My apologies in advance for my readers who are not Lutheran. This post addresses a problem in Lutheran circles that is long overdue for being addressed. For those outside of Confessional Lutheranism, this post is going to be ponderous because of the "inside baseball" aspect of it.
In a recent blog post written by pseudonymous author John Philoponus which was posted at The Cellar-Door, Higher Things, an organization for which I sit on the Board of Directors, was charged with the very serious theological crime of being antinomian. The evidence that was put forth to substantiate the author's charge was an advertising blurb for an upcoming Higher Things retreat. Below is my response to this slanderous and sinful blog post.
A Call for John Philoponus to Repent
Despite the impressive use of Latin in this post, bene factum for that, the rest of this post is a case study on myopic hit pieces that employ the use of cherry picked quotes that intentionally ignore obvious data that contradicts the authors biases and intended outcomes.
Exhibit #1: The absurdity of this post’s methodology.
This post has taken the time to carefully parse the advertising blurb (not the actual teaching from the event) for ONE OF the upcoming Higher Things retreats and through this careful evaluation of the advertising verbiage come to the verdict that Higher Things is a hotbed of Antinomianism.
Wow! I had no idea that Higher Things could be found guilty of such high theological crimes based upon such scant evidence.
Clearly the author of this post, who unlike myself remains anonymous, needs to remove the blinders from his eyes so that he can consider some contradictory data that they either missed or were suppressing in regard to this matter.
Let's begin with the obvious, shall we:
The screen shot for the upcoming retreat "Accident or On Purpose?" appears on the Retreats page of the Higher Things website. Here is the link http://higherthings.org/retreats/ucevents
On that page we read about EVERY upcoming Higher Things retreat. Even a cursory skimming of that page reveals that there are several retreats that are coming up where doctrines flowing from the Third Article of the Creed will be explicitly taught. Here is one example:
Note that Rev. Fisk will be teaching through the Small Catechism and the Augsburg Confession with the goal of helping youth know that what they are living for is worth dying for. Hmmm, a retreat like that with teaching like that is hardly what one would expect from an organization that is supposedly drifting into Dinitarian [sic] Antinomianism (the correct theological word is Binitarian https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binitarianism).
Exhibit #2 (I can literally produce hundreds of these):
Higher Things publishes a daily devotional titled Reflections, if there was ever going to be proof of Dinitarian [sic] Antinomianism this would be the place. After all, organizations who are antinomian would NEVER publish or say anything that would embrace 3rd Use of the Law or the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Yet, day after day and week after week the Higher Things Reflections says what no respectable Dinitarian [sic] Antinomian would EVER say.
Take for example the Reflection for Friday August 12th, 2016:
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Many words could be used to describe us outside of Christ: fornicaters, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, coveters, drunkards, insulters, and extortionists. That's a pretty harsh list. And St. Paul says that such people simply will not inherit the Kingdom of God. (And once again, the Lord's Word answers what happens to those who want to cling to such sins).
But that's what you WERE. You are not that now. You have been washed, sanctified, and justified. You have been saved by Jesus Christ, for on the cross those ugly words above that describe you, describe Him instead. He is those things. He is the scum of the earth. He is the curse of sin. He is the one who suffers for these things. Why? In order that you don't have to.
By your baptism into Christ, all the evil and wickedness you have done has been washed away. It's gone. You won't answer for it. You won't be kept out of God's kingdom because of it.
But what if temptation seizes you and you give in and start sticking those labels back on yourself? Repent. Call it what it is: sin. Confess it. Hear your pastor absolve you of it. Run to the waters and name of your baptism and flee to the sanctifying power of Christ's holy flesh and blood put in you. In other words, when the sin that keeps people out of God's kingdom stalks you, hear the Good News that now, clothed with Christ in Baptism, that's not you. When the Lord looks at you, that's not what He sees. Instead, He sees Jesus, who paid the price for your sins.
And that is such a true freedom from such sins to which you really and truly need not ever return. Christ has rescued you from being what you were and made you what you are now: a child of God in Him.
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Hmmmm...Repent? Don't ever return to your sin?? An explicit warning of damnation to those who cling to sin?? This doesn't sound like any Antinomian that I've ever read or heard regardless of whether they are Dinitarian [sic] or Trinitarian.
Here's the link to the PDF for the current season of Reflections which is just teeming with good old fashioned Third Article devotional material.
Exhibit #3 - I put in a third exhibit for the sake of the Holy Spirit, the Third Article of the Creed and the 3rd Use of the Law.
Here is the link to the conference book from this year’s recently concluded Higher Thing summer conferences. In this conference book you will find a listing of ALL the catechetical teaching offered at our summer conferences. Please note the Catechesis that looks oddly out of place for an organization that is drifting into Dinitarian [sic] Antinomianism. I will list a few of the titles and their descriptions below:
TITUS, A BOOK OF FAITH AND WORKS
Rev. Keith GeRue
Furman Hall 311
St. Paul teaches Titus and us how faith cannot live without works and how works without faith is just as useless. Hear and see the instructions about Elders. See how sound doctrine and sound behavior go hand in hand. Finally, learn instructions for Godly living. We are to be strong in what we teach so that our lives and teaching will be known to others. May you be blessed and inspired as you see faith in action.
PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH
Rev. Dr. Ron Bogs
Wilson Hall 113
This session will take a new look at Matthew 28:19-20 to see if it really is a “Great Commission” or something else (spoiler alert – it’s something else). Learn how what we believe as Lutherans and what we preach is practiced in our daily lives. Or as one might say, the best way to practice what you preach is vocational evangelism, or sharing the good news as you go about your regular life.
THE MARRIAGE AND DATING BREAKAWAY
Rev. Mark Buetow
Wilson Hall 126
Guys. Girls. The dating game. Marriage. Sex. What does God’s Word have to say about all this stuff? How do young Christians navigate the dating waters in an ocean full of temptations and false pictures of what marriage is? Hear how Jesus is the Bridegroom and the church is His bride, and how, with that picture in mind, marriage and dating all fall into place.
A SERMON TO LIVE BY
Rev. Chris Hull
Alumni Hall – Lounge
What do you think a sermon is? Is it a long list of to dos that give you something to accomplish for the week? Is a sermon the voice of the living Christ freeing you from sin, death, world, and the devil? Come and hear how Christ frees you in the proclamation of the Gospel.
RAINBOWS & JESUS
Rev. George Borghardt
Wilson Hall 126
Guy meets girl. Guy asks girl out. Girl and guy fall in love. They marry in church and live happily ever after. It used to be so easy! What about alternate lifestyles? Our culture has changed radically on this even in the last five years! What do we have to say about that as Lutherans? How do we talk about this subject without sounding like racists from the 1800s? Let’s take a look at Jesus and what He has to say about same-sex marriage and our culture today. Where does Jesus fit in all of this, anyway?
COVERING NAKED NOAH
Rev. Michael Mohr
Wilson Hall 113
You become aware of someone's sin, either because they have sinned against you directly, you personally witnessed their sin against someone else, or someone told you about it. How do you respond? Noah's sons reacted to his sinful situation, and so we will also look at different ways people in our lives respond to sin. We will also explore our Lord's teaching about how we should respond to sin and see various ways that instruction is put into practice.
VOTES AND VOCATION: CITIZENSHIP AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
Dr. Barry Pyle
Sarratt Student Center 220
Can you be in two places at once? As Christians we are not of the world but we are in it. This condition creates interesting questions concerning the role of the state in our lives and our role as citizens within the state. Should Christians participate in politics? If so, how? What are the costs and bene ts to our neighbor and ourselves if we avoid political engagement? What about religious liberty and the two kingdoms? We address these all questions through the lens of vocation.
I truly wonder how John Philoponus explains how he missed all of these super easy to find examples of Higher Things’ teaching and resources that emphasize good works, 3rd Use of the Law, etc.
Based on the evidence that I have provided above, it is obvious that John Philoponus' post is an example of what Christ describes as “straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:24)
The bottom line:
At the end of his post, Philoponus' concluded that:
If Higher Things wants to regain status as a salutary confessional alternative to the annual LCMS Laser-Guided SMP Show, they might make a small and earnest beginning by leaving a little room for the Holy Spirit— in their adverts, yes, but much more so in the content of what they put out.
One has to wonder, if Higher Things is drifting into Dinitarian [sic] Antinomianism and needs to make a small and earnest effort to leave a little room for the Holy Spirit in their adverts and what they put out, then why on earth is it so ridiculously simple to produce example after example in Higher Things' content of the sanctifying work of the Spirit?
Despite Philoponus' claims that he was putting the “best construction” on his interpretation of the advertising blurb, it is clear that Philoponus has not truly done so. Instead, Philoponus has sinned and broken the 8th commandment.
I strongly admonish the author of this post to repent, seek out their pastor to confess this sin and be absolved for it and then bear fruit in keeping with repentance by immediately publishing a retraction.
What I find most fascinating about the current defenders of 3rd Use of the Law within Confessional Lutheran circles is that they frequently break the 8th Commandment in their efforts to unmask the antinomians in our midst. This is merely the latest example of this type of sinful behavior.
I suggest that if they want to level charges of antinomianism in the future that they first make sure that it isn't embarrassingly simple to produce examples of the teachings that they so loudly claim are missing in certain men's and certain organization's ministries.