Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Lutheran Manifesto

I am a soldier in the worship wars.  Though I've only been a pastor for a few years, I have already lobbed countless bombs at those who seek to pervert our confession of faith.  Though I am but a lowly grunt, I have fired innumerable rounds at those who attempt to inject our fonts and pulpits and altars with the poison of Calvin and Zwingli.

And as I look at my fellow soldiers, as I survey the men burrowed in the Confessional trenches with me, I must admit that the deadliest wounds and the deepest scars we bear are not the result of the enemy's attacks.  They are nothing more than self-inflicted carnage, the result of our collective frustration and exhaustion, the fruit of giving into our anger and pride and hatred and becoming exactly what the enemy has portrayed us to be in their vilest propaganda.  

And it's time for this to stop.  It's time for a strategy change.  It's time to fight the worship wars by putting down our guns and picking up our megaphones.  It's time to fight the worship wars by leaving the Pseudo-Lutherans with no one left to deceive.

In our nation, in 21st century America, there is no culture of Lutheranism.  The world around us does not know who we are and what we believe.  While your average American is highly ignorant of the basic teachings of the numerous religious groups in the world, his ignorance of Lutheranism is far greater than his ignorance of most other Christian-ish groups.  Here is a table to illustrate my point:

A phony Romanist can't trick the world into believing that the Catholic Church has women priests because the world knows better.  A false Evangelical can't convince people that his community cherishes the Word and Sacraments because everything else those people have ever seen tells them that the real marks of his church are Starbucks and soul patches.  But, with a slate as blank as ours, a Pseudo-Lutheran can get away with pretty much anything.

And he will get away with pretty much anything until we teach the world who we are, until we teach our children and friends and neighbors to know what a Lutheran looks like and sounds like.  And if we want to fill in that blank Lutheran slate, we won't do it by expending all our energy firing shots at the rebels.  We won't do it by out-politicking the opposition at the synodical convention.  We won't do it by mocking our enemies in secret rooms, in between puffs of cigars and sips of fine scotch.  And we won't do it by sniping at the other side from a nest woven together with confessional message boards and blog posts.

No.  If we want to stop the false teachers in our midst from digging their fingers into the toilets of Willow Creek and passing off their findings as compatible with the Book of Concord, then we must teach the people around us to recognize the lie of evangelical form and Lutheran substance.  And in order to teach them to recognize that lie, then, when it comes to those who sell it, we must out-confess them, out-proclaim them, out-evangelize them, out-outreach them.  We must simply out-work them, both inside and outside of our congregations.

So when they sing vague, meaningless, mantra-driven,spiritualistic blech, we sing the best of our hymns and we sing them right in the face of the word.  We pour those hymns out in concert halls, in youtube videos, at our dinner tables and anywhere else we can fit them until the world knows what Lutheran music sounds like and knows that Lutheran music doesn't sound like a horrible, husky voiced U2 sound alike.

When they teach purpose-driven poppycock, we teach Law and Gospel and we teach this to any set of ears we can find in this world.  We teach it, with the aid of the internet, to people starving for the Gospel halfway across the country and on the other side of the world.  We teach it in conversations with our friends.  We teach it to our neighbors when a couple of Mormons come knocking on their door and we insert ourselves into the discussion in order to show them that our Gospel is so awesome it just swallowed Joseph Smith's gospel in one bite and crapped it out the other end.

When they teach their youth to talk like hipster-evangelicals, we teach our youth to talk like Lutherans.  We brand the Catechism into their memories.  We give them the vocabulary of the Scriptures.  And we train them to know their theology so well that the pastors of the other churches in town secretly hope their youth group members don't bring any of their Lutheran friends to the next Bible study, lest another 14 year old respond to their denial of baptismal regeneration by tearing them apart in a fury of theological evisceration so bloody it would make Quentin Tarantino nauseous.

And when they embark on gimmicky outreach programs riddled with a theology of glory and a denial of original sin, we respond by reaching out further with our hands filled with big, fat chunks of Lutheran bread.  So when they build sleek websites that boast of their faithfulness to God, we build equally sleek websites that make it very clear to people in half a second that Lutherans aren't interested in marketing themselves but in confessing Christ and His forgiveness.  When they build coffee shops for seekers where one can learn how to have a proactive faith walk, we build shelters for the needy where sinners can say to themselves, man, when those Lutherans feed me and clothe me and care for me and pray with me and talk with me, they don't tell me about how my suffering will be gone if I just believe more or trust more or obey more.  Instead, they tell me about Jesus and His love for me in the midst of my suffering, even as they're trying to take my suffering away.

So this is what we do.  When the Pseudo-Lutherans speak, we speak louder to our friends and neighbors.  When they yell, we shout to the public.  When they shout, we scream to the world.  And we don't stop screaming until God gives us what we need-a culture of Lutheranism, a world where people who have never even set foot in one of our churches know what a Lutheran looks like and sounds like, and a world where people understand that the only reason a Lutheran doesn't preach or teach or worship or act like a Lutheran is because he's not a Lutheran.  

So we can either spend the rest of our lives firing on an enemy we'll never hit, or we can let him shoot himself in the foot by letting the world call into question his doctrine and practice.  We can either keep piercing ourselves with our own ricocheted bullets, or we can teach the world to walk away from that enemy when he tries to sell them a Lutheranism that isn't real.

I've already torn my flesh apart enough doing the former.  It's time to try the latter.


campusRev said...

We got into this mess by pastors not truly teaching, thinking that theology was too heavy for the average Lutheran who felt "completed" after confirmation. Most had (have) no answer when a young layman asked (asks), "Why do we have to say some old creed every week?" What's really sad is that in many years of campus ministry, I've seen at least a dozen PK's plunge into the local evangelical church because it was "on fire", and they realized we had no praise band. At conferences I might mention that I haven't seen so-and-so when I bump into the pastor-father. The typical response is something like, "I'm just glad they're involved with some Christian kids at CRU." Previously un-churched converts have embraced Lutheran theology more whole-heartedly than anyone as through basic catechesis. The result is a pretty healthy Lutheran community considering the influence of para-church evangelicals on one side, and the secular university environment on the other. It can be done. The Holy Spirit does work through the Word & Sacraments.

Pastor Sharp said...

I still think you're dealing in generalities and caricature and not dealing with legit critiques, so you're not changing anything.

Hausfrau said...

Thank you, Pastor Fiene. Very well said. Very well.

Rev. David M. Juhl said...

Pr. Sharp:

Pr. Fiene is not dealing in generalities and caricature. Pr. Fiene is dealing with facts that can be seen and heard.

Perhaps why you say what you say is that, with all due respect, you are not able to see the forest because of all the trees.

Pastor Sharp said...

"they sing vague, meaningless, mantra-driven,spiritualistic blech"

generality "they"
caricature "meaningless"


What forest and tree am I not seeing, with all due respect?

read it said...

"What forest and tree am I not seeing, with all due respect?"

Here is a list of such songs:


Hope this clarifies.

Rev. Gerald Heinecke said...

Good to read another must share article!

Nor said...

I like many of the points you're making, but I do have a few questions/objections.

Is musical content the same as musical style? Should we know what Lutheran music sounds like until I hear it? Or should we be satisfied to know what Lutheran music will say when we hear it? Is the sound of the music what's important? Or is it what the sound means?

I think that you are more concerned about what the songs are saying, and I hope I'm not being an 8th Commandment Nazi on myself by saying that. However, you're endangering your entire point about theological music by seeming to assert that Lutherans don't sound horrible or husky when they sing. But even in Liturgical heaven at Kramer Chapel there are horrible singers, and God bless us, for He has blessed us.

But as for the style of a song, why couldn't a Lutheran song sound like U2? Rock music normally goes like this: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, etc. Is that an inherently heretical pattern? If so, then we'll either need to edit or just delete a few hymns from the LSB: "Prepare the Royal Highway" [343], "The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came" [356], "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" [357], "Angels from the Realms of Glory" [367], "Angels We Have Heard on High" [368], "What Child is This" [370], "See amid the Winter's Snow" [373], "O Come, All Ye Faithful" [379]. "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" [380], "Let Our Gladness Have No End" [381], "We Praise You, Jesus, at Your Birth" [382], "A Great and Mighty Wonder" [383], "Of the Father's Love Begotten" [384], and well, should I even keep going?! I didn't even make it all the way through the Second Season of the Year!

Or are you just concerned about keeping the Devil's guitar out of Church? Do I even need to mention Psalms that exhort us to make music on stringed instruments, like, I don't know, David on his harp? Or it evil percussion instruments, like that demonic piano? That must be the worst because it's both a stringed and percussion instrument.

Would it be fair if I made my own blog somewhere else where I used your same method here? If I began my own counter blog and said that I know what Lutheran teaching sounds like, and it's not ADHD inspired, epileptic seizure inducing, Star Wars violin battles on Youtube? But since Pastor Fisk isn't here to defend his wise choice of a relevant style, let me try another. We'll pour our catechesis into Youtube videos until the world knows what Lutheran catechesis looks like and knows that Lutheran catechesis doesn't look like a computer generated, sarcastic sitcom/SNL look alike. Is that right?

And also, why is bad that we aren't sure what Lutheran piety looks like? Lutheran piety looks like good works. What do good works look like? Well, they might look like one of several trillion things.

Pastor Fiene said...


You're sort of all over the place in your comment, so I'll try to touch on a few major points:

1. I didn't say that a Lutheran song couldn't sound like U2. I just pointed out that the song currently atop the Christian pop charts sounds like a bad U2 ripoff.

Nonetheless, while it's not impossible for a Lutheran song to sound like U2, it's also not very likely that a U2 (or other pop/rock sounding) song will be very Lutheran. You can find my explanation for that here (in particular, where I discuss the didactic nature of church music and the cathartic nature of secular music): http://thehighmidlife.blogspot.com/2010/08/why-id-rather-listen-to-secular-music.html

2. I have never said, on this blog or elsewhere, that drums or guitars or any other instrument cannot be rightly used in Lutheran worship, nor have I ever suggested that those instruments are somehow demonic. That's a big, fat red herring.

3. I've never argued that Lutheran Satire is catechesis. If someone came to me and said "I haven't been confirmed in the Lutheran faith, but may I take communion at your church today because I've seen all your videos and agree with them all," my response would be, "not yet. Let's go through catechesis first."

Rev. Springer said...

Speaking from my own experience as a music major as someone who before seminary led praise bands in an LCMS congregation as well as did traditional worship and now post seminary assigned to the Pacific South West distict for six years my position is that not only the content but the style of music does matter. The contemporary service that I inherited had replaced a solid and clear confession and absolution with something called a cofessional prayer. All of the hymns or songs were borrowed from the pentecostal church not a single Lutheran hymn, the creed was noticably absent. There was also one reading from scripture. The elders told me that I must not wear an alb and stole in the service, the marks of the office of the Holy Ministry. I was told that this was supposed to ba a casual worship service. I was also told not to preach from the pulpit but I was to walk around the aisles and preach. Slowly I began to introduce liturgical elements back into this first service. I even tried to use contemporary settings of the ordinaries from sources like "City on a Hill" but I recieved complaints like you are making the service too Lutheran. Many left and not surprisingly they left for baptist and four square churches. This is what I think our LCMS churches are doing in tolerating contemporary services they preparing their members to leave our denominations especially our youth. I believe that musical style has become an idol. It is quite telling when the majority of the contestants on Amercan Idol are worship leaders in their pentecostal baptist congregations. Contemporary worship songs are not divine service they and entertainment and ear candy designed to reach the passion centers of the brain it has a narcotic effect and it distracts us from Christ. The contempoorary worship paradigm is of performer and audience instead of Leader and responder congregation. Yes traditional music and chants and liturgy may seem foreign to our culture. I would look at this as an advantage. We need to emphasize the counter-culture of the church and not look like the culture. There should be a cultural distinction between a divine service and an entertainment event. More mae and my house I will teach the liturgy and hymns to children of our school and to the congregation that I serve whatever the personal cost because it objectively preaches Christ and His gifts.

Jordan said...

I applaud your assertion that it is important to focus on doing things well. Simply griping about how "Pseudo-Lutherans" do things is counter-productive. A positive witness is much more effective than griping about how others do things.

My concern is that your focus seems to be furthering the right Lutheran image rather than furthering the faith. Isn't a focus on image exactly what upsets you about the "Pseudo-Lutherans?" You may be thinking that you are not focused on image at all, but that you are simply focused on adhering to Lutheran doctrine and practice. But listen to your quote, "And we don't stop screaming until God gives us what we need-a culture of Lutheranism, a world where people who have never even set foot in one of our churches know what a Lutheran looks like and sounds like, and a world where people understand that the only reason a Lutheran doesn't preach or teach or worship or act like a Lutheran is because he's not a Lutheran." Okay, so am I to understand that God's main concern is that people understand what the Lutheran culture is like? Isn't God's concern that all of His children know His saving love and grace? Doesn't God want us to focus on sharing the Gospel with those who do not know it?

In Hebrews 12:2 it says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Our focus should be on Jesus and what He has done for humanity, not on furthering the Lutheran culture.

I am not saying that you do want to further the Gospel. I am sure that your intent is to further the Gospel through furthering Lutheranism. Your focus just seems to be a little bit off.

I am a life-long Lutheran. I have been to every type of Lutheran church imaginable. Very traditional, traditional, blended, contemporary, church plant, house church, mission, etc., and I have seen Christ glorified in every single type of church.

My challenge to you is this—glorify God in your church doing all of the things you said. When you encounter one of your brothers or sisters in Christ doing (or not doing) something that concerns you, approach them in a Christ-like manner. But remember that just because someone is doing things differently, it does not mean that they are wrong. I am not taking a post-modern approach that everybody is right in their own way. Truth is absolute. However, God’s absolute truth can be expressed in many different ways.

God bless you in your ministry!

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain. Actually, I can relate to a surprising amount of this, even though I'm not a Lutheran. You think it's rough when the world doesn't know anything about you? Try having the entire world think that the major facets of your particular tradition are gay marriage is awesome and believe whatever you want. (Which, incidentally, has nothing to do with what classical Anglicanism actually is.) But it is always refreshing to be able to step out of the fray and to return to the basics of the Gospel. I try to get my fellow Anglicans excited about what it actually means to be an Anglican by essentially ignoring what most Anglicans are actually doing and focusing on what our tradition really teaches. Perhaps the same will work for Lutherans?

Nor said...

Pastor Fiene,

I hope my words don't portray themselves as antagonistic. It was an off the cuff, stream of consciousness response before heading to campus. I found this blog post by way of a friend on Facebook. I have a lot of respect for your work on the Lutheran Satire series as well.

I generally agreed with your post, and I wanted to highlight a few points that seemed unfair to me. I'd like to stress that I more or less agree with the overall thrust of your post, but I thought there were a few points at which your zeal caused a few unintentional "cheap shots," so to speak. Maybe it's not my place to respond like I did, so I'd like to apologize if I was out of line.

So then, I'll try to explain what I was getting at, hopefully in a less chaotic fashion. I don't know, I tend to be somewhat barbaric. It's not intentional.

I probably didn't stress enough that I didn't think you were intending to say such things. That's what I meant when I said that you seemed to say this. The way it reads in your post is that you're not sure what any given Lutheran song will sound like, but you are definitely sure that it won't sound like U2. In that way, U2 has become a proxy for all rock/popular styling of music. What I was randomly attempting to say with my previous post was this:
Based on my impression of your position from the Lutheran Satire series, I was about 99.999999% certain you aren't a Liturgical Nazi and at least 85% certain you would advocate content over style, without claiming style means nothing. Thus, I was surprised to be reading a sentence that heavily implied we need to teach the world that Lutheran music may sound like certain things, but it will never sound like any kind of rock song or any kind of popular song.

Within the context of your initial post, it was established that this wasn't a question of what type of music belongs in the Divine Service. This was a question of what kind of song belongs on the radio, Youtube, or even a concert.

Also, in this context, Lutheran music is heavily implied to mean the correct or ideal form of Christian music. I'm not contending with that, merely pointing it out. Because in that context, your post reads as if you meant that correctly - ideally - Christian music will never sound like a popular or rock song. If so, then the two must be inherently incompatible.

This lead me to question what you meant by this incompatibility. Was the innate divorce owed to the structure of lyrics or the sound of the music? I have heard many fellow Confessional Lutherans argue for either of those two. That was why I said those things.

Nor said...

For example: If you know Lost And Found, they have a CD called Speedwood Hymns. It's entirely composed of traditional hymns played in Lost And Found's unique style. All the hymns on the album are in LSB. Hymns like "Thy Strong Word" and "The Church's One Foundation" -the doctrinally heavy kind. I was listening to this in a car once with four lifelong Lutherans. It was my friend, a current vicar from Fort Wayne, another friend, a current fourth year at FW, the current vicars dad, a nursing home chaplain who graduated from St. Louis, and myself, a current second year at FW. Now the fourth year, who is in the Kantorei, calmly informed me that this music was sacrireligious. The chaplain from St. Louis agreed. So naturally my vicar friend and I, though heartily disagreeing, changed the music.

Lost And Found can be hard to listen to. They have a very nasally tone in most of their songs. But the objection wasn't that their voices were aesthetically unpleasing and made someone's ears bleed. It was that their songs were sacrireligious. The songs were entirely hymns from LSB. So that means the objection was the style itself was sacrireligious - that it was sinful for a Lutheran hymn to exist in this form.

If you don't know them, the form is two men of questionable vocal quality, playing a guitar and a piano fast. The guitar isn't even an electric guitar. Thus they call their music speedwood, as opposed to speedmetal. The situation was private listening, not corporate worship.

In no way did nor do I mean to imply that this is your position. In fact,I was pretty sure it was not. However, this existence of such an attitude toward music is what lead me to question you as I did.

Thus, I have a long paragraph about the lyrical pattern and a shorter paragraph about the sounds involved. I didn't mean to imply that you were most definitely asserting which instruments are or aren't the very fingers of Satan on earth. I meant those questions sincerely. I was trying to ask, "Are you saying this? I don't think you're saying this, but it kind of sounds like you might be."

I don't think it's fair to dismiss that question as a red herring. It's a classic position and one still alive in our Synod today.

I would like to apologize if my questions were too aggressive. I didn't intend them to be combative but rather part of a contemplative dialogue.

Nor said...

Moving on to your last point. I didn't mean that you have ever in any way insinuated that Lutheran Satire is Confirmation Class. However, why don't you think it's catechesis? The official tagline/subtitle of the series is "Teaching the Faith by Making Fun of Stuff." Teaching the faith is catechesis.

Luke begins his Gospel by referring to Matthew and Mark as catechesis. Catechesis is more than instruction prior to confirmation. When Apollo came to Ephesus in Acts 18:25 he had been catechized in the Way of the Lord but unfortunately skipped the weeks about Baptism and the Holy Spirit. Nonetheless, the Scripture calls him catechized. Luther's Large Catechism is written specifically for communicant members of a somewhat mature faith. Catechesis is much more than Confirmation Class. The Church had catechesis long before the Rite of Confirmation was separated from the Sacrament of Baptism.

Luther thought catechesis was important enough to warrant not one but two catechisms from his own hand, yet he called confirmation "monkey business that makes a mockery of the laying on of hands." By laying on of hands here, he refers to the ancient Rite of Confirmation, βεβαιωσις, the laying on of hands immediately following the Sacrament of Baptism. The foremost Lutheran Catechist distinguished catechesis from the Rite of Confirmation as performed once the age of reason has been reached.

I doubt I was very clear about my intention to also make that same distinction. I'm sorry. Again, I tend to be a barbarian. Me say things. Stuff about stuff. Meat and fire! Sentences!!

James Kellerman said...


I sympathize with what you are trying to do, but you need to view your complaint in a broader context. There are 74 million Roman Catholics in the United States (and some nearly 1.2 billion worldwide). There are maybe 40 million Evangelicals in the United States (and 600 million worldwide, at least according to the World Evangelical Alliance). There are less than 3 million Gnesio-Lutherans in the United States (and not much more elsewhere). Even if you count all the half-Lutheran Union churches and the Lutheran-in-name-only bodies throughout the world, we are barely a tenth the size of world Evangelicalism. And thus I'm not surprised that the average Joe or Jane doesn't know much about Lutheran doctrine or piety.