by David Petersen
While this may not be true in every place, rather than the rationalism faced by C.F. W. Walther, here in northeast Indiana, I find myself facing a new mysticism. It is a nebulous and anti-rational spiritualism that denies objective truth.
I find evidence of this in many places, but anecdotally I mighty simply point to the rise “Coexist” bumper stickers. This new mysticism can be tricky ground for us to navigate since our heritage rails so often against the abuse of reason and advocates for religious freedom, but we must recognize what abuse of reason is as opposed to the right use of reason.
And while we would not bind men’s consciences, to be in fellowship on this side of glory there must be agreement in doctrine.
Our faith is not unreasonable, yet reason is the servant of faith, not its master. Contrary to snide remarks made against us we do not worship something akin to the Spaghetti Monster. We worship the God who reveals Himself through His Word.
Reason is brought to bear, in a most serious way, in the reading and interpretation of Scripture and in the confession of doctrine. This needs to be confessed loudly in our age against the new mysticism.
In a similar way, rather than the Pietism faced by our forefathers, which overemphasized faith and denied the Sacraments, I find myself facing something calling itself “tolerance” but that smells a lot like antinomianism.
The rise of this is seen, I think, in the growing acceptance of gay marriage and other sexual deviances. This movement rejects the Law, except for the law against judging. This law against judging is so absolute in the tolerance movement that not even God is allowed to judge since God is conceived of as pure love without any wrath.
This can also be tricky ground for us since we so want to preach the Gospel, and we rightly abhor legalism and the burdening of consciences. Yet we do well to remember the Law’s instructive purpose for the Christian and to review what the Scriptures and our Confessions say about sanctification.
Much danger has been done in confusing justification and sanctification; so also much damage is done if it is denied altogether. Sin is dangerous to faith. It is harmful to the neighbor. Good works always coexist with faith and serve the neighbor.
This, it seems to me, is the religious culture of northeast Indiana: new mysticism and a rampant antinomianism under the name of tolerance.
How then does the Church respond? We confess what the Scriptures reveal. We properly distinguish between Law and Gospel. We study the Confessions. And we proclaim Christ to all nations–no matter the cost or seeming futility.
The Rev. David Petersen is senior pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, Ind.