Two Senses

From the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, article III:

3] Now, when we consider this dissent aright, it has been caused chiefly by this, that the term Gospel is not always employed and understood in one and the same sense, but in two ways, in the Holy Scriptures, as also by ancient and modern church teachers. 4] For sometimes it is employed so that there is understood by it the entire doctrine of Christ, our Lord, which He proclaimed in His ministry upon earth, and commanded to be proclaimed in the New Testament, and hence comprised in it the explanation of the Law and the proclamation of the favor and grace of God, His heavenly Father, as it is written, Mark 1, 1: The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And shortly afterwards the chief heads are stated: Repentance and forgiveness of sins. Thus, when Christ after His resurrection commanded the apostles to preach the Gospel in all the world, Mark 16, 15, He compressed the sum of this doctrine into a few words, when He said, Luke 24, 46. 47: Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations. So Paul, too, calls his entire doctrine the Gospel, Acts 20, 21; but he embraces the sum of this doctrine under the two heads: Repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. 5] And in this sense the generalis definitio, that is, the description of the word Gospel, when employed in a wide sense and without the proper distinction between the Law and the Gospel is correct, when it is said that the Gospel is a preaching of repentance and the remission of sins. For John, Christ, and the apostles began their preaching with repentance and explained and urged not only the gracious promise of the forgiveness of sins, but also the Law of God. 6] Furthermore the term Gospel is employed in another, namely, in its proper sense, by which it comprises not the preaching of repentance, but only the preaching of the grace of God, as follows directly afterwards, Mark 1, 15, where Christ says: Repent, and believe the Gospel.

This distinction between two senses can also be used to end the ELS controversy about the ministry. This is what the PMW attempts to do. It has failed, but not because this basic approach is flawed. It did not express itself clearly and simply enough, nor did it show how much of our traditional vocabulary relating to ministry has also acquired multiple senses, so that we have two frameworks of meaning built upon the same vocabulary, and nearly identical expressions. Continue reading “Two Senses”

A Timely Book

Cover Shot

I’ve been reading The Struggle to Reclaim the Liturgy in the Lutheran Church by James Waddell, published by the Edwin Mellen Press. It’s worth reading for those interested in the theology of adiaphora and liturgy. Though scholarly and well researched, it’s quite engaging. I find myself looking forward to more opportunities to sit and read this book.

Here is a quote from pages 48-49, to whet your appetite.

To speak of liturgy only in the way of the gospel, with regard to the church’s authority to order its external rites and ceremonies, is to ignore the confessional proposition that humanly instituted rites and ceremonies are ordered by the church in the way of both law and gospel, and it is to run dangerously close to confusing law and gospel in the discourse on liturgy. We receive as gift what is given. The prescribed order is gift given by God — the gospel and the sacraments. What is externally ordered for the good of the church, however, is given to the church by the church and not by God, and the church is free to retain, omit or change these externally ordered rites and ceremonies according to the church’s needs for edification as these relate to changing times and circumstances. To say what is ordered by the church is for the good of the church is a way of speaking which is very much different fram saying that a particular liturgical form is the “best.” Optimum esse is not bene esse, and the confessional witness does not speak this way. Optimum esse runs in the way of opinion. Bene esse runs in the way of the law and the gospel. Clearly a distinction must be made between what is given by the church for the church on the one hand, and what is given by God on the other.

Why spend the time interpreting the PMW?

This question has been asked on LutherQuest. It deserves an answer, since it is rather evident that I spent some time on the interpretation, particularly on the longer, original explanation.

It has aptly been pointed out that some parts of my interpretation don’t hold water very well. That’s because the parts of the PMW that I am explaining are somewhat deficient in their expression, in my opinion. Still, I sometimes read a poorly-worded sentence in the newspaper or elsewhere from time to time, and though I may mock it, I can usually understand the intent. Thus, my interpretation is not a defense of the PMW per se, but an explanation of the understanding under which I can tolerate the PMW, for the moment.
Continue reading “Why spend the time interpreting the PMW?”

How I understand the ELS Ministry Statement

For the moment, I can live with The Public Ministry of the Word, the doctrinal statement adopted by the ELS last June. It has some serious flaws, but it can be understood in a way that accords with the Bible and the Lutheran confessions. My hope is that we can continue to study the doctrine and this statement, and either improve or replace it as we are able.

In the meantime, I’ll post below a summary of my understanding of this document. You can find the same summary here, and a longer supporting document here.

Continue reading “How I understand the ELS Ministry Statement”

A Busy Time

It’s been a while since I last posted here. Not that I haven’t thought about it, and maybe even had some good ideas. It’s been a busy time. Preparing for Vacation Bible School, catching up on things that had to be neglected during Lent and shortly afterward, continuing to add to the long list of projects on our new old house, preparing for the synod convention in June, etc. Anyway, I started yesterday to collect some firewood for next winter. The first two pickup loads are here, piled up and needing some cutting and splitting. Several more loads are waiting where those came from.

So, though I’m sorry that I haven’t posted much this month, I’m happy that things are moving along in several other ways. Look for another post or two today, hopefully more interesting than this one.

Is it beneficial to have the Lord’s Supper available every Sunday?

This question may sound like a no-brainer, yet many concientious Lutherans disagree. Of course, the answer is yes, as long as it is celebrated in a God-pleasing way. Apparently, I am not the only one who sees things this way, and now you can read more about it in a genuine book. See Cyberbrethren’s post about the news on Little Loci. Since I already have so many books on my “to read” list, how do I go about obtaining — and reading — this one? The perpetual problem.