Evangelical conservatives vs. Liturgical conservatives

Evangelical conservatives vs. Liturgical conservatives March 21, 2013

Thomas Holgrave says that the old distinctions among conservative Christians have faded and that the new divide–evident among both Protestants and Catholics–is between what he calls “evangelical conservatives,” who are strong on doctrine, and “liturgical conservatives,” who seek a richer mode of worship.  He calls for an approach that would bring these two together.  There is such an approach.  It’s called LUTHERANISM!

From  The Two Kinds of “Conservative” Christians | Juicy Ecumenism – The Institute on Religion & Democracy’s Blog:

Young Christians today are in the middle of a sea change of opinion and practice in the church. The rhetorical tropes and divisions of a previous generation (Spiritual vs. religious? Reformed vs. fundamentalist? Liberal vs. conservative?) are beginning to fade in people’s perceptions, and new categories are taking their place. . . .

Younger Christians who are keeping the faith are often dissatisfied with elements of their parents’ churches, but the shift seems to be moving them in a more ’catholic’ direction, toward a more liturgical, roots-oriented Christianity. While their politics may not be those of the Christian Coalition, their religion may actually be more ‘conservative.’ . . .

We begin to see, especially among Gen-Xers, what I would term “evangelical” conservatives, who are primarily concerned with maintaining authentic Christian doctrine; and Millennials who tend to be “liturgical” conservatives concerned with a more authentic way of worshiping than what they experienced growing up.

Both of these are, in a sense, “reactionary” movements. Evangelical conservatives react against a lukewarm, rote “traditional” religion they remember from growing up, or else against a sloppy, undemanding, cheap-grace form of baby-boomer evangelicalism. Liturgical conservatives react against a church that has forgotten the importance of form and beauty in worshiping God, which tries to be relevant by eliminating any and all distinctions between itself and the world, whose deracinated warehouse Starbucks aesthetic has rejected altogether the beauty of historical Christianity.

What the future of Protestant Christianity requires, then, is an approach that will bring the two together. Theological conservatives need to learn to appreciate how the beauty of liturgy and tradition do not distract from authentic Christian belief but rather deepen and confirm it. Similarly, aesthetically-sensible liturgical conservatives need to understand how the beauty they rightly love grows from the same root as traditional Christian theology and ethics. We need young Christians who are both liturgically and theologically conservative.

I keep saying that confessional Lutheranism is the true “emergent church” for our time, but without the vacuous theology and shallow innovations of the movement that goes by that name.  And yet I daresay many Lutherans are surprised to find that traditional liturgy is back in style, especially among “the millennials.”  (Indeed, many Lutherans have been jettisoning the liturgy in a misguided effort to attract them, assuming that they want something new!) I suspect that the liturgy-hungry evangelicals are likely not even aware of what Lutherans have and do, and that is largely the fault of us Lutherans for not being visible beyond our own circles.  (I would say, however, that as long as you think liturgy is just about “beauty,” you will just be playing around on the surface.  Liturgy is about the SACRAMENTAL PRESENCE of Christ.)

But I’m telling you “evangelical conservatives” and “liturgical conservatives,” check out the Lutheran option.  Learn about it here and here.  Try visiting a Lutheran church on Good Friday.


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  • Holgrave

    Hear, hear!

  • Terry

    Let the reader understand.

  • James Sarver

    “…Gen-Xers, what I would term “evangelical” conservatives, who are primarily concerned with maintaining authentic Christian doctrine; and Millennials who tend to be “liturgical” conservatives concerned with a more authentic way of worshiping…”

    Either one will get them to the other eventually. The question will arise of where authentic doctrine leads in worship practice or what has lead to the authentic way of worship.

    “I suspect that the liturgy-hungry evangelicals are likely not even aware of what Lutherans have and do…”

    Sadly in too many cases it is “had and did”. Those hungry for authentic doctrine and worship may find their friendly local “Lutheran” congregation has departed from one or both, chasing the very things the “hungry” have rejected.

  • Ryan

    I’m 38, but I feel at home with both positions. That’s what brought me into the Lutheran Church, a pastor no less. Fairly high church liturgy, solid doctrine is how things go here. I keep hearing about these ‘liturgical’ (and ‘doctrine’) types… But where are they hiding? Not in my small Midwestern town (pop. 10,000) at least. Seriously, I have heard this drumbeat for at least a decade and have yet to meet one. Is this a suburbs thing? The only places that grow/have families and young people are the big contempo churches in the surrounding communities. I see mainly grey hairs, thanks be to God for their faithfulness!, on a Sunday and no young families or kids in sight. (Ie I always hear this hope, but am always disappointed… I want to beleive it 🙂 )

  • Jon

    @3 James said “had and did.” Sadly, true sometimes. Although, it works both ways. My previous congregation was rediscovering doctrine and liturgy, that was really neat to see. This time around, however, its on about getting retractable slide projector screens integrated into the Chancel, and recruiting for a praise band and the congregation learning vacuous “praise” (love) songs.

    So @4, Ryan, it really does just depend on where you’re at and what is going on and who is driving, in my opinion. You might find that these folks are there, but they don’t speak up about it. I find that to be true about myself as a Gen-X camp, with a strong affinity for for both camps.

    What’s the best way for us folks in these two camps to promote it?

  • Dr Luther in the 21st Century

    When I first saw your title I thought, “false dichotomy.” Then I read the article and saw you said the same thing, just with more words. 😉

  • Ryan

    Around my parts the ball type liturgies prevail with the young and families on Sundays. Baseball, Softball, Basketball. Or I’m just a bad driver as pastor! I still would like to know where these group are geographically besides demogrhically.

  • I get some younger people in my congregation. I don’t think they think about things near as deep as this article makes it out.
    On the other hand the vast of majority of young none Mormons around here go to a holy rollers church, or an ev. free where the doctrine seems to be as vacuous as the worship. I hear the sermons are strong on morality, but then I also hear that those who attend are perhaps a bit weaker than the sermons in that regard. Holiness is a term I keep hearing. I don’t think it means what they think it means.

  • Robin

    I’m not lutheran. I would love to be but my husband is not on board. However, i have now gone to the Good Friday service three years in a row. I love the liturgy and Christ proclaimed. However, I saw the pastor in town and told him about my discovering Lutheranism and he told me he didn’t want to steal me from another church and the main thing was that we accept Christ. What would you make of that?

  • fws

    It is importante to understand how this is all, deeply and profoundly, an issue of the distinction between Law and Gospel.

    We Lutherans conserve and preserve the Holy Liturgy because we want to keep the Law commands of God and so mortify our flesh and enmesh Old Adams in a legalistic structure.
    Old Adam hates that. He is like an adolescent who resents any authority telling him what to do. New Man constantly seeks to place his Old Adam under such structures to subdue him. This is not about preserving the Faith. This is ALL about the believer seeking his own death to do carnal mercy for his neighbor.

    Apology art 7 and 8 identifies the Holy Catholic Church, in it´s essence, as a carnal earthly government (romans 8 flesh) that will perish with the Earth. It is government in exactly the same sense as is the civil government , bound with it´s outward rites and rituals as an expression. of unity and solidarity.
    Government = Law = mortification. There is NO Romans 8 Life there. The Telos of administration of word and sacraments is , alone, eternal death. Thus FC “Third Use”: “The preaching of Law and Gospel pertains alone to this life and will perish with it.”

    At the same time, For New Man, the Holy Liturgy is , exactly, like whether we would chose to wear clothing following french fashions or german fashions. It is alone, only within that carnal government that the Apostles Creed calls the H0ly Catholic Church, composed of both true believers and hypocrites, that another, invisible kingdom called the Communion of Saints exists that the New Man lives IN those outward forms, but not UNDER them! New man lives IN the Law but not UNDER it!

    You can read the part of our Confessions that are basis for Lutheran doctrines on the Church in the Apology art VII and VIII here:


    To see what I am saying, I will need to let you in on a trick:
    Where this article says “The Holy Catholic church is not only… but it is also ” read those phrases this way:
    “The Holy Catholic Church IS… but it is also more than that….”.
    And look for the Law-Gospel distinction as :
    Law Kingdom = Holy Catholic Church
    Gospel Kingdom = Communion of Saints, which exists, invisibly, alone, in , with, and under that other Law Kingdom.

  • fws

    Robin @ 9
    That Lutheran pastor has told you that for this reason:

    God himself has placed you under the authority and care of the pastor of the christian church you currently attend. It would therefore be sinful for a Lutheran pastor to recruit you to his church. It would be “stealing” a sheep that was entrusted to another shepherd, by God himself.
    The pastor is tending to his duties, and keeping his nose out of what is none of his business, which is your relationship with your pastor.

    at the same time, God , in his Word, tells you , as an individual sheep, to test the doctrine of your pastor just as the Bereans did. If you asked to attend the Lutheran pastors adult information class, he would not refuse you. And if you decided, after attending those classes, that you need to identify as a Lutheran then you must do that. Or, you could identify as a Lutheran and stay where you are.

    Some of my best friends are baptists and anglicans and roman catholics who for Family reasons are not ready to leave their church. Yet they very consciously identify as Lutherans. in such a situation it is very very urgent not to undermine the authority of one´s pastor. That can be difficult, but God commands it.

    Bless you sister!

  • Becky F.

    Liturgical worship is certainly a draw for the young Roman Catholic couples that are searching for more biblical doctrine. We are a very “gray” congregation, as well, but we’ve had a few young (as of now, childless) couples visit our church and appreciate the way we do things as they search for actual biblical truth that is lacking in their RC parishes. Our 3 (almost 4) children make up half of our Sunday school. We’re hoping to continue by retaining the great group of youth that we have as they move into and beyond their college years. My husband and I keep telling our youth that he wants to marry them and baptize their babies, hoping that we can keep them local and Lutheran.

  • Robin

    @FWS, thank you for the clarification. I’ve never thought of it in that way and it make sense. Thank you for responding!

  • Robin,
    I’d say I don’t understand that pastor. Personally, I don’t go out of my way to get people from other churches to come to mine. If they are in a church that confesses the trinity I trust that the Holy Spirit works there. At least I try to trust that. On the other hand if someone from another church shows interest in Lutheranism I go out of my way to have and continue that conversation.
    But after having spent two years in a general protestant waste land, I normally don’t trust that the gospel is being preached anywhere. And if you are not hearing sermons that emphasize Christ’s death for you, if you are being starved of the gospel, then you are free to go where you need to go to hear of Christ’s death for you. And that regardless of your husband being on board, or your pastor who has shirked his duty to know nothing but Christ and him crucified among you.

  • I thought the important thing was that Christ accepts me.

  • Abby

    “I keep saying that confessional Lutheranism is the true “emergent church” for our time, but without the vacuous theology and shallow innovations of the movement that goes by that name. And yet I daresay many Lutherans are surprised to find that traditional liturgy is back in style, especially among “the millennials.” (Indeed, many Lutherans have been jettisoning the liturgy in a misguided effort to attract them, assuming that they want something new!)”

    Yes, some LCMS churches are trying to mirror Steven Furtick, Andy Stanley, Willow Creek, Saddleback, Mark Driscoll, etc. When you go there they’re not recognizable as Lutheran. Even to removing the Lutheran name. Even to using the fact that they hold worship in a movie theatre as a “tool” of evangelism. The Sacraments are pushed to a minor seat. And so is the Cross.

    Do they really realize what they are giving up? And what their true motivations are?

  • Dr Luther in the 21st Century

    @#9 I am not following the other pastor myself. Speaking as a pastor, I would simply invite you and your husband to one of our Introductory courses we hold during the year. Or maybe see if we could sit down over some coffee or something of the like. I don’t actively pursue people who belong to other churches but if somebody expresses interest in learning more, I believe I owe it to you to get together and talk.

  • Joe

    Robin – if that pastor actually said the important thing is that you/we ACCEPT Christ then he either misspoke our needs to re-read his small catechism. In any event, I’m with Bror and DL21 on this. While he should not go out of his way to steal sheep from other Trinitarian churches, he should not refuse your attempts to connect yourself with the historic catholic faith (i.e. Lutheranism).

  • Abby

    Robin @9 I’m with Bror, DL21, and Joe also. I could not give up the true meaning of the benefits received from the Sacraments. When I have witnessed the sacraments given at other churches, it seemed to me that the true gifts were not present. Indeed, they were only representational. I visited with a Pastor last weekend who said that “he bleeds Lutheran.” And that the doctrine we have is the purest doctrine in the whole of Christendom. I agree wholeheartedly.

  • Paul

    Thanks for this note. I’m not a Lutheran, but my question is fairly clear to me…

    What do these younger generations do about the Lutheran view of the Lord’s Supper? Essentially, in order to take communion in a conservative, liturgical Lutheran church… I was always under the impression that Lutherans asked other visiting Christians to abstain if they did not share the con-substantial view of nature of the Sacrament.

    To me, this creates a great obstacle to bringing non-Lutherans into the fold of Lutheran churches. I would actually be happy to visit a Lutheran church – were it not for my view of the Supper.

    Any clarity or help you can give on this is greatly appreciated. Didn’t have time to read the comments, so if this was addressed, just let me know.


  • fjsteve

    While there may be a segment of millennials who gravitate towards liturgical conservatism, I suspect many of the same would not like the of, say, an LCMS church. exclusivity of closed communion. I’m not saying it’s wrong, I’m just saying. So, while, if true, this is all fine and good, it may not necessarily bode well for churches that are both theologically and liturgically conservative. The churches that would benefit, it seems to me, are the high church, ‘inclusive’ types such as in the ECUSA

  • tODD

    Paul (@20), if you don’t agree with Lutheran teaching on Communion, then why do you want to participate in Communion at a Lutheran church?

  • Abby

    Paul @20 Lutherans don’t believe in the consubstantiation view of the elements of Holy Communion. Rather, our belief is this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacramental_union#Distinction_from_other_doctrines_of_the_Real_Presence

    “Essentially, in order to take communion in a conservative, liturgical Lutheran church… I was always under the impression that Lutherans asked other visiting Christians to abstain if they did not share the con-substantial view of nature of the Sacrament. . . To me, this creates a great obstacle to bringing non-Lutherans into the fold of Lutheran churches. I would actually be happy to visit a Lutheran church – were it not for my view of the Supper.”

    You are correct that our view, which is different from yours, keeps you from wanting to participate in Communion in a Lutheran Church. It is a protection for you from taking the Lord’s Supper without proper discernment of the Body and Blood of Christ. http://legacy.esvbible.org/search/1+Corinthians+11%3A17-29/ If you would be interested in joining a Lutheran Church it is usually necessary to take an initial class which would teach you what we believe and why. Even if you would not be interested in joining, you might still really like to take the class! Talk to a pastor about it.

  • fjsteve

    Please excuse my shoddy editing @21. “…I suspect many of the same would not like the exclusivity of closed communion of, say, an LCMS church.”

  • Dr Luther in the 21st Century

    The closed communion question is a mixed bag. I have had some millennial who are just “it is what it is”, some that object, others who probably just don’t think about it, and still others who were “you cared enough about me to teach me and help me understand what I am receiving.” I am not going to worry about if closed communion is chasing people off. I’d rather they didn’t take it their harm than give it out whilly nilly, I couldn’t live with myself. Generally, they millennials get it when I talk with them and share that closed communion is about making sure they receive to their benefit not about setting ourselves apart as better than other people. It also helps that I am willing to sit down with them over coffee and hear them out.

  • Abby

    A lot of LCMS churches don’t really practice “closed” Communion. They have a statement in the bulletin describing what we believe and say that if anyone agrees, they can come for Communion. (I’ve never seen a statement include the 1 Cor. 11 passage though. That might deter some people if they are very unfamiliar with our belief.) But if someone comes in from another church who doesn’t believe in the Real Presence and all they do is read the statement — do they really still know what that means? I would think they have no idea what is going on. And it is a detriment to them. I am surprised more Pastor’s don’t take this seriously. It is a huge disservice to people to disregard this as important to their souls. It is an act of love and care for them to ask them to wait until they receive proper instruction. And then follow up with them. Don’t just disregard them.

    This could almost be equated to some ELCA pastors who went to a shopping mall and handed out the Sacrament to anyone who wanted to accept it. I would like to hear how they would explain what benefit there was in that. You could also fly an airplane over a city and drop water down and say that everyone was baptized.

  • Kathy

    All of the LCMS churches that I have attended, as I recall, had the statement in the bulletin stating the church’s belief about Communion, as Abby @26 described. We have a close friend who is an LCMS pastor and who is very much into having blended worship services. Even so, he shared with us his personal struggles with wondering how to deal with people who were visiting the church but who also came forward for Communion. His views gave us a new perspective on the issue…now we are very comfortable in not communing at a church if that pastor does not know us or has not talked to us beforehand.

  • Katy

    My husband and I are millenials (converted to Lutheranism in 2007), and I don’t get the liturgical vs. doctrinal theory. Many 20-40-somethings in America who are serious about biblical doctrine will turn to Calvinism, which is opposed to liturgy (at least the liturgy associated with historic non-Reformed Christianity). The will often end up holding the regulative principal of worship.

    Meanwhile, those who are drawn to Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy only for the aesthetics or exotic appeal will eventually lose interest. Many of my peers, Evangelicals who flirted with liturgical traditions in their teens and early twenties but never joined , now reject the Faith. I guess that’s the Emergent crowd. (One friend, constantly talking about the reverence and respect a Greek liturgy has, ran out of a Lutheran church right before service started because he saw the pastor in a “robe.” I don’t believe he’s going to a church anymore, although he went to Moody for college, and was a youth pastor for a while.)

    I live in a large (but not major) city in the Midwest, and most people my age just automatically go to their nearest Willowcreek or Harvest satellite, beause that is what people our age do. I shared drinks with some high school friends recently after a wedding, and two friends (both younger than me) were attending Park Church in Chicago (“started as a church to reach young, urban professionals”), although they came from Lutheran families (LCMS and ELCA).

    Do not underestimate the power of wanting to find a mate and start a family. It is a great fear for my generation of Christians–to be able to find a godly spouse.

    [And then there’s my sister (b.1989) and her friends, who are into such culty personalities as Mike Bickle (of “Historic Premillennialism” IHOP fame) and Bill Johnson (Bethel Church in California).]

  • jb

    Brother Gene –

    Your little gem – The Spirituality of the Cross is my immediate “go-to” book when I receive a new member from without Lutheranism. And I think you are spot on with your thesis in this post – we have always been the “emerging/emergent” Church. Orthodox is the operative word, and if new folks can understand that in its base meaning – right worship – then they already own the right doctrine as well. Almost as if the Lord planned it that way, eh?

    When is your next book due out?

    Rev. Jeffrey Baxter
    Palacios, TX

  • Rich Woelmer

    I serve a campus LCMS congregation made up of approximately 90% millenials. While the stangle-hold of para-church groups is still strong (even among Lutherans who planned to to make “Cru” their “church” from the day they set foot on campus), it is evident that many students rediscover Lutheran theology and practice which reveals what God has done for them in Jesus Christ. The most heartening thing is that the most grateful response has been among those who have had no church upbringing whatsoever. They understand the necessity of close communion, and patiently wait as they are catechized. I can respect someone who doesn’t return to a Lutheran service based on theological objections to the real presence. But those who like Lutheran liturgy but don’t return because they find close communion “mean” don’t understand what the liturgy they like so well presents. It should be obvious that the Divine Service is the distribution of God’s gifts of life, salvation and the forgiveness of sins, given through His Word and Sacraments to those who desperately need them. We can’t change our practice for those who don’t understand. As pastors we teach what is happening in the Divine Service so they do understand. One of my most memorable and happy moments was when a student who was brought up as a Lutheran exclaimed, “I’ve never been to a church like this before! It’s so wonderful and clear!” Why would anyone sacrifice receiving and hearing the words, “Given and shed for you” over constant exhortation to “yield completely to Jesus”? The sad part is that up-start evangelical churches claiming some kind of cool authentic liturgical experience have popped up that appeal to the the various theological strains (or lack thereof) within Cru. Time will tell how long it takes before people realize that their message doesn’t jibe with the vehicle in which it is being delivered. I have taken your suggestion to heart and entreated all of our students to invite a friend to a Lutheran Good Friday service! It is my son’s favorite service!

  • tODD

    Rich (@30), I’m hardly young anymore — it’s been almost 20 years since I started college, so I’m definitely not a “millenial” — but I do remember being a young Lutheran (LCMS at the time) in college.

    I went to a small university that had no LCMS campus group (that I was aware of, at least). Perhaps like many of your students, I decided to join Crusade (it had the fuller name at the time) because it was there and it was active and it seemed like the best way to safeguard my faith. I was almost certainly more active in Crusade than my LCMS congregation, not least because Crusade met on Friday evenings, while the church insisted on meeting early on Sundays when I was always sleepy. 🙂

    Over time, I came to realize that Crusade wasn’t really meeting my needs spiritually (I loathed the way they went about forced attempts at evangelism, which were more about the would-be evangelist than the person they were ostensibly talking to), and, in spite of its claim of being non-denominational, I noticed how they clearly didn’t know the first thing about Lutheranism, nor did they represent it terribly well (no surprise there, given the former).

    I separated from Crusade, eventually. Clearly, somewhere in there, my Lutheran upbringing was still with me, and eventually I came to appreciate it. It probably also helped that, upon mentioning to my parent’s pastor while home one summer that I was in Crusade, he gave a less-than-enthusiastic response, which surprised me. At the time, I felt judged, but I think his response also worked its way into my head.

    All of which to say that, well, I know I made it out of that Evangelical detour and back into Lutheranism, and my soul is gladder for the chance to hear the pure Gospel. I pray your students will also endure any such wanderings in the desert, or perhaps avoid them in the first place.

  • fws

    @ 29, 30 and 31


  • kempin04

    Rich, #30,

    “It should be obvious that the Divine Service is the distribution of God’s gifts . . .”

    Please allow me to use your statement to speak to a point that has given me concern in many of these discussions.

    God’s gifts are given, and the Spirit works faith when and where He pleases, through the means of grace.

    The liturgy is not the same thing as the means of grace.

    That may seem a fine hair to split, but I think it is an immensely important one. The liturgy certainly SHOULD be a place where the Word is proclaimed and divided rightly, and where the sacraments are administered under the oversight of a called pastor. Nevertheless, it seems quite dangerous and unlutheran to me that the liturgy should be EQUATED with the means of grace.*

    First, the observance of historical liturgy is by no means a guarantee that the gospel is preached or the sacraments rightly administered.

    Second, the means of grace, even under ordinary circumstances, are not limited to the context of liturgy. Baptism, catechesis, teaching, rebuke, and the administration of the lord’s supper all take place regularly and appropriately outside of the context of the liturgy.

    I do not object to the elevation of traditional liturgy, but it should be elevated as a salutary tool, resource, and casket into which the means of grace are placed–not as a thing of itself. I think the confessions were very precise as to how they worded the discussion of the means of grace, and that we would do well to take note.

    *(Please know that I am not ascribing this to you, but I am using the manner in which you spoke as an illustration of the manner of speech that I have commonly heard lately.)

  • jb

    “K” @ 33 . . .

    Last point first – the liturgy is not a “casket” – but the cradle which bears the Christ.

    I rather liked the statement “It should be obvious that the Divine Service is the distribution of God’s gifts . . .

    I think that statement alone answers your “First.” But to go further – The Spirit indeed works when and where He please, and nowhere more so than in the Gottesdienst of the One Holy Church. Save for the Collects and prayers, which are modeled in form from Holy Writ, the entire Liturgy IS the WORD – more precisely – The Gospel! As such, it can never be construed as anything but a means of grace!

    As to your “Second” – the means of grace being distributed outside the Divine Liturgy are the exceptions, not the rule. And their distribution is never really “outside” the worship of the Church” but an extension of said worship, as Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are extensions of the events at the Jordan and in the Upper Room. The Mysteries/Sacraments are not, as Christ is not, bound by time or space. But they are most definitely tied to the προσκυνέω (worship) of the One Holy Church, and in no way to be divided. The Confessions do not divide them, the Confessions are precise in what they do address, and leave open many questions rightly, since Scripture does so as well. As Paul says in Ephesian 5 – “This Mystery is profound.”

    The temptation to “cubbyhole” the mysterious – here, there and everywhere – and leave them, not as the unified whole as a bulwark against satan, but individual targets from which he can pick and choose, is not a salutary choice whatsoever.

    When we speak of Worship in Word and Sacrament – the Liturgy is not “merely” the vehicle. Since it is pure Gospel, and as such, “means” every bit as much as preaching, it can never be merely salutary as a resource.

    Of the Liturgy we should:

    Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

    Pax Domini – jb

  • kempin04

    jb, #34,

    “The Spirit indeed works when and where He please, and nowhere more so than in the Gottesdienst of the One Holy Church.”

    How, exactly, is that a lutheran statement? That’s not what it says in article five of MY copy of the Augsburg Confession. If anything–speaking from a confessional veiwpoint, that is–lutherans would say “nowhere more than in the Office of the Public ministry.” Well, they wouldn’t say that, actually. But I propose article five as a proof that the confessions place the means of grace in the office of the holy ministry more than they do in “the” liturgy. (Though I am still waiting for someone to make clear which liturgy is “the” liturgy.)

    The liturgy IS merely a tool, a resource, and a casket for the means of grace–“casket” from the older usage of the word meaning the box that contains a precious treasure. When we speak of “worship in word and sacrament,” we are not speaking of a ritual but the carrying out of the office.

    The liturgy is not a means of grace.

  • tODD

    Kempin (@35), just curious, is the Bible a means of grace?

  • kempin04

    tODD, #36,

    The means of grace are the Word and the Sacraments, so yes, you could definitely say that the Bible is a means of grace. It is the only authoritative norm that we have for doctrine and practice.

    Yet you wouldn’t say that woodenly, as though it is the bound paper book that is the means of grace rather than the message that it contains. A greek copy of the new testament, for instance, wouldn’t be much of a means of grace to your average english speaking Christian.

  • tODD

    I asked because the Bible contains the words of God. I’m not trying to get at some historical-critical distinction between the words of the Bible and the Word of God. I’m just saying that the Bible is a physical object, the words of which (outside of introductions, study notes, etc.) are the Word of God. So it could be, you say, a means of grace.

    But, I was thinking, the liturgy (fine, a liturgy) also contains the words of God. In it (or at least the ones with which I am familiar), we hear Law and Gospel preached. Not infrequently using direct quotations from Scripture.

    So I find your distinction here a little muddled.

  • kempin04

    tODD, #38,

    My distinction is right out of article five and article seven of the augsburg confession. I’m not just trying to be difficult. COULD we call the liturgy a means of grace inasmuch as it CONTAINS the means of grace? Perhaps, but that is not how the confessions speak. They clarify that the means of grace are the Word and the Sacraments, whether they are contained in liturgy or not. They confess that the responsibility for these means is vested in the office of the ministry. They even say, explicitly, that “rites and ceremonies” do not need to be alike.


    Now, I don’t infer from that statement that rites and ceremonies are unimportant. But I do find it a bit “muddled,” to coin your term, that we lutherans are speaking of liturgy in ways that make it seem we don’t have clarity on the means of grace.

    Out for the evening, but I will check back eventually . . .

  • kempin04

    p.s. It is a blessing that you hear law and gospel preaching, but that is not the liturgy. It is, dare I say, a faithful pastor carrying out his office.

  • jb

    Dude –

    I wasn’t aware, despite my many years of studying and preaching, that we Lutherans owned a particular type of “statement.” If I went to St. John Chrysostom, whom our Lutheran forefathers also quote, as do many of us moderns, as it were, would I have to “Lutheranize” his Greek somehow?

    Of course not.

    FYI – Gottesdienst is German for “worship.” Luther used the term – is that “Lutheran” enough? The Holy Spirit’s work is what you said, which comes from John 3, so I am not quite sure to what it is you are objecting.

    I would suggest you spend time studying the meaning of both εὐαγγέλιον (Gospel) and λῃτουργία (liturgy). You will quickly disabuse yourself of the notion of ritual – that is a non-Lutheran term of the highest order, my friend!

    Now – to be point blank – the preaching/speaking of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is one of the means of Grace, is it not? YES it is. Therefore, since the spoken or sung Divine Liturgy is nothing but sheer Gospel, do you really mean to say that the grace of God is somehow ineffective and unable to work because you have decided, very much upon your own reasoning, that because the Gospel is used to cradle Preaching and the Blessed Sacraments, the Divine Liturgy is unable to convey the grace of God in Christ, or is mere “ritual?” Is that what you really mean to say?

    The Divine Liturgy is called “Divine” for a particular reason. The Book of Concord does not contain “Lorraine” (the name of my wife) but she is my wife nonetheless according to the Lord, and my firend, even I do not challenge HER confessional faith! 🙂

    By the way, being a holder of the Holy Office of the Public Ministry, I appreciate your kudos toward the Holy Office – although I am quite mystified, because your comment – “But I propose article five as a proof that the confessions place the means of grace in the office of the holy ministry more than they do in “the” liturgy.” – is pretty indicative that you really need to get a copy of Walther’s masterpiece –The Church and the Office of the Holy Ministry (go to cph.org and type in the title in search – it’s $32.99, a steal!). It is eminently “Confessional!” But also, while you wait for it to arrive, brush up on the meaning of λῃτουργία. That would put us both on the same “Lutheran” page.

    Pax Domini – jb

  • jb

    K –

    One can be a “confessional” Lutheran, or a “confessionist” Lutheran.

    You are leaning greatly to the latter.

    Pax – jb

  • kempin04

    Jb, #41,

    I don’t think you really heard what I was saying.

    When I asked how your statement was lutheran, I was asking where the confessions speak in the way you spoke. “Gottesdienst” is indeed a German word. And no, that by itself is not lutheran enough for me. Lutheran enough for me would be when you could point out where the confessions support your statement. I didn’t even say that it was wrong, but it is my understanding that lutheran theology is firmly bound to the lutheran confessions. Who knows, maybe I missed that part.

    “Now – to be point blank – the preaching/speaking of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is one of the means of Grace, is it not?”

    Yes. It’s also not liturgy. It is the pastoral office.

    ” . . .do you really mean to say that the grace of God is somehow ineffective and unable to work . . . that . . . the Divine Liturgy is unable to convey the grace of God in Christ, or is mere “ritual?” Is that what you really mean to say?”

    Umm, nope. I’m pretty sure I didn’t say anything like that. I am a little confused that you heard that. I said that the liturgy is not a means of grace. That seems pretty demonstrable by glancing at the confessions. Did I say it does not contain the means of grace?

    But if we equate anything that contains the means of Grace with the means of grace, then a contemporary song that sets the words of scripture to music is also the means of grace–the “divine liturgy.’ I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t say that, though. My car contains the means of grace, because there is a bible in it–therefore my car IS the means of grace. See where this leads? The liturgy contains the means of grace, therefore it IS the means of grace? No, I still don’t like it. It lacks the clarity of the confessions.

    “The Divine Liturgy is called “Divine” for a particular reason.”

    Good. Now we are getting somewhere. Who calls is that, and what is the particular reason?

    I’m with you on Walther’s “Church and Ministry.” That’s why I’m baffled by your disagreement. I don’t recall Walther saying what you are saying, though if you show me I will be happy to stand corrected.

    I don’t know what you mean by “comfessional” and “confessionist.” Perhaps you could bring me up to speed on those terms. In any case, I’m really not sure what there is in anything I have said that is controversial. If I am misstating or misunderstanding anything, I am open to correction.

  • jb

    My Friend –

    It is clear that your view of matters is not my view of matters. And I am most confessional, I just have no need to mention the Confessions twice in every sentence.

    Head over here . . . look around for “Carl Vehse” (Richard Strickert). You will find a kindred spirt in inflexibility.

    Done. Pax – jb

  • jb

    My Friend –

    It is clear that your view of matters is not my view of matters. And I am most confessional, I just have no need to mention the Confessions twice in every sentence.

    Head over here . . . look around for “Carl Vehse” (Richard Strickert). You will find a kindred spirit in inflexibility.

    Done. Pax – jb

  • kempin04


    “It is clear that your view of matters is not my view of matters.”

    Fair enough.

    “I just have no need to mention the Confessions twice in every sentence.”

    How about once?

    Are you going to answer my question about why the “divine liturgy” is called “divine?” (And by whom?)

    I’d also like to know what “confessionist” means.

    I’m not sure the “inflexible” rings true with me. Perhaps it does. Here I thought we were just having a disagreement and I was hoping to learn something. Then again, if my inflexibility is in requiring support from the confessions, then I suppose I can take that as a compliment. Perhaps that is not how you meant it.

    In any case, since you have told me that you are a pastor, I sincerely pray that God will protect you in your ministry and grant you a double portion of His Spirit, so that you might be found faithful and your people might be blessed. Thank you for what you do.

  • jb

    Sorry, I did not HTML the site . . .

    Maybe better I did not.

    K – the liturgy is God calling to us and our responding. It is sheer Gospel. As such, it in conveying the grace of God – forgiveness – salvation. That is incontrovertible! Luthwer called the Gottesdienst “The Mass!” Even in the Confessions.

    AS I said earlier, so I repeat – you need to go do a serious word study on εὐαγγέλιον and λῃτουργία. Neither will be a matter of a few minutes study. You’ll need to dig, rather than question folks like me who have had the answers for 30 years or more. I am not being flip – but you need to get on the same page, or I will talk right past you and you will continue “not to get it.”

    I can’t help that . . . but if you study – you can help that. And . . .

    I will leave matters at that.

    Pax Domini – pb

  • jb


    I most sincerely thank you for your prayers in what I do – I know I need those – God knows I need those!

    I’ll take back the “inflexibility” . . . forgive me for that – mea culpa. I remember myself the first year first year at Sem – I was pumped up. My very first class at Sem in 1982 was with Dr. Robert Preus in – guess what? – yeah, the Confessions. It was a special time, and I certainly got more than a little full of myself. Getting into the parish quickly deflated such wrong-headed thinkng.

    The Mass, which is the Liturgy, was held in the highest esteem by Luther and the Confessors. Not in the Roman Catholic sense at all (and being a former RC member, I know!). If the liturgy is of God, which it is, and contains nothing but Gospel, which it does, how can one possibly say it is NOT “Divine” – of God? We cannot.

    AS to the Holy Ministry . . . while as an ordained and called Pastor fo the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I have a peculiar call that is, while flowing from the priesthood of all believers (the Church) on one hand, carries with it a responsibility that is beyond what God lays on others. It does not make me holier, but rather, it heaps on my head far more responsibility, and the danger to my soul of not merely my own faith, but having to be true to my vows to engender and nurture the faith of my flock. Luther and the confessions speak of the office as one of “seelsorger” – carer of souls.

    Believe me, K, it is far bigger than any one man can handle. Want to learn how to really pray? Go into the Holy Ministry! As we used to say when I was in sales – “it’s simple, it just ain’t easy.

    It is an impossible mission, save for the grace of the Lord and His Word surrounding us in the Divine Liturgy, in the preaching of the Word, and most especially, in the foretaste of the Heavenly Feast to come at the Holy Altar. It is, in a word, profound. Profound is a “profound” word.

    I am 30 years into the real deal of “ordained and called” – and I still am searching for answers. The Confessions are a guide and interpretation as far as they can be, as are the Creeds, yet it is the matter of what is the Gospel and what is not (Law/Gospel) – the sure and certain focus of all Luther thought, said and wrote, and likewise Walther, And yet, both were mystified and in wonderment at, as St. Paul put it, the surpassing riches of God’s grace. I end each sermon with “Now may the peace of God, which passes all (not merely human) understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    While the Confessions agree, the Confessions are just that – the confessions of those of us who believe. Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ even greater than the Confessions? Heavens, yes, and thank the Lord for that! That casts no negative aspersions upon the Confessions – they are a true and rightful exposition of what we believe – but the Confessions are not exhaustive, nor were they meant to be!

    Worship is God’s business, we merely follow and respond. The great advantage to an established liturgy (which we have and Luther most certainly knew), is that we join in the Liturgy our voices with those of the saints of all the ages, as the Proper Prefeace says; Together, with the angels and arch-angels and all the company of Heaven, we laud and magnify Thy glorious name. That is nothing, if not sacramental. It is the Gospel, which IS sacramental. The Confessions don’t question that, because they presuppose that going into their subject matter.

    K – I ask your forgiveness for my “inflexible” comment, especially since I KNOW I was very much so years ago myself. My e-mail is koivwvia@hotmail.com Feel free to post, and we can carry on a conversation on any number of topics, all to the benefit of the faith of us both.

    The Lord bless and keep you, Pax –


  • tODD

    JB (@47, 48), I don’t want to speak for Kempin (who is quite capable to speak for himself), but I will ask — in keeping, I believe, with what he asked earlier — what you mean by “the liturgy”. Namely, by the demonstrative pronoun “the”. Is there only one? Your comments appear to assume that there is.

    Of course, even if all I do is open up a Lutheran hymnal, I will find several. Now, as it happens, I believe what you say is true about all of them, but … I also believe that none of these liturgies were the one that Luther used. At least, not exactly, and that’s if we ignore translation issues.

    As an example, does “the liturty” contain confession and absolution at the beginning? My understanding is that, in Luther’s day (and certainly earlier), it did not. That was a practice, but it was not a part of “the Mass”, as it were. Nowadays, of course, every liturgy seems to have C&A. Which is a bit odd, given that not every liturgy even has the Lord’s Supper in it, and it’s not clear to me if you can properly call a service “Mass” if it does not contain the Eucharist. But I’m a Lutheran layman, and not terribly accomplished at using words like “Mass”, anyhow.

    So here we are. Whatever we can say about liturgies — whether we are talking, in a confusing manner, about them collectively as if there were only one, or about the several liturgies in our hymnals, to say nothing of the variations (some small, some radical) instituted by pastors in their congregations — it would seem that we can’t guarantee that there will be Gospel in the Sacrament, or Gospel in the Absolution, because those apparently aren’t present in everything that gets called a liturgy.

    Being a good Lutheran pastor, of course, you will see to it that the Gospel is proclaimed in whatever liturgy you do use. And, if you for some reason find it lacking in the words of the liturgy, doubtless you will proclaim the Gospel forcefully in your sermon. Still, all this makes me inclined to say — in keeping, I believe with what Kempin said earlier — that the liturgy is only a means of grace to the degree that it contains the clear Gospel. And, of course, we all hope that the liturgies in our churches do just that.

  • jb

    Todd –

    Being a good Lutheran pastor . . . thank you, kind sir, for such a high compliment!

    Liturgy . . . C&A is not part of the Liturgy. It is the “preparation” for service. Unfortunately, so many lay-folks have so waylaid the Sacrament of Confession in private with their Pastors (that old irrational fear of acting “too” Catholic), that it, for the sake of the flock, is corporately done prior to the Introit, which is the actual beginning of the Divine Liturgy. That is a sad state of affairs, since both Christ and the Confessions expect private confession and absolution as a matter of course. Luther and the Confessors did not foresee the 21st century, when the flock has forsaken John 20:21-23. While we pastors are left with whatever in such cases, it is also gratifying that a goodly number of members, be it in home calls or counseling, make use of private confession and absolution anyway. Of those to whom I am shepherd, those who once feared private C&A now sing its praises! In any case, C&A is not part of the Divine Liturgy.

    The Introit begins the Liturgy, and from thence to the Benediction, be it the Aaronic Benediction or the Paul-ian Benediction – everything from Introit to Benediction is sheer Gospel. If the Sacrament Gospel is a means of grace (sacramentum/mysterion), then the Liturgy, by its very nature in delivering the Eucharist, is an extension of the preaching of the Gospel, with direct participation of the “priests” (all believers in Christ) in the grace of God. The Confessions, in no way, mitigate against such. Not ever!

    Todd – I look at all 5 Divine Services and see but one, because each of the 5 is, at the very worst, a variation on the very same theme, and at best (to which I hold), of no matter. The word “liturgy” means “the work of the people” – God’s people worshiping God. That it is all, in every word, Gospel, means it is life-giving and sacramental. I strongly veer away from K’s characterization of the Divine Liturgy as a “casket” – the immediate connotation is interment of the dead – which the Divine Liturgy is most certainly NOT! It is, in essence and in practice, by its very nature, the Gospel cradling the Word and Sacrament. How that cannot be Gospel, and thus sacramental is beyond me and the Confessors. Divine Worship IS the “sacraments in action” – to say less than that is to question the Church of all ages, and the Savior,. who told us to worship in purity and truth. I will take his word for it, rather than try to make Jesus’ words fit the Confessions. That is to get matters precisely backwards! The Confessions as “confession” are to conform to what Christ said and did.

    As I told K – the Book of Concord is not “exhaustive.” Even St. John admitted at the end of his Gospel that there was much more Jesus said, more than all the books of the world could contain. Right?

    The “Mass” – the Divine Service (to be distinguished apart from the Offices of the Day, such as Matins and Vespers, to mention the two most well-known), is not to be truncated, as it were, prayed without the Blessed Eucharist. The Early Church would be aghast in horror at the idea of primary worship without the Lord’s Supper. It is not only a false, misleading dream devoid of the Gospel (it is – Christ ended His earthly ministry with the Sacrament of the Altar, as he began it at the Jordan with the Baptist) – a Divine Worship service is to end in the reception of Our Lord and Savior in the Eucharist. To say otherwise of the Divine Liturgy, is to prove oneself to be a sacramentarian (Sacramentarians were Christians during the Protestant Reformation who denied not only the Roman Catholic transubstantiation but also the Lutheran sacramental union.).

    Todd – my flock feeds (Greek trōgōn, from trōgein to gnaw =- John 6:54) every worship service, and also at noon and Tenebrae on Good Friday (is there a more appropriate day? – I Cor. 11:26).

    All of that being “cradled” by the Divine Liturgy, which is nothing but pure Gospel! How its relationship to preaching and the Eucharist makes it less “Gospel” and less “sacramental” is something beyond my comprehension and likewise, that of the Confessions. The sacramentum/mysterion is just that – a mystery, which Christ deigned not to explain in full, the Confessions intrinsically understand and, well – “confess” and to which, by faith we are granted the grace of God in Jesus. To minimize that; to cubbyhole matters this way and that, is to literally destroy the unity of the Gospel. The Confessions never do that!

    By the way, it qwas I, not K, who said that the Liturgy is sheer Gospel carries the means of grace, and as the worship of the priesthood of those redeemed by Christ, can be NOTHING but sacramental.

    Todd, it is like “stereograms.” Google that. Once you catch the “vision” and know how to do so regularly, one never “goes back.”

    The peace of the Lord be with you and yours always – jb

  • Dennis E. McFadden

    From your lips to God’s ear!
    I am no millennial, coming up on 60 yrs old in a few months. But, after more than a half century of broad evangelicalism, and attending a seminary that went from its conservative neo-evangelical (e.g., Carl F.H. Henry) roots to a “progressive evangelical” orientation in less than two decades (now entranced with guys like Rob Bell), LCMS has been a WONDERFUL home this last year. It combines a conservative concern for doctrine with rich liturgical worship!
    More than two decades ago, I pushed a “contemporary” worship style in the church I was pastoring in order to reach “younger people.” We had 250 in our “traditional” evangelical service and 250 in a 95 decibel rock and roll service. Neither one of them come close to the spiritual impact of our LCMS congregation. “Traditional” evangelical worship is flat and empty; “contemporary worship” substitutes techniques to produce emotional excitation as a surrogate for spiritual meaning.
    Being confirmed as a LCMS Lutheran on the 34th anniversary of my Baptist ordination last March was one of the best things I ever did!
    For those seeking a core of orthodox beliefs coupled with a sense of the divine in worship, the word on the sign out front is LUTHERAN.