“I’m neither religious nor spiritual–I’m a Lutheran”

You know that viral video from the guy who says he hates religion but loves Jesus?  Well, Anthony Sacramone kind of agrees with him:

I like to say that I’m neither religious nor spiritual — I’m a Lutheran. It’s more than just left of pithy; it’s true. I have zero interest in religion. I had plenty of it as a kid. Sunday school; religion classes in my Lutheran parochial schools; confirmation classes. I was an acolyte and a winner of some religion-essay contest at the tender age of 9. And then there was church. And the inevitable Monday morning role call. Every Monday, our home room teacher would ask whether we had gone to church, Sunday school, both, or neither. After about age 11 I was racking up an impressive list of neithers. I would do anything to get out of going. To this day, I cannot remember a single word any pastor ever preached on any text. Church was something to endure. And among many of the Lutherans of my childhood, it didn’t seem to matter. They subscribed to Woody Allen’s shallow philosophy: just showing up was good enough.

And when I was finally confirmed, I was not just an adult in the eyes of the church; I was also free. Free never to have to endure the brain-sapping banality that was my religion. And we’re not talking about a denomination exactly given to legalism. In fact, it had very few rules. Really, it had just one: show up. Just show up. And that was enough to make my religion unbearable. Because I wanted to be anywhere but there.

If only someone had told me to read Luther. Real Luther, not Sunday school Luther. The Luther who killed religion. . . .

What exactly did the religious folk want of Jesus? They wanted a king. And Jesus gave them one “in the form of a slave.” They wanted relief from oppression, and they got parables. They wanted a kingdom, and they got the cross — a young Jewish man of dubious parentage apparently crushed by the collision of church and state but in reality bearing the iniquity of us all to reconcile us to a holy God, to inoculate us against sin, death, and the devil, to bury us alongside him, so he could raise us to eternal life. Their prayers were answered in the most startlingly appalling way: they received not power but promises.

Christianity isn’t a religion. It’s a conundrum. And no one has ever wrestled with and wrung the truth out of that conundrum better than Martin Luther. And it took a class at NYU to introduce me to his inimitable voice.

Luther hated that God who demanded perfect righteousness from an original sinner but who had already rigged the game with election. How could this possibly be good news? Where was hope of being a saint when you were still a sinner? How could a perfect God understand the weight of guilt, the pain of betrayal, the agony of a broken body? Luther had failed to bridge the chasm between a wrathful God and lowly, raging, libidinous man with his fastings and law keeping. How could he possibly get from despair to hope?

It was in the communication of properties — the dual nature of Christ understood such that we can speak of the death of the Son of God and the true union of God and man — that Luther saw a way out and was able slowly to forge the key to the Christian conundrum: Jesus takes my sin and gives me his righteousness. His righteousness. There is real union, but it is predicated on faith, trust in the promises, not an ascent on our part, but a condescension on his. We are passive recipients of a gift, which is Christ’s own flesh. He really took our sin into his own flesh on Calvary and he really communicates his favor and forgiveness by feeding us that same flesh. Because life is in the blood. The worst crime in history — he who called heaven and earth into being with his Word fixed immobile to two cross beams — is the only hope anyone has of true freedom.

The church should be the place where you hear the promises of God, and embrace them as your own. The Father’s wrath at his broken law should terrify you such that you run from him to Jesus, from the Just Judge to the Righteous Redeemer, who delivers not a sentence but his own self. If what you get instead is therapy or law or even encouragement to try harder, climb higher, or even to just show up, then you have religion, and you are doomed.

via Strange Herring | And other signs that the end is nearish.

Read it all.

This, of course, is the “theology of the cross” as compared to “the theology of glory.”

Do you see what he is saying?  I’m touched by the account of his childhood post-confirmation alienation from the church.  If we could teach the radical nature of the gospel and the theology of the cross more consistently, as opposed to just memorizing answers and “just showing up,” would that make a difference?  Or are young people at that particular age more interested in a “theology of glory,” being oblivious to the grace that is hidden in an ordinary, boring church service?  Whereas, perhaps, after failing and suffering and becoming cynical for awhile, they are ready to come back?

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.

  • Booklover

    The guy who made the original video, Jefferson Bethke, is 22 years old, just came off an addiction of pornography and getting wasted on Saturday nights, and recently became regenerated; so now he feels he needs to judge those who have not had the same experiences.

    Yes, Jesus is there for those who have fallen like the prodigal son. But he is also there for those who, like the older brother, have been with him always. “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”

    Jefferson Bethke will learn as he gets older that Jesus loves those “religious people” more than Jefferson does.

  • Booklover

    The guy who made the original video, Jefferson Bethke, is 22 years old, just came off an addiction of pornography and getting wasted on Saturday nights, and recently became regenerated; so now he feels he needs to judge those who have not had the same experiences.

    Yes, Jesus is there for those who have fallen like the prodigal son. But he is also there for those who, like the older brother, have been with him always. “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”

    Jefferson Bethke will learn as he gets older that Jesus loves those “religious people” more than Jefferson does.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Semantic games.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Semantic games.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Well said, Booklover.

    This misdirected piety often found in “new” believers is often directed at those who ‘don’t quite get it’. Such as those of us who still practice traditional forms of worship.

    So traditions are BAD and Sacraments are BAD and vestments are BAD and pews and altars and stained glass are…BAD.

    What then is good? My personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the decision that I made to get there, and the way I lead my life.

    Same ol’ story.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Well said, Booklover.

    This misdirected piety often found in “new” believers is often directed at those who ‘don’t quite get it’. Such as those of us who still practice traditional forms of worship.

    So traditions are BAD and Sacraments are BAD and vestments are BAD and pews and altars and stained glass are…BAD.

    What then is good? My personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the decision that I made to get there, and the way I lead my life.

    Same ol’ story.

  • mikeb

    The WE team took this on.

    http://www.worldvieweverlasting.com/2012/01/13/freestylin-jesus-religion/

    In response to Dr. Veith, I’d say we do need to do a better job of communicating timeless truths to an ever changing world. I think that would make a difference and is much better than “just show up”. We’re saved by grace UNTO good works. Sometimes I think we forget to teach the ‘now what’ part of the equation — Discipleship — lest we fall prey to preaching works righteousness.

  • mikeb

    The WE team took this on.

    http://www.worldvieweverlasting.com/2012/01/13/freestylin-jesus-religion/

    In response to Dr. Veith, I’d say we do need to do a better job of communicating timeless truths to an ever changing world. I think that would make a difference and is much better than “just show up”. We’re saved by grace UNTO good works. Sometimes I think we forget to teach the ‘now what’ part of the equation — Discipleship — lest we fall prey to preaching works righteousness.

  • –helen

    Back in the Dark Ages we had to show up…. with our memory work done… from six years old and upward. And whether we understood what we were memorizing didn’t matter immediately; it mattered, though, when we ran up against the situations it was talking about in our own lives.
    We also soaked up the liturgy through our pores (and our eyes and ears), by actually participating in it, instead of just standing there as I have seen youth… and somewhat older people… doing of late.

    Don’t knock religion, son, you never tried it!
    [Though that was probably not your fault in the early years, if you had parents, it was your responsibility, later on.]

  • –helen

    Back in the Dark Ages we had to show up…. with our memory work done… from six years old and upward. And whether we understood what we were memorizing didn’t matter immediately; it mattered, though, when we ran up against the situations it was talking about in our own lives.
    We also soaked up the liturgy through our pores (and our eyes and ears), by actually participating in it, instead of just standing there as I have seen youth… and somewhat older people… doing of late.

    Don’t knock religion, son, you never tried it!
    [Though that was probably not your fault in the early years, if you had parents, it was your responsibility, later on.]

  • Gary

    Mr. Bethke has a lot of good things to say and his video is not without merit. Yet, if Mr. Bethke could confess the Athanasian Creed without choking on the word religion than maybe that might be something. If Mr. Bethke could at least confess the Apostles’ creed that would be something. I have a feeling, but I could be wrong, that for Mr. Bethke creeds are part of religion, i.e. that Jesus and creeds don’t mix.

  • Gary

    Mr. Bethke has a lot of good things to say and his video is not without merit. Yet, if Mr. Bethke could confess the Athanasian Creed without choking on the word religion than maybe that might be something. If Mr. Bethke could at least confess the Apostles’ creed that would be something. I have a feeling, but I could be wrong, that for Mr. Bethke creeds are part of religion, i.e. that Jesus and creeds don’t mix.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    As with Benthe, it is all in how you define religion. At least Anthony acknowledges the difference. However, I am not thrilled with his apparent casual disregard for the dictionary definition of religion. Dictionaries exist for a reason. They provide an objective measure by which we guide our use of language. So we need to abide by and take into account the dictionary definition if we are going to communicate in a beneficial fashion.

    Sacramone, also needs to acknowledge there were two different religious people in the Gospels, one of glory and one of the cross. The one of glory was looking for the king, the one of the cross saw the man who could forgive sins. So his statement of religious people wanting Jesus to be a king kinda falls flat.

    Religion is either good or bad. The question is what is religion pointing you towards. Good religion points you towards the cross that place where sin is acknowledged and confess and grace is given. Bad religion tells you to show up, to use Sacramone’s words. Good religion’s practices and traditions communicate Christ to you and for you. Bad religion tells you that going through the motions is enough. Good religion communicates to you a savior whose life is substituted for yours. Bad religion communicates a savior who is only your savior if you follow the correct methodology.

    Sacramone wants to claim being Lutheran. Sounds nice and pithy much like Benthe and would have been a thumbs up if I didn’t read further and see that he gets what Luther did wrong. Luther didn’t destroy religion, he and his fellows reformed religion. Luther changed religion’s aim away from just showing up back to Christ the suffering servant who gives His righteousness to us poor miserable sinners. In essence, Luther brought us back from the religion of glory and restored us to the religion of the cross.

    In short in his attempt to be pithy Sacramone makes the exact same mistakes as Benthe and thus ends up tearing down the exact thing he wants to build up.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    As with Benthe, it is all in how you define religion. At least Anthony acknowledges the difference. However, I am not thrilled with his apparent casual disregard for the dictionary definition of religion. Dictionaries exist for a reason. They provide an objective measure by which we guide our use of language. So we need to abide by and take into account the dictionary definition if we are going to communicate in a beneficial fashion.

    Sacramone, also needs to acknowledge there were two different religious people in the Gospels, one of glory and one of the cross. The one of glory was looking for the king, the one of the cross saw the man who could forgive sins. So his statement of religious people wanting Jesus to be a king kinda falls flat.

    Religion is either good or bad. The question is what is religion pointing you towards. Good religion points you towards the cross that place where sin is acknowledged and confess and grace is given. Bad religion tells you to show up, to use Sacramone’s words. Good religion’s practices and traditions communicate Christ to you and for you. Bad religion tells you that going through the motions is enough. Good religion communicates to you a savior whose life is substituted for yours. Bad religion communicates a savior who is only your savior if you follow the correct methodology.

    Sacramone wants to claim being Lutheran. Sounds nice and pithy much like Benthe and would have been a thumbs up if I didn’t read further and see that he gets what Luther did wrong. Luther didn’t destroy religion, he and his fellows reformed religion. Luther changed religion’s aim away from just showing up back to Christ the suffering servant who gives His righteousness to us poor miserable sinners. In essence, Luther brought us back from the religion of glory and restored us to the religion of the cross.

    In short in his attempt to be pithy Sacramone makes the exact same mistakes as Benthe and thus ends up tearing down the exact thing he wants to build up.

  • #4 Kitty

    Nobody had a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” back when I was 22 and I don’t recall anyone complaining about it.

  • #4 Kitty

    Nobody had a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” back when I was 22 and I don’t recall anyone complaining about it.

  • Apocryphon

    @7 It seems that you read up to “The Luther who killed religion.” and stopped there, but it doesn’t seem like you have any disagreements with the text other than for his somewhat hyperbolic statement.

  • Apocryphon

    @7 It seems that you read up to “The Luther who killed religion.” and stopped there, but it doesn’t seem like you have any disagreements with the text other than for his somewhat hyperbolic statement.

  • Dust

    Kitty….that’s because no one knew about nobody’s relationship, but now everybody knows! Meow :)

    cheers!

  • Dust

    Kitty….that’s because no one knew about nobody’s relationship, but now everybody knows! Meow :)

    cheers!

  • Pete

    Booklover @1. Good points. Also, I’m suspicious that the recognition by a young man in his early twenties that pornography is ultimately boring and that getting wasted on Saturday night is ultimately counterproductive, may be less about God’s Holy Spirit working conversion in his life than it is about the natural process of maturity and beginning to use the brain that God gave him. Just sayin’
    It strikes me also that “just showing up” in the Lutheran context is a pretty good deal. Better to “just show up” where God is actually present (Word/Sacrament) as He has said He would be than to show up for the Pep Rally that occurs in a lot of other worship settings. (Sorry – very high crankiness levels in that last one!)

  • Pete

    Booklover @1. Good points. Also, I’m suspicious that the recognition by a young man in his early twenties that pornography is ultimately boring and that getting wasted on Saturday night is ultimately counterproductive, may be less about God’s Holy Spirit working conversion in his life than it is about the natural process of maturity and beginning to use the brain that God gave him. Just sayin’
    It strikes me also that “just showing up” in the Lutheran context is a pretty good deal. Better to “just show up” where God is actually present (Word/Sacrament) as He has said He would be than to show up for the Pep Rally that occurs in a lot of other worship settings. (Sorry – very high crankiness levels in that last one!)

  • mendicus

    Sacramone’s piece led me to reflect on my own past as a member of a variety of theology-of-glory churches. So much bickering, so much pride, so many attempts to revise the church experience so as to tap into this or that sociological or “spiritual” trend. And yet, I now see, almost without exception they were merely variations on the theme of theology of glory.

    Lutheranism has its share of bickering and pride, to be sure, but this difference I see: the fight to preserve the theology of the Cross, to ensure that our churches lift high the Cross rather than works or experiences or decisions or emotions, is a fight worth engaging. It is a fight of real substance with eternal outcomes.

    So I’m pleased and grateful that Sacramone has made the important point that Bethke makes his stand in the wrong place. The bedrock question deals not with institutions, but with the Cross.

  • mendicus

    Sacramone’s piece led me to reflect on my own past as a member of a variety of theology-of-glory churches. So much bickering, so much pride, so many attempts to revise the church experience so as to tap into this or that sociological or “spiritual” trend. And yet, I now see, almost without exception they were merely variations on the theme of theology of glory.

    Lutheranism has its share of bickering and pride, to be sure, but this difference I see: the fight to preserve the theology of the Cross, to ensure that our churches lift high the Cross rather than works or experiences or decisions or emotions, is a fight worth engaging. It is a fight of real substance with eternal outcomes.

    So I’m pleased and grateful that Sacramone has made the important point that Bethke makes his stand in the wrong place. The bedrock question deals not with institutions, but with the Cross.

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

    I guess I get a little hung up on this bit about redefining terms too. But I don’t want to make much of that. We all use words in ways that slightly differ from dictionary definitions, and some dictionaries are woeful in the definitions they give. Redefining words has a hallowed existence in literary pursuits, though it is generally preferred that you then actually define the term so people know how you are using it, and what you mean by it. That is area one where Bethke goes wrong. I haven’t read Sacramones entire piece. I’m not so bothered by Bethke’s failure at this though, since I have heard this redefinition of religion a few times even in Lutheran circles. It is meant to set Christianity apart from other religions. Walther attempted the same when he says there are only two religions, Law and Gospel. what has happened here is people are saying there is religion (law) and Christianity (gospel). And I mean we have had discussions where Lutheran’s talk about protestants as if they aren’t protestants, but look up in a dictionary and we fit the bill, look up an encyclopedia and you find we are the original protestants. So that didn’t bother me.
    What bothered me, was that Bethke really doesn’t divide law and gospel. He doesn’t in the end separate Christianity from religion or law, or works righteousness, but he ends up throwing the church under the bus, and then exchanges one set of laws for another, he is still a legalist, he just doesn’t think he has to go to church to be one. He’s right. But a hypocrite is a hypocrite whether in church or in the bar. Some hypocrites are just more fun to be around, which is why the church is empty and the bar full, perhaps hypocrites are easier to deal with when inebriated. But I imagine Bethke will find his new set of laws heavy enough in time.

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

    I guess I get a little hung up on this bit about redefining terms too. But I don’t want to make much of that. We all use words in ways that slightly differ from dictionary definitions, and some dictionaries are woeful in the definitions they give. Redefining words has a hallowed existence in literary pursuits, though it is generally preferred that you then actually define the term so people know how you are using it, and what you mean by it. That is area one where Bethke goes wrong. I haven’t read Sacramones entire piece. I’m not so bothered by Bethke’s failure at this though, since I have heard this redefinition of religion a few times even in Lutheran circles. It is meant to set Christianity apart from other religions. Walther attempted the same when he says there are only two religions, Law and Gospel. what has happened here is people are saying there is religion (law) and Christianity (gospel). And I mean we have had discussions where Lutheran’s talk about protestants as if they aren’t protestants, but look up in a dictionary and we fit the bill, look up an encyclopedia and you find we are the original protestants. So that didn’t bother me.
    What bothered me, was that Bethke really doesn’t divide law and gospel. He doesn’t in the end separate Christianity from religion or law, or works righteousness, but he ends up throwing the church under the bus, and then exchanges one set of laws for another, he is still a legalist, he just doesn’t think he has to go to church to be one. He’s right. But a hypocrite is a hypocrite whether in church or in the bar. Some hypocrites are just more fun to be around, which is why the church is empty and the bar full, perhaps hypocrites are easier to deal with when inebriated. But I imagine Bethke will find his new set of laws heavy enough in time.

  • George A. Marquart

    First to #4 Kitty @8. Thank you. The whole church seems to be filled with this poison. There are many reasons why this awful teaching has crept even into the LCMS. Suffice it to say that the teaching about a “personal relationship with Jesus” is not Biblical and is therefore harmful to the faith of Christians. “Where two or three are gathered together” does not quite catch the spirit of “I walk in the garden with Jesus.”

    I agree with Anthony Scaramone about the Gospel. I have said it again and again: “During the 62 years since my confirmation in the LCMS, during which I attended church almost every Sunday, and more often during Advent, Lent, and major festivals, and during which I spent 4 years in our institutions of higher learning, I have listened to no more than half a dozen pastors who preached the Gospel clearly and purely.” Nobody simply denies it. Everybody says the right words up to a point, but then, invariably there is a tiny slip, or omission that, in fact, denies the whole thing. Watch for the words, “real” and “true” when referring to faith and believers. Because after what is supposed to be the consolation of the Gospel, you are still left in doubt whether your faith is true or whether you are a real believer, if you do so and so. C.F.W. Walther did it all the time; but I still respect him as one of the greatest preachers of the Gospel.

    We are told that it is our response of gratitude for everything our Lord has done for us which motivates us to do good works and care for our neighbor. But as we continue to sin, we wonder why it is we do not have enough gratitude. So maybe our faith is not real after all? How often have we heard a pastor say that the Holy Spirit dwells in each believer, and that in Baptism we have been made new creatures, who, according to St. Paul, 1 Cor. 2:16, “…have the mind of Christ.” No, to believe these things without having them carefully circumscribed by the Law leads to pride and then we should take heed lest we fall. Further this “fall” could be the eternal fall from grace, in spite of the fact that when our Lord spoke of it in the Parable of the Wedding Feast, it was only one among the multitude of guests who was guilty of it. How often have we heard that when St. Paul writes, Romans 3:19, “Now we know that whatsoever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law,” and later, having laid out the entire life-giving Gospel, he writes, Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”, that there is some kind of a “however” or “but” that could make these words inapplicable to us. Then there is the idea that God wrote the Ten Commandments in our hearts. Then there is the failure to distinguish between the repentance that is part of conversion and the daily repentance of the Christian. The list goes on and on.

    My memory fails me, but it was one of the Preuses who wrote that every error in doctrine affects the Doctrine of Justification. I will go so far as to say that every significant (I use that modifier not so that when someone contradicts me, I can say, “well that is not a significant problem,” but to account for the fact that the imperfection of the saints causes problems in the Church every day) problem in the Church is caused by neglect or misunderstanding of the Gospel. The rise of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were significant problems. Ephesians 6: 12, “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

    This topic can fill books. Nevertheless, by the grace of God I will continue to go to church for as long as I am able. The reason for that would fill another book.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    First to #4 Kitty @8. Thank you. The whole church seems to be filled with this poison. There are many reasons why this awful teaching has crept even into the LCMS. Suffice it to say that the teaching about a “personal relationship with Jesus” is not Biblical and is therefore harmful to the faith of Christians. “Where two or three are gathered together” does not quite catch the spirit of “I walk in the garden with Jesus.”

    I agree with Anthony Scaramone about the Gospel. I have said it again and again: “During the 62 years since my confirmation in the LCMS, during which I attended church almost every Sunday, and more often during Advent, Lent, and major festivals, and during which I spent 4 years in our institutions of higher learning, I have listened to no more than half a dozen pastors who preached the Gospel clearly and purely.” Nobody simply denies it. Everybody says the right words up to a point, but then, invariably there is a tiny slip, or omission that, in fact, denies the whole thing. Watch for the words, “real” and “true” when referring to faith and believers. Because after what is supposed to be the consolation of the Gospel, you are still left in doubt whether your faith is true or whether you are a real believer, if you do so and so. C.F.W. Walther did it all the time; but I still respect him as one of the greatest preachers of the Gospel.

    We are told that it is our response of gratitude for everything our Lord has done for us which motivates us to do good works and care for our neighbor. But as we continue to sin, we wonder why it is we do not have enough gratitude. So maybe our faith is not real after all? How often have we heard a pastor say that the Holy Spirit dwells in each believer, and that in Baptism we have been made new creatures, who, according to St. Paul, 1 Cor. 2:16, “…have the mind of Christ.” No, to believe these things without having them carefully circumscribed by the Law leads to pride and then we should take heed lest we fall. Further this “fall” could be the eternal fall from grace, in spite of the fact that when our Lord spoke of it in the Parable of the Wedding Feast, it was only one among the multitude of guests who was guilty of it. How often have we heard that when St. Paul writes, Romans 3:19, “Now we know that whatsoever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law,” and later, having laid out the entire life-giving Gospel, he writes, Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”, that there is some kind of a “however” or “but” that could make these words inapplicable to us. Then there is the idea that God wrote the Ten Commandments in our hearts. Then there is the failure to distinguish between the repentance that is part of conversion and the daily repentance of the Christian. The list goes on and on.

    My memory fails me, but it was one of the Preuses who wrote that every error in doctrine affects the Doctrine of Justification. I will go so far as to say that every significant (I use that modifier not so that when someone contradicts me, I can say, “well that is not a significant problem,” but to account for the fact that the imperfection of the saints causes problems in the Church every day) problem in the Church is caused by neglect or misunderstanding of the Gospel. The rise of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were significant problems. Ephesians 6: 12, “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

    This topic can fill books. Nevertheless, by the grace of God I will continue to go to church for as long as I am able. The reason for that would fill another book.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    The thing is if one doesn’t have a guilty conscience and only sees everyone else as a sinner, but doesn’t feel guilty, then yeah one can agree with him. But if you see yourself as the bad guy that Jesus was talking about, you have a different perspective. The orientation of only seeing the sins of others but not feeling conviction of your own is going to lead to seeing others’ struggles with disgust and anger because they aren’t perfect enough. Seems like a trap set by the devil. FWIW, when I attended Baptist church, the focus was on repentance and forgiveness. The kind of legalism that some think is rampant out there was not evident to me. The focus was on conscience. When I came to the Lutheran church, I always wondered why they didn’t talk about repentance. I even asked about it when my son was in confirmation. After a while, it became like an inside joke. When my son would come home from confirmation class, I would ask him if they talked about repentance. I don’t think he ever said yes, but maybe he did.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    The thing is if one doesn’t have a guilty conscience and only sees everyone else as a sinner, but doesn’t feel guilty, then yeah one can agree with him. But if you see yourself as the bad guy that Jesus was talking about, you have a different perspective. The orientation of only seeing the sins of others but not feeling conviction of your own is going to lead to seeing others’ struggles with disgust and anger because they aren’t perfect enough. Seems like a trap set by the devil. FWIW, when I attended Baptist church, the focus was on repentance and forgiveness. The kind of legalism that some think is rampant out there was not evident to me. The focus was on conscience. When I came to the Lutheran church, I always wondered why they didn’t talk about repentance. I even asked about it when my son was in confirmation. After a while, it became like an inside joke. When my son would come home from confirmation class, I would ask him if they talked about repentance. I don’t think he ever said yes, but maybe he did.

  • Shane A

    So, instead of offering a religion, Anthony Sacramone describes a different sort of relationship to the divine, wherein Jesus provides direct access to the Father… except, that’s still by very definition a religion–and a very popular one in America, I might add.

    I’d bet in that old boring religion of his (before his glorious ascension beyond religion via reading Luther) they prayed, read the Scriptures, and administered the Sacraments. What I find ironic is that virtually everything Sacramone said could be admitted to by virtually every baptist or evangelical or the most legalistic fundamentalist.

    So, I have to disagree with you, Dr. Veith. I’d say quite the opposite: what Bethke and Sacramone are describing is a theology of glory–a glorious progression beyond mere religiosity. Why not a humble theology that recognizes that grace comes through humble means: through water, bread, wine, and words? Seems the theology of the cross is dangerously “religious”.

    I think Book Lover, Dr. Luther, Bror, Steve Martin, and Kalsie already pretty much covered it.

  • Shane A

    So, instead of offering a religion, Anthony Sacramone describes a different sort of relationship to the divine, wherein Jesus provides direct access to the Father… except, that’s still by very definition a religion–and a very popular one in America, I might add.

    I’d bet in that old boring religion of his (before his glorious ascension beyond religion via reading Luther) they prayed, read the Scriptures, and administered the Sacraments. What I find ironic is that virtually everything Sacramone said could be admitted to by virtually every baptist or evangelical or the most legalistic fundamentalist.

    So, I have to disagree with you, Dr. Veith. I’d say quite the opposite: what Bethke and Sacramone are describing is a theology of glory–a glorious progression beyond mere religiosity. Why not a humble theology that recognizes that grace comes through humble means: through water, bread, wine, and words? Seems the theology of the cross is dangerously “religious”.

    I think Book Lover, Dr. Luther, Bror, Steve Martin, and Kalsie already pretty much covered it.

  • Shane A

    “What I find ironic is that virtually everything Sacramone said could be admitted to by virtually every baptist or evangelical or the most legalistic fundamentalist.” So what merits the title, “Lutheran?”*

  • Shane A

    “What I find ironic is that virtually everything Sacramone said could be admitted to by virtually every baptist or evangelical or the most legalistic fundamentalist.” So what merits the title, “Lutheran?”*

  • Dust

    Klasie….semantic games, yes perhaps, all is vanity afterall, saith the preacher!

    But at least be truthful…seems to me a much more positive and accurate theme, although this author could not do it, but there are some on this blog who could, would be: “I am religious AND spiritual – I am a Lutheran” :)

    cheers!

  • Dust

    Klasie….semantic games, yes perhaps, all is vanity afterall, saith the preacher!

    But at least be truthful…seems to me a much more positive and accurate theme, although this author could not do it, but there are some on this blog who could, would be: “I am religious AND spiritual – I am a Lutheran” :)

    cheers!

  • SKPeterson

    It seems that we are hitting upon the tensions and paradoxes of the “now and not yet” and the “simul justus et peccator” of much of Lutheran theology. We are caught betwixt and between the constant demands of the Law and the grace of the Gospel. In and among repentance, forgiveness and the trials of progressive sanctification. Living out the Law because we have been saved by Grace through faith. Yet, my living out the Law is always, always, a pale imitation of what it truly should be. I come to this point and find myself completely inadequate to faithfully live out the life and sanctification promised to me in Baptism.

    More, I have always wondered about sanctification – how far can one progress in this life? We talk about the reality of it, but so often it feels like a sham, like false glory or the vanity of works. It is at those times that “religion” is most valuable for me: going to Church, attending the service, being with fellow believers reminds me, comforts me, and reawakens my recognition of the Body of Christ.

    Also, I have to wholeheartedly endorse the sentiments expressed by George @ 14. Beautifully put.

  • SKPeterson

    It seems that we are hitting upon the tensions and paradoxes of the “now and not yet” and the “simul justus et peccator” of much of Lutheran theology. We are caught betwixt and between the constant demands of the Law and the grace of the Gospel. In and among repentance, forgiveness and the trials of progressive sanctification. Living out the Law because we have been saved by Grace through faith. Yet, my living out the Law is always, always, a pale imitation of what it truly should be. I come to this point and find myself completely inadequate to faithfully live out the life and sanctification promised to me in Baptism.

    More, I have always wondered about sanctification – how far can one progress in this life? We talk about the reality of it, but so often it feels like a sham, like false glory or the vanity of works. It is at those times that “religion” is most valuable for me: going to Church, attending the service, being with fellow believers reminds me, comforts me, and reawakens my recognition of the Body of Christ.

    Also, I have to wholeheartedly endorse the sentiments expressed by George @ 14. Beautifully put.

  • JunkerGeorg

    Can’t speak for others, but from my personal experience/particular parish I was sent to serve, the youth in the church have already received a fairly large dose of “theology of glory” by the time I get them in confirmation class. Such was force-fed them in the annual summer VBS programs, Christmas Program, and most sadly, throughout the year in Sunday School. So in confirmation class I find it very easy to present the contrast between the burden of that theology of glory they’ve suffered and the joyous liberty of the theology of the cross which is available to them, given to them in the Lutheran liturgy and hymnody. These youth already know what it’s like to be “pandered to” by their Sunday school teachers who act like Grandma Jones trying to rap Snoop Doggy Dogg in order to be “hip” and make things “entertaining” and “fun” for them. They can understand and accept when you flat-out declare to them that, “Church isn’t fun. Six Flags Amusement is Fun.” They can quickly get it when you show them how the liturgical rites do not manipulate your emotions and/or force you to clap like a trained seal. They appreciate it when they learn how the liturgy allows them to be themselves, to not hide or play it fake with their thoughts/emotions at that moment as they are…that they don’t have to be smiling or “happy happy joy joy” as they sing the Kyrie…For sure, that the liturgy/hymnody doesn’t tell you how you “must” feel, it does teach you how you should feel, or rather, how you should think and what you should think about (Christ here for you, no matter what). They get it and appreciate it when you tell them that you greet them and the whole congregation with an “The Lord be with you” rather than a trite “Good morning”, as you explain to them the truth that it may not be a good morning for them, but whether it is a good or bad morning, the Lord is and will be still with them to give out His saving, preserving, strengthening gifts to them regardless. I could go on and on, but in my experience/situation, it’s amazingly easy to get the youth to appreciate and embrace the theology of the cross, and know the difference between that and the theology of glory they’ve been force-fed by their parents. Sadly, theology of the cross is most easily conveyed to both the young and the old…it is those adult parents where it is such a challenge, where you face such opposition, even in something as simple as asking them to do a simple-to-learn Lutheran hymn for their Sunday School opening with the youth once in awhile, rather than the constant “Father I adore you” or “Shine Jesus Shine” junk (no thanks to Terry Dittmer, whom I hope and pray will someday look back and rue the day for all this enthusiast soul candy he’s made tons of money on.)

    Btw, if you ask why I haven’t just used my “authority” to just change these things, well, you can’t just do that overnight—well, you could do that, but it may be too rough on such blinded sheep and you risk not lasting long before being kicked out…at least in my District where the DiP lick his chops if he sees a chance of supporting a congregation in getting rid of confessional guys like me, simply by siding with the vocal minority wanting rid of you for “daring to be and remain Lutheran” even if they refuse to follow suit despite your attempts to teach them….at least when the DiP has gauged that the silent majority is afraid to speak up and your elders just don’t want to rock the boat and not lose any members. Such is LCMess in many places.)

    But seriously though, you can make inroads even with some of these adults, provided that you remain long-suffering in patience (patience= from the Latin root “Patior”, which means, “to suffer”!), catechizing as you can and when you can (i.e., when they’ll listen), and when you do plenty of funerals and visit them when they’re in tough straits…then, after many years, you can gradually see the Holy Spirit change things, of bringing to light the joy, strength, and comfort of the theology of the cross even to those adults, especially when they finally are crushed under the weight of the theology of glory they in their blind enthusiasm so militantly carried the banner for over/against the Holy Spirit and His Ministry through His Means of Word and Sacrament (i.e., Christ For Us). If the gates of Hades cannot stand against it, then not even the worst of our DiPs will either. Christ, He is our confidence.

  • JunkerGeorg

    Can’t speak for others, but from my personal experience/particular parish I was sent to serve, the youth in the church have already received a fairly large dose of “theology of glory” by the time I get them in confirmation class. Such was force-fed them in the annual summer VBS programs, Christmas Program, and most sadly, throughout the year in Sunday School. So in confirmation class I find it very easy to present the contrast between the burden of that theology of glory they’ve suffered and the joyous liberty of the theology of the cross which is available to them, given to them in the Lutheran liturgy and hymnody. These youth already know what it’s like to be “pandered to” by their Sunday school teachers who act like Grandma Jones trying to rap Snoop Doggy Dogg in order to be “hip” and make things “entertaining” and “fun” for them. They can understand and accept when you flat-out declare to them that, “Church isn’t fun. Six Flags Amusement is Fun.” They can quickly get it when you show them how the liturgical rites do not manipulate your emotions and/or force you to clap like a trained seal. They appreciate it when they learn how the liturgy allows them to be themselves, to not hide or play it fake with their thoughts/emotions at that moment as they are…that they don’t have to be smiling or “happy happy joy joy” as they sing the Kyrie…For sure, that the liturgy/hymnody doesn’t tell you how you “must” feel, it does teach you how you should feel, or rather, how you should think and what you should think about (Christ here for you, no matter what). They get it and appreciate it when you tell them that you greet them and the whole congregation with an “The Lord be with you” rather than a trite “Good morning”, as you explain to them the truth that it may not be a good morning for them, but whether it is a good or bad morning, the Lord is and will be still with them to give out His saving, preserving, strengthening gifts to them regardless. I could go on and on, but in my experience/situation, it’s amazingly easy to get the youth to appreciate and embrace the theology of the cross, and know the difference between that and the theology of glory they’ve been force-fed by their parents. Sadly, theology of the cross is most easily conveyed to both the young and the old…it is those adult parents where it is such a challenge, where you face such opposition, even in something as simple as asking them to do a simple-to-learn Lutheran hymn for their Sunday School opening with the youth once in awhile, rather than the constant “Father I adore you” or “Shine Jesus Shine” junk (no thanks to Terry Dittmer, whom I hope and pray will someday look back and rue the day for all this enthusiast soul candy he’s made tons of money on.)

    Btw, if you ask why I haven’t just used my “authority” to just change these things, well, you can’t just do that overnight—well, you could do that, but it may be too rough on such blinded sheep and you risk not lasting long before being kicked out…at least in my District where the DiP lick his chops if he sees a chance of supporting a congregation in getting rid of confessional guys like me, simply by siding with the vocal minority wanting rid of you for “daring to be and remain Lutheran” even if they refuse to follow suit despite your attempts to teach them….at least when the DiP has gauged that the silent majority is afraid to speak up and your elders just don’t want to rock the boat and not lose any members. Such is LCMess in many places.)

    But seriously though, you can make inroads even with some of these adults, provided that you remain long-suffering in patience (patience= from the Latin root “Patior”, which means, “to suffer”!), catechizing as you can and when you can (i.e., when they’ll listen), and when you do plenty of funerals and visit them when they’re in tough straits…then, after many years, you can gradually see the Holy Spirit change things, of bringing to light the joy, strength, and comfort of the theology of the cross even to those adults, especially when they finally are crushed under the weight of the theology of glory they in their blind enthusiasm so militantly carried the banner for over/against the Holy Spirit and His Ministry through His Means of Word and Sacrament (i.e., Christ For Us). If the gates of Hades cannot stand against it, then not even the worst of our DiPs will either. Christ, He is our confidence.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Words now having lost their meaning, I’d like to announce that I’m not a person.

    I’m just so tired of people. I grew up with people, and I had to deal with all their crap for so long. Well, enough. I’m sick of it. People are stupid, people are whiny, people are stubborn, people are sinful, people are evil.

    As such, as of this moment, people are you guys. Count me out.

    Of course, as it happens, I still like quite a number of people. I don’t like people, but some of you people are okay. And I’ll continue to look like a person, mind you.

    But the important thing is that I’ve declared myself to not be a person, so that all the negative things I referred to earlier that are associated with people, well, aren’t associated with me.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Words now having lost their meaning, I’d like to announce that I’m not a person.

    I’m just so tired of people. I grew up with people, and I had to deal with all their crap for so long. Well, enough. I’m sick of it. People are stupid, people are whiny, people are stubborn, people are sinful, people are evil.

    As such, as of this moment, people are you guys. Count me out.

    Of course, as it happens, I still like quite a number of people. I don’t like people, but some of you people are okay. And I’ll continue to look like a person, mind you.

    But the important thing is that I’ve declared myself to not be a person, so that all the negative things I referred to earlier that are associated with people, well, aren’t associated with me.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    I’d like to differentiate myself from a being like Todd – henceforth I’m not a being, or a member of the “people”, or guys. I therefore construct my own reality, and call every entity I like a “likeabilite”, and other entities “unlikeabilites”, with the two sets being mutually exclusive, and the former set having a permanent member of only one, namely me, and transitory members of whoever I feel like. See?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    I’d like to differentiate myself from a being like Todd – henceforth I’m not a being, or a member of the “people”, or guys. I therefore construct my own reality, and call every entity I like a “likeabilite”, and other entities “unlikeabilites”, with the two sets being mutually exclusive, and the former set having a permanent member of only one, namely me, and transitory members of whoever I feel like. See?

  • http://quiacreeds.blogspot.com/ David Oberdieck

    Here is a cool link in response to the “I hate religion” video. The link is to a video from Pastor Jonathan Fisk of world view everlasting.

  • http://quiacreeds.blogspot.com/ David Oberdieck

    Here is a cool link in response to the “I hate religion” video. The link is to a video from Pastor Jonathan Fisk of world view everlasting.

  • fws

    sk peterson

    we live in two kingdoms. there is the kingdom of the law that is all we can see and do in our bodies because ALL we can see and do is Old Adam doing the doing. So in this kingdom, sanctification is all about …. death. there is NO life in that part of sanctification that is about what we can see and do in our bodies. This does in fact, FULLY include ALL we can see and do in church, including our doing the administration of the Word and Sacraments.

    The two kingdoms is not churchly sacred vs profane secular government. That would be the scholastic teaching of the two kingdoms. Yes they did have one without calling it that.

    No the Lutheran Two Kingdoms is really just the casuistic version of Law and Gospel. it is that dividing of law and gospel that is not about parsing scripture but is rather about parsing the works person and faith of each believer. For the two kingdoms or two powers is in each believer in the form of Old Adam and New Man.

    So Then : fortunately there is the Heavenly Kingdom. This Kingdom solely and only contains faith in Christ. In that faith we believers hide ALL we can see and do in that other kingdom in the Works of Another to escape God’s wrath. And in this kingdom we can find NOTHING that we can see or do. Instead faith closes its eyes and hears the Word of God and the sound of splashing water that is OUR act or the Pastor, as old adam mind you, speaking the Words of Absolution in sermon and blessed Sacrament. But faith hears the Good Shepherd’s Voice in, with and under what the Old Adam of that pastor is doing.

    SK: your sanctification, in the sense you use the word sanctification, which is the broad rather than the narrow sense that is both law and gospel, will be finished when you physically die. And there is NO life in that part of sanctification. ALL that we can see and do is ALL about the death of our old adam. This is precisely why the reformed dont like what we have to say on the subject.

  • fws

    sk peterson

    we live in two kingdoms. there is the kingdom of the law that is all we can see and do in our bodies because ALL we can see and do is Old Adam doing the doing. So in this kingdom, sanctification is all about …. death. there is NO life in that part of sanctification that is about what we can see and do in our bodies. This does in fact, FULLY include ALL we can see and do in church, including our doing the administration of the Word and Sacraments.

    The two kingdoms is not churchly sacred vs profane secular government. That would be the scholastic teaching of the two kingdoms. Yes they did have one without calling it that.

    No the Lutheran Two Kingdoms is really just the casuistic version of Law and Gospel. it is that dividing of law and gospel that is not about parsing scripture but is rather about parsing the works person and faith of each believer. For the two kingdoms or two powers is in each believer in the form of Old Adam and New Man.

    So Then : fortunately there is the Heavenly Kingdom. This Kingdom solely and only contains faith in Christ. In that faith we believers hide ALL we can see and do in that other kingdom in the Works of Another to escape God’s wrath. And in this kingdom we can find NOTHING that we can see or do. Instead faith closes its eyes and hears the Word of God and the sound of splashing water that is OUR act or the Pastor, as old adam mind you, speaking the Words of Absolution in sermon and blessed Sacrament. But faith hears the Good Shepherd’s Voice in, with and under what the Old Adam of that pastor is doing.

    SK: your sanctification, in the sense you use the word sanctification, which is the broad rather than the narrow sense that is both law and gospel, will be finished when you physically die. And there is NO life in that part of sanctification. ALL that we can see and do is ALL about the death of our old adam. This is precisely why the reformed dont like what we have to say on the subject.

  • moallen

    I was going to post the link to Pastor Fisk’s video. But that’s done. It really is a good break down point by point.

    On the plus side – Bethke does seem to understand the scandal of the cross and salvation by grace. On the other hand, it’s clouded with confusion of law and gospel.

    Look at all these broken people in religion, how awful! The Church is for broken people, how wonderful! Huh?

    I am with tODD, I stand against people. Not all people, just people, and I know the difference.

    Andrew Sacramore’s response is great – however, I love religion and Jesus – and ultimately I believe Luther loved true religion too, otherwise he would have just packed it in and quit! I think Bethke was also trying to make a distinction between law and gospel, between false religion and true – but unfortunately, he didn’t say that. He expresses radical individualism ultimately.

  • moallen

    I was going to post the link to Pastor Fisk’s video. But that’s done. It really is a good break down point by point.

    On the plus side – Bethke does seem to understand the scandal of the cross and salvation by grace. On the other hand, it’s clouded with confusion of law and gospel.

    Look at all these broken people in religion, how awful! The Church is for broken people, how wonderful! Huh?

    I am with tODD, I stand against people. Not all people, just people, and I know the difference.

    Andrew Sacramore’s response is great – however, I love religion and Jesus – and ultimately I believe Luther loved true religion too, otherwise he would have just packed it in and quit! I think Bethke was also trying to make a distinction between law and gospel, between false religion and true – but unfortunately, he didn’t say that. He expresses radical individualism ultimately.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Bror @13,

    I’ve seen the video of Bethke. Clarify please, how he is trading one legalism for another. Not questioning your take; it just seemed as if the “hate religion/love Jesus” video was spot on in adressing the abandonment of works-righteousness and rightly pointing out that regeneration does effect a true change in the heart.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Bror @13,

    I’ve seen the video of Bethke. Clarify please, how he is trading one legalism for another. Not questioning your take; it just seemed as if the “hate religion/love Jesus” video was spot on in adressing the abandonment of works-righteousness and rightly pointing out that regeneration does effect a true change in the heart.

  • formerly just steve

    Just a very minor correction, if you can call it that, to tODD’s assessment. For so many individuals, it’s not that they personally don’t like people but that people are very unpopular these days and the people they hang with with don’t like people. So those people say they hate people but, really, they just say that so they will be popular among people-hating-non-people-people they hang with.

    It’s all very high school, if you ask me.

  • formerly just steve

    Just a very minor correction, if you can call it that, to tODD’s assessment. For so many individuals, it’s not that they personally don’t like people but that people are very unpopular these days and the people they hang with with don’t like people. So those people say they hate people but, really, they just say that so they will be popular among people-hating-non-people-people they hang with.

    It’s all very high school, if you ask me.

  • SKPeterson

    Oh, you people! So consistently human. Always the same old same old.

  • SKPeterson

    Oh, you people! So consistently human. Always the same old same old.

  • Dan Kempin

    Well said, tODD. (And what, a new picture? You look vaguely like Edmund Blackadder, though from the size of the thumbnail and my need for new glasses, I could be wrong.)

    I can relate to Sacramone’s childhood (and thus childish) assessment. I grew up in a church that was hopelessly banal and unhip, where people just showed up. I went through the rote memorization and lame sunday school programs and I, too, longed for something better. Oh, I grasped the importance of the faith–I did–but I was frankly embarassed to bring friends who would certainly NOT be inspired by what they experienced there. I condescended to attend with them when home for a visit, but smiled inwardly at their awkward excitement to see me there. Couldn’t they tell that I didn’t really want to connect with them?

    But then, not to put too fine a point on it, I grew up. I had the merciful blessing (against my initial will, of course) to serve a summer vicarage at my home church. I began to learn that the people there were not just “showing up.” The people I had despised in my youth were in fact amazing examples of faith and good works. The shameful realization hit me that they HAD realized my youthful arrogance–they had seen it all along–and I am still humbled by their patient love. I learned the faith from them. Oh sure, I have learned many things since then, but it took me much longer than it should have to realize the value of that which was handed down to me. It took longer than it should have for me to realize that just because my ears weren’t open to hear the Word, that didn’t mean it wasn’t being proclaimed. And taken to heart.

    I learned from this that weighty and witty theological debates are an excellent occasion to take care not to despise the people of God.

  • Dan Kempin

    Well said, tODD. (And what, a new picture? You look vaguely like Edmund Blackadder, though from the size of the thumbnail and my need for new glasses, I could be wrong.)

    I can relate to Sacramone’s childhood (and thus childish) assessment. I grew up in a church that was hopelessly banal and unhip, where people just showed up. I went through the rote memorization and lame sunday school programs and I, too, longed for something better. Oh, I grasped the importance of the faith–I did–but I was frankly embarassed to bring friends who would certainly NOT be inspired by what they experienced there. I condescended to attend with them when home for a visit, but smiled inwardly at their awkward excitement to see me there. Couldn’t they tell that I didn’t really want to connect with them?

    But then, not to put too fine a point on it, I grew up. I had the merciful blessing (against my initial will, of course) to serve a summer vicarage at my home church. I began to learn that the people there were not just “showing up.” The people I had despised in my youth were in fact amazing examples of faith and good works. The shameful realization hit me that they HAD realized my youthful arrogance–they had seen it all along–and I am still humbled by their patient love. I learned the faith from them. Oh sure, I have learned many things since then, but it took me much longer than it should have to realize the value of that which was handed down to me. It took longer than it should have for me to realize that just because my ears weren’t open to hear the Word, that didn’t mean it wasn’t being proclaimed. And taken to heart.

    I learned from this that weighty and witty theological debates are an excellent occasion to take care not to despise the people of God.

  • http://Nbfzman.blogspot.com Nbfzman

    >>> Or are young people at that particular age more interested in a “theology of glory,”<<<

    To be trite, who cares what people at that particular age are interested in? Everyone is interested in a theology of glory, but we still need to give them the theology of the cross. In fact, the very theology that the testimony described was a theology of glory, just not an exciting, emotion-filled one.

    I do care what young ones are interested in, but I don't let that determine what I teach them.

    Also, I think I know what you are hinting at when you suggest that we teach the radical glory of the cross instead of just memorizing answers, but many people will take this the wrong way. In fact, I often struggle with the fact that some children have suffered under a theological training philosophy that memorizing things is bad, and thus their lack of biblical knowledge serves as a stumbling block to getting to the radical nature of the cross once I get them. I have to spend a lot of time getting them to "memorize" (i.e. know) this biblical knowledge, which people use to ostracize my approach. I would much rather have them come to me equipped with this knowledge, whether they know the impact or not, then have to start from scratch. Certainly, I would prefer that the memorization had occurred previously along with getting them to Christ's radical glory, or at least come to me with a knowledge of Christ's radical glory, but the "don't memorize" philosophy and the theology of the cross don't seem to go hand in hand.

    I often wonder at people of great faith who look back at their "rote memorization" of childhood negatively and fail to see that it laid the foundation of their faith, whether they believe it did or not.

  • http://Nbfzman.blogspot.com Nbfzman

    >>> Or are young people at that particular age more interested in a “theology of glory,”<<<

    To be trite, who cares what people at that particular age are interested in? Everyone is interested in a theology of glory, but we still need to give them the theology of the cross. In fact, the very theology that the testimony described was a theology of glory, just not an exciting, emotion-filled one.

    I do care what young ones are interested in, but I don't let that determine what I teach them.

    Also, I think I know what you are hinting at when you suggest that we teach the radical glory of the cross instead of just memorizing answers, but many people will take this the wrong way. In fact, I often struggle with the fact that some children have suffered under a theological training philosophy that memorizing things is bad, and thus their lack of biblical knowledge serves as a stumbling block to getting to the radical nature of the cross once I get them. I have to spend a lot of time getting them to "memorize" (i.e. know) this biblical knowledge, which people use to ostracize my approach. I would much rather have them come to me equipped with this knowledge, whether they know the impact or not, then have to start from scratch. Certainly, I would prefer that the memorization had occurred previously along with getting them to Christ's radical glory, or at least come to me with a knowledge of Christ's radical glory, but the "don't memorize" philosophy and the theology of the cross don't seem to go hand in hand.

    I often wonder at people of great faith who look back at their "rote memorization" of childhood negatively and fail to see that it laid the foundation of their faith, whether they believe it did or not.

  • larry

    The church should be the place where you hear the promises of God, and embrace them as your own.

    He has nailed it, beware of children/youth Sunday school classes. As our pastor once said, “the church should be the place in whose four walls is chalked full of nothing but the forgiveness of sins”.

    Now I didn’t grow up in a church that had sacraments or confession/absolution, but I think his point even goes to why the later, C/A on the personal level (as opposed to corporate) is largely gone in the Lutheran churches. On paper Lutheran churches, and my experience is admittedly still fairly new and limited, are chalked full of grace, BUT, the practice or the ambiance if you will is that of ‘living religiously ship shape’ (a lot of times this seems to come from the laity side).

    I’m to the point where I don’t really think we ought even have children SS classes its such a law focus.

    “If we could teach the radical nature of the gospel and the theology of the cross more consistently, as opposed to just memorizing answers and “just showing up,” would that make a difference?”

    Absolutely it would. Memorizing is great and very helpful but it’s never a replacement for “spelling it out”. Pull the doctrine together, further “connect the dots” if you will. As “a didn’t grow up Lutheran Lutheran” now, I find the “…teach the radical nature of the gospel and the theology of the cross more…” more often the “ahha that’s what Luther meant in that word/phrase in the catechism”, because there is pieitistic/law/legalistic baggage behind every “Christian Word”.

    E.g. “faith” and “grace”, a few years ago I would have said as a non-lutheran other confessing protestant that that means “Jesus alone saves one” (or some variation of that). Yet, I could never find comfort in that. Why? The other doctrine, even intrinsic fallen adam withinness, had a lot of “baggage” behind those two terms. And so “faith” and “grace” seemed & functioned like works even though I would have denied to the death “that is what I/they mean”. And this goes to the fallen view of God. It took a strong Gospel statement to “pull me out” of that by a solid Lutheran pastor/theologian (Dr. Rod Rosenbladt) because he saw the tormenting “lock” I was in. That statement? “You are forgiven for Christ’s sake even if you don’t believe it or get better”. That was a “Lazarus come forth” moment/Word for me that shook my view of God entirely and the Gospel became the Gospel for me.

    So yes, “teach the radical nature of the gospel and the theology of the cross more” is critical even to the catechism because the “words” over time have lost their meaning in some parts and have been tinged with other opinions and even self developed concepts.

    Take the word “religion” used in this article, I once shocked a self professing atheist/agnostic by saying, “You realize that atheism is not the end of religion, but that which is true Christianity was the death of religion.” Their “atheism” was hinging on what they repulsed at as they considered what was “religion”, and this was of course a former Christian turn atheistic/agnostic. I wonder where he got that idea of “religion”.

  • larry

    The church should be the place where you hear the promises of God, and embrace them as your own.

    He has nailed it, beware of children/youth Sunday school classes. As our pastor once said, “the church should be the place in whose four walls is chalked full of nothing but the forgiveness of sins”.

    Now I didn’t grow up in a church that had sacraments or confession/absolution, but I think his point even goes to why the later, C/A on the personal level (as opposed to corporate) is largely gone in the Lutheran churches. On paper Lutheran churches, and my experience is admittedly still fairly new and limited, are chalked full of grace, BUT, the practice or the ambiance if you will is that of ‘living religiously ship shape’ (a lot of times this seems to come from the laity side).

    I’m to the point where I don’t really think we ought even have children SS classes its such a law focus.

    “If we could teach the radical nature of the gospel and the theology of the cross more consistently, as opposed to just memorizing answers and “just showing up,” would that make a difference?”

    Absolutely it would. Memorizing is great and very helpful but it’s never a replacement for “spelling it out”. Pull the doctrine together, further “connect the dots” if you will. As “a didn’t grow up Lutheran Lutheran” now, I find the “…teach the radical nature of the gospel and the theology of the cross more…” more often the “ahha that’s what Luther meant in that word/phrase in the catechism”, because there is pieitistic/law/legalistic baggage behind every “Christian Word”.

    E.g. “faith” and “grace”, a few years ago I would have said as a non-lutheran other confessing protestant that that means “Jesus alone saves one” (or some variation of that). Yet, I could never find comfort in that. Why? The other doctrine, even intrinsic fallen adam withinness, had a lot of “baggage” behind those two terms. And so “faith” and “grace” seemed & functioned like works even though I would have denied to the death “that is what I/they mean”. And this goes to the fallen view of God. It took a strong Gospel statement to “pull me out” of that by a solid Lutheran pastor/theologian (Dr. Rod Rosenbladt) because he saw the tormenting “lock” I was in. That statement? “You are forgiven for Christ’s sake even if you don’t believe it or get better”. That was a “Lazarus come forth” moment/Word for me that shook my view of God entirely and the Gospel became the Gospel for me.

    So yes, “teach the radical nature of the gospel and the theology of the cross more” is critical even to the catechism because the “words” over time have lost their meaning in some parts and have been tinged with other opinions and even self developed concepts.

    Take the word “religion” used in this article, I once shocked a self professing atheist/agnostic by saying, “You realize that atheism is not the end of religion, but that which is true Christianity was the death of religion.” Their “atheism” was hinging on what they repulsed at as they considered what was “religion”, and this was of course a former Christian turn atheistic/agnostic. I wonder where he got that idea of “religion”.

  • Jerry

    @23 THANK YOU!

  • Jerry

    @23 THANK YOU!

  • TLB in Minnesota

    I think what we have here…is a failure to educate. This isn’t a failure that falls exclusively on the pastor but on parents as well. So much of what we see in regard to American pop-Christianity within the LCMS has been welcomed and allowed into our congregations because it was thought to be better than “that old Lutheran stuff we’ve always done”.

    To 21st century Americans, Lutheranism isn’t attractive, at least not from a worldly perspective. We see the flocks of “unchurched” and “seekers” that attend local mega churches and think, “wow they must be doing something right! Let’s do what they do…only Lutheran.” Except that’s usually not what happens. Many Lutheran churches do their best to simply carbon copy what they see at mega churches, perhaps enjoying some fleeting “success” and then failure comes. If a church doesn’t keep up with a another sermon series, a new building project, a new “movement”, they lose their “purpose”…because they forgot what it means to be the Church.

    Take this analogy…an impressionable young woman is hoping someday to be married. There are many suitors available and most of them are quite attractive to the eye. Some are really energetic and outgoing but offer little intellectual stimulation, others are passionate about supporting a number of causes but their moral character is questionable, and still others are emotional and captivating but overly needy and demanding. One by one she dates each suitor hoping that one will be right. One by one each reveals themselves to be lacking or even hurtful and manipulative.

    Just when she had all but given up in despair there was one more suitor. She hadn’t noticed him at first. He was attractive enough but not necessarily striking. He was warm, intelligent, moral, and yet free and joyful. He was confident, merciful, and honest. He wasn’t perfect though, and he readily admitted it. He was the traditional type like some of the others had been but this was different. His traditions weren’t just rote and quaint, they were meaningful. In fact, though he did have his flaws, he always spoke of and pointed her to the One who isn’t flawed, the flawless Lamb of God. His name was Lutheranism.

    Is Lutheranism perfect? No. But the Lutheran confession of faith is the faith once delivered to the saints. It is in full agreement with the Holy Scriptures.

    Somewhere along the line many Lutherans forgot this. True, there was no “Golden Age” of Lutheranism but today many congregations that bear the name “Lutheran” are flirting with these other suitors or, in some cases, have eloped with them.

    Lutheran congregations need to be, along with the Scriptures, educated in Luther’s Small and Large Catechism, the Augsburg Confession, Proper distinction of Law/Gospel, the Theology of the Cross, and the what and why of Lutheran Worship/Liturgy.

  • TLB in Minnesota

    I think what we have here…is a failure to educate. This isn’t a failure that falls exclusively on the pastor but on parents as well. So much of what we see in regard to American pop-Christianity within the LCMS has been welcomed and allowed into our congregations because it was thought to be better than “that old Lutheran stuff we’ve always done”.

    To 21st century Americans, Lutheranism isn’t attractive, at least not from a worldly perspective. We see the flocks of “unchurched” and “seekers” that attend local mega churches and think, “wow they must be doing something right! Let’s do what they do…only Lutheran.” Except that’s usually not what happens. Many Lutheran churches do their best to simply carbon copy what they see at mega churches, perhaps enjoying some fleeting “success” and then failure comes. If a church doesn’t keep up with a another sermon series, a new building project, a new “movement”, they lose their “purpose”…because they forgot what it means to be the Church.

    Take this analogy…an impressionable young woman is hoping someday to be married. There are many suitors available and most of them are quite attractive to the eye. Some are really energetic and outgoing but offer little intellectual stimulation, others are passionate about supporting a number of causes but their moral character is questionable, and still others are emotional and captivating but overly needy and demanding. One by one she dates each suitor hoping that one will be right. One by one each reveals themselves to be lacking or even hurtful and manipulative.

    Just when she had all but given up in despair there was one more suitor. She hadn’t noticed him at first. He was attractive enough but not necessarily striking. He was warm, intelligent, moral, and yet free and joyful. He was confident, merciful, and honest. He wasn’t perfect though, and he readily admitted it. He was the traditional type like some of the others had been but this was different. His traditions weren’t just rote and quaint, they were meaningful. In fact, though he did have his flaws, he always spoke of and pointed her to the One who isn’t flawed, the flawless Lamb of God. His name was Lutheranism.

    Is Lutheranism perfect? No. But the Lutheran confession of faith is the faith once delivered to the saints. It is in full agreement with the Holy Scriptures.

    Somewhere along the line many Lutherans forgot this. True, there was no “Golden Age” of Lutheranism but today many congregations that bear the name “Lutheran” are flirting with these other suitors or, in some cases, have eloped with them.

    Lutheran congregations need to be, along with the Scriptures, educated in Luther’s Small and Large Catechism, the Augsburg Confession, Proper distinction of Law/Gospel, the Theology of the Cross, and the what and why of Lutheran Worship/Liturgy.

  • –helen

    Lutheran congregations need to be, along with the Scriptures, educated in Luther’s Small and Large Catechism, the Augsburg Confession, Proper distinction of Law/Gospel, the Theology of the Cross, and the what and why of Lutheran Worship/Liturgy.

    Assuming the Pastor will take it on, how do you get them into Bible class?

  • –helen

    Lutheran congregations need to be, along with the Scriptures, educated in Luther’s Small and Large Catechism, the Augsburg Confession, Proper distinction of Law/Gospel, the Theology of the Cross, and the what and why of Lutheran Worship/Liturgy.

    Assuming the Pastor will take it on, how do you get them into Bible class?

  • JunkerGeorg

    @helen, #34

    “Assuming the Pastor will take it on, how do you get them into Bible class?”
    ——————–
    Bingo. (If I may add, “How do you get them to keep coming to Bible class?”)

    At the end of the day, one is brought to remember that these are the end times, where the love of most (for Christ) is growing colder and colder….where they have lost their first love. Also, multi-media technology is killing our thinking, our ability to read and think, that is, at least in full sentences, full chapters, full books. (me included, as I type this on the internet!!) There is a collective “ADD”. Few are left that can listen to a sermon longer than 5 minutes at this point (which is often the only time you get to do any sort of catechesis with the many who won’t attend a 45minute Bible Class.) And yet, half the LCMS pastors are opting to get the big screen with the bouncing ball, which inevitably leads to the hymnal being forgotten…only further dumbing down the parishioners. It is a Dark Ages….I honestly don’t think there is any solution to it, other than to let the Lord be the Lord of the Harvest and let Him worry about the results, while just making sure to keep faithfully teaching and preaching and reaching (i.e., kitchen-table visitation of the healthy as well as the bedside visitation of the sick/homebound). In my opinion, that is the faithful solution, rather than the solutions offered by the “church growth” half of the LCMS, man-made solutions which, far from “helping the Holy Spirit” out, only make things worse than they were ultimately.

  • JunkerGeorg

    @helen, #34

    “Assuming the Pastor will take it on, how do you get them into Bible class?”
    ——————–
    Bingo. (If I may add, “How do you get them to keep coming to Bible class?”)

    At the end of the day, one is brought to remember that these are the end times, where the love of most (for Christ) is growing colder and colder….where they have lost their first love. Also, multi-media technology is killing our thinking, our ability to read and think, that is, at least in full sentences, full chapters, full books. (me included, as I type this on the internet!!) There is a collective “ADD”. Few are left that can listen to a sermon longer than 5 minutes at this point (which is often the only time you get to do any sort of catechesis with the many who won’t attend a 45minute Bible Class.) And yet, half the LCMS pastors are opting to get the big screen with the bouncing ball, which inevitably leads to the hymnal being forgotten…only further dumbing down the parishioners. It is a Dark Ages….I honestly don’t think there is any solution to it, other than to let the Lord be the Lord of the Harvest and let Him worry about the results, while just making sure to keep faithfully teaching and preaching and reaching (i.e., kitchen-table visitation of the healthy as well as the bedside visitation of the sick/homebound). In my opinion, that is the faithful solution, rather than the solutions offered by the “church growth” half of the LCMS, man-made solutions which, far from “helping the Holy Spirit” out, only make things worse than they were ultimately.

  • kerner

    @35:
    “At the end of the day, one is brought to remember that these are the end times, where the love of most (for Christ) is growing colder and colder….where they have lost their first love”>

    I think we are too quick to jump to that conclusion. And I say this knowing that you may have been fighting against the “growing cold” for many years, maybe decades. But people have thought we were approaching the end before, and the Church has recovered. We don’t know what the future will be.

  • kerner

    @35:
    “At the end of the day, one is brought to remember that these are the end times, where the love of most (for Christ) is growing colder and colder….where they have lost their first love”>

    I think we are too quick to jump to that conclusion. And I say this knowing that you may have been fighting against the “growing cold” for many years, maybe decades. But people have thought we were approaching the end before, and the Church has recovered. We don’t know what the future will be.

  • George A. Marquart

    Junker George @35 and Kerner @36:

    Re.: “At the end of the day, one is brought to remember that these are the end times, where the love of most (for Christ) is growing colder and colder….where they have lost their first love”

    I used to think the same way, until one day it dawned on me that the Holy Spirit, Who gives life and strength to the Church, is the same as the One Who first inspired the Church at Pentecost, and Who puts the love of Christ into us in Baptism – and He does not change. In 1960, Sasse quoted one of his colleagues, apparently in agreement, when the latter wrote, “The true doctrine of the Holy Spirit has no place to call its own in the church and congregation.” Therefore, I conclude, that as with every other serious problem in the Church, the problem is our failure to proclaim the Gospel in all of its purity. The Holy Spirit, according to our Lord and His Apostles, plays a key role in the life of the Church. Ignoring Him leads to the conditions we see in our Church today.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    Junker George @35 and Kerner @36:

    Re.: “At the end of the day, one is brought to remember that these are the end times, where the love of most (for Christ) is growing colder and colder….where they have lost their first love”

    I used to think the same way, until one day it dawned on me that the Holy Spirit, Who gives life and strength to the Church, is the same as the One Who first inspired the Church at Pentecost, and Who puts the love of Christ into us in Baptism – and He does not change. In 1960, Sasse quoted one of his colleagues, apparently in agreement, when the latter wrote, “The true doctrine of the Holy Spirit has no place to call its own in the church and congregation.” Therefore, I conclude, that as with every other serious problem in the Church, the problem is our failure to proclaim the Gospel in all of its purity. The Holy Spirit, according to our Lord and His Apostles, plays a key role in the life of the Church. Ignoring Him leads to the conditions we see in our Church today.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • TLB in Minnesota

    #’s 36 & 37

    Good responses and points to ponder, thank you. It would be great if every Lutheran church had good ol’ fashioned pure preaching of the Law in all its sternness and the pure Gospel in all its sweetness.

    How do we get them into Bible class? Good question. It sure isn’t by entertaining them and giving them a song and dance number. There’s already too much entertainment in the church masquerading as “edutainment”.

  • TLB in Minnesota

    #’s 36 & 37

    Good responses and points to ponder, thank you. It would be great if every Lutheran church had good ol’ fashioned pure preaching of the Law in all its sternness and the pure Gospel in all its sweetness.

    How do we get them into Bible class? Good question. It sure isn’t by entertaining them and giving them a song and dance number. There’s already too much entertainment in the church masquerading as “edutainment”.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X