The Historical Context for Lutheran Training and Formation of Pastors

Cranach Painting - Martin Luther Preaching in 1539With attention focused on the propriety of Licensed Lay Deacons conducting Word & Sacrament Ministry, some historical context is necessary to know why the LCMS trains and sends pastors the way it does.

Presented below is an outline of an Issues Etc. interview with Dr. Ken Schurb from 24 June 2016, which is helpful for properly understanding the foundations on which LCMS pastoral training has been built.

 

  1. Christ’s highest calling is the Office of the Holy Ministry
  2. The Reformation revolutionized the training of pastors.
    1. Serious seminary education.
    2. Multi-year process.
    3. Fitness in aptitude, knowledge, personal formation prepares men to receive a call.
  3. Luther took a direct role in preparing pastors.
  4. Most enduring change of the Reformation was the Lutheran Pastor.
  5. In the 1530s, pastors were taught in conventional universities.
    1. After 1533, Wittenberg reforms curriculum and becomes explicitly Lutheran.
      1. Melanchthon’s Statutes requires all theology taught to be based on the Augsburg Confession – “The true and universal consensus of the universal church of God.”
    2. Melanchthon Oration, 1531: “You ought to keep in view the purpose of your studies, and decide that they are provided for the giving of advice for the state, for teaching in the churches, and for upholding the doctrine of religion. You will not be able to excel in any of these without perfect doctrine, and perfect doctrine is not granted to anyone without the lower disciplines.”
      1. Taught languages (Greek and Hebrew especially), literature (how to read and recognize figures of speech).
      2. Doctrine does not come in an automatic way.
        1. God’s Word is meant to be studied and pondered.
        2. Not an academic exercise to accumulate knowledge or honors.
      3. Systemized pastoral education required because poorly trained and uneducated clergy was a threat to the salvation of people.
      4. Luther’s qualifications for pastor:
        1. Teach correctly and in an orderly fashion.
        2. Have a good head on his shoulders.
        3. Be eloquent.
        4. Have a good voice.
        5. Have a good memory.
        6. Know when to stop.
        7. Constant and diligent about his affairs.
        8. Invest body and life, possessions and honor in it.
        9. Let everyone vex and hack away at him.
      5. Was also a need to teach the future pastors – train theological professors / educators.
        1. In 1533, disputations were reintroduced at Wittenberg.
        2. Thesis were formulated and defended or attacked.
        3. Disputation taught students to deal succinctly with complex matters, embrace them in syllogisms, to conduct research, develop debating skill.
      6. Allowed Wittenberg to award theological doctorates again – students came for basic and advanced study.
  6. Ordination
    1. 1535 – John Frederick sets forth order for examining, calling, and ordaining candidates for the ministry in Wittenberg.
    2. Lutherans required a way for trained men to be recognized as trained for ministry under the Augsburg Confession, and who had received calls.
    3. Ordination confirmed the call.
      1. Ordination marks a pastor as duly trained, examined and called.
      2. Upon prayers of the congregation, gifts for carrying out the ministry were given to the confirmation.
      3. Distinguishes from Roman Catholic tradition.
      4. Allowed men to avoid being labeled “intruders”.
  7. Infiltrating and clandestine preachers
    1. Preachers who had no call, and preached covertly.
    2. Preaching covertly.
      1. Luther: “They preach in corners, they sneak uncalled and unsent into people’s houses and emit their poison there before the pastors or rulers find them out. These are thieves and murders, they enter another’s parish and seize another’s office that is forbidden them.”
    3. The true Gospel is always accompanied by the false gospel.
      1. Factions and sects follow to spoil and put down the true Gospel.
      2. Satan will sow his bad seed among the good seed.
      3. “Wherever God builds his church, Satan builds his tabernacle next to it.” – Luther
    4. Lutherans were contending with anabaptists; the latter accusing the former of having doctrine with no fruit, and that its people were wicked, proud, and greedy.
      1. Anabaptists said word and letter was insufficient – required the Spirit to be working.
      2. Luther responds – the life of the Christian is intended for the eyes of God alone.
        1. The Christian life is hidden. [God is hidden in vocation. Christ is hidden in our neighbors].
        2. Outward signs such as outpouring of love wither under Scriptural examination.
      3. People must be constantly instructed so that they do not admit infiltrators, and to treat them as sent of the Devil.
        1. Ask them who sent them, who asked them to preach, where are the seals and letters of authorization from the sending authorities, what signs are performed to show that God has sent them.
        2. The call and command must be proved because it is an instituted office.
        3. Nobody can have an office absent a command or call.
    5. Luther invokes Jeremiah 23, “They run and I have not sent them. They preach and I have not commanded them.”
      1. It is difficult enough to maintain pure doctrine for those with a valid call, but what is preaching without God’s command? Can only be Satanic.
      2. Luther: “Whoever despises the Office of the Ministry, will not think very highly of the Gospel“.
      3. Take the Gospel seriously, and pray for God to send true and faithful laborers into his harvest.
    6. Sneak preachers violate the form of the office (a rightly ordered call), and preach bad doctrine.
  8. Luther on the pastoral office and pastors
    1. Important for a pastor to have a call.
      1. Comfort of the preacher.
        1. Gives certainty of being a servant of Christ.
        2. Expel every feeling of uncertainty.
        3. Allows them to keep preaching regardless of opposition – God has placed the preacher to proclaim the Gospel.
      2. Call obligates the pastor to provide a congregation with:
        1. Pure doctrine.
        2. Prayer.
        3. Care.
        4. Act as a guardian on pain of death.
        5. Suffer all things.
      3. Commands engagement with Scripture for life and action.
        1. Pastors must occupy themselves with God’s Word.
        2. Saturated in Law & Gospel.
      4. Comfort and confidence of the congregation.
        1. When the pastor speaks, they are hearing the Word of God, and should receive it as such.
    2. Luther, “[A] pastor practices the virtue that that increases God’s kingdom, fills heaven with saints, plunders hell, robs the devil, wards off death, represses sin, instructs and comforts every [person] in the world according to his [or her] station in life, preserves peace and unity, raises fine young folk, and plants all kinds of virtue in the people. In a word, he is making a new world!”
      1. Builds a paradise in which God himself is pleased to dwell.
    3. Luther’s efforts were to make pastors like this.

Comments

The Historical Context for Lutheran Training and Formation of Pastors — 2 Comments

  1. From the main article above: “Luther responds — the life of the Christian is intended for the eyes of God alone.”

    How can that be? Jesus clearly said, ”You are the light of the world. … [L]et your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 ESV

    Again with reference to Luther, the article says, “Outward signs such as outpouring of love wither under Scriptural examination.”

    Is that to say that a true outpouring of love in the Lord is not possible? The Bible says:

    — If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. (2 Cor. 5:17)
    — Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)
    — By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)
    — Love one another deeply. (1 Peter 1:22)
    — Above all, keep loving one another earnestly. (1 Peter 4:8)
    — The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5)
    — I hear of your love … for all the saints. (Philemon 1:5)

  2. From the main article above: “Luther responds — the life of the Christian is intended for the eyes of God alone.” How can that be? Jesus clearly said, ”You are the light of the world. … [L]et your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 ESV

    Jesus also clearly said in Matthew 6:
    2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

    Again with reference to Luther, the article says, “Outward signs such as outpouring of love wither under Scriptural examination.” Is that to say that a true outpouring of love in the Lord is not possible?

    I found only one verse that uses the term, “outpouring” in Ezekiel 9:8. The New Testament refers to love as law, e.g., “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

    Luther loved paradoxes.

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