It was with sadness that I read the editorial last issue expressing perplexity over the LSB’s language selection in some hymns. I was saddened at the clear derision and the impugning of motives the author boldly articulated. Perhaps he would do well to read, mark, and inwardly digest what Luther teaches us of the Eighth Commandment.
To so clearly state that the motives of those who see value in the selection of language from TLH (The Lutheran Hymnal), re-established by LSB (Lutheran Service Book) (as in Thee, Thou, and Thy) only because they are lovers of tradition and sameness is aggressively wrong.
The congregation I serve has been with TLH for all of her 25 years. Our new LSB’s arrived yesterday. Though we changed, we will still make regular use of TLH. Why, because we are “stuck in the mud” and not interested in communicating with Americans? No; far from it.
On Good Friday, the sermon consisted simply of a stitching together of hymn verses to have a 22 verse “poetry reading” appropriate for Good Friday. We all were joyfully reminded again of the depth and power of our hymnody which is especially clear in the lyrical and metric beauty of the King’s English.
Do American’s still speak that way? Of course not—and they haven’t since the early 1700’s!
I do not seriously follow sports as I never learned the language. So, should all of organized sports adopt my language, for my sake, or should I participate the old fashioned way—to learn it.
Pr. Randy VanMehren
I’d like to comment on the use of “thee,” “thou,” and “thy” [in the Lutheran Service Book]. I firmly believe it is a mistake to cast these pronouns aside. I believe it takes some of the awe and dignity away—especially from the children. Children should learn to love the church, but they should also be taught honor and respect. Although I have many other editions, I use mainly the Old King James translation. One can look into other translations for help, if needed.
Please also accept my congratulations on the publication of your very fine Lutheran Witness Magazine. I cannot understand why there are so many church members who do not receive it. They don’t know what they are missing. I not only read it, but I wonder if there has ever been an issue in which I have not been able to find something worth saving! I cut out the Bible studies every month and add them to the large number I have in a binder to use for Bible study groups. I have also saved many articles which I have taken to Bible study class and read aloud.
Keep on with the good work.
The Lord is my Shepherd, Lillian Ellestad
I agree with John Krueger’s letter in the April edition of the Witness. He stated that the LCMS needs to “seek to talk to the unchurched world.” I, also, am perplexed by the new LSB. Why is the new Offertory (p. 176) and Old Testament Canticle (p. 261) so difficult to sing? Also, in a responsive reading for Lent, the congregation is made to recite that God “repents of evil.” (p. 260) To the many of us in the pew, this just sounds wrong. How can our holy and perfect God repent of evil? When our LCMS pastors preach to us of repentance, we are told that it involves not only confessing but also turning away from our sins. When I looked up the scriptural reference for this verse (Joel 2:13), it read that God “relents over disaster.” (ESV) As a layperson, this makes sense to me. When I questioned not only my local pastor, but also Dr. Grime, about the difference in phraseology, I was told that although the first part of the verse was in ESV language, the latter phrase reverts back the old RSV and the KJV. I was also told by Dr. Grime that “As to the use of the word ‘repent,’ any standard dictionary will indicate that one of the lesser used meanings of the word is in the sense of changing one’s mind.” He also stated that using this phraseology was an editorial oversight and an error—and with 850,000 copies of the hymnal in print, it was too late to change it.
I believe that this is also an example of the LCMS leadership not being in touch with the people of today. As Mr. Krueger argued that “thy” and “thou” are not commonly used by today’s Americans, I would put forth that most Americans don’t know the 3rd or 4th meaning of the word “repent.” The LCMS has, I believe, the truest doctrine of any denomination out there. But, until we can communicate this doctrine to the unchurched people in our society in a way that they can understand it, we will continue to lose members.
In response to the letter “Perplexed by LSB,” from J. Krueger (April 2007 Lutheran Witness), I take exception to his lamentations regarding a return to “church language” in the hymn “Christ, the Life of All the Living.” As a theologian from KFUO taught me, “theology is the art of distinction,” and there is a distinction in this hymn that supports a return to the traditional language. The ending text from the hymns is:
TLH(151)/LSB(420): Thousand, thousand thanks shall be, Dearest Jesus, unto thee.
LW(94): Thousand, thousand thanks are due, Dearest Jesus unto you.
The text from LW notes that thanks for what Christ has done are only due, where the text from LSB indicates that the thanksgiving will actually occur. My bank doesn’t care that I owe it money for the mortgage, it cares that I actually pay. I understand that LW needed to use the word “due” to accomplish the removal of the traditional word “thee” but, in this case, it actually detracted from the theological meaning of the original text. Thank you, LCMS, for righting this error!
Los Alamos, NM
I must respectfully disagree with Dr. John Krueger’s comments [about the LSB] in the April 2007 issue of The Lutheran Witness. He says that words like “Thy” have “…become a ‘spiritual form,’ and people are too timid to say ‘you’ to God….”
The Great Commission sends us to bring the Gospel to all nations. Necessarily and correctly, we should do that in language that our listeners clearly understand—their vernacular. This is both evangelism and fellowship.
But in our rush to “connect” with one another, we often lose sight of our ultimate focus—God. God is indeed a loving Father and Friend, and we must communicate that. But God is also the only God and entirely worthy of our respect, awe, and fear. By becoming too vernacular in every aspect of church life, we fail to communicate these aspects of worship and worship should be just that—bowing down before God. He does represent authority—both the authority that gives us the Law and the only authority that can pardon us through Christ. He does represent power as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. We should not only have respect, awe, and fear of God but practice and demonstrate these attitudes before God and in teaching all with whom we have fellowship in Christ.
We can and should relax in our fellowship with other Christians and bond with them. But, in worship, we should focus on God and show our respect for Him. If our worship services are nothing more than extensions of fellowship—with music, language, dress, and manners dictated by bonding with other sinners—we never teach our children (and ourselves) the essential respect for authority that Christians need. We need respect for God to provide us the security of His strength and comfort, His certain control of all things, and the assurance of His promises.
If the word “Thy” makes worshippers pause, perhaps that is a good thing for our relationships with God. And, as an afterthought, if this “archaic” language leads us to think about the past—the martyrs and other saints who went before, the crises and Christian thought that produced our understanding of Christian doctrine, the origins of our Synod, the unique demands of spreading the Gospel to other cultures and languages, and indeed the life of Christ—perhaps this small incentive to learn is not bad either. Analyses of our society suggest that there is a crying need for God, for respect for all authority, and for a knowledge of history and the mission field.
Only two of three viewpoints on the wording of some hymns in the Lutheran Service Book (LSB) were represented in the Letters section of the April Lutheran Witness. For Dr. Krueger, the changes represented a change “back” from the current wording to a prior wording. A second was presented by Dr. Grime. For him, the archaic wordings which were selected for the LSB were instances of no change—no change from earlier, pre-Lutheran Worship texts, that is.
The missing third viewpoint is that of people for whom the hymns of Lutheran Worship are what they know—what they’ve used and grown up on. For them, the change to archaic wording is just that—change. From that viewpoint, the question arises as to what the motivation is for changing from the current text to an archaic wording.
The exchange between the two men demonstrated different apparent motivations. For Dr. Krueger, the explicit motivation is outreach to the unchurched: bringing them into the Kingdom of Christ. Dr. Grime’s motivation is more aesthetically oriented: that which seems more beautiful to him is valued.
Differing viewpoints, different motivations: these produce different positions.
Yours in Christ,
James K. Gruetzner, Ph.D.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
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