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July 26, 2013

Double-Minded Culture Part 2

Hello!  This is a continuation of a post I created in May.  This post was supposed to be a continuation of that post I started only a few days later, but never finished.  After a discussion with my fieldwork pastor a few days ago, I realized the importance of finishing what you start less someone get the wrong idea!  So, here, finally, is the second part to my post, "Double-Minded Culture."

In the first part, I discussed the difficulty of reaching this culture and how we as pastors need to finds ways to encounter this relativistic culture personally.  Once we make that personal connection with them (both to us in God's stead and to God Himself), then we must work at bringing them back into the fold of Christ's church.

To the confessional Lutheran, the way to go about this is clear: we catechize them of course!  However, this process may not be as straight forward as it seems.  How unfortunate would it be to partner with the Holy Spirit in bringing this person to faith only to get in way once they are ready to join the church.

What I mean is this: Luther's Small Catechism is a historical document written by Martin Luther in 1529 to the German people of the Holy Roman Empire.  He wrote it as a practical guide for the heads of families to instruct their family in the Christian life.  With it they would be able to apply the Word of God, revealed in the Bible (which is another historical document with its own time and context), to their own lives 1500+ years later.  Luther's Small Catechism is a sixteenth century document written for sixteenth century people.

So why care about Luther's Catechism today?  Now, I want you to hear me loud and clear, I AM NOT ADVOCATING DOING AWAY WITH LUTHER'S CATECHISM!  In fact, I argue the opposite.  Luther's Catechism is the continuation of the tradition of witness to the Scriptures.  Just as Jesus came as the ultimate international witness to God's Word, Luther's catechism is an international witness to Jesus Christ.  By it the Word of God comes to meet people where they are at, but then lifts them back up to its source.

This "descending" and "ascending" is essential!  Imagine two people: one standing on a bridge and the other drowning in the river below.  It will not help if the one on the bridge simply yelled, "Stop drowning, come up here!"  If he could do that he would not be drowning in the first place.  Yet, if the person on the bridge jumps into the river without any way to get back is just as useless.  They both end up perishing.  Now, the best would be for the person on the bridge to secure himself to it and then jump.  He would then be able to pull them both back up to safety.

So if descending is meeting people where they are, a.k.a. helping them experience God personally, then ascending is bring them into the corporate body of Christ.  The catechism is a great tool to use to instruct those who are new to the faith, yet we must not forget that this culture is starving for personal experience.  Therefore, we must contextualize the content of the witness, but stay faithful to the message of the witness.

We are able to stay faithful to the message of the witness when we use the same language as the witness.  Now, I using language here as a spoken dialect (such as English, Spanish, German, etc.), otherwise we would be restricted to only using the Hebrew and Aramaic of the Old Testament and the Koine Greek of the New Testament.  What I do mean by language is the categories that we use in the witness, such as justification, sanctification, Law, Gospel, grace, and others.  This helps us stay anchored to our sure foundation.

Thus, after bring people to the personal experience of God, we must then bring them into the corporate body of the church.  This is done through catechizing, but we must take care to make sure that the people see how and why these things apply to their lives, not just 16th century Germans.  Therefore, as pastors our primary job is interpreters.  This is because if we cannot interpret Scripture and the witness to it, we will not be able to bring our people into the fold of God and they will not be able to recognize what they have been searching for.  Yet, it is no good to show them what they were looking for and leave them outside the church because it is something that only can be received in the corporate body and witness of Christ.

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