in Theology

The optimism and synergism prevalent in America have made such inroads into American Lutheranism that the Augsburg Confession’s ‘where and when it pleases God’ has for practical purposes been given up. Evidence of this is the uncritical taking over of ideas and programs of stewardship and evangelism from such groups as the Seventh Day Adventists. The pastor schools the people so that with the right kind of pious talk they will then be equipped to win other people for the church. In place of the office of preaching reconciliation comes the training of ‘soul-winners,’ teaching them just the right way of talking with people, to make maximum use of the techniques of psychological manipulation. The system admittedly derives from the methods of American business. Thus people are to be brought into the church, made to feel at home there, led to a decision, and then all together are to carry on their building of the kingdom of God. What the Word of God is no longer trusted to do is achieved with the psychological techniques of modern evangelization. There is of course talk of the Holy Spirit, but one no longer knows who He is. It seems He can be measured and quantified. Such evangelism produces results. Thousands are won for church membership. On the other hand we may recall the failure of the Biblical prophets and of our Lord Himself. When one considers the latter, one begins to understand the full earnestness of ‘where and when it pleases God.’ Jesus said: ‘…so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again and be forgiven’(Mark 4:12; cf. Is.6:9-10). Whoever is not awed by what is hidden deep in these words will never truly know the Holy Spirit.

– Hermann Sasse, “On the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit: Letters to Lutheran Pastors, No. 51 July/August 1960 in “We Confess the Church,” translated by Norman Nagel (St Louis: CPH, 1986)

HT: Shepherd’s Anthology.

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