Thursday, September 18, 2008

Heterodoxy in the Synod

Heterodoxy is an important issue for any Christian. But most don’t know why, or what it means other than a general “feel.”. First, what is heterodoxy? The LC-MS has heterodoxy defined in the “Christian Cyclopedia” as “Teachings or beliefs differing from a position held to be orthodox.” (For clarity, orthodox is defined on the same site as “orthodox implies conformity to a certain standard.”) Heterodoxy is also defined publicly as “the state of being at variance with established doctrines or beliefs” ( Both of these are in agreement- it is a variation from the established norm. While this is usually not a major issue in most areas of our lives, it is of utmost importance in a church body. Failure to ensure consistent doctrine and belief is the start of error and schism. This is seen in a document on Lutheran Understanding of Church Fellowship. Heterodoxy is a serious affair. So how does this apply to the LC-MS?

For the sake of brevity, I will be short and require you to do a little more reading than normal. However this is good because you yourself must be discerning between falsehood and nuance and the Truth. This means comparing ANY teaching and ANY doctrine against Scripture and Confessions. I am also not going to cover areas I have already posted on, such as the issues within the Synod. The one that promptly pops into my mind that is the most related of previous posts is the inclusion of non-Scriptural “worship elements.” It isn’t wise and goes against teaching only Scripture and the Confessions. And this practice is allowed and encouraged within the LC-MS. This is one item of heterodoxy.

Another item is closed communion. This is proper practice and supports the spiritual health of the congregation as well as her visitors. Those without faith or a proper understanding will drink to their detriment. (1 Cor. 11: 29-30) There isn’t an overt “open communion” policy. But when was the last time you visited an LC-MS church and went to the communion rail without being questioned? Also beware questions of dubious worth that allow the individual to say “yes” without an examination, especially by the pastor. For an excellent post on wiggle words and how this is done “under the table” within the LC-MS, see Father Hollywood’s post on “Word games and communion statements.” Some LC-MS churches with a focus on “contemporary worship” won’t even bother to ask. (Try visiting a couple…see here) This is heterodox error number two, and puts souls in jeopardy.

Syncretism and Unionism have popped in and out of the LC-MS view recently, most notably with the Benke affair right after Sept. 11, 2001. Since then, the LC-MS has issued several resolutions (2004 Res. 3-06A and 2001 Res. 3-07A), and the defense of which hinges on the “civic-ness” of the event. I am all for engaging other denominations and religions, if only as an avenue to teach. That stops when the avenue becomes a “level field” where everything is equal and prayers offered. It does not have to reach the level of a “Lutheran Service” (i.e. page 15 in the red hymnal), but the level of service for any of the presiding erring denominations or pagans. We wouldn’t consider a prayer to a “goddess of a hill” a worship service, but to a pagan, that might constitute a worship service entirely. We would do better to avoid such things to present a clear message. The worming around with the words does not lend clarity. Given Benke was not disciplined (that I know of) and the unfortunate presiding Vice President, Rev. Wallace Schultz, was fired after providing an honest evaluation (after being asked to do so), the LC-MS’s dedication to providing a clear message of Christ Crucified is lacking. This is a troubling case of bowing to pressure to “not offend,” and losing the Truth in the process.

I have provided three clear cases here, evidence from the LC-MS and others, and several anecdotal ones in previous posts. I believe you can see a trend here, even within the past decade towards “not offending” others with the Gospel (by watering down the Gospel and preventing the “meat”), moving towards demographics and market studies (and ignoring the effect and the third person in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit), and pillaging those things which are beneficial (congregational solidarity, unity, and seeking to remove aspects that don’t agree with them- see recent appointments to offices, Issues Etc affair).

I am also not the only one posting on LC-MS heterodoxy. “John the Steadfast” has posted on heterodoxy as well related to a youth gathering in Texas. This is a very serious affair, one the LC-MS is either blind to, or willingly ignoring. Both are bad, but the latter more so.

I have proven that claims that the LC-MS is not heterodox are unoriginal and misinformed. See for yourself! Synod has set herself up as the arbiter of her own rulings. When was the last time a District used Scripture instead of a By-Law to instruct her members? Why does Ablaze use Baptist terminology, invent new words, and seek to be all inclusive while providing a confusing witness to the world? Read Scripture, and the Confessions. And do it again. I firmly believe that you will discover that the LC-MS is a paper-disciple. Looks great on paper, and has all of the i’s and t’s dealt with. But the paper stays in the drawer and practice is something else. And that is the true sign of a heterodox church.