(Editor’s Note: We welcome Pastor Robert Niehus to our list of columnists. Each day as a part of his normal routine Pastor Niehus scours the secular and religious news to see what is going on in the church and the world. With this column he will be bringing the fruits of that daily routine to the Brothers of John the Steadfast on a regular basis. The beat will be the world, the synod and even his local district and circuit. We hope this column will keep the Brothers in the know and help them practice discernment based on Pastor Niehus’ commentary. In this first column Pastor Niehus sets out the boundaries that will mark his commentary on the news around the church. Pastor Niehus is pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, Oak Park, Illinois where he succeeded the Reverend Dr. Martin Noland.)
Boundaries, are they Necessary?
The ancient Romans are said to have worshipped the false god “Terminus.” Terminus was the name of the god who watched over boundaries. Property lines and boundaries were of great importance to the Romans, particularly to farmers and landowners. We all know the importance of boundaries in our society. Pets have boundaries, children have boundaries, motorist and athletes have boundaries, and yes, Christ’s Church has its boundaries.
The English word determine is derived from its Latin roots (de + terminus) which can be translated to limit or set the boundary. Today, many pastors and congregations in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod have chosen to become their own god as they establish and create new boundaries for the sake of mission work and church growth. Sadly, these new boundaries go well beyond, and even violate the boundaries Christ has established for His Church. The Church has not been given the authority to determine the boundaries set forth by Christ, but it has been given the authority to establish guilt or innocence in accordance with the boundaries He has set. (Matthew 16:19).
As a parish pastor, I am both a student and teacher of the Augsburg Confession. I believe, teach and confess, that this precious time tested document teaches us what the Holy, inerrant and infallible Word of God teaches us. As for those men whom at the time of their ordination vowed to uphold this same confession of faith, but have now chosen to create new teachings and set new boundaries, this column will be cutting and sharp, but always with the goal of bringing the erring brother to repentance and restoration in the name of Christ our Lord.
In future articles, it will be my goal to use contemporary examples of boundary violations and encouraging stories of those staying within the boundaries, both from within our Synod, and throughout Christendom. Some issues will be black, others white, and others grey. Agree, or disagree your insights and comments are always welcome.