Monday, May 10, 2010

David Klompien on Belgic Confession Article 5 and Other Matters

A special message to the Duttonites before I begin: My review of Rev. Miller's sermon was never intended to be a personal attack. If you look at the reviews that I have done, far more prominent Reformed ministers have scored lower than he did. If I did a larger sampling of sermons done by modern Reformed ministers, most of them would probably score similarly to Rev. Miller. Rev. Miller claims that if I had a problem with his sermon I should have talked to him first about it. But the review is not about him personally. The review is in regards to a particular sermon that he preached. I did not contact any of the other ministers prior to writing a review of their sermons. In the past, when I have brought outright errors to the attention of Rev. Miller he has been completely uninterested in talking about them with me. When I heard that Rev. Miller was upset and wished to talk with me about the sermon review, I called him up to discuss the review. He called me a coward and yelled at me and said he didn't care what I wrote and hadn't read it. I said he sounded like he was pretty upset and that I would like to get things straightened out but he just kept saying that he didn't care what I said. He accused me of spreading the poison of the Federal Vision in the Reformed churches and said that I was now spreading that poison in the Lutheran churches. I tried to explain that none of this is true. I never promoted the Federal Vision. I just thought they should be represented honestly. Otherwise, when people found out that what they heard about the FV wasn't true, they might embrace everything that the FV teaches. The FV is primarily an argument over two groups that both believe that the Scriptures should be read covenantally and only makes sense within the Reformed community. If somebody tried to import this into Lutheranism they would just get a lot of weird looks, because Lutherans read the Scriptures with Christ at the center, not any covenantal lens.

A special message to Rev. Miller: My sermon reviews are designed to encourage lay people to demand that their pastors preach Christ and to encourage pastors to preach Christ. I don't see how that is Satanic as you claim. I bear no hatred towards you and I'm not sure why you think I'm doing all kinds of things that I'm not doing. I encourage you to search my blog and if you find me spreading the doctrine of the Federal Vision please let me know. I haven't even read anything by any of the FV authors since I left the Reformed Churches. I bear no grudge against you for impeding my entrance to seminary. I'm actually very happy that I didn't go on to seminary. If I became a Lutheran after starting seminary things would have been much worse. I'm very happy with my job and my employer is happy with me. I love my wife and my kids and am fulfilling my vocation as father and husband. I stumble and fail at my vocation because I am a sinner. But I would much rather be doing what I am right now than going to seminary. I don't believe I am qualified to be a pastor. I enjoyed studying theology and thought that becoming a pastor would give me the most time to do that. But that's no reason to become a pastor and I have repented of my selfish reasons for wanting to be a pastor. Jesus Christ died for my selfishness and I have been forgiven by Him. I ask your forgiveness for wasting your time by trying to pursue the ministry under your guidance. I'm always willing to discuss any issues that you have with me. I find that sometimes people who don't know me very well get all kinds of false ideas about me. Christ died for your sin of slandering me. But by walking around with a chip on your shoulder and making up things about me in your head, you are rejecting that forgiveness. You're only hurting yourself and I would love the opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings. If you think that my criteria for evaluating sermons is bad or that I have unfairly evaluated your sermon based on the criteria please let me know. I am a terrible sinner, worthy of God's temporal and eternal punishment just like you are. Jesus died for my sins just like He died for yours.

To all: What is the purpose of my reviews? My reviews are designed to judge sermons in an objective way. The sermon review does not take delivery, stuttering, or a whole host of other things into consideration. The sermon review is based strictly on content. Sermons which preach the law to convict us of our sins and preach Christ as the solution will do very well. Sermons which do not will not do well. If you preach Christ-crucified you will do well, if you preach about what I need to do then you will not do well. A sermon that is not centered upon Christ and His work is not a Christian sermon. My criteria is based on criteria from a number of different sources and is not infallible. I am open to criticism of the criteria and my application of it. I am a sinner. I used to give short messages at nursing homes and if I evaluated those messages they would probably fail my test. I hope these reviews will encourage others to evaluate sermons objectively. There's too much grumbling in the church. People often complain about sermons that just conflict with their personal preferences.

I also understand that Reformed people sometimes find open criticism of a minister or his sermon to be wrong in some way. I think that churches could improve greatly if people were more open with their grievances. Instead of an open conversation, the person in the pew in front of you starts grumbling to the guy sitting next to him. Gossip is spread by pastors and elders about different people in the church in the name of "caring" for the person. The secrecy and red tape make true reformation impossible. Lutheranism certainly has its problems. But it's been wonderful to hear so many Christ-centered sermons. It's as if other churches have gotten tired of Jesus and think we need to move on to something else. I've also found the openness refreshing. Pastors and lay people are openly critical of bad synodical decisions and leaders who lead the church astray.

In the last conversation I had with Rev. Miller, he asked me to review this sermon by David Klompien. Rev. Klompien is also a minister at Dutton United Reformed Church. The sermon is based on an article of the Belgic Confession.

Belgic Confession Article 5 We receive all these books and these only as holy and canonical, for the regulating, founding, and establishing of our faith. And we believe without a doubt all things contained in them—not so much because the church receives and approves them as such but above all because the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that they are from God, and also because they prove themselves to be from God. For even the blind themselves are able to see that the things predicted in them do happen.

There is some difficulty in reviewing this sermon because the sermon is based on an article of the Belgic Confession, not Scripture. 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 was read and the pastor made reference to a couple of things contained in this passage, but the sermon was mostly on this article from the Belgic Confession and titled "We Receive This Word."

1. Does the Pastor explain the text correctly? Yes, with some caveats. The text is not the Scriptures and the text goes beyond the Scriptures. Article 4 contains the list of accepted books (the 66 you find in most Protestant post-1880's Bibles). Article 5 is in reference to that list. Hebrews, James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Revelation have been among the disputed books throughout Christian history. Throughout Christian history, the church has universally accepted the Hebrew canon, the Gospels, the letters of Paul, Acts, 1 Peter, and 1 John but there has been no universal table of contents beyond that. The Lutheran confessions provide no table of contents and Lutherans do not establish doctrine based on the disputed books. The first council to establish a table of contents was the Council of Trent. Protestants seem to make the same error as the Roman Catholics when they try to create a table of contents. The article leaves quite a bit to be desired. Why just these books? Why this many books? But Pastor Klompien did explain the text in front of him. (+1)

2. Is the law preached lawfully? The law never seemed to be preached in such a way that each person there would have been convicted of his sin. The law was applied against enthusiast groups who add to the canon by their prophecies but I think most of us could have walked out thinking we had kept God's law. (-1)

3. Is Jesus mentioned? Jesus is mentioned briefly. Strangely, the sermon complained about other churches that were not Christ-centered, but the sermon wasn't very Christ-centered. However, nothing false was said about Jesus. (+1)

4. Is the sermon about what Jesus has done for us? No. There was some brief mention of what Jesus has done for us but it was mostly about what we need to stay away from. (-.25)

5. Does the creation of a Wordle show a Christian focus in the sermon? Probably not but I don't have the text in front of me. (0)

The final score is 0.75 or 57.5%.

The current standings are:
James Roemke (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) 100% A


Rev. Jim Roemke said...

It saddens me to hear of pastors in any confession of faith (Lutherans do this very thing too) who treat the sheep in such a cruel and unusual way. Pastors are not some sort of infallible mouth-piece of God. We do err and should be grateful for kind and gentle calls at self-reflection and repentance. As your pastor, I am very disturbed at this mans attitude and I do not appreciate him treating one of my sheep in such a ham-fisted, bull-headed way. Repent, Richard, and live in the joy of your forgiveness that is ours in Christ Jesus. Do not sick your goon squad of elders or consistory or whatever they are on me or the sheep over which our Lord has entrusted me. Repent, as we all must, and live, as we all must, in the certain knowledge that Christ is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. He has done it all upon the altar of the Cross and we do well to find our abode in the precious wounds of His infinite love and mercy.

Anonymous said...

I have seen this so often before. Pastors who believe they are excempt from criticism because they have been specially "called" by God. We're all called by God and not only to vocation, but to every moment we live. Anyway, I notice that it's the really lousy pastors who need to resort to this stupidity (i.e. "God called me, so don't you dare critique my sermons) because they don't have the talent or integrity to get good reviews. Man, I've listened to dozens of lousy preachers in my life. May God have mercy on them for wasting our time, as I hope has mercy on all of us for our sins.