An appeal to my FiveTwo brethren

30 Sep

(NOTE: There is a follow-up post to this one: A Sincere Question for My FiveTwo Brethren ; the latest post is here)

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:

Pastor Mayes,


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?


Posted by on September 30, 2014 in Uncategorized


5 responses to “An appeal to my FiveTwo brethren

  1. RevRad

    October 1, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    I like seeing the Apostle Paul go up to Jerusalem and spend time with Peter (Galatians 1:18). I also like when Paul goes back to Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1-2) and they discuss (in person) the Gospel that is being taken into the world. It appears they sought to make sure they were on the same page, as it relates to the Gospel. They didn’t have to do this but they did. This seems quite helpful for the whole church. They did it in a healthy way. I often wonder if something like this could or would happen today? Is it really clarity to move forward together that we want or are people seeking enough evidence to show how one side is more right than the other?

  2. infanttheology

    October 2, 2014 at 2:07 am


    I don’t deny there is some “want to be right” going on here….I think that is human nature, old Adam, and its something we never quite escape, do we?

    I like the story of Peter and Paul here. It always sticks out to me how Paul was eager to be found in agreement with Peter, who represented the established church….and how happy he is when he talks about receiving the “right hand of fellowship”…. Yes, they were meant to be together. As are we to…


  3. infanttheology

    October 2, 2014 at 2:53 am


    Besides the sinful desire about being right though – the “selfish and prideful push to be right”. Do you think that there are some right answers here that we should be able to agree on? If so, what about agreeing that the sacraments (not us!) are, for example, unchanging forms of the Gospel?


  4. Rev. Robert Mayes

    October 24, 2014 at 12:05 am

    Hi Nathan. I know it’s been awhile. It’s been very busy here. But I did want to respond to your thoughtful question, and I’m sorry I’m only getting back to it now.

    First, I want to say that for whatever the value that Twitter has for getting messages out quickly, I’m now confident in saying it is not a good medium for having a theological conversation. Too much needs to be said that can’t be said in the amount of characters you are given.

    Second, when I wrote my comment on the steadfast lutherans site, all I saw was that there was this tweet that came out with a message saying that “we were not to preach the Gospel but that we were the Gospel.” This tweet in particular came out with the “Five-Two” logo on it, giving it the appearance that it was from this organization and that they approved of it. I don’t use Twitter, I will admit that. But when I saw this, it looked like the entire organization of “Five-Two” was behind this sentence.

    Third. Of course people are to bring the Word, and people need to be trusted to bring the Word. Simply reading the Tweet, however, left this possibility out of the question because it said that “we were not to preach the Gospel”. That’s not right either.

    Fourth. There was a comment on one of your other pages you’ve written about “Five-Two”. I don’t remember which it was. There was a pastor who wrote something about why liturgical guys were not willing to consider contemporary guys like him as Lutheran. He seriously wanted to bring the Gospel to the world in a language the world understands, and is not against the liturgy per se. It was a good conversation starter. I would like to respond to that, because I do see a point he mentioned that may help the discussion. In his post, this pastor was assuming that the Gospel itself was remaining unchanged when groups like “Five-Two” were proclaiming it to contemporary worship. I would like to challenge this point, with a spirit of love and all due respect. And that point deals primarily with how we understand the efficacy of the Word.

    I am a musician. I have a college degree in music, and can play a few instruments as well as write music. I have books about music. I have lots of cds. I like various forms. I drive my wife nuts with it. But it does qualify me to speak on musical matters. Music is not exactly a language, not quite in the way this commenter means. It’s not like English or German. It can be used to connect English or German, etc. But in itself, music is not like this. So that first of all doesn’t quite apply.

    When it comes to contemporary rock music as worship, however, this does not leave the Gospel unchanged. This affects how the efficacy of the Word is perceived and taught. Just to review – I’m sure he knows this quite well – Heb. 4:12 says that the “Word of God is living and powerful”. Likewise, Isa. 55:11 says that the Word “does not return void, but goes forth for the purpose for which [God] sends it.” Fine and good. Well then, why should a church that is liturgical change to contemporary worship if it has the Word? Promoters of contemporary worship have told me in these very words, “People are not getting excited enough by our songs and service.” My response, “Well, is the Word being taught in its truth and purity?” Answer: “Yes, but that’s not what I’m saying. If we don’t do something, if we don’t make the Word exciting enough, or if we don’t make the service exciting enough, then people will leave, or then we won’t attract the people, and then we will die.”

    Notice what has happened. It is no longer the Word of God that is efficacious. The Word is no longer believed as being living and powerful. Now it is being seen as dead and inert. And this dead, inert information is something that man in his will must act on, choosing to accept it – or being emotionally swayed to accept it. Either way. It is no longer the Word that is efficacious, but man that is efficacious. The Word is dead and inert, until man by his efforts and works makes it living and powerful. And that’s where the high frenetic, contemporary rock worship comes in. It promises to make this dead, and inert Word become living and powerful. It promises to attract the lost. And it promises to leave the Gospel untouched. But such an understanding of the Word is not the Lutheran understanding of the Word, nor is it the Biblical understanding. This is pure Arminianism. And that makes all the difference in the world.

    So that’s why I cannot accept contemporary rock worship as Lutheran. It changes the doctrine of justification and wittingly or not, changes the efficacy of the Word into an Arminian false teaching. That I cannot go by. I do not write this to be personally hostile to anyone, just to lay out the issue before us all in a spirit of brotherly love and communication. Blessings to all. I need to get going.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

    • infanttheology

      October 24, 2014 at 12:44 am

      Rev. Mayes,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment.



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