Forever at Concordia Seminary

cslThe Gottesdienst blog today has a post in which it seeks to expose the worship practices occurring at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.  Those that know me who tell you that I am one who uses the liturgy and hymnody of the Church each week with joy.  I am one who understands quite clearly the concern about churches of our confession leaving behind those treasures for something very shallow and at times toxic to pure theology.

But on the whole all of the outrage over the video that Concordia Seminary posted seems quite overdone, at least from the small amount of information offered on the Gottesdienst post.  It is nothing more than red meat thrown out to the confessional lions.  No doubt the hit count will be high.  But will anything else be accomplished?

Although it is not specifically mentioned in the post referenced, the real outrage on Facebook about this video is that it is an example of contemporary worship occurring at one of our seminaries.  For many, this is enough to explode.  Pulling a guitar out of the case will set them off. They react to the instrumentation and the presentation right away.  It must be wrong because it must be wrong.  Some have not ever progressed beyond, “Organ good.  Guitar Bad” in their thinking about corporate worship. 

Another complaint is that this is simply copycatting evangelicals who do not share our confession.  That may well be.  But we must apply that consistently.  We should ask in every case if our similarity to these other confessions shows forth an underlying lack of understanding of our own confession, but we cannot just say that because something looks like what is being done in a heterodox church, it is necessarily heterodox.

The next critique is of Chris Tomlin himself.  And no doubt, he holds to a  heterodox confession of faith.  But does that mean that we cannot use anything he or others of a heterodox confession might produce?  If so, we will need to start tearing pages out of our hymnals.  We have hymns from many who held to heterodox confession in their lifetime (and I am not just talking about Twila Paris).

The next critique is the song itself.  There is more than a bit of irony in critiquing this song which was inspired by Psalm 136 about having too much repetition.  If that is the charge, Psalm 136 must go as well.  Look it up.  While I will agree that the song is fairly shallow in theology, I do not see anything that is heterodox especially when used in a liturgical context.  For those who insist every song must explicitly reference Jesus, we must then say that the Psalter is no longer suitable for Christian worship either.  This song also is very God-centered which is rare for CCM songs.  It speaks much more about God than the worshiper, laudably so.

Others have questioned the musical skill of those performing.  I am not trained enough to make a definitive statement about this other than to say that many of our churches use the liturgy and hymnody and yet do not have musicians of the highest quality.  To my untrained ear, the talent was not superb but it was not distractingly bad either.

Listen if Concordia, my alma mater is regularly throwing away the liturgy for some order of service meant solely to entertain, I am outraged also.  If the hymnody of the church is being throw away for the latest CCM iTunes playlist, I am outraged also.  But I do not know this to be the case and have seen no real evidence that it is.

If a song of praise is included once and a while and it is performed using instrumentation other than the organ, I am not outraged.  So long as the song is not teaching something false, I am not outraged.  Songs that foster meditation on one or two characteristics of God are not evil.  If that is all we get in worship as is the case in some churches. including our own, there is an issue. But if such songs are included in the context of liturgy and hymnody that is more didactic in nature, it is not inherently bad and may well be good.

I like red meat on my plate.  But not on my Facebook feed.  It only serves to make it harder to foster deep conversation, scriptural reflection, and confessional discussion about the true nature of Christian worship. When something like this video is put forth as an atrocious occurrence, we will have no chance to speak about things that are truly atrocious going on in the Church.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 20th, 2015 at 11:23 am and is filed under Theology and Practice. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “Forever at Concordia Seminary”

  1. Rev. Matthew Uttenreither Says:

    What Roman practices have you seen at CTS?

    As for me, I stand with this old St. Louis prof:
    We refuse to be guided by those who are offended by our church customs. We adhere to them all the more firmly when someone wants to cause us to have a guilty conscience on account of them. The Roman antichristendom enslaves poor consciences by imposing human ordinances on them with the command: “You must keep such and such a thing!”; the sects enslave consciences by forbidding and branding as sin what God has left free. Unfortunately, also many of our Lutheran Christians are still without a true understanding of their liberty. This is demonstrated by their aversion to ceremonies.

    It is truly distressing that many of our fellow Christians find the difference between Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism in outward things. It is a pity and dreadful cowardice when a person sacrifices the good ancient church customs to please the deluded American denominations just so they won’t accuse us of being Roman Catholic! Indeed! Am I to be afraid of a Methodist, who perverts the saving Word, or be ashamed in the matter of my good cause, and not rather rejoice that they can tell by our ceremonies that I do not belong to them?

    It is too bad that such entirely different ceremonies prevail in our Synod, and that no liturgy at all has yet been introduced in many congregations. The prejudice especially against the responsive chanting of pastor and congregations is of course still very great with many people — this does not, however, alter the fact that it is very foolish. The pious church father Augustine said, “Qui cantat, bis orat–he who sings prays twice.”

    This finds its application also in the matter of the liturgy. Why should congregations or individuals in the congregation want to retain their prejudices? How foolish that would be! For first of all it is clear from the words of St. Paul (1 Cor. 14:16) that the congregations of his time had a similar custom. It has been the custom in the Lutheran Church for 250 years. It creates a solemn impression on the Christian mind when one is reminded by the solemnity of the divine service that one is in the house of God, in childlike love to their heavenly Father, also give expression to their joy in such a lovely manner.

    We are not insisting that there be uniformity in perception or feeling or taste among all believing Christians-neither dare anyone demand that all be minded as he. Nevertheless, it remains true that the Lutheran liturgy distinguishes Lutheran worship from the worship of other churches to such an extent that the houses of worship of the latter look like lecture halls in which the hearers are merely addressed or instructed, while our churches are in truth houses of prayer in which Christians serve the great God publicly before the world.

    Uniformity of ceremonies (perhaps according to the Saxon Church order published by the Synod, which is the simplest among the many Lutheran church orders) would be highly desirable because of its usefulness. A poor slave of the pope finds one and same form of service, no matter where he goes, by which he at once recognizes his church.

    With us it is different. Whoever comes from Germany without a true understanding of the doctrine often has to look for his church for a long time, and many have already been lost to our church because of this search. How different it would be if the entire Lutheran church had a uniform form of worship! This would, of course, first of all yield only an external advantage, however, one which is by no means unimportant. Has not many a Lutheran already kept his distance from the sects because he saw at the Lord’s Supper they broke the bread instead of distributing wafers?

    The objection: “What would be the use of uniformity of ceremonies?” was answered with the counter question, “What is the use of a flag on the battlefield? Even though a soldier cannot defeat the enemy with it, he nevertheless sees by the flag where he belongs. We ought not to refuse to walk in the footsteps of our fathers. They were so far removed from being ashamed of the good ceremonies that they publicly confess in the passage quoted: “It is not true that we do away with all such external ornaments.”

    Theological address given at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, August 9, 1871, at the 16th Central District Convention. (Essays for the Church, Vol. I, pp. 193-194)

  2. Matt Jamison Says:

    Where at the Gottesdienst blog does it say anything about “horrendous worship practices?” What argumentation of any kind do you see on the Gottesdienst post?

  3. Paul Beisel Says:

    I think that Fr. Beane adequately addresses many of your points in the latest blog post from Gottesdienst.

  4. Matt Jamison Says:

    I am interested to read your response to the arguments that Fr. Beane makes today at Gottesdienst.

  5. Rev. Matthew Uttenreither Says:

    I still want to know what these Roman practices are at CTS?

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