Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Further Word to H. R. C.

In response to my earlier post about Rev. Harrison's embarrassing and misguided actions toward an LCMS pastor in Conn., "HRC" submitted this response:

Dr. Becker,

Do you think Muslims and Christians worship the same God?

What about Mormons and Christians?

Do you think Muslims are going to hell?

Just curious. . .


You can read his own blog post on my post and the one of Dr. Kieschnick over at:

There is only one God. That fact is beside the point, as is the fact that people believe, teach, and call upon the one God differently and often wrongly.

By his actions, Pr. Harrison has brought disgrace upon our Lord, other Christians, and the tiny LCMS. He has refused to put the best construction on a pastor's caring, evangelical actions, and instead has publicly called upon him to apologize for them. I saw no reason for the pastor to apologize, although it is clear from his own letter of apology that his conscience has been sorely tested by the actions of Rev. Harrison.

From what I can tell, Pr. Morris has been trying to minister to people in a community that is deeply greiving the deaths of many children and several teachers, including a child from his own flock. Clearly, he has been bringing a gospel word and a pastor's heart to a grief-stricken community.

Apparently, only the pharisaically-minded, closed-hearted within the LCMS have been offended by this pastor's pastoral words and actions. He should not have been asked to apologize for what he has done. The letter of Pr. Harrison, now spread to millions around the world, is a scandal, a true scandal, the kind that has led others to be confirmed in their unbelief and hard-heartedness against Christ and those who bear His name. Look what the world is saying in response to these actions by Rev. Harrison. They have led many others to question whether they should continue to be a member in a church body whose president acts in this fashion.

Tonight I understand more clearly why some people put on their car bumpers the following sticker: "Lord, save me from your people."

Do you and others who support Pr. Harrison not understand that our Lord frequently put compassion for people ahead of strict obedience to religious laws and traditions, esp. those instituted by human beings? Could it be that Pr. Morris thought he could help with that mission of compassion by participating in that service? Matt. 7:1ff. seems apropos here.

Jesus, too, bore witness to God's love when he spoke among his fellow Jews in their synagogues, as did the apostle Paul when he shared the gospel in word and deed among Jew and Gentile alike. Jesus may have taught his disciples not to "throw their pearls before swine," but how else is the gospel to be shared with the world? How else could that divine love have been shared with troubled, misguided people had not the apostle Paul participated in the services of local synagogues or engaged in fruitful conversations about general revelation with pagans and others (cf. Acts 17)?

The One to whom those Jews and pagans prayed in partial ignorance, Paul bore clarifying witness through the gospel, in his words and his prayers. Is there any doubt that Paul worshipped the true and living God when he participated in the services of Jews or when he told pagans that the One they worshipped in partial ignorance he would make clear?

Don't take my word for it. Consider these words from  Dr. Luther:

"Not only a teaching of St. Paul, the prophet Elisha (II Kings 5:18-19) has also proven its truth with an admirable example in the Old Testament.  According to Moses and also against Moses (as our rebellious spirits would understand Moses) he permitted Naaman, the Syrian commander, to worship the true God in the temple of Rimmon, the idol of Syria.  Now if the first commandment were to be kept with Karlstadtian strictness, Naaman should not have done such a thing, nor should the prophet have permitted it.  For it is, of course, strictly forbidden to go into an idol's temple and worship before an idol while at the same time worshiping the true God. God strictly forbids the Jews to construct altars, images, or holy places for the purpose of serving and worshiping him without his command.  Even more strictly does he forbid them to serve and worship in the presence of other gods.  From this example one can see again that in the Old Testament also, true idols can do no harm as long as one worships while they are around, and only the true God is worshiped from the heart.  Yet our enthusiasts would ensnare us who are free Christians and tie us down so rigidly that we should not be able to put up with any idols without committing sin." (LW 40:95)

It seems to me that you need a refresher course in Christian freedom. I fear that too many within our synod display the kind of Pharisaical-Karlstadtian legalism and judgmentalism that Dr. Luther so rightly condemned. This kind of nonsense about "unionism" needs to stop. It is a wrong-headed, wrong-hearted notion. It has been a theological and missional mistake for decades. Plain and simple.

My thanks to Gil Pingel for drawing my attention to that relevant quote from Luther.


  1. "There is only one God. That fact is beside the point, as is the fact that people believe, teach, and call upon the one God differently and often wrongly."

    Beside the point? Really? Matt Becker does the old "bob and weave" to avoid answering a direct question, as is typical for him.

    And now we see the cherry picking of Luther quotes by liberals who effectively spit on Luther's view of the nature and authority of Holy Scripture, the ordination of women, the Lord's Supper and the exclusion of those who have a different spirit, not to mention his views on homosexuality.

    All the while Becker pushes for his liberal agenda of fellowship with the ELCA, via his participation in the installation of an ELCA woman pastor on the campus of Valpo and his public declaration of support for the ELCA's decisions about homosexual clergy and his gushings on about the Leuenberg Concord being somehow a faithful confession of the doctrine of the Lord's Supper, as it is detailed in the Formula of Concord.

    Bad theology combined with sloppy scholarship makes for bad results.

  2. Dr. Becker,

    I'm still unclear on whether or not you believe that faithful Muslims are headed to hell or not. Can you please tell me your thinking on this?

    I think it is very much to the point because how one answers that question will certainly influence how one views Pastor Morris's words (and any words he omitted) at this event.


  3. Pr. H. R. - who has the authority to determine the eternal fate of faithful Muslims? It isn't Dr. Becker. It isn't you. It isn't me.

    Dr. Becker, you and I are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. We are not saved because we believe that faithful Muslims are eternally damned.

    1. John Mundinger,

      You are absolutely correct.

    2. Well guys, I didn't say you were saved by believing that faithful Muslims are eternally damned. . . I just asked if you thought they were.

      Evidently you believe that this question is unanswerable. That, in itself, is an answer. You both well know that the historic, orthodox Christian answer to this is that no one may be saved who does not believe in Jesus Christ as God and Savior. Of course, Muslims don't believe in the Trinity, they deny the divinity of Jesus, etc. All through Christian history, based on passages like John 14 and Acts 4, Christians have said that means Muslims are going to hell unless they repent and receive Christ.

      Otherwise, what on earth is the point of missions?

      Dr. Becker, of course, publicly and proudly holds many doctrines that are contrary to the centuries old teachings of Christianity (he believes homosexual acts are not sins, he believes women should be ordained) so I am not surprised to know that he also doesn't believe, or is agnostic about whether, Muslims are hellbound.


    3. Pr. H.R. - I am well schooled in orthodox Lutheranism and very grateful for it. I believe that I have life in Jesus' name. As and orthodox Lutheran, I also believe that we are called to be firmly rooted in a field of wheat and tares. I believe that we are called to share the good news of Jesus Christ - through our words and by our faithful presence as the visible body of Christ in our world. As an orthodox Lutheran, I believe that those who believe will be saved and those who do not believe shall be damned. As an orthodox Lutheran, I believe that it is God's responsibility, not mine or yours, to determine which is which. Thus, the orthodox Lutheran answer to the question that you posed is, "I do not know."

  4. Dr. Becker,

    President Harrison has issued a letter of apology. Will you forgive him? Or, will you continue to use this event as an occasion to chastise him publicly in the press, and to advance your political agenda in the synod, calling for his removal from office?

    Inquiring Christians want to know.