Sunday, 20 April 2014

Underwhelming Lutheran Interview

Radio New Zealand National featured Lutheranism on its Sunday evening Spiritual Outlook programme this week.

Being brought up Lutheran, and having been tipped off that the show was airing earlier in the day (thanks Rols) I decided to tune in.

First some background. Lutherans in NZ, unlike Australia and the US, are only a tiny percentage of the Christian population. Like other mainline churches they're also in irreversible decline. Two of the three churches I once attended (New Plymouth and Lower Hutt) have subsequently closed their doors, as presumably have others. Pastors are usually imported from Australia as the NZ church is an outpost of the Aussie General Synod.
Jim Pietsch

RNZ, apparently after some importuning, decided to focus on this largely unknown faith community, despatching their intrepid interviewer Mike Gourley out to St. Paul's, the capital's only Lutheran church, to interview pastor Jim Pietsch, and even scheduling it for nationwide broadcast on Easter Sunday.

It was supposed to be a pleasant chat, and Gourley certainly did his best with gently probing questions. An easy ride? Not really. Pietsch over-thought his responses and came across as a somewhat stolid PR spokesman, distant and pedantic. As he tip-toed his way through the questions I wondered whether ministers receive any media training in their holy city of Adelaide. Perhaps they do, but it certainly didn't show this time.

It was, in my view, a wasted opportunity for all concerned. Pietsch didn't manage to connect with either interviewer or audience, and RNZ's man with the mic failed to ask any questions worth asking. The references to the composer Bach were almost gratuitous.

Next week they're airing part 2, this time featuring District President latterly turned Bishop, Mark Whitfield. It'll be interesting to see whether he managed to do anything more than go through the motions.

(You can access the audio for this programme here.)


  1. "Like other mainline churches they're also in irreversible decline"
    Because it's based on junk philosophy, historiography, cosmology...

  2. Atheism is also in decline worldwide. I assume also junk philosophy, historiography and cosmology are to blame.

    There is a large Lutheran Church in our community. Lutherans that I have met are good, solid, decent people. I know little of their theology. I am not sure if they are at the Calvinist end of the spectrum or the Arminian end. l do know that some of their theologians believe in future probation for the unevangelized. That they could countenance this clearly places them outside the North American evangelical sphere.

    I would guess most clergymen are wary of the media. And advisedly so. The media is usually there to sling mud as they chase ratings.

    -- Neo

  3. Lutherans pre-date both Calvinists and Arminianism, so it is hardly fair to try and shoe-horn them on that screwed-up spectrum. And in this case the church sought the exposure via public radio. Public radio isn't into mud slinging or chasing for ratings in the way commercial radio is.

    As for whether Atheism is in worldwide decline, I'd want to see some solid data to back up that claim.

    1. As far as I can tell, atheism or just plain old 'unbelief', is definitely on the rise. Not many unbelievers claim to be atheists, by the way, but that's what they are. Unbelievers are merely atheists 'in the closet' and there are a lot of them.

  4. One statement: "Atheism is in decline worldwide, with the number of atheists falling from 4.5% of the world’s population in 1970 to 2.0% in 2010 and projected to drop to 1.8% by 2020, according to a new report by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass."

    But Wikipedia says the opposite. Who knows? Probably depends on who is collecting the stats.

    An easy litmus test is to ask whether Lutheranism espouses free will or not. This is an simple question (for most people) and relevant whether Lutheranism predates Calvinism and Arminianism or not.

    -- Neo