Monday, July 17, 2006

Purpose Driven Lutheranism

Sometimes, a quote is so good, I must share it with you. The quote is by Rev. Kurt Hering, pastor of Trinity Lutheran in Layton, Utah. He is quoting, Paul Proctor. He says, "While the adiaphora of cultural vehicles that bear the means of grace can and do change – such as language, music, instruments, artwork –Law/Gospel preaching of repentance and the forgiveness of sins should not, indeed cannot, ever be replaced by PowerPoint and other video presentations; the Sacraments should not, indeed cannot, be replaced by the thinly veiled, "Lutheranized" altar calls of open communion; the liturgy should not, indeed cannot, be replaced by the self-centered, attention seeking idolatry of "praise" oriented worship; confession/absolution should not, indeed cannot, be replaced by motivational appeals to good works and social action; catechesis should not, indeed cannot, be replaced by spiritual gift inventories .. .and the evangelism that is the Good News of Jesus Christ and the teaching of ALL that He has commanded for the making of disciples should not, indeed cannot, be replaced by slogans, logos, and toteboard encounters." Couldn't have said it better myself.


At 11:38 AM, Blogger Marie N. said...

Wow! That does encompass the whole debate. These devices create a false security. All that remians is profound emptiness when the pablum is removed and one is left with oneself.

At 12:01 PM, Blogger chaplain7904 said...

Rev. Hering writes: "While the adiaphora of cultural vehicles that bear the means of grace can and do change – such as language, music, instruments, artwork"

Rev. Kavouras responds: This is the only part of the post that made me wonder a bit.

The vehicles which bear the means of grace are not necessarily adiaphora. In any event, not that easy to change. If they were, one might argue that a power-point presentation, assuming the right theological content, could be used in place of a sermon. (As Rev. Hering rightly says.) Because of the rest of the article, I'm assuming the author has the best intentions when he writes the above-quoted words, but they do leave a lot of room for mischief.

Music, instruments and artwork are not as easily changeable as people might assume. In today's Western Christian understanding, the organ is the premier, un-equalled instrument for church music. Others may be used, but they will bring baggage with them, and are not that easily adaptable to true Christian worship (Divine Service).

A saxaphone will likely distract and detract. Bongo drums will detract and distract. A flute or trumpet (assuming it is well done) will add to the pnumbra.

There is nothing inherently good or bad about these instruements, but some are much harder to adapt and some easier to adapt to reverent church music.

Art is another case. Excuse me for saying this, but I don't like banners. They're a product of the 60's and a symbol of egalitarianism. As my friend Pastor Nemoyer says: "if I can do it, it's not art." However banners, in my never to be humble opinion, are iconoclastic in nature. A blunt challenge to Michaelangelo saying: see, I too am an artist.

Language too is a problem. I think we'd be immensely better off as the Lutheran Church had we not adopted modern versions of the Bible, and non-KJ language in liturgy and hymnody. This too is my humble opinion. I may be wrong, but I'm never in doubt.

At 2:51 PM, Blogger Marie N. said...

Hi Pastor K.

I don't disagree with you, but the changes in music and art that I thought of were perhaps earlier than those you thought of. Changing from vocal to organ music was a big musical change. Putting glass in windows was a big change, etc.

About banners -- In a building like 7500 they can add a lot. Without them there is nothing beautiful to look at. (This assumes the banners are nice looking and appropriate in subject). In a building like ours, they are tacky. Notable exceptions would be the very artistic and tasteful banners Eleanor crafted to coordinate with the building they were to adorn.

At 3:17 AM, Anonymous Mike said...

Roger That!

At 9:40 AM, Blogger stjohnstrongs said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 9:50 AM, Blogger stjohnstrongs said...

I appreciate the discussion. I must admit Hering's comment made me nervous. Adiaphora is such an over-used word. When I hear it, it makes my head explode. Language, music, instruments, artwork may be called adiaphora; but that does not mean that there are not certain qualities that each must have to be used in the church. Someone needs to write a book about understanding Adiaphora according to the Confessions in light of modern discussions. I agree that certain instruments must be avoided in the church to avoid contact or connection with the world. Our worship must be otherwordly. Professor Resch always taught us to ask the question when we were evaluating music to be used in the church: Does it take you to the world or does it take you to the church? There is and always must be a difference between what the world does and what the church does. We must do whatever it takes to maintain this distinction. It is so important. Our boys understand the distinction. They know that certain music is part of the world and certain music is part of the church. If they can understand the distinction, why can't we?

At 1:13 AM, Anonymous Pastor Hering said...

I just caught this discussion of what I posted on the CAT lists back in July.

Please understand, we at Trinity have made the difficult and trying journey from an eclectic, largely CW style of worship to the liturgical, sacramental Divine Service. We use LW -- mostly DSI with DSII (1st Setting) and DSIII on some feast days -- though we are evaluating and pondering the merits of LSB and have used its revised p. 15 order of worship.

When I speak of the adiaphora of cultural vehicles that can and do change, what I mean to say is that in Rome, with Romans, one would preach Latin in order to be understood. We preach in English for the same reason – to be understood. We use Lutheran hymnody -- faithfully trying to avoid that which is trite and/or anthropocentric -- but our instrument is a digital organ played from the rear of the nave in order to avoid a performance/entertainment orientation. We do not have the resources for a genuine pipe organ. We use vestments and paraments that incorporate symbols of the church that are easily recognizable, yet reflective of current style and using fabrics and other materials not necessarily available in generations past – e.g. my pastoral stoles were crafted by the Sister of the Precious Blood. We also use artwork such as that presented in Good News magazine, which surely shows a variance in styles through the years, and is even distributed over the internet for catechesis at times – the same, yet different. There may be a day when we will no longer have the services of a competent organist, at which time we may have to use other electronic means. As it is, our organist is LDS (adiaphora). But he faithfully plays what I give him to play without complaint or manipulation, which is more than I can say for two of our former “members” who have moved on to local “non-denominational” congregations since our church growth movement here has meant a return to the liturgy and a weekly celebration of closed communion.

Adiaphora is adiaphora only insofar as it does not change or interfere with the message and its nature as God’s personal communication with His dearly beloved and baptized children. We speak the language of the people in order to be understood, not in order to gild the lily. We employ an LDS organist who is talented and faithful in leading the liturgy and hymnody, not because he is more likeable or “contemporary,” but because that is what we have.

I appreciate your point re. room for mischief, Pr. Kavouras. So much so that I tried to minimize, if not eliminate that possibility in my introduction, where I wrote:
“From a Lutheran perspective, I think his observations are informative and helpful in analyzing our own incarnations of Purpose Driven/Church Growth methodology within Lutheranism. Try as we might to ‘Lutheranize’ the content, inevitably its style betrays Lutheran substance and its practice subverts Lutheran doctrine. Though not Lutheran himself [* at least as far as I can tell from the
information included below] Proctor speaks from sanctified common sense in identifying two foundational tactics of the Purpose Driven/Church Growth methodology:
1) ‘craftily [luring] and [enticing] the unwashed to church on Sunday, rather than focusing on the straight and narrow.’ **
2) ‘relying on the power of money, rather than the power of God.’ **”

What I have tried to get across is that adiaphora is not license to do as we please. It is freedom to use the earthly means we have available that best convey the Gospel in all its clarity and purity. Just because we have freedom in adiaphora does not mean that we should exploit that freedom. For in so doing we risk becoming subservient to wordly desires in the name of adiaphora.

In other words, it is not the calling or obligation of the pastor and congregation to be creative in worship or to try to make it more effective and appealing by plumbing the depths of adiaphora. The Divine Service centered in the means of grace is creative, effective and appealing of itself.

I hope this brings some more clarity and peace of mind in regard to what I have written. If not, please let me know where I may have erred or misled.

Thank you for your faithfulness in maintaining, clarifying and fighting for the integrity of our Lutheran worship.

Rev. Kurt M. Hering
Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
Layton, Utah


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