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Fanaticism

Fanaticism February 19, 2013

The learned and wise John T. Pless, a professor at  Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, warns against fanaticism.  He is discussing the recent controversy over a pastor participating in an interfaith service, showing that some on both sides have slipped into fanaticism, as described by both Hermann Sasse (the anti-Nazi confessional Lutheran theologian) and Steven Paulson (the radically Lutheran ELCA theologian).  If you remain interested in that particular controversy, which seems to have run its course with the pastor’s apology followed by the synodical president’s apology, follow the link.

However, this is not a post about that, nor do I want that to be the subject of the discussion in the comments.  We have exhausted that topic.  I will instead excerpt what Prof. Pless says about fanaticism, a far broader and more applicable topic that deserves our reflection.

From John T. Pless in Fanaticism is Not the Answer | Blogia:

In a very instructive essay of 1965, “The Ecumenical Challenge of the Second Vatican Council,” Hermann Sasse wisely observes: “We have been too much influenced by a certain type of sectarian Christianity which for a long time flourished in America. The sect cannot wait; it must have everything at once, for it has no future. The church can wait, for it does have a future”. . . .

Speaking to a situation in his own church body, the ELCA, Steven Paulson’s observation also fits Missouri’s liberal Pharisees: “[T]he ELCA has become enthusiasts, fanatics, who swallow the Holy Spirit, feathers and all. They are not immoralists; instead they are on a quest for a greater holiness than yours—and you ought to be ready, since they are ready to fight you on this particular matter.” Paulson continues “At the root of this fanaticism lies a confusion of law and gospel, and so a demonic lie—that justification is by love—unconditional love.” Fanatics cannot be convinced from the Scriptures. Their righteousness is already established and, make no mistake about it, they are on a crusade, and they cannot wait. They must have the church of pure and unconditional love now and nothing, not even the First Commandment, dare stand in the way.

But the problem does not reside with. . . liberals only.  [Conservatives] can also be lured into fanaticism. . . . They want a church free of [problems in doctrine and practice] and they want it now. No waiting on the Word to do its work, no imploring the Lord of the church to look down in mercy on this poor, wretched, and miserable band of sinners known as the Missouri Synod. Instead there should be an apocalyptic show down. The church cannot wait. This is a fanaticism to be repented of.

So what are some other examples of fanaticism in this sense?


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