“We should be bowing and scraping in the liturgy. Our King is here! If an unbeliever comes into your church, … without speaking a word, it should be apparent what you as an individual, what your pastor, what your congregation confesses about the Real Presence.”
UPDATE: Session 3: Pr. Larry Beane, “Doctrine And/Or Practice?”, at the Brothers of John the Steadfast Conference in Naperville, February 20-21, 2015.
“Deviations from traditional, liturgical worship and ceremony are deviations from the Lutheran confessions themselves”
The following audio is Pr. Larry Beane’s discussion of the article with Pr. Todd Wilken on Issues, Etc.:
The article is from Dec 30, 2008, on the Gottesdienst web site:
In the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, we live in a liturgical climate of “anything goes.” One can indeed find traditional liturgy in our churches, but one can also find innovations that can hardly seem in any way congruent with our confessional writings, innovations such as: entertainment-based rock music, skits, comedy routines, free-form worship, odd movements and speaking in gibberish, lay “consecration” and “preaching,” infrequent and/or open communion, the setting aside of vestments, the use of props and gimmicks for preaching, polka services, dancing girls, and even services led by clowns in face make-up.
When the confessions are taken seriously, one is hard-pressed to find that any of these innovations are in any way compatible with Lutheranism. Indeed, it deems that by their very definition, such willful expressions of worship effectively remove these churches and pastors from our very fellowship.
In fact, in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, pastors (and lay members of the synod, such as school teachers and other lay offices created to assist the Office of the Holy Ministry) subscribe to the Lutheran confessions (i.e. the Book of Concord) in a “quia” manner, which is to say, in their entirety “because” they are in accordance with Holy Scripture. This is in opposition to the less stringent “quatenus” manner of subscription, which is to say that each statement in the confessions is accepted or rejected individually “insofar” as each is in accordance with Scripture, thus allowing for individual interpretation based on one’s opinion as to whether or not parts of the confessions pass Scriptural muster. Practically speaking, the latter is a clever way of not subscribing to the Book of Concord at all, as C.F.W. Walther pointed out, a Christian could even subscribe to the Koran in a “quatenus” manner.
Here are a few quotations from the Lutheran confessions concerning liturgical practice in “our churches” (that is to say, Lutheran churches, or churches “of the Augsburg Confession”):
“Our churches teach that those rites should be observed which can be observed without sin and which contribute to peace and good order in the church.” (AC XV)
“In our churches, Mass is celebrated every Sunday and on other festivals, when the sacrament is offered to those who wish for it after they have been examined and absolved. We keep traditional liturgical forms, such as the order of the lessons, prayers, vestments, etc.”(Ap XXIV:1)
“Our churches are falsely accused of abolishing the Mass. Actually, the Mass is retained among us and is celebrated with the greatest reverence. Almost all the customary ceremonies are also retained, except that German hymns are interspersed here and there among the parts sung in Latin…. The people are accustomed to receive the sacrament together… this likewise increases reverence and devotion of public worship, for none are admitted unless they are first heard and examined…. Such worship pleases God, and such use of the sacrament nourishes devotion to God. Accordingly, it does not appear that the Mass is observed with more devotion among our adversaries than among us.” (AC XXIV:1-9)
“After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.” (AC XXIV:3)
“The holy Fathers… instituted traditions for the sake of good order and tranquility in the church.” (Ap XV:13)
“No one will create disorder by unnecessary innovation.” (LC I:85)
“It is taught among us that nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a regular call.” (AC XIV:1)
“Those ancient customs should be kept which can be kept without sin or without great disadvantage. This is what we teach.” (Ap XV:52)
“We gladly keep the old traditions set up in the church because they are useful and promote tranquility, and we interpret them in an evangelical way, excluding the opinion which holds that they justify…. We can truthfully claim that in our churches, the public liturgy is more decent than in theirs, and if you look at it correctly we are more faithful to the canons than our opponents are. In our circles…the children chant the Psalms in order to learn.” (Ap XV:38-40)
“Nothing has been received among us, in doctrine or in ceremonies, that is contrary to Scripture or to the church catholic.” (AC Conclusion 5)
“Many traditions are kept among us (such as the order of lessons in the Mass, holy days, etc.) which are profitable for maintaining good order in the church.” (AC XXVI:40)
“Of the same sort is the observance of Sunday, Easter, Pentecost, and similar festivals and rites.” (AC XXVIII:57)
“In our churches, on the other hand, all sermons deal with topics like these: penitence, the fear of God, faith in Christ, the righteousness of faith, comfort for the conscience through faith, the exercise of faith, prayer and our assurance that it is efficacious and is heard, the cross, respect for rulers and for all civil ordinances, the distinction between the kingdom of Christ (or the spiritual kingdom) and political affairs, marriage, the education and instruction of children, chastity, and all the works of love. From this description of the state of our churches it is evident that we diligently maintain church discipline, pious ceremonies, and the good customs of the church.” (Ap XV:43-44)
“In the morning, when you rise, make the sign of the cross” (SC VIII:1) and “In the evening, when you retire, make the sign of the cross.” (SC VIII:4)
“Thus has originated and continued among us the custom of saying grace and returning thanks at meals and saying other prayers for both morning and evening. From the same source came the custom of children who cross themselves when they see or hear something monstrous or fearful.” (LC I:73-74)
Regarding the change of ceremonies, “all frivolity and offenses are to be avoided.” (FC Ep X:5)
“We should not consider as matters of indifference … useless and foolish spectacles which serve neither good order, Christian discipline, nor evangelical decorum in the church.” (FC SD X:5-7)
“This is about the sum of our teaching. As can be seen, there is nothing here that departs from the Scriptures or the catholic church or the Church of Rome, in so far as the ancient church is known to us from its writers…. It can readily be judged that nothing contributes so much to the maintenance of dignity in public worship and the cultivation of reverence and devotion among the people as the proper observance of ceremonies in the churches.” (AC XXI Epilogue: 1-6)
It can be seen from these quotations that Lutheran worship services and piety are traditional by definition. Deviations from traditional, liturgical worship and ceremony are deviations from the Lutheran confessions themselves.
Those who wish to deviate from traditionalism must either: 1) Renounce their “quia” subscriptions (often by an appeal to “show me where that is in the Bible”), 2) Claim the confessions are no longer relevant, usually by way of a form of “gospel reductionism” and the emergency situation that people are dying without Jesus, 3) Argue that Christian liberty exempts them from such passages (usually by playing Formula of Concord X over and against these other passages instead of harmonizing it with them), or 4) Put forth the proposition that the Lutheran confessions are “descriptive” rather than “prescriptive.”
The latter approach implies that “prescriptive” confessions would be binding, whereas “descriptive” confessions are not binding, but are rather only a historic snapshot of what the church looked like in a specific time or place, but here and now, we are free to accept or reject parts of the Book of Concord we don’t find relevant today. Of course, if that is the case, one’s ordination vows are even weaker than a “quatenus” subscription.
So, are the confessions descriptive or prescriptive? I agree those who argue that they are descriptive, not prescriptive.
For these are confessions, statements of belief. And belief, that is, faith, cannot be prescribed. Prescription is a matter of coercion, it is of the realm of the law instead of the gospel. One can no more “prescribe” belief in the Lutheran confessions than one can “prescribe” belief in the Apostles’ Creed or the Koran. Rather, either one believes them or not. We Lutherans have no punitive legal recourse, no court of coercion. We simply draw a line around what “we believe, teach, and confess” with the understanding that this describes what “we” uphold and practice. People who disagree are simply not part of the “we.”
Christians can (and do) worship God apart from traditional liturgy. They just aren’t “Augsburg Confession” Christians, which is to say, they aren’t Lutherans. We Lutherans—especially in Lutheran communions which pledge a “quia” subscription—yield to the veracity of the Lutheran confessions as expositions of Holy Scripture. When we say: “In our churches…” or “We believe, teach, and confess…”, we are saying that these are true statements. In short, we are saying these Lutheran confessions are “descriptive.” They “describe” what you will see “in our churches,” both in beliefs confessed and ceremonies and rites practiced.
Unfortunately, among the “contemporary worship” set who have scandalously laid aside ceremonies which taught the people about Christ and established evangelical decorum; among the pastors who have traded in their traditional vestments for trendy golf shirts; in those congregations that make use of skits, clowns, dancing girls, and other undignified and frivolous gimmicks which make a mockery of the above-cited passages; as well as in those congregations in which the Mass is willfully not celebrated every Sunday, these statements are not descriptive at all.
If our “descriptive” confessions do not “describe” what our churches believe, teach, confess—and indeed practice in ceremonies—then it is time for those congregations and pastors to reconsider their commitments to these confessions. The fact that we have evangelical liberty and the fact that our Book of Concord is descriptive and not prescriptive should not be interpreted as license to overlook it, or even regarding some matters, adopt an opposite confession, at least not while maintaining a subscription to these symbolical and confessional writings. With descriptive confessions, there can be no separation of style and substance. Either “what you see is what you get”, or the Book of Concord is a lie.
If the Book of Concord has ceased being an accurate description of doctrine and practice in a given congregation, either the pastor of that congregation should preach and teach in order to bring the congregation back into communion with those confessions, or pastor and parish should both openly renounce the Lutheran confessions and leave our fellowship. Integrity demands it. It is openly hypocritical to stand before the holy altar and pledge fealty to confessions that one feels he is free to ignore.
Lutheran Satire at its best:
“Do your best and God will do the rest” isn’t a Gospel promise. It’s a guarantee of eternal condemnation. Let our Irish friends explain why in record time.
The Caesar cult in its manifold forms, the deification of the state, is one great form of the defection from the [true] idea of the state. There are also other possibilities of such defection. The government can forget and neglect its tasks. When it no longer distinguishes between right and wrong, when its courts are no longer governed by the strict desire for justice, but by special interests, when government no longer has the courage to exercise its law, fails to exercise its duties, undermines its own legal order, when it weakens through its family law parental authority and the estate of marriage, then it ceases to be governing authority.
Raising such a question can lead to heavy conflicts of conscience. But it is fundamentally conceivable, and it has time and again become reality in history, that a governing authority has ceased to be governing authority. In such a case there may indeed exist a submission to a superior power [God]. But the duty of obedience against this [state] power no longer exists.
[Quoted by Pres. Matthew Harrison, Synod president responds to SCOTUS same-sex marriage ruling]
If your preacher isn’t following these steps in sermon prep, you are being short-changed.
Dr. Carl Fickenscher, Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, explains sermon prep to those preparing to preach. (These are 11 parts of a larger homiletics series.)
Sermon Preparation – Introduction:
Sermon Preparation – System of Exegesis:
Sermon Preparation – Biblical Context of a Passage:
Sermon Preparation – Isogogical Importance:
Sermon Preparation – Sources of Isogogical Information:
Sermon Preparation – Breaking Down the Text’s Verses:
Sermon Preparation – Approaching the Language of the Text:
Sermon Preparation – Exegesis with Little or No Greek:
Sermon Preparation – The Writings of Others:
Sermon Preparation – Six Steps of Preparation:
Sermon Preparation – Time Frame of the Six Steps:
UPDATE: Becker resigned from the LCMS. Too bad he’s still a heretic.
When a so-called pastor of the LCMS claims (http://matthewlbecker.blogspot.com/2013/02/one-more-response-to-hrc.html):
“How can any evangelical preacher proclaim that any one specific person who has died is in hell? What arrogance! What idolatry! That is not “rude,” that is blasphemy! What an uncaring, hard-hearted, mean-spirited mindset. It makes the death of Jesus cheap, it limits his atonement, it denies the promise that Paul proclaims in Rom. 11:32 and several other places (1 Cor. 15:22-28, etc.), it rejects the hope that Peter gives in Acts 3:21, it ignores the central affirmation in John 3:16-17”
“The Athanasian Creed errs when it implies that one is saved by a mental work of believing this creed’s humanly-devised dogmatic statements ‘faithfully and firmly’… Its conclusion is simply incorrect. The Athanasian Creed muddles the gospel at precisely this point”
He must be marked and avoided (Rom. 16:17-18) and eventually removed from the roster of the LCMS.
HT: Nicholas @ SteadfastLutherans.org
Pastor Larry Peters discusses the following article with Pastor Todd Wilken on Issues, Etc. (mp3, 27:33, 11.2 MB, 2014-Sep-09)
Pastor Larry Peters
What counts is whether or not what we do on Sunday morning looks, acts, and sounds like what we believe, confess, and teach in our Book of Concord. I challenge anyone who thinks we are “high” to read the Book of Concord and then tell me where we exceed the liturgical shape of this confession. … Just read the Confessions and tell me where our practice deviates from the expected, anticipated, and assumed normative liturgical and devotional life of the Church of the Augsburg Confession.
It is so often assumed that how the liturgy is conducted is an expression of a pastor’s personal style and preference that it has become accepted truth, namely, that style and substance are not only distinct but different and seemingly unrelated. Such is the fallacy of the modern era that has heaped upon us much in the way of terrible liturgical experimentation and the adoption of texts, rites, and ceremonies alien to our confession.
In a conversation recently I was asked about a comment made that our congregation has a rather “pompous” or elaborate ritual and form. It must be true, I was told, because this person had been to a variety of other Lutheran congregations in which the liturgy was “simpler” or “plainer.” In other words, we are the odd duck and a more basic form and ceremony is the norm for Lutheranism. Well, that depends. It may be true that we have a more elaborate form and practice of the Divine Service than some Lutherans but the real question here is not what is normal in practice as measured by statistics but what is normal in practice as defined by our Confessions.
Lutherans are not Amish catholics. We are not plain people on Sunday morning. Just the opposite. The Lutheran Confessions were written from the perspective of a rich and elaborate ceremonial, musical, and liturgical shape of the Divine Service. The foolish and quite juvenile debate over where this perspective prescribes what must be done or describes what was done has often overshadowed the reality of what Lutherans looked like on Sunday morning for the first few centuries after the Reformation. The same idea could be used of all the doctrines contained in the Book of Concord — these do not prescribe what must be believed by those who would call themselves Lutheran but merely described what the Lutherans then believed, taught, and practiced.
We are pompous or showy or elaborate because we do what? Chant? Bow? Wear Eucharistic vestments? Have a weekly Eucharist? Use the Chalice? Have liturgical art? Have a rich musical and choral tradition? Talk about private confession? The list could go on. My point is this. When the Lutheran documents that became our Concordia or Confessions were written, they did not in any way, shape, or form imagine that the liturgy would not be sung by both pastor and people, that the Sacrament of the Altar would not be celebrated at least on Sundays, that the pastors would be vested, that the ritual of the mass kept, that good and faithful music would serve the cause of the Word, and that the people assembled would gone to confession before communing… That these are not now “normal” in the sense of universally practiced was not only not envisioned within our Confessions but marks a significant departure from the orthopraxis that is and always accompanies orthodoxy. Theology is not theoretical. Doctrine is not theoretical. Theology must sing (said Martin Franzmann) and doctrine is lived out from the altar, font, and pulpit.
This is not about high or low culture. This is not about pastoral preference or the people’s preference. This is not about style divorced from substance. The practice of this parish is not elaborate at all. We use incense only rarely. We do not enforce rubrics like liturgical gestapo. We do not make people genuflect or cross themselves. We do not sing in Latin. We do not repristinate a moment in time from some golden age of liturgical life. Maybe it should be MORE elaborate. The point is that what we do is not at all on the high side of what Luther did or Bach knew. In the end, if we are out of step with the Great Reformer himself and if we are on the fringe of the greatest Lutheran musical genius, who is the odd duck? I would say it would be those who attempt to be moderately liturgical while at the same time trying to be moderately evangelical and Protestant.
My liturgical preference counts as little as the liturgical preferences of those in the pew. What counts is whether or not what we do on Sunday morning looks, acts, and sounds like what we believe, confess, and teach in our Book of Concord. I challenge anyone who thinks we are “high” to read the Book of Concord and then tell me where we exceed the liturgical shape of this confession. In fact, I would say that we are normal — the normal that counts in terms of faithfulness to our Confessions. Any other normal (statistical, for example) does not matter in a church body which claims it is all about theology and doxology.
Now some of you are probably thinking, “My God, that guy is arrogant.” You may be correct. I am a sinner and humility is not something I have in abundance. But perceptions are not the issue here. What we believe, confess, and teach — these are the issues. So, condemn me as arrogant, a cultural snob, “high” as a kite, or a liturgical showman…whatever. Just read the Confessions and tell me where our practice deviates from the expected, anticipated, and assumed normative liturgical and devotional life of the Church of the Augsburg Confession.