What's Wrong With Ablaze!: Part 1
Because of the broad nature of the question I shall take several posts to answer the question "Do you have theological issues and can you back them up with scripture and the Lutheran confessions?"
The first thing I’ll tackle is, what do the confessions say about evangelism? To put it simply, the confessions say almost nothing! And that, in itself, should speak volumes to us all. The confessors in the Formula of Concord Solid Declaration write in the article concerning election:
54] Thus there is no doubt that God most exactly and certainly foresaw before the time of the world, and still knows, which of those that are called will believe or will not believe; also which of the converted will persevere [in faith] and which will not persevere; which will return after a fall [into grievous sins], and which will fall into obduracy [will perish in their sins]. So, too, the number, how many there are of these on either side, is beyond all doubt perfectly known to God. 55] However, since God has reserved this mystery for His wisdom, and has revealed nothing to us concerning it in His Word, much less commanded us to investigate it with our thoughts, but has earnestly discouraged us there from, Rom. 11, 33ff , we should not reason in our thoughts, draw conclusions, nor inquire curiously into these matters, but should adhere to His revealed Word, to which He points us.
56] Thus without any doubt God also knows and has determined for every one the time and hour of his call and conversion [and when He will raise again one who has lapsed]. But since this has not been revealed to us, we have the command always to keep urging the Word, but to entrust the time and hour [of conversion] to God, Acts 1, 7.
57] Likewise, when we see that God gives His Word at one place [to one kingdom or realm], but not at another [to another nation]; removes it from one place [people], and allows it to remain at another; also, that one is hardened, blinded, given over to a reprobate mind, while another, who is indeed in the same guilt, is converted again, etc.,—in these and similar questions Paul [Rom. 11, 22ff ] 58] fixes a certain limit to us how far we should go, namely, that in the one part we should recognize God's judgment [for He commands us to consider in those who perish the just judgment of God and the penalties of sins]. For they are well-deserved penalties of sins when God so punishes a land or nation for despising His Word that the punishment extends also to their posterity, as is to be seen in the Jews. And thereby [by the punishments] God in some lands and persons exhibits His severity to those that are His [in order to indicate] what we all would have well deserved, and would be worthy and worth, since we act wickedly in opposition to God's Word [are ungrateful for the revealed Word, and live unworthily of the Gospel] and often grieve the Holy Ghost sorely, in order that we may live in the fear of God, and acknowledge and praise God's goodness, to the exclusion of, and contrary to, our merit in and with us, to whom He gives His Word, and with whom He leaves it, and whom He does not harden and reject.
Pay particular attention to 57,58 where the confessors say that those who reject God’s word have hardened their own hearts and are deserving of God’s righteous judgment. The confessors recognize that the Mohammedans and others have heard the Gospel of Christ and have rejected Christ as the Son of God. Just as Jewish community did during Paul’s ministry, they consider the idea of God becoming man foolishness. They say Jesus was a prophet to be sure but by no means is He God. This is blasphemy they cry!
Concerning those who live in this country, is there anyone who doesn’t know who Jesus is? I would say that every soul has heard about Jesus at least once in their life. Now to be sure some have heard and been taught things that were incorrect and not true (that is called bad doctrine). But all have heard! Just because they were poorly catechized does not give us the right to say they just haven’t heard the good news. See two quotes from Klemet Preus here for the stats on the number of confessed Christians in this America (hint, hint, the percentage doesn't change when the population goes up).
Does this mean than we shouldn’t be telling folks about Jesus? No, it does not! We have a duty to confess Christ to all that ask. But we must always point those who question us to the one place where Christ has chosen to extend to us this undeserved means of grace, Word and Sacrament. I believe the reason the confessions are silent on evangelism is that very point. The confessors understood that we can see God’s work in all our daily vocations just as we can see he handiwork in nature itself. But neither of these get us to the place where God lets us know who He is, that is to say we must come to the Father through the Son by faith given to us by the Spirit.
Ablaze! has this just the opposite approach. Ablaze! has us going out to the masses and in doing so makes us the center of the “critical event.” Any “event,” that does not have us pointing to Christ’s Church, as the source of his salvific work, is wrong. See my reprinting of Julie Martinez’s exceptional article here for more on the subject.
In the next post I’ll tackle the Church as the source of the means of grace using the Augsburg Confession.