More Seeds of Discord

Quoted from LW 27:36-37:

The entire epistle gives ample evidence of how disappointed Paul was over the fall of the Galatians and of how often he pounded at them — now with reproof, now with appeals — about the very great and inestimable evils that would follow their fall unless they reconsidered. This care and admonition, so fatherly and truly apostolic, had no effect at all on some of them; for very many of them no longer acknowledged Paul as their teacher but vastly preferred the false apostles, from whom they imagined that they had derived true doctrine rather than from Paul. Finally the false apostles undoubtedly slandered Paul among the Galatians in this way: Paul, they said, was a stubborn and quarrelsome man, who was shattering the harmony among the churches on account of some trifle, for no other reason than because he alone wanted to be right and to be praised. With this false accusation they made Paul detestable in the eyes of many. Others, who had not yet fallen completely away from Paul’s teaching, imagined that there was no harm in disagreeing a little with him on the doctrines of justification and faith. Accordingly, when they heard Paul placing such great emphasis on what seemed to them a matter of such minor importance, they were amazed and thought: “Granted that we have diverged somewhat from Paul’s teaching and that there is some fault on our side, still it is a minor matter. Therefore he should overlook it or at least not place such great emphasis on it. Otherwise he could shatter the harmony among the churches with this unimportant issue.”

If Luther’s description of the situation is correct, would you have allowed Paul to remain an apostle in your church? Hard to say, unless you’ve lived through a similar situation, in which a conscientious teacher of God’s Word is slandered in such a way. It would seem that breaking fellowship with Paul would be a worse evil than enduring the strife that resulted from his “stubborn and quarrelsome” nature. Luther continues:

Paul answers them with this excellent proverbial statement: “A little yeast leavens the whole lump.” This is a caution which Paul emphasizes. We, too, should emphasize it in our time. For the sectarians who deny the bodily presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper accuse us today of being quarrelsome, harsh, and intractable, because, as they say, we shatter love and harmony among the churches on account of the single doctrine about the Sacrament. They say that we should not make so much of this little doctrine, which is not a sure thing anyway and was not specified in sufficient detail by the apostles, that solely on its account we refuse to pay attention to the sum total of Christian doctrine and to general harmony among all the churches. This is especially so because they agree with us on other articles of Christian doctrine. With this very plausible argument they not only make us unpopular among their own followers; but they even subvert many good men, who suppose that we disagree with them because of sheer stubbornness or some other personal feeling. But these are tricks of the devil, by which he is trying to overthrow not only this article of faith but all Christian doctrine.

The controversy over the sacrament is appropriate to consider. It serves as a good basis for comparison and contrast with more recent controversies, in which similar complaints have been made about “insufficient detail” in holy scripture to warrant such “sheer stubbornness.”

In hindsight, we know that the chief question in that controversy was “What does the pastor distribute and the communicants receive in the Sacrament of the Altar?” The sectarians denied “the bodily presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper,” while the Lutherans insisted upon it. Is it true that scripture provides “insufficient detail” to settle that controversy? Not at all, for how could Jesus have answered the question more simply and plainly? “This is My body.”

Granted, not every theological question will have such a simple and plain answer in holy scripture. However, that does not mean that scripture will settle every controverted point. This shows that the theological questions we ask are just as important as the answers we give. For example, there are miles of difference between asking, “What is the office of the ministry of the Gospel?” and asking, “What do we mean by the term ‘office of the ministry’ in relation to the Gospel?” One answer will not be found in scripture. The other might, but the question still suffers from inexactness that will inevitably show up in the answer. Hence, the PMW and its tragic controversy. Some understood the question one way, others understood it another way, while a growing number understand it both ways simultaneously.

Remember doublethink? This is similar. But instead of holding two mutually contradictory propositions to be true (something akin to the Lutheran principle of living with the tension of apparent theological contradictions in scripture), this holds two mutually contrasting senses of an expression to be valid usage, each in its proper context. Its weakness is that the “sense” of an expression is not a matter of doctrine at all, but a matter of the ephemeral usage of language. However, it may be the best hope for the ELS to arrive at some kind of unified confession with regard to the PMW.

Final word from Luther:

To this argument of theirs we reply with Paul: “A little yeast leavens the whole lump.” In philosophy a tiny error in the beginning is very great at the end. This in theology a tiny error overthrows the whole teaching. Therefore doctrine and life should be distinguished as sharply as possible. Doctrine belongs to God, not to us; and we are called only as its ministers. Therefore we cannot give up or change even one dot of it (Matt. 5:18). Life belongs to us; therefore when it comes to this, there is nothing that the Sacramentarians can demand of us that we are not willing and obliged to undertake, condone, and tolerate, with the exception of doctrine and faith, about which we always say what Paul says: “A little yeast, etc.” On this score we cannot yield even a hairbreadth. For doctrine is like a mathematical point. Therefore it cannot be divided; that is, it cannot stand either subtraction or addition. On the other hand, life is like a physical point. Therefore it can always be divided and can always yield something.

Is the sense we impart to the words “This is my body” a matter of doctrine, or of life?

Is the sense we impart to the words “The office of the public ministry of the word” a matter of doctrine, or of life?

In one case, they are the words of holy scripture. In the other, they are not. What difference does that make? I may answer this question in a subsequent post, if it is not answered earlier in a comment.

Tolkien and Contemporary Worship

You probably never thought of these two things at the same time before. I don’t think I did, until I read just now this great little commentary in the words of Saruman of Many Colors. (White robes were no longer good enough for him.) I am amazed at how fitting they are in the context of contemporary worship. You see, worship is about power. In the true worship of the Christian Church, it’s God’s power to save, manifested in the forgiveness of sins and administered through the Means of Grace — Word and Sacrament — by those appointed to do so, according to His will. However, it’s possible to substitute something else for that power of God. Hear Saruman:

“And listen, Gandalf, my old friend and helper!” he said, coming near and speaking now in a softer voice. “I said we, for we it may be, if you will join with me. A new Power is rising. Against it the old allies and policies will not avail us at all. There is no hope left in Elves or dying Numenor. This then is one choice before you, before us. We may join with that Power. It would be wise, Gandalf. There is hope that way. Its victory is at hand; and there will be rich reward for those that aided it. As the Power grows, its proved friends will also grow; and the Wise, such as you and I, may with patience come at last to direct its courses, to control it. We can bide our time, we can keep our thoughts in our hearts, deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose: Knowledge, Rule, Order; all the things that we have so far striven in vain to accomplish, hindered rather than helped by our weak or idle friends. There need not be, there would not be, any real change in our designs, only in our means.”

The point is that God has provided certain means to accomplish His gracious will, when and where it pleases the Holy Spirit. I use the term “Contemporary Worship” to describe the worship movement that seeks not “any real change in our designs, only in our means.” If you or your pastor is considering changes to the Divine Service in the interest of evangelism, or in search of effectiveness among a certain demographic, then there is a good chance that you are playing the part of Saruman of Many Colors. Yes, there is such a thing as Christian freedom, but even the Wise can easily lose their way in matters greater than themselves.

Blogs and Allegiances

The Church is not a business, though some aspects of business experience are helpful when managing earthly aspects of the Church.

Because of that, a Christian congregation is also not a business. Likewise, a synod or larger church body is not a business.

The business world is a bit like the military world. Decisions are made by a few, and everyone else has to follow them. Dissent is not tolerated. The leader(s) determine the principles of the organization, and anyone who contradicts them is terminated or disciplined.

This has been extended to publications. If an employee writes a book or blog that somehow comes against the principles or interests of his company, then he is in trouble. His allegiance, even in his privately published writings, is to his company. Personally, I think some companies have taken this way too far, but it’s a free country. They have the right to be wrong, just like the rest of us.

In the Church, our primary allegiance is not to our own congregation, nor to our synod, per se. That would be a kind of idolatry. It would be denominationalism, like backing the Red Sox only because you live near Boston, rather than because they have any particular virtue or skill. Applied to baseball, that approach is fine. Applied to churches, it’s wrong. Some churches and synods are more virtuous than others, because they hold to the Word of God in doctrine and practice better than others.

Continue reading “Blogs and Allegiances”

Shaking the foundation of Christianity?

This article, linked from the Drudge Report, makes some claims meant to disturb Christians. The discovery it describes is interesting, and I’d like to hear more about how it pans out. However, some of the application is sensational, to say the least. Here’s a bit quoting Israel Knohl, described as “an iconoclastic professor of Bible studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem:”

“This should shake our basic view of Christianity,” he said as he sat in his office of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem where he is a senior fellow in addition to being the Yehezkel Kaufman Professor of Biblical Studies at Hebrew University. “Resurrection after three days becomes a motif developed before Jesus, which runs contrary to nearly all scholarship. What happens in the New Testament was adopted by Jesus and his followers based on an earlier messiah story.”

That’s about all you need to understand what someone is trying to do with this story.

The news here is that a stone with writing on it is supposed to date from the first century before Christ. It was discovered in connection with the Dead Sea Scrolls, which have provided many ancient writings, including the oldest known OT manuscripts in existence. The Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed the accuracy of the OT manuscripts extant at the time of their discovery.

This stone is being promoted as a challenge to the basic tenet of Christianity: that Jesus died and rose again the third day (counting the day He died). That’s more or less what this article seems to claim, though it may not actually say so explicitly.

The key point is that the writing on the stone says something about a savior dying and rising again on the third day.

Toward the end of the article, we learn what Mr. Knohl considers the important aspect: “the fact that it strongly suggested that a savior who died and rose after three days was an established concept at the time of Jesus.” This is important, he says, because “in the Gospels, Jesus makes numerous predictions of his suffering and New Testament scholars say such predictions must have been written in by later followers because there was no such idea present in his day.”

I don’t know who these NT scholars are, but they’re wrong. My guess is that they consider the NT in isolation from the OT. That’s always a bad idea. The Bible, though not homogenous in terms of human origin or style, is completely united in divine origin and purpose. These NT scholars may also consider the NT not to have a divine origin, especially in the sense of plenary inspiration. In any case, Mr. Knohl would be correct that an artifact like this stone, referring to a salvific death and resurrection, should help to set those NT scholars straight.

The article ends with a supposedly-devastating application of this discovery: “To shed blood is not for the sins of people but to bring redemption to Israel.” Huh? I don’t see how that’s even a challenge for Christianity.

The Church of the NT is Israel. As horrible as it may sound to some Jews, the believing Gentiles have been grafted into the olive tree of Israel (see Romans 11), while the unbelieving Jews have rejected their own honor and glory. Jesus is a Jew. The OT Scriptures, the Tanakh, is all about the Messiah in one way or another. That means it’s all about Jesus, including His death and resurrection. Read the letter to the Hebrews once or twice, and the pattern begins to emerge.

What does redemption mean? A lot of Jews had it wrong, including Jesus’ disciples from time to time (Luke 24:21, Acts 1:6), and possibly including the person who wrote on this stone. But Isaiah had it right (44:22), as well as Hosea (13:14), both being OT prophets to Israel.

Gem from Loescher

How’s this for putting it delicately?

May [God] keep us from ever again falling into the folly of extorting for dim verdicts a credulous Amen.

(p. 103, The Complete Timotheus Verinus)

A Better Way to Discuss the PMW

I’ve been trying to keep before us the possibility that the PMW can be improved over time by suggesting specific improvements to its parts. It cannot be denied that some had sincere and weighty objections to the PCM document before it was adopted, and became known as the PMW. It also cannot be denied that these objections were not all answered before the adoption took place, and that the circumstances of adoption reflected a serious opposition to the document.

Though the point is arguable, I believe that these circumstances were the primary cause of the ensuing controversy that resulted in at least five pastors and more churches being separated from the synod. The objections and opposition to the PCM document that existed before its adoption continued afterward. Though this should not be surprising, it was regarded differently after the adoption than it was before the adoption. After the adoption, opposition to the document (now called the PMW) is regarded as a rejection of the synod’s doctrine, which must place the opposition outside the synod’s doctrinal fellowship. While in some cases this opposition has been treated with a measure of patience, that patience did not extend to those who expressed their conscientious objection to the PMW in the form of a statement, rather than in the form of questions and requests for clarification. Others (myself included) stated that the PMW would only be acceptable on the condition of a particular understanding of its meaning. Thankfully, that position has also been tolerated.

It has been my hope that those with reservations or objections about the PMW would be able to continue discussing it, and finally make changes that would be acceptable to all. This could potentially restore the parts of the synod that have been severed, though the animus that was begotten in the PMW’s adoption has produced other sins on all sides that may render complete healing impossible for some time.

At this point, I will discontinue the thread I’ve been following, in which I have been suggesting for consideration certain changes to the PMW’s wording. For those who have been reading that thread, it has already served its purpose. It should be apparent that further changes are at least possible, and may actually be desirable in some places.

I suggest a different approach. Pastor Jay Webber, who is now on the synod’s Doctrine Committee, has restated the PMW with the intention of changing its format, but not its doctrine. The new format is “thetical.” That is, it is stated as relatively short, numbered statements that carry the thought sequentially from start to finish. This is the same format used by Martin Luther in several works, including the 95 Theses and the Heidelberg Disputation. It has also been used by the ELS in earlier doctrinal statements.

Pastor Webber’s thetical arrangement has some advantages. First, it isolates each point so that further discussion may focus on specific parts of the PMW’s text unambiguously. Second, Pastor Webber has prefaced most of the theses with a statement of the particular context of each one, derived from the heading under which the statement is found in the original formatting of the PMW, and the heading’s explanation in the text of the PMW. This explicit statement of context is invaluable in reading the statements, and may prevent some of the problems of interpretation that arose with the original formatting. Third, the thetical form of the PMW is technically not the PMW itself, so that strong criticism of it need not be regarded as a rejection of the synod’s doctrine.

I suggest that further discussion of the PMW focus upon the thetical form that Pastor Webber has provided. It may be compared and contrasted with the original form, and the theses themselves may be criticized and specified by number.

Please allow me to note several things from my first reading of the thetical format of the PMW. Feel free to comment on these points as you like. My observations are not all of grave importance, but they are nevertheless food for thought. I’m surprised that there are so few. It speaks to the advantages of this thetical format of the PMW.

  1. Theses 6 and 11 use the term “Universal Priesthood of All Believers.” this term is a redundancy. It would be better to use the language of 1 Peter 2:9: “royal priesthood” of all believers, or simply “priesthood” of all believers.

  2. In Thesis 7, the words “when they forgive the sins of those who sin against them” diverge from the definition of the Office of the Keys given in Thesis 1, where it is defined as an authority from Christ. Since it is an authority from Christ, the Office of the Keys applies to sins insofar as they are offenses against God, not insofar as they are offenses against anyone else. Hence, the words “when they forgive the sins of those who sin against them” are ambiguous. They may refer to the Gospel spoken to others, or they may refer to the personal forgiveness between us, which, though based upon the forgiveness of God, is not exactly the same thing. In fact, since this phrase follows a phrase that fully describes the way Christians may confer God’s forgiveness, it would be redundant to say the same thing again. Hence, it probably describes the personal forgiveness between us, and does not really describe the Office of the Keys.

  3. In Thesis 12, the words “they are to beware of false prophets” does not describe the Office of the Keys. It should be dropped. Furthermore, the statement that Christians use the Keys to judge the teaching of their pastors and teachers only applies to circumstances where false teachers are personally confronted with the sin of teaching falsely. This does not necessarily occur when Christians judge the teachings of their pastors and teachers. The statement should be clarified.

  4. In Thesis 15, the words “throughout the New Testament” imply that the divine ordering, establishment, and institution does not occur also in the Old Testament. It does, though not every aspect of the ordering in the Old Testament applies since the death and resurrection of Christ.

  5. In Thesis 19, the words “includes both a narrower sense and a wider sense” imply that both senses are instituted by God in the Public Ministry of the Word. Though I realize that “senses” are simply shades of meaning that are attributed to a term by human beings, and are not required by God, the way this thesis is worded still has the implication I mentioned, mainly because the words “divinely instituted” are joined with the word “includes.”

  6. I noticed that there is some repetition. Theses 27 and 37 are the same, and Theses 22 and 53 also say the same thing. These general statements seem to apply in more than one place.

  7. Thesis 40 has caused a lot of confusion, and serves little purpose in the PMW. Its intent is to define how a person may be said to be “in” the Public Ministry of the Word, but it ends up saying that one may be “in” the Public Ministry of the Word in various degrees. That does not really make any sense. The thesis should be dropped, or possibly replaced with one saying “Only those are in the Public Ministry of the Word who are authorized by the call of the Church to exercise the keys publicly.”

  8. In Thesis 49, the words “but is in accordance” imply that Romans 10:14-17 and AC XIV apply directly to the circumstance of school teachers. While I do not condemn someone who thinks so, this cannot be proven. What we can say is that the spirit of these passages would require that anyone who publicly teaches the Word of God be authorized to do so, and that a rightly-ordered call is the model used by the Church for that authorization.

  9. Thesis 58 only lists Acts 1:15-26 as an example of a mediate call. Other examples could be mentioned, in which pastors receive their specific vocations through the mediation of apostles.

Blurb on the Council of Nicea

There’s a reasonably good summary on the Council of Nicea at LiveScience. The writer shows small appreciation for the implications of Arianism’s divergence from orthodoxy, but in such a short piece, there’s hardly room for all that anyway. The bit about the Son being of the same substance doesn’t really do justice to the earlier part of the Nicene Creed’s second article: “…God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God; begotten, not made…”

It is worth noting that from a secular-historical point of view, Arians were Christians, and thus the Christian Church at the time was possibly more Arian than orthodox, if counted democratically. From a theological point of view, however, Christians are defined by doctrine, not by labels alone. This might be hard for some of our contemporaries to grasp, but it has been the Christian approach from the Beginning. Therefore, the Arians were not Christians, just as their present-day counterparts (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and the like) are not Christians.

When a Synod Errs…

Can an orthodox congregation remain part of that synod? Can an orthodox pastor?

Speaking to that matter is Thesis II of the document “Communion Fellowship” in volume 1 of Essays for the Church by C.F.W. Walther.

A fellowship in which the Word of God is fundamentally falsified, or in which a fundamental falsification of it is tolerated, is not a true orthodox church, but a false, heterodox church or sect.

I’ve read this before, and intend to read the section again when time permits. It serves as an excellent basis for discussion of several different circumstances in present-day Lutheranism.

“Authentic” Worship

Just last night, I was reading a book recommended by dear members of one of the churches where I serve. It comes from the Evangelical tradition, written by a highly influential minister that I’ve been mostly unfamiliar with. I haven’t avoided his work purposely; I just don’t enjoy listening to Evangelical sermons on the radio, watching them on television, or (usually) reading their materials. Part of my problem is that I have a considerable library of excellent theological writing that I still need to read through for the first time — including Luther’s Works.

Because of the recommendation, I began reading this book last night and found it rather easy to read. Most of what is written there so far is edifying. My only criticism is that the author seems to have little appreciation that our Christian growth and identity are rooted in Law and Gospel, the basic messages of holy scripture through which God acts upon us. Instead, he (so far) has expressed that our experience as Christians in cognitive contact with the events of Jesus’ life is what provides our growth in the faith.

One thing gave me pause, since I had never noticed its use before. The author described the worship of his congregation as “authentic.” On the surface, it meant little to me. Then I wondered what the alternative would be. Inauthentic, false worship? Still, it made little sense, because I could only think of false worship as that which focuses upon false gods. On the other hand, the Bible is replete with examples of people who want to worship and express their spirituality in a way of their own choosing instead of God’s way. Could the author simply mean that his church worships as God has directed in Holy Scripture, instead of incorporating the spontaneity that characterized the Israelites’ decision to bow down before a golden calf, or the independence that characterized the sin of Jeroboam? I was skeptical.

By a happy coincidence (if there is such a thing), Gene Edward Veith calls attention today to an article in Touchstone by Michael Horton, which sheds light on the term “authentic worship.” “Authentic” is paired with “spontaneous” and contrasted with “predictable and disciplined.” In other words, it’s pretty much the opposite of worship in the churches I serve, where the attendees always know what sort of things will happen before they arrive. Yet I still wonder if the author of this book and I are still understanding his expression in the same way. Is his “authentic” worship also predictable and disciplined? Is it spontaneous? I wonder.

The Horton article contains a lot of other food for thought. Since he is a bit closer to the Evangelical world from which this book comes, I’m inclined to believe that he understands its language better than I do.

Which ministry did Christ institute?

There is a perception that this point has been hashed through thoroughly by this time, but that perception is mistaken. While statements have been made on the subject from time to time, they have not been directly answered. The closest to an answer that we have seen was in a paper delivered to the official General Pastoral Conference in 2006, entitled “An Exercise in Parsing.”

I understand the knee-jerk reflex that some will have when this topic is touched upon: “Quick! Quote the relevant part of the adopted statement, and wash our hands of the matter!” However, that reaction doesn’t qualify as doctrinal discussion. Whether we like it or not, genuine discussion includes the possibility that either side might be won over, however strongly-worded their arguments may be. Quoting “the adopted doctrinal statement” is an attempt to end discussion, equivalent in effect to pulling rank. The only way to “win” in a theological discussion is to agree with clear scripture. Hopefully, both sides “win” in the end.

So read this thoughtful explanation of the term “representative ministry” from a certain controversial figure in recent ELS history:

[There is an opinion] that the public or official ministry of the church exists by means of a delegation of the private authority of every individual Christian to preach the gospel, administer the sacraments, and forgive and retain sins. We may call this the “representative ministry” definition, because it claims that whenever one Christian uses God’s word or sacraments “on behalf of” other Christians this is the divinely instituted public ministry of the word. According to this opinion, every time one person exercises the keys (or uses the means of grace, or teaches the word — the language varies) on behalf of believers, this is the divinely instituted public ministry of the word, whether it is a “full use” of the keys or a “limited use” of the keys. In either case it is representative ministry and that is what is divinely instituted, according to this opinion.

That quote came from a certain controversial writing, but has been mostly ignored because of the inordinate amount of attention lavished upon another paragraph (to the detriment and sorrow of all).

Another writing from a month prior says this, explaining the problem the author had with the concept of a divinely-instituted “limited public use of the keys.”

These texts allegedly address the matter of the church calling someone to exercise a limited part of the public ministry of the Word but none of them does. Nowhere does the New Testament speak of the church assigning the responsibility of teaching God’s word to someone who is forbidden to preside over the congregation, preach publicly, and administer the sacraments. What the specific duties of the deacons were is uncertain, but the Scriptures nowhere say that anyone taught God’s word but was not permitted to teach the entire congregation. Simply put, the very concept of a limited public use of the keys as this is set forth in the PCM document is foreign to the Scriptures. Nevertheless, these texts are cited as biblical proof that “the extent to which one is authorized by the call of the church to exercise the keys publicly is the extent to which one is in the Public Ministry of the Word.” Being “in” the Public Ministry of the Word to this or that “extent” is quite impossible if this office is the concrete office of preaching of the gospel and administering the sacraments.

Whereas the texts cited to prove a limited public use of the keys in the Bible don’t teach this, these texts do show that the Holy Spirit moves freely in giving His gifts to men. The Wauwatosa Gospel teaches that it is the evangelical activity of the Holy Spirit here and now in the hearts of Christians that constitutes the divine institution of the office in whatever form it may take. Here we see the Wauwatosa influence on the PCM document. John Schaller put it this way: “For whatever the Christian congregation decides upon to further the preaching of the gospel it does at the instigation and under the guidance of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.”[29] The PCM document puts it this way: “But it is by divine right that one exercises that work on behalf of the Christians through whom the call has come.”

What is divinely instituted is representative ministry in whatever form it may take. When I argued at the microphone during the convention against applying Romans 10:15 (“how shall they preach unless they are sent?”) to the calling of a parochial school teacher I said that nowhere in the New Testament is a woman told to preach. The President of the Synod took issue with me and cited Mark 16:15, words that were spoken to the “eleven.” But the exegetical tradition to which we have become bound insists that this text teaches the giving of the means of grace to all Christians. The fact that nowhere in the New Testament is a woman told to preach must yield before this tradition. The fact that AC XIV refers to the call of men who are ordained and hold the concrete office of preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments must be reinterpreted to accommodate the new definition of the office. [emphasis added]

It should be noted that the author has focused in these quotations on part II.B of the PMW and any statements elsewhere that support it.

This is how the concerns were addressed in the 2006 GPC paper:

God permits, approves, blesses, and works through those external vocational arrangements that are made in an orderly way for the purpose of carrying out public activities that he wants to be carried out. But this does not mean that God has directly instituted all such external vocational arrangements. In fact, he has not. The PMW document acknowledges this when it says that those offices which have only “a limited public use of the keys” exist as distinct positions of responsibility — if and when they do exist — because of the church’s sanctified judgment, and not because of a divine command. If God has directly instituted something for the church, this would mean that the church cannot ordinarily do without it, and that the church would in fact be sinning against God’s will if it declined to have that divinely instituted thing. According to God’s will and institution, the church cannot do without the public use of the keys. More specifically, the church cannot do without the full public use of the keys. But the church often can do without specific external offices of one kind or another that are set up for the purpose of carrying out only a limited public use of the keys, or only a limited part of the Public Ministry of the Word. Such positions of responsibility are not commanded for the church of all times and places, and they are therefore not indispensable for the church of all times and places. [emphasis original]

And again:

Section II B of the PMW document is an elaboration on, and an explanation of, the “Public Ministry of the Word” in its wider sense. The focus and purpose of this section must be kept in mind when we consider the meaning of antitheses 8 and 9, which appear within it, and which can be a source of some confusion if they are not interpreted and applied according to their context. These antitheses state that “We reject the teaching that only those qualified to carry out a full use of the keys are in the Public Ministry,” and that “We reject the teaching that the Public Ministry is limited to any one divinely fixed form, that is, limited to the pastoral office to the exclusion of other teachers of the Word.” Understood contextually, these statements are simply reaffirming that there is indeed a legitimate “wider sense” of the phrase “Public Ministry,” which refers to the public use of the keys as carried out to any degree or level, from within any and all ecclesiastical offices. These statements should certainly not be understood as repudiations of the teaching that appears in section II A of the document: that the “Public Ministry of the Word” in its narrower sense does in fact refer exclusively to “the exercise of spiritual oversight” that is carried out (by divine design) only from within “the pastoral office”; and that the “Public Ministry of the Word” in its narrower sense does in fact require competency for a full public use of the keys. [emphasis original]

And finally:

But let’s not forget that the “divinely instituted Public Ministry of the Word” — which is synonymous with the “divinely instituted preaching and teaching office” — includes two senses or meanings. From the perspective of the narrower sense of the phrase, we can say that when Jesus trained and sent the apostles, and entrusted to them the full public ministry of Word and sacrament, he was thereby inaugurating in and for the Christian church the full public use of the keys. This continues to be a defining trait of the Public Ministry of the Word in the narrower sense. Whenever the full public use of the keys is being exercised in an orderly and proper way, this is an example of the Public Ministry of the Word in the narrower sense — and of “the pastoral office,” from which, according to God’s command, the full public use of the keys is carried out. From the perspective of the wider sense of the phrase, we can say that when Jesus trained and sent the apostles, and entrusted to them the full public ministry of Word and sacrament, he was thereby inaugurating in and for the Christian church the public use of the keys. This continues to be a defining trait of the Public Ministry of the Word in the wider sense. Whenever the public use of the keys is being exercised in an orderly and proper way — either to the full extent by pastors, or to a limited extent by other ecclesiastical office-holders — this is an example of the Public Ministry of the Word in the wider sense.

The full public use of the keys includes within it, at least potentially, any and every limited public use of the keys. There is no divine institution of a limited public use of the keys per se. There is a divine institution of the public use of the keys, as a whole and in all of its parts, from which, in the church’s freedom, limited public uses can be vocationally extracted and entrusted to qualified individuals, according to the church’s needs and circumstances. Section II B of the PMW document explains that when the church in this way calls individuals to fill positions of responsibility involving only a limited public use of the keys, it is thereby separating, “by human right,” a “limited portion of the office” to such individuals, and is authorizing them to exercise or carry out only a “specific” and “limited part of the Public Ministry of the Word.”

The answer given in this paper does not provide the scriptural basis for a divinely-instituted limited public use of the keys. It says that such a thing does not exist. Instead, there is a divinely-instituted use of the keys (not “limited public”), and the Church has freedom and authority to entrust a limited part of that use to certain individuals.

Is that “representative ministry?” Yes, in a sense. (See how nuanced this discussion can be?) It is representative ministry, with the caveat that it is not divinely instituted. In other words, we may call it ministry simply because we need a word for it, and we want to call it that. By definition, it is ministry because it is a kind of service.

I have wondered why our doctrinal statement would take such care to describe what is more a matter of our choice than a matter of doctrine. That is, why not just let II.B say that the Church has freedom to entrust certain ministerial duties to individuals alongside the “office of oversight,” and call it finished? Do we have to pollute a summary of biblical doctrine with descriptions of what the Church has elected to do in her freedom? In my mind, this is one of the most important criticisms of the PMW. In its current form, it leaves itself open to the charge of teaching human traditions as though they were the Word of God.