pastor Curtis suggests that no matter what happens or doesn’t happen in the Divine Service, it won’t make a difference unless you are one who has been appointed to eternal life. “Everyone is not a potential convert,” Pastor Curtis writes. Yes, he qualifies it with “…in the Arminian sense,” but the rest of the paper would suggest that there are some who just simply are not potential converts. As he juxtaposes the “potential convert” and the “elect,” he suggests that the “potential convert” really has no potential to be converted, so why bother with him? If God really wants him to be saved, He’ll make sure that it happens while we are fishing. If He doesn’t want him to be saved, then there is nothing that could have been done any way.

    I can appreciate Pastor Curtis’ thrust that the Church should not cater to the sinful desires of the Old Adam when it comes to the Divine Service and that some Lutherans have a warped sense of mission, but by “letting the chips fall where they may,” he suggests that some have no potential for conversion. (Thus we should not feel guilty because they couldn’t have been saved anyway.) There is much to commend in Pastor Curtis’ paper, yet he is also right in saying “Dr. Nagel is fond of pointing out that every error in theology is pushing a truth a bit too far” (p. 7).

  • Bobby

    Erich Heidenreich DDS @29
    Certainly, election is a Lutheran (Scriptural) teaching, but in Pastor Curtis’ paper, he implies a double predestination. We can find this beginning to surface on p. 8 when he criticizes ‘functional Arminianism’ for asking, “If your inaction can damn another–can’t someone else’s inaction damn you?” Yet it is, indeed, human inaction and inability that damns the unbeliever–not only because he “cannot by his own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ” but in some cases, the means of grace have been withheld. God warned Ezekiel that if he did not warn the wicked man he would be held accountable for his blood (3:18). Paul speaks of hindering the gospel and his woe if he does not preach the Gospel though he should (1 Cor. 9:13-16). By taking responsibility from humanity for the damnation of unbelievers, you begin to place the blame on God for that damnation.

    On pp. 14ff., Pastor Curtis suggests that no matter what happens or doesn’t happen in the Divine Service, it won’t make a difference unless you are one who has been appointed to eternal life. “Everyone is not a potential convert,” Pastor Curtis writes. Yes, he qualifies it with “…in the Arminian sense,” but the rest of the paper would suggest that there are some who just simply are not potential converts. As he juxtaposes the “potential convert” and the “elect,” he suggests that the “potential convert” really has no potential to be converted, so why bother with him? If God really wants him to be saved, He’ll make sure that it happens while we are fishing. If He doesn’t want him to be saved, then there is nothing that could have been done any way.

    I can appreciate Pastor Curtis’ thrust that the Church should not cater to the sinful desires of the Old Adam when it comes to the Divine Service and that some Lutherans have a warped sense of mission, but by “letting the chips fall where they may,” he suggests that some have no potential for conversion. (Thus we should not feel guilty because they couldn’t have been saved anyway.) There is much to commend in Pastor Curtis’ paper, yet he is also right in saying “Dr. Nagel is fond of pointing out that every error in theology is pushing a truth a bit too far” (p. 7).

  • http://lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com Erich Heidenreich DDS

    I contacted the Right Rev. Fr. Curtis and alerted him to the comments on this blog. He replied as follows:

    Thanks, Good Doctor for the heads up. I’m swamped right now with catechesis starting back up for the fall, a CPH deadline, etc. I’ll just say this quickly and you can toss it up there if you like with my apologies for not being able to engage in online discussions right now.

    I think Bobby needs to read FC SD XI again, as well as Romans 8 where Paul says that “nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” If I can damn someone, then someone can damn me. His appeal to Ezechiel is a non sequitur. God said that if Ezechiel didn’t preach then _he himself_ would suffer damnation – and that if he preached and another didn’t turn, then Ezechiel himself would be fine. God does not say that Ezechiel, through his efforts, can increase the number of people in heaven on the last day. Likewise, Paul says “woe to me, if I do not preach.” We preach because we feel compelled by the Good News – not because we have the power in us to increase the population of heaven.

    And that part of the paper is the part that focuses the point the most clearly. Election is a mystery and is therefore tough to talk about. But this cuts to the quick: Let X be the number of people in heaven on the last day. Let A be the situation in which I do everything I can to preach the Gospel. Let B be the situation in which I do nothing at all. Under which, A or B, is X larger? I’ll concede that in B I myself might be damned for willfully disregarding a commandment of God and thus driving the Holy Spirit and faith away – but my actions simply can’t damn one of God’s elect. Just can’t. See Romans 8 and SD FC XI.

    Thanks again,
    +HRC

  • http://lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com Erich Heidenreich DDS

    I contacted the Right Rev. Fr. Curtis and alerted him to the comments on this blog. He replied as follows:

    Thanks, Good Doctor for the heads up. I’m swamped right now with catechesis starting back up for the fall, a CPH deadline, etc. I’ll just say this quickly and you can toss it up there if you like with my apologies for not being able to engage in online discussions right now.

    I think Bobby needs to read FC SD XI again, as well as Romans 8 where Paul says that “nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” If I can damn someone, then someone can damn me. His appeal to Ezechiel is a non sequitur. God said that if Ezechiel didn’t preach then _he himself_ would suffer damnation – and that if he preached and another didn’t turn, then Ezechiel himself would be fine. God does not say that Ezechiel, through his efforts, can increase the number of people in heaven on the last day. Likewise, Paul says “woe to me, if I do not preach.” We preach because we feel compelled by the Good News – not because we have the power in us to increase the population of heaven.

    And that part of the paper is the part that focuses the point the most clearly. Election is a mystery and is therefore tough to talk about. But this cuts to the quick: Let X be the number of people in heaven on the last day. Let A be the situation in which I do everything I can to preach the Gospel. Let B be the situation in which I do nothing at all. Under which, A or B, is X larger? I’ll concede that in B I myself might be damned for willfully disregarding a commandment of God and thus driving the Holy Spirit and faith away – but my actions simply can’t damn one of God’s elect. Just can’t. See Romans 8 and SD FC XI.

    Thanks again,
    +HRC

  • Bobby

    Dr. Heidenreich and Right Rev. Fr.? Curtis,
    Perhaps I wasn’t clear in my post because Pastor Curtis doesn’t really address my concerns with his paper. (I realize time is a factor for all of us.) I do not suggest that we “can increase the number of people in heaven,” but that Pastor Curtis’ paper in attempting to combat “functional Arianism” has brought in “functional Clavinism.” If the failure of God’s Church to bring Word and Sacrament to the world does not lead to damnation, then either salvation is apart from means (or at least the means come apart from people, cf. CA V, XIV) or God has chosen some to be damned. This latter option seems to be the logical conclusion as set forth in the sentence: “Everyone is not a potential convert…” despite the added qualifier “…in the Arminian sense.”

  • Bobby

    Dr. Heidenreich and Right Rev. Fr.? Curtis,
    Perhaps I wasn’t clear in my post because Pastor Curtis doesn’t really address my concerns with his paper. (I realize time is a factor for all of us.) I do not suggest that we “can increase the number of people in heaven,” but that Pastor Curtis’ paper in attempting to combat “functional Arianism” has brought in “functional Clavinism.” If the failure of God’s Church to bring Word and Sacrament to the world does not lead to damnation, then either salvation is apart from means (or at least the means come apart from people, cf. CA V, XIV) or God has chosen some to be damned. This latter option seems to be the logical conclusion as set forth in the sentence: “Everyone is not a potential convert…” despite the added qualifier “…in the Arminian sense.”

  • http://lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com Erich Heidenreich DDS

    Bobby,

    The failure of God’s Church to bring Word and Sacrament to the world DOES NOT LEAD TO DAMNATION. Plain and simple, if you’re damned, it’s entirely YOUR fault, not the Church’s, and not mine – PERIOD! This does not mean that salvation is apart from the means of grace. It means that damnation is entirely the fault of the individual who is damned. It’s part of the paradox. Your confusion stems from an attempt on your part to solve the paradox by inserting the church as an effective agent in salvation, and is exactly the point of Father Curtis’s paper.

  • http://lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com Erich Heidenreich DDS

    Bobby,

    The failure of God’s Church to bring Word and Sacrament to the world DOES NOT LEAD TO DAMNATION. Plain and simple, if you’re damned, it’s entirely YOUR fault, not the Church’s, and not mine – PERIOD! This does not mean that salvation is apart from the means of grace. It means that damnation is entirely the fault of the individual who is damned. It’s part of the paradox. Your confusion stems from an attempt on your part to solve the paradox by inserting the church as an effective agent in salvation, and is exactly the point of Father Curtis’s paper.

  • Bobby

    Erich Heidenreich DDS,
    Perhaps, part of the problem is the attempt to view God’s mission from the perspective of election. Yes, as Pastor Curtis points out, God’s mission to preserve the elect by means of Word and Sacrament is neglected or belittled by many Lutherans today. But then when one applies election to “potential converts,” the issue becomes rather clouded because we cannot know who is the elect. We can, of course, see the marks of the Church around which the elect gather.
    Here are the points that we can agree upon: 1. “God desires all people to be saved” by grace through faith on account of Christ. 2. “So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the gospel and administering the sacraments was instituted.” 3. Though God employs human agency to teach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments, it is still God who does the work. That is, human beings become the means of the means. Bread and wine do not magically fall from the sky into your mouth; a rainstorm is not the same as Baptism; sermons do not typically come from a booming voice in the clouds (unless the Divine Service was held in an airplane perhaps).
    Now, for the area of disagreement. Does the failure of God’s Church to bring Word and Sacrament to the world lead to damnation? You say, “NO!” After some reflection, I say that the question and any resulting answer is not a useful one. Does God work through Word and Sacrament to save? Yes. Does God use people to do this? Yes. If the Church fails to bring this Word and Sacrament to a particular person, is that person damned? Well, if the entire Church throughout the world failed to bring Word and Sacrament to that person so that that person never heard God’s Word or received Baptism then either that person is damned or God is able to work apart from means. If by this question one means that if one part of the Church fails, could God use another part of the Church to bring Word and Sacrament to that person? Then, of course, God does this all the time. You see, I don’t think election (at least as has been presented by both sides of this discussion) is helpful in understanding all this.
    I think, instead, vocation (as Pastor Curtis even alluded to) is much more helpful. As God’s baptized children, He calls us to be His masks in the home, in society, and in the Church. This is why Christians can spend time with their families and go fishing as well as tell the Good News of Jesus. Another area to which Pastor Curtis alluded is the motivation for telling the Good News. Law and guilt are certainly results-driven motivators but not godly motivators. Because we are baptized children of God who have been redeemed in the blood of Christ, we just will tell others this Good News of Jesus.
    So as I have said, there are concepts to be commended in Pastor Curtis’ paper, but I think the election issue “muddies the water.”

  • Bobby

    Erich Heidenreich DDS,
    Perhaps, part of the problem is the attempt to view God’s mission from the perspective of election. Yes, as Pastor Curtis points out, God’s mission to preserve the elect by means of Word and Sacrament is neglected or belittled by many Lutherans today. But then when one applies election to “potential converts,” the issue becomes rather clouded because we cannot know who is the elect. We can, of course, see the marks of the Church around which the elect gather.
    Here are the points that we can agree upon: 1. “God desires all people to be saved” by grace through faith on account of Christ. 2. “So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the gospel and administering the sacraments was instituted.” 3. Though God employs human agency to teach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments, it is still God who does the work. That is, human beings become the means of the means. Bread and wine do not magically fall from the sky into your mouth; a rainstorm is not the same as Baptism; sermons do not typically come from a booming voice in the clouds (unless the Divine Service was held in an airplane perhaps).
    Now, for the area of disagreement. Does the failure of God’s Church to bring Word and Sacrament to the world lead to damnation? You say, “NO!” After some reflection, I say that the question and any resulting answer is not a useful one. Does God work through Word and Sacrament to save? Yes. Does God use people to do this? Yes. If the Church fails to bring this Word and Sacrament to a particular person, is that person damned? Well, if the entire Church throughout the world failed to bring Word and Sacrament to that person so that that person never heard God’s Word or received Baptism then either that person is damned or God is able to work apart from means. If by this question one means that if one part of the Church fails, could God use another part of the Church to bring Word and Sacrament to that person? Then, of course, God does this all the time. You see, I don’t think election (at least as has been presented by both sides of this discussion) is helpful in understanding all this.
    I think, instead, vocation (as Pastor Curtis even alluded to) is much more helpful. As God’s baptized children, He calls us to be His masks in the home, in society, and in the Church. This is why Christians can spend time with their families and go fishing as well as tell the Good News of Jesus. Another area to which Pastor Curtis alluded is the motivation for telling the Good News. Law and guilt are certainly results-driven motivators but not godly motivators. Because we are baptized children of God who have been redeemed in the blood of Christ, we just will tell others this Good News of Jesus.
    So as I have said, there are concepts to be commended in Pastor Curtis’ paper, but I think the election issue “muddies the water.”

  • Digital

    We discussed this topic last night at our Theology on Tap group and some interesting points were brought up that I would like your opinions on.
    I will assume that you are familiar with camp churches vs town churches. We discussed the possibility that this polarizing idea of the cool kids vs the Pharisees might just be another manifestation of this fundamental difference between church histories.
    Thoughts?

  • Digital

    We discussed this topic last night at our Theology on Tap group and some interesting points were brought up that I would like your opinions on.
    I will assume that you are familiar with camp churches vs town churches. We discussed the possibility that this polarizing idea of the cool kids vs the Pharisees might just be another manifestation of this fundamental difference between church histories.
    Thoughts?

  • http://webulite.com webulite

    Dear Digitial from the site geneveith.com,

    I think what you will be seeing more and more of is all of those supernaturalistic groups declining, and the membership becoming more and more radical. Supernaturalistic groups will never go away completely, but you will find they will become more like the NRA, where the members are really fixated on a particular issue to the exclusion to most other ones.

    Folks that are more well rounded are not going to be joining these groups.

    Now, don’t misunderstand me. Folks will always attend church. That is a social function that is very common in the USA. But most folks that attend church are not in any way interested in the speculative discussions of theology that you see dominating many of the radical supernaturalistic groups.

    Cheers! webulite.com

  • http://webulite.com webulite

    Dear Digitial from the site geneveith.com,

    I think what you will be seeing more and more of is all of those supernaturalistic groups declining, and the membership becoming more and more radical. Supernaturalistic groups will never go away completely, but you will find they will become more like the NRA, where the members are really fixated on a particular issue to the exclusion to most other ones.

    Folks that are more well rounded are not going to be joining these groups.

    Now, don’t misunderstand me. Folks will always attend church. That is a social function that is very common in the USA. But most folks that attend church are not in any way interested in the speculative discussions of theology that you see dominating many of the radical supernaturalistic groups.

    Cheers! webulite.com

  • Digital

    What defines a supernaturalistic group? Sorry it isn’t a term I am familiar with…is this stuff like word of faith movements?
    I was referring to town churches being the churches that were centered around the whole town going vs Camp Churches that started in the US and had to be highly centered around outreach.
    Our particular church is a blend of the 2, we have a strong “cool” service, and a strong blended service. Interestingly enough (but not surprising) is there has been quite a bit of interest in a High worship contemplative style being done at our church. The interest is coming from both services. I think it will be an excellent example for the LCMS if it works out and I will be excited to see more churches consider this multi-service style.

  • Digital

    What defines a supernaturalistic group? Sorry it isn’t a term I am familiar with…is this stuff like word of faith movements?
    I was referring to town churches being the churches that were centered around the whole town going vs Camp Churches that started in the US and had to be highly centered around outreach.
    Our particular church is a blend of the 2, we have a strong “cool” service, and a strong blended service. Interestingly enough (but not surprising) is there has been quite a bit of interest in a High worship contemplative style being done at our church. The interest is coming from both services. I think it will be an excellent example for the LCMS if it works out and I will be excited to see more churches consider this multi-service style.

  • http://webulite.com webulite

    Dear Digitial from the site geneveith.com

    Regarding the supernatural, two places you can find general information; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supernaturalism and http://webulite.dyndns.org:8080/wiki/defining_supernaturalism

    I was saying that you are seeing all supernaturalistic groups declining. So the ones that remain are going to be competing for more and more radical members.

    Cheers! webulite.com

  • http://webulite.com webulite

    Dear Digitial from the site geneveith.com

    Regarding the supernatural, two places you can find general information; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supernaturalism and http://webulite.dyndns.org:8080/wiki/defining_supernaturalism

    I was saying that you are seeing all supernaturalistic groups declining. So the ones that remain are going to be competing for more and more radical members.

    Cheers! webulite.com

  • Digital

    Gotcha Webulite, I thought you were replying to my camp vs town churches. Rather than referring to the decline of Religious groups as a whole.

  • Digital

    Gotcha Webulite, I thought you were replying to my camp vs town churches. Rather than referring to the decline of Religious groups as a whole.

  • http://webulite.com webulite

    Hey Digital from geneveith.com

    Yes, I was saying that all supernaturalism, and not just christian supernaturalism is on the decline. Christian churches are trying various ways to slow the decline, but it’s like where cars came out and the buggy whip industry tried to stem to loss in their sales. They can implement a smart idea or two, but the tide is definitely against them.

    I also hope that the info I passed along we helpful in your saying that you were unfamiliar with the term “supernatural”. I find it more useful to talk about the supernatural in general then a persons particular religion like christianity or hinduism. If is all of supernaturalism, not say just some brand of christian calvinism that is on the decline, so it is better to talk about the general topic than a particular in it.

    For example, if ALL car sales are down, but people just can’t figure out why blue cars are not selling… they are not understand what is actually happening.

    Cheers! webulite.com

  • http://webulite.com webulite

    Hey Digital from geneveith.com

    Yes, I was saying that all supernaturalism, and not just christian supernaturalism is on the decline. Christian churches are trying various ways to slow the decline, but it’s like where cars came out and the buggy whip industry tried to stem to loss in their sales. They can implement a smart idea or two, but the tide is definitely against them.

    I also hope that the info I passed along we helpful in your saying that you were unfamiliar with the term “supernatural”. I find it more useful to talk about the supernatural in general then a persons particular religion like christianity or hinduism. If is all of supernaturalism, not say just some brand of christian calvinism that is on the decline, so it is better to talk about the general topic than a particular in it.

    For example, if ALL car sales are down, but people just can’t figure out why blue cars are not selling… they are not understand what is actually happening.

    Cheers! webulite.com

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