From the Disk of the Pastor February 2011
Dear Friends in Christ,
Heresy. Blasphemy. These are terms that we hear on a regular basis. Do we know what they mean? Do we understand how important that they are? Sadly, many today don’t know. And some even think that these are terms that are outdated. They no longer apply. These are words from the past. We must not think this way.
Heresy is teaching doctrines in the church that are contrary to the Bible. We believe that the Bible is, in its entirety, the Word of God. We believe that it contains all that God has revealed and all that we need to know to trust in God and be saved. We call this the Sufficiency of Scripture. We also believe that the Bible is sufficiently clear in its major teachings that a unified body of doctrine can be drawn from Scripture to which all Christians are to subscribe. This is not a new idea. This is exactly what the Church did in 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicea when they wrote the Nicene Creed. Scripture is clear in itself. We don’t need an authoritative group of church leaders to interpret it for us. Rome teaches falsely that the Bible is incomprehensible to ordinary men thus can we only get it right when the church tells us the correct meaning.
Blasphemy is insulting God. The teaching of heresy is one of many forms of Blasphemy we see in our world. It is perhaps the most outrageous because the perpetrators are inside the church.
What is at stake? Eternal salvation. All false doctrine has the ability to destroy faith. Often it makes people resistant to the Word and the correct doctrines drawn from the Word. This was Freidrich Wyneken’s complaint about the revival preachers, at the time of the founding of the synod. They taught their heresy, then left. When honest preachers came the people wouldn’t listen to them or the truth of God’s Word. The people just wanted a bigger show.
In the fourth century a British monk by the name of Pelagius taught a terrible heresy. He said that we save ourselves by our own works. Christ didn’t save us by His death on the cross. St. Augustine poured out a great deal of ink refuting this terrible heresy. Those that teach work-righteousness are called Pelagians.
Rome co-mingles grace, faith, and works. It’s not the crass work-righteousness of Pelagius. Works can only be done by grace, for example. We call this semi-Pelagianism. It is heresy and has caused many to fall from Christ. But when push come to shove, in the Roman system, grace is the key component. One can see this in their Last Rites when they place a crucifix on the chest of the dying and say place all your trust here. That’s something a Lutheran would do.
On the other hand, American mega church evangelicalism is totally Pelagian, that is 100% works-righteous. I’m talking here about Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Rob Bell, and numerous others. If you listen to their sermons you never hear about Christ, His substitutionary death, forgiveness of sins or anything like that. You will hear constantly about what you are supposed to do. This is law, not Gospel. In many cases these “churches” have even become gnostic - that is, that they over spiritualize the Christian faith. They deny that Christ was really a man at all. They deny the resurrection of the body. Because of course, such “churches” would teach that the body is evil, never mind that God created our bodies and saw that it was good.
Many of these false preachers are on television. I would encourage you to avoid them. Don’t watch them. There are a few that are reasonably sound. I think Coral Ridge is replaying old sermons by the late D. James Kennedy. While not in perfect agreement with us, he almost always clearly stated that our salvation is a gift of God, in Christ.
Sadly, many in our church body want to copy these false teachers. We must not fall into that trap. They have full buildings for a time. But it rarely lasts more than a few years. And the people there, for the most part, are on their way to hell. Why? Because they’re not hearing that Christ died for their sins. They’re constantly being told to trust in themselves and their own works. God is not blessing their ministries. They are simply confirming the lost in their unbelief.
We must cling to sound doctrine. Thankfully, as a confessional church, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We have generations of brilliant Christian thinkers who have gone before us. We have the Lutheran Confessions collected in the Book of Concord. We contend that they perfectly reflect the teachings of the Holy Scripture. We have the writings of the ancient fathers like Augustine, Athanasius, Chrysostom and others. We have the great Lutheran theologians like Gerhard, Calov, Sasse, Preus and so forth. All of these help us to more fully understand the Scriptures, as God has set them forth. This is not a small matter. False doctrine sends people to hell. Right doctrine - orthodoxy - shows us how Christ carries us into His eternal house, through Word and Sacrament.
Rev. Jody R. Walter
Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:104-105