Monday, April 20, 2009

Dumbing down

We are always into the habit of simplifying. We tend to think that people in the pew will always have a hard time understanding theological terms. They sound technical and so we are afraid to even mention them. One need not be afraid, what you do is communicate and help the would-be disciple understand the terms. Just have a little faith that people in the pew are not dumb you have to dumb things down.

So I happen to meet one of the young adult member of my ex-church. I have been away for more than a decade and by this time he is now in his early 30s having spent roughly all of his life active in church. So I asked him, if he ever heard of the thing called "justification". He gave a guess and it was off. What about the "Apostle's Creed"? Heard of it but do not know what it is and what it means or should he have to know it.

So then I spoke to some folk who have been in Augustana most of their lives and I mentioned the "solas" of the Lutheran Reformation, like sola scriptura. "Yes, yes, yes, but ... that was a part of our heritage". Meaning? It is not relevant today? That was way back then but that was it. I somewhat half protested - Huh? It is not something you put on the shelve but something you live by, it is a principle, and principles are always used, even today.

We can cut some slack for the young man I met, he is not in Wittenberg. He does not have the privilege of catechesis. However, I am bothered by the attitude of folk from the Reformation who think the solas are just one nice stuff of history.

I am wondering if these attitudes are part of the dumbing down process, a result of being intimidated by the pressure of being relevant, so much so, that we do not see the need to discuss technical and theological terms/ideas, even historical ones. May be that is also the result of no longer being in "reformation"? That is at least my suspicion.


Acroamaticus said...


What can one say, but 'ecclesia semper reformanda' - the church is always always in need of reforming.
What a shame those cradle-Lutherans are taking their heritage for granted! More of us who've been through the labyrinth of legalism need to convey to our brothers and sisters the sweetness of the pure Gospel that Dr Luther recovered for the church, and the fact that it is still relevant!Sometimes, in my darker moments, I think 'you can't put new wine into old wineskins', and we 'converts' should start Lutheran missions from scratch. But then I meet life-long Lutheran folk who love and live by the Gospel and my confidence is restored.
If it's any consolation, I have found that urban congregations are much more likely to hold loosely to their Lutheran heritage than rural ones. Urban Lutherans seem more likely to want to melt into some ecumenical pot - there's something interesting going on there sociologically - upward mobility, fitting in with the WASP middle-class and all that. But that's for another post.

Jim Robertson said...

It seems obvious to me also that the message is being "dumbed down" so that it is perceived to be relevant to listeners. This is a great mistake and only compromises the message.

L P said...

Pr. M.

That is fantastic that my impressions are a bit skewed and that in rural areas people are a lot more doctrinal than social.

What also encourages me is to find orthodox pastors in the turf whose desire is to be faithful to Scripture and the confessions.


L P said...


My thinking is that pastors are in extreme pressure today to be pulled by his members specially when they are in panic mode, i.e., they see people leaving.

The solution here I think is to get people to trust the means of grace, i.e., the word will do its job.

Of course, it is easy for me to pontificate since I am not in the driver's seat.

It is a great loss when the pastor gives in.

On the other hand, there is a difference between a goat herder and a shepherd. ;-)


Steve Martin said...

Where I worship, there is a great lacking of the desire to learn these things.

Our Bible studies and pastor's classes are woefully ill attended.

These great Reformation principles are there, they are being taught, no one is showing up, other than the faithful remnant.

L P said...


It is quite sad turn of events. This is where Evangelicalism out does Lutheranism.

It makes a difference when you have the Law hanging over your head.


Steve Martin said...


True story!