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Sunday, October 08, 2006 

What's Wrong With Ablaze!: Part 3

So, where were we? Ah yes, I was answering “B’s” question “why are you so hostile to Ablaze? Do you have theological issues and can you back them up with scripture and the Lutheran confessions. I hear so much negative talk but no one to my knowledge has ever backed it up with scripture?” Let’s wrap up our look at the confessions with a quick look at the Large Catechism’s explanation of the third article of the Apostils Creed, which is one of the three Ecumenical creeds in our confessions.

Dr Luther in his explanation of the third article writes in 40-45

40] Learn, then, to understand this article most clearly. If you are asked: What do you mean by the words: I believe in the Holy Ghost? you can answer: I believe that the Holy Ghost makes me holy, as His name implies. 41] But whereby does He accomplish this, or what are His method and means to this end? Answer: By the Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. 42] For, in the first place, He has a peculiar congregation in the world, which is the mother that begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God, which He reveals and preaches, [and through which] He illumines and enkindles hearts, that they understand, accept it, cling to it, and persevere in it.
43] For where He does not cause it to be preached and made alive in the heart, so that it is understood, it is lost, as was the case under the Papacy, where faith was entirely put under the bench, and no one recognized Christ as his Lord or the Holy Ghost as his Sanctifier, that is, no one believed that Christ is our Lord in the sense that He has acquired this treasure for us, without our works and merit, and made us acceptable to the Father. What, then, was lacking? 44] This, that the Holy Ghost was not there to reveal it and cause it to be preached; but men and evil spirits were there, who taught us to obtain grace and be saved by our works. 45] Therefore it is not a Christian Church either; for where Christ is not preached, there is no Holy Ghost who creates, calls, and gathers the Christian Church, without which no one can come to Christ the Lord.


Notice how Dr. Luther states that under the papacy, there was no Christian church as there was no right preaching. Rome preached salvation by one’s own works, which does not look to Christ but rather looks inward. Again, “For where Christ is not preached, there is no Holy Spirit to create, call and gather the Christian church, apart from which no one can come to call the Lord Christ.” This is why I spent so much time on identifying the Marks of the Church as the only thing we would need to look to in my last posts.

Now contrast what Dr Luther wrote with Ablaze!. How does Ablaze! measure success? By counting what our synod’s President Kieschnick calls “critical events” which is defined as sharing a "shared the hope that is in you, so that another may encounter Christ."

The Ablaze! website entitled “Are We Really Counting” describes the counting process as “When one person gives a clear presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to another person, so that there is an opportunity for that person to respond, this activity “counts” toward the 100 million goal. A person may “respond” by receiving the message, rejecting it or asking for more information.”

Now there are two ways to look at the above statement. First, our synodical leadership now has the ability to see these seeds of faith that they want us to start counting. The problem with that is a pesky little verse in 1 Kings 8:39 which says "then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men)" . So, now we really can see into the hearts of men, since that is the only place that Holy Spirit works to bring us to faith? Apparently the writer of the book of Kings wasn’t aware of the Ablaze! program since we now know that a website can measure what was long thought to be immeasurable. Hmm.

The second and more disturbing option (as if the first wasn’t disturbing enough) is that the Ablaze! program just doesn’t care that it doesn’t point to the Marks of the Church. This is why I spent so much time on the last post on what the confessors thought identified the Church.

Remember, the Ablaze! website records not people confessing Christ as Lord nor baptisms where Christ seals the child (or adult) with his cross by the Word of God. All that is required for the website numbers to go up to reach the 100 million “unchurched” is only the opportunity for the people to respond. This is why the LCMS can run a TV program and the numbers jump up by a million in a single month. Anyone watching the LCMS happy clappy hour might have a seed of faith in them. Who knows? Well, apparently we do, so we are counting them as having the opportunity to respond.

All of this Ablaze! stuff looks to own works as a sign of all the good that we do for God instead of what God has already done for us and continues to do for us in Word and Sacrament. 1 Kings 8:39 states that God alone knows what’s in our hearts and that’s good enough for me. We have a responsibility to give a confession of faith anytime we are asked. If the opportunity comes up in our daily vocation we must confess Christ crucified. But counting our work, and taking credit for a work that is very clearly the work of the Holy Spirit, is intolerable.

So, is there anything wrong with counting? We’ll tackle that in the next post.

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