On pipe organs…
On pipe organs…
A timely quote…
"Because of the confessional position of the Lutheran Church, there is no reason why Lutherans should not still be Lutheran. Espousing the catholic and apostolic faith with Christ as center and Scripture as source, Lutherans are part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. Therefore, they do not have to ask whether they should be part of a church body with a name other than Lutheran. They do, of course, need to be concerned about the barriers that divide Christians from each other and must listen to other Christians for what the Holy Spirit may have to say through them. But they do not need to be concerned, as some other Christians have insisted they should be concerned, that they are somehow not the true church of Christ."
— A. C. Piepkorn, The Sacred Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, pp. 195, 196. HT: Weedon.
A helpful perspective…
Once I had someone say that Lutherans were a high brow people -- high culture -- in a low brow world -- low culture. The person said that the culture of the local Baptist congregation or non-denominational church was more reflective of the neighborhood and community. This fellow told me that the church next door to us had a Bubba culture and we had a Bach culture and that this was the reason we had trouble getting traction in a Southern city even though our congregation had been there 50 years.
I was reading some comments a person made about what represents Christ's love best in Lutheranism. He said: "Christ's love in Lutheranism is represented by the empty Cross…" Ah, no. There's nothing wrong with a plain cross symbol, but the plain or "empty" cross is not somehow a "Lutheran" symbol, as opposed to the crucifix. In fact, the crucifix enjoys a very long use in Lutheranism. Here's more information from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod's web site.
Q. Question: Is the use of crucifixes a Roman Catholic practice? Doesn't the empty cross provide a better symbol for Lutherans? How does the LCMS feel about using a crucifix in church? [Note: A crucifix is a cross with a statue of the crucified Christ on it].
A. A common misunderstanding among some some Lutherans is the opinion that a crucifix, or the use of a crucifix, is a "Roman Catholic" practice. The history of Lutheranism demonstrates that the crucifix was a regular and routine feature of Lutheran worship and devotional life during Luther's lifetime and during the period of Lutheran Orthdoxy. It was also the case among the founding fathers of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. If you were to visit most of the original congregations of the LCMS here in the United States you would find lovely crucifixes adorning their altars, and in addition, beautiful statues on the altar of Christ and the four evangelists, or other such scenes. There is nothing uniquely Roman Catholic about this. Many Lutherans and Lutheran congregations use crucifixes. Crucifixes are used in the chapels of both of our seminaries.
Lutheranism has always considered the crucifix to be a powerful reminder of the sacrifice our Lord Jesus made for us and our salvation, on the cross. A crucifix vividly brings to mind the Apostle Paul's divinely inspired words, "We preach Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 1:23).
Interestingly enough, while there is certainly nothing "wrong" with an "empty" cross, the practice of using an "empty cross" on a Lutheran congregation's altar comes more from non-Lutheran sources. At the time of the Reformation there was conflict between Lutherans and Reformed Christians over the proper place of pictures, images, statues and the like in the church. Lutherans stood with historic Christendom in realizing that such art in the church was not wrong, and was a great aid for helping to focus devotional thoughts on the truths of the Word of God, no greater truth can be found that the death of Jesus Christ our Lord for the world's salvation.
The "empty cross" is not a symbol of Christ's resurrection, as some say, for the fact is that the cross would have been empty regardless of whether or not Christ had risen from the grave. The point to be kept clear here is that both an "empty cross" and a crucifix, symbolize the same thing: the death of Christ our Lord for the salvation of the world. Many feel that the crucifix symbolizes this truth more clearly and strikingly. That has been the traditional opinion of historic Lutheranism, until the last fifty years ago, due to the influence we will now mention.
Some Lutherans began to move away from crucifixes during the age of Lutheran Pietism, which rejected much of Lutheran doctrine and consequently many Lutheran worship practices. At the time, Lutheran Pietists, contrary to the clear postion of Luther and the earlier Lutherns, held that symbols such as the crucifix were wrong. This was never the view of historic Lutheranism. Here in America, Lutherans have always felt a certain pressure to "fit in" with the Reformed Christianity that predominates much of the Protestant church here. Thus, for some Lutherans this meant doing away with things such as crucifixes, and vestments, and other traditional forms of Lutheran worship and piety. It is sad when some Lutherans are made to feel embarrassed about their Lutheranism by members of churches that teach the Word of God in error and who do not share Lutheanism's clear confession and practice of the full truth of the Word of God.
Lutheranism has always recognized that the use of any symbol (even the empty cross) can become an idolatrous practice, if in any way people are led to believe there is "power in the cross" or that a picture or representation of a cross has some sort of ability, in itself, to bring us into relationship with Christ and His Gospel. Any of God's good gifts can be turned against Him in this life and become an end in themselves.
Lutherans have never believed that banning or limiting proper artwork in the church is the way to prevent its improper use. Rather, we believe that proper teaching and right use is the best way, and the way that is in keeping with the gift of freedom we have in Christ to use all things to the glory and honor of God. Thus, many Lutherans use and enjoy the crucifix as a meaningful reminder of our Lord's suffering and death. It might interest you to know that our Synod's president has a beautiful crucifix adorning the wall of his office, constantly reminding him and visitors to his office of the great love of God that is ours in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In short, and this is the most important point of all: there is nothing contrary to God's Holy Word, or our Lutheran Confessions, about the proper use of the crucifix, just as there is nothing wrong with the proper use of an empty cross, or any other church symbol by which we are reminded of the great things God has done for us. We need to guard against quickly dismissing out of hand practices that we believe are "too Roman Catholic" before we more adequately explore their use and history in our own church.
In Christian freedom, we use either the crucifix or an empty cross and should not judge or condemn one another for using either nor not using either symbol of our Lord's sacrifice for our sins.
Here are quotes from Martin Luther on crucifixes, images and making the sign of the cross:
The custom of holding a crucifix before a dying person has kept many in the Christian faith and has enabled them to die with a confident faith in the crucified Christ.
(Sermons on John, Chapters 1-4, 1539; LW, Vol. XXII, 147)
It was a good practice to hold a wooden crucifix before the eyes of the dying or to press it into their hands. This brought the suffering and death of Christ to mind and comforted the dying. But the others, who haughtily relied on their good works, entered a heaven that contained a sizzling fire. For they were drawn away from Christ and failed to impress His life-giving passion and death upon their hearts.
(Sermons on John, Chapters 6-8, 1532; LW, Vol. XXIII, 360)
[W]hen I hear of Christ, an image of a man hanging on a cross takes form in my heart, just as the reflection of my face naturally appears in the water when I look into it. If it is not a sin but good to have an image of Christ in my heart, why should it be a sin to have it in my eyes?
(Against the Heavenly Prophets, 1525; LW, Vol. 40, 99-100)
IMAGES AND STATUES OF SAINTS
Now we do not request more than that one permit us to regard a crucifix or a saint's image as a witness, for remembrance, as a sign as that image of Caesar was. Should it not be as possible for us without sin to have a crucifix or an image of Mary, as it was for the Jews and Christ himself to have an image of Caesar who, pagan and now dead, belonged to the devil? Indeed the Caesar had coined his image to glorify himself. However, we seek neither to receive nor give honor in this matter, and are yet so strongly condemned, while Christ's possession of such an abominable and shameful image remains uncondemned.
(Against the Heavenly Prophets, 1525; LW, Vol. 40, 96)
And I say at the outset that according to the law of Moses no other images are forbidden than an image of God which one worships. A crucifix, on the other hand, or any other holy image is not forbidden.
Where however images or statues are made without idolatry, then such making of them is not forbidden.
[M]y image breakers must also let me keep, wear, and look at a crucifix or a Madonna . . . as long as I do not worship them, but only have them as memorials.
(Ibid., 86, 88)
But images for memorial and witness, such as crucifixes and images of saints, are to be tolerated . . . And they are not only to be tolerated, but for the sake of the memorial and the witness they are praiseworthy and honorable . . .
SIGN OF THE CROSS
In the morning, when you get up, make the sign of the holy cross and say:
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen . . .
In the evening, when you go to bed, make the sign of the holy cross and say:
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
(Small Catechism, 1529, Section II: How the Head of the Family Should Teach His Household to Pray Morning and Evening, 22-23)
Thus has originated and continued among us the custom of saying grace and returning thanks at meals, and other prayers for both morning and evening. From the same source came the practice with children of crossing themselves in sight or hearing of terrifying occurrences . . . .
(Large Catechism, 1529, The Second Commandment, section 31, p. 57)
If the devil puts it into your head that you lack the holiness, piety, and worthiness of David and for this reason cannot be sure that God will hear you, make the sign of the cross, and say to yourself: "Let those be pious and worthy who will! I know for a certainty that I am a creature of the same God who made David. And David, regardless of his holiness, has no better or greater God than I have."
(Psalm 118, LW, Vol. XIV, 61)
If you should have a poltergeist and tapping spirit in your house, do not go and discuss it here and there, but know that it is not a good spirit which has not come from God. Cross yourself quietly and trust in your faith.
(Sermon for the Festival of the Epiphany, LW, Vol. 52, 178-79)
Bibliography of Primary Sources
Large Catechism, 1529, translated by John Nicholas Lenker, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1935.
Luther's Works (LW), American edition, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan (volumes 1-30) and Helmut T. Lehmann (volumes 31-55), St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House (volumes 1-30); Philadelphia: Fortress Press (volumes 31-55), 1955.
Small Catechism, 1529, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1943.
Add this to the "Books We Just Can't Wait to Hold in Our Hands" list…
I'm enjoying today reviewing the nearly final pages on Lutheranism 101, a new book coming from Concordia Publishing House in October 2010. It's a basic "primer" on Lutheranism that I think you are really going to enjoy. I'll share more details as the project moves along, but for now, let the cover suffice to give you a hint of what's in store. As always, click a couple times on the photo for a "mega" size version.
A Blessed Pentecost to QBR readers and some great Pentecost music courtesy of the blog below…
The chant Veni Creator Spiritus, or "Come, Creator Spirit" is often sung on the Day of Pentecost, which marks the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the church, as Jesus had promised.
I stumbled upon a web site with a large collection of icons, in a more modern style. One of them is, yup, of J.S. Bach. You can not only buy a copy of the icon in various formats, you can purchase it on a t-shirt and coffee mug. I'm not sure what to make of this, but…for what it is worth, if you have been looking for an icon of J.S. Bach to add to your collection, here you go.
Consider the following…
by Michael S. Horton
"You search the Scriptures in vain, thinking that you have eternal life in them, not realizing that it is they which testify concerning me." With these words, our Lord confronted what has always been the temptation in our reading of Holy Scripture: to read it without Christ as the supreme focus of revelation.
Many people who come to embrace the specific tenets of the Protestant Reformation (grace alone, scripture alone, Christ alone, to God alone be glory, faith alone, etc.) are liberated by the good news of God's free grace in Christ. Pastors who used to preach a human-centered message suddenly become impassionate defenders of God's glory and particular doctrines which often characterized the messages and shaped the teaching ministry of the congregation are exchanged for more biblical truths. This is all very exciting, of course, and we should be grateful to God for awakening us (this writer included) to the doctrines of grace. Nevertheless, there are deeper issues involved.
Not infrequently, we run into a church that is very excited about having just discovered the Reformation faith, but the preaching remains what it always was: witty, perhaps anecdotal (plenty of stories and illustrations that often serve the purpose of entertainment rather than illumination of a point), and moralistic (Bible characters surveyed for their usefulness in teaching moral lessons for our daily life). This is because we have not yet integrated our systematic theology with our hermeneutics (i.e., way of interpreting Scripture). We say, "Christ alone!" in our doctrine of salvation, but in actual practice our devotional life is saturated with sappy and trivial "principles" and the preaching is often directed toward motivating us through practical tips.
What we intend to do in this issue is present an urgent call to recover the lost art of Reformational preaching. This isn't just a matter of concern for preachers themselves, for the ministry of the Word is something that is committed to every believer, since we are all witnesses to God's unfolding revelation in Christ. It is not only important for those who speak for God in the pulpit in public assemblies, but for the layperson who reads his or her Bible and wonders, "How can I make sense of it all?" Below, I want to point out why we think there has been a decline of evangelical preaching in this important area.
I have already referred to this threat and it will be the target of a good deal of criticism throughout this issue. Whenever the story of David and Goliath is used to motivate you to think about the "Goliaths" in your life and the "Seven Stones of Victory" used to defeat them, you have been the victim of moralistic preaching. The same is true whenever the primary intention of the sermon is to give you a Bible hero to emulate or a villain to teach a lesson, like "crime doesn't pay," or, "sin doesn't really make you happy." Reading or hearing the Bible in this way turns the Scriptures into a sort of Aesop's Fables or Grimm's Fairy Tales, where the story exists for the purpose of teaching a lesson to the wise and the story ends with, "and they lived happily ever after." In his Screwtape Letters, Lewis has Screwtape writing Wormwood in the attempt to persuade Wormwood to undermine the faith by turning Jesus into a great hero and moralist.
He has to be a 'great man' in the modern sense of the word–one standing at the terminus of some centrifugal and unbalanced line of thought–a crank vending a panacea. We thus distract men's minds from Who He is, and what He did. We first make Him solely a teacher, and then conceal the very substantial agreement between His teaching and those of other great moral teachers.
This is the greatest problem, from my own experience, with the preaching we hear today. There is such a demand to be practical–that is, to have clever principles for daily living. But the danger, of course, is that what one hears on Sunday morning is not the Word of God. To be sure, the Scriptures were read (maybe) and there was a sermon (perhaps), but the message had more in common with a talk at the Lion's Club, a pop-psychology seminar, prophecy conference or political convention than with proclamation of heavenly truth "from above."
Because we are already seated with Christ in the heavens (Eph.2:4) and are already participating in the new creation that dawned with Christ's resurrection, we are to be heavenly-minded. This, of course, does not mean that we are irrelevant mystics who have no use for this world; rather, it means that we are oriented in our outlook toward God rather than humanity (including ourselves), the eternal rather than this present age, holiness rather than happiness, glorifying God rather than demanding that God meet our "felt needs." Only with this kind of orientation can we be of use to this world as "salt" and "light," bearing a distinctive testimony to the transcendent in a world that is so bound to the present moment.
Finally, moralism commits a basic hermeneutical error, from the Reformation point of view. Both Lutherans and the Reformed have insisted, in the words of the Second Helvetic Confession, "The Gospel is, indeed, opposed to the law. For the law works wrath and announces a curse, whereas the Gospel preaches grace and blessing." Calvin and his successor, Beza, followed the common Lutheran understanding that while both the law and the Gospel were clearly taught in Scripture (in both Old and New Testaments), that the confusion of the two categories lay at the heart of all wayward preaching and teaching in the church. It is not that the Old Testament believers were under the law and we are under grace or the Gospel, but rather that believers in both Testaments are obligated to the moral law, to perfectly obey its precepts and conform to its purity not only in outward deed, but in the frame and fashion of heart and soul. And yet, in both Testaments, believers are offered the Gospel of Christ's righteousness placed over the naked, law-breaking sinner so that God can accept the wicked–yes, even the wicked for the sake of Christ.
Both Lutherans and the Reformed have also affirmed that the law still has a place after conversion in the life of the believer, as the only commands for works that are now done in faith. Nevertheless, preaching must observe clearly the distinction between these two things. As John Murray writes, "The law can never give the believer any spiritual power to obey its commands." And yet, so much of the moralistic preaching we get these days presupposes the error that somehow principles, steps for victory, rules, guidelines that the preacher has cleverly devised (i.e., the traditions of men?) promise spiritual success to those who will simply put them into daily practice. Those who are new in the faith regard this kind of preaching as useful and practical; those who have been around it for a while eventually burn out and grow cynical about the Christian life because they cannot "gain victory" even though they have tried everything in the book.
It must be said that not even the commands of God himself can give us life or the power to grow as Christians. The statutes are right and good, but I am not, Paul said in Romans 7. Even the believer cannot gain any strength from the law. The law can only tell him what is right; the Gospel alone can make him right by giving him what he cannot gain by law-keeping. If the law itself is rendered powerless by human sinfulness, how on earth could we possibly believe that humanly devised schemes and principles for victory and spiritual power could achieve success? We look to the law for the standard, realizing that even as Christians we fall far short of reaching it. Just then, the Gospel steps in and tells us that someone has attained that standard, that victory, for us, in our place, and now the law can be preached again without tormenting our conscience. It cannot provoke us to fear or anxiety, since its demands are fulfilled by someone else's obedience.
Therefore, it is our duty to preach "the whole counsel of God," which includes everything in the category of law (the divine commandments and threats of punishment; the call to repentance and conversion, sanctification and service to God and our neighbor) and in the category of Gospel (God's promise of rest, from Genesis to Revelation; its fulfillment in Christ's death, burial and resurrection, ascension, intercession, second coming; the gift of faith, through which the believer is justified and entered into a vital union with Christ; the gift of persevering faith, which enables us to pursue godliness in spite of suffering). But any type of preaching that fails to underscore the role of the law in condemning the sinner and the role of the Gospel in justifying the sinner or confuses these two is a serious violation of the distinction which Paul himself makes in Galatians 3:15-25.
Much of the evangelical preaching with which I am familiar neither inspires a terror of God's righteousness nor praise for the depths of God's grace in his gift of righteousness. Rather, it is often a confusion of these two, so that the bad news isn't quite that bad and the good news isn't all that good. We actually can do something to get closer to God; we aren't so far from God that we cannot make use of the examples of the biblical characters and attain righteousness by following the "Seven Steps to the Spirit-Filled Life." But in the biblical view, the biblical characters are not examples of their victory, but of God's! The life of David is not a testimony to David's faithfulness, surely, but to God's and for us to read any part of that story as though we could attain the Gospel (righteousness) by the law (obedience) is the age-old error of Cain, the Pharisees, the Galatian Judaizers, the Pelagians, Semi-Pelagians, Arminians, and Higher Life proponents.
There are varieties of moralism. Some moralists are sentimental in their preaching. In other words, the goal is to be helpful and a loving nurturer who aims each Sunday at affirming his congregation with the wise sayings of a Jesus who sounds a lot like a talk-show therapist. Other moralists are harsh in their preaching. Their Gospel is, "Do this and you shall live." In other words, unless you can measure a growth in holiness by any number of indicators or barometers, you should not conclude that you are entitled to the promises. The Gospel, for these preachers, is law and the law is Gospel. One can attain God's forgiveness and acceptance only through constant self-assessment. Doubt rather than assurance marks mature Christian reflection, these preachers insist, in sharp distinction to the tenderness of the Savior who excluded only those who thought they had jumped through all the right hoops. The sinners were welcome at Christ's table, the "righteous" were clearly not.
Therefore, even the Christian needs to be constantly reminded that his sanctification is so slow and imperfect in this life that not one single spiritual blessing can be pried from God's hand by obedience; it is all there in the Father's open, outstretched hand. This, of course, is the death-knell to moralism of every stripe. The bad news is very bad indeed; the good news is greater than any earthly moral wisdom. That's why Paul said, paraphrased, "You Greek Christians in Corinth want moral wisdom? OK, I'll give you wisdom: Christ is made our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Aha! God in his foolishness is wiser than all the world's self-help gurus!" (1 Cor. 1:18-31).
Moralism might answer the "felt needs" of those who demand practical and inspirational pep talks on Sunday morning, but it cannot really be considered preaching.
Having been raised in churches which painstakingly exegeted a particular passage verse-by-verse, I have profited from the insights this method sometimes offers. Nevertheless, it too falls short of an adequate way of preaching, reading, or interpreting the sacred text.
First, an explanation of how this is done. I remember the pastor going through even rather brief books like Jude over a period of several months and there we would be, pen and paper in hand as though we were in a classroom, following his outline–either printed in the bulletin or on an overhead projector. Words would be taken apart like an auto mechanic taking apart an engine, conducting an extensive study on the root of that word in the Greek language. This is inadvisable, first, because word studies often focus on etymology (i.e., what is the root of the work in the original language?) rather than on the use of the word in ancient literature, for very often the use of a particular word in ancient literature had nothing at all to do with the root meaning of the word itself. It is dangerous to think of biblical words as magical or different somehow from the same words in the secular works of their day.
This approach is also dangerous because it "misses the forest for the trees." In other words, revelation is one long, unfolding drama of redemption and to get wrapped up in a technical analysis of bits and pieces fails to do justice to the larger context of the text. What God intended as one continuous story that is proclaimed each week to remind the faithful of God's promise and our calling is often turned into an arduous and irrelevant search for words. The same tendency is present in Bible study methods or study Bibles that outline, take apart, and put back together the pieces of the Bible in such a way as to get in the way of the Scripture's inherent power and authority.
Another fault of this verse-by-verse method is that it often fails to appreciate the variety of genre in the biblical text and imposes a woodenly literalistic grid on passages that are meant to be preached, read, or interpreted in a different way. The Bible is not a textbook of geometry that can be reductionistically dissected for simple conclusions, but a book in which God himself speaks to us, disclosing his nature, his purpose, and his unfolding plan of redemption through history.
A final danger of this method is that it tends to remove the congregation from the text of Scripture. Even though the hearers may be very involved taking notes, it only serves to reinforce in their experience that they could not simply sit down and read their English Bibles for themselves and discover the deeper meaning of the text apart from those who have the method down and know the original languages.
Unfortunately, too much of the preaching we come across these days does not even have the merit of attempting a faithful exposition of the Scriptures, as these preceding methods do.
When John Calvin was asked to respond to Cardinal Sadoleto as to why Geneva was irretrievably Protestant, the Reformer included this indictment of the state of preaching before the Reformation:
Calvin then contrasts this former way of preaching with the Reformation approach to Scripture:
The Genevan Reformer goes on to ask the Cardinal what problem he has with that. It is probably, says Calvin, that the Reformation way of preaching is not "practical" enough; that it doesn't give people clear directions for daily living and motivate them to a higher life. Nevertheless, the Reformers all believed that the preacher is required to preach the text, not to decide on a topic and look for a text that can be pressed into its service. And the text, said they, was aimed not at offering heroes to emulate (even Jesus), but at proclamation of God's redemptive act in the person and work of the God-Man.
Who couldn't find in Calvin's description of medieval preaching something of the contemporary situation? In many of the church growth contexts, once more the sermon is not given the central place liturgically and the sermon itself often reveals that the speaker is more widely read in marketing surveys, trend analyses, biographies of the rich and famous, "One Hundred & One Sermon Illustrations," and Leadership journal than in the Greek New Testament, hermeneutical aids, and the riches of centuries of theological scholarship. One can often tell when a pastor has just read a powerful book of pop-psychology, Christian personality theories, end-times speculations, moral or political calls to action, or entrepreneurial successes. He has been blown away by some of the insights and has scouted about for a text that can, if read very quickly, lend some divine credibility to something he did not actually get from that text, but from the Christian or secular best-seller's list. "I'm a pastor, not a theologian," they say, in contrast to the classical evangelical notion, inherited from the Reformation, that a pastor was a scholar as well as a preacher.
Good communicators can get away with the lack of content by their witty, anecdotal style, but they are still unfaithful as ministers of the Word, even if they help people and keep folks coming back for more.
The "Christ And…" Syndrome
In C. S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters, the devil's strategy is not to remove Christ altogether from the scene, but to propagate a "Christ And…" religion:
Today, we see this in terms of Christ and America; Christ and Self-Esteem; Christ and Prosperity; Christ and the Republican or Democratic Party; Christ and End-Time Predictions; Christ and Healing; Christ and Marketing and Church Growth; Christ and Traditional Values, and on we could go, until Christ himself becomes little more than an appendage to a religion that can, after all, get on quite well without him. That is not, of course, to say that the evangelical enterprise could do this without some difficulty. After all, every movement needs a mascot. We say we are Christ-centered, but what was the sermon about last Sunday?
In fact, it is not even enough to preach the centrality of Christ. It is particularly Christ as he is our sacrifice for sin and guarantor of new life because of his resurrection that the Bible makes central in its revelation. After a tragic car accident, Fr. James Feehan, a seasoned Roman Catholic priest in New Zealand, realized afresh the significance of Paul's command to preach Christ and him crucified:
In other words, to guard the centrality of Christ in our preaching, it is necessary to guard the centrality of Christ's ministry as prophet, priest and king. Otherwise, we will even use "Christ" as a means of preaching something other than Christ. We will insist that we are preaching Christ even though we are really only using his name in vain as a buttress for some fashionable tangent we happen to be on this week.
What then is the proper method for reading, preaching, and interpreting God's Word? Many resist the idea that there is a proper method at all, dismissing it as naive. The content is normative and unchanging, they say, but the method is relative and depends on what works best for each pastor. It is often treated as a matter of style, like whether one wears robes or has the choir in the front or the back of the church. But not only does the Bible give us the content of what we are to believe; it gives us a method for properly determining that message.
Via monergism.com, ©1993, 1999 Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals
It seems that in any conversation among Lutherans about the role of music in the Divine Service, there is lip service paid to the famous Luther dictum of music being the servant of the Word but that is often where unanimity ends. The next step is seeing music as our gift to God, the expression of our praise and thanksgiving in response to what He has done. In this way, music is a medium not for God's story but for ours -- to tell the Lord what we feel, what we think, and how we have been moved by what He has done. From that flows another understanding of music as that which sets the mood or tone for the Divine Service. We pick music (hymns, song, and service music) that express the mood of the service (joyful, somber, encouraging, reflective, etc.) and in this way music is primarily evocative. And then there is the understanding of music as mood maker where the role of music is to bring together the assembly and bring them to one place. Music is used to make the mood (often here the songs are both performed and sung repeatedly and the singing goes on continuously over some period of time as opposed to hymns or songs that are sung one at a time and in alternation with other parts of the service. You might have other roles to add, I am just offering these for now.
QBR readers, were you aware of this sci-fi series by Lewis? Good reading…
I have been reading the final book in CS Lewis's space trilogy That Hideous Strength, and I came across an excerpt worth sharing. For those unfamiliar with the book a man named Mark (who is an unbeliever) is being programmed under the threat of violence to think "objectively," meaning without influence of the "chemical reactions" that produce our moral (read emotive) judgments. The scientist in charge of his progress commands him to trample a crucifix. Mark hesitates… and puts his life in danger.
Here Lewis shows through his character that it is impossible to see the Cross from "objective" neutrality. Further along he explains why:
The cross shows that there is no middle ground between choosing to do wrong or to suffer wrong. All the secular mind can do in the face of this choice is to obtain some kind of "objectivity" that denies right and wrong altogether. And that, of course, is madness.
"We Lutherans know nothing of liturgy that is prescribed by God's Word. We know that the church has freedom to order its ceremonies and that it can therefore preserve the liturgical heritage of Christendom, as long as it is consistent with the Gospel. Indeed, our church in the Reformation placed the greatest value on preserving as much as possible this heritage that binds us with the fathers. But these ceremonies do not belong to the essence of the church or to the true unity of the church, as Article 7 of the Augsburg Confession and Article 10 of the Formula of Concord teach. Löhe knew this when in his Drei Bücher von der Kirche [Three Books on the Church], right where he speaks of the beauty and greatness of the Lutheran liturgy, he protests against overestimating it: 'The church remains what she is even without liturgy. She remains a queen even when she is dressed as a beggar' (Book 3, chap. 9 [p. 178])."