22 September 2007

My List

of things that aggravate me about previous generations of Lutheran pastors grows long:

Why didn't they teach their people the Symbols?
Why didn't they encourage private absolution?
Why didn't they encourage weekly Eucharist?
Why didn't they study Luther more?
Why did they ignore the Church Fathers?
Why didn't they work to engender a love and understanding for the liturgy among the people?
Why did they tolerate the abolition of our church's art (both visible and audible)?
Why did they pretend that Lutherans were mostly like other Protestants?

Oh, the list could go on and on and on. BUT, it led me to wonder: what are the blind spots today? What are the things that the next generation of pastors is going to scratch their heads in wonder over and ask "how could those duffuses have missed THAT?"

My friend, Paul McCain, would no doubt head off the list with:

Why were they afraid to instruct their people in good works?

But there's got to be more. What do YOU think folks will come up with? Where are WE being blind in our day? What am *I* totally missing?


Rev. John Frahm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rev. John Frahm said...

Here are a few more:

1. Why didn't they see how far they drifted from confessional liturgical practice after the influence of the Pietists after the Thirty Years War?

2. Why did Lutherans give up the word "catholic" and "evangelical"?

3. Why didn't the TLH people put the pastors' chant in the pew book?

4. Why did they include "Page 5"?

5. Why couldn't they see the error of receptionism?

6. Why did they give in on individual cups?

7. Since when did theology begin and end with Walther, Pieper, JHC Fritz, Lenski and JT Mueller?

8. Why was the NIV adopted as the LW Bible translation?

9. Why such lousy formatting in Lutheran Worship?

10. Why was "Gottesdienst" translated as "worship service" for so long?

11. Why was the sign of the cross and Luther's preface omitted from the 1943 catechism?

12. Why were Amens added to the end of hymns in TLH?

13. Why did Lutherans start wearing the black gowns of the Calvinists?

14. Where did "world without end" come from?

15. Why did we so easily break our fellowship with the Synodical Conference?

16. Why were vicars allowed to start administering the Eucharist?

906Lutheran said...

Why didn't they teach people that there is no other option than the Evangelical Lutheran Church?

Why does the current generation of laity fail to acknowledge the true VISIBLE Church on earth?

Anonymous said...

Why did they deny the Holy Sacrament, the medicine of immortality, to those which Christ bid come to Him?

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

I have pondered this same question that you have voiced--what are our blindspots? What are we ignoring while trying to rebuild an appreciation for historic Christianity? How about using the keys of the kingdom of heaven to bind sins of unrepentant sinners? And I'm not just talking about during the divine service in the sermon. I mean caring enough for individual souls that we seek out the lost sheep, the wayward and erring, and confront them with their sins. I know I don't do this as I ought, and I stand condemned under the judgment of the Lord given through the lips of Jeremiah. So, I guess to summarize: a genuine use of the office of the keys by pastors. Recognizing that the use of the keys extends beyond the hour we have in church on Sun. morning.

Steven G. said...

Why did they follow Fuller Theological Sem lead on Church growth?

Why did they embrace an incorrect view on the priethood of all believers?

Past Elder said...

I think all of your points are valid. John's point one sums it up; yours present the specifics.

And Steven's first point is dead on for our times. To which I would add:

Why did so many of those who did not follow the Fuller Brush Man offer instead or allow as valid a Lutheranised version of Vatican II rather than than the traditional and historic faith and worship of the catholic church, and why did some do both?

Anonymous said...

Why did they not seem to care about the 60%+ of their congregation that never seem to make it to the Divine Service?

Anonymous said...

Why are seminarians allowed to preach?

Anonymous said...

Why was baptism taught as a "past-time" event rather than a present reality?

William Weedon said...


I think you're onto something with that one. I'd be inclined to phrase it like this:

Why didn't their practice and their teaching make it clear that mortal sin drives out the Holy Spirit and faith?

Perhaps shamefully linked to this is that in a day and age where pastors tend to be treated as "employees" of their congregations, there arises in them a fear of "rocking the boat" by dealing with sin if that would thereby offend the members.

So on the pastor's side, I guess that comes out as: "Why did they fear to act as true shepherds?"

On the people's side, though, I want to say something about the figure that one anon floated out there: 60 percent not attending divine service and the pastor not caring. Well, I've never met a pastor who didn't care about such a thing! But I think it's phrased backwards - as though the problem in this instance is the pastor's. I think the problem is what on earth is to become of a "parish" where some 60% of the members regard keeping the third commandment as an option! What kind of a church culture have we fostered where the weekly gathering around the Divine Service to receive the gifts from which we literally live in Christ has become "only if I feel like it today." Good gravy! God gives us commandments that are certainly difficult and challenging, but here is one that says simply: PLANT YOUR BUTT IN THE PEW AND LET GOD DO HIS WORK ON AND IN YOU. Granted, it requires more than physican presence; it requires mental presence, if you know what I mean. But pity sakes, this commandment guards the very basis by which we go on living lives of faith - it can be flaunted only with the greatest peril. If you're one of those 60% and you are reading this, get off your duff and stop makes excuses and come to the Divine Service and let God serve His life into you so that you may truly LIVE in Him.

There. Got that off my chest. ;)

Anonymous said...

To go on further with what Past elder remarked, why, after Vatican II, did Lutheran churches feel the need to supplant the Church's historic liturgy with a newly created 3 year cycle with alternates? If the goal was to promote Biblical literacy, mission accomplished. [sarcasm]

Anonymous said...


I meant historic lectionary, not historic liturgy althogh that has happened to.

William Weedon said...

It really is an amazing thing. I can't speak for other churches - I have not the foggiest about them - but I know that Lutheranism's terrible slide to Biblical illiteracy on the part of our laity coincided with introducing the 3-year series. I'm not saying cause and effect here; just noting that the change happened, and happened about the time we lost the practice of the historic lectionary. I suspect there is some relationship and have for some time. Oh, and with that the introduction of a multitude of Bible Versions.

Lutheran Lucciola said...

This is a great discussion, because being a newcomer to Lutheranism, I am seeing a few things that I already want more of.

The art issue is just a crying shame. I HATE (yes, strong emotion), the Calvinist-like thing around the COMPLETE LACK of Lutheran art. If you only knew how much this bothers me, I swear. Yes, there are a few newer (and wonderful) Lutheran artists out there, but really people. Not much going on. I'm hot on this because my upcoming goal is to make art for my church, and I'm TRYING to find examples of things I can relate to and be influenced by. Almost everything of beauty that relates to my experience is Greek Orthodox.

And the loss of music bothers me. Contemporary is fine for some, but after 20 minutes of major chord monotony, I'm falling alseep.

William Weedon said...


No joke. If you're not familiar with Cyberbrethren, google that and check out some of the art that McCain just put up - it shows what Lutheran Churches looked like before they were bitten by the Calvinistic minimalist bug.

As for the music, well Amen and Amen. Today we had the choir from the local Lutheran High School come and sing for us. They did a fine job and I thought: shouldn't we have such rich fare every week in our churches?

Lutheran Lucciola said...

I'm glad he put them up on his site.

The music over here in liberal land is not around as much. On one hand, I do understand that Lutheranism is much bigger than just the original German roots, but what it is being replaced with bland and commercial.

Anonymous said...

As one who was raised in a Southern Baptist Church, I have noted the following:

1. Why don't Lutherans bring their bibles to Church?
2. Why is both adult bible study and children Sunday school not treated a an important time to open God's Word and to grow?
3. Why does many Lutherans treat Confirmation as the last time they have to do any serious Bible Study?

Just a flew additional items to add.

Anonymous said...

Pastor, I think one must take cultural factors into consideration. As an immigrant myself I noticed that Germans and Scandinavians tended to assimilate more quickly than other groups. Part of that assimiliation filtered into the American Lutheran experience, which was very much influenced by an American Protestant ethos. As they journeyed into the American experience they wanted to be a part of the mainstream as quickly as possible.

Having been a member in LCMS, LCA and ultimately ELCA bodies their "catholicity" varied from very "low" to more "high" church depending on location and the culture of the surrounding religious bodies.

When I was still in the LCMS it was in the days when the great Dr. Oswald Hoffmann still thundered on Lutheran radio and TV.

That era is gone with the ascendancy of the evangelical strain of Lutheran practice.

Anonymous said...

While you haven't done so, it would be good to quash the idea that the decrease in biblical literacy has anything to do with the introduction of the 3-year lectionary. It just isn't logical that someone who hears 3 readings once very year is going remember those 3 readings simply because they hear them once every 52 weeks. When I was preaching on a weekly basis I could barely remember my sermon, not to mention the biblical readings, 2 days later, not to mention one year later. If a person isn't reading the bible on a regular basis, no lectionary of any sort is going to make them bilbically literate. There might be some minor exceptions, but overall, somebody actually has to pick the bible up and read it on a relatively regular basis in order to apprehend what is there.

Jim said...

"'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.'

"Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?

'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?

'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'

"The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'"

Anonymous said...

1. Why focus on missions yet stop supporting the Seminaries?

Anonymous said...

Another one.

Why practice an age of restrictions in order to receive the rite of first communion.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Why do we care so much about what other demoninations think about us? That's one I find - that we are too often worried about what X church down the street thinks.

Why are we content to take the leftover programs from other denominations and try to adapt them to us?

Why do we feel the need to have "programs" at all?

Why are we trying to centralize authority (especially when that centralizing authority seems to trumpet diversity - in ministries, in worship, etc - that cannot be effectively regulated by a central authority)?

William Weedon said...

Some very good and thought-provoking items. Jim's comments on our Lord's words strikes home. Have we all but abandoned the Church's calling to works of mercy, leaving it to someone else? Why? I think of the budget of my parish, which is not a-typical, and we expend enormous amounts on ourselves - including important things like supporting the ministry here and educating our children - but should there not be a greater concern for almsgiving, for the poor? It is striking how often John Chrysostom will drive whatever text he's preaching around to that topic. I used to think he was a tad obsessed with it, but then I think I saw what he was after. The life that Christ gives us is the only life we need, the only life that we'll never lose, and so why be so danged tight-fisted with our STUFF? The tight-fisted approach merely belies a heart that believe that the Lord's life really ISN'T enough for us.

Past Elder said...

Bless us and save us, Mrs O'Davis.

Of course it is true that no-one is going to learn Scripture from only hearing a passage once a year.

But that cuts both ways. The single biggest reason advanced by the 3-year originators is that it would provide a richer and fuller experience of Scripture for the laity and more opportunities to preach for the clergy.

I can't speak for the preaching opportunities, but as regards the laity, of which I am one, the Vatican II cycle has manifestly failed to accomplish its announced intention. On those grounds alone it should be immediately dropped.

And the fact is, the announced intention was not the real intention at all -- having been taught by some of its framers. The idea was to break the continuity with the preaching tradition associated with the "historic" cycle and to provide a new lectionary to complement the "new" Mass in its replacement of the "historic" liturgy (which even in Eucharistic Prayer One is not the traditional Roman canon). For which reason the new lectionary should be dropped sooner than immediately!

Past Elder said...

Not to mention another intent of the three year lectionary expressed to me by some of its framers -- to get away from the over-reliance on miracle stories in the then-current lectionary, which as we know from historical-critical Scripture classes probably don't express literal events anyway, and give more place to moral teachings, which as we again also all know is the reason he came anyway.

Yet another reason to drop it.

William Weedon said...

Actually, I suspect that there IS a tie in with the switch, but I think it's more complicated than that they don't get to hear the same Gospels each year. There was a reinforcement of the Gospels by the hymnody - a hymnody written to write those stories into the hearts of the people. There was a consciousness of the Sundays, then. One woman told Pr. Maxwell: "Oh, it's 'Wake, Awake' Sunday!"

Anonymous said...

Here is the list of lists:

1. Why does a group of cultural Lutherans selling pit beef under in the church parking lot constitute the crowning achievement of the fellowship committee's "evangelism campaign"?
2. Why are cultural Lutherans, not knowing not much about the Bible, allowed on a fellowship and evangelism committee?
3. Why when in a Sunday school class I ask a question about applying the Faith to everyday life I get "deer in the headlight" looks from everybody around - even the pastor?
4. Why does the Lutheran church sometimes feel like Elk's Lodge with a few crosses on the walls?
5. Again, why are cultural Lutherans, not knowing not much about the Bible, allowed on a fellowship and evangelism committee?
6. Is there a law against Lutherans actually getting to know one another in a less than superficial way before or after the Service?
7. Are Lutherans not permitted to smile? (see question 6)
8. Why do many Lutherans drop off their children for Sunday school and then themselves head home to sleep or apparently do something more important?
9. Why is bad art rampant in the Lutheran church. Not just on church walls, but has anyone looked at the CPH catalog lately?
10. Why is there an American flag near our altar?

Past Elder said...

I agree, Pastor -- another example of the way in which the intended disconnect of the three-year lectionary cycle works.

As a PS -- the woman you quote reminds me of the naming of many of the Sundays after their Introits. My old church got around that by allowing "another suitable entrance song" as an option. My old synod got around it by doing away with Intoits altogether. Problems and all, I ain't got nowhere else to go but LCMS!

Anonymous said...

Past Elder,
"Of course it is true that no-one is going to learn Scripture from only hearing a passage once a year."

Thank you! That was my point; to address the biblical illiteracy view, not all of the other very interesting stuff you included.

Jim said...

Pastor Weedon,

Almsgiving is certainly one important implication of what Jesus speaks of in Mt 25. But there also seems to be personal involvement -- visiting the sick and visiting those in prison cannot be accomplished by money.

In this day and age, sometimes time is more valuable than money.

William Weedon said...


I think that's why Luke 11:41 speaks of giving alms "of those things that are within, and behold everything is clean for you."

The giving not of stuff per se, but of SELF. What always strikes me is not giving the voucher to the folk who knock at the door asking for a meal, and sending them down to the local restaurant, but inviting them in and sitting with them at table and eating and drinking with them. Alms from within.

This is what I think our Lord (and you with Him!) asks of us. I am a long way from fulfilling it - that's for sure. And that's why it was a good point to raise. The gift of self poured out.

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Some of the above seem to have gotten off the topic a bit. I think the original question was something like: "What are our blindspots today?" "What will future generations lament about us?" They'll probably say: "Enough with the liturgical stuff, already--we get it!" (Like we say about the "Battle for the Bible" guys).