Sunday, July 16, 2006

How I Became a "Doctrine Monster"

I was reminiscing the other day about those who encouraged me to become a pastor. I loved my religion classes, and studying the teachings and ideas of the Bible. The abstract concepts were really intruiging to me.

One early influence then, was a Lutheran High School Religion teacher, who had much advice to give. At one point, I told him I wanted to be a Religion teacher in a Lutheran school too. He said I should instead go to seminary, because, "The collar has all the power in the Missouri Synod" and also it would give me the felxibility to teach or do other things. Well, he convinced me. (This was the same teacher, by the way, who invited a select few of us to his home to listen to Tony Campollo lectures)

A caveat, though. He cautioned me, espeicially considering my personality (which I would have compared, back then, to Mr. Spock), that I was at risk. "Don't let them [the seminary?] turn you into a Doctrine Monster". This was his advice. "Doctrine" seemed almost like a dirty word to him. Perhaps he meant "legalist"? Anyway, I took the warning under advisement.

Now certainly, there was no danger of this happening to me at college. This teacher had encouraged me to go to Seward, because Bronxville had "no spiritual life" (which I found to be all too true at the time - although it was as much my own fault as anyone's). I often wonder if I even completely lapsed in my faith while going through my "questioning" (partying) time at college.

But then as I arrived at the Seminary, life changed. I had to shape up, of course, and act more reponsible. To be sure, the environment was different. My peers were different. And I was a little older. And, as I became engaged to be married, more and more, responsiblity seemed the way to go. I started to "put away childish ways".

But it was also there, at the seminary, that I learned and learned and learned theology. God's word. What it really means, and how to apply it. I experienced a personal "reformation". I learned that the teachings of the Bible, of the Church, and of Christ (all the same) were not simply abstract ideas for my own amusement and other's enlightenment. Instead, these teachings (this DOCTRINE) was a gift from God himself - which had a practical application - which had rich depth and wide breadth. I learned that doctrine mattered - to me personally - to my faith. I heard the Gospel anew and with clarity - crystal clarity - for what seemed like the first time.

To me, this was directly opposed to the advice of my former teacher. How could I NOT embrace such teaching, such doctrine? How could I not become a "Doctrine Monster"!? Or, as I call it now, a "faithful pastor".

Well, my former teacher went on (got "promoted") to teach in the Concordia system, and I understand eventually pursued his own "collar". From what I hear, he is a major, major advocate of contemporary worship in the LCMS today. But I thank God for the encouragement he gave me, though certainly imperfect, which God used to help bring me where I am today.


Lynn of St. John's said...

Thanks for sharing this great story Pastor Chryst, it is better to obey God than man. Sometimes it's our nature to rebell against what we know to be poor advice and do the very things we know in our spirit is the right thing to do for Jesus sake. Back in the 60's my boy friend and I went to my Paster to talk to him about the plans for our wedding. His final prediction to us was that He didn't think our marrage would last. I can't say we haven't been tempted to divorce in the last 38
years but greater is God who is in us than the devil who is in this world. My mother had given us a Bible as our Wedding gift, I didn't know it was " Doctrin " but when I went on pitty trips I had it to turn to as my councilor instead of people. That poor old book looks like I killed it now but I keep it to remind me of the times God has helped us move mountains with that little mustard seed of faith He has given to us so we can believe more in Him than in ourselves or the advise of other people like your teacher and my pastor. I haven't read it yet but Pastor Peter Lange at St. John's here in Topeka Kansas likes the new CPH book titles, The Fire and the Staff, your not alone, there are many of us in the LCMS who are still listening to God whisper to us in our hearts.

Dan Grams said...

Hey...I see you grew up in Baltimore...which must mean you went to Baltimore Lutheran High School. I think I know the religion teacher to whom you refer. I had him as a Prof at Concordia - Ann Arbor. Initials D.F. As you describe him in high was he at Ann Arbor. He routinely persecuted pre-seminary students who liked doctrine too much! He's a DELTO grad now. Kyrie Eleison!

He actually believed if you were a typical doctrinally conservative LCMS Pastor that you had some kind of mental illness.