* ‘THE AGE OF CHANGE’
Here is how one Protestant writer summed up changes for which, he says, the 20th century–‘The Age Of Change’–will be known in church history. It will be known as an era when (1) Biblical thinking was changed to psychological thinking; (2) Christ-centeredness was changed to self-centeredness; (3) the needs of others were changed to our own personal needs; (4) mental attitudes changed to become feelings; (5) humility and favor with God were changed to self-esteem; (6) sacrifice and service were changed for a ‘health and welfare Christianity’; and (7) faithfulness and loyalty changed to convenience.
This assessment is then given: “The end result in the church has been an acceptance–no, an embracing of the world’s philosophy.”
What makes this all so terribly sad is the realization that, with humility before God forced out of the picture, blood-bought souls are being misled (deceived) to their eternal peril.
Yes, the consequences are eternal.
In the church change is permissible and may even be devoutly wished in things neither commanded nor forbidden in the Word of God (adiaphora). But the changes itemized above–if they are a correct characterization, and it seems to us they are–are far removed from anything that could be construed as minor.
For as we see it, each of the avowed changes contributes–to a greater or lesser extent–to an undermining of the Christian message.
Biblical Lutheranism has always summarized the heart and core of that message as “Law and Gospel.” God’s Law accuses, convicts, and condemns all as sinners, worthy of death, temporal and eternal. God’s Gospel brings these same sinners the good news that there is forgiveness of sins, redemption, and reconciliation with God through the shed blood of the heavenly Father’s unique Son, Jesus Christ, the innocent Lamb of God.
As those who have lived to experience–often with distressed hearts –this period of church history, our prayer might well be and remain:
The haughty spirits, Lord, restrain Who o'er Thy Church with might would reign And always set forth something new, Devised to change Thy doctrine true. And since the cause and glory, Lord, Are Thine, not ours, to us afford Thy help and strength and constancy. With all our heart we trust in Thee. (TLH 292:6-7)
* RETIREMENT (Luther Memorial Church, Fond du Lac, Wis. recently observed the retirement of its pastor, John H. Johannes. One of its members contributed this report.)
Pastor Johannes was born in Two Rivers, Wis. on January 18, 1931. He attended parochial school there and continued his education at Northwestern Prep and College in Watertown, Wis. (graduated 1953) and at the Wisconsin Synod Seminary in Mequon (graduated 1957). In August, 1958 he was married to Joanne Paulmann of Manitowoc. This union was blessed with seven children.
Pastor Johannes shepherded congregations in Isabel, Timber Lake, and Trail City, S.Dak., before leaving the Wisconsin Synod for confessional reasons in 1960. Upon joining the CLC, he served congregations in Carlsbad, N.Mex., Lamar, Colo., and Cambridge and Middleton, Wis. before being called to Fond du Lac in 1978.
He retired after forty-two years in the ministry. The farewell service was held June 27, 1999.
As is the case with most of our CLC’s “retired” pastors, the Lord soon let it be known that He still has work for them in the public ministry. Soon after retiring, Johannes was called to serve Zion Ev. Lutheran Church in Atlanta, Georgia for one year.
The new pastor at Luther Memorial in Fond du Lac is David Naumann, who had previously served in Ketchikan, Alaska.
* THE JESUS VIDEO (During the holidays just past, a Mankato, Minnesota billboard proclaimed: “Hope For The New Millennium–JESUS–coming to your mailbox.” After we saw the billboard, we were happy also to see what was written in the ‘Home Messenger’ of our CLC church in that city, Immanuel Lutheran. Pastor Paul D. Nolting [who wrote this evaluation] and Pastor Wayne Eichstadt serve Immanuel congregation.)
Sometime before Christmas many of our member families in the Mankato area will receive the ‘Jesus Video’ in the mail. It is a free gift sponsored by a group of Mankato residents of various denominational backgrounds. This distribution of the ‘Jesus Video’ is part of a worldwide campaign to do Christian mission work through the use of videos and the mail.
The goal of the campaign is commendable Christian mission outreach. It should be our prayer that many people will learn to know more about Jesus and be led by the Holy Spirit to believe in Jesus through the message that the video presents.
The ecumenical nature of the outreach effort, however, is not to be commended. Such an effort ignores differences of teaching and our Lord’s command to “beware of false prophets” (Matthew 7:15) and to “avoid” those who “cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine you have learned” (Romans 16:17). Consequently, the effort in part goes contrary to the teachings of the very Lord it seeks to proclaim!
The film itself is very good. It presents the story of Jesus’ life in an excellent manner. Jesus is presented as God’s Son, who really did perform miracles, who died on the cross, and who arose again from the dead. The presentation is very consistent with the Scriptures, although in just a very few instances the setting of a miracle or parable was altered to fit in the flow of the visual presentation.
There is, however, one area of concern about which our members should be aware. At the end of the film, a kind-looking gentleman appears who urges viewers to “make a decision for Christ,” and who offers to pray with the viewers if they are ready to make such a decision.
This “decision theology,” which is part of the teachings of the Reformed Christian churches, is false and misleading. The Bible tells us that human beings are “dead in trespasses and sins” by nature (Ephesians 2:1,5) and so cannot make decisions to believe. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44). St. Paul says, “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). Saving faith is, therefore, not the result of a human decision, but rather the work of God within us. It is His gift given to us through the preaching of the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit (cf. Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:4-7).
“Decision theology” takes away God’s glory and places an incorrect emphasis upon man’s role in conversion. Conversion is solely the work of God within the human heart, for through it God takes someone spiritually dead and makes him spiritually alive! Once we have been converted, on the other hand, we do in faith make decisions with the help and power of the Holy Spirit to be and remain faithful to God (cf. Philippians 2:12-13). This is a true and scriptural teaching!
So enjoy the ‘Jesus video,’ but push the “stop” button on your VCR when the kind-looking gentleman at the end appears. His message is unscriptural and could prove confusing and misleading for those who listen!