Statements & Letters

Free to be Faithful Essay Contest now open to pastors and church workers

Comments (13)
  1. Tricia Major says:

    I think this should be open to all LCMS members. Because everyone one us needs to look at theses issues.

  2. Russell Mains says:

    I, too, believe that this should be open to all LCMS members, but probably not for the same reasons that others do. As a lifelong LCMS Lutheran, I love and respect the opinions of my beloved church. Yet, I believe, as Martin Luther did, that “my conscience is captive to scripture.” Pastors, students, and lay people should be FREE to express opinions that might be contrary to what our church leaders (particularly, President Harrison) state should be stressed as major issues in Christ’s Church, today. I am certainly opposed to same-sex marriage, abortion; and the issues that President Harrison mentions. However, I feel a sense of intimidation or pressure, when topics are STRONGLY SUGGESTED by our spiritual leaders that go so far as to influence the voting process or civil freedoms that we are privileged to have as Christian Americans. Some issues in society may cause one to lean toward the RIGHT of the political spectrum, and others, more to the LEFT. I have never, personally, experienced any suppression of my ability to worship or witness according to my LCMS beliefs in this country. I am certainly sad at heart that many in our church body believe that this is the case, but I simply have not seen as much evidence of it as the leadership of the LCMS promotes. Yet, I have felt a very strong influence from our denomination (as well as other Christian churches) for the membership to vote for a particular political party, or to criticize (sometimes, in a disrespectul manner) a particular party; as well as the President of the United States of America. I realize that our society, today, is sick from the “original sin” that has always plagued it, but this should evoke a response of faith, love, witness, and an urgency to unite and heal our nation. I sense a strong disunity, not only within civil society; but within the Christian Church. The Apostle Paul always emphasized the “Spirit of Unity, through the bond of Peace.” When the Pharisees attempted to back Jesus into a corner, concerning the obedience of Civil Law, He chose to question whether the RELIGIOUS LEADERS of His day were truly practicing God’s Word as the Creator of the Universe had intended. Jesus Christ left Civil Government to the Romans at this time, and focused on His kingdom; which was “not of this world.” Instead, the Messiah targeted the arrogant, judgemental, legalistic (and often, hypocritic) teachings of the religious leaders of His day. The teachings of Jesus were certainly foreign to the Romans, but they should not have been to the religious leadership. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Apostles continued to preach “Christ Crucified” to ALL people; Jewish, Greek, free, slave, etc. I am not stating that the issues that President Harrison uses for topics of essays, should not be addressed by faithful Christians, but I am concerned with the tendency to “force” our beliefs upon Civil society; rather than using the example set by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to witness in His Name to all people. The Great Commission begins to sound more like a “crusade”, much like the Muslim world, in these times of religious and political turmoil. If the line between our faith and civil government become too obscure, we could find ourselves ruled as a Theocracy, as many countries in the Middle East are, now. I realize that this is an essay contest within our own denomination, but there is certainly an emphasis on what direction our future pastors should take; and I believe that this direction should include other devastating problems that plagure our society, that are often ignored behind a barrage of religious-political banter that becomes intertwined and divisive to Christians and our nation. We are not a Theocracy, we are a pluralistic society that is ruled by a democratic government, that includes many people of the Christian faith. Our nation is also comprised of people of different faiths, other than Christian, agnostics, humanists; and,even atheists. Throughout our history, many have fought and died to keep it that way. As much as we speak of suppression of our religious freedom; it is just as important not to attempt to suppress the freedom of those who do not believe as we do. I strongly believe in continued mission work and WITNESSING within our nation, and without; but, as much as we would prefer ALL people to believe as Christians do; we cannot force a belief system upon anyone. We can speak the “truth in love”, pray without ceasing for our nation and the world, and carefully measure what is taught in our own pulpits according to the yardstick of Holy Scripture and the words of Jesus Christ; OUR LORD AND OUR GOD! I agree that we must be BOLD in our faith, and that Holy Scripture is not subject to change by man or government; but this does not mean that reasonable Christians cannot debate, and exercise the FREEDOM to question religious leaders about their interpetation of scripture. Often times, the Holy Spirit may use Holy Scripture to speak just as strongly to a lay person in the LCMS, as to an ordained minister. True FREEDOM comes only through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, by His suffering, death, and resurrection for all mankind! Thank you.

    1. Robert Bjornstad says:

      Amen, to what Russell has written!

    2. David says:

      It seems to me that your post, put into the form of an essay, might be acceptable as a submission for this contest. Maybe your ideas will be interesting, well-written, well-reasoned and well-defended. Maybe, maybe not. You’ve obviously got the passion. Go for it!

      1. I agree with David. Do it!

    3. Leah says:

      Russell, you need some paragraph breaks, but yes, I agree, as well.

  3. Adriane (Dorr) Heins says:

    Dear ones,
    As one of the judges of the contest, I just had to pipe up! Please be assured that this is not the only contest/event/engagement we have planned for these issues. This is simply one in a long string of opportunities that will available to all members of the LCMS – lay people or pastors, adults or youth – throughout the year. So, please stay tuned!

    Adriane Heins
    Managing Editor, The Lutheran Witness
    Editor, Catechetical Information

  4. Paul Becker says:

    Dear Russell, Perhaps when your Pastor or fellow member ends up in jail or forced out of business because of their religious beliefs, you won’t see the State as such a well-meaning entity.

    1. Arthur Casci says:


      When it comes to pass that we are arrested on account of the Gospel, then God be merciful that we respond in the way the Apostles did…they rejoiced to be counted worthy of suffering for the Gospel. To label what is going on in America as “suffering” is an insult to those who have truly suffered on account of Christ. It is pretty hard to find a connection between Christ and culture war.

      BTW, is the the Paul Becker that was in Seminary with me?

      In Christ,


  5. Arthur Casci says:

    I heartily agree with Russel Mains and I did submit an essay to the contest. As church we must be on guard against being co-opted by any ideology and I am inclined to think that is what is happening in our LCMS. Our task is not to fight culture wars. Our warfare and our weapons are not political. The Evil One wants t enlist us in a culture war, make us take sides and thus sideline us from the where the battle is (Ephesians 6). “A soldier on duty does not entangle himself in the affairs of this life.” It is very difficult to find anything in the words of Jesus or the Apostles to encourage us to entangle ourselves in the political affairs of this country. Yes, those who are able should be in the political vocations but then they are authorized to do that task by virtue of their vocation. The church’s vocation is to make disciples, not moralists, democrats, republicans, tea partiers, independents, etc.

    In Christ,

    Art Casci

    1. William Chad Newsom says:

      Arthur, with all due respect, I think that the Evil One wants us to LEAVE the culture wars, so he can proceed without opposition. Or does God not care about human culture? Are politicians and political entities off the hook when it comes to obedience to God? I’m sure they’ll be thrilled to hear it! But Psalm 2 says that God will give “the nations” to the Son, and that the duty of political rulers is to “kiss the Son.”

      You say “the church’s vocation is to make disciples” and I agree; but the passage you’re quoting (Matthew 28:18) actually says we are to “disciple the NATIONS.” Sure, that includes the conversion of individuals and families. But it also includes nations, for that is what it says. The reason Jesus gives for this is what he says immediately before: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Note well: “ALL authority in heaven AND ON EARTH.” This certainly includes political authority. As I said in a comment on another thread, politics is no savior. But politics NEEDS a savior, just like everything and everyone else in this fallen world.

  6. Arthur Casci says:


    The Matthew passage says that we go to all “ethnicities” meaning all people groups of the earth.It does not mean “nations” as in political entities. There are those in the reformed camp who take this to mean nations themselves are to be converted. This position is rejected by Orthodox Lutheran teaching. Some in the Reformed camp are inclined to “post millennialism” which is the notion that nations must be “Christianized” in some sense before Christ returns. This also is rejected by Orthodox Lutheran teaching.

    Only the church can do the work of Christ which is baptizing and teaching all that Christ entrusted to us. Find me some words from Jesus that indicate that the church is supposed to transform government. Christians certainly should serve in government and allow their world view to influence the work they do just as any Christian in any vocation but we are not given the “sword” and when we as church embark on making laws we become entangled in affairs that take us from the task which is to baptize and to teach.

    C.F.W. Walther lived in an era of great social turmoil and yet refused to engage those issues in his day. He urged the church to live in daily repentance and do their vocations as unto the Lord, leaving government to do its vocation.

    In the older Testament, when governments established by the Lord God (and they all are) become abusive, they were punished by other nations which are given the power of the sword. That is how nations are judged and corrected and not by the church.

    Our LCMS needs very open and kind discussions of these issues for I fear we are being co-opted by political ideology and in danger of exalting that ideology to the status of “Christian”. There is no such thing as Christian politics any more than Christian engineering, Christian mathematics, etc. There are Christians in those vocations and I pray they will all do their vocation as unto the Lord.

    The greatest gift we give our nation is to do our vocations as unto the Lord with thanksgiving always ready to give an answer for the hope in us. This is anything but “quietism”. It is the most active work we do in any society we are in.

    In Christ,


  7. William Chad Newsom says:

    Arthur, thanks for your reply. It’s appropriate, and rather fun, to be discussing this on Independence Day. Hope you have a nice holiday.

    I do differ with you in some respects, but I wonder if some of the apparent differences are only superficial: for instance, if you are saying that the Church, as such, does not have the power of the sword, and that the main work of reforming government should be done by individual Christians, as such, then that’s fair enough, and I don’t disagree. However, I can’t help but feel that your view is still a bit schizophrenic, for all that. Let me hit a few key points, and see if this helps.

    You are correct that the Greek word is “ethnos” in Matthew 28. However, the passage does not say “go to” them, as you paraphrased, but “disciple” them, a word Jesus further qualifies by saying, “teaching them all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” The distinction is important: this passage won’t allow us to think we’ve fulfilled our duty under the Great Commission if we simply go to the nations, and tell them about Jesus. That’s the first step, to be sure: but we are actually commissioned here to “disciple” the nations. I think the burden of proof is on you if you wish to suggest that politics is the one area of life somehow excepted from this commission, as if the Bible has nothing to say about it (surely “all things whatsoever I have commanded you” includes the whole Bible, not just the four Gospels?). More on this anon.

    Further, I’m not sure how the emphasis on ethnicities helps your point. The word is translated “nations” repeatedly in many English versions, and for good reason. But my point is made once you acknowledge that the word refers to groups rather than just individuals: yes, we are to disciple the ethnicities of the world—we are not just to save a few people OUT OF those ethnicities. We are not to stop until those ethnicities, as a whole, are baptized and discipled. If we are to disciple all the ethnicities of the world, then we are to teach those ethnicities “all things” that Jesus taught us in His Word. This includes God’s Law (of which Jesus said that not one jot or tittle will pass away while heaven and earth remain, Matt. 5:17–19), which has plenty to say about how a nation ought to be governed. Plus, imagine how the Apostles would likely have heard the Great Commission with their Jewish ears: “disciple the nations,” Jesus said. They’d read Exodus and Deuteronomy. They knew what a discipled nation looked like, and they knew that Israel’s mission from God was to be a light to the nations (Ps. 18:49, Ps. 96:3). This had always been part of God’s plan (Gen. 26:4; Deut. 4:5–6), and the Church was now to carry it on, and actually accomplish it.

    I’m familiar with the Reformed Postmillennial view which says, following Psalm 110, and I Corinthians 15, that the nations will be converted before Christ returns. Speaking of Christ’s current, post-ascension reign at the right hand of the Father, Paul says, “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” This is in reference to Psalm 110, where we read: “The LORD says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’” Note well the word “until.” So Jesus will not leave the Father’s right hand and return to earth until all his enemies are put under Him (implication: Christianized nations at the time of the Second Coming). But how are these enemies conquered? Paul reminds us that our weapons are not carnal (swords and guns) but spiritual (II Cor. 10:3–5). We conquer Christ’s enemies by preaching the Word of God to them and being faithful unto death. What will be the result? Psalm 22, a Messianic Psalm, says this: “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.” This sounds just like what you said Postmillennialists believe: “nations themselves are to be converted.”

    If these ideas are indeed “rejected by Orthodox Lutheran teaching,” that’s certainly worth considering: I believe our confessions and creeds are vitally important. And I think it’s at least possible that Postmillennialism is contradicted by Article XVII of the Augsburg Confession, though no Postmillennialist that I’m aware of teaches that we will “annihilate all the godless,” except in the way that God “annihilated” Saul the Persecutor by transforming him into Paul the Apostle. But even more important is to consider whether these ideas are Biblical. That’s a discussion we Lutherans need to have, in my view.

    You say, “Find me some words from Jesus that indicate that the church is supposed to transform government.” Your point being, I take it, that there are none. But then, in your very next sentence, you write, “Christians certainly should serve in government and allow their world view to influence the work they do…” Which is it? If we allow our world view to influence the work we do in government, this WILL “transform government” eventually. We know this for a fact: the faithfulness of the first, second, and third century Christians led to the transformation of the Roman government in the fourth. Further, it was that same faithful witness, even unto death, that led to the glorious (though of course imperfect) civilizations of Christian Europe and Byzantium. Those civilizations lasted more than a millennium, and gave the world some of the greatest cultural advancements in history: the university, modern science and medicine, the abolition of slavery, the glories of illuminated manuscripts and Gothic cathedrals, the literature of the Beowulf poet, Chaucer, Dante, and many more. Included in the blessings of Christendom are also the English Common Law, which, beginning with Alfred the Great, was inspired by the Mosaic Law (his code begins with the Ten Commandments), and which in turn provided the foundations of American liberty.

    All this (and, as they say on TV, much more!) from the Church’s very FIRST attempt at discipling the nations! I can’t wait to see what Christendom II has in store!

    To more directly answer your question about “Find me some words of Jesus…” concerning how the church is to transform government, how about “you are the light of the world…you are the salt of the earth”? Oh, except in politics, of course. Right?

    But as I said, I realize that you may only be saying, “The Church as the Church is not to transform politics, but individual Christians can.” That’s pretty fair, if so, but I still say (with Luther) that the Church, as the Church, has a role in this work, both in terms of being a prophetic voice to the secular authorities, and in teaching those individual Christians how a Christian ought to govern and make laws. After all, if these Christians, working in their political vocations, are allowed, as you said, to use their world view to make a difference, that’s no different from saying they are bringing the Scriptures, including the Law, to bear on political systems, like Alfred, the Christian king, did. But if they do that faithfully, over the course of generations, we WILL see the nations discipled, including their politics. Would that be a problem, in your view?

    You make an unnecessary assumption when you say the Church is “not given the sword.” I’m not arguing for an ecclesiocracy, and I accept the Christian distinction between Church and State (which came to America by way of Calvin and the Puritans, by the way). But this in no way implies a separation of God from the State, which I would argue is, not so much wrong (though it is that), as impossible: there is no neutral, secular ground where God has no claims of kingship. And Psalm 2 (and, again, Matthew 28), make it clear that the nations, as nations, have a duty to God, just as much as individuals.

    You make a distinction between “baptizing and teaching” on the one hand and involvement in government on the other. But again, Jesus said we are to baptize and teach the nations (ethnicities, if you prefer, though that changes nothing). In time this must surely lead (as indeed history tells us it did) to the conversion of entire nations and their rulers. Surely such converted political leaders among the world’s ethnicities will have questions about how they ought to govern? Are we not to answer them? Historically, the Church, acting as the Church, DID answer them. The Bible has a lot to say on the subject: should we muzzle the Word in order to keep clear of politics?

    As Dorothy L. Sayers once said (appropriately enough, in the introduction to her play on Constantine), “If the Gospel was to be ‘preached unto every creature’, then Christianity must some day cease to be the cult of a minority, and the power of purse and sword must eventually come into Christian hands….” Again, this is Christians acting as individuals: neither I nor Sayers are saying the Church itself wields the sword. But we need to think Biblically (beforehand!) about how to handle being in power when it happens. Now it may be quite some time away, but it is folly to refuse to think about such a possibility, or to prepare for it, especially in light of the fact that IT HAS HAPPENED BEFORE.

    And it seems to me that you are saying just that: that we have no business thinking about, or preparing for, such a thing, for “There is no such thing as Christian politics” you say. Then the whole history of Christian reflection on politics is wrongheaded? The book of Esther is all about politics. Is it not part of God’s Word? I agree with you that our confessional standards are important: I would never want to walk away from the victories our forefathers gained for us in the Reformation. But I have in my library a publication of The Augsburg Confession that runs about thirty pages, and is about a tenth of an inch thick. Even if you take the Book of Concord itself (much of which is really a defense or exposition of Augsburg), the doctrinal matters contained therein cover probably about 1% of what is in the Bible. Unless we wish to follow Marcion in rejecting the Old Testament (and, really, much of the New), we have to admit that there is quite a lot in the Bible about politics, and many other matters that our confessional symbols don’t cover. Are we to reject all of this, or simply ignore it?

    So as I said, I believe your theology is somewhat schizophrenic: there is no Christian politics, you say, yet Christians who work in that arena are to allow their world view to influence the work they do. How can they, if there is no such thing as Christian politics? Surely “Christian politics” is that politics that seeks to honor Christ, and obey His Word, pursuing justice (Biblically defined) and righteousness according to God’s Law. Would it really be wrong for Christian politicians, in a society of Christians (I realize we’re not there yet) to pursue such Christian politics?

    In conclusion, I agree that we need “very open and kind discussions of these issues,” and I hope our small discussion here is an example of that. But I do want to close by asking you about your statement that “we are being co-opted by political ideology and in danger of exalting that ideology to the status of ‘Christian’.” If indeed this is the case, it’s worth asking: what if it IS Christian?