To any FiveTwo folks reading this, I first need to set some context….
FiveTwo is a group in the LC-MS that identifies itself with the missional movement (for more on this idea of “missional” vis a vis “confessional” see this post, discussing the differences of Lutheran pastor Jonathan Fisk and the Reformed Baptist David Platt). They have recently caused quite a stir in the Confessional Lutheran blogosphere (see, for example, here, here, here and here)
On a post on the Confessional Lutheran blog Brothers of John the Steadfast, Rev. Robert Mayes said:
Out of all of the Twitter comments from this Five-Two wiki conference that are questionable or confusing, one stood out as the most serious and saddening. It was this comment: “We don’t go in preaching the gospel because we are the gospel.”
NO, PEOPLE ARE NOT THE GOSPEL! No one can believe in you and I and these five-two folks to inherit eternal salvation and be forgiven of their sins! The Gospel is the Good News that Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, lived a perfect life in our place and died on the cross for us to pay for our sins. By God’s grace alone, Jesus took our sins upon Himself and put them to death, so that we would not have to stand before God in His wrath and anger, but could stand before Him in confident trust as His dearly beloved children who are redeemed by Jesus’ blood.
THIS ALONE IS THE GOSPEL. And the five-two group by this quotation does not understand it….
Here is how I responded to Pastor Mayes:
“NO, PEOPLE ARE NOT THE GOSPEL!”
This is most certainly true. Just like we can’t say we are sacraments (even if we can, and should, as Pastor Stuckwisch says, live a “Sacramentally Shaped Life”). Of course we cannot talk this way and I don’t see how we can avoid saying that the FiveTwo group should simply disown such statements (but this was a tweet from a layperson and I believe the context of the quote was also explained on another post [it was – see here]). Even if there were a serious theological case someone would want to make here about us being sacraments (which the group clearly does say) – perhaps akin to the whole “ordination is a sacrament” idea – this simply introduces confusion.
“No one can believe in you and I and these five-two folks to inherit eternal salvation and be forgiven of their sins!”
What if we say, as you go on to say:
“The Gospel is the Good News that Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, lived a perfect life in our place and died on the cross for us to pay for our sins.”
I hope they believe you, trust you, when you say that! Still, here we would be right to say that they are not really “believing in you”, but believing in the one you point to. So this is a fine line where we should be careful: here, we need to admit that while men will fail us and God never will, we still do trust men… even trust in men… even as we must finally NOT look to them alone… “Believe *in* them” in this sense.
I note Exodus 15:31 states: “And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.”
So why must I challenge FiveTwo? Because we trust in God who has used reliable men in his plan. Men who value the truth and tradition handed on. Men who respect those who desire to hold tenaciously to the “old time religion” – and to engender love for it and to pass it on – because it so beautifully and wonderfully adorns and carries the truth.
Now, here is where I finally get to speak to the FiveTwo crowd directly:
Herb Mueller, Vice President of the LC-Ms, has recently blogged some comments originally made in 2002 to leaders in the LC-MS:
“When one of us develops an idea that may be different from what has been commonly accepted doctrine or practice, we do not simply go forward on our own, but we bring it to our brothers, remembering we are committed to the same confession and remembering how easy it is to develop blind spots. We are not alone. God has given us brothers. And here it is disingenuous to go only to brothers we are sure will immediately agree with us.”
To any FiveTwo folks reading this: is this true? Is this what brothers do? Are you my brother? Is there, in you, a part of you, that really wants me to “go to you”? (you know, I don’t want to give you that option!)
Because brothers, I agree with you, we must trust men… But the men I want to trust more than any other men are those who really, really want to take seriously the faithful brothers who have gone before us, and paid the prices they have paid to give us the treasures we have received….
I want to trust men. I want to trust my brothers. Even as, yes, ultimately, I trust no man but God.
Because of God, there is no one on earth who should be able to trust men as much as Christians do. This is the way it should be. Are you willing to listen to me a bit more?
Are you with me?
UPDATE: I thought it was possible that some persons reading this post might find this research study interesting: What Does An American Evangelical Journeying Into Confessional Lutheran Thought Look Like?