Great Stuff — Are there questions which Scripture doesn’t answer clearly, or not at all?

May 10th, 2014 Post by

Found over on MercyJourney, President Harrison’s blog. From the LCMS Brief Statement of 1932:

 

"Now we see but dimly, as through a glass..."

“Now we see but dimly, as through a glass…”

OF OPEN QUESTIONS


Those questions in the domain of Christian doctrine may be termed open questions which Scripture answers either not at all or not clearly. Since neither an individual nor the Church as a whole is permitted to develop or augment the Christian doctrine, but are rather ordered and commanded by God to continue in the doctrine of the apostles, 2 Thess. 2:15; Acts 2:42, open questions must remain open questions. — Not to be included in the number of open questions are the following: the doctrine of the Church and the Ministry, of Sunday, of Chiliasm, and of Antichrist, these doctrines being clearly defined in Scripture.

 

Click on Brief Statement for more references to it.






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  1. May 10th, 2014 at 13:12 | #1

    One would think that this would be a common-sense thing for all Christians. Unfortunately at times it is not.

    That being said, it doesn’t hurt to look at tradition, history, and wise council to consider an answer for an open question when the situation calls for it. For example, the Bible says nothing about attending church in pajamas, but I would hope that no Christian in his/her right mind would use this as a justification for doing so.

  2. Big Boy
    May 10th, 2014 at 21:43 | #2

    @ J Dean

    (Stops ironing his Pajamas). Awwww!!

  3. Martin R. Noland
    May 11th, 2014 at 13:19 | #3

    Dear BJS Bloggers,

    I know that this article in the Brief Statement sounds so obvious, you wonder why they put it in there. . . .

    I recently finished an essay I am planning to publish soon (I won’t say where because that is the decision of the editors). The gist of it is that this matter of “Open Questions” was, in fact, the chief issue in both the ALC-LCMS fellowship discussions in the 1930s, and thus also the breakup of the Synodical Conference (WELS/ELS/LCMS).

    “Open Questions” was the way that the old ALC (1930s to 1960) could “pick and choose” which passages of Scripture it rejected as being God’s Word. It was really a question of Biblical authority, and CFW Walther “belled that cat.” Pieper recognized it too, and made sure there was an article on it in the Brief Statement and two chapters in his dogmatics. Then he died in 1930-31, and the guys that took over synodical leadership were–frankly–not up to the task.

    After Pieper died, the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau (ALPB) went on a massive publicity campaign to convince LCMS to declare fellowship with the ALC. This was successful, to some degree, and cause great alarm in WELS, ELS, and the more intelligent LCMS pastors. The problem of “Open Questions” was forgotten, and the war intervened (WWII), until the “Statement of the 44″, published by the ALPB, vilified anyone who disagreed with ALC fellowship.

    But all along, it has been the issue of the plenary authority of Scripture, as the 1973 Statement on Scripture and Confessional Principles also recognized.

    I don’t know why the pastors and the laymen in the ALPB didn’t just join the ALC, where they could pick and choose whatever Scripture they didn’t want to be God’s Word–or why those few in the LCMS who still support the “Statement of the 44″ don’t join the ELCA now.

    I think the amazing thing is that Walther saw the problem all the way back in the 1860s, and he knew the whole issue was a matter of the authority of Scripture. What a blessing to have had him as our first synod president and seminary president!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  4. KrustyKraut
    May 11th, 2014 at 13:28 | #4

    I have heard from time to time of a controversy surrounding the Brief Statement. Can someone give me the Cliffs Notes version on what that is?

  5. May 11th, 2014 at 21:01 | #5

    You can do web searches, but in short the “Brief Statement” was NEVER intended by its authors as a binding document. The “Brief Statement” is narrowly focused and was intended to address specific issues of the day.

    The “LUTHERAN WITNESS” (Official organ of the LC-MS) in years gone by had on its masthead the following quotation from the “BOOK OF CONCORD”: “It is, in truth, no easy matter to be separate from so many people and to teach a different doctrine, BUT THERE IS GOD’S COMMAND, instructing everyone to beware of joining hands with those who teach error.”

    http://books.google.com/books?id=jacTm7vTaoYC&pg=PA130&lpg=PA130&dq=a+controversy+surrounding+the+lcms+%22Brief+Statement%22&source=bl&ots=dWmtY6b7vY&sig=iTPlcNBBsWTqRmOtWJCaGHM9zuM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=FiBwU5btKIiwyASwpILoAg&ved=0CHoQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=a%20controversy%20surrounding%20the%20lcms%20%22Brief%20Statement%22&f=false

    And the beat goes on………….

    I subscribe to the 1580 BOC quia (because) they agreed with Scripture.

    Arguments have been made that the “Brief Statement” if it is used as binding Doctrine shifts the focus of the authority of the 1580 BOC. True or not the “Brief Statement” should be regarded as a means of dealing with that days pressing issues. The best construction of the matter is that the statement is a fast and lose statement of issues dealt with more fully in the 1580 BOC. In my opinion this document can have no other authority but a only quatenus (in so far as) they agreed with Scripture and the 1580 BOC. I feel as shown by history that putting more authority on the “Brief Statement” is at best decisive and should be avoided.

    @KrustyKraut #4

  6. Martin R. Noland
    May 12th, 2014 at 09:41 | #6

    Dear BJS Bloggers,

    The official position of the LCMS on the matter of the authority of the Brief Statement is found in bylaw 1.6.2 (see 2013 Handbook, pp. 34-36). I believe that the 1851 Church and Ministry Theses, the 1881 Election Theses, the 1932 Brief Statement, and the 1973 Statement on Scriptural and Confessional Principles are the only statements that fit within the definition of “doctrinal statement” of the synod; although it must also be said that since bylaw 1.6 was adopted in the 1980s, no other Statement has been adopted that follows its procedures.

    Bylaw 1.6.2a says “doctrinal resolutions may be adopted for the information, counsel, and guidance of the membership”.

    Bylaw 1.6.2b says “doctrinal statements set forth in greater detail the position of the synod especially in controverted matter.”

    So the question you need to ask someone who disagrees with the 1851, 1881, 1932, or 1973 Statements is “What particular proposition in that Statement/Theses do you disagree with? Why do you disagree with it?” That is a much more fruitful way to deal with the issues involved, then to circle endlessly around matters of procedure or authority in general.

    Our seminaries include instruction about these four theses/statements somewhere in the M.Div. curriculum. They do not have a separate course of study like the Lutheran Confessions (two courses usually there) or a complete department like the Holy Scriptures (Exegetical Department). They are usually discussed in the “Lutheran Church in America” course or “LCMS History” course, either of which is a mandatory course–or used to be. As I have said previously, I cannot say whether students in Alternate Routes get instruction in this area.

    The 1851, 1881, 1932, and 1973 Theses/Statements also explain in a doctrinal way why the LCMS has not been in church fellowship with the Buffalo Synod (1851), the Ohio and Norwegian Synod (1881), the old ALC (1932), and the ELCA (1973). Thus these statements play an important role in explaining why LCMSers are not like many other Lutherans in North America and around the world.

    The Book of Concord can’t do that directly, because it explains why Lutherans are not like Roman Catholics, Reformed/Calvinists, Anabaptists, and miscellaenous heresies of the 16th century. Indirectly the Book of Concord may still be used and applied to current errors which date back to the 16th century, but there are many new errors that Lutherans of the 16th century could have never imagined that a Lutheran would profess or practice. For this reason, we need contemporary statements–such as the four mentioned above–that distinguish the truth from falsehood, and the right practice from error.

    I think this is a very useful practice for LCMS laymen to learn. If they learn that their pastor disagrees with one of the four statements: 1851, 1881, 1932, and 1973, then they should ask that pastor: “What particular proposition in that Statement/Theses do you disagree with? Why do you disagree with it?” If the pastor answers honestly, it will tell the laymen to what degree that pastor is aligned with the doctrine and practice of the LCMS.

    It is also a useful practice for LCMS laymen to learn for the call process that they supervise. Call committees should ask the pastors being interviewed whether they agree or disagree with those four statements (1851, 1881, 1932, 1973) and then “What particular proposition in that Statement/Theses do you disagree with? Why do you disagree with it?”

    Why is this important today? It is important for congregations in their relationship with othe congregations in the synod. If a congregation’s pastor, e.g., disagrees with the inerrancy of Scripture (1932 and 1973 statements), it will lead to disunity between him and his fellow circuit pastors, district pastors, etc. All sorts of relationships can and will be broken up.

    It is also important for succession of pastoral leadership. People gather into a congregation united under their pastor’s doctrinal leadership. If the next pastor has different doctrine, it will lead to conflict, sure enough, and sometimes to the complete dismemberment of that congregation.

    Thus creeds, confessions, and doctrinal statements contribute to unity and longevity in the church; if they are accepted by the pastors of the church.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  7. May 12th, 2014 at 10:54 | #7

    Bylaw 1.6.2a says “doctrinal resolutions may be adopted for the information, counsel, and guidance of the membership”.
    Bylaw 1.6.2b says “doctrinal statements set forth in greater detail the position of the synod especially in controverted matter.”

    I do not have a problem with the above explanation.

    Education!

    Ignorance is the fertile field plowed by Heretics!
    lex orandi lex credendi lex vivendi

    Thank you Pastor Noland for taking time to help me ! (us)……..

    @Martin R. Noland #6

  8. Randy
    May 12th, 2014 at 11:07 | #8

    Martin R. Noland :Dear BJS Bloggers,

    Thus creeds, confessions, and doctrinal statements contribute to unity and longevity in the church; if they are accepted by the pastors of the church.
    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

    Rev. Noland,

    Thanks for the insightful post and I agree with all. Unfortunately, I think one of the primary issues causing division throughout the synod is that the creeds, confessions, and doctrinal statements don’t contribute to unity because many believe “Practice” is an “Open Question.”

  9. May 12th, 2014 at 11:09 | #9

    @Martin R. Noland #6

    The 1851, 1881, 1932, and 1973 Theses/Statements also explain in a doctrinal way why the LCMS has not been in church fellowship with the Buffalo Synod (1851), the Ohio and Norwegian Synod (1881), the old ALC (1932), and the ELCA (1973).

    In regard to the circumstances of the 1881 Theses on Election: the Missouri Synod was in fellowship with the Norwegian Synod, and remained so until until 1917, when the Norwegian Synod merged itself out of existence. The Missouri Synod was not in fellowship with the “Anti-Missourian Brotherhood,” however, which withdrew from the Norwegian Synod in the 1880s because of the Norwegian Synod’s agreement with the Missouri Synod on this matter; nor with the United Norwegian Lutheran Church of America, into which the Anti-Missourian Brotherhood merged in 1890.

    “Anti-Missourian Brotherhood” has a positive, inviting ring to it as far as church body names go, doesn’t it? ;-)

  10. May 12th, 2014 at 12:08 | #10

    @Pastor David Jay Webber #9

    OUCH!

    If you have never clicked on a bright blue name tag, Please do so now.

    You will find a great cornucopia of valuable information!

    Some people one does not cross swords with. Pastor Webber is one!

  11. Rev. Clint K. Poppe
    May 12th, 2014 at 13:05 | #11

    CFW Walther was not a fan of “open questions”…

    “Now if two Lutheran theologians hold opposing positions on such a doctrine, then one of them is obviously in error. Furthermore, it never happened in the better days of the Lutheran Church that Lutheran theologians tolerated contradictory opinions or error in other theologians, thereby leaving that issue as an “open question…” This theory of open questions may have arisen from a misunderstanding of the doctrine that we should not immediately condemn those who err. So now they want us to tolerate also the error itself until an agreement is finally reached. But although we should be tolerant with an erring person, the error itself should never be tolerated in the Lutheran Church. No issue concerning which God has already given us the answer in His Word may be treated as an open question. Whether a doctrinal issue has been dealt with in the Lutheran Confessions is finally not the issue. The issue is whether that question has been clearly answered in the Scriptures. Questions that are not answered in the Bible do not belong in the church at all.”
    C. F. W. Walther, Essays For The Church, Volume I, 1857-1879, (St. Louis: CPH), 1992, 135-6.

    In Christ, Clint

  12. May 12th, 2014 at 13:54 | #12

    The matter of “open questions” was the primary issue that needed to be hammered out with the Wisconsin Synod, at the time when Wisconsin and Missouri went into fellowship with each other in 1868. One of the enduring points from the theses that were drawn up at the time is that church fellowship is based on a fundamental unity in all the articles of faith, and not on a unity only in the so-called fundamental articles of faith. Fundamental unity, and unity in fundamentals, are not the same thing.

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