Gem from Pres. T. Roosevelt

It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.

On Anonymity and Pseudonymity (II)

One newly-sprung blog has a page to explain their pseudonyms:

These are dangerous times for Lutherans who have not signed onto Kieschnick’s Purpose-Driven Ablaze Movement. The cancellation of the Issues Etc. radio program is proof enough for us that Kieschnick intends to use corporate take over tactics and informational subterfuge to destroy any and all who would dare to question and challenge HIS vision for the LCMS. Therefore, in order to protect ourselves while we shine the light of truth on Kieschnick’s agenda so that there can be real debate regarding its merits or lack thereof, we have no choice but to write from behind a mask.

Their blog is important. Obviously they have some inside information. Much of what they write is investigative in nature. But one thing really bothers me: this page. Mind you, I’m not bothered by the New 95 Theses. For years I’ve heard Confessionals in parishes, offices, and Seminary classrooms wonder if we need a new Formula of Concord. Some have advocated it. I think I agree. If Lutheranism has any good in it, it can only be helped by such Confessional development.

No, I’m bothered that the Theses are anonymous.

So I was talking with Marjorie about this last night, trying to express exactly why it bugged me so much that the author of the New 95 Theses hadn’t put his name on it. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why the pseudonyms on their posts revealing financial documents didn’t bother me, but this call for debate, this anonymous document of a confessional nature did.

Then I read Fr. Gregory Hogg’s comment published elsewhere:

…those who think an issue is fundamentally *theological*–a matter of the truth–have no hesitation to die, if necessary, for the confession of the truth. Those who think that an issue is fundamentally *corporate*–a matter of opinion–do hesitate.

My dad once gave me this advice: Don’t put anything in writing that you will later regret. Don’t put it in writing if you don’t want it to last forever. It’s great advice. I haven’t always followed it, and when I haven’t, I’ve suffered.

In these days when the 8th Commandment is used as a weapon against those who express displeasure, we most certainly need to be honest about our identities. Hiding behind a false name while attempting “to shine the light of truth” all too easily degenerates into cowardice and defamation. But if one is convinced that they write the truth, and that others need to know the truth, then he should saddle up and sign it.

The defense of the anonymous activists is “fear of reprisals.” I can understand that, especially if their paychecks read “LCMS, Inc.” But what of fear? Christ our Lord reminds us: “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.” Likewise, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psa 118:6) For those of us who are sole (or nearly sole) providers it is difficult. But when the truth is at stake and we believe the time is right, our Lord promises us His protection.

I write this not to condemn or judge him. I have personal opinions and beliefs that I do not share here or write anywhere else. I have opinions about national politics, local politics, about history and the nature of man that I do not publish. I have theological opinions. I have beliefs about truth that I do not share at this time. We all do. But when the time is right, when one is led to publish ideas, to spark debate, to act in the public arena, then fear must give way to courage.

My dear wife reminded me last night that courage and fear are not opposite qualities. As Ambrose Redmoon said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.” Or as Mark Twain said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”

We’re Different, But Don’t Ask Why

Carl E. Braaten writes,

As a student at Luther Seminary, I would venture out on weekends to preach in rural congregations. In southwestern Minnesota, I preached in two congregations, twenty minutes part, with less than a hundred in attendance at each service…. I asked the church councils why we did not combine the two services and just have one. After all, the service was the same and the sermon was the same. The president of one congregation said that that would be impossible. I asked why. He said, ‘We just don’t agree on Lutheran doctrine.’ I asked what the difference was all about. He said that it had to do with the election controversy earlier in the century among Norwegian Lutherans, which caused the two congregations to split. One side was in favor of predestination, and the other believed in free will. I said, ‘Ya, I know about that. And what side was your congregation on?’ He said, ‘I can’t remember. It’s so long ago.’

(Carl E. Braaten, “Confessional Lutheranism in an Ecumenical World.” Concordia Lutheran Quarterly 71 (2007), p. 228)

Church or Something Else?

Doorman receives an “A” for the assignment. The rest of you will have a one day extension in order not to fail.

But the point of the exercise was: those blogs have nothing to do with Church. Oh, they talk about their church enough, about the ministry all the time, but there was little about Christ, about the Holy Trinity, about prayer, fasting, almsgiving, about Sacraments and Scripture.

As Doorman gently reminded, it is obvious the intent is different. I have my own hidden agendas (we all do), yet one cannot talk about ministry without reference to what we minister: Sacrament and the Life of Christ. St. Paul wrote, “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.” (KJV)

I find it disturbing that these church leaders and “lead pastors” (is that like a lead guitarist?) speak only of their churches in business, sociological and/or Rolling Stone terms.

Well, actually I don’t find it disturbing. I find it revealing of their heart and intent. And that is disturbing.

Your Assignment for Today

The pastors of Jefferson Hills Church–the allegedly LCMS congregation in the St. Louis area that has the “Sucks” billboards–have a blog and, like most blogs, provide a blogroll.

Your assignment for today:

1. Click on the links to the “blogs they read.” Also provided right here:

2. Click on seven links from my own blogroll. Doesn’t matter which seven (please note, not all are Lutheran–but they are friends and/or influences).

3. Compare and contrast the content of the jhchurch blogroll and the blogs on mine, answering the following questions:

A. Which blogs reflect the Church’s life and confession?
B. Which blogs are most self-refrential, self-centered and which are most Christ-centered?
C. Which blogs provide the most jargon from the Church? Which blogs provide the most jargon from business theory, communication theory, psychological theory and social theory?
D. Which blogs share the Gospel best?
E. When you think of Christ and His Church, which blogs seem more representative?
F. Of the two blogrolls, which list would you rather have your pastor read (note: I don’t read all the blogs on my own list–at least not frequently)?
G. Which set of blogs should be more representative for the LCMS, Lutheranism, or your denomination?
H. Which blogs are most helpful in your growth as a Christian?

4. Please respond in the comments section.

Please don’t take this as boasting in the superiority of my blogroll. This exercise is designed to reflect the complete “andere Geist” that the consumerist churches operate with.

And ok, since you asked: I believe my list is superior, but not because I assembled it; rather, my links are superior because of the quality of those authors.

OK, But Isn’t the 8th More?

Keeping any commandment perfectly is impossible, and keeping the 8th Commandment more so, especially as one’s “community” enlarges. “Putting the best construction on everything,” and the extent Luther applies this in the Large Catechism is especially difficult. Here are two pertinent quotations:

For there is a great difference between these two things, judging sin and knowing sin. You may indeed know it, but you are not to judge it. I can indeed see and hear that my neighbor sins, but I have no command to report it to others. Now, if I rush in, judging and passing sentence, I fall into a sin which is greater than his. But if you know it, do nothing else than turn your ears into a grave and cover it, until you are
appointed to be judge and to punish by virtue of your office.Those, then, are called slanderers who are not content with knowing a thing, but proceed to assume jurisdiction, and when they know a slight offense of another, carry it into every corner, and are delighted and tickled that they can stir up another’s displeasure [baseness], as swine roll themselves in the dirt and root in it with the snout. (LC 1.266-267)

Thus also among ourselves should we adorn whatever blemishes and infirmities we find in our neighbor, and serve and help him to promote his honor to the best of our
ability, and, on the other hand, prevent whatever may be discreditable to him. And it is especially an excellent and noble virtue for one always to explain advantageously and put the best construction upon all he may hear of his neighbor (if it be not notoriously evil), or at any rate to condone it over and against the poisonous tongues that are busy wherever they can pry out and discover something to blame in a neighbor, and that explain and pervert it in the worst way; as is done now especially with the precious Word of God and its preachers. There are comprehended therefore in this commandment quite a multitude of good works which please God most highly, and bring abundant good and blessing, if only the blind world and the false saints would recognize them. For there is nothing on or in entire man which can do both greater and more extensive good or harm in spiritual and in temporal matters than the tongue, though it is the least and feeblest member (LC 1.288-290).

At face value then, we are, essentially to ignore and “cover over” the sins of others. What an amazing gift this would be, if we were to mind our business so that we do not accuse each other of sin. This is the way of Christ, who says, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. (Mar. 4:24 NKJV). If we judge others, then, Christ our Lord judges. If we are harsh, He says that He is harsh. If you are gentle and overlook the faults of others, then with such generous measure Christ will pour out his forgiveness in you. This is beautifully good news.

In this light then, the injustices, sins and criticism we make of anything should be silenced. This would be easiest if we withdrew from the world and kept our community small; we would have less to know, and less temptation to speak about the wrongs around us. But the more we know, the larger our community, the greater our information, the harder this becomes. This indeed, is part of the reason why Christians fled to the desert in the 3-5th centuries (and still today). The Desert Fathers speak eloquently on this.

But most of us live in community–larges ones at that. And some of us especially have been given place to speak about the wrongs we see. And in public matters, there is even more reason to speak. The Large Catechism continues:

Thus you see that it is summarily forbidden to speak any evil of our neighbor, however, the civil government, preachers, father and mother excepted, on the understanding that this commandment does not allow evil to go unpunished. Now, as according to the Fifth Commandment no one is to be injured in body, and yet Master Hannes [the executioner] is excepted, who by virtue of his office does his neighbor no good, but only evil and harm, and nevertheless does not sin against God’s commandment, because God has on His own account instituted that office; for He has reserved punishment for His own good pleasure, as He threatens in the First Commandment,—just so also, although no one has a right in his own person to judge and condemn anybody, yet if they to whose office it belongs fail to do it, they sin as well as he who would do so of his own accord, without such office. For here necessity requires one to speak of the evil, to prefer charges, to investigate and testify; 275] and it is not different from the case of a physician who is sometimes compelled to examine and handle the patient whom he is to cure in secret parts. Just so governments, father and mother, brothers and sisters, and other good friends, are under obligation to each other to reprove evil wherever it is needful and profitable. (LC 1.274-275)

And most famously,

All this has been said regarding secret sins. But where the sin is quite public so that the judge and everybody know it, you can without any sin avoid him and let him go, because he has brought himself into disgrace, and you may also publicly testify concerning him. For when a matter is public in the light of day, there can be no slandering or false judging or testifying; as, when we now reprove the Pope with his doctrine, which is publicly set forth in books and proclaimed in all the world. For where the sin is public, the reproof also must be public, that every one may learn to guard against it. (LC 1.284)

Often our spiritual life would still be better if we were to refrain from speaking about scandals and sins and public stupidity and falsehood. There is spiritual danger in doing it–it leads to cynicism, depression and pride. That is pretty dangerous.

But it is not sinful per se. And some of us have the duty, especially in these matters.

The 8th Commandment

Lutherans love this commandment. Here’s what the Small Catechism says:

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest possible way.

As you can see from the letters below, the main concern of the elected officials of the Synod is honoring this commandment. In fact, the CoP writes, “In this regard, the 8th commandment’s focus on upholding the reputation of brothers and sisters in Christ is most important.”

To be sure, there have been some pretty harsh statements about decision makers in the comments on other sites. The implication, though, seems to be, “Be careful what you nay-sayers say and write! Or better yet, stop altogether.”

Yet I fail to see sin in criticizing a decision, in informing people about events transpiring in the Synod, and analyzing public statements.

For instance, this statement attributed to David Strand: “Strand also said the program’s audience was too narrow. —'”Issues” was a strong show, but where we stand now in terms of listenership, it seems wise to try some news things to broaden our reach,'” (source). Is it breaking the 8th Commandment to say this statement belies the antipathy that he, or his bosses had toward “Issues, Etc.”?

Or take this statement: “The new program, called ‘The Afternoon Show,’ is different from ‘Issues, Etc.,’ said Strand, in that ‘it doesn’t dwell largely on Lutheran apologetics at a sophisticated level. It still takes its Gospel proclamation seriously, but it finds new ways to capture attention'” (ibid.). Put these two together and you have Strand saying, in effect, “We don’t want Lutheran apologetics, like the narrow-focused ‘Issues, Etc.’

Did I just sin?

Is it breaking the 8th Commandment to draw attention the fact that canceling this radio show has silenced some Confessional teaching on the dangers of the consumerist mega-church model, the very same models that are being praised by the Synod’s President, by many District Presidents and those in positions of power?

Is it breaking the 8th Commandment when I write that the cancellation of “Issues Etc.” is congruent with the “evangelical make over” that our Synodical President and others of influence are enacting?

Is it breaking the 8th Commandment to criticize the millions spent on the Ablaze! program when over 30 full-time missionaries have been cut off from funding and lost their jobs?

Is it breaking the 8th Commandment to call Ablaze! a program, when the leaders of our Synod insist that it is not a program, but a movement–though it has all the cups, posters, t-shirts, folders, memo pads, and press of a new program?

Is it breaking the 8th Commandment to note that while our Synodical President claims in the letters page of The Wall Street Journal that “there is no division” in the Synod, he is on record in various places complaining about forces within the Synod attempting “incessant internal purification” and his own Blue-Ribbon Task Force was composed to address….you guessed it, Division in the Synod?

No, I don’t believe so.

Pass Auf!

The Council of Presidents–an ad hoc “council” of all the District Presidents of the LCMS, which has no Constitutional basis, BTW–issued the following letter, followed by an accompanying letter from Pres. Gerald Kieschnick:

Statement from LCMS Council of Presidents—April 22, 2008:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

We, the members of the Council of Presidents of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, greet you in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is the Savior of the whole world.

We are fully aware of pain in our Synod over the discontinuation of the KFUO Radio program “Issues, Etc.” When one member of the Body of Christ hurts—for whatever reason—we all hurt. We are very concerned about how this pain has affected the church as it carries Christ’s gifts to the world. Only the devil would rejoice over this disruption!

We encourage the whole church prayerfully to reflect and ponder on a few matters. We realize that in our understanding and application of the 4th commandment, this matter is not the responsibility of the Council of Presidents. The Synod has given the authority for oversight and implementation of KFUO and its programming decisions to the Board for Communication Services (BCS). We must regard with Christian charity and trust the judgment of our duly elected brothers and sisters in Christ on the BCS, along with its Executive Director, Mr. David Strand.

We regret the timing of this decision, which was implemented during Holy Week, one of the most important times of the church year. In response to the concern that the manner in which this decision was implemented lacked Christian compassion, it is important to note our belief that such was not the case. These matters are also addressed in the statement on this topic by the President of our Synod, attached hereto, which we commend to you.

The manner in which the church addresses, discusses, and resolves disagreements is as important as the disagreement itself. In this regard, the 8th commandment’s focus on upholding the reputation of brothers and sisters in Christ is most important. We are all the baptized of Christ, washed in His blood, and we possess His image of blamelessness. Where there have been communications that have violated the integrity of a brother or sister in Christ, Christ calls us to repentance. Here, too, the devil would delight in divisiveness resulting from matters such as this. Let us walk with integrity, honesty, and humility, giving glory to Jesus Christ, “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).

Jesus Christ is the Lord of the church. As this church goes forward in reaching unbelievers with the precious Gospel of our Lord, let us be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

The peace of the Lord be with you all!

Council of Presidents
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
Adopted April 22, 2008, without dissenting vote

+ + +

Statement from LCMS President—April 21, 2008:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Greetings in the Name of Jesus Christ, Savior of the world and Lord of the universe, through whom alone we receive forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation!

A decision to discontinue “Issues, Etc.” on KFUO AM Radio was made March 18, 2008, Tuesday of Holy Week, for fiscal reasons described in statements issued after the decision became public. At the April 21, 2008, meeting of the Council of Presidents (COP) of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, financial details precipitating this decision were discussed in executive session by Mr. David Strand, Executive Director of the LCMS Board for Communication Services (BCS), with specific fiscal information provided by the Vice-President-Finance—Treasurer of the Synod, Dr. Thomas Kuchta. The decision was made solely by Mr. Strand after consultation with the chairman of the BCS, Mr. Dennis Clauss, with whom I subsequently spoke over the phone regarding this matter. KFUO Radio is a ministry under the umbrella of the Board for Communication Services.

Prior to its implementation, Mr. Strand also informed me as president of the Synod of his decision. I regret that I did not counsel Mr. Strand to postpone implementation of the decision until sometime other than Holy Week. It is obvious that the timing and process connected with the discontinuation of the program have contributed to the disappointment expressed by listeners and supporters of “Issues, Etc.” in and beyond the Synod. Human Resources policies, compliance with applicable employment regulations, the process of implementation of reduction in force, accompanying severance and outplacement considerations, etc., do not allow the sharing of details about this matter. I am deeply saddened by the anxiety, worry, and consternation experienced in the Synod by those directly and indirectly affected by the decision.

Some have interpreted the decision to discontinue “Issues, Etc.” as being theological or political in nature or purpose. Such interpretations have no basis in fact.

As president of the Synod, I respectfully request and pastorally encourage all in the Synod to be patient and charitable regarding this matter, putting the best construction on actions and decisions connected therewith. I pray for the day when the financial resources of our Synod do not necessitate the reduction in force of radio personnel, the return of missionaries from the foreign mission field, or any other such difficult and painful decisions. And I pray for peace and harmony in our beloved Synod.

Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, President
The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod

“Transforming lives through Christ’s love … in time … for eternity …”
John 3:16-17


HT: Augsburg1530

How is it that Christ “is not able to do anything of himself, unless he sees the Father doing anything”?

For if the Father does not exist, neither does the Son. For the Son is of the Father and in the Father and with the Father, and not after the Father. In a similar way also what he does is of him and with him. For there is one and the same–not similar but the same–will and energy and power in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

St. John of Damascus, The Orthodox Faith. 4.18