The Ninth point summarizing my longer explanation of the PMW says:
“Unofficial or private use of the keys” describes those times when
individual Christians speak for Christ, giving His forgiveness to
sinners without having received a regular call to do so. Though it is
called “unofficial” or “private,” such an act is really public in the
sense that Jesus has given Christians the authority to do this in
times of special need. In effect, the individual Christian is acting
as the pastor of the one being forgiven.
Personally, I would prefer that our use of terms like “public/private”
and “official/unofficial” were more consistent. Such things are hard to
standardize, so we end up needing to clarifying the sense we mean almost every time
we use them. This makes our expressions more unwieldy, but maybe it has
the advantage that the uninitiated can more easily understand what we’re
saying, as long as we explain what we mean sufficiently.
I think this point is pretty self-explanatory. Let me know if you disagree.
In confirmation class, our students learn that God’s moral Law is like a
mirror. When we look into it in view of our own lives, we see reflected
an accurate moral understanding of our own lives. The conclusion for
every human on earth is that we are morally guilty, and in need of
rescue from the punishment we deserve.
Recently, I’ve noticed how some people consider Lutheran theology to be
“hateful” or “hate-filled.” It seems that these words are used in the
same vein as the recently-coined concept of a “hate crime.” That alone
should make Christians uncomfortable with this trend in the legal system
of our states and nation. But that’s beside the point.
Continue reading “The Mirror of God’s Law”
I’ve just had a complex thought, but I’m not sure I can express it in
words. BTW, that’s one of the great values of writing those thoughts
down. When you try to express them, as happens on a blog, they tend
either to crystallize or evaporate. Please be patient, and we’ll see
what happens this time.
A key part of the context of my thoughts on fellowship is the Werner
Elert book Eucharist and Fellowship in the First Four Centuries. It
shows how Holy Communion as an expression of fellowship was practiced so
differently in the early church than it is practiced today — even in
the ELS — and yet there are so many parallels and similarities. Read
it if you have the chance.
Is there any such thing as Fellowship? What an odd question to ask.
But I ask it anyway, for the sake of discussion, because our doctrine
and practice of fellowship seems to be self-contradictory.
Continue reading “Is there any such thing as Fellowship?”
Like Pastor Abrahamson at
The Abrahamsons, I find it
interesting to see where the readers are. I’ve been surprised to find
how many people actually view The Plucked Chicken, for starters.
Lately I’ve also noticed a spike in traffic on Thursdays. What’s
happening on Thursdays? I don’t know. But there are about twice as
many visits Thursdays as there are Wednesdays.
Here are the approximate places where some of our readers access The
Plucked Chicken. If you recognize this as your home town, or at least
where your ISP is located, feel free to send me an email and let me know
who you are. You can use jmjac at gorge dot net. Just fix
the address first. The following visitors were all from yesterday. I
can guess who some of you are, but not all. And don’t worry about me
publishing your names. Unless you tell me it’s OK with you, I won’t
do it. You could give me an alias, though. 🙂
And more… But I’ll mention the others another time.
You might think that it should be easy to tell what we mean by the word
“church,” but it’s not. It turns out, we use the word in plenty of
different ways. Is there a best or most proper way? That depends if
you’re asking a language question or a theology question.
In terms of language, you can use the word church in any way you like
that effectively communicates your message.
In terms of biblical doctrine, the word is most properly used to
describe the communion of saints. In other words, the church is “the
holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd” (S.A.
III, XII). In still other words, the church is “the congregation of
saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are
rightly administered” (A.C. VII). Some people, by convention, spell it
with a capital C when they are using the word this way.
Colloquially, the word “church” usually refers to a civic organization
of people which may be associated with at least one fixed piece of real
estate. That’s not the same thing as what I wrote in the previous
paragraph. Martin Luther’s Roman opponents believed that “the Church”
was the organization of people headed by the Pope, associated with real
estate all over the world. We make the same mistake when we think of
our congregation or the synod as “the Church.” We play with that fire a
bit when we ask questions like, “Is synod Church?” We must be careful.
(“Get out the sticks and matches, boys!”)
Continue reading “Explaining the PMW: the Church”
While I would be very happy if the convention adopted a resolution like
the previous sample memorial, realism/pessimism sets in early. Is the
ELS capable of anything resembling sorrow over anything it’s done? Can it
possibly show the public humility required to admit that its own
doctrinal statements are not holy scripture? We’ll see. Or at least,
someone will see. (“We” may not all be around by that time.) Or maybe
the Lord will return before then, rendering all of the plans within
plans utterly irrelevant. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
I’ll do some gardening in the meantime. The soil is tilled, and the next seed is a badly-needed
resolution. As it is now, the synod bylaws (Chapter 2) require an
action by the synod convention to receive a congregation as a member of
the synod. Similarly, they require an action by the synod, without
using the word “convention,” to receive an individual as a member.
There is no similar requirement when a membership is terminated, be it
the membership of a congregation or an individual.
Compare that to the membership of your congregation. Certainly the
procedure varies. But in nearly all cases, I would venture to guess
that the church’s duly installed representatives (Voters, Council, etc.) have
to approve membership changes. That’s only half true for the synod.
Continue reading “Another Possible Memorial: Membership Changes”
The seventh point summarizing my longer explanation of the PMW is the
first one in which I would expect some disagreement. There are several
ways in which the PMW’s expression is a bit lacking on this topic.
A doctrinal statement should express the Bible’s doctrine. If it must
describe our merely human arrangements too, this should be explicitly
distinguished from the Bible’s doctrine. The word “limited” denotes a
human arrangement, because the limitation is not characterized or
imposed by God, but rather by human beings. Yet the PMW could give the
impression that the “limited public use of the Keys” was handed down by
God from heaven. This is neither true nor biblically supported.
The use of the Keys is specified by God. The Keys are used to bind
and loose the sins of sinners. (Matthew 18:18 — See point 5 of this
summary explanation.) If the term “limited public use of the keys” is taken to mean that the use is
limited, then the PMW’s doctrine becomes hopelessly muddled. It would
mean that by human limitation, a person may bind but not loose, or a
person may loose but not bind. Or it could mean that a person could
loose and bind certain sins but not others. Or, that a person could
loose or bind the sins of certain people but not others.
Someone could say that this phrase really means “limited public
administration of the means of grace.” If that’s how it should be
taken, then why doesn’t it say that? We have to work with the document
the way it’s stated, or we have to fix it.
Continue reading “Interpreting the PMW: Limited Public Use of the Keys”
The sixth summary point summarizing my full explanation of the newest
ELS doctrinal statement builds upon the fifth point.
When the statement speaks of an â€œoffice of the keys,â€ it refers
sometimes to the office of ministry in the narrow sense (the pastoral
office), which belongs to the Church, and through which the Church
exercises the keys. Other times, it refers to the authority Jesus gave
both to His apostles and to His Church to bind and loose the sins of
Continue reading “Explaining the PMW: The Office of the Keys”
The fifth point summarizing my longer explanation of the new ELS
doctrinal statement is rather simple. Yet it’s a much-needed
clarification, to ensure a consistent understanding of what is meant.
When the statement uses the term â€œkeys,â€ it means the application of
God’s mercy or judgment to a sinner.
Please note that “keys” refers particularly to the application of
God’s mercy or judgment, to a sinner. God’s mercy or judgment may well
exist in the abstract, without application to any sinners, but these things only
become the Keys in their application to a sinner.
Sometimes we speak of the Keys as though this is synonymous with Law and
Gospel. That can work, to a point. But it breaks down inasmuch as Law
and Gospel may be abstracted from their application to sinners. In
other words, the Gospel as a message is not the loosing key until it
becomes absolution, or until it is proclaimed to the hearers of a
sermon, etc. Likewise with the Law.
To what does the wider sense of “The Public Ministry of the Word” refer
in the newest ELS doctrinal statement? In answer to that question, here
is the fourth point from the summary of my explanation of that document.
Again, comments are welcome.
The wider sense refers to the Church’s God-given freedom to establish
other offices that carry some of the responsibilities which belong
both to the Church as a whole and to the pastoral office. It may be
considered â€œdivinely institutedâ€ insofar as we recognize that God
wishes these duties to be performed. This is not the same kind of
divine institution as we find in the narrow sense.
Continue reading “Interpreting the PMW: The Wider Sense”