The Withertongue Emails: Part II


My dear Filthpit,

In light of your recent report, I am concerned you don’t appreciate how your client, like so many in his generation, is enslaved to the pressure of the extraordinary. Ordinary reality is repellent to him even though he’s not entirely aware of this fact. Because he is young, in his own ego, he thinks he can know all there is to know about “real life.” He’s grown up believing the answer to any question is available online. He doesn’t comprehend that his smart phone is a modern day Pandora’s Box. You must get into him the unalterable conviction that this is most certainly true of theology. Encourage him to embrace “real life,” especially life in the church, as what he can’t yet touch and see. And for the love of our dark Lord, don’t let him consider that the Enemy is real, flesh and blood! Instill in him the firmly held belief he already knows it all. He is immature. He will jump at the suggestion he knows better how to be a pastor than those who've come before him. Most important, he knows more than the dumb sheep he’s been sent to shepherd.

Get him to place himself ahead of everybody. Goad him to imagine he is a master of the Enemy’s words. He is not mistaken to see himself in this way. The worst error you can commit is to allow him to settle down, to learn from the words of deluded fools, like the accursed Martin Luther. Men like him are like a spigot that gushes out the Enemy’s words. In relation to such men keep your client unsteady. Push him to regard teachers like Luther, that bloated sack of worms, as unprofitable, ineffective, and outdated. Do not allow your client to enjoy any confidence in the ramblings of that superstitious German or anyone like him. 

If you persuade your young client he is right, that those churchmen who came before him were incompetent, intellectual and moral failures, then when he goes to prepare a sermon or lecture he will come at the work as one who’s been sent to rescue souls from spiritual and moral ignorance. Once you’ve filled his head with this conviction it will require only a little more effort to convince him that even the Enemy’s words are full of contradictions. In this way he will work great damage amongst his hearers. He will confuse the commands and promise. He will frustrate the Enemy and mislead his followers. 

Encourage your client to accept the Enemy’s promise as heaven-sent and the commands as human inventions intended to enslave people. Get him turned around in this way and he won't be able to see that without the commands the promise is incomprehensible, or that without the Enemy’s promise the commands are of no benefit to anyone. Finally, help him understand, the commands are the Enemy’s old teaching and the promise a new teaching. You know how he believes “old” is a synonym for irrelevant, impractical, and faith-destruction. Do this and your final aim will be within reach. 

So long as he believes the Enemy’s promise is an inadequate, impotent word, he will pile command on top of command to save his flock from spiritual and moral destruction. Eventually, he will reject the Enemy's promise altogether. He will scold other pastors who preach that it is the only way for his flock to get forgiveness, life, and salvation. He will be unmoved in his certainty that only the commands can save a person’s soul from hell. This is how you want him. You want him to go into the pulpit stirred up. You want him urgent to preach about how the promise empowers his hearers to fulfill the Enemy's commands. Once he has become convinced it is his responsibility to reconcile the contradictory teaching of the Enemy’s commands and promise, that this is an extraordinary work, only he can accomplish this feat, your most difficult work will be behind you. He will be well on his way to declaring that only the promises are for Christians. The commands, he will argue, are only to be applied to other people. When he gets to this point, when he has confused the commands and the promise, your client will no longer be a servant of the Enemy. Then you can safely say his pulpit has been won for our side. He has been converted to our cause.

Your proud teacher,


Donavon Riley is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author, Online Content Director for Higher Things, a contributing writer at 1517 Legacy Project, Christ Hold Fast, and LOGIA. Pastor Riley co-hosts the podcast: 'The Higher Things Simul Cast'. He is pastor of Saint John Lutheran Church in Webster, MN. A graduate of Concordia Universities in St. Paul, Minnesota and Portland, Oregon, Pastor Riley received his seminary and post-graduate education at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He colloquized into the LC-MS from the ELCA in 2008. He is married to Annie, and is the father of four children: Owen, Alma, Hoshea, and Hallel.
Twitter @DonavonRiley