Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Religion Returns to Russia's Public Schools

After years of government sanctioned atheism, religion again returns to the public sector in Russia. And this time it is the public school system. How life has changed in the nearly two decades since the collapse of the old Soviet Union.

With roughly half to two-thirds of Russians identifying themselves with the Orthodox faith, one should not be surprised to find this faith at the forefront of the effort to reintroduce religious instruction into the new curriculum. However, it is not without some adjustment. Clifford J. Levy in the New York Times writes:

The new curriculum reflects the nation's continuing struggle to define what it means to be Russian in the post-communistic era and what role religion should play after being brutally suppressed under Soviet rule. Yet the drive by a revitalized church to weave its tenets into the educational system has prompted a backlash, and not only from the remains of the Communist party.

The new emphasis on religion in the schools comes largely at the urging of church leaders. They claim that after years of the enforced atheism of communism, Russians are out of touch "with a faith that was once at the core of their identity." However, the courses, these leaders insist, are not so much religious as cultural.

Opponents, though, raise concerns of what impact this new instruction is having on the constitutional separation of church and state. They see the efforts as proselytizing for members, not instructing in the humanities.

In many ways this has the ring of deja vu for any American who has heard years of similar rhetoric from those who are unsettled even by seeing a child or teacher pray in a classroom, or by Bible study groups independent of the daily instruction. Opponents point out that Russia is a multi-ethnic, pluralistic nation and they are fearful of alienating the large Muslim minority (10-15%).

Levy then writes: "The dispute came to a head recently when 10 prominent Russian scientists, including two Nobel laureates sent a letter to President Vladimir V. Putin, protesting what they term the 'growing clericalization' of Russian society." Interesting how their reaction was not just to the presence of religion in the schools, but in society as a whole.

All this is familiar ground to those of us in the U.S. who 'enjoy' a radical separation of church and state contrary to the intents of our nation's founders, who only wished to avoid a state-sponsored religion. Admittedly it is difficult to integrate religion into a secular public school curriculum, although there are text books that are written for that purpose. Unfortunately, in attempting to avoid all references to religion, especially in history, we rob our children of a true view of the past.

Russian leaders would do well to remember their past and not eliminate it from the instruction of their children. To understand Russian history, especially since 1000 AD, one must understand the mission and work of the Orthodox church. Yet as one who is not Orthodox, I understand the need to maintain the fine line between informing and proclaiming.

Perhaps the Orthodox church realizes a weakness in its own catechesis. While the liturgy is beautiful and was responsible for sustaining the church in those oppressive times, formal instruction of the young and old alike outside of the liturgy has never seemed to be an emphasis of the Orthodox. Maybe they need to reexamine this weakness, and begin to teach again.

To do so, however, will require a different way of thinking. The State is not responsible for providing the place and opportunity to teach the Faith. They once enjoyed such privilege under the czars. And then with a whole generation of being underground, the Word was largely silent from the public square. They must re-evangelize the country and learn, like the Lutheran forefathers of our church, that a new model is sometimes needed.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Can Lutherans Become Too Catholic?

Many years ago there was a general backlash in the Lutheran Church against anything that smacked of being "Catholic." Thus, pastors wore black Geneva robes in protest against the more Catholic looking vestments, and many traditional aspects of worship were toned down so as to appear more Protestant (such as no chanting). In the years since I was ordained this backlash has relaxed. Nevertheless, one can still hear rumblings of it from time to time with those who remembered that past era as a golden time in Lutheran history.

As any student of Lutheran history will know, the blessed Reformer was largely alone in his conservative approach to retaining practices of the church that were deemed faithful, even if they were not seen as mandated. Thus, Lutheran churches have altars and pulpits where Reformed parishes sport tables and podiums. Lutheran clergy wear the traditional vestments of albs, chasubles, cassocks and surplices, and stoles, where Reformed clergy don black academic robes or business suits, or in this day of the reign of casualness, no more than a polo shirt and pair of chinos. Lutheran churches also have historic liturgies of the Mass and the choir hours (at least some do), whereas the Reformed opted for a simple devotional style of bare necessities, some even letting natural spontaneity trump order.

Beyond these universal practices, Lutheran churches have also maintained the practice of crossing themselves (as even encouraged by Luther himself in his morning and evening prayers), chanting the liturgy, and observing a sense of reverence at the altar and in the service with appropriate bowing. And it is these last practices, in particular, that are often labeled as being over-the-top and blatantly Catholic. Yet they are not. They are simply the practices that were continued from the very first days of the Reformation, as they were carried forward from the earliest history of the ancient church.

How did we get to this point? Well, this is too restrictive an area for all the history behind this issue. Yet suffice it to say that in our reactions against certain teachings of the Catholic church, we have fallen, just like our Reformed cousins, into the old "baby-out-with-the-bathwater" error. For those who are of retirement age now (excluding the Baby Boomers, who are an entirely different breed altogether on these issues), the memory of the distancing from catholic practices is still fresh. TLH, although now well over 60 years old, is still the hymnal of their memory, not LW or LSB. Many believe that the reintroduction of genuine Christian practice from the past is a rejection of what their forefathers believed.

Patience is needed as the church continues to rediscover and reintroduce these long neglected customs and practices. And as it is done, we need to carefully instruct our people so that they understand how these "catholic" (i.e. universal) practices are not inconsistent with Lutheran theology, even of that of their long past pastors. Unfortunately in their zeal to bring the church back, there will always be young pastors who move too fast with too much. This has hindered the cause to bring the church along by needlessly offending people before they could be taught.

Can a Lutheran church become too Catholic, the title of this article reads. I doubt it, even if there are fears out there to the contrary. But we must be aware and sensitive to the fear that it can be. As always, catechesis is of utmost necessity.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Church and the Environment

Politically, regardless of the side of the party isle you are on, being "green" is now a prerequisite to any campaign. The church has also not wanted to be left behind either, and more and more we see various denominations placing topics such as global warming at the center of their mission.

Religious News Service recently posted this account of Evangelicals going green:

Some Evangelicals Going Green as Skepticism Lingers
By Adelle M. Banks

(UNDATED) When Bishop Harry Jackson saw melting glaciers and devastated forests on a recent trip to Alaska, he decided that global warming should be a higher priority on his list of key issues for evangelicals. Now he's ready to work to bring evangelicals from the left and right together to address reducing carbon emissions and oil use. Some evangelical leaders, often one by one, have similar stories of environmental conversion. Supporters of the Evangelical Climate Initiative say the numbers of signatories has inched up from about 86 last year to 106 now. But the support that's slowly growing in some circles is nuanced at best and there are many prominent -- and often older -- evangelicals who remain unconvinced.

Stewardship naturally encompasses more than just our money. It includes a responsible use of all the gifts God has given to his people, of which the environment is included. As a hunter I support the fact that my fees contribute to a regular maintenance of the environment where I live. And as a citizen of the nation I have a real interest in helping to manage the responsible use of the woods and animals that surround me.

But beyond a call to responsible stewardship, does the church have a call to put topics of scientific debate at the center of its mission? Not even the scientists are united on the issue of Global Warming and the danger it may pose. We have long known that weather is cyclic. Over the centuries and millenia there have been periods of warming and cooling. Personally I would like to see a unified front in the scientific realm before I would even think of jumping on this popular bandwagon as a church leader. And even then I would still have to ask myself: To what degree is this the church's ultimate concern over against the much greater issues of eternity?

On Preaching and Illustrations

The art of preaching demands much of the pastor, and many in the pew too quickly judge its effectiveness or worthiness not by the doctrinal content, but by issues of style. Preaching to the regular "Hans and Gretel" as Luther called them, requires a sensitivity of the preacher to the world and culture in which they live. Naturally each pastor develops his own approach to this sacred task. Ideas of what is in bad taste or unnecessary or even wasteful are therefore in great abundance when preachers discuss this ancient art.

Recently I ran across an article on preaching by Dr. Eckardt on Gottesblog that addressed these very issues. His appeal to preaching without a manuscript and his comments on the use of illustrations, as well as being immersed in the psalter and the language of holy scripture were especially interesting. I will readily confess that I have used a manuscript for all of my 20 years now, and I like to think that although I am dependent on having it there it does not control my preaching. Some of my fears are that in speaking in such fashion it is easy to fall into the trap of sloppy speaking habits ("Ummm...", "Uh...." etc.), and to lose track of time (I know, they shouldn't be watching the clock, but they do!)

In this comments on preaching he also addressed the use of illustrations, and much of what he said needs to be heard. There are preachers who confuse a loose string of stories for a sermon, or who seem to think that jokes and humor have to be present to keep people interested. Sometimes it is hard to recognize what came from the pulpit as a real genuine example of biblical proclamation. While I don't believe that Dr. Eckardt spoke against the use of any illustrations that were not directly from the Bible, he did mention this in regard to illustrations or stories at the beginning of the sermon:

"It is not necessary to start the sermon with a personal story of vignette, or even with any kind of introduction at all. Neither the Fathers nor Luther did this. It is a modern thing. Do not waste precious preaching moments on a story (unless perhaps it’s a Biblical one)!"

I understand his point, but I am not sure I am ready to completely agree. With no disrespect to the Fathers or blessed Luther, the way we preach, while informed by them, needs also to be sensitive to the culture of this time as well. Whether we like to admit it or not, people today are not well trained or practiced in listening in any depth or for any length of time. They are bombarded with 'sound-bytes' and TV shows punctuated at regular intervals by endless commercials. Politicians must package their ideas in forms that are easy to understand and remember. Getting and holding the attention of the hearer is not easy. Many in the pews are already committed to tuning us out even before our first word is spoken. They want to know how the Word impacts their life here and now. This does not mean that we can't do as Eckardt says. But I would be cautious about forgoing an introduction altogether and completely avoiding any personal bridge to the hearer. It is hard for people, I believe, to simply 'jump in' to the sermon, but rather need to be led in a bit more gradually.

The preacher is never so visible and obvious to his flock as when he steps into the pulpit on Sunday morning. They may not remember his last Bible class or his last visit, but they will often remember what he did or did not do there in the pulpit, and they will often not be shy about speaking about it. Preachers predictably will cringe at any criticisms from the pew, wanting to protest that they are the ones trained in homiletics, not the people. Still, if we want to be assured that the Gospel is getting a hearing, we need to hear them. While Dr. Eckardt's comments on preaching is by and far valuable points for ever preacher to ponder, I wonder if he still needs to consider a little more closely the necessity of understanding one's hearer and one's local culture as part of the sermon preparation.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Modo Proprio and the Revial the the Tridentine Mass

This afternoon I witnessed something that had largely disappeared after the 1960's: the Tridentine Mass. EWTN broadcast the Tridentine Mass both this morning and later at 5:00 (CST). As a traditional liturgically-minded Lutheran pastor I was quite fascinated to observe this Mass. Thankfully I had an 80 year old Missal handy to follow along, as I am not conversant with Latin, classical or ecclesiastical.

There were, of course, many elements of the Divine Service familiar to me that have been retained in the Lutheran tradition. In fact, I was probably more at home with the music and ritual than some modern Catholics who, like Lutherans themselves, have been victims of overzealous and misdirected liturgical reformers over the years. It must have been refreshing for them to again hear the grandness of the organ and the sweet melodic chants of the choir ringing in that ancient tongue.

Many today criticize worship that feels stiff and formal. They want upbeat music that relates to what they experience in a popular outdoor concert. This Mass, however, was solemn and formal and contrary to every contemporary innovation in the last 30+ years. The movements of the priests and deacons were deliberate with a sense of being in a holy place handling holy things. And the homilist did well in explaining to the congregation the meaning and significance of the liturgy, too often misunderstood even when it is in a language they do know. Even to Lutheran ears there was much to appreciate here. Like many Catholics that have chafed under the loose practices of misguided folk masses, Lutherans are even now struggling against a church that largely is jettisoning its ancient liturgical heritage for inferior pottage of seeker sensitive worship 'celebrations.' I can only hope that as Vatican II influenced the liturgical renewal well outside Catholic bounds, this renewal of the ancient Mass might also encourage others to reexamine the need for more solemnity and dignity in the Divine Service.

I was under the impression that the old Latin Mass was actually prohibited in the church since Vatican II. It was not prohibited, but it did require the permission of the Bishop. Obviously there was a desire to make sure the changes of the Second Vatican Council took hold. Now, however, with too much innovation and deconstruction of the Mass placing a blight on what was surely a good intention, the new Tridentine Mass will allow the people again to be solemn and formal without excuse. I hope this happens for us Lutherans one day as well.....

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Do Denomination Affiliations Matter Anymore?

Close communion is a topic guaranteed to generate heated and passionate discussion, especially when it impacts a family member. To see your son or daughter excluded from the Table because they are from a different denomination seems to some to be overly rigid and strict. And to some degree denomination affiliation means little to many in the pew today. ELCA, LCMS, or WELS - what's the difference, they say. They're all Lutherans, right?

People usually join local congregations for personal reasons (spouses, location, etc.), and only secondarily consider the denomination label, if they consider it at all. It doesn't matter to most. Although they may not state it quite this way, denominational affiliation is not all that different from belonging to the local Optimist or Kiwanis club. It's just another organization.

So do denominational affiliations really matter any more in this "post-denomination" culture? Admittedly many do not understand the differences, and few probably ever take the time to investigate what their church's denomination believes. Nevertheless, does that therefore mean the differences are meaningless? I don't believe they are, and I still hold that if you join a church you are wittingly or unwittingly joinin your assent to the confession of theg parent church body. We have long made an issue of Lodge membership in the Missouri Synod and for good reason. They are a quasi-religious church-like group that clearly states a confession in a false deity. Yet when it comes to other "Lutherans" the standards are automatically relaxed, even though in the ELCA, for example, active homosexual clergy are pastoring churches without any repercussions, killing the unborn is accepted, and the Bible is often treated as less than fully divine. And this only scratches the surface.

To belong to a church that states it is a member of a given denomination means that we accept the official confession of that church body. We may not always like the practices within it, or what some members and leaders choose to privately confess. There are also many hypocritical actions that make the public confession seem meaningless at times. But public confessions still matter (Why would the early Christians have bothered with creeds if they weren't?). Otherwise, it is back to Judges where everyone did what was right in his own eyes. This is an invitation to ecclesiastical confusion and chaos, which is all too evident in many of the liberal denominations today.

So, do denominational affiliations matter? As difficult as it may be to deal with it these days, I would still have to say yes. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Painful and Necessary Anniversary

I do not need to remind any of you what today represents. In a way this is the new Pearl Harbor Day. We remember this day not as a victory, but as a tragic event in the history of our country and the horrible loss of life that resulted. It was a day we were invaded as a nation by hostile forces. It was a day we were violently attacked. It was a day that changed our country forever.

9-11 is the "ground zero" of the subsequent military operations since that day, and a reminder of the continued sacrifice of life in the war against terror. The shadow of 2001 stretches over us even now. The rules changed that day. Evil took on a new incarnation. The wars of past eras have transformed into a reality that resembles a mine field of random explosive potential more than a clearly demarcated line of battle.

In many ways this new reality also reflects the world of evil in which each believer wages daily war against the demons of hell. In the life of faith one does not see the soldiers of Satan neatly lined up like the revolutionary British troops, glowing in their red coats. The demons are terrorists. They hide under the guise even of the angels of light. They blend into the world and try to convince us that they are not there. Then when we are unaware and unprepared, they attack. Too often they enjoy the advantage of the 'element of surprise,' since people freqently choose not to notice their presence and work.

Yet even if we cannot see their faces, we can detect their footprints. We know where they have been, and to some degree, we even know where they are now: The vitriol of hate-filled words, the callous destructive attacks on character and family, the warped twisting of truth. As our country is called to be "ever vigilant" to renewed terrorist activity on the home front, Christians are likewise cautioned to be aware as well. We are still at war and will be until we die.

9-11 is a painful reminder, but a necessary one. Too often we live in subtle denial of the evil around us, wanting to believe in a 'nice world' that never existed this side of Eden. While I hope that one day our efforts in Iraq will come to a successful and peaceful close, I do not expect that to mark the end of terror. Not by a long shot. Evil will remain. And according to the scriptures, it will even increase as the End draws ever closer. So, be aware and alert, and remain protected in the armor of God, fighting faithfully with the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. One day our war will end and we will go home. E'en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come!

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Ghost of Seminex Revisited

The "Walkout" at Concordia Seminary in '74 is now more than thirty years removed from us. The ELCA long ago absorbed those who desired a different approach to doctrine and belief and wished to walk a different path than that traditionally traveled in Missouri. With Dr. Paul Zimmerman's book A Seminary in Crises: The Inside Story of the Preus Fact Finding Committee, however, the ghosts of Seminex have again been awakened. And in so far as the lessons of history help us from repeating the mistakes of the past, such works are invaluable.

But they also awaken the resentments of unresolved issues as well. Dr. Ed Schroeder on his "Crossings" site is one of those wounded ones who needed to provide a counter defense to those who had once labeled him "liberal" and deemed that he was not teaching in accordance with the Lutheran faith.

You can read Dr. Schroeder's review of Zimmerman's book on his Thursday Theology section.

He appears to want the record to show that contrary to former assessments, the theology of Seminex was truly Lutheran. In the process he attempts to show that the historical-critical method of biblical study was not the main issue at stake. Instead, he insists, the issue was the character of what it means to be Lutheran in doctrine and ethics. Schroeder states: "The battle was about the heart of Reformation theology, Luther's "Aha!" about the Gospel, not about the historical-critical method."

Schroeder sees the issue ultimately as a Law-Gospel issue. The LCMS was law-oriented over against the freedom of the Gospel: " Missouri's hangup on authority--both for the Bible and for LCMS church life--was its inability to get away from this law-grounded authority paradigm."

As he recounts the way the argument was originally framed, the matter of the inerrancy of the Bible was deemed necessary for the sake of the Gospel. But Schroeder and the other eventual Seminex teachers saw differently: " However, such a prior trust is necessarily grounded on trusting something else than THE Gospel itself, something you got to trust (=law's sort of authority) in order to be able to trust the Gospel. But prerequisites of any sort (which are always law, no matter how sweetly you perfume them) before you can trust the Gospel, is analogous to requiring circumcision before you can become a Christian, isn't it? And the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 made it perfectly clear that THAT was a no-no. It's got to be the other way around with Bible and Gospel. Trusting the gospel comes first, honoring the Scriptures is subordinate."

The above has been known as "Gospel reductionism," a phrase which indicates that all is reduced to a simple definition of Gospel as the 'standard' by which all things are judged. Anything less was just plain law replacing the Gospel. Yet what Schroeder misses even now is the necessity of the foundation upon which that Gospel rests. If you undermine the base (the Word), then the rest of the house will fall. Which is exactly what we are witnessing even today as traditionally held beliefs in such areas of sexuality are quickly falling by the side of the road as unnecessary and extra baggage to be thrown out. Since the Word is less than fully divine and infallible, it can err, and since it can err, well....you know the rest.

Some are saying that the ghosts of Seminex are again haunting the LCMS years later after all was supposedly settled. And to some extent this is true, even in the LCMS (e.g. women's ordination argument). May Zimmerman's book remind the church of the dangers that still exist, and may Schroeder help us to recognize even now the subtleties of the argument we can all too easily miss.

Is This Church Christian?

Watching one of the professionally produced commercials by the Mormons can easily lead the unsuspecting to believe they are Christian. Until you take the time to really read what they believe and teach. I suspect that many church goers do not want to take that time to truly investigate, and choose to assess an organization based on the 'feel good' message they portray.

Up the road from my church is a religious group that also styles itself as Christian, yet upon close examination seems to lack all the creedal affirmation of Christian orthodoxy. Some locally have labeled them a cult. Here is their "Statement of Faith" from the church's website:

It is our belief that God cares much more about the condition of one's heart than in their doctrinal statement. We also believe that it is possible for people to vary greatly in their beliefs and doctrines and each be pleasing to God.

The Bible

We believe that the bible is a very powerful book with great potential for either good or evil, depending on the motives of the person using it. We believe that God intended it for good but man's use of it often falls short of His intention.


We believe that God is far greater than any person's or denomination's doctrinal view of Him. We believe that God loves us, gave His Son for us, and will ultimately see His plan to fruition.


We believe Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for the sins of mankind, was buried, and rose from the grave. We believe that His sacrificial death on the cross is also an example of how much God can require of those who seek to follow Him.


We believe that each person is responsible to use the gifts and abilities that God has given them to serve Him and others.


We believe that sin is a condition of the heart whereby the person chooses to defy God's will. Sin deals with motives and may or may not express itself in external behavior. We believe that sin is based upon knowledge and choice.


We believe that the only way to have an eternally productive life is to choose to pay the price to follow God. We believe that this life is not black and white but that each individual uniquely follows God. We believe that God leads in many different ways and what may be right for one person, may not be for another person. Therefore, we believe that judgment is reserved for God, for we cannot see another person's heart.


We believe that the church consists of all those who genuinely follow God in their heart, regardless of religious affiliation. We believe that unity is based more on a person's heart condition and desire to follow God, than it is on doctrinal agreement.


We believe that God judges on the basis of what a person knows and has, and how that person uses this. We believe that God will hold us personally responsible for the decisions we make based upon what we know to be right.

What do you think? It lacks a clear confession of Jesus' divinity, of the nature of original sin, of salvation by grace through Christ, of God's triune nature, the inspiration of scripture, just to name a few items. I would think those alone should exclude this statement from the Christian faith. In fact, it seems to have more in common with Mormonism than any Christian church.

However, one should thank the church for being honest enough to post this statement. For many groups are not even this forthright. Do you ever read a full disclosure by the Mormons on their beliefs, especially as they reveal their true non-Christian character.? Not at all. Now I can only hope that at least some potential members will be discerning enough to read it and evaluate it against the Bible itself, and if possible, against the orthodox confession of the ecumenical creeds. But that may be too optimistic.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

When Law Replaces Gospel

His enthusiasm is without question. He sweats out his messages before live TV with the zeal of a man on a life-and-death mission. And if you merely listened to the tone of his words you would have to be convinced that he speaks the truth of the Bible. At least until you listen to the content.

This morning I heard Rod Parsley deliver one of his fiery orations to his packed assembly and I was aghast at his horrible confusion of Law and Gospel. Now, I know that such is often the case with Pentecostal theology. Still, you want to believe that maybe this time he will see the Truth and get it right. Wrong.

The theme of the day was "Uncommon Obedience - Uncommon Favor." It came from the story of Saul in 1 Samuel 15. The idea he promoted proclaimed that "obedience reverses the curse." Thinking back to the Fall and the Curse, I remembered those key words in Genesis 3:15 where God promised that the Seed of the Woman would crush the head of the serpent. HE would be the reversal of the curse. Yet in vain did I listen for such Gospel. It never came. Instead all I heard was Law. If WE were obedient, the curse would be lifted. Huh?

Then he referenced Galatians 3:13 regarded our redemption from the curse. I was encouraged. Maybe now he would bring in the Gospel, despite the terrible confusion with the Law earlier. He read the passage. There is was, clear as day, pure Gospel. Christ redeems us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us. But what does the Rev. Parsley do? He immediately tells the people that THEY have to redeem their lives. They have to "sacrifice" their homes, families, etc. to God to reverse the curse and bring in God's blessings on all of it.

The confusion of Law and Gospel remains the most basic error of TV preachers like Parsley. I couldn't believe that he could make such a fundamental error, but there it was for all to see. Still, I had seen this error among Pentecostal before. The idea always seems to be that if I do something, even believe, then God will follow through on his blessings of the Spirit, of healing, and on and on. But Gospel comes first. Yes, we must be convicted of the Law. Yet God always acts prior to us. He redeems us from the cross. He washes us in the baptismal flood. He plans our salvation from before time begins. He does not wait for us to act first in obedience, because he knows we cannot without his strength. In fact, He knows that even our "good deeds" are as filthy rags. Why can't Parsley get this?

It is a shame that those who are spiritually hungry and thirsty are left without true food and drink, when the man holds in his hands the very Bread of Life.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Dr. D.James Kennedy Retires

The Rev. Dr. D. J. Kennedy became known to many Lutherans through his popular outreach program of the 70's (First developed in 1962): Evangelism Explosion. Although long since modified by other evangelism incarnations, his program became a standard for a variety of denominations eager to make a difference in reaching the lost.

After 48 years of active ministry Dr. Kennedy is finally retiring. Actually his last sermon was on December 24, after which he is said to have suffered cardiac arrest, keeping him since then from resuming any work in the pulpit.

Dr. Kennedy, predominantly known by the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church he founded in 1959, shepherded a small parish of 45 members to an eventual mega church of 10,000. It became the center of a world-wide TV and radio program that reaches 3.5 million people for all of its broadcasts. He is also the founder of Knox Theological Seminary, which began in 1989, and like its founder reflects the commitment to traditional Reformed (Calvinistic) theology.

Kennedy became known to me, as he did for many my age, through his regular services on TV. I was impressed by his conservative, yet relaxed nature, and dedication to biblical truth. He was at the forefront of the cutting issues of our era, both theological and cultural, and was not afraid to speak out and write about these issues so that others might be encouraged in the truth.

As a traditional Presbyterian it is to be expected that there would be differences with his Lutheran listeners. While a staunch defender of the verity of the Word, he nevertheless was deficient in his sacramental theology. The Reformed, as Calvin taught them, do not believe in what Lutherans would recognize as the true, physical presence of Christ in the Supper.

Given the classic Reformed doctrine of the limited atonement (the "L" in TULIP for those who learned Reformed theology from this this acronym), I am surprised by Kennedy's energetic embracing of evangelism. For a classic Calvinist cannot believe that Christ died for all, just for the elect. I'm not sure how Kennedy stood on this, and it is possible that like many Reformed he had long since discarded this point.

Kennedy, known by many through his pulpit work, produced popular sermons that often concentrated on various current themes and personalities from the history of the church and the nation. From a classical Lutheran point of view I saw his homiletical treatments as more of a speech than a true sermon. While they defended and upheld traditional morals and the truth of the scriptures, they failed to provide any consistent Law-Gospel division or a true proclamation of the living voice of Christ speaking to lost sinners a word of forgiveness. This may be due, in part, to his Reformed background. Perhaps as a Reformed minister he did not feel that he could proclaim the Word this way, or that the Word was a "living Word" to all.

Kennedy will be remembered as a strong voice in the public square, who willingly took his stand against the cultural forces of the day, using his intellect and learning as a tool to win a hearing for the Truth. Lutherans can find material in his vast writings from which to learn (especially his apologetic works), even as they carefully note those theological errors which direct the person away from the means of grace.

[A summary of his academic background, writing and other works can be found on the Coral Ridge site here.]