WELS and the Intrepid Lutherans

There is talk among some leaders in the WELS (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod) that the Intrepid Lutherans blog should shut itself down.

The WELS Conference Of Presidents is meeting this week, and they are planning to discuss the Intrepid Lutherans blog.  The Conference Of Presidents is composed of the Synod President, the Synod Vice Presidents, and the 12 District Presidents.  (The District Presidents are like bishops).

The concern is that the Intrepid Lutherans use of God’s Word to publicly question doctrine and practice in the WELS is causing division and bad public relations.  Recently, the Intrepid Lutherans criticized the sin of plagiarism, and also pointed out problems with the synod wide “Walking Together Sunday” service.  In response, at least one District President has counseled the Intrepid Lutherans to close shop.

However, there is unhealthy doctrine and practice in the WELS, it is also public, and it is spreading like a malignant cancer.  (See also WELS Northern WI District Doctrinal Issues).  The WELS is like a beautiful woman with melanoma.  Unfortunately, some among us think the cure for melanoma is to ignore it, and hope it goes away.  Others are impressed with how fast the cancer grows, and think growth at any cost is good.  And still others are promoting the cancer.

At first, false doctrine is tolerant: it just wants to be left alone in its own little area so that it can gain a strong foothold.  In fact, part of our doctrinal problem is tolerance:  There are already far too many WELS men who either act like doctrine is not important, and/or they will come right out and say: “Let’s agree to disagree on doctrine; and if we don’t agree to disagree, then you need to keep your mouth shut.”  The (world’s) culture we live in says it is intolerant of persons and bad to speak the truth in love.  However, we should not succumb to that thought trap.  The Church must speak the truth.  God’s Word is truth.

The solution for cancerous doctrine is not to ignore it and keep our mouths shut, but rather to cut it out using the scalpel of the Word of God.  Some are worried about division, but God’s Word divides even soul and spirit.  (Matthew 10:34-39, Hebrews 4:12).  A loving husband does not deny his wife chemotherapy because he is afraid of spoiling her beauty.  So also good shepherds do not deny their flocks the true Law that cuts to the bone, nor the true Gospel that restores and heals.

Satan wants us to focus on our outward beauty.  He wants us to pretend everything is OK, when on the inside we are dying.  If Satan had his way: there would be no pornography, there would be no abortion, there would be no theft, there would be no murder; and everyone would live in a good house, everyone would smile and be happy, and everyone would go to church on Sunday where we would not hear Christ crucified.  (Matthew 4:8-9).

Everyone would be happy and look good on the outside, but everyone would be going to hell, and no one would realize that anything was wrong.

Jesus did not come to earth to look good, but rather he came to proclaim truth.  (Isaiah 53:2-3).  So also His true Church focuses on proclaiming the truth, no matter the cost.  Any church that focuses on public relations instead of true doctrine is a church that damns:  Having lost its focus on the Truth, its mission then becomes one of darkness and lies.  (Matthew 12:30, Ezekiel 13:10-16).

God’s Word is our light.  God’s word is true doctrine, and doctrine dictates practice.  (James 2:18).  If false doctrine cannot be confronted, then of what use is God’s Word?  That is like putting the light of God’s Word under a bowl.  (Matthew 5:15).  Indeed the WELS will grow, if we hide the harsh Law and the Gospel salve and the efficacious Sacraments under a bowl, because men love darkness.  (John 3:19).  But at what cost?  (Matthew 6:23).

Hopefully, God will guide all earthly church leaders to realize that it is correct and proper for God’s people to openly discuss God’s Word.  It is not only proper for God’s people to question their church, it is good.  It is healthy.  (Acts 17:11).  It is the Holy Spirit who sanctifies and keeps His Congregation of Saints in the one true faith, and the Holy Spirit can handle some discussion.  (“Explanation of the Third Article,” Small Catechism).  We need pastors who trust God’s Word, who do not believe in WELS exceptionalism, and who are therefore willing to openly discuss doctrine and practice.  (Acts 20:28-31).

Anything less is a world of make-believe.  Anything less is the kingdom of Satan.  It is Satan who wants to shut up God’s people.  It is Satan who wants us to live in a world of make-believe where we pretend that everything is OK.  However, it is Jesus who wants us to live in the world of reality with all our true ugliness, along with His true redemption.

If we want the WELS to be beautiful, we should not worry how she looks in this world, we should just make sure she gets to heaven.  Entertainment, popcorn, and phony public relations efforts will not get anyone to heaven.  Only the reality of God’s Law and Promises will.

2 thoughts on “WELS and the Intrepid Lutherans

  1. Rick,

    I very much endorse your heart-felt, medical analogy of keeping church doctrine pure and holy. I agree, wholeheartedly, that these issues should be openly discussed and debated, just like they were in the early Christian Church.

    The cancer that you speak of, false doctrine, needs to be addressed and excised but there is also another pervasive cancer, legalism, which also needs to be removed. Many of these debates turn into legalistic personal opinions of what the Church must and must not practice. Historical traditions, in some circles, have assumed gospel-like authority. Some attack Christian freedom, whether or not that freedom is solely meant to bring glory to our God and unbelievers to faith in Christ Jesus.

    I often wonder what Paul would say about us if he could visit us today. I can only speculate that he would lash out at our legalism and especially our lack of becoming “all things to all men.” We fail to understand that the presentation can change, but the Word SHALL never change.

    I was surprised by your comment “If we want the WELS to be beautiful, we should not worry how she looks in this world, we should just make sure she gets to heaven” and believe it was out of character for you. We can’t make sure the WELS get into heaven because God does not recognize corporate WELS or any other denomination. God only recognizes his individual sheep, which then constitute the Holy Christian Church on earth. Salvation is solely on an individual basis through faith in the saving grace of Jesus; certainly not collectively by what denomination to which we may belong.

    P. C. Christian

  2. Paul,

    I agree that entire denominations do not go to heaven. What I meant was that we should not worry about how WELS looks, but rather we should clearly preach Christ crucified in all our congregations.

    Thanks for pointing that out.
    Rick

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