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Ashamed of the Gospel? Missed Opportunity at Virginia Tech

April 22nd, 2007
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I’ve not said anything about the murders at Virginia Tech simply because so many others have, and no doubt will continue to in the months ahead. The depth of sin once more was revealed in all its horrible brutality. A deeply mentally ill young man was passed around, in and out of "counseling" situations, but never stopped and institutionalized. Why? I do not know. I’m disgusted by the blog posts, by pastors no less, who have decided to turn this situation into a forum on gun control, either pro or con.

I’m deeply troubled by one aspect of this situation: the abject failure of the Lutheran pastor on the scene there to say a clear word about our Lord Christ during the special service held on the campus and broadcast nationwide.

I’ll put it plainly: If you are going to participate in an overtly syncretistic service like this, a bad situation to begin with, then for the love of Christ [literally!], speak of Christ and the power of His resurrection! Here is an excellent commentary on the situation that I entirely agree with.

Ashamed of the Gospel?  Missed Opportunity at Virginia Tech
By Frank Pastore
Sunday, April 22, 2007

test your knowledge of world religions. Below is the entire message
delivered by one of the four religious leaders at last week’s
convocation at Virginia Tech, in the aftermath of the horrible mass
murders that left 32 dead and 21 injured.

The test is simple: determine the religion being represented.

We gather this afternoon for many purposes. To weep for lost
friends and family, to mourn our lost innocence, to walk forward in the
wake of unspeakable tragedy, to embrace hope in the shadow of despair,
to join our voices in a longing for peace, and healing, and
understanding which is much greater than any single faith community. To
embrace that which unifies, and to reject the seductive temptation to
hate. We gather to share our hurts and our hopes, our petitions and our

We gather also to drink deeply of the religious streams
which have refreshed parched peoples for many generations. We gather
together, weeping. Yes, we weep with an agony too deep for words and
sighs that are inexpressible. But also we gather affirming the
sovereignty of life over death.

At a time such as this, the darkness of evil seems powerful
indeed. It casts a pall over our simple joys, joys as simple as playing
Frisbee on the drill field. We struggle to imagine a future beyond this
agony. If we ever harbored any illusions that our campus is an idyllic
refuge from the violence of the rest of the world, they are gone
forever. And yet, we come to this place to testify that the light of
love cannot be defeated.

Amid all our pain, we confess that the light shines in the
darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. We cannot do everything,
but we can do something. We cannot banish all darkness, but we can by
joining together, push it back. We can not undue yesterday’s tragic
events, but we can sit in patient silence with those who mourn as they
seek for a way forward.

As we share light, one with another, we reclaim our campus,
let us deny death’s power to rob us of all that we have loved about
Virginia Tech, this our community. Let us cast our lot with hope in
defiance of despair. I invite you to observe a moment of silence.

Difficult, isn’t it?

The message was delivered by Reverend William H. King, Director
of Lutheran Campus Ministries at Virginia Tech, and a member of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The video of the message
is available online.

Each of the four speakers were there to represent their
religion, to bring the message of comfort and hope rooted in their
faith tradition. The Muslim speaker read passages from the Koran in
Arabic and appealed to Allah, the Jewish speaker read from Ecclesiastes
3 while an assistant repeated the passages in Hebrew, the Buddhist
quoted the Dalai Lama, while the Christian did not even quote from the
Bible, nor mention the name of Jesus – the namesake of his religion.

What Mr. King said should be studied in every seminary in
America. It is precisely what not to do when given the opportunity to
bring the message of the Gospel of Jesus to those grieving the loss of
loved ones and struggling to make sense of the evil visited upon them.

The nearest thing to Christianity anyone heard at the
Convocation was the playing of Amazing Grace and the unison recitation
of The Lord’s Prayer. There was far more Bible coming from the pews
than being preached from the pulpit.

No wonder Christianity is so easily and regularly attacked on
college campuses. With advocates like this, who needs opposition? We’ve
got guys in our uniform playing for the other team.

Mr. King could have spoken the truth. He could have explained
why Christians are confident in divine justice, why we believe that
good will ultimately triumph over evil, why we know that there is life
after death for those that trust Christ. He could have explained that
Jesus paid the penalty for all our sins on the Cross that Friday long
ago, and rose bodily from the dead on Sunday to prove His sovereignty
over evil, sin and death.

In short, he could have preached the Gospel. After all, the murders were only a week removed from Easter.

But, Mr. King decided to do something apparently more important
in his mind. He decided to be politically correct and not offend the
members of his interfaith community by offering hollow words of
humanistic philosophy lacking any real substance, and by appealing to
various “religious streams” and by validating the search “for a way
forward,” he insulted those of us who actually believe Christianity is
true and other religions false.

In so doing, he denied his faith.

He offered those mourning no hope for the present nor any hope for the future.

He left the hearers dead in their sins.

A minister ashamed of the Gospel should not have been on that podium.

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Categories: Liberal Christianity
  1. Chi Chi
    April 22nd, 2007 at 20:20 | #1

    I look forward to hearing the gentleman’s answer for this sin of omission on the Last Day. This should be interesting, he standing before the Lamb that was slain and in the presence of those holy martyrs who lost their lives merely for mentioning His holy Name.
    God grant us the courage, resolve, and faith to avoid making the same mistake.

  2. Matthew Surburg
    April 23rd, 2007 at 06:42 | #2

    3 thoughts:
    1. I cannot agree with Chi Chi in looking forward to this pastor’s coming rebuke on the Last Day. May our Lord in His mercy restore this pastor to the faith and reinstate him as He did Peter.
    2. What a contrast to the recent killings of Christians in Turkey for publishing Bibles, and this of course just the barest hint of the persecution of Christians worldwide.
    3. As a layman, I wonder: What should a pastor say in such a situation? If (statistically speaking) most if not all of the slain were non-believers, what comfort can the Gospel give? The only inference I can draw is “Unless you repent, you too will all likewise perish.”

  3. organshoes
    April 23rd, 2007 at 08:27 | #3

    Question posed:
    ‘If (statistically speaking) most if not all of the slain were non-believers, what comfort can the Gospel give?’
    Well, we’ll never know (not that we would know that as an objective fact in the first place), since no gospel was offered.
    I used to go to a church where such as that was ‘preached’, and where law and gospel preaching was derided as, well, too preachy. Thank God I learned to despise it.
    Though, imagine the coverage resulting from Luther (or my blessed pastor) having preached to the crowd Christ crucified and risen for the sins of the whole world.
    Outright hate speech.

  4. April 23rd, 2007 at 08:48 | #4

    Proclaiming (Not) Christ at VA Tech

    Cyberbrethren: A Lutheran Blog Cyberbrethren has a provocative post about the religious services offerred at VA Tech in hopes of comforting and guiding the families and friends of those whose loved ones died in the massacre. Evidently the gentleman (I…

  5. Rev. Al Bergstrazer
    April 23rd, 2007 at 12:59 | #5

    Oh how many times have we been through this particular discussion? Pastors regularly preach the law and the gospel to unbelievers at funerals. Some might even go so far as to say it’s our calling to do so. Its not at all complicated. Death-all death is the result of of the curse of sin, violent death is the evidence that the devil is alive and evil is real. Christ died on the cross to end the tyranny that sin death and the devil have over us.
    The words of the Lutheran Pastor at the service for V-tech reveal the fundamental problem of participating in ecumenical or “all faith” services. You’re welcome so long as you understand why you’re there. Pastors are often encouraged by their parish (sometimes even chastised ) to assure their particular church is represented at the table of religions for typically two reasons, 1)to make sure no one thinks we’re standoffish, or better than the rest. 2) The pride people have in seeing that their pastor or a representative of their church is standing shoulder to shoulder with the Muslims, the Buddhists, and the Jews etc. etc. Which is to say this is all about participation, not proclamation, being there and holding hands is what matters most, not what you say. And if you should dare to critique what is said as not being particularly Christian or evangelical, prepare to be labeled as cold hearted, insensitive and bigoted.
    Having a place at the ecumenical table requires most Christians to bite their tongues and restrict what they say to generic comments about God, faith, hope, love and peace lest someone be offended. If you dare to speak the truth by stating exactly what you believe, teach and confess and how it applies to the circumstances, you are unlikely to get a second invitation. Mind you, this only applies to Christians, any other religion can say whatever they please without restriction.
    The predicament we Lutheran Pastors find ourselves in is that we’re sometimes asked to represent our church at interfaith events that by design prohibit us from clearly proclaiming our faith- what’s the point of doing that? Whats the point of attending an interfaith event on behalf of your church, but not being allowed to actually speak of what your church believes? The point is symbolism, that something has happened that is so bad, or so good that it compels all of these disparate religions to gather together in agreement that this particular event was really really bad, or really really good. Because it shows that we care. And we show we care by allowing grief to trump our doctrine, tragedy to overule our confession.
    Except- that when we’re not in agreement on much of anything except that something bad or good happened, that makes ecumenical services in fact a contradiction of our faith as we pretend to get along for the day.
    Except–that if we really cared about the greiving we’d speak of the hope that lies within us, and how others can have that same hope.
    We’re not called to comfort those who sit in darkness with poetry and platitudes; we are called to declare the glorious light who is Jesus Christ the Lord.
    [McCain: I had a professor at seminary once who said that we should accept all such invitations to proclaim the Gospel and then do so faithfully, clearly, fully and completely that we are either invited back precisely because of the clarity of the confession, or never invited back again. He suspected that the vast majority of times we would never be invited back again, so best to the make the absolute most of the opportunity to preach Christ and Him crucified. He was referring not to syncretistic services, but to opportunities to address other Christian groups, but there is some application in his words nonetheless.]

  6. Rev. Al Bergstrazer
    April 23rd, 2007 at 17:04 | #6

    That is an excellent point, I do think there are instances where we ought to do exactly what your prof suggested. But the other side of the pinch we’re in is the criticism that we’ll get for having participated in such an event-clear gospel or not.

  7. Eric ex Cathedra
    April 23rd, 2007 at 22:39 | #7

    It doesn’t really surprise me. The only disagreement I have with the article is that it insinuates that the ELCA is in any way Lutheran. They are the worst enemy true Lutherans have. Why? Because these are how Satan masquerades as an ‘angel of light’. They have the right to believe whatever they want, but quit dragging the names of Christ, Luther, and all real Lutherans thru the mud by claiming you are ‘Lutheran’.
    It’s only a movie, but Captain Jack Sparrow was 100% right when he said: “The deepest level of hell is reserved for betrayers and mutineers.”

  8. April 24th, 2007 at 09:00 | #8

    I agree. I don’t know how many times I am called to defend the name of “Lutheran” from other Christians because they’ve encountered those in the ELCA…female pastors, pastors who openly state they don’t “buy into” inerrancy of Scripture, the homosexuality issues, etc. I get the “oh, Lutheran” and then have to go into a whole diatribe about how “we’re not like them.” I get so tired of defending my belief on account of their heresy…no, its getting to the point where we should openly call it apostasy.
    At the Fort Wayne Symposium there was a conservative ELCA theologian presenting, and the audience started focusing on his statement that “truly educated people cannot deny evolution” but that left uncountered the point that he made that about the ELCA taking away all gender definitions of the Trinity. If they are redefining who God reveals that He is, then they are abandoning the Biblical Trinity and therefore leaving Christianity.
    McCain: That ELCA layman should be ashamed of himself for baiting the audience. It’s generally considered rude to be invited to somebody’s house and then relieve onself on their living room carpet.

  9. Carl
    April 26th, 2007 at 14:31 | #9

    Perhaps the best thing to say in such a situation is what we say
    every Sunday in the Divine Service: The Creed!!

  10. Christine
    April 27th, 2007 at 08:39 | #10

    but that left uncountered the point that he made that about the ELCA taking away all gender definitions of the Trinity. If they are redefining who God reveals that He is, then they are abandoning the Biblical Trinity and therefore leaving Christianity.
    And by now I’m sure everyone has heard of the San Francisco ELCA church that has developed a “goddess rosary” ??
    I grieve, truly grieve at what has happened in the ELCA. They are quickly losing the pearl of great price and don’t even seem to know it.

  11. organshoes
    April 27th, 2007 at 12:50 | #11

    Just took the bait, Christine, and entered ‘goddess rosary’ into my search engine.
    Gee thanks.
    This is as bad as it gets.
    Except for when it gets worse.

  12. Christine
    April 27th, 2007 at 13:36 | #12

    Scary, isn’t it, Organshoes? But then notice the list of feminist “scholars” on the site: Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza (Roman Catholic), Letty Russell of the Yale Divinity School, Elaine Pagels, etc. etc. Ebenezer Lutheran is well situated in San Francisco which has a multitude of heterodox churches across denominational lines.
    The fact that the ECLA even tolerates this is simply unfathomable.

  13. Ryan
    April 27th, 2007 at 15:46 | #13

    The challenge was to define what religion produced the quoted sermon… and after the quote the question, “difficult isn’t it?”. Are you kidding? It was easy I knew it was Christian (so called!) because Isalm and Hindusim, indeed most other religions, are not into this kind of drivel. In fact I knew it was the usual mainline junk, and I am saddened it had to be associated with name Lutheran. I read many such sermons from ELCA and other mainline denominations in the wake of 9-11.

  14. Josh
    May 3rd, 2007 at 10:44 | #14

    Christine, I contacted the ELCA and asked about this church in San Francisco. They told me that if I had a problem with it to take it up with the congregation. The ELCA seems to be more ignoring it instead of doing anything about it, which is still very sad.

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