Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Things your Old Adam doesn't like...

I've mentioned before that we are recent converts to confessional Lutheran Christian practice. One huge reason for our switch was that our old church, an ELCA mega-church, was rapidly abandoning anything Lutheran (except Lutefisk) and embracing Reformed teachings. One of the things tossed out was a formal confirmation program for the youth. The timing of our switch was no coincidence; our kids were in 7th and 5th grade in the spring of our big jump. I had been a confirmation leader and had witnessed first hand the things my daughter wasn't learning...things that I had learned in that same church thirty years earlier. Why had they dropped the program? Because parents had complained it was boring for their children. It was boring to learn from a pastor's lectures. It was a burden to memorize creeds and scripture. I wonder if our Norwegian ALC ancestors who went along with the thought that maybe scripture wasn't God's words, but men's words, foresaw the day when their great-great-great grandchildren would not be taught the strong truths of Christianity and never study Luther's Small Catechism. Thank God some brave Norwegians stayed strong.

My daughter was granted the speed version of confirmation, with one year of special sessions with the pastor along with her confirmation class. She was made strong in the grace that is Christ Jesus and learned to give an accurate account for the hope that she has in her heart. She gladly absorbed the lessons, memorized scripture and expressed herself well on Examination Day. I thought that I would be the only parent so moved as we stood at the rail blessing our children on Confirmation Day, but I had company. The sniffles and tears were, to me, a sign of the great joy of parents who saw to it that their children were fully-educated in their Christian faith and were now expressing a desire to be an adult member of the church. It was a truly joyous day.

Last fall, my son began confirmation as a 7th grader and will benefit from two years of the now three year program before he professes his faith to his church. He often comes home with little gems that have me thinking for days. One day, he said to me, "Mom, did you know that the reason we don't want to read scripture or go to church is because of our sin nature. It's our Old Adam telling us not to do those things." Wow. A simple, true and powerful statement. It's our Old Adam telling us that our family needs to sleep this Sunday morning. It's our Old Adam telling us that we don't have to send our kids to boring confirmation classes to memorize scripture. It's our Old Adam telling us that creeds are not important.

Bunnie Diehl highlighted a sermon that deals with our Old Adam and creeds. It is from Pastor Tim Pauls of Boise, Idaho. His sermon, The Benediction of Grace, Love and Communion, is based on 2 Corinthians 13:11-14.

"...there's a special reason why our Old Adam doesn't like saying the Athanasian Creed-or the Apostles' or Nicene Creeds, for that matter. It's the same reason why the creeds were written in the first place: they spell out who God is. They say what God says about Himself in the Bible. They do so in a clear, no-nonsense form that doesn't allow Old Adam a chance to revise who God is. They declare that salvation is solely His work, which should be especially Good News for us who can't manage to say two columns about God without daydreaming. [...snip...]

We live in a different time, where creeds are dismissed as unimportant: "Deeds, not creeds," "missions, not doctrine" is a rallying cry among some Christians, as if these are opposed to each other. This is not a good thing. There is immense pressure upon Christians today not to be specific about who God is. Rather than identify God explicitly, we are encouraged to view Him as a kindly old grandfather who sits in a chair and smiles indulgently while we walk around His living room and break His things. We are given the impression that God gives us a wink and says, "It doesn't matter if you know who I am or keep My laws. Just know that I love you."

If you're married, try that on your spouse sometime: "I really don't care to know your name or who you are or what you do. Just know that I love you and be there at my beck and call." It's not exactly a pledge of deep and abiding love. But that's how Old Adam wants us to regard God. You see, if we get specific about who God is, we upset old sinful natures and people start to fight. But more to the point: if we get specific about who God is, we'll see how astounding His grace and salvation truly are.


John H said...

Wonderful stuff - am delighted to hear your children have been getting such sound instruction at your new church.

The only "yes, but..." I'd want to add is that it isn't *just* the fault of your old ELCA megachurch if their children are never encountering the Small Catechism. The Small Catechism was never intended as a tool for pastors to use: as the heading for every section makes clear, Luther intended it for use by the heads of households, within the family.

It sounds like a vicious circle has started up in some "Lutheran" circles: the parents think the SC is boring, so the church drops it, which in turn communicates to everyone that those parents have called it right, which discourages other parents from using the SC, which in turn means those later parents maintain the pressure on the church not to use the SC, and so on and so forth, until you start ordaining practising homosexuals as pastors. For example.

TKls2myhrt said...

Thanks for your comments, John. I do appreciate your thoughts on matters. I didn't know realize that it wasn't Luther's intention to use it for confirmation. I have much to learn.

It has been tradition to use Luther's Small Catechism in area confirmation programs, until recent years. I know both my husband and I were taught from it. In our old church, it wasn't just objection to the SC, but to a formal instruction program at all. The church opted for the Alpha program (designed for new Christians and teaches decision theology) and Wednesday night concerts (praise songs that don't often teach kids how we are saved). So sad...

I have grown to appreciate it's ability as a family tool. I'm just so glad I have a few years left with my kids. We are learning some of the prayers together. My kids (typical teens and definitely not nerds) LOVE it when we read the evening service together, along with Luther's evening prayer.

Of course, our pastors use many tools for instructing the confirmands...actual scripture being the number one tool! :) The switch to a three year program is recent and my son is glad he was grandfathered in under the two year program (I told you he was a normal kid).

TKls2myhrt said...


I just noticed the photo of you and your son! It is very nice! I have often wonder how we will all know each other in heaven. It is good to put a face with a name, at least here on planet earth.

CPA said...

What a great lesson to your kids, to know that you care enough about truth to leave your old ways and associations and go to new ways and associations. Every Christian story has a little of Abraham in it.