RSS

Is a Faulty Understanding of Sanctification at the Root of the Worship Wars? (part I of VIII)

07 Jan
Would a church that vigorously pursues to be more sanctified do this more or less?

Would a church that vigorously pursues growth in sanctification do this more or less – and more or less consistently?

.

Part I

In this eight-part series, I am mostly going to present quotations from the good work of Pastor Paul Strawn and Pastor Holger Sonntag regarding this issue of “the worship wars”.  I will try and post new parts each coming weekday for the next seven days.

Of course, these pastors are addressing the “worship wars” in the context of the LC-MS, the Lutheran-Church Missouri Synod, a confessional Lutheran Church body that historically has valued the Church’s liturgical heritage (for more specifics addressing some the variety of views in that church body see the beginning of this post [probably my most-read post ever], this post about a local matter [in Minnesota], and my four posts on the group known as “FiveTwo”).

That said, I am confident that what these men have to say will be of great interest to many of the thoughtful saints scattered throughout Christendom…

If you are Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Reformed or of the American Evangelical variety, I hope you will nevertheless give these men your ear…

Some quotations will be from the 27th Annual Lutheran Free Conference: “The Character of Christian Worship: It May Not Be What You Think”, which took place on Saturday, October 25th, 2014 at Redeemer Lutheran Church in St. Cloud, MN (full audio available here). Other quotations will be from their new book, “Christian Worship: the Apology of the Unchanging Forms of the Gospel”, which follows up “The Unchanging Forms of the Gospel: a Response to Eight Theses on Worship” (you can read a review of that first book, along with some helpful contextual information about the ‘Eight Theses’ [more specifics on this in part VII coming up] here on Scott Diekmann’s blog).  Both books are published by the publishing house Pastor Strawn and Pastor Sonntag founded, Lutheran Press (again, the main reason I go to Facebook – namely, to get their freshly translated Luther devotions each morning)

Let’s get started.  First, what is Christian worship in the first place?

Strawn and Sonntag offer this definition:

Christian worship – that is, worship after man’s fall into sin and after the giving of the promise of the Savior in Gen. 3:15 – is fundamentally rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. For every Christian activity, in order to be truly pleasing to God despite man’s sinfulness, must flow from faith in this gospel. Such faith is created by this gospel itself. In that this faith rightly acknowledges God as truthful and Savior, and thus lets God be God, it is the highest worship (First Commandment). Genuine faith is active in love of God and neighbor. Praying to God as well as praising and thanking God in worship, as well as studying and following his Word, are the chief works of love of God after faith itself (Second and Third Commandments). Serving the neighbor in one’s vocations according to the remaining Ten Commandments is, because it is a fruit of faith in the gospel, also part of the Christian’s worship and thanksgiving to God.

(All bold here are mine, as will be the case throughout the series unless otherwise noted)

And how do Christians worship? Again, Strawn and Sonntag explain:

In the age of the New Testament, the gospel has been instituted by Christ in the specific forms, rites, and ceremonies of the NT’s specific ceremonial law, namely, the means of grace: the word, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. The pastoral office has been established by Christ to administer the gospel in these forms also in the public worship service. Administering and partaking of the gospel according to these forms are acts of love which, when proceeding from genuine faith in the gospel, are also acts of worship pleasing to God. When considered as God’s saving work for us, the means of grace take on a “sacramental” meaning. When considered as our serving actions for God and neighbor, the means of grace take on a “sacrificial” meaning. Due to the alone-saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, the only legitimate function for sacrifice in the Christian worship service is to express the Christians’ praise and thanksgiving for their being saved by Christ.

Quoting the late Lutheran professor Kurt Marquart saying that “justification is not a principle of elimination… but illumination”*, one of the most powerful things that these men talk about is how for Luther, doctrine could not be kept pure without love, or, sanctification.  Justification may be the doctrine on which the church stands or falls, but simple love is said to be necessary to keep the Church teaching rightly.  I noted this, with some powerful Luther quotations these men provided at the conference**, in a previous post.

Let’s start by repeating those Luther quotations…

In one his last sermons, on Rom. 12:3, Luther stated about a month before his death (AE 51:376-377):

“Therefore, see to it that you hold reason in check and do not follow her beautiful cogitations. Throw dirt in her face and make her ugly. Don’t you remember the mystery of the holy Trinity and the blood of Jesus Christ with which you have been washed of your sins? Again, concerning the sacrament, the fanatical antisacramentalists say, ‘What’s the use of bread and wine? How can God the Almighty give his body in bread?’ I wish they had to eat their own dirt. They are so smart that nobody can fool them. If you had one in a mortar and crushed him with seven pestles his foolishness still would not depart from him. Reason is and should be drowned in baptism, and this foolish wisdom will not harm you, if you hear the beloved Son of God saying, ‘Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you; this bread which is administered to you, I say, is my body.’ If I hear and accept this, then I trample reason and its wisdom under foot and say, ‘You cursed whore, shut up! Are you trying to seduce me into committing fornication with the devil?’ That’s the way reason is purged and made free through the Word of the Son of God.

So let us deal with the fanatics as the prophets dealt with the spiritual harlots, the idolaters, the wiseacres, who want to do things better than God does. We should say to them, ‘I have a Bridegroom, I will listen to him. Your wisdom is utter foolishness. I destroy your wisdom and trample it under foot.’ This struggle will go on till the last day. This is what Paul [in Rom. 12:3] wants; we are to quench not only the low desires but also the high desires, reason and its high wisdom. When whoredom invades you, strike it dead, but do this far more when spiritual whoredom tempts you. Nothing pleases a man so much as self-love, when he has a passion for his own wisdom. The cupidity of a greedy man is as nothing compared with a man’s hearty pleasure in his own ideas. He then brings these fine ideas into the Scriptures, and this is devilishness pure and simple. This sin is forgiven, but when it reigns in one’s nature, not yet fully purged, then assuredly the true doctrine is soon lost, however willingly one preaches and willingly one listens. Then Christ is gone. Then they fall down before the devil on the mountain and worship him (Matt. 4 [:8–10]).”

(italics Pastor Sonntag’s)

Also note this quote:

AE 24:246: “It does not require such great skill to begin to love; but, as Christ says here, remaining in love takes real skill and virtue. In matrimony many people are initially filled with such ardent affection and passion that they would fairly eat each other; later they become bitter foes. The same thing happens among Christian brethren. A trivial cause may dispel love and separate those who should really be bound with the firmest ties; it turns them into the worst and bitterest enemies. That is what happened in Christendom after the days of the apostles, when the devil raised up his schismatic spirits and heretics, so that bishops and pastors became inflamed with hatred against one another and then also divided the people into many kinds of sects and schisms from which Christendom suffered terrible harm. That is the devil’s joy and delight. He strives for nothing else than to destroy love among Christians and to create utter hatred and envy. For he knows very well that Christendom is built and preserved by love. In Col. 3:14 Paul speaks of love as ‘binding everything together in perfect harmony.’ And in 1 Cor. 13:13 he calls love the greatest virtue, which accomplishes and achieves most in the Christian realm. For in the absence of love doctrine cannot remain pure; nor can hearts be held together in unity.”

(italics and bold mine)

As we begin this series, my prayer and hope for you is that you will let those quotations sink in a bit, and to reflect on them in your heart.

FIN

Part II

Notes

*p. 91, from the materials provided at the conference:

So, here again we see the truth of what sainted Dr. Marquart’s said in class at CTS [Concordia Theological Seminary, in Ft. Wayne, Indiana]: the doctrine of justification is not a principle of elimination; it is a principle of illumination. In other words, it’s not an axe to chop down things we don’t like. It is, rather, a powerful light that lets us see how those things should be taught and used properly, that is, without contradicting the article by which the church stands and falls, that is, justification by faith alone through grace alone.

Accordingly, the doctrine of justification correctly understood is also not the royal highway to church unity and peace in the “worship wars” which would elegantly allow us to bypass doing the hard work of love, as in: “if we could just agree in this doctrine, everything would be great” or as in: “since we already agree in this doctrine, nothing else really matters – aren’t we free?”

**Quotes obtained from the materials given out at the 27th Annual Lutheran Free Conference: “The Character of Christian Worship: It May Not Be What You Think” – Saturday, October 25th, 2014 at Redeemer Lutheran Church in St. Cloud, MN.  Full audio available here.

Advertisements
 
6 Comments

Posted by on January 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

6 responses to “Is a Faulty Understanding of Sanctification at the Root of the Worship Wars? (part I of VIII)

  1. Mark Louderback

    January 12, 2015 at 1:32 am

    Hwy Nathan

    So, I sorta question a small part of the “What is Christian worship in the first place.” This is a minor issue, but when you look at the bleeding woman who touched Jesus for healing, Jesus commends her right?

    Holding to what is said here forces us to take the position that she was looking with eager expectation of the Messiah, acknowledging Jesus as God. When you read the text, it seems as though she was much more superstitious. (I read Helmut Thielicke as having the correct best sermon on the subject)

    So, sometimes in our error and in our ignorance we are trying to reach out to Christ and He meets us and brings us grace.

    But that is a minor point. Still, i think it colors how we see God.

    I think this is interesting:

    In the age of the New Testament, the gospel has been instituted by Christ in the specific forms, rites, and ceremonies of the NT’s specific ceremonial law, namely, the means of grace: the word, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.

    Not that I disagree. It is true. But so is this statement:

    In the age of the New Testament, the Gospel is given to us by Christ with great freedom, removed from any specific commands, rites, ceremonies, or even many vocables — sure the words of institution and baptism have specific verba, but surprisingly little really. What is emphasized is the great freedom and variety and multitude of ways to bring the Gospel to a hurting world.

    This is also true. And it colors the discussion as well.

    So, from the get go, we sorta see how things will go.

    One more point: sanctification. You seem to be content to leave it undefined — or just allow it to be love — but I from one who has had conversations on the issue….well, I think it needs a bit of a definition.

     
  2. infanttheology

    January 12, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Mark,

    Thanks for commenting Mark. So glad you are taking the time to engage me a bit here.

    “So, sometimes in our error and in our ignorance we are trying to reach out to Christ and He meets us and brings us grace.”

    I think this is right – so long as we do not say that unregenerate human beings are really seeking God as He has revealed Himself (and fully in Christ – sinful man can, without grace, only turn away from the true God), but just so much as they think God as they understand them can help them, get them out of a fix.

    “In the age of the New Testament, the Gospel is given to us by Christ with great freedom, removed from any specific commands, rites, ceremonies, or even many vocables — sure the words of institution and baptism have specific verba, but surprisingly little really. What is emphasized is the great freedom and variety and multitude of ways to bring the Gospel to a hurting world.”

    Mark – there is freedom, with the words we use and otherwise, so long as we realize there are limits as well, i.e. “holding to the pattern of sound words”. But when you say Strawn and Sonntag’s statement about the sacraments is true and then say this is true as well, what do you mean specifically? You seem to me to be contradicting yourself. On the one hand we that in the age of the N.T. we are totally free from any specific commands, rites and ceremonies and on the other hand, the gospel has been instituted by Christ in the specific forms, rites, and ceremonies of the NT’s specific ceremonial law….

    “One more point: sanctification. You seem to be content to leave it undefined — or just allow it to be love — but I from one who has had conversations on the issue….well, I think it needs a bit of a definition.”

    I agree. I hope you keep reading. Part IV really starts to get into the nitty gritty.

    All from me today. God bless.

    +Nathan

     
  3. Mark

    January 13, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    Well, what I would like to say about the unregenerate human is that God is using His Law to drive them to Christ. And that Christ is waiting with open loving gracious arms.

    “Mark – there is freedom, with the words we use and otherwise, so long as we realize there are limits as well, i.e. “holding to the pattern of sound words”.” — Aye! But where does that middle part lie…that is the question, isn’t it.

    ” But when you say Strawn and Sonntag’s statement about the sacraments is true and then say this is true as well, what do you mean specifically? ” — I mean that both descriptions are completely correct. It just depends on what slant you want to take. They have taken a certain slant from the outset and we will see how it plays out.

    But they could just have easily gone in a different direction from the beginning.

    We’ll see what part IV says.

     
  4. infanttheology

    January 13, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    Pastor Louderback,

    You said: “In the age of the New Testament, the Gospel is given to us by Christ with great freedom, removed from any specific commands, rites, ceremonies, or even many vocables”

    But what you say here and S and S say contradict each other. They say that the Gospel is not given to us removed from any specific commands, rites and ceremonies.

    +Nathan

     
  5. infanttheology

    January 13, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    …if you are saying to particular individuals, I understand your meaning, but if so, you are saying that as regards bringing those individuals into the church where this is not the case, right?

    +Nathan

     

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
Sense & Reference

libraries and philosophy

Reliable Source (This is a)

Overcoming "Fake News" and Beyond

The Jagged Word

"What the Hell is going on!"

ROUGH TYPE

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Meditationes Sacrae (et Profanae)

A blog concerning theology, faith, the humanities, and Interesting Things

Pyromaniacs

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Proslogion

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Blog – AlbertMohler.com

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Worldview Everlasting

Jonathan Fisk exposits on all things Lutheran.

De Profundis Clamavi ad Te, Domine

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Abide in My Word

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Blogia

The Blog of LOGIA: A Journal of Lutheran Theology

Gottesdienst Online

Just another WordPress.com weblog

GetReligion

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Todd's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

theologia crucis

Just another WordPress.com weblog

The Boar's Head Tavern

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Glory to God for All Things

Orthodox Christianity, Culture and Religion, Making the Journey of Faith

Eclectic Orthodoxy

"I'm a blogger, dammit, not a theologian!"

Jonathan Last Online

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Steadfast Lutherans

An international fraternity of confessional Lutheran laymen and pastors, supporting proclamation of Christian doctrine in the new media.

www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/

Just another WordPress.com site

Reformation500

A forum for exploring the historical truths of Christianity reclaimed by the Reformers

Surburg's blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Beggars All: Reformation And Apologetics

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Weedon's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

First Thoughts

A First Things Blog

Pastoral Meanderings

Just another WordPress.com weblog

%d bloggers like this: