Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Response to the President's Koinonia Project

President Matthew Harrison and First-Vice President Herbert Mueller have issued a report of their Koinonia Project to address the disunity and schisms in the LC-MS. On the surface this plan is nearly indistinguishable from every other plan to unite the synod of the past 10 years. It proposes the creation of discussion groups and urges everyone to be nice. Below the surface, there is something distinguishable: the tone. Mueller’s report oozes piety and sincerity. He knows there are problems. I suspect, though he leave it unstated, that he knows this process, if seriously engaged, will cause departures from the synod. But he isn’t instituting a purge, nor is he engaging in a bureaucratic cover up for false doctrine. He wants to win the brother and he is willing to look at the log in his own eye first. Gottesdienst serves the synod as a kind of think tank. And while I don’t speak for all the editors or readers, I think the Gottesdienst crowd needs to follow Mueller’s example. In short, everybody needs to calm down.

Those who are tired of the fighting and wish we would all just get along need to calm down. We live in the Church Militant. The Church has always fought within itself. Iron sharpens iron. It is good to care about eternal things. It is good to care about the details, about the lost, and about how we interact with each other and the world. Our fighting is caused by sin but refraining from fighting does not remove the sin. It only hides it. Our Lord does not call us to ignore the speck in our brother’s eye but to love him enough to take some risks and to try and help.

Next, if we are going to do this, we need some nomenclature. We have to drop “liberal” and “conservative.” They are not only pejorative, they are inaccurate. I like the label “confessional.” This doesn’t mean that I think I am the only one confessing. It simply means that this is my focus and identity. I suspect that this self-chosen description rightly fits and is comfortable on about 51% of the synod. The other side, the roughly 46% who supported the reelection of President Kieschnick, seem to have chosen the term “missional” for themselves. Just as I don't think that I am excluding others from confessing by calling myself a confessional, I do not think that the missionals are accusing me of being disinterested in missions, lazy, or complacent. They simply understand this as their particular focus and identity. If indeed this is the adjective they wish, I promise to use it respectfully. If this is the wrong term, or not accepted by all, I am sorry. For the time being at least, it seems to me to be what they have chosen - and it also seems accurate. When I am corrected and given a better self-description, I promise to use it. But we can’t impugn one another with conservative and liberal.

For years I have heard complaints from Jesus First and other proponents of the missional camp that there is a terrible danger and mis-emphasis among the confessionals on doctrinal purity. I think, in part, they are right. This charge has been too easily dismissed, as though being accused of being obsessed with doctrinal purity were akin to being accused of loving too much, having too much money, or being too good looking. We have been called to doctrinal purity. This is what God desires and demands. But it is not true to think that doctrinal purity trumps all else. Doctrine was made for man, not man for doctrine. David ate the showbread. The Lord’s disciples plucked grain and Jesus healed on the Sabbath. St. Paul allows the eating of meat sacrificed to idols. Love is the ultimate principle behind the Law. So also, love is the ultimate principle, both in content and application, of doctrine. If doctrine does not serve love, or if it serves pride, it is false.

Some might rejoin that these are Law examples not Gospel examples. These are, however, ultimately arguments about the Law. The Law commands we evangelize. To fail to confess and witness is a sin. The Law also commands that we teach pure doctrine. False doctrine is a sin. It is possible to love a system of doctrine for its own beauty and reasonableness apart from its actual content. That was the sin of the Pharisees. The missionals do well to warn us of this danger.

We, the confessionals, need to calm down. We should not be issuing ultimatums. We should not be setting ourselves up as the judges of Israel. We should not be operating out of fear as though it is our duty to cleanse and purify the Church. And we should be careful in our language and criticisms so as not to hurt the feelings of our brothers.

We, the confessionals, need historic perspective on doctrinal purity. We sometimes speak and act as though there was a golden age in the Church to which we must return. There was no golden age. The history of the Church is a history of disunity, confusion, heresy, abuse, and schism. The history of the liturgy is equally messy. St. Gregory did much to foster unity but even then there were local customs and variances in almost every locality. Those who waited for and expected the Messiah at the time of Christ were divided between the Pharisees, the priests, the Essenes, the zealots, Gentile proselytes, and the quiet in the land. The Lord has provided amazingly clear and articulate voices from time to time. Athanasius was such a voice at the Council of Nicea. So also were Luther and then the Lutheran fathers in 1580. But they are few and far between. They are the exception. There does not look to be a great, charismatic, theological mind and voice in our age.

We are insignificant men in an insignificant synod in an insignificant time. The history of the Missouri Synod is not the history of great preachers, scholars, or obedient Germans. We are not a sleeping giant. We are a raging, self-important mouse. Our history is the history of fools plodding along without really knowing what they were doing. Pastors taught false doctrine from their ignorance. They got caught up in politics and culture. Missionaries instituted crazy practices. The synod grew by immigration and inertia. Members insisted on acting and looking like their neighbors. They stuck to the truth out of nostalgia as often as conviction. Yet the Lord provided. Babies were baptized. The Word of God was read. The Absolution and Body and Blood of Jesus were bestowed, and the half-hearted, confused prayers were heard by a gracious God. Sometimes the best thing we ever did was stick the name “Lutheran” on the sign. If nothing else, it forced us to use the Small Catechism and keep a copy of the American Edition of Luther’s Works and the Book of Concord on the pastor’s shelf. Then sometimes, somebody, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, no doubt, read them. The Lord doesn’t need us to purify or unite or fix or do anything to the Church. It is His Church. We confessionals need to calm down and stop acting as though every time a pastor does something stupidly or chooses a weak practice or even commits an unintentional heresy the walls are going to come crashing down. So what if they do? Calm down.

The line between doctrine and practice is blurry. That is because practice matters. It confesses and witnesses. But it is hard to talk about it, hard to critique. Just recently, I had a brief and casual exchange with a confessional brother in a theatre while we waited for Garrison Keillor to appear. He has switched, for many reasons, from the historic lectionary to the three year lectionary. He complained that some of the proponents of the historic lectionary, of which I am one, went too far and were dogmatic about its superiority. I thought that was a straw man and said so. I asked for an actual name and example. He named another confessional brother whom he claimed had denigrated the three-year lectionary. Then the curtain came up and the man in the red shoes began his shtick, so I never got to respond. If I had, I would have said that denigrating is not dogmatizing. We might well denigrate the three year lectionary and praise the historic lectionary. That is the way argument works. There are three possibilities: the three year lectionary is superior to the historic lectionary, the historic lectionary is superior to the three year lectionary, or they are completely equal in every way. If they are completely equal, then it is stupid to talk about it.

If we are to debate practices, and we must, then we will denigrate. This might be slightly painful, but it should be no surprise. Consider the matter of LSB hymnody. We must all surely know that its hymns are unequal. They all passed doctrinal review. Thus we trust that they are all free of blatant false teaching. But some are abysmally weak, have to be explained away from their original context, and do little to actually teach the faith. Others are confession, praise, and catechesis of the highest order. We may not agree on which hymns fall into which category, but we all know that some hymns are stronger than others. We all choose hymns in context. We don’t use the strongest hymn in the hymnal each Sunday. We vary hymns week to week. So also, not every hymn, regardless of its merits, is necessarily immediately accessible, while some hymns, weak as they are, are simply congregational favorites for sentimental reasons and for the sake of love we sing them. We don’t dogmatize the hymns of the day. But we certainly should teach both our pastors and laity to practice theological discernment in hymn choice and also encourage them to strive for stronger and stronger hymnody as they are able. A congregation or pastor without discernment, who chose hymns merely for entertainment or emotional value, deserves rebuke.

We confessionals need to admit that we all live with some level of compromise. No one has perfect practice. We need to stop trying to force our brothers into orthodoxy through legislation. It’d be blessedly nice if everyone in the synod would limit himself to the confines of our hymnals, but they don’t and they won’t, and we have to give a better reason than simply “we make the rules.” We need to be able to talk about what is allowable but weak, what is strong, and what is right out. We cannot pretend that everything the Commission on Worship has produced is equal.

The point of this is simply that we have to be careful in our speech and careful in our listening, and we have to be honest. This debate must center on practice. That is where our doctrine hits the road, where our confession and witness is actually made. But we can’t have real discussion and debate without denigration. We have had synodical attempts to brush over our real differences in the past. We have been told they are not real or significant, and we know that is not true. That fantasy didn’t create unity. It didn’t create trust. It was a waste of time and money. If all things are equal, then we are worse than fools to debate them. If this is all just splitting hairs, then those who determine that is the case ought to give in for the sake of us weaker brothers. But they won’t, will they? That is because these things are important. So they need to be not just discussed, but actually debated. And we have to take the risk that such debates could lead to division. It could well turn out that debating practices leads to the realization that we cannot abide one another’s doctrine and aren’t actually in fellowship.

I don’t say this to alarm anyone. My goal is to find the logs in my own eye. How have I failed in this process? How are the criticisms laid at my feet valid and invalid? But my desire is that everyone would calm down, speak carefully, and listen carefully. It will be hard. It will be slow. It will be frustrating. But we must try and pray God’s blessing

Now for the speck: evangelism. It seems to me that this is the over-arching principle and desire of the missional wing of the LCMS. Every offense taken by the confessionals, from contemporary worship services to unionism to bad hymnody and open communion seem to stem from the missional pastor’s self-described burning desire to reach the lost. This desire, of course, is God-given and God-pleasing. We are called to proclaim the Gospel to every creature. But fallen man can take any good thing and turn it to an idol or to his own selfish purpose. There should be no desperation or fear in us. We should and are rightly comforted by the doctrine of election. No one, except perhaps myself, goes to Hell because of my sin. None of the elect will be missing: I simply couldn't snatch them from Christ hands if I tried. Neither can we add to the number of the elect. So calm down. The Church is not called to growth or success but faithfulness. Part of that faithfulness is works of mercy, part of it is evangelism, and part of it is purity of doctrine.

The Synodical Convention in 2007 demonstrated the confusion of the missional wing of the LC-MS when one of us lost control of his emotions and grew visibly angry because the wording of a resolution was changed from making reaching the lost “the” top priority to “a” top priority. The man’s refusal of that language and verbal, emphatic rejection of the idea that there are other equal priorities in the church, such as worshipping God and taking care of those in need, both inside and outside of the Church, made evident a misplaced zeal and confusion. So also I was recently told by a very sincere and pious missional pastor that he was heartbroken because his 9-year old son didn’t know any non-Christians. Why would this break his heart unless the only good work that really matters, that which defines and makes a Christian a Christian is witnessing and saving the lost? The same pastor wasn’t in the least bit heartbroken that his 9-year old son didn’t know any starving people, any lepers, or those otherwise in need.

This must be addressed. It seems to me that my fellow Gottesdienst editor, Rev. Heath Curtis, has done us a great service with his paper, The Liturgy as Beacon for the Elect, on this topic and I suggest this as a start for missional pastors.

There also needs to be some agreement on Lutheran vocabulary. I think it is fair to expect that Lutheran pastors in the LCMS be conversant, if not completely fluent, in the Lutheran Confessions, Pieper, and the Lutheran Service Book. Words matter. Rick Warren and Rob Bell have a peculiar vocabulary that has grown out of their theology. So do we. If we are formed by their writings and use their categories and vocab, we will have their theology. At the same time, if we don’t know our own heritage and confession, how can we claim to be Lutheran?

Mueller has stated that he thinks we need to begin with a study of the first five articles of the Augustana. I admire the piety that suggests this, but fear it will be a wasted effort. Part of the problem is that the language is too familiar. The confessionals see this as a kind of trump card. These articles directly contradict the missional folks. But the missional folks stare blankly back. How is that we abhor one another's practices but think our doctrine is the same? They tell us that they love these words and agree completely. How can that be? One side or the other or both must be misunderstanding them. Obviously, we use the same words to mean different things and familiarity has made both sides deaf and unable to hear freshly. The Augustana has another weakness: it was written to be irenic. The ELCA all endorses and embraces it. It fails to get at the differences.

I suggest instead that our first step is to embark upon a synod-wide reading of the Luther’s Bondage of the Will. While every single pastor in the LC-MS has taken a vow to teach in accordance with this book, as the Formula of Concord names it as a fuller expression of Article XI, and has already read it, it is not as familiar as the Augustana. This slight distance means that we can read and hear it anew. It will give us a common authoritative text while also emphasizing and teaching a truly Lutheran though process and vocabulary.

In conclusion, calm down, pray, be nice, read Luther’s Bondage of the Will, and talk to one another. Maybe God will turn and bless us.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Today on Issues, Etc.: Piety Matters

This is a post from May 27, 2010. I've moved it up here because I'm scheduled to talk about the same topic today on Issues, Etc. - +HRC

Can a religion be only cerebral? Is religion only a way of thinking and not a way of doing?

I don't believe so. I think that religion is a matter of soul, mind, and body. It is a way of thinking, doing, and living. In other words, it is a matter of piety. The old saw about “Lutheran substance and [American] Evangelical style” is all wrong – in fact, the catch phrase intentionally plays down the importance of a lived religion: it's merely “style.” And we all know that style is unimportant. Once men wore fluffy collars, now they wear ties. Just a manner of style.

But it's the wrong word. What the advocates of such a plan mean to say is: Lutheran substance, American Evangelical piety. The piety of a Christian is how he lives the faith he professes. Piety is what a Christian does and the words that rattle around in his head without him consciously thinking about them: the words and actions of his Sunday morning worship, how he prays in his daily life, the pattern of sound words that pop into his head throughout the week, the songs he sings, the proof texts he knows by heart and repeats to himself, how he explains the faith to his children, the way he dresses for worship, the popular activities he avoids because of his faith, and the like.

So is there a distinctively Lutheran piety? Or is being Lutheran simply a cerebral matter: Here is a list of doctrines: if you assent to these, then you are a Lutheran and your piety is up to you, as an individual or community, to devise on your own from whatever source you like. Is that how it is?

I certainly don't think so. And I think the history of the Reformation and even a cursory reading of the Lutheran Symbols give the lie to such a notion. Indeed: the Reformation was about piety, about actions, about a faith lived in a particular way.

So what is the distinctively Lutheran piety? It is not hard to define. It is spelled out in the Symbols and the history of our fellowship, it is written on millions of hearts – it is so well known that it is easily caricatured on the radio by Garrison Keillor.

Lutheran piety begins at the Divine Service. The Mass is celebrated among us as the thing of most importance(AC XXIV). Lutheran piety is reverent (think of Luther sucking up the Precious Blood off the altar rail in 1543). Lutheran piety dresses up for church. Lutheran piety dwells within the traditional prayers, lessons, vestments, and ceremonies of the Western tradition (Ap. XXIV.1). This is a rich tradition, therefore, Lutheran piety recognizes that there is room for one parish to have more ceremonies than another: so long as the ceremonies in use comport with the pious tradition within which we live, for we are not frivolous, jocular, or offensive in the house of God (FC SD X). Lutheran piety bows or kneels at the altar. Lutheran piety adores Christ present in the Sacrament. Lutheran piety stands for the Gospel Lesson. Lutheran piety chants and sings. Lutheran piety considers one day more holy than another, unto the Lord, and thus offers the Sacrament on every Lord's Day and the other high feasts. Luther piety has pastors, celebrants, and ministers. Lutheran piety is one of Word and Sacrament, tilted slightly toward Sacrament: thus the Sacrament has pride of place over the sermon.

After the benediction, Lutheran piety goes into the home. Lutheran piety, while standing or kneeling, makes the sign of the cross, morning and evening, and recites the Creed and the Lord's Prayer. Lutheran piety goes to confession and says, Dear pastor please hear my confession and pronounce forgiveness in order to fulfill God's will. Lutheran piety reads Luther's sermons, Portals of Prayer, and the Fathers. Lutheran piety thanks God for clothing and shoes, house and home, eyes, ears, and all my members. Lutheran piety teaches his children to say, “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” Lutheran piety expects crosses. Luther piety expects that it will daily sin much and need forgiveness.

Lutheran piety is, as you can see, molded and formed by two things: the liturgy as described in Ap. XXIV.1 and the Small Catechism. These tell us the how of the Faith. Through these the Lutheran Faith is lived. The Catechism is not a doctrinal treatise, a merely cerebral book: it is an instruction manual for personal piety. It gives words and actions. Just as Anglican piety is formed by the 39 Articles and the Book of Common Prayer and Roman piety by the canon of the Mass and the rosary, Lutheran piety is shaped by the liturgy and the Catechism.

The words of the liturgy and the Catechism constantly rattle around a head shaped by Lutheran piety. They are the lens through which daily life is filtered.

The mind and heart shaped by Lutheran piety can complete all of these ellipses:

  • Isaiah mighty seer....

  • I believe that I cannot by my own....

  • What is the world to me....

  • ...that we are by by nature....

  • Lord now lettest...

  • A mighty fortress...

  • The Lord be with you. . .

  • Lord God, Heavenly Father, bless us...

  • O Lord, open Thou my lips...

  • This is most certainly. . .

  • Yes, yes it shall...

  • We should fear and. . .

  • Glory be to God on high. . .

  • . . . therefore with angels. . .

  • Lord, let at last thine angels. . .

There are other pieties that have different catch phrases, different actions, different ways of worship. The American Evangelical piety uses the 19th century camp meeting liturgy: warm up songs, call to worship, prayer of confession/humility, songs, scripture reading, sermon, songs. American Evangelical piety does not wear vestments or regard one day as more holy than another (except for Sunday, Christmas, and Easter). American Evangelical piety does not make the sign of the cross or go to confession. American Evangelical piety, when it celebrates the Sacrament, does so in a simple manner without ceremonies that would indicate worship or adoration toward the Sacrament. American Evangelical piety is upbeat, casual, and jocular. American Evangelical piety expects daily improvement and victorious living. American Evangelical piety reads Guideposts, My Utmost for His Highest, and the Purpose Driven Life. American Evangelical piety knows what AWANA stands for. American Evangelical piety has worship leaders, song leaders, praise bands, and preachers. American Evangelical piety is one of Word and Sacrament, tilted strongly toward Word: thus the sermon has pride of place over the Sacrament.

The mind and heart shaped by American Evangelical piety cannot complete many ellipses besides the lyrics of currently popular church songs. The words that rattle around the head formed by this piety are generally phrases of their favorite preacher, song, Bible verse, or currently popular book.

Now – what would happen to a Baptist church who wanted Baptist doctrine but took up Lutheran piety via the Common Service on Sunday morning and replacing Guideposts and free form prayer with Portals of Prayer and the Creed throughout the week? What would happen to an E-Free church that swapped out their current list of songs for those in LSB and had their pastor wear an alb and stole? If they did this for a generation at the late service, what would the next generation of Baptist and E-Free preachers be like?

The generation that brought American Evangelical piety into the Lutheran Church is now in late middle age. Their confirmation classes are now graduating from seminary and Synodical schools. For the first time in history, we have Lutheran pastors who cannot complete all the ellipses listed above because they always went to the late service that was formed not by Lutheran piety but by American Evangelical piety. For the first time in our English-speaking history, we are ordaining pastors who do not know the Common Service (or any setting of the Western liturgy) by heart. For the first time in history, we have school teachers who cannot say Matins from memory – but know all the lyrics to the top five selling worship songs as listed each month by CCLI.

Will a church body really be the same church body if a number of its parishes are formed by Lutheran piety and a number of others by American Evangelical piety?

We are not just minds – we are minds, souls, and bodies. Piety matters. That's why the Confessions say so much about it. A sea change has occurred in the piety of the Missouri Synod – a change away from Lutheran piety and toward American Evangelical piety. We are only beginning to feel the repercussions.


Something for the Confirmands

It's that time of year - between Palm Sunday and the first couple Sundays in May, most congregations will be bringing confirmands to the Lord's Table for the first time. Here is something you might find useful in preparing your candidates for confirmation and/or first communion.


Receiving Holy Communion

In the Sacrament of the Altar, our Lord Jesus Christ has given us a miraculous and precious gift: His own true Body and true Blood for the forgiveness of our sins. We wish to receive that gift in a manner that shows our faith in our Lord and in this gift from his hand.

Spiritual Preparation

The Bible says in I Corinthians that we should “examine ourselves” and “recognize the Body of the Lord” before we come to the Lord's Supper. Besides making a regular habit of taking advantage of God's gift of Individual Confession & Absolution, it is a good idea to review the Catechism's Christian Questions and Their Answers, which can be found right in the hymnal, p. 329. Do this right when you sit down in church each Sunday morning.


The Catechism also says that “fasting and other bodily preparation is fine outward training.” Fasting helps focus our minds on this special, miraculous food we receive in the Lord's Supper. A simple way to fast before the Lord's Supper is simply not to eat breakfast before church on Sunday morning. Use the time you would have used to eat breakfast in additional prayers for a right and worthy reception of the Lord's Supper.


Before you go up to Communion you can turn to the inside from cover of the hymnal to find prayers for “Before Communing” and for “Thanksgiving after Receiving the Sacrament.” In addition to these, you may want to memorize these traditional prayers to pray while at the Altar.

Prayer before receiving the Body: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof. But only say the word, and your servant shall be whole.” (Matthew 8:8)

Prayer before receiving the Blood: “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? I shall receive the chalice of salvation and call upon the Name of the Lord. I shall call upon the Name of the Lord which is worthy to be praised and so shall I be saved from my enemies.” (Ps. 116:12-13; Ps. 18:3)

And remember the simplest prayer of all: when the pastor says, “The Body of Christ” and “The Blood of Christ” respond by saying, “Amen.”

Dress and Demeanor

Receiving your Lord's Body and Blood is a holy, mysterious, and precious gift to you from God. Your dress and demeanor should reflect your thankfulness and respect for this gift. This is why people wear clothing that is modest and neat for church: it shows respect for this miraculous gift which Jesus gives us.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Chant Workshop at CSL, April 4

On Monday, April 4th, from 7:00 to 9:00pm, the Opus Dei student organization is hosting the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Mayes for a chant workshop in the undercroft of the Chapel of Sts. Timothy and Titus on the campus of Concordia Seminary St. Louis. If you are within driving distance of St. Louis, I can't recommend this workshop highly enough - I have attended more than one and they are always enjoyable and educational. Dr. Mayes is not only a gifted musician but also an historian of the church's music of the first order, as can be seen from The Brotherhood Prayer Book. He will be talking about the discipline of prayer as well as various forms of chant from Gregorian to the style put forward in LSB.

Beer and snacks will be provided.


Gottesdienst Chicago: May 3, 2011

In recent years the expansion of Gottesdienst has included not only Gottesdienst Online, but appearances of some of our editors at various venues around the Midwest to speak in person about the matters liturgical and the liturgical topics that matter.

We’ve made appearances in Kewanee, Illinois; Ravenna, Nebraska; Fort Wayne, Indiana; St. Louis, and Kansas City.

Next up: Chicago

Tuesday, May 3rd at Saint Paul Lutheran Church (9035 Grant, Brookfield, Illinois). This is a one-day conference on preaching and liturgy:

8:30-9:00 am registration/coffee donuts/Holy Absolution available

9:00 am Matins

9:40 am Welcome

9:45-10:45 amThe Allegorical Meaning Redeemed” -Fr David Petersen

11:00 Holy Mass

12:15 Lunch

1:30 – 2:30 The Lutheran Confessions: Descriptive or Prescriptive?” -Fr Larry Beane

2:30 – 3:30 Panel discussion: Responding to the adiaphorists -The Gottesdienst editors

3:30 pm Vespers

4:00 pm Gem├╝tlichkeit

Registration: $12 (Payable to Gottesdienst, c/o St. Paul's Ev. Lutheran Church, 109 S. Elm Street
Kewanee, IL 61443


Title:________ Parish:_______________________________


City:________________ State:______


Email: _____________________________

Recommended Lodging: The Best Westerns in either Westmont or Countryside, IL.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Out of the Barn!

The barn is empty.

Gottesdienst (Passiontide and Easter 2011) has bolted.

And if you want this stallion to arrive at your door, subscribe now.

Beg, Blog: Bleg

If you love Luther's On the Bondage of the Will, own the Packer-Johnston edition thereof, and would like to assist in a project based on the same: please email pastorcurtis at gmail dot com.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Expanded rubrics for LSB are coming. . .

. . . from CPH in 2013, maybe. That's the word from the LSB desk at CPH that was recently posted to a pastors' discussion forum. I, and many others, have been looking forward to the release of this volume, LSB: Liturgy Desk Edition, since publication of LSB in 2006. It's disappointing, of course, that the delay has been, and continues to be, so long - but I am happy that they are taking the time to produce a quality product.

The main frustration in not having this volume come out with LSB is best seen in the famously obscure rubric in LSB for how to deal with the consecrated elements after the Lord's Supper: one is to cover them with a veil upon the altar. Period. No other instructions. This, of course, hardly makes it possible to "say the black and do the red" and has done nothing to help clean up the myriad of poor practices in this regard that occur throughout the Synod (treating consecrated hosts like mere bread, dumping a consecrated chalice back into a jug of wine, etc. etc.).

In one sense this is not a bug, but a feature. One of the great strengths built into LSB is its flexibility - the sparse rubrics help make the book accessible to the widest possible range of our fellowship. And this has undoubtedly been a success - never has a hymnal been accepted in our midst so completely so quickly - and this at a time when fealty to Our Beloved Synod has been in general decline.

The great task set before the Liturgy Desk Edition will be to help guide pastors into better practice without merely grinding the axes of the contributors. For example, I am a strong proponent of consuming all the elements consecrated in a celebration at that celebration. I hope that the forthcoming volume will encourage that practice - but it will simply have to also include instructions for the proper reservation of the elements because some pastors are going to continue to do that. It will have to walk a fine line between encouraging better practice and alienating those with weak practice. A good example of how to walk this line is Maxwell's The Altar Guild Manual from CPH (my favorite irony about this excellent work is its CPH published, COW approved statement that the plastic individual cups should never be used - at least the Altar Guild Manual is not advertised on the actual page in the CPH catalogue where the plastic cups are sold. . . ).

In addition I desperately hope that the authors of this volume will include more helpful directions for celebrations that include assistance from more than one pastor (the use of the liturgical deacon and subdeacon).

In the meantime, you do not have to wait until 2013 for intelligent, historical, and insightful commentary on the rubrics of the Lutheran Divine Service. Contact Redeemer Press for copies of Lang's Ceremony and Celebration and the Piepkorn-McClean editon of Conduct of the Service. These volumes formed the basis for the extensive rubrics included right alongside the text of the Common Service included in Daily Divine Service Book and DDSB: Rubrics and Prayers for Celebrant and Deacon.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

What to Do About the Seminaries?

Some time ago, Rev. Curtis asked us what we thought the seminaries should do in light of the current glut of pastors in the LC-MS and financial difficulties. Living in the shadow of Kramer Chapel, it is hard not to have a few opinions about the fate and purpose of our seminaries, even though they haven’t asked. No doubt there are things I don’t know and don’t understand. I don’t have much of a feel for CS-StL, nor do I love that school the way I love CTS-FW. But I do love CTS-FW deeply. I send them money. I pray for them. I recruit for them. I defend them. I love them. I hope that love will be understood and soften these remarks, and I apologize in advance for any ignorance I here display. We must surely all agree that changes have to be made and there needs to a plan. Here is my thinking.

CTS should reduce the wages of everyone who isn’t making minimum wage across the board by a small percentage. Everyone should share the burden equally, unless the president’s council or the deans wanted to all take an extra percent as a show of support and leadership. Even if the gesture is mainly symbolic, and is no more than .5% I think it is important. The student workers, custodians, maintenance personal, and faculty all need to know how serious this is and that there will be changes. They need to be involved and cutting their salaries gets their attention. It will save money but it will also set a tone. By sharing the burden this way, they might also save their jobs.

A meeting should be called of every employee, even student employees, where the situation is explained. The goal is to protect the jobs and livelihoods of the employees and to continue to serve the synod. CTS has a sacred mission. They aren’t just working for a paycheck. If they are, they are in the wrong place. The goal is to work together to save the institution for the sake of the Church. Time should be given to discussing and brain-storming cost-saving measures. Are there ways that the institution could save electricity or cut down on paper? Could the offices only turn on half the lights or could the offices be only open 4 days a week instead of 5? Could they ban small refrigerators and microwaves? The seminary needs the support of its employees to make these cuts. It will hurt, but it needs to be done in hard times. Pennies must be pinched.

But that is the small stuff. In my mind, CTS needs to respond to the new economy within the synod. We don’t need many new pastors. CTS can’t expect a freshman class of 60-70 students these days. It can’t place that many graduates anyway and they don’t’ have enough financial aid to make it affordable. What the synod does need is continuing education and professional theologians and it would be very nice to have a flexible institution ready if the baby boomers do ever start retiring and/or dying.

The seminaries could be funded, in part, by given them the CTCR budget and duties. That, it seems to me, is unlikely. Once a kingdom (aka a budget) has been built, no matter how useless it is, men will fight to defend it, It is also the old synod economy. The seminaries have already made this shift anyway: they have to raise their own funding. The good news is that they are more independent. They should build on that. Because CTS simply can’t rely on money from the synod. We can decry that all we want, but I think it is simply part of the reality we now live in. I don’t think we can turn it back. President Harrison promised budget monies. I don’t know if he can keep the promise. Even if he does, there is no real guarantee of how long it would last. But even without synodical funding, we need the CTS faculty to do the work that has been given to the CTCR. They should “sell” themselves to donors as think tanks independent of the synodical bureaucracy. This is very appealing to the CTS constituency and it is true and necessary work. I think, maybe naively, that there are donors who would be attracted to it. I think CTS could make a direct appeal to the sons of Robert Preus to aid them in this effort and might even name an actual think tank “The Robert Preus Institute.” The Quarterly could transform. It could grow and be marketed. CTS could stop giving it way and stop addressing obscure theological subject. It could be the front man for the Institute and directly addressing, in a theological way, the issues of the Missouri-Synod. The Institute could nold more conferences, retreats, elder-hostels, youth gatherings, and do more to promote the faculty as speakers-for-hire. In fact, I would make honorariums payable to the seminary not to the men who speak. It would be part of the faculty duties to go and speak and promote the seminary and work for the Institute. It would not be a way for under-paid faculty to make extra money. I know this will be tough on the faculty, even as a cut in pay will be, but times are tough, and it could pay off by saving the seminary and posturing it well for the future.

The other thing CTS could do in the current synodical economy is beef up continuing ed. CTS could become a theological center for laity and clergy. They could offer certificates and degrees. People want to earn some recognition. R.C. Sproul was very successful in this kind of endeavor and did a great service to his church body. Issues, Etc has proven that there is a real lay desire for theological discourse and training. They are willing to pay for it. LC-MS day-school teachers are all required to get masters degrees by the State. Most of them go to local universities and obtain mainly worthless masters’ degrees in Education. Most of them love Theology, that is why they aren’t teaching in public schools, yet most of them are woefully under-trained in Theology. The seminary could tap into that market. It could offer a special program for teachers that could be complete in a few summers and on-line. They could offer similar programs for other professional church workers, including all the pastors on the roster who didn’t go through a regular seminary program. Pastors are also looking for degrees and prestige. The D-Min program is fairly accessible and practical. It could be expanded and different versions of it, for musicians or those with special interests, could be developed and offered.

There is also a continuing interest in languages that CTS is uniquely posed to offer. Pastors need refresher courses in the Biblical languages. Lay people are interested in this also and there is a constant need for research languages. Concordia Language Villages, run by Concordia College Moorhead, Minnesota, is multi-million dollar outfit. Why doesn’t CTS create an immersion German program? What about Latin, Greek, and Hebrew? Could Japanese be taught? Nearly every pastor in the United States could use Spanish!

As radical as it might sound, the other thing that CTS should do is raise their admission standards for the M-Div program and turn students away. That just can’t be the bread and butter anymore. The students who come ought to be the cream of the crop. In this vein, CTS should get out of the alternative programs. Let CS-StL specialize in lay ministry, DELTO, SMMP, and the many other quick and non-academic routes onto the LC-MS roster. CTS should focus on academic theology and music. That is where they are strong. That is what their constituency and donors want. That is what they are good at. Besides that, they need to demonstrate why there should be two seminaries. Right now there is little to distinguish one seminary from the other since they offer virtually identical programs.

Sadly, all I have are ideas. I don’t have money and I am no expert in these things. The ideas probably have some holes. But I love CTS and I pray for her, her faculty, staff, and students daily. That library needs to be finished. CTS needs to remain in our synod as an institution that trains pastors and theologians. The synod needs her. I pray she remains and I pledge my support, meager as it is.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Poll: Preaching Habits

Long before I was asked to join the editorial board of Gottesdienst, the journal had a strong influence on my preaching. There is truly no such thing as an original preacher - at least, one hopes there is not - and the marks of Eckardt, Petersen, Fabrizius, Koch, Stuckwisch, et al., are clearly to be seen in my preaching week in and week out. While the articles and commentary in the print journal are always insightful, I think that the section that contains sermons ancient and contemporary is actually the most important part of the contents each quarter. As our own Dr. Stuckwisch has commented before, if the preaching is right in a parish/church/synod, ceteris paribus, everything else will fall into place.

The topic of how exactly to preach comes up again and again at Gottesdienst gatherings. And in these discussions I witnessed one of the traits of the Gottesdienst Crowd that I most admired: among these excellent preachers, there was always exhibited a desire to get better. I can't imagine that I will ever be able to produce, week in and week out, the beautiful homilies that I read, for example, from Fr. Koch - I would be happy to do so and rest on my laurels! But these men, far from thinking they have it all figured out, will debate for hours on the homiletic task.

One of the topics perennially undertaken in this regard is whether to prepare a manuscript or not. In the corner of a carefully prepared manuscript chiefly stands Petersen - and in favor of no manuscript at all, we have Eckardt and Fabrizius.

For a long while, my practice has been to prepare a manuscript for Sunday morning, to preach off the cuff at shut-in calls and at Wednesday Low Mass, and to use an outline for Lent and Advent midweek services. For a while I was very much intrigued with Petersen's practice of arranging his manuscript in sense lines that helped to aid in delivery - but there is no doubt that, at least for me, a truly free delivery can only be attained with manuscript free preaching.

Something I've been trying lately, now that I have a handful of years through the historic lectionary, is to pull out a previous year's sermon and reedit it. Originally I did this a couple times because I was in a pinch after a busy week - but then I found that when I was preaching from one of these old, reedited sermons I suddenly felt much more free to range away from the manuscript. Perhaps this is a peculiar kink in my own brain - but it worked for me. I had the anchor of a manuscript, but felt unchained from it. Has it ever happened to you that right in the midst of preaching a sermon, you suddenly see a new insight that you should have put in the manuscript? When that would happen to me, I would just have to let it go to stay on script. Now that I am regularly practicing this preaching of reedited sermons, I find that not only can I follow that new insight while preaching, but that they come more often.

At any rate - if you don't subscribe to the print journal, the sermons are worth the price of admission. You will benefit greatly by being pushed and prodded to never grow satisfied with your own preaching - I know I have been.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Kansas City Recap

We had a wonderful day at Christ Lutheran Church in Platte Woods, MO, yesterday at our latest regional Gottesdienst conference! Many thanks are due to both pastors, the organist from a neighboring parish, and many others who made the day possible. Dr. Eckardt's paper exploring the distinction between the natural will, the renewed man in Christ, and how that relates to the forms of worship popular in American Evangelicalism was fascinating. In the afternoon we looked at ceremony in general - what it is, why the Confessions say we use the ceremonies we do, etc. - as well as the specific ceremonies of the Easter Vigil and how they bring the drama of Lent to its climax. And then we were off to Fr. Froiland's home where his bride graciously hosted the gathered guests with Boulevard beer (Kansas City's own) and great conversation.

You might say that the aim of these regional Gottesdienst conferences is to create the day of prayer and study that you wish your Winkel or general pastors' conference always was. More information on our next regional conference will be forthcoming soon - it's scheduled for Tuesday, May 3 in Chicago.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick on Issues, Etc. today

I was invited to talk about St. Patrick today on Issues, Etc. You can listen this afternoon live or later on via podcast. And if you are in the Kansas City area - we'll see you tomorrow, Dv, at Christ Lutheran Church in Platte Woods.

Here is the Collect for St. Patrick from DDSB (which you can currently purchase with free shipping by entering the coupon code GROUND at checkout):

O God, Who didst deign to send blessed Patrick, Thy Confessor and Bishop, to announce Thy glory to the Gentiles: grant that we also may have the purity of Thy Word; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost: ever one God, world without end.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Last Chance for March Sale on DDSB and New Testament in His Blood

Don't miss out on our publisher's March sales. Right now you can take 15% off any book order, including any of the DDSB volumes and Dr. Eckardt's The New Testament in His Blood through Tuesday March 15 with the coupon code IDES305.

And if you would like your copy of DDSB personalized, instructions for how to do that are here.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Last Chance to Register for Gottesdienst KC

Join Dr. Eckardt and me for a day of theological reflection, instruction, and mutual consolation this Friday in Kansas City. Details for how to register can be found here.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Monday Off???

I can't understand you pastors who take Monday off. Please explain how that works. On Sunday I find out who's sick, who's angry, who's having problems, etc., etc. If I tried to take Monday off, I would never get it off because of this fact. On Monday, I've often got to hit the ground running.

Maybe this is a country mouse/city mouse thing? At bigger suburban parishes maybe folks communicate in ways other than word of mouth so the Sunday morning grapevine isn't as big a deal? Or what am I missing?


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday on Issues, Etc. today at 4 CST

I'm scheduled to be on Issues, Etc., today at 4:00pm CST to talk about Ash Wednesday and liturgical piety. Listen live then or later via podcast.

Sources to Help with Pornography Addiction

Here is a link to some audio files courtesy of Issues, Etc.

Thanks to Jeff Schwarz, I am including the entire transcript from the interview with Dr. Kleinig below. It is applicable, btw, to far more than pornography addiction. This really is the right answer for any besetting sin.

Finally, Rev. Jason Braaten, found a website that looks very interesting and potentially helpful. Rev. Michael Frese of the U.S. Army has also referred people here:

This is an on-line, anonymous therapy service. It is $300 for six months. That is the minimum commitment. This looks to me to be a very good path for clergy. You can't do it anonymously from your wife, of course. That wouldn't be healthy anyway. If this is a problem for you, you need to confess to your wife and involve her. But $300 seems to me a good price for what they are offering. That being said, I myself haven't been through the program or known anyone who has been and I haven't seen all their materials. I am only responding to 10 minutes on their site looking at their advertising.

Here is what I think: $300 is a small investment. An investment is good. It means you are ready to really deal with your problem. You are admitting you need help. So even if the therapy isn't perfect, it is the right sort of thing to do. And then there is the Kleinig stuff, which absolutely isn't optional.

If you have other sources or concerns/praise for the website please leave them in the comments.


Rev. Todd Wilken, Host

+ + + + +



Dr. John Kleinig

Lecturer Emeritus, Australian Lutheran College

Author of Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today

21 September 2010

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WILKEN: All right, I will admit that it is an uncomfortable subject. There’s no two ways about it. Probably uncomfortable not only because it’s something that until quite recently was kind of the dark under belly of our societies, something that was there but not readily recognized. However, I think the fact that pornography is now ubiquitous, not only through the Internet, but it’s finding it’s way in a strange way, in some ways very obvious, into mainstream culture where even our culture, the accepted culture, the prime time culture, is becoming more pornographic in some ways. That’s what makes it uncomfortable. It’s right there. Everybody knows it’s there. Everyone has been exposed to it, our children exposed to it earlier and earlier. And yet we still have many who say that it’s this shifting line. They’ll argue what was considered pornographic a hundred years ago today is considered tame. So we really are ever enlightening our society to become more comfortable with our bodies. But it’s a problem, and there’s no doubt about that. We’ll talk about pornography this entire hour of Issues, Etc. We’re coming to you live this Tuesday afternoon, September 21. I’m Todd Wilken. This is Issues, Etc. Thanks for tuning us in.

We’re going to give away Dr. John Kleinig’s book, Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today, in this hour to the listener with the best question or comment on the subject of pornography. Dr. John Kleinig will be our guest for this entire hour. Dr. John Kleinig is Lecturer Emeritus at Australian Lutheran College, and he’s author of the book Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today. Dr. Kleinig, welcome back.

KLEINIG: Thank you.

WILKEN: What is it? Our lawmakers here in the United States have famously said, and so many of them have said, that when it comes to things pornographic, things obscene, we can’t define it, but we know it when we see it. Is there something more objective to hang onto by way of a definition of pornography?

KLEINIG: It’s notoriously difficult to define, because it’s very easy to confuse, say, nudity with pornography. We need to realize that God made us nude, naked. He didn’t clothe us initially, and clothing’s only something that He gives to us after the Fall. But I would define pornography as the depiction of sexual activity for the purpose of sexual arousal and most particularly, to be quite clear, for the purpose of masturbation, to be quite blunt about it. So it’s the depiction of sexual activity—heterosexual, homosexual, masturbatory—for the purpose of sexual arousal and then masturbation.

WILKEN: Okay, that is a blunt, very forthright, honest definition of the thing. Let’s make that distinction that you think we need to make, and I agree with you completely. Let’s go back to where you begin, and that is originally before the Fall into sin our first parents—explicitly in Scripture—they were naked. They were not ashamed. There was no such thing as pornography before the Fall.

KLEINIG: No. And there was only nudity. And they were not only naked to each other, but they were naked to God. They had nothing to hide. And there was nothing wrong with that because they were in that not only clean state, but a holy state. So the pornography has to do with the perversion of our sexuality after the Fall and perversion of sexual desire. Perversion always takes something that’s good, is twisted around and abused in a way that was never intended to be used.

WILKEN: We tend to think about pornography as a fairly recent development in our society. Does it have a history, a long history in the discourse of man?

KLEINIG: It has a very, very long history. In fact, it’s nothing new. Some of the oldest pictures that we have are pornographic. And right through the story of humanity there’s always been a fascination with what we’d say pornographic depiction of sexual activity. Now what’s this? However there are some things that are new. In the ancient world pornography, as far as we can gather, had a religious significance. It was by means of sexual activity and sexual arousal that you tapped divine powers. And so it’s quite common to have pornographic imagery that is basically religious in its nature and intent in pagan societies. And that’s still to the present day, for example, in Hinduism. So pornography was very closely connected with religion, and sexuality was not just moral, psychological, but always had religious significance.

We have now reached a stage were due to the desacralization of our society where we see that there’s no connection between sexuality and spirituality. You have psychology, physicality, yes, but not spirituality and not religion. And the other big difference, the big turning point is basically the Internet. Stuff that was done in secret and that you had to go out of your way and to some extent into the public domain to access, say statuettes or pictures or books or magazines, are now available in secret on the Internet. And it’s not just still pictures but you get actual video depiction of sexuality. And worse than that on Skype you can have interactive sexual activity in a safe way, in a way with another person of the same sex or opposite sex. Now that is new, and that’s one of the things that has brought a whole new dimension to pornography that was never there before.

WILKEN: Other than it’s obvious broad appeal—not a good appeal, but it’s broad appeal—how do you, looking at it as a theologian, explain the problem it’s become? Obviously always a problem, but now viral, not only in the Internet sense but in the spiritual sense. It is being acknowledged in every quarter of the Church that this is a serious and epidemic problem.

KLEINIG: Yes. It’s not only in the Church. It’s out there in the world. Social workers are aware of it. Legislators are aware of it. And particularly psychologists are aware.

WILKEN: Is it just the technology or is there something else at work here?

KLEINIG: That’s what, well, people are puzzled, because what seems to be new or different is the whole range of sexual addictions and addiction to pornography. Now there are certain aspects about pornography that you can explain physically. So, for example, if you view pornography and at the same time masturbate, you are actually rewiring your brain, but you’re also rewiring to some extent your body. So it’s a physical reconfiguration that occurs. And you’re doing the same psychologically. So it has a profound physical and psychological impact

But even going down that road, it still doesn’t explain very strange phenomena. And this is something that I don’t think any of us have yet put our finger on. I’ve yet to see any satisfactory explanation for this. Why is it, for example, that of our young pastors it’s not the weakest ones, it’s not the ones with the worst marriages, it’s not the ones that are psychologically inadequate, but those who are most spiritual have had the worst battles, coming from the happiest marriages—so there’s no psychological reason for it—have the worst battles with pornography. And that seems to indicate that it’s not terribly helpful just to regard pornography as a physical activity or a psychological activity and try and deal with it physically and psychologically – physically in terms of aversion therapy, if you like; psychologically in terms of some cognitive rewiring of your brain – but it’s a profound spiritual problem. And that’s what interests me, and in my dealing with people who are Christians and very often pastors, seminary students who are addicted to pornography, the key to this is the understanding of its spiritual nature.

WILKEN: Now that’s where we need to go next…


WILKEN: …and it sounds to me like you have brought us around full circle. You talked about the historical roots of pornography being in pagan religions, and we can deny it all we want that religious considerations and human sexuality are divorced from one another. We can maintain that if we like, but it sounds as though the religious aspects of this have found their way right back into our lives via this addiction to this pornography. When we come back, we’re going to talk more about it with Dr. John Kleinig. We invite your questions and your comments. Given the very sensitive nature of this subject, of course if you want to call or email us anonymously, send us a tweet, we will by all means honor your request to remain anonymous.


WILKEN: Welcome back to Issues, Etc. We’re talking about pornography for this entire hour on this Tuesday after noon, the 21st of September. Dr. John Kleinig is here in the studio with us. He’s Lecturer Emeritus at Australian Lutheran College and author of the book Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today.

You use a term, Dr. Kleinig, about this in spiritual terms: sabotage and gradual entrapment. That this is, to put it as plainly as we can in Biblical terms, a tool of the devil to pervert a good gift of God and turn it against us. Talk about that if you would.

KLEINIG: Yes, that’s absolutely right. I think we need to start by making a very old distinction which was not just Biblical but was quite common in the ancient world and which you find in the Bible. The distinction is made between “desire,” which is good. So sexual desire is good. God created us in such a way that I as a man should desire a woman, and a woman should desire me as a man. Now sexual desire is good, and it’s part of a whole range of desires, natural desires, that we have. Now they distinguish between “desire” and “passion.” Now passion is where you take what’s a normal emotion, a normal desire, and it becomes disordered. And instead of you controlling it, it controls you. So, for example, sexual desire becomes lust, and hunger becomes gluttony and greed. So you get that twisting of desire from being in control, we being in control of it, to it controlling us.

Now the normal pattern is that there’s a very common pattern that happens with us if we access pornography or similar things. You look forward to it with great excitement. And the key to understanding it is there’s an interface between the imagination, what we visualize, and the body and feelings. So our imagination affects us physically, sexually, and then we have certain feelings and those feelings are good feelings. But the normal pattern is that you look forward to it with excitement and anticipation. You get involved in it because you feel emotionally flat or dissatisfied. You look for some emotional satisfaction, some emotional stimulation. But then after the event, then you get a switch that occurs, and very often you look back not with enjoyment. It doesn’t satisfy; it merely whets the appetite for more, on the one hand. On the other hand, you look back with some degree of shame or even disgust, which is a very funny kind of a mechanism if one looks at it.

Now the way Satan uses our desires against us and perverts them. So the normal pattern is that he tempts us to sin. And then once we have sinned, then he accuses us of sinning. And then he uses that to condemn us and to shame us in such a way that we’re filled with disgust at ourselves and we become ashamed of ourselves and we feel that we are totally unacceptable. And in this way he corrupts what’s good. Sexuality, sexual desire, even imagination and sexual imagination is good in itself, but become corrupted and used against us. What is holy is profaned. What is clean is made unclean. And all the while – and this is the hidden dimension of pornography – sexuality in itself, sex or the opposite sex, the picture that we have of the opposite, becomes our idol that we look to for emotional stimulation, for emotional enjoyment. We look to it for good. And so by getting us hooked, he entraps us in a kind of idolatry and in that way sabotages our spiritual life.

WILKEN: Is this what – and I believe it’s the Apostle Paul when he so often warns against sexual immorality, and of course in that context probably not far from our context, though they didn’t have the Internet, they had access to all these things – is this why he says every sin (perhaps it’s our Lord who says this) every sin that a man commits outside his body is one thing, but sexual immorality a man commits against his own body?

KLEINIG: Yes. He says that in 1 Corinthians chapter 6 in connection with the young men in Corinth arguing that sex was as natural as eating and drinking. So if they felt the need for it, why shouldn’t they have sex with some of the local prostitutes? And he says therefore this is not just a moral matter. Your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. You are desecrating Christ and His holiness. And it’s in that connection, he says, all other sins we commit are outside the body; it’s other people’s bodies. But this is one that we commit in our own body. If you like, it’s kind of… If you think of our bodies as temples, we have a little shrine to evil or darkness that is established within us that Satan can use against us. And I think that’s quite helpful. There’s a kind of a bridgehead for the evil one that he uses to defile us and desecrate our holiness.

WILKEN: Let’s take some questions from our listeners. This one is from Dean in St. Louis. He asks, “What are the affects of pornography, from how it affects our view of the opposite sex to what it does to the partner of someone who views it? So many men excuse there viewing of pornography by refusing to see the pain and the heartache it causes their wives. How do we protect ourselves and our children? What steps can we take to help maintain accountability both for ourselves and our kids? With over half of our clergy viewing porn, we need to be very open and candid about this very real threat to our families.” What are your thoughts there, Dr. Kleinig?

KLEINIG: My word, that’s a lot there.

WILKEN: Sure is.

KLEINIG: And I can’t possibly do justice to that. But it’s not just Christians but even psychologists and philosophers, and particularly feminist philosophers, have pointed out that what pornography does is treats human subjects as objects, as meat, if you like. And that has profound effects then. It distorts our whole sexuality, and it distorts marriage and normal sexual interactions. So a person then who has been shaped by repeated exposure to pornography, if you like, puts the image of the porn star over his wife and looks at her with pornographic eyes, not as a person, but as an object, as a sexual object and thing, and treats her in the same way, and then wants to engage in the kind of sexual activities that you see in pornographic films or depictions. And any sensitive woman will feel immediately that she’s not there and he’s not there. In a sense he interposes in his imagination another woman that he’s having sex with rather than his own wife. And that is profoundly disturbing and damaging. But I’m not an expert in this. That’s partly psychological and I prefer to go only that far.

WILKEN: Ken in Winter Park, Florida, asks this: “Some in the Church have condemned all nudity in fine art, consider it to be pornographic. Is any depiction of the nude considered pornography, or do we need to consider the context in which the nudity appears? Is there a Lutheran response to nudity in art?” Which I think in the past, especially in Church art, was actually rather common.

KLEINIG: Yes. As Paul says, everything that God has created is good. Nudity is created by God; it’s good. It’s sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. But anything that’s good can be abused. So the important thing is not just context, but the use. No, nudity in itself is neither good or evil. It’s the use that you put to it that determines whether it’s good or evil. And Christians – I think it’s more a problem here in North America, as far as I can see – have discredited the Christian faith by being too prudish in sexual matters and equating nudity with pornography. There is a proper enjoyment of the human body. Think the Song of Songs, that this is God’s Word and it’s God’s Word for our sexual enjoyment and our sexual sanctification. And there’s key passages in the Song of Songs, which is a great treasure for us as Christians, in which both the man and the woman enjoy each other’s bodies, naked bodies, and admire each other. But there’s a difference. They don’t look at each other objectively and assessing their sexual organs or that kind of thing as sexual objects, but they admire the whole person.

So, for example, there’s two very famous passages where the bridegroom admires his woman/wife. And first of all, he starts off with the head and goes down to her bust and ends at the breasts. And then the other one is starting at the feet and going up to the hair. But all the parts of the body are admired in turn. He doesn’t look at her but he sees her, and he sees her imaginatively and appreciates her for what she is.

WILKEN: And it’s not an object, but this is his real, his actual wife or woman. When we come back, I want to pick up right there with Dr. John Kleinig. We’re talking about pornography on this Tuesday afternoon, September 21, taking your questions and comments as well. When we come back, another twenty-five minutes. Stay tuned.


WILKEN: We’re talking about pornography. Dr. John Kleinig is our guest here in the studio on this Tuesday afternoon, September 21. Dr. Kleinig is Lecturer Emeritus at Australian Lutheran College. He’s author of the book Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today. This book comes to us so highly recommended by some of our best guests and our listeners. I recommend it as well – Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today – to counteract all of the kind of how-to Christianity that is so hollow, so empty, and so popular today. This book is a great remedy.

Dr. Kleinig, one more word of diagnosis. You mentioned during the break that pornography itself is not the heart of the problem. It is a problem, but it is a symptom of a greater problem. What is that?

KLEINIG: Yes, I’m thinking spiritually here. It’s not very helpful and you won’t get anywhere in dealing pastorally with the problem of pornography if you focus merely on pornography. So, for example, I have been walking with a dear person, a man who’s troubled with pornography, and he wants more than anything else to be freed from it and has tried everything. But it’s most evident to me and increasingly evident to him that the real issue lies much deeper, and it has to do with issues basically of the First Commandment and the assurance of his salvation, the assurance of the fact that he is holy in God’s eyes. So I would say that the key to helping people with pornography is to see that sexuality very often is the index of something that’s happening in the spiritual realm. And the issue is ultimately having to do with the First Commandment and idolatry, and in this case it’s sexual idolatry.

And it’s very interesting that in the passage that I find most helpful and I’ve used most of all in ministering to people who are addicted to pornography is Ephesians chapter 5, and the key section is from verse 3 through to verse 14. There Paul says in verse 5, “You may be sure of this, that everyone who is a fornicator” – and fornicator is not just a physical fornicator, but also in mind, you know, in terms of mentality, imagination – “or impure, or who is covetous” – here in the same sense sexually covetous – “greedy” – this kind of gradation, you have a pornographic activity, either actual or in your imagination, makes you unclean and that whets the appetite, which is never satisfied – and then he goes to say, “that is, an idolater, has any place, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” So he goes from the issue of porn, if you like – porneia is the word in Greek – to idolatry. And so any kind of psychological, physical therapy won’t do. But instead Ephesians 5 gives us, if you like, five different dimensions in dealing with this. Would you like me to speak about them in turn?

WILKEN: Yes, speak of them if you would.

KLEINIG: Number one, and if I just read, Paul says, “but sexual immorality” – that’s fornication; porneia, from which we get the word pornography, you see the same thing, which is the activity of a prostitute. So “fornication and all impurity or covetousness must not be named among you as is proper among the saints.” This is the important thing. He’s talking not in moral terms, but in terms of our holiness. We are holy, and that’s the starting point. “Let there be no filthiness or foolish talk or crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving” – this is all sorts of sexual kind of innuendo and stuff that’s so common. And then he goes on, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on the sons of disobedience.”

Okay. The first step is to stop excusing. You know, if I’m involved in addiction to pornography, to stop excusing myself and looking at it from a human point of view, but accept God’s diagnosis of this. And it’s very severe. He says, “This must not even be named among those who are holy people.” Out in the world is one thing, but among saints this is the point of difference. That’s God’s diagnosis. And he says, “You can be sure of this, that anybody who engages in let’s just say pornography has no inheritance in the kingdom God and Christ.” Now this is carefully nuanced. It has the present tense here. It doesn’t say, “They will be damned.” They’re still heirs, but they don’t have, they can’t enjoy the inheritance that God wants to give them as saints already now in this life.

WILKEN: They’re not participating in the inheritance.

KLEINIG: They’re not participating in the inheritance, enjoying the inheritance. They are spiritually impoverished as a result of what they do. So that’s the first step, if you like – to accept God’s diagnosis in His Word and to accept the fact that the basic problem is idolatry, and sexual idolatry, that sex has become an idol for me. Instead of a means to an end, it’s become an end in itself.

The second thing that Paul mentions, and this is most surprising in coming right up front. He says, “Instead, let there be thanksgiving.” Now this is a little phrase that you can overlook. One of the problems that leads to pornography is sexual dissatisfaction with one’s own partner, sexual partner. And he says, “Let there be thanksgiving” to realize that I’m not entitled to sexual intercourse or sexual activity. There are two things. Number one, it’s a gift from my partner, and it’s a gift from God. And one of the ways to circumvent pornography is to thank God for what you have—thank God for being single, thank God for being married, thank God for the wife or husband you have, and even to thank your partner for the sexual favors that they bestow, if I can put it that way. So thankfulness to the other person and also to God begins to change our whole attitude toward sex. Instead of something that I’m entitled to, seeing it in gift terms, not only as gift from God but seeing as gift from the other person. And as such then it’s not something that I can demand or appropriate to myself.

The third thing that Paul says, and this is most important. He says later on, “Walk as children of the light for the fruit of the light is in all that is good and right and true, and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” – and here comes the critical part – “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them, for it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed to the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.”

WILKEN: Now this is very important here.

KLEINIG: This is the core.

WILKEN: We’re not talking here simply about saying pornography is bad, or even saying “Oh, I have a problem with this.” There’s a very particular shape to this. You say that the Church’s remedy is, as with every sin, Confession and Absolution, what Christ has empowered the Church to do.

KLEINIG: Yes, and it’s not exposing other people. So it’s not my job to expose and to shame people who are into pornography, but to expose myself to the light of God’s presence. And that’s the hardest thing, because Satan works best in this area when it’s kept hidden and the element of shame then stops us from bringing it out into the open. And the very fact of confessing it to another person, another Christian, but to a pastor and to God, brings the area of darkness into the light. And it does two things. One is that you can see it. As long as it’s in the dark you can’t see what’s going on, and Satan can twist it and use it, and you don’t see what he’s actually doing. But the other thing is that just by bringing it into the light the darkness is expelled. And to some extent one half of the problem is dealt with. So as soon as something that’s in the dark becomes exposed to the light, it ceases to be dark. So it loses its power when it is confessed. And not just once. People have the idea that, you know, one confession of this will deal with it. But repeatedly, that whenever it happens, you confess it to another Christian but best of all a pastor, and to receive the Absolution for it. And that has been the key for everybody that I’ve had some dealings with in terms of pornography is that practice of Confession and Absolution. And then one step further is not just to stop with the Absolution, but then to say, “Okay, next Sunday I want you to go to church to receive the blood of Jesus, the blood of Jesus which cleanses you quite specifically from the impurity that you’ve suffered and makes your body holy again.”

WILKEN: Okay, let’s take a break, and when we come back, not the conventional solution offered by pop-psychology or even pop-American Christianity, but the one that Scripture gives to us and – surprise, surprise – it’s found right there in the Church, the preaching of Christ, His Absolution, and in the Lord’s Supper. When we come back, we’ll talk more about pornography and take your questions and comments in the last ten minutes with Dr. John Kleinig.


WILKEN: Welcome back. I’m Todd Wilken. We’re talking about pornography. Ten more minutes with Dr. John Kleinig on this Tuesday afternoon.

Dr. Kleinig, we talked about hearing and accepting God’s diagnosis of this problem, responding with thanksgiving to the proper sexual vocation that God has put you in, be it singleness or marriedness, whatever it may be, to expose these things to the light of God’s law and to the light of His Gospel through Confession and Absolution, and then back to this kind of physical nature of the entire problem, to allow Christ to restore through His Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper the body that has been soiled by this sin that harms the body. You said there are five. Is there another one?

KLEINIG: Yes. That’s three, I think. The fourth one is: Paul says dissociate yourself. “Therefore do not associate with them” – that’s the sons of disobedience, the people who are going down this pornographic road. Now that’s the way of the world, and the world justifies it, and they see it purely as harmless sexual activity which in fact can improve your sexual life. It might desensitize you, but basically it’s not evil; it’s harmless. Paul says dissociate yourself from them and these activities. So there’s an element of discipline and renunciation. You need to see what the problems are and who are the problems and reject them. So Jesus says, in connection with imaginative fornication, that if our eye leads us to offend, we should cast it out, and if our hand leads us to sin sexually, we should cut it off. Now He doesn’t mean it literally, but it means quite literally that we cut ourselves off from the source of temptation, the eye, which is the imaginative, visual side, and the hand, which is the actual, physical connection. It involves self-discipline. So, for example, some people have found then that one of the ways of combating porn on the Internet is to put a filter on, or else to have it quite open so that then if they do it, their wife sees that they’ve been accessing it. I know even of one case of a young pastor who has disconnected is email, his whole Internet connection, and he only accesses his email from the local library. Now that’s the kind of thing. You’ve got to make the break. Cut it off, but maybe not immediately. That’s further down the line. Now be tough on yourself and recognize what happens to you.

The fifth thing is, Paul says, “And try to discern what pleases the Lord.” And that’s the other side of the thanksgiving, that God didn’t create us to be sexually frustrated. He wanted us to enjoy the good gifts He gives us sexually. And the important thing is not so much to focus on what pleases me sexually or what pleases my partner, because that can be as much of a problem as anything, but what pleases the Lord, and to accept that He’s not a killjoy. He’s not, in Australian terms, “a wowser,” a person who disapproves of anything you enjoy, including sexuality. But that He wants to give us all things, all His good gifts, for our enjoyment. And to learn then, and this much harder, and that’s the last, most difficult thing, is to learn to discern. It’s not obvious what pleases the Lord. And that may differ from person to person, marriage to marriage, situation to situation. So what pleases the Lord, say, in Africa is going to be different because of customs and the way people dress and marriage arrangements, it’s going to be different in North America, and it’s going to be different in Asia where you have a different culture.

WILKEN: This is from Jim in Evansville, Illinois. He says, “Pornography involves the sinful use of the imagination.” You’ve talked about that quite a bit.

KLEINIG: Yes, that’s critical.

WILKEN: “Could Dr. Kleinig talk more about the proper use of our imagination, why God has given it to us?”

KLEINIG: That’s the question I wanted above all questions. The biblical solution to this is not just negative. In fact, there’s very little that deals with it negatively. God has given us the Song of Songs. Now the Song of Songs, if you like, has to do with the reprogramming of our imaginations sexually, from negative to positive. Now the remarkable thing about the Song of Songs is that it appeals at every single line to our imagination. It consists of a dialog between a woman, who’s the main character, and a man. So the focus is on verbal intimacy first of all, verbal intimacy. And the woman takes the lead, and the man responds to the woman. So she is in the forefront and helping him to refine his imagination sexually in a way that doesn’t debase her in any way. So you get that dialog and then you get the appreciation of each other visually. So you get verbal intimacy first, then you get visual intimacy, and in the whole book there’s no physical intimacy. The focus is on these two things. And in this whole program, I mean in the whole book, if you follow it through, the story of it, and realize that it’s God’s Word, it’s God’s Word for, if you like, the refinement, the purification of our imagination for not only natural sexual enjoyment but to sanctify sexual enjoyment. If it is the Word of God, and everything is sanctified by the Word of God, then the Song of Songs is given to us for the sanctification of our sexual imagination.

Now that’s one of the key things that we need to realize. What the devil does is to take our sexual imagination, which is very, very important and a precious gift, and pervert that. What God does is gives us the Song of Songs and other similar material to, as His Word, to sanctify our sexuality.

WILKEN: So we’re really talking about something as simple as kind of that Adam and Eve moment where shall we receive this as a gift and hear what God says of it and allow God’s Word to have it’s way in our minds and in our bodies, or shall we close ourselves off from the gift that God has given us by listening to what Satan wants to tell us about this gift and how he wants to use it against us?

KLEINIG: Yes, yes. And to take it… What he wants to do is this is a right, this is our possession, and no longer seeing it as gift anymore, as a gift from another person and as a gift from God.

WILKEN: Talk finally then, with about thirty seconds, if you would, Dr. Kleinig, about the full and free forgiveness, the full sufficiency of Christ’s atonement for us even in the depths and entanglement that we find in this sexual sin. About thirty seconds, Dr. Kleinig.

KLEINIG: Christ is not only our holiness, but He is our purity. And that means that in Christ we can be... If I can put it another way, it’s very interesting psychologically: psychologists talk about “re-virgination” psychologically. Now a lot of that sounds to me just as fanciful talk and I’m not completely convinced by it, although there’s something in it. However, through Christ, faith in Christ, through the Holy Spirit, we can be, if you like, sexually “re-virginated” in the deepest sense, not just in a natural sense or psychological sense, but spiritually, so that we are through the washing of water with the Word, like the bride of Christ, we can be spotless and blameless before Him. So what’s very, very important is that Satan wants to tempt a person who’s been involved in pornography to stay away from the Lord’s Supper. And to realize that if you come to the Lord’s Supper trusting in Christ and in His forgiveness and receive the Absolution, then there’s nothing to be ashamed of. When Christ looks as you, even if you’ve been involved in pornography, He says to you, “You’re My beloved son. You’re my beloved daughter. I’m well pleased with you.”

WILKEN: Dr. John Kleinig is Lecturer Emeritus at Australian Lutheran College, author of the book Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today. I believe that it’s going to go to – oh, my goodness, let’s see – I think it’s going to go to Jim in Evansville, Illinois, the copy of Grace Upon Grace. Dr. Kleinig, thank you very much for your generosity in time today.

KLEINIG: Thank you, Todd.

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Issues, Etc. Transcript – “Pornography” – page PAGE 10