LCMS President Emeritus Kieschnick had some interesting comments on the Newtown incident in his Perspectives column. Curtis Christiansen, the Head Elder from Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (Lincoln Nebraska; Pastor Clint Poppe) took exception to many things President Kieschnick said and sent him the following letter.
The letter was written exclusively by Mr. Christiansen. The first his pastor heard of it was when he was copied on it. We have held on to it for several days to assure that President Kieschnick would have received it in the mail before seeing it here. (He probably doesn’t read Steadfast anyway. It is a common cry among district presidents and synod officials that they don’t have time to read the blogs. If only it was because they were too busy visiting their parishes and holding them to our stated synodical standards such as Article VI. B of the Synod Constitution on unionism and syncretism.)
It is a popularly held opinion that the strong LCMS laity of the 1970′s saved the synod in convention from the liberal, higher critical theology of the seminary professors. I believe it is true. My father was one of them. Mr. Christiansen’s letter to President Kieschnick suggests there is at least one laymen in the 2010′s who is equipped and courageous enough to rescue the synod once again. If you are a like-minded layman you may want to drop a comment on this post and show Mr. Christiansen your support. For that matter, Pastors are welcome to join in the edification as well.
Dear Pastor Kieschnick,
Recently you responded on your blog to the events in Newtown, Connecticut and the media’s response to events within our Synod. In that article you stated “For them the image of our church becomes one of isolationism, sectarianism, and legalism.” As a Christian by faith in Jesus Christ and a Lutheran Christian in doctrine and practice, I would have to answer your statement with a “YES”
Yes we are isolationist. We believe that God has chosen us from the foundation of the earth, that he has called us out of darkness to his eternal light. We believe in the words of St. Peter that we are “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellences of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” ( I Peter 2:9) . So yes we are isolationists as those separated unto God.
We are isolationists, as said by St. Paul “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God: as God said I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty. Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (2Corinthinans 6: 14 – 7:1) So, yes, we are isolationists, as a temple of the living God. Isolated in Christ, who as the light of the world, has isolated us from darkness, that we be the salt and light of the world.
Yes we are legalists. We believe that the law curbs sin, shows us our sin, and is a guide in righteousness. With the Psalmist we believe “The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law. It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.”(Psalm 119:69-72). Yes we are legalists for we believe we are to have no other Gods before Him.
Yes we are sectarian. For we believe we are one body, as the apostle Paul taught us; “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22). So I guess we are sectarians as well.
What was saddening to me upon reading your article was what you implied with your statement; for it seems that you were implying that we are Monastics, Aesthetics, and Pharisees. As a Christian by faith in Jesus Christ and a Lutheran in doctrine and practice, I would have to answer your implications with a “NO”.
No, we are not monastics. We do not hide out in monasteries. We serve God in our vocations as parent or children, as employee or employer, as citizen, as church member, to whatever vocation God has called us, we serve Him. In our synod we bring comfort to the hurting through our World Relief Mission, through our Lutheran Laymen League and Lutheran Women in Mission. And we do all this as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, as the mask of God bringing the mercies of God to a troubled and hurting world.
No neither are we aesthetics. We do not hold back from the world because we are afraid that it might defile us. We understand the apostle Paul when he teaches us; “Therefore, let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations – “Do not handle, Do not taste, …… according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2: 16-23). So No we are not ascetics.
No, nor are we are Pharisees. We do not believe we are better than others, rather we have the humility of Christ to teach us as the apostle Paul said; “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8). We do not seek public displays of our righteousness as Christ says of the Pharisees, “Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.” (Luke 11:43). Nor do we elevate bylaws and ecclesiastical supervision over the Word of God as Christ says of the Pharisees, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23: 23)
Pastor Kieschnick, I have been a Christian for many years now and have learned that Christianity involves more than just telling people that Jesus loves them. When we say publically, NO to things like adultery, abortion, and homosexuality we are doing this out of love for our neighbor. For we know that these things are sin and death. As the apostle Paul says, “You were dead in your trespasses and sin.” (Ephesians 2). We do not say NO because we are pursuing righteousness through keeping the law, for we believe Christ is our righteousness, but rather out of love for our fellow man. Even though these sins are the things of death; out of love for our neighbor, we proclaim another death, not a death in sin, but a death that unites us with Christ as Romans 6 teaches; “for all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death. We were buried with Him in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the Glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. “
But I also know that when we say NO (either individually as a Christian or corporately as a church body) to things like adultery, abortion, homosexuality and even syncretic worship, we will be reviled by the public and other religious bodies, as unloving, uncaring, and intolerant. But as a Christian, we understand these things. For our Lord has instructed us; “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own, but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18-19). But with both the apostle Paul and apostle Peter we consider it a joy to share in Christ’s sufferings, that we may also rejoice in His second coming.
Yes, Pastor Kieschnick, Elijah did pray in the presence of hundreds of prophets of false gods. In fact Elijah said there were exactly 450 prophets of Baal. And here is what Elijah prayed, “And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is Go.” And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.” (1 Kings 18:36-40).
And, yes, Paul preached in synagogues and taught in the presence of people who rejected Jesus; and, what did he say “….And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.” Therefore he says also in another psalm, “You will not let your Holy One see corruption.” For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about; “Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.” (Acts 13:34-41)
When a pastor is invited to pray at an interfaith worship, are you saying they should pray as Elijah and preach as Paul?
With the upcoming synodical convention in a few months, I assume many will see the recent media attention and public outcry, as an opportunity for political expediency. It provides an opportunity to question some in our synod, to promote tension and discord. Our convention will probably be filled with overtures on unionism and syncretism, there will be calls for investigations, there will be outrage and disgust, new bylaws will need to be adopted, new administrators will need to be elected, and all these trappings of political intrigue will swirl through our convention.
But before we as a church body get sidetracked with all this business of unionism, syncretism, and try to answer all these questions of legalism, isolationism, and sectarianism; I recommend our church body ask a much simpler question of itself. Are we going to serve God or mammon? For too long our church body has been deceiving ourselves into thinking we can do both. We have been too worried about whether other denominations accept us, whether society considers us relevant or outdated or isolationists or sectarians, we have worried about how many members we have and how big of a synod we are or are not, how fast we are or are not growing, about lack of money, about how we can dress up ourselves so that we are inviting, entertaining, and attractive. But our savior instructs us that we cannot love both God and mammon, for ultimately we end up hating one and loving the other. And, so, if we decide we want to serve mammon let’s do it whole heartedly. Let’s join the Lutheran World Federation and the Ecumenical Council of Churches. Let’s pray to Allah or the great spirit. Let’s bless each other in the name of the feminine trinity and let’s sanction abortion, marry homosexuals, and allow everyone to the communion rail. Let’s draw the masses in with our entertainment and take as much money as they will give us. For surely this will increase our wealth, our status, our relevance.
And if we decide we want to serve God, let’s just softly and simply say NO, I’m sorry but I can’t do that , I must obey God rather than men.
Peace be with you.