Last week I was at my parent's church for Christmas and we had a Bible study on Sunday. The Bible study essentially consisted in watching the LCMS's "Intersection of Church and State" video and then reacting to it via some study questions. I found the reactions of the people there to be very interesting. One major question that caused a lot of discussion was whether people believed that the Church was doing enough to oppose secularism in the public square. The response from most people was fairly predictable: No, obviously not. As usual, people insisted that if the Church would just apply more pressure on the secular culture, then the culture would be reformed and be more amenable to Christian values. One older gentlemen even suggested that we create a Christian political party with a national charismatic leader.
Of course, all of this ignores what's happened since the late 60s. Does anyone remember how conservative Protestants and Catholic have organized themselves over the last 40 years? And what's the result? Christianity is even more unpopular than it was before. My wife rightly pointed out that a similar process has ensued in Europe: The formation of Christian political parties (think the Christian Democrats in Germany) usually means the waning of Christian influence over culture.
Nevertheless, the fantasy of the Church as a power organization that if it just asserted itself a bit more continues. The fantasy is hardwired into human nature since the Fall. It is the belief that the legalistic fantasy that the law can really change people through superior pressure. The problem is of course that the law can only direct and channel what already exists. It can't actually create anything new-only God's power of grace can do that through the proclamation of the word of justification can do that. Unfortunately for the legalistic fantasy, the gospel is a weak thing by the standards of the world. It can only grant freedom to the elect. It cannot force people to use their free will correctly, since its mere existence destroys the illusion of free will and the opionio legis.
I've observed a similar response to the specific problem of the Lutheran Church in America in the objective justification debate. The debate isn't really about justification at all, but rather about discovering a master explanation for why the Lutheran Church is tanking. The same-old-same-old explanation getting brought out: The Church needs to pressure people more with the law. In other words, what Rydecki and Jackson, and the rest of them, really think is that OJ makes grace too free and because it's too free people aren't understanding that they really, really need to have faith and really, really need to repent. If, they claim, people were to understand the conditions of justification, then they would be better Lutherans and the Church would be revived in America.
And of course this is represents a basic misunderstanding of Lutheran doctrine. Once one understands that we are elected by God through the promise of unilateral grace, a lot of other things get cleared up. Despite is significant flaws, one thing that Gerhard Forde got right was that we must preach under the presupposition of bondage. We are not preaching to free subjects that can, in their rationality and autonomy, take or leave our proclamation. Rather, our word is the Word of God which kills and makes alive. It creates and destroys. We suffer such a word passively and therefore the only thing the occupant of the preaching office can do is proclaim the Word and allow the chips fall where they may. Placing conditions on the Word does very little to save the Church, rather it destroys it and distorts its mission. It turns it into a power organization whose goal to to become glorious, rather than weak and oppressed like it's Lord. In its zeal for worldly influence, it losing sight of the omnipotent word of grace- a word that hides in weakness.