Articles and book excerpts used in and referred to on Issues, Etc.
A Journal for Lutheran Reformation
Deathly EvangelismGuilty of False Advertising
Most evangelism these days is way short on
the wisdom of Jesus. It is instead seeping with the wisdom of largeness,
relevance, marketing, and fulfilling human needs. Therefore Jesus' words of
wisdom sound foreign in much of the church today.
Jesus said only a "few" would find his way of life (Matthew 7:14). He also said his flock of followers would be "little" (Luke 12:32). He said "many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14). Then he explained the small size by saying "you did not choose me, but I chose you" (John 15:16). Because of this his followers will be "hated" by the world (John 15:19). And we are to "hate" our life in this world so that it may be saved for all eternity (John 12:25). Jesus also said his followers are to "deny" themselves, "renounce" everything, and "hate" their families (Matthew 16:24; Luke 14:33, 26). Finally, his great Apostle said Jesus' followers are to be "crucified to the world" (Galatians 6:14).
This wisdom captures the real Jesus. In Jesus: A New Vision: Spirit, Culture, and the Life of Discipleship, Marcus J. Borg concludes that this true Jesus is "an 'undomesticated Jesus' who has not yet become part of a culture's conventional wisdom but who challenges all systems of conventional wisdom." 1 Most of today's new evangelism does not know this undomesticated Jesus. Furthermore, John Dominic Crossan in his celebrated The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant, similarly concludes that the real Jesus was "a peasant Jewish Cynic... [who brought] a way of looking and dressing, of eating, living, and relating that announced its contempt for honor and shame for patronage and clientage... [all of which opposed] the cultural heart of Mediterranean civilization." As a result, Jesus and his followers "were hippies in a world of Augustan yuppies." 2 Most of today's new evangelism seems to have rejected the way of that Jewish hippy in favor of the Augustan yuppies!
So again Christ's body, the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, has gotten things backwards, upside-down and inside-out! By so doing they are falsely advertising. The church is proclaiming a Jesus who does not come from the New Testament sources of Christianity. The new evangelism we see springing up all over in the church is the focus for this confusion.
This has led Tom Raabe to say of it in his book, The Ultimate Church: An Irreverent Look at Church Growth, Megachurches, & Ecclesiastical "Show-Biz," that it is nothing but a "takeover and spiritual blackmail." 3 No wonder Luther could once erupt and say, "there is almost nothing more unlike the church than the church itself." 4
What is needed in our time then is an antidote to counteract this new evangelism. I am calling it "deathly evangelism." I get this indirectly from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, he penned this haunting and terrifying and true line: "When Christ calls a [person], he bids [that one] come and die." 5 This call summarizes the wisdom of Jesus. This call would make for true advertising in the church. His call is the antidote needed in our time. This call is at the heart of "deathly evangelism." I will now elaborate.
Empty Pews Rather Than Comfortable Pews
In his Leaves From the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic, the "sainted" Reinhold Niebuhr, made this trenchant point: "A half empty church immediately symbolizes the fact that Christianity is very much of a minority movement in a pagan world and that it can be victorious only by snatching victory out of defeat." 6 These words stand in the shadow of the cross where all Christians belong. They tell us that safety in numbers is a hoax. This is because Jesus' way does not appeal to the natural inclinations of people. It instead cuts against the grain. By so doing, most are lost because that kind of cut is too hard, too severe, too rugged, too cruel, and just too unpromising. Indeed, only those prepared by Jesus' Spirit will "enter into this way" (John 3:5). Throughout the story we are told that those that enter will only be a "remnant" (Isaiah 10:22; Romans 11:5-6). Indeed the way of the cross is a narrow way.
So empty pews are not a disgrace. When they abound under the preaching and celebrating of Jesus' narrow way, they are a sign of the truth among us. Such signs will not easily flourish. All kinds of pressure will be exerted to make those empty pews into comfortable pews that then may easily be filled so that the truth gets "suppressed" (Romans 1:18). Pierre Berton in his classic, The Comfortable Pew, describes how this happens. "Institutional Christianity," he writes, "has become a comfortable creed, a useful tool for Peace of Mind and Positive Thinking, a kind of sugar-coated pill that soothes those who fear to face the traditional Christian concerns of evil, suffering, and death." 7 Our deathly evangelism will not succumb to, but rather will fight to combat, this sugar-coated pill. We must keep these cherished empty pews from becoming like the abounding comfortable pews found just about everywhere we now look.
Two False Assumptions 8
Our deathly evangelism will work hard to avoid assuming what most of the new evangelism assumes. The latter assumes two things at its heart that are mistaken: (1) It is good for the church to conform to the culture in which it finds itself, and (2) It is good for the church to keep track of its health in terms of numerical growth.
Regarding the assumption of cultural conformity, this mistake is made in the name of effectiveness. Interior decorating, dress, verbal expressions and music are increasingly controlled by this cultural conformity. With it the church begins to look more and more like the culture in which it lives. But this is wrong. Rather than conformity to our regnant culture, the church is to bring instead a culture that is new and different and "not of this world" (John 18:36). Therefore Christians are not to be "of the world," just as their Lord is not "of the world" (John 17:16). As such the church promotes the saying: "Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2). Being preoccupied with tailoring the message of the church to the current cultural idiom is therefore wrong.
If the Gospel is the Word of God... then the "content" of the Gospel simply is itself the "language" of the Gospel. While this does not mean that we merely mimic the language of the Bible, it does mean that our interpretation and proclamation is positively determined and structured by the linguistic logic of the Bible and not by any set of pre-determined "characteristics of culture." Such pre-determination stifles the free course of the Word of God, rather than setting it loose in the world. [So] the planting of the church in the 1990s is no different from the planting of the church in A.D. 90. The church is planted as the seed of the alien Word of God who comes to us and our world from outside of us and in radical otherness from all our expectations, to tear down the securities we have built for ourselves (that are death to us) and raise up on their rubble the new walls of the heavenly Jerusalem (which is life to us).
And regarding the second assumption about numerical growth, this mistake is made in the name of dedication. Hard work, keeping busy, showing concern, caring about people, and wanting to share what is good all undergird the importance of numerical growth. But this is mixed up. Our work must address the change of a human heart rather than more and more people enjoying one another through a shared membership. Indeed it is so that "there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine religious persons who need no repentance" (Luke 15:7). Therefore,
"Growth" is never the business of the church. Faithfulness, truthfulness, and discipleship in the public presentation of Christ to the world--that's the business of the church. Worries about "growth" are left to the will and work of the Holy Spirit.
Knowing Our True Needs
When we gear our evangelism to what people tell us they want so that we can then direct whatever relevant portions of church tradition there may be to meet those declared needs, the jig's up! No longer do we have sinners being saved. Therefore, as Richard John Neuhaus puts it, "our 'felt needs' are not to be trusted; God knows what we need, and in mercy overrides our fatal misunderstanding of ourselves and our needs... The very last thing we can accept as normative . . . [are] the felt needs and market preferences of a gnostic culture of expressive individualism." 9
What is it that we all need, that marketing analysis will never be able to uncover? We need contrition, repentance, and faith. There is nothing easy about any of this. At the center of this is the pain of repentance. It alone blocks out new life for most. In James A. Nestingen's searching analysis of the difficulties in preaching repentance, he painfully concludes that "to preach the gospel in such a way that it retains its bite is to be held responsible for the tooth marks that follow." 10
We need to be bitten. God's hammer must hit us, God's fire must burn us, God's sword must cut us (Jeremiah 23:29; Hebrews 4:12). To this cure we all go kicking and screaming. Therefore, no one will tell you they need it! Indeed God's truth in this matter is that "through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God," and "every one enters the kingdom of God violently" (Acts 14:22; Luke 16:16)! A deathly evangelism drinks deeply from the wisdom of these words. As a result, Christianity under its province can never be "user-friendly." It cannot because Christianity is not! Just before his death in 1855, the Danish teacher extraordinaire, Soren Kierkegaard put it this way:
A Christian is a man of will who has acquired a new will. A Christian is a man of will who no longer wills his own will but with the passion of his crushed will--radically changed--wills another's will... Consequently Christianity... is not at all related to transforming the intellect--but to transforming the will. But this transformation is the most painful of all operations, comparable to a vivisection. 11
There you have it: Vivisection! I know of no
better explanation than this for the tribulation and violence Saint Luke
preserves for us from the sayings of Jesus in
Acts 14 and
So how does anyone become Christian? It comes from baptism and faith (Mark 16:16). But we ask further where they come from. The short answer is, through attending the Word and Sacrament on the Lord's Day. The Kierkegaard scholar, Brita Stendahl, has taken this short answer and made it eloquent:
The purpose of worship is not to hear a sermon, to sing a hymn or two. It is something much larger; to come in contact with the world as it is and as we want it to be. Both, and at the same time. That's why it looks so silly to an outsider and observer who objects to the seemingly easy transition, not knowing that it is not easy at all. It is an ongoing process. Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. It is not habit, it is discipline and discipleship. In one short hour to moan and to mourn and then forget oneself and join with joy the others in a mock-up banquet reminding us of bread--hunger, wine--blood, life--death, and resurrection--the hope that defies despair. You don't do that in an hour--the hour becomes only a manifestation of what it takes a lifetime to realize... [So] the hour spent in church is irreplaceable. When I leave for church on Sunday morning and return an hour and a half later, I can hardly believe that such a short time has elapsed. 12
Church Music Can't Be Popular
A key part of the new evangelism is its florid use of popular songs and their tunes in worship. This is done to attract people by showing them that the church values what is familiar and known and loved by many currently. Moreover, the not-so-subliminal message behind this is the church is not as authoritarian as its stereotype. While this may not first off appear to be a serious sacrifice, deathly evangelism moves in a different direction.
Deathly evangelism, however, does not seek to eliminate new church music. It instead holds to Luther's view that,
Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise... For whether you wish to comfort the sad, to terrify the happy, to encourage the despairing, to humble the proud... what more effective means than music could you find? The Holy Ghost himself honors her... The gift of language combined with the gift of song was only given to man to let him know that he should praise God with both word and music, namely, by proclaiming the Word of God through music and by providing sweet melodies with words. 13
Music is filled with power, honor and divine
sanction. No wonder it is right to say that "our faith at its best is sung."
Not any music will do, however. Getting the most popular sounds into church is not clearly good. "Music built around three chords, poor theology, and weak spirituality is still heading the lists," says David Powers, "and that is bad." 15 Marked by "the soft, quilted sentimentality" of popular tunes, much new church music of this new evangelism is overwhelmed by a "most gushing,... self-caressing quality." 16 The danger in this does not hinge on bad musical taste but rather with its hidden agenda of using music to change our vision of God! Indeed, Thomas Day significantly asserts "those casual, la-dee-da melodies, the easy familiarity of the music, and the let-me-show-you-how-sincere-I-am expressiveness all indicate that God is our little friend and very much under our control, on the end of a leash." 17 Such music intentionally suffocates the prophetic Word of the Holy One of Israel upon which Christianity thrives. According to Paul Westermeyer, such stripped music cannot "first smash the community and then reconstitute it... [through] dissonant harmonies, angular melodies, and rapidly changing rhythmic patterns... [designed to] afflict the comfortable and to lay bare the anguish of our age along with God's call to address it." 18 It cannot because it no longer praises the Almighty Lord who rescued Israel from Egypt and raised Jesus from that cold, dark tomb.
Efforts therefore to appeal to contemporary sounds in worship are more dangerous than they appear. Underneath them all is a yearning to change the agenda of Christianity from Law and Gospel, Cross and Resurrection to fulfilling perceived human need above all else. We are so stumbling over ourselves to welcome and accommodate the outsider that we have thoroughly ruled out the attack of God upon the unregenerate. So when we say that churches will become "hospitable" if they make use in worship of the "rhythms of the most listened to radio stations" nearby, this goes with the capitulation to the "needs" of the people fashioned out of the cesspool of uncondemned sin! 19 Popular music, therefore, is too general to serve the might of the faith proclaimed in God's house of prayer. Luther knew this well and so, contrary to popular opinion, he did not hunt around for folk tunes to baptize for worship. Instead, he insisted,
When musical learning is added... and artistic music which corrects, develops, and refines the natural music, then at last it is possible to taste with wonder yet not to comprehend God's absolute and perfect wisdom in his wondrous work of music... [So] take special care to shun perverted minds who prostitute this lovely gift of nature and of art with their erotic rantings, and so purloin this gift of God and use it to worship the foe of God..." 20
Without such correction, development and
refinement, popular music only serves the eroticism of sin run rampant. What we
are up against is massive, and so we cannot overlook the perils in unrefined
popular music. As such it is a powerful weapon against what is good, beautiful
and true in Christianity. We cannot pretend that those yearning for popular
music at this dangerous level are not mounting an attack on orthodox
Christianity. They are! Indeed they wish to destroy in traditional church music
"the focus... on our sinfulness and our need of grace." 21 This frontal attack must be countered
Going the Narrow Way
We cannot allow Christianity to be watered down even if it is in the name of bringing people to Christ. Such evangelical techniques are just too costly. Often they cut to the quick with utter abandon. David Luecke, for instance, in his book, Evangelical Style and Lutheran Substance, dumps the substance even though he claims to retain it under evangelical trappings. There he criticizes focus on the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper because it implies "that other common experiences with Him are less important." 22 Well, I would hope so if indeed this meal is really a sacrament! Because the Lord's Supper, Luecke argues, devalues the common religious experiences of visitors and outsiders, it in turn, should be devalued by less frequent celebrations on the Lord's Day. But this fails to discern Alexander Schmemann's insight that "the Eucharist... is not... one of the services, but the very manifestation... of the Church in all her power, sanctity and fullness. Only by taking part in it can we increase the holiness and fulfill all that we have been commanded to be and do." 23 Without the Sacrament we make God attractive for the wrong reasons:
"Come to church," says cheap grace, "and we will make everything easy for you. We will simplify the language, relax the rules, water down dogma, lower the moral demands, shorten the services. All you have to do is to come. It is easy, it is simple, it involves no trouble, no effort, no suffering. It is as quick as our detergents, as soothing as our cigarettes, as painless as our contraceptives, as narcotic as our television." But we have no right to treat Christianity as if it were a prefabricated, cellulose-covered, glossy modern product, to be sold with the same slick fraudulent salesmanship as cigarettes, petrol, soap, chocolates, underwear, beer, television sets, and cars. We have no right to speak of God's love without mentioning God's demand, to publicize the crown without the cross. Christianity does demand self-discipline, self-denial, self-examination... We have no right even to assure our converts or fellow-Christians that Christianity will necessarily be spiritually comforting." 24
Huge damage has been done and is being done
in the name of attracting new members. We must resist this even if by so doing
we stand against church growth.
All of this attack on the new evangelism is consistent with Jesus' call to the "narrow way" (Matthew 7:14). This call is not optional, for without it Christianity is done for. According to Hauerwas and Willimon, what this new evangelism does is,
Inoculate the world with a mild form of Christianity so that it will be immune to the real thing. The aim of such inoculation is security--not security in Christ, but security from Christ and from having to rely on him and the shape of his Kingdom to give meaning and significance to our lives. 25
Therefore Jesus' further words are truer now
than ever before: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you
traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he comes a
proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves" (Matthew 23:15).
This word of Jesus inspired William Hordern's book, Evangelism: Luther and the Augsburg Confession. There he outlines what is "hellish" about much that passes for evangelism:
Our motivation in evangelism is never simply the response to God's evangelical love... Evangelism has become a big business in our culture and successful evangelists, helped by radio and television, bring in millions of dollars every year... On a smaller scale, there is nothing like a sizable mortgage to inspire a congregation to evangelistic endeavors. A good evangelism program can lower the per-capita rate of the mortgage considerably. But self-centered motivations are not always crassly monetary... We get considerable satisfaction from molding other people in our image... Converts can be trophies of the self... [and] there is another factor often present in evangelism. Often... one of the ways nagging doubt can be somewhat stilled is to win others to the same belief. If I am able to bring others into my faith, that is evidence of the validity of my faith. 26
All these twisted yearnings endanger the church and warn us to beware of beautified evangelism in all of its sundry forms. With Luther we need to nurture among us a deep, abiding resilient, and daring disdain for novelty. We must tutor ourselves by his profound words:
The world wants to be fooled. So we fall away from our Christian faith and into new holiness, that is, into the devil's trap and lime-rod. For we always must have something new. Christ's death and resurrection, faith and love, are old and just ordinary things; that is why they must count for nothing, and so we must have new wheedlers. 27
We must question the novel because in its formulations lurks attacks on what is harrowing in Christianity. If terror and difficulty were truly loved, then this love of the new would not be in us. Because we cannot abide by the truth that "it is no joke to take sides against the devil... [and] to burden [the baptized] with such a mighty and lifelong enemy," we look for something new to mark Christian living. 28 All such efforts must be resisted, however. Again with Luther we must conclude:
The life of a Christian is as hard as if he were walking on a narrow path, in fact, on nothing out razors... The way itself is so narrow that it would be difficult enough even if there were no dangers or obstacles in the way... Think about this, and guide yourself accordingly. If you want to be a Christian, then be one. It will never be any different. 29
This razor sharp Christianity is the real target of this new evangelism. It wants it displaced and it wants it now. These words of Jacques Ellul from his book The Subversion of Christianity combine with Luther's to communicate more fully the underlying issue:
Grace is intolerable, the Father is unbearable, weakness is discouraging, freedom is unlivable, spiritualization is deceptive. This is our judgment, and humanly speaking it is well founded and inevitable. This is one of the first reasons for the rejection of the proclamation of God in Jesus Christ. And because we do not want to seem to reject it, perversion and subversion take place... But it is precisely here that we fall down... What we are summoned to do is something out of the ordinary. We are to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. No less. All else is perversion. 30
Catering to people and their agendas is the key to new evangelism. In stark contrast, deathly evangelism knows with Luther that "any self-esteem... is really a slander of God's honor and praise." 31 Because catering to people is designed to bolster their self-esteem so that they feel welcome, deathly evangelism opposes it. The truth instead is, as Luther again would say, that "the glory of the grace of God [is that] it makes us enemies of ourselves." 32
Evangelism--properly understood, then--is the invitation to attack and do in your self-defined self. This follows Jesus' teaching in Luke 14 and John 12 about the need to "hate" ourselves. Luther elaborates this point with great passion and profundity in his Lectures on Romans. There he says such hatred is "the gift of God." 33 This, then, is what we are to offer through our evangelistic efforts. This he calls "the marvelous wisdom of God" in that "by means of evil he promotes the good." 34 This is his wisdom because "God... is a negative essence... who cannot be possessed or touched except by the negation of all our affirmations." 35 Consequently, this hatred to which we are called "is not easy, in fact, it is most difficult." 36 As such it takes agricultura sui ipsius, or the plowing up of oneself or "self-cultivation... [of] earnest prayer, earnest study, earnest work and reproof." 37 With this we come to see that "to love is to hate oneself, to condemn oneself, and to wish the worst... for he loves himself not in himself but in God, that is, in accord with the will of God, who hates, damns, and wills evil to all sinners, that is, to all of us." 38 But are we not to love our neighbor "as ourselves" (Matthew 22:39)? Yes, says Luther, "but not in the sense that you should love yourself, otherwise that would have been commanded. But now it is not commanded in this way... for it is a perversity that we want to be loved by all and want to seek our interests in all people; but it is uprightness that if you do to everyone else what in our perverseness you want done to yourself, you will do good with the same zeal as you used to do evil." 39 This is because love for a person automatically goes bad when it is applied to the self. It only works when it is offered to someone else, and not oneself. So Luther concludes that, "you do wrong if you love yourself, an evil from which you will not be free unless you love your neighbor in the same way, that is, by ceasing to love yourself." 40
In our time Oscar Romero knew about this narrow, hard way. He translated hatred as violence. "We have never preached violence," he wrote, "except the violence of love, which left Christ nailed to a cross, the violence that we must each do to ourselves to overcome our selfishness and such cruel inequalities among us." 41 He also knew this would be resisted and so it required conversion:
A preaching that awakens,
a preaching that enlightens--
as when a light turned on
awakens and of course annoys a sleeper--
that is the preaching of Christ, calling:
Wake up! Be converted!
That is the church's authentic preaching,
Naturally, such preaching must meet conflict,
must spoil what is miscalled prestige,
must be persecuted.
It cannot get along with the powers of darkness and sin. 42
It is to this self-violence that deathly
evangelism invites the unregenerate of the world. This is the gift of God that
we bring. This we bring knowing full well it is "a stone of offense, and a rock
of stumbling" (Isaiah
No doubt many will say that this deathly evangelism must be offered tongue-in-cheek. Many will say this because it will appear obvious that it cannot work. Many will say there is nothing here that will promote church growth. Nobody will accept the invitation! Against this skepticism we assert instead that "there are no special formulas, programs, gimmicks, or techniques for getting your church to grow. Perhaps there are for creating some slick, glitzy, successful religious enterprise, but not for carrying out a faithful ministry of the Gospel." 43 Such a ministry rather depends on the truth which at heart knows that "God gives the growth" (1 Corinthians 3:6-7) and that nothing else matters. So what appears depressing in this case about limited response is actually stimulating.
In his book The Scandal of Christianity, Emil Brunner makes this point with inspiring vigor:
The scandal of Christianity exists as a scandal only so long as we are full of ourselves. To believe in the cross of Christ is no scandal for those who have seen how perverted is their own wisdom, the wisdom of natural man. It is the very corrective for this perversion of our sight, it makes us look straight again, who by sin have become cross-eyed. The foolishness of the gospel is divine wisdom to all those who have been healed of the perversion which consists in making man's reason and goodness the judge of all truth, that perversion which places man instead of God in the center of the universe. The gospel is identical with the healing of this perversion, which in its depth and real significance is diabolical. It is the victory of God's light over the powers of darkness. 44
Becoming Christian Criminals
Assuming deathly evangelism works, what will it make of the church? Will it ruin the church, making it into a haven for pathological maniacs? Certainly it will not be "a social club, a museum, or a concert hall." 45 It, instead, will be like a band of criminals. This is the brilliant idea of Soren Kierkegaard:
The world of crime forms a little society of its own, lying on the other side of human society, a little society which ordinarily also has an intimate solidarity not altogether common in the world, perhaps also because each one individually feels expelled from human society. It is the same with the society of Christians. Each one individually--by accepting Christianity, consequently by becoming a believer, that is, by accepting, yes, by staking his life on the absurd--has said farewell to the world, has broken with the world. The society of those who have voluntarily placed themselves outside society in the usual sense of the word is all the more intimate precisely because each one individually feels isolated in "the world." But just as the company of criminals must carefully watch out that no one comes into the society who is not branded as they are, so also in the society of Christians: they must watch out that no one comes into this society except the one whose mark is that he is polemical to the utmost toward society in the usual sense. This means that the Christian congregation is a society consisting of qualitative individuals and that the intimacy of the society is also conditioned by this polemical stance against the great human society. 46
This polemical stance against society ignites a passion in church members to engage the world with boldness. Oscar Romero understood this to be the way that Christians bring Christ's light to the world (Matthew 5:14). His words fill out the description of the church this deathly evangelism seeks to build:
A church that doesn't provoke any crises,
a gospel that doesn't unsettle,
a word of God that doesn't get under anyone's skin,
a word of God that doesn't touch the real sin
of the society in which it is being proclaimed,
what gospel is that?
Very nice, pious considerations
that don't bother anyone
that's the way many would like preaching to be.
Those preachers who avoid every thorny matter
so as not to be harassed
so as not to have conflicts and difficulties,
do not light up the world they live in. 47
Addendum: Enriching Christ
Critics of the deathly evangelism adumbrated above say that I have driven a wedge too deeply between Christ and culture. They say I should have tried harder to glean from culture positive contributions toward the mission of Christ. They say because my offered antidote did not grasp the cooperation between the church and society, it is rendered incoherent. This is because Christian ways never can be fully extricated from common, ordinary, secular ways. Against these charges, I will make the following seven points.
First, I will say minimally my antidote would remain needed even with the faults my critics imagine being true. This seems to be the position of H. Richard Niebuhr in his 1951 classic on this topic entitled, Christ and Culture. Even though Niebuhr judges the option of "Christ against culture" to be "inadequate," he nevertheless sees it to be a perennial corrective. "So long," he writes, "as eternity cannot be translated into temporal terms nor time into eternity, so long as Christ and culture cannot be amalgamated, so long is the radical answer inevitable in the church." 48 Furthermore, he insists it is irrefutable that Christ calls all people "to reject the world and its kingdoms with their pluralism and temporalism, their makeshift compromises of many interests, their hypnotic obsession by the love of life and the fear of death. The movement of withdrawal and renunciation is a necessary element in every Christian life, even though it be followed by an equally necessary movement of responsible engagement in cultural tasks. Where this is lacking, Christian faith quickly degenerates into a utilitarian device for the attainment of personal prosperity or public peace; and some imagined idol called by his name takes the place of Jesus Christ the Lord." 49 Here Niebuhr shows that my critics--on their own grounds--must voice their outrage with this degeneracy too. If they do not, then there is reason to suppose they lack an "honest and good heart" (Luke 8:15).
Secondly--and more directly--I must say that the wedge between Christ and culture is not actually driven as deeply as they suppose. Church growth is desirable but only under the control of the Holy Spirit. New church music is fine provided it has been refined appropriately. Just think of the magnificent new hymn written by Martin H. Franzmann with music by Jan 0. Bender, entitled "0 God, 0 Lord of Heaven and Earth"! 50 That is a new hymn, but refined into a contemporary version of one of those "sturdy hymns of old." 51 And honoring Oscar Romero emphasized the importance of critically engaging society for the benefit of all.
Thirdly--and quite frankly--the disjunctive lines on the pages of the New Testament cannot be explained away, try though we may with our sophisticated critical biblical tools of exegesis and hermeneutics. 52 Those resilient words are given voice throughout the generations. "No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth" (Matthew 6:24). "We do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God's wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages..." (1 Corinthians 2:6-7). "Am I... seeking human approval, or God's approval?... If I were... pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10). "The Spirit and the flesh are opposed to each other" (Galatians 5:17). "Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God" (James 4:4). Luther's tightly turned disjunctions, then, have warrant. "Scripture," he says, "always proclaims the mercy of God and our sin. The majesty of God is supreme; we are completely worthless." And "the most reliable index to a true Christian is this: if from the way he... preaches Christ the people learn that they are nothing and Christ is everything." 53
Listing verses from the Bible in this manner may seem irresponsible since matters of context, historical background, literary form and difficulties with translations are neither addressed nor made pivotal. I run this risk in order to facilitate the power of these words to "jab the soul" and "strangle the old Adam," as Luther would say. 54 James A. Nestingen recently explained how Luther himself preferred being "in front of the text," more than "behind the text." 55 Behind the text we can safely poke at the words to see how they react. But in front of those same words we are run over by them! The safety is gone and they have their way with us. It is for this reason that I offer the somewhat naive presentation of the holy words of the Bible. As a result I seek to avoid merely "holding the form of religion but denying the power of it" (2 Timothy 3:5).
Fourthly, the jealousy of the Holy One of Israel (Exodus 34:14) is perfectly manifested in his only Son, Christ Jesus. This is seen in the passage about Jesus visiting the home of Mary and Martha in Bethany. There we are told "Only one thing is needful" (Luke 10:42). The antidote I have put forward seeks to honor that exclusivity. So with Luther I concur that "wherever conscience, sin, life, death, or even God or the devil are concerned, bear in mind that you must disregard everything in the world. Let Martha go into the kitchen and wash dishes; let Martha put the house in order and you become a Mary." 56 Salvation in Christ, then excludes other ways and manners of rescue. Therefore, propping up evangelism with the saving graces of contemporary music and the positive-self-image trend in modern therapy denies the jealousy of God in Christ Jesus. Luther again knew why. "Since the Word of Christ," he wrote, "is the Word of salvation and peace, the Word of life and grace, and since it works not in the flesh but in the spirit, it must suppress and cast out the salvation, peace life and grace of the flesh. When it does this, it appears to the flesh harder and more cruel than iron itself... [Christ] kills our will that His may be established in us. He subdues the flesh and its lusts that the spirit and its desires may come to life." 57 Being united with Mary of Bethany through the communion of saints, we are obliged to support a deathly evangelism.
Fifthly, the Cross of Christ requires a deathly evangelism. Surely Christians are to strive to say: "May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6.14)! By so doing we will make Christian evangelism deathly. This is because "to preach Christ crucified is to preach our evils that must be crucified and us who must be reproved." 58 The Cross, therefore, prohibits us from affirming the unregenerate! They must surely be reproved and crucified instead. How shall we do this? Again with Luther we will strive to promote what he called the "three ends of the cross: poverty destroys the lust of the eyes and avarice; humility destroys the pride of life and ambition; and patience destroys lust of flesh and sensual pleasures (1 John 2:16)." 59 Now just what will this destruction of avarice, ambition and pleasure look like? Luther offers this faithful wisdom. "To give up a tangible thing for words and the Scripture," he writes, "is truly a big order. And people do not do this unless they have died to all material things, at least in their feelings, even though in practice they still use them out of necessity rather than willingly... For they do all of these things to God, whom they serve in all of these matters, seeking nothing of their own in them." 60 Contrasting our feelings with our practices is the key move. Soren Kierkegaard called this feeling a disgust with life. "For while man by nature wishes," he wrote, "for what can give him pleasure in life, the religious person on active duty needs a proper dose of disgust with life in order to be fit for his task; disgust with life, taken properly (for the way it is used is crucial), is the best safeguard against getting involved in stupid nonsense." 61 The Cross requires evangelism to promote some such disgust with life!
Sixthly, deathly evangelism is not incoherent due to its disjunctive logic, which is the wedge it drives between Christ and culture. Its condemnation of the world is designed to enable the proclamation of an eternal word unfettered by cultural conventions which can then make us "die to sin and live to righteousness" (1 Peter 2:24). As such, "the Word God, because it is eternal," writes Luther, "should apply to all men of all times. For although in the course of time, customs, people, places, and usages may vary, godliness and ungodliness remain the same through all the ages." 62 This eternal word is one word that does not come in remedial and advanced versions. It has but one goal for visitors, inquirers and lifelong Christians alike: "To terrify and to justify and quicken the terrified." 63 So "God shows no partiality" to newcomers and neither should his followers, provided these strangers "fear God and do what is right and acceptable to him" (Acts 10:34-35)! So terror is a common denominator. All must be "cut to the heart" (Acts 2:37)! This then vacates the need for workshops with ecclesiastical specialists to train us in welcoming strangers to church. The design is simple and clear: Invitations to faith must not be free of all warnings! "Guard your steps," the Sunday morning greeter must say, "when you go to the house of God," because it is dangerous here (Ecclesiastes 5:1). Our evangelism must then retrieve the repentance in Acts 17:30, Mark 6:12 and Luke 15:17. It must reclaim the criticism of Mark 10:21 and the reverent defense in 1 Peter 3:15. Then our evangelism will be able to heed Luther's spine-tingling warning.
Distinguish between a counterfeit faith and a true faith. A counterfeit faith is one that hears about God, Christ, and all the mysteries of the incarnation and redemption, one that also grasps what it hears and can speak beautifully about it; and yet only a mere opinion and a vain longing remain, which leave nothing in the heart but a hollow sound about the Gospel, concerning which there is a great deal of chatter. In fact, this is no faith at all, for it neither renews nor changes the heart. It does not produce a new man but it leaves him in his former opinion and way of life. This is a very pernicious faith, and it would be better not to have it. 64
Finally, this disjunctive approach enables the church to do more than attend to and refer to Christ, but actually to glorify, magnify and enrich him. Such a disjunctive approach focuses Christ so that the brilliance of his light shines. This enriches Christ, as Luther explains:
Where the Gospel is preached, there a battle begins, because the world and Christ cannot be in harmony. So then they do battle. The godly apostles, trusting in Scripture, oppose the enemies of godliness and close their foes' mouths. This is the way the Holy Spirit exalts them when he supplies faithful heralds of the Gospel who do not seek their own greatness, who do not curry the favor of others, who do not hunger after wealth and honor, but who seek only to enrich Christ, to return both the talent they received and rich interest, and thus they are dedicated and consecrated to Christ alone. Then they are true Nazarites, when they teach the pure Gospel of Christ, without mixing in their own hallucinations and human doctrines... 65
By attacking the world in the
disjunctive form of deathly evangelism, Christ becomes more central because
other ways of fulfillment have been dismissed. With Luther we are then able to
say that "the maxim should be: Do not let your thoughts take flight, flutter,
and climb. Simply cleave and cling to Christ. It is imperative to remain solely
with the Person of Christ. If you have that, you have all; but if you lose
that, you have lost all... Remain with Christ, who declares that He is the
living bread." 66 Deathly evangelism
enables this focused faith in Christ which increasingly is silent in the
church. Let us begin to reverse this by singing with Luther: "I am dead, but
Christ lives; I am a sinner, but Christ is righteous, because I believe in
Jesus Christ and was baptized in His name. Thus when we are fatigued, let us
run to the fresh and untiring Christ [infatigabilem Christum] and not
remain with ourselves." 67
1. Marcus J. Borg, Jesus: A New Vision: Spirit, Culture, and the Life of Discipleship (San Francisco: Harper, 1987), 199.
2. John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of Mediterranean Jewish Peasant (San Francisco: Harper, 1991), 421. This distinction between yuppies and hippies catches the criticism in Dietrich Bonhoeffer, No Rusty Swords: Letters, Lectures and Notes, 1928-1936 (Collins, 1965), 185. "We no longer read the Bible seriously, we no longer read it against ourselves, but for ourselves."
3. Tom Raabe, The Ultimate Church: An Irreverent Look at Church Growth, Megachurches & Ecclesiastical "Show Biz." (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991), 159.
4. Martin Luther, Luther's Works, American Edition, vol. 27, ed. by Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut T. Lehmann (Philadelphia/ St. Louis: Fortress Press/Concordia Publishing House), 397. (Hereafter cited as AE, followed by volume and page number.)
5. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Macmillan, 1963), 9. Some no doubt suppose this stringency makes Christianity unhealthy. On this see Stephen Arterhurn and Jack Felton's Toxic Faith: Understanding and Overcoming Religious Addiction (Nashville: Oliver Nelson, 199), 45. "One cannot trust God too much or seek God too much... A little faith, a faith that knows only a bit about God, is a form of toxic faith." Insipid Christianity, then, is actually what is unhealthy. In this direction see Paul DeBlassie, III, Toxic Christianity: Healing the Religious Neurosis (New York: Crossroad, 1992), 120. "Toxic people-pleasing [cripples Christians and causes them to stray] from Christ-centeredness and become addicted to pleasing the people..."
6. Reinhold Niebuhr, Leaves From the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic (New York: Harper & Row, 1929), 39.
7. Pierre Berton, The Comfortable Pew: A Critical Look at Christianity in the New Age (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1965), 82. The best of worship opposes this sugar-coated pill. See Walter Bruggemann, Israel's Praise: Doxology Against Idolatry and Ideology (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988), 159. "Israel's Praise is a dangerous, joyous witness of a different world, a world 'this age' does not suspect, permit, or credit. No wonder the rulers of this age want to stop the singing, or pollute it with ideology and managed slogans."
8. This section is inspired by and quotes from Mark E. Chapman, "False Assumptions," Lutheran Partners 9 (March/April 1993), 6. Behind this section is also the haunting question from Eugene H. Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 14. "Is this suddenly prominent preacher with a large and admiring following a spiritual descendant of Peter with five thousand repentant converts or of Aaron indulging his tens of thousands with religious song and dance around the golden calf?"
9. Richard John Neuhaus, "The Lutheran Difference: What's Really Wrong With the Church Growth Movement," Lutheran Forum 24 (Reformation/August 1990), 21. Also against catering to such "felt needs" is the striking image in Gerhard 0. Forde, "A Short Word," Dialog 20 (Spring 1981), 91. "The Word is not relevant to the 'Old Adam'... It is something like the words, 'I love you.' spoken in a brothel."
10. James A Nestingen, "Preaching Repentance," Lutheran Quarterly 3 (Autumn 1989), 264.
11. Soren Kierkegaard's Journals and Papers, translated and edited by Howard W. and Edna H. Hong (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1967-1978), in 7 volumes, VI:569-70.
12. Brita Stendahl, Sabbatical Reflections: The Ten Commandments in a New Day (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980), 44-45, 46. "Moaning and mourning" is required of worship in the name of Christ. On this see Luther, AE 22: 236. "During his entire earthly sojourn, [Christ] was consumed with constant sorrow, which prevented Him from ever being happy. And if He had not been crucified, He would have grieved Himself to death over the utter futility of all His efforts..."
13. AE 53: 323.
14. Walter Brueggemann, Advent/Christmas: Proclamation 3, Series B (Philadelphia Fortress, 1984), 58. Reinforcing this insight is the distinction in Carl Schalk, "The Challenge for Lutheran Worship in the '90s," Papers of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians (March 1991), 8. "Music is not simply the setting for the perfect jewel of the Gospel, the wrapping in which the Gospel is contained--it is part of the unwrapping and as such demands the highest level of craftsmanship which composer can muster."
15. David N. Powers, Music and the Experience of God (T & T Clark, 1989), 148.
16. Thomas Day, Why Catholics Can't Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Triumph of Bad Taste (New York: Crossroads. 1990), 32, 62. On "the hymns true tone" see Soren Kierkegaard's Journals and Papers, V:429-430. "For a good hymn I insist on altogether simple and to some extent insignificant words... and then one of those fervent melodies... [of] the piety of a quiet suffering person (and this is the proper piety), Grundtvig has no knowledge at all. Grundtvig is and was and remains a boisterous fellow;... The deeper inward pain which in quiet sadness is reconciled with God is... the hymn's true tone... I could no more become tired of repeating such a song than tire of looking at the sky in autumn's gray weather when the soft, gentle colors shift and change in the finest design."
17. Why Catholics Can't Sing, 64.
18. Paul Westermeyer, The Church Musician (New York: Harper & Row, 1988), 76.
19. Patrick R. Keifert, Welcoming the Stranger: A Public Theology of Worship and Evangelism (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), 112, 136. Against capitulation in general is this fiercely polemical quote from Luther in James J. Kittelson, Luther the Reformer (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1986), 116. "Whoever wants to bring the word of Christ into the world must, like the apostles, leave behind and renounce everything and expect death at any moment. If another situation prevailed, it would not be the word of Christ."
20. AE 53: 324.
21. Carol Doran and Thomas H. Troeger, "The United Methodist Hymnal," Worship 62 (March 1991), 162.
22. David Luecke, Evangelical Style and Lutheran Substance: Facing America's Mission Challenge (St. Louis: Concordia, 1988), 108.
23. Alexander Schmemann, The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Press, 1988), 24.
24. R. P. C. Hanson, The Attractiveness of God (Richmond: John Knox Press, 1973), 145. Against this attack on easy-going Christianity some put Matthew 11:28, 30, "Come to me... and I will give you rest... For my yoke is easy and My burden light ." In l850 Kierkegaard--in Practice in Christianity, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991)--debunked such efforts by showing the absence of ease in Jesus' words, "come to me"--noting that "come" includes first a painful "turning around" (p. 19), and "me"--means Christ as "abased" and therefore unattractive (p. 33). These two points make Christianity hardly as "simple as pulling on one's socks" (p. 35). Coming to Christ is rather "very awkward" (p. 40). Against those who conceal this awkwardness behind Matthew 11 are these striking words from the end of Luther's Large Catechism--in The Book of Concord (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1959), 457. "We quickly understand whatever benefits us, and we grasp with uncommon ease whatever in the Gospel is mild and gentle. But such pigs... are not worthy to appear in the presence of the Gospel or to have any part of it."
25. Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon, Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony (Nashville: Abingdon, 1989), 90.
26. William Hordern, Evangelism, Luther and the Augsburg Confession (Minneapolis: The American Lutheran Church, 1983), 6-7.
27. AE 41:127.
28. AE 53:102. This life also knows joy but only in a qualified sense. For a description of this qualified joy, see Soren Kierkegaard's Journals and Papers, II:494. "The ear of the sufferer is peculiarly formed. Like the lover's ear which is trained to hear only the voice of the beloved although it hears everything else in the world, so also the ear of the sufferer... So the joy proclaimed without mentioning the pain is only sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal; unheeded, it whistles past the ear of the suffering one; it sounds on the ear but does not resound in the heart; it agitates the ear but is not treasured within. But the voice which quivers with pain and still proclaims joy--yes, this forces its way in through his ear and descends into his heart and is treasured there."
29. AE 21: 245. Luther embraced this difficulty because of his self understanding. See Heiko A. Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), 79. "Luther never styled himself a 'reformer.' He did not, however, shrink from being seen as a prophet..." See also pp. 46, 77. In AE43:223 we read: "I am sure that I am a prophet."
30. Jacques Ellul, The Subversion of Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), l72-173.
31. AE 21:67.
32. AE 2: 364. A sharp distinction in understanding how we are enemies of ourselves is in Gerhard 0. Forde, "The Power of Negative Thinking," dialog 23 (Autumn 1984), 252. "Negation is not something the self can 'do' at all. One can only 'be' negated... It becomes to one from without, from the cross."
33. AE 25:349. But such self-hatred should not warrant depression! On this see AE 14: 60. "Do not brood on your... misery." See also AE 27:356. "Love of oneself... is always wrong so long as it is in itself, and that it is not good unless it is outside itself in God; that is, that with my affection for myself and my love of myself completely dead, I look for nothing but that God's completely undefiled will be done in me." Such a wish displaces depression and self-pity.
34. AE 25:319.
35. AE 25:383. God's negative essence abided in Luther himself as is clear in this breathtaking quote in H. 0. Haile, Luther: An Experiment in Biography (Doubleday, 1980), 161. "I was born to go to war and give battle to sects and devils. That is why my books are stormy and warlike. I have to root out the stumps and clumps, hack away the thorns and brambles. I am the great feller of forests, who must clear and level it."
36. AE 25:309.
37. AE 25:244.
38. AE 25:382.
39. AE 25:513.
40. AE 25:514.
41. The Violence of Love: The Pastoral Wisdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero (New York: Harper & Row, l988), 14.
42. The Violence of Love, 38.
43. Daniel V. Biles, Pursuing Excellence in Ministry (Washington DC: The Alban Institute, 1988), 10.
44. Emil Brunner, The Scandal of Christianity: The Gospel as Stumbling Block to Modern Man (Richmond: John Knox Press, 1951), 115. We combat being "full of ourselves" by striving to "conform" to Christ (Roman 8:29) and thereby becoming a "new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17) who says, "It is no longer I who live but Christ in me" (Galatians 2:20). On this alternative see AE 26:170. "So far as my animate life is concerned, I am dead and am now living an alien life... This death acquires an alien life for me, namely, the life of Christ, which is not inborn in me but is granted to me in faith through Christ." What this alien life changes in us is described in AE 26: 375. "Through the spoken Word we receive fire and light by which we are made new and different and by which a new judgment, new sensations and new drives arise in us." For the fruit of this new life, see AE 35: 56, where a Christian is one who "makes the afflictions of Christ... his own, defends the truth, opposes unrighteousness, and helps bear the needs of the innocent..."
45. George Wolfgang Forell, The Luther Legacy: An Introduction to Luther's Life and Thought for Today (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1983), 78.
46. Soren Kierkegaard's Journals and Papers, IV:165-66. This polemical stance and its criminal analogy elaborates Luther's insistence that suffering must be seen as one of the distinctive marks of the church. On this see AE 41:164. "The holy Christian people are externally recognized by the holy possession of the sacred cross. They must endure every misfortune and persecution, all kinds of trials and evil from the devil, the world, and the flesh... by inward sadness, timidity, fear, outward poverty, contempt, illness and weakness, in order to become like their head, Christ."
47. The Violence of Love, 54. On "touching the real sin," see Douglas John Hall's quote from Luther in Luther's Ecumenical Significance (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), 257 (edited by Peter Manns, et al). "If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however, boldly I may be professing him. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."
48. H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture (New York: Harper & Row, 1951), 69.
49. Christ and Culture, 68.
50. See hymn 396 in Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW) (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1978). On the hymns of Martin H. Franzmann, see Richard N. Brinkley, Thy Strong Word: The Enduring Legacy of Martin Franzmann (St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 1993). Writing in the forward, Carl Schalk says: "If some texts are seen as too rich, too dense, too theologically packed to be of popular appeal, Franzmann shoots back: 'Who says hymns have to be easy?' Eric Routley commenting on Franzmann's clear Law/Gospel approach, suggests that 'his hymns seem always to frown before they smile,' and notes that 'this in itself is a refreshment after the fixed and euphoric beam that we got from some earlier American poets'" (p. 10). For a profound critique of the revision to the original Franzmann text in the LBW, see Robin A. Leaver, Come to the Feast: The Original and Translated Hymns of Martin H. Franzmann (St. Louis, MO: Morning Star Music Publishers, 1994), 5O-53.
51. LBW, hymn 553, verse 2, second stanza.
52. Soren Kierkegaard, in his 1851 book, For Self-Examination (Princeton University Press, 1990), saw through critical biblical scholarship at its inception. "All this... new scholarly research that is produced on the solemn and serious principle that it is in order to understand God's Word properly--look more closely and you will see that it is in order to defend oneself against God's Word... much in the way a boy puts a napkin or more under his pants when he is going to get a licking" (pp. 34-35).
53. AE 16:16 and AE 2l: 66.
54. AE 12: 225 and AE 42:11.
55. James A. Nestingen, "Luther in Front of the Text: The Genesis Commentary," Word & World 14 (Spring 1994), 191.
56. AE 23: 247.
57. AE 14: 335.
58. AE 11:275.
59. AE 14:337.
60. AE 25:516.
61. Soren Kierkegaard's Journals and Papers, VI:550.
62. AE 14:290.
63. The Book of Concord, 189.
64. AE 26: 269. See also AE 2: 266. "For faith is a vigorous and powerful thing; it is not idle speculation, nor does it float on the heart like a goose on the water." Luther, therefore, must conclude in AE 35:378, "faith takes no holidays."
65. AE 20:103.
66. AE 23:55.
67. AE 17:30. "Not remaining with ourselves" is the theme of self-hatred revealed in John 12:25, Luke 14:26 and 1 John 2:15. This may well be the most offensive thing about Christianity. On this see Joanna and Alister McGrath, The Dilemma of Self-Esteem: The Cross and Christian Confidence (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, l992) This gallant effort is unfortunately marred by its complete avoidance at our three above mentioned Bible verses. A startling secular critique of this is the February 17, 1992 issue of Newsweek magazine with the cover title, "The Curse of Self Esteem: What's Wrong With the Feel-Good Movement." This excellent article is closer to Luther's insight in AE 42:48, that "we have no greater enemy than ourselves,... for our will is the greatest and most deep-rooted evil in us, and nothing is dearer to us than our own will." On this we must bite the bullet with Kierkegaard in Soren Kierkegaard's Journals and Papers, III:59-60. "God... says, I must take away man's zest for life if there is to be any possibility of becoming a Christian... He must be in a state of agony so that if he were a pagan he would at no time hesitate to commit suicide."
25 June 1997
This essay, without the addendum, first appeared in Spring 1994 issue of Trinity Seminary Review (XVI/1), was reprinted with the addendum in the Pentecost 1995 issue of The Bride of Christ (XIX/3:8-19) and is now reprinted with the author's permission.
Reverend Ronald F. Marshall is an ordained minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America called as Pastor of First Church in West Seattle, Washington. He is an instructor at the Seminary consortium of Seattle and one of the editors of certus cermo, an independant monthly review of the Northwest Washington Synod of the ELCA.
Direct all correspondence concerning this essay to Semper Reformanda at: SemperRef@aol.com
soli Deo gloria
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