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.

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.

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.

A Fifth Improvement for the PMW

For a long time now, I’ve pointed out that testing the spirits (1 John 4:1) is not an exercise of the Keys. How do I know? Because sometimes the “spirits” that need testing don’t belong to living people. For example, doesn’t that passage apply when Christians are reading theological writing from the controversies of the 16th Century? Are they not to test those spirits? Yet, if a Christian, reading Calvin’s Institutes or the Variata of Melanchthon, finds something doctrinally suspect, how is that an exercise of the Keys?

Short answer: it’s not. The Keys are for opening and closing heaven, but Calvin and Melanchthon are now beyond their influence. If they were still living, then maybe our reading and hearing them would eventually lead to an application of God’s Law, but a Christian’s own judgment of their teachings in itself would still not be a use of the Keys.

It is evident where the confusion arose. Christians possess the Keys by virtue of being Christians, that is, having Christ as their God and Savior by faith in His Word. Christians also have a responsibility to judge the teachings they find on earth, a responsibility to test the spirits. Christians have many other things by virtue of their faith, but not all of them are the Keys.

Presently, the PMW says this:

Christians also use the keys to judge the teaching of their pastors and teachers; they are to beware of false prophets (Matthew 7:15-16, 1 John 4:1, 2 Timothy 3:16).

If it must be treated here, I suggest this wording instead:

All Christians have the right and the duty to judge the teaching of their pastors and teachers; they are to beware of false prophets (Matthew 7:15-16, 1 John 4:1, 2 Timothy 3:16).

Doesn’t that make sense?

Two Books from NPH

Northwestern Publishing House recently had (is having?) a big sale, and I ordered some books both for my churches and for myself. The two I ordered for myself were The Complete Timotheus Verinus and God So Loved the World, which is a study of biblical doctrine. I’m quite pleased with both hardcover books. Though I have bookmarks in the midst of somewhere between six and a dozen other books, I’ve begun reading the former, and it’s a little hard to stop. I cracked the latter open to read some of it, and found it so clearly written that it would be an important asset to a church library. Of course, I haven’t read the whole thing yet, so there could be some surprises. But so far it looks very good, centered and focused upon Jesus Christ and the atonement He has provided for the sins of the world.

The Complete Timotheus Verinus was mentioned and quoted from by Bruce. What he wrote about it is true, especially that it has much that could and should be applied to present-day church controversies. For example, the author notes that pastors, as public teachers of God’s Word, not only have the responsibility to teach the members of their own flocks, but also to serve as general teachers of the Church and watchmen, ready to identify trouble and warn God’s people against it. This is not a self-appointed responsibility, but one that is laid upon pastors in their call and ordination. When pastors refuse to do this (and I say “when” because we are all quite fallible), we are failing a part of our holy office. So there will be times when we are compelled by our call to say or write things, when we would personally prefer to remain silent for the sake of peace. Few people really enjoy stirring up trouble and painting a target upon their own backs. However, pastors should realize that the target was already painted upon them when they were called to the office, and the “trouble” was already thoroughly stirred up by Christ himself. Turning away from it is the same as turning away from the Cross, and from the Crucified.

In the same context, The Complete Timotheus Verinus makes some practical observations about our personal dealings in the midst of controversy. There will be some who agree with one another, yet who are compelled by conscience or God’s Word to speak in different ways. It is therefore incumbent upon the teachers in the Church to exercise restraint and charity in both speaking or writing and in reading or listening to what others have to say. Yet the teachers will inevitably show varying amounts of restraint and moderation, so they must also willingly make allowances for that, and not condemn one another for their different manners of dealing with the controversy.

Already I have found a great deal that could be, and should have been, applied to the ELS ministry-and-suspension controversy. Don’t you? I look forward to reading more, and I’m glad I have plenty of bookmarks.

A Fourth Improvement for the PMW

Here’s another improvement about which I’d expect some strong opinions
and brotherly discussion.

First, a bit of explanation. In my mind, a doctrinal statement should
be explicit in what it says, not implicit. That is, it should not
merely imply anything important, leaving the reader to draw the
implication out as something taught by the doctrinal statement.
Instead, it should say what it means at every point. To skim over some
points, leaving them merely implied, is to make the doctrinal statement
less useful by introducing confusion and uncertainty. In fact, it could
be harmful. I don’t claim that this part is necessarily harmful, but in
the wrong hands, or set in the wrong context, it could be. The wrong
context is not even hard to imagine when we survey the state of
“Lutheranism” in America.

Currently, the PMW says:

Christians also use the keys publicly or officially when scripturally
qualified individuals, who have been called by Christ through the
church, forgive and retain sins on behalf of Christ and His church
(Romans 10:14–17, Acts 14:23, Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the
Pope, 67).

Understood correctly, this sentence notes that because
ministers perform the office of the keys, the Christians through whom
God calls them to their office also use the keys, acting to call them on
behalf of Christ.

Continue reading “A Fourth Improvement for the PMW”

Third Adjustment to the PMW

While the first two changes were relatively easy to understand, this one you might have to ponder for a while, and I would fully expect some brotherly debate about it.

The Bible uses some words in a way that makes their definition rather important. “Justification” and its cognates are an example, as well as “sanctification” and its cognates. We’re careful about how we use these words, so that we don’t cause unnecessary confusion.

Other words can be just as important, though their special meaning comes from the way we use them, rather than the way they are used in the Bible. “Trinity” is a good example of that. In the PMW, the words “public,” “private,” “official,” and “unofficial” are other examples.

Those four words are really two pairs of opposites, and they are not defined in the Bible. AC XIV uses the word “public” to describe the sort of preaching, teaching, and administration of the sacraments that requires a regular call. My own observation has noted that the Confessions usually mean “with many people” when they use the word “public,” and they usually mean “with few people” when they use the word “private.” While we are not bound to this usage, it is still noteworthy.

Meanwhile, the word “official” usually means “with authority pertaining to an office,” while “unofficial” usually means “without the authority of any office.”

Continue reading “Third Adjustment to the PMW”

Sacerdotalism and the Keys

In an article printed in the latest Lutheran Synod Quarterly, one of the ELS Doctrine Committee members provides a perspective on sacerdotalism. Classically defined, sacerdotalism occurs when we teach that an individual cannot freely and directly approach God (as in prayer), but requires the intervention of a third party — a priest of some kind. It also occurs when we teach that God’s spiritual gifts must always be received through an intermediary — again, through some kind of priest.

Thus defined, sacerdotalism contradicts scripture’s teaching that every Christian is a priest in his own right (1 Peter 2:9). Scripture teaches that every Christian has full access to God in prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and may receive His spiritual gifts through Word and Sacrament with no intercessor but Christ himself.

There is, however, a useful distinction that the author may have overlooked.

Continue reading “Sacerdotalism and the Keys”

Love and the Fulfilling of the Law: Toward Unity and Peace

The adversaries, in the Confutation, have also quoted Colossians 3:14 against us, “love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” From this they conclude that love justifies because it makes people perfect … This is far from Paul’s meaning, who never allows Christ to be excluded from the Atonement. Therefore, he speaks not about personal perfection, but about the integrity common to the Church. For this reason, he says that love is a bond or connection to show that he speaks about the binding and joining together of the many members of the Church. In all families and in all states unity should be nourished by mutual offices, and peace cannot be maintained unless people overlook and forgive certain mistakes among themselves. In a similar way, Paul commands that there should be love in the Church in order that it may preserve unity, bear with the harsher manners of brethren as there is need, and overlook certain less serious mistakes. This must happen or else the Church will fly apart into various schisms, and hostilities and factions and heresies will arise from the schisms.

…. On the other hand, perfection (i.e., the Church’s integrity) is preserved when the strong bear with the weak, when the people put up with some faults in the conduct of their teachers, and when the bishops make some allowances for the people’s weakness. … Furthermore, it is disgraceful for the adversaries to preach so much about love while they don’t show it anywhere. What are they doing now? They are tearing apart churches. They are writing laws in blood and asking the most merciful prince, the emperor, to enforce them. They are killing priests and other good men if any one of them has slightly indicated that he does not entirely approve of their clear abuses. What they are doing is not consistent with their claims of love, which if the adversaries would follow, the churches would be peaceful and the state would have peace. This turmoil would be lessened if the adversaries would stop being so bitter about certain traditions. … The adversaries easily forgive themselves, but do not likewise forgive others according to the passage in the poet, “‘I forgive myself,’ Maevius said.”

Concordia, p. 116-117

Appeal Commission 2 Report is Out

I’m not going to repeat the findings here, yet. I can see how the conclusion makes sense, but I deeply lament that it brings our synod no closer to a peaceful resolution of the divisive spirit that began working in earnest at the 2005 synod convention. We have not figured out what is the proper course of action when a congregation perceives that an influential synod official has committed some grave error or public sin. Certainly, any impenitent sinner should not be communed. But how can this be applied when the person in question is a member of a sister congregation, and his own pastor disagrees that he has committed public sin? This is a poorly defined area of casuistry, which we have unwisely been expecting appeals commissions to deal with. I understand why the appeals commissions prefer not to do so, yet the door is open for the schismatic spirit in our midst to wreak further havoc.

You can see what I have written before on these matters in other posts.