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Messages - R. T. Fouts

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16
Your Turn / Re: The Public Role of the Pastor In The Community
« on: February 14, 2013, 12:29:51 PM »
I think the definition the resolution identifies is the rub...

I think it's far simpler.

Ask people, "Why are you gathering today?"

If the answer is, "to worship God," then it is to worship God... it's a worship service.

If the answer is, "to hear some comfort after this unspeakable tragedy" then it doesn't matter what "elements" might seem to bear some similarity to "worship," they are not gathering to worship.

Rev. Fouts,

So if I asked that question to your congregational members some Sunday, the only ones who attended worship that day would be those who explicitly said they had come to worship?  What if they had said they came to hear the Word of God?  Would that be worship?  What if they said they came to be strengthened?  Would that be worship?  What if they said they had come for comfort?  Would that be worship?  All those answers are legitimate, if properly understood.  So what if a person said the he came to an interfaith prayer vigil to hear the Word of God (meaning the Koran)?  Or to be strengthened, or comforted?  Is it not worship anymore?

Then ask them, "did you come here to worship today?"   

I don't think, in these events, that people would say yes.   If I were to ask the people in my congregation, on a Sunday, "did you come here to worship today?" regardless of whether or not they came to "hear the Word" or to "be strengthened," they would still answer "yes."  They came to worship. 

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Your Turn / Re: The Public Role of the Pastor In The Community
« on: February 14, 2013, 12:26:02 PM »
Mike -

It's simple.   I have yet to hear someone say, "Oh, You LCMS Lutherans believe that all gods are the same?" after seeing such an event.   Not once have I heard this testimony. 

I have heard, though, many testimonies to the effect, "I hope you aren't one of those Lutherans who forbids your pastor to pray with other people... I want no part of that." 

So... what action is REALLY leading more people astray?   


18
Your Turn / Re: The Public Role of the Pastor In The Community
« on: February 14, 2013, 12:16:36 PM »
There have been apologies aplenty... by people who, arguably, didn't really need to apologize for their actions.   The oddity is that the one group that really kick started this whole thing, while PRAISING apologies as the Lutheran way... is not offering an apology themselves for their role in this matter.  That is -- the Brothers of John the Steadfast.   It would go a long way if they would make an apology for the offense they caused in all of this...  at least they would be consistent.  Will such an apology come?  Whether they, themselves, feel like they are guilty for this matter... the fact is that their forum has provided such a public display of inner controversies that has allowed the media to pick up on a scandal like this.   The oddity is that I agree with the Brothers a lot of the time... but I wish they would find a way to change their forum, so that the commentary would be viewable through "log in" only, and not in "googleable" view from the public... and the media.   

19
Your Turn / Re: The Public Role of the Pastor In The Community
« on: February 14, 2013, 12:11:15 PM »
I think the definition the resolution identifies is the rub...

I think it's far simpler.

Ask people, "Why are you gathering today?"

If the answer is, "to worship God," then it is to worship God... it's a worship service.

If the answer is, "to hear some comfort after this unspeakable tragedy" then it doesn't matter what "elements" might seem to bear some similarity to "worship," they are not gathering to worship. 

20
Your Turn / Re: The Public Role of the Pastor In The Community
« on: February 13, 2013, 09:45:36 PM »
I wonder how different our attitudes about proclaiming the Gospel in a pluralistic culture would be different if Christianity had never enjoyed "favored" status in America... and had once been a predominantly Muslim nation...   I bet we'd be singing a different tune, and jumping at the opportunities a pluralistic culture offers us...    Don't get me wrong... The Christian message doesn't jive with pluralism... but historically speaking, the Church has done quite well (arguably, better than not) in pluralistic societies.   There are some advantages to a pluralistic culture -- namely, we actually GET invited to things.   

21
Your Turn / Re: How does anyone know our beliefs about the Lodge?
« on: February 12, 2013, 10:41:49 PM »
Believe it or not, the Boy Scouts have organizations just as weird couched within their ranks.  Like the Order of the Arrow or the Tribe of Mic-o-say.  They say prayers to the "great spirit" and have all sorts of strange secretive ceremonies.  I am an Eagle Scout.  I didn't think much of it as a kid and just went along with it all, but looking back, it was some strange stiff going on there.  Masons, as I understand, are similar but for adults.  Many members don't seem to see the inconsistency with Christian beliefs.  Convincing them to renounce the lodge, when I have no experience with it per say, when they have never seen it as conflicting with their faith is a bit of a challenge. 

22
Your Turn / Re: The Public Role of the Pastor In The Community
« on: February 10, 2013, 03:40:01 PM »
And yes -- vitriol in our current climate is more destructive than even bad theology.

That is a very popular conviction in American society.  We pit "telling the Truth" against "with Love" as a false dichotomy and sacrifice the Truth on the altar of "love."  God help us tell the Truth with Love! 

It is not the preacher of false doctrine, but the one who calls him on it, who gets cast into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth -- if he is not winsome enough in his reproof.  It's sad, really, that a sweet salesman of lies is more respected than an angry messenger of God. 

"For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword."
(Proverbs 5:3-4)

Well it is the reality of how people see things in our culture.  We can complain about how it shouldn't be all day long -- but if we're going to engage culture effectively, we should be sure that we learn to handle ourselves in a way that doesn't add offense.  We really don't have a choice.  We either learn to temper our vitriol, or sit there stubbornly while we allow ourselves to become an offense that is a barrier to the Gospel.  Playing the martyr as though people were really rejecting the Gospel, not our offensive posture, might make us feel better... but it isn't reality.   Frankly, I have no desire to talk to people who try to dialogue with the sort of vitriol on that site.  We can correct one another in compassion, without being buttheads about it, dismissing them, mocking them, etc.     

23
Your Turn / Re: The Public Role of the Pastor In The Community
« on: February 10, 2013, 12:02:31 AM »
The quotes from steadfastlutherans.org that showed up in the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch are quotes I had said, at the time, one had better hope they are never seen by the public.   I have long been saying...

Are you saying the "vitriol" over there is more threatening to the faith of the lambs than some of the oh-so-civilly-stated abominations that pass for Lutheran around here?

Here at least you can have civil disagreement.  And yes -- vitriol in our current climate is more destructive than even bad theology. People don't buy into everything they hear.  They hear it, and consider it.  When they find vitriol, people speaking in a hateful manner toward each other, etc., it totally destroys any rapport one might have with them.  You can turn off someone to the entire corpus of Lutheran theology with vitriol alone.  I've seen it happen. 

This site also isn't as google-friendly.  These conversation topics don't track as highly on google as the blogs do.    Steadfast Lutherans regularly comes up in the top few searches when I'm looking for various things related to Lutheranism on Google.  Sometimes the stuff that comes up, while understandable to someone well steeped in the Lutheran world, could come across as offensive to someone who is simply curious about Lutheranism.  I think we just need to be aware of that.  The comments that were quoted in the Post-Dispatch today... while not in the articles themselves and most of them not from the contributors there... were pretty scandalous.  I am just saying that ANY of us who are running blogs... we need to be aware of the fact that the conversations we think we may be having are not "in-house" conversations.   We need to be a bit more sensitive to the fact that we are "googleable" and the media could pick up on these conversations (as happened today).   The world will jump at an opportunity to assault the church... we don't need to give them any more targets. 

24
Your Turn / Re: The Public Role of the Pastor In The Community
« on: February 09, 2013, 07:12:20 PM »
I agree with Scott as well.  The matter is ended in terms of any offense that President Harrison's letter might have caused.

It is not ended in terms of asking ourselves -- What might we learn from this?

The quotes from steadfastlutherans.org that showed up in the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch are quotes I had said, at the time, one had better hope they are never seen by the public.   I have long been saying that we need to be more careful about the ways we engage each other on online forums.   A simple "google search" has lead many to that site who have told me personally that it turned them off to Lutheranism entirely.   We can have these discussions -- but might there be a way to make these more "heated" discussions over controverted matters that the culture doesn't entirely understand private?  There is a lot of theological "groundwork" that needs to be done before someone is exposed to discussions over unionism, for example. 

Perhaps, some of these sites should require a log-in to view the "discussion" portions below the articles?   When new members google "Lutheran" because they are excited about what God has been doing in their lives, and they run into some of the sites like this... it doesn't really put our best foot forward.   I respect a lot of the pastors and commentators on that site, even though I don't always agree with them, but it is odd how very likable men can participate in such vitriol when we can hide behind our computer screens.   I think we all -- yes, myself included -- need to be a bit more cautious about the sorts of things we put out in public, google-able forums.   

25
Your Turn / Re: The Public Role of the Pastor In The Community
« on: February 08, 2013, 06:37:19 PM »
I find it odd that those who defend the necessity of such a witness like Pr. Morris gave during such a time are accused of pandering to pluralism or universalism. 

I see it as quite the opposite.   No one in our culture thinks that mutual cooperation, or sharing a stage, or praying in succession, means that we all agree.  In many respects, I think the problem is that while we may be very good biblical exegetes, we are not historically very good exegetes of our culture in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. 

It is precisely BECAUSE we affirm that there is ONE true God, and ONE true message of hope, that we simply cannot forfeit the stage to pagans, muslims, heathens, etc., in the midst of tragedy. To forfeit our presence may very well give the impression that we think their messages of hope are valid and sufficient.  It is precisely because of the particularity of the Gospel, that we not only can, but must do whatever we can to let our voice be heard during times of community tragedy such as these.   This is not "syncretism" as the constitution of Synod had intended it to be... it is standing up in the marketplace, and trusting that the ONE true hope will pierce through the muck and the mire, that the work of the Holy Spirit through the word will arrest consciences in His peace, in spite of the many lies that others tell from the same stage.  Our witness may not be perfect, we may stub a few toes, but thankfully it is the Holy Spirit who takes our words (even when imperfect) to His use.   

26
Your Turn / Re: The Public Role of the Pastor In The Community
« on: February 06, 2013, 12:19:56 PM »
There is also a very, very strong mindset in the LCMS to give "tradition" a very high level of credence.
Please provide examples of the LCMS "traditions" you had in mind when making the above statement.

I was referring to admonishments I received from several LCMS pastors for asking to see where something was noted in Scripture under the principle of "sola scriptura", and was told I was actually referencing "nuda scriptura". For example, the interpretation of Paul's admonishment to not allow pagans who worshiped the Roman or Greek pantheon as evidence that only members of a church of the LCMS denomination should share communion was based on tradition, not the clear word of scripture.


That's one illustrative example. That should be sufficient to demonstrate the type of interpretations I had in mind. That's the one that is now the theme of this digression in this particular thread.
Before proceeding, please define the difference between sola scriptura and nude scriptura. I do not wish to assume the difference.

As I have understood the way some have pushed the distinction is that "sola Scriptura" maintains that Scripture alone is the authority, but it is to be interpreted within the catholic tradition.   "Nuda scriptura" is usually said to be the approach that interprets Scripture alone, without considering tradition.   That said -- I don't think the distinction is all that helpful in this discussion, as there is no real consensus in any tradition about how the texts in question are to be understood in the light of our current context. 

27
Your Turn / Re: The Public Role of the Pastor In The Community
« on: February 06, 2013, 12:10:46 PM »
Responsible pastoral discretion is essential.  Though, it sort of begs the question (which is where there is vast disagreement amongst us across Synod) as to what "responsible" entails.   

28
Your Turn / Re: The Public Role of the Pastor In The Community
« on: February 06, 2013, 10:19:56 AM »
To be honest, I think a part of the problem is that we've never really come to grips with the "American" context regarding communion practice.   Of course the Confessions are not going to dictate the finer points of faithful practice on this matter for our context because the Confessions emerged in a time prior to denominationalism, and Lutheran theology grew up after the Reformation in a time governed by the peace of Augsburg where the faith of the prince was the faith of the people.   They never envisioned a time when congregations with different confessions of faith would, in some cases, be across the street from one another, or just a few blocks away.  They never envisioned a time when our congregants would go to work and engage on a daily basis with members of Methodist, Baptist, Assembly of God, etc., etc., etc., and find them to be very agreeable people who are "allies" with them in some respects against the rising tide of secularism around them.   

I'm not convinced we've really come up with a good "formula" for practice that prevents us from giving the Body and Blood of our Lord to people who would take it to their judgment, while also refraining from drawing such lines on an institutional, sectarian, basis.   We've offered up the "pastoral discretion" clause to prevent us from being sectarian with our practice.   While we've tried to say that demoninational membership is a "confession" of faith, is that really true in an age where attitudes are post-denominational and membership doesn't necessarily reflect one's views -- this being true even for those who are confirmed and receive the supper in our own LCMS congregations.   When a layman in an ELCA congregation, just as one in an LCMS congregation, affirms their faith as taught according to Luther's Small Catechism but they never sign a church constitution nor do they make any formal subscription to the rest of the Book of Concord... do rules govern how we exercise pastoral discretion amongst laity differently than how we would practice communion policy with clergy who have a more specific vow?   Further... have we really made the case that the divisions Paul is speaking of in 1 Corinthians, and the relevant texts, really are about "doctrinal" differences? Our exegesis on these texts sometimes pushes in the direction of eisegesis and the arguments that suggest that Paul was primarily dealing with a "doctrinal" division seem, frankly, to be a stretch.   

I practice according to the LCMS policy -- I believe it is my duty to do so because of my membership in Synod.  I haven't come up with a "better" alternative -- and even if I had, practicing like a "rogue" without the consensus of my fellow pastors would only exacerbate division and would prevent constructive conversation, study, and struggle through this matter that clearly needs to happen.  I think we have a lot more work to do on this topic to consider how faithful practice actually engages our diverse American context in ways that remain faithful (so people do not receive the Sacrament to their detriment), but avoids sectarianism.   

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Your Turn / Re: The Public Role of the Pastor In The Community
« on: February 04, 2013, 10:01:39 AM »
As one also inclined toward academics, I don't find it crazy to suggest that an opinion from seminary professors may be valid, but incomplete.  It is a valued voice to the matter, but not the only voice.  Even serving in a parish while still pursuing studies concurrently I find that unless I am steeped in real life ministry, my theology can quickly ascend to the ivory tower and dwell in theory that doesn't resonate with the less-than black and white experiences of common people.  This is no threat to the academic theologians or the seminary professors, we are all members of one body, and the seminary professor needs the pastor in the trenches as much as the pastor in the trenches needs the professor.  To discount or exalt one perspective to the exclusion of the other leaves is with a maimed body that functions less than optimally.

Robert Kolb, who probably had influence me more than any other professor, often said things like "what good are students if I can't learn from them?"  It is no wonder that one of the worlds most highly respected Reformation scholars, is also a highly respected missiologist.  He understood his role in the body, and is a better theologian than most precisely because be doesn't boast that his role is more vital than another.  That unique blend of confidence and humility is what I hope to attain.  I have a long way to go, I confess. 

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Your Turn / Re: The Public Role of the Pastor In The Community
« on: February 04, 2013, 09:51:46 AM »
P.S.
A search for something else led me to that "other site" and before I bailed out of that place, which I try to do as quickly as possible, I came across this "gem":
There are two kinds of people who cannot see the error of unionism and syncretism. The first are those who allow what we call today “Contemporary Worship” (CoWo). The second are those who are theological liberals. If you look at those arguing in defense of Pastor Morris’ sin on the various blogs they are the same usual suspects who are defending CoWo and also those who support the various hallmarks of liberalism such as open communion, women’s ordination, and the like.
That reads like "guilt by association," or "well, if those people support him, his sin is even worse than we thought" and it lays additional burdens on the Newtown pastor for things that are totally out of his control; and - without any evidence whatsoever - links the pastor to a faction in the synod that the people on that other site despise.
And since this comment was posted over there well after the Synod President said he hoped the matter was closed, we can see that the Synod President's admonition apparently does not carry much weight in those circles.

Ha. Because clearly contemporary worship is the great evil of our age. 

I could turn the tables and say that those who incessantly fear and condemn pastors who responsibly reflect Lutheran worship in a manner of diversity that respects the diversity of culture, without understanding their pastoral context or the people they serve, are similarly the ones who fear and condemn the actions of pastors who steeped in a community tragedy that one can hardly understand apart from being in the trenches with real hurting people do the best they can to proclaim the gospel of peace into hurting lives. 

Again, I don't see either argument as a guilt by association.  The lines are similarly drawn because either issue is merely symptomatic of deeper presuppositions about enculturation, as the Dost article I shared here a month or so ago maintained. 

In either case, the arguments of the critics who would condemn those who have embraced contemporary worship, or those who defend these unique opportunities to speak the only comfort of the Gospel into religiously diverse communities never seem to resonate with the experience of those who are actually worshipping with contemporary worship, or have been ministered to in this context.  Those who criticize such things from a distance seem to make critiques that don't resonate with the people in the situations they are critiquing.  People can shout all day long that contemporary worship will make our people like Pentecostals, but when I engage people on a daily basis who are very Lutheran but still worship in a different manner, their criticism will be quickly discounted and dismissed. If I am ministering to people in a crisis, and no one has gotten the impression that I agree with the Sikh or the Rabbi, criticisms from a rural pastor half way across the country will fall on deaf ears.

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