Thursday, November 19, 2009

Did Pastor Paul T. McCain (LCMS) Compare Lutheran Pastors Who Become Catholic or Orthodox, to Judas Iscariot?

Rev. Paul T. McCain: an active LCMS pastor, with a thriving website, wrote a post called Warning Signs that a Lutheran Pastor or Layperson is Headed Toward Rome. I replied on his blog regarding this matter, but for some reason my comment would not post, after two tries (must be technical difficulties, I guess). So I have made this (expanded) post about it instead.

In it, he wrote:

One chap who abandoned his call and his ordination, spent quite some time overly-fascinated with Roman Catholic doctrines, and finally ended up rejecting the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ, alone.
As I once said to those Lutheran pastors and layman dabbling with Eastern Orthodoxy: if you are not going to stay and remain among us, taking your post on Zion’s wall, then what you must do, do quickly. Stop confusing yourself and your hearers. It is tempting for Lutherans whose church bodies are experiencing serious difficulties to look fondly toward Rome, but it is simply not an option for anyone who wishes to be, and remain, faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Are there devout Christians who are Roman Catholics? Of that I have no doubt, at all. That is not the point.
[my blue coloring added]

Mark asked in the combox:

Do you really mean to say that we, who are seeking to enter into full communion with the church Jesus Christ founded, are Judas Iscariots?

Pastor McCain replied:

That’s odd, I did not say that, . . .

And now I reply that it was strongly implied, since he virtually quoted John 13:27. He wrote:

if you are not going to stay and remain among us, taking your post on Zion’s wall, then what you must do, do quickly.

John 13:26b-27 (RSV) reads :

. . . So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.[27] Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly.

Perhaps it was an unintended Freudian slip, huh?

Moreover, there is the allusion to "among us" that is also reminiscent of biblical language about Judas:

Acts 1:16-17 "Brethren, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David, concerning Judas who was guide to those who arrested Jesus. [17] For he was numbered among us, and was allotted his share in this ministry.

I submit that Acts 1:16-17 in turn is thematically related to another similar passage:
1 John 2:18-19 Children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come; therefore we know that it is the last hour. [19] They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out, that it might be plain that they all are not of us.

Pastor McCain knows the biblical phraseology in all three of these instances very well. It's difficult to believe that he didn't have at least one or more of them in mind (particularly the "do quickly" phrase, which can hardly be any clearer than it is). But he wants to play games and make out that commenter Mark is reading into things and being overly suspicious ("That’s odd, I did not say that"). It's not "odd" at all, but perfectly understandable that another person familiar with the Bible would draw such a conclusion, or have this suspicion.

Of course, when it comes to folks from other communions converting to Lutheranism, that is a whole 'nother story. No talk of Judas or implied apostasy there! So Pastor McCain gushingly writes:

Converts to Lutheranism Tell Their Stories

I ran across recently an interesting web site that provides the personal accounts of people who have come to Lutheranism from other denominational backgrounds. Very interesting indeed! If you know of other converts to Lutheranism who might like to share their stories, please send them to: . . .

(27 September 2007)

And again, he states:

I’ve lost track of the number of converts who have contacted me over the years from various places telling me all the reasons they were attracted to Lutheranism . . .

One convert told me it was precisely in how Biblically powerful Lutheranism’s presentation on Holy Baptism is that convinced him. Another told me that he had never heard the Lord’s Supper so beautifully explained and confessed and lived out as it is in Lutheranism. Time and time again converts tell me that it was in the clear proclamation of the liberating Gospel that they found only in Lutheranism that they were won over for Lutheranism.

(19 March 2007)

But if we Catholic converts deign to share what attracted us to Catholicism, then Pastor McCain makes remarks such as the following, directed towards yours truly on my own blog, less than ten weeks after the above observation:

Dave, I've been wondering for some time if you are a convert to Roman Catholicism and now I see in your revised comments that you are. Many things now make a lot more sense. It has been my experience that converts such as yourself exhibit a near-breathless desperation constantly to be, no pun intended, justifying their decision to join Romanism.

(30 May 2007)

At least Pastor McCain is a true believer in Lutheranism as the best Christian option. In that respect he is far more like Martin Luther than the millions of Protestants today who pride themselves on their uncertainty and lack of dogmatism -- i.e., in the strictly doctrinal sense (as I've often written about, even recently). Pastor McCain's problem is the double standard he applies to one set of converts over against the other. He has to glorify one and demonize or at least trivialize and mock the other, because the former are coming into his camp and the latter are leaving it. I think it is far more complex than that. Having myself converted both to evangelicalism and Catholicism I know a little bit about the processes involved from the inside.

On the other hand, if it is someone he personally admires, who has become a Catholic (like Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, as I recently wrote about), then he changes his tone again and rationally treats the subject.

If the class of Lutheran pastors over "here" who become Catholics (I talked to two recently at a conference) are like Judas, then why not Fr. Neuhaus, too? Of if the latter is not, then why not extend a little more charity to the class of former Lutheran pastors, who perhaps have what they feel are perfectly good reasons to convert to Catholicism (or Orthodoxy), too?

But in any event we shouldn't treat people differently just because they happen to have more importance and influence, lest we fall into a variation of the hypocrisy that St. James rebuked in reference to how we treat rich and poor people (James 2:1-7).


Natalie said...

I'm surprised that you would be surprised that Pastor McCain would view a Lutheran pastor leaving his confession any other way. He is Lutheran, you do know that?

Dave Armstrong said...

Yes, I knew that (see my title). There is a vast difference between an honest religious disagreement, held in good conscience on both sides, and describing those who take a different path with Judas Iscariot, as if they MUST be inherently wicked. That was my point.

It is loose cannon / uncharitable and unbridled polemics that does no one any good. It's sinful. pastor McCain ought to know better.