The Christian Office of Judgement and Reproof, by Pr Martin R. Noland

In a recent post at the web-site of “Brothers of John the Steadfast,” I attempted to respond to those who have criticized the theological critique of doctrine and church practice that is frequently found at this site (see Criticism of Theological Critique).

I did not expect the responses from those disagreeing with my posted article, but I am always willing to accept and consider criticism. After a couple of days of reflection, I realized that we, in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, have really lost the Lutheran understanding of the Christian office of judgment and reproof. Maybe it has nothing to do with Seminex (I apologize for that reference, since it offended some folks). Maybe we have just forgotten how to be Lutherans!

Those who disagreed with my post cannot be blamed for this, because the neglect of this office precedes their years in ministry. I want to take this opportunity to thank those who responded to my post with their comments, especially those who were critical, and I wish them nothing but the best in their personal lives, careers, and ministries! The following is not directed against them personally, but against the ignorance of this matter that is pervasive everywhere in our church.

What is the Lutheran understanding of the “Christian office of judgment and reproof”? Let’s take this phrase apart first. “Lutheran understanding” means that other churches may have a different understanding. “Christian” means that this office is not unique to Lutherans, since established by Scripture. “Office” means a “role” or “function” which certain people are enabled and authorized to carry out. “Judgment” means reflection and careful weighing of the truth, fairness, and evidence of things. “Reproof” means speaking out against harmful doctrines or church practices, after using such judgment.

Where is the Lutheran understanding of the Christian office of judgment and reproof to be found? It is found, by definition, in Scripture. It is also found, not by explication, but by example throughout the Lutheran Confessions. The Lutheran Confessions are mostly a judgment and reproof, primarily of the Roman Catholic, but also of the Reformed and Anabaptist churches. When Lutherans subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions, they agree with those judgments and reproofs.

How could Lutherans in the 16th century, in good conscience, judge, criticize, and reprove the pope, who was the highest and most respected ecclesiastical dignitary in the world? They did so based on the Lutheran understanding of the Christian office of judgment and reproof, as explained by Martin Luther in a number of his writings.

With regard to “judgment,” Luther taught that part of the office, i.e., role or function, of a pastor is to “judge and pass on doctrines.” This is found in his programmatic treatise “Concerning the Ministry,” written for the Bohemian Christians in 1523 (see “Luther’s Works” [LW] Vol. 40, pp. 7-44). The Catholic church had taught that only the clergy could judge doctrine. Luther taught the “priesthood of all believers” and that thus ALL Christians were to judge doctrine (LW 40:31-34). Luther quoted I Corinthians 14:32, “the spirit of prophets are subject to prophets,” to show that Christians accept theological criticism gladly (LW 40:32). Luther concluded his discussion with this statement “So not only do we have the right to recover this function of judging doctrine, . . . but unless we recover it we are denying Christ as a brother. For here we are dealing not with a matter that is optional or permissible, but with a command and necessity” (LW 40:32-33).

With regard to public “reproof,” Luther specifically laid this responsibility upon the Christian clergy, although layman also could be involved. This is found in his programmatic treatise “Against the Spiritual Estate of the Pope,” written in response to Cardinal Albrecht of Mainz’s issuing of indulgences in 1522 (see “Luther’s Works” Vol. 39, pp. 247-299). Luther begins with this statement:

“So that some well-meaning hearts do not get the impression that I go too far when I attack the great lords–or that I might create rebellion and unrest, as the tyrants themselves interpret it–I must first present defense and explanation with scriptural proof that it is not only right but also necessary to reprove the high officials [of the church]” (LW 39:249).

Luther’s Scriptural defense of the office of reproof is drawn from Ezekiel 3:17-19, Micah 6:1-2, Jeremiah 1:10, 18-19, and I Timothy 5:20. I wonder why the CTCR document “Public Rebuke of Public Sin” did not cite these Bible passages, or deal with them, when according to Luther these Scripture passages are the sedes doctrinae (i.e., the primary Bible texts proving a doctrine or position). This is one reason I think that the CTCR document is incomplete.

Here are some of the things Luther says about “reproof”:

“Tell me, is this not a severe commandment from the High Majesty, that a preacher must reprove the wicked if he would save his soul? For he speaks here of public reproval, since he commands someone to exercise an office, to preach his word. Why does he command it so severely? Undoubtedly because the preacher would commit the greatest sin against love if he were silent and disregarded the greatest good, the salvation of his neighbor’s soul.” (LW 39:250)

“[In Micah 6:1-2] who are the mountains, the hills, and the enduring foundations of the earth to which one should preach, according to his commandment? Here he commands the proclamation of God’s judgment and punishment to the leaders, not to the people. Finally, the proclamation of all prophets was generally addressed mostly to the high officials such as kings, princes, priests, scribes, and leaders of the people, as all prophetic writings prove abundantly.” (LW 39:250-251).

“[Christ] reproves none but the high priests, the scribes, the religious fanatics, and whoever was of high degree. Thus he certainly gave an example to all preachers to attack the great leaders without hesitation, since both the destruction and health of a people depend most upon the leaders. . . What good would it do to leave the leaders alone and punish only the people? One could never throw out as much with good teaching as the evil leaders throw in. . . . If, then, one builds up the people, one must first oppose the harmful leaders and destroyers.” (LW 39:251).

“Spiritual dominion, whenever it is unholy and does not support God’s word, is like a wolf and murderer of the soul, and it is just as though the devil himself were ruling there. That is why one should beware as much of the bishop who does not teach God’s word as of the devil himself.” (LW 39:252).

So far Luther. Until the CTCR document “Public Rebuke of Public Sin” incorporates these teachings of Luther, it will continue to be an incomplete and faulty document.

Having said all that, what does this mean for the debate and discussion that occurs on this and other websites. Notice that I said “judgment and reproof.” An author and editor needs to exercise “judgment” first, before issuing reproof. Let me repeat: “Judgment” means reflection and careful weighing of the truth, fairness, and evidence of things. “Reproof” means speaking out against harmful doctrines or church practices, after using such judgment. I should add that not ALL reproof of this sort needs to be public; and that much error that needs to be reproved is due to ignorance, not to malice.

I believe and contend that Pastor Rossow has exercised good judgment throughout his two years as editor of BJS blog. Well, yes, he has made some mistakes, but we all do. I will never forget how embarrassed we all were at LOGIA, when we published the article that talked about the pastor embodying Christ. We changed our editorial procedures after that one! I cannot vouch for other websites, because BJS is the only one I read on a somewhat regular basis. I am not on the BJS editorial committee, and I don’t have time to read everything here. But what I have seen is truthful, fair, and has the ability to be verified.

But the critics of BJS accuse it and other Lutheran blogs of “divisive rhetoric,” i.e., “creating rebellion and unrest,” when BJS finds it “that it is not only right but also necessary to reprove the high officials [of the church]” (LW 39:249). Can we not have a gentleman’s discussion about what is good, or bad, for the church and its people without being accused of being rebels and traitors?

That is why Pastor Matthew Harrison is so refreshing. In “It’s Time” he wants the church to have a gentleman’s discussion (ladies included, of course) about what is good, or bad, for the church and its people, based on Scripture and our Confessions! Isn’t that what Paul meant when he said that “the spirit of prophets are subject to prophets” (I Cor. 14:32)? Luther thought so.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

The Christian Office of Judgement and Reproof, by Pr Martin R. Noland — 61 Comments

  1. @Rev. Jack Gilbert #49
    I do say that anonymous = bad for the external credibility of the website that “welcomes” it.

    “Anonymous” here is not quite the same as “anon” on a newsgroup. The board knows real names and reasons for not using them. [If I’m not mistaken, people who try fake names and addresses are called on it and not published.]

  2. @Mark Louderback #45

    You get things wrong, my friend, but when you get them right, you are spot on!

    Well, Mark, even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. O happy day! I’m right about something. Man, it’s about time! I was wondering if I was going to be wrong about everything forever. Pshew! 🙂

    If the dialog is framed in terms of “Listen, you guys are wrong; come and hear us tell you why you are wrong” or if it is framed in terms of “We Lutherans need to speak to the non-Lutherans in our Synod,” then you are absolutely right. I would refuse — refuse — to enter into any dialog under those circumstances.

    Why would you refuse? If you are convinced of your position(s), then you should want a seat at the table, shouldn’t you?

    (By that, I mean what Rev Harrison speaks off–not yakkin with you. I’ll keep that up no matter what you say about me. 🙂

    No matter what I say about you? Are you sure about that? You know how mean and vicious I can be; how “shrill” my “attacks” often are. But, hey, if you want to keep yakkin with me, great. 🙂

    So, yes, I’m not going to come to the table as a step-child. I would expect to be treated as an equal.

    Ah, see Mark, here’s the rub: We’re not equals when it comes to doctrine and practice. That’s the thing, my friend. We’re divided. We have different, incompatible views. One of us is right and the other is wrong. To believe otherwise is just plain dishonest – and very postmodern. That’s my point. Thanks for making it for me so clearly.

    This idea that we can all define Lutheranism as we see fit and practice it however we wish is so utterly foreign to the very confessions to which we (supposedly) unconditionally subscribe. The “agree to disagree” and “live and let live” mentality that permeates our synod today is the very thing we need to eliminate.

    When our Lutheran forebears were working on the Formula, they didn’t say, “Hey, we’re all equals here. Let’s just chat all nice and loving with one another and agree to disagree on everything.” Nope. The divided parties (all claiming to be Lutheran, by the way) put their positions on the table. Those positions were considered and analyzed against Scripture and our Confessions with the end result being definitive declarations about the controversial and divisive issues among them – so that they said quite clearly: “This position is Lutheran; that one is not.”

    Again, if you (and yours) are convinced that your positions on the issues which divide us in our synod are in line with what we Lutherans believe, teach, confess, and practice, according to Scripture and our Confessions, then you should adamantly defend them and seek to persuade those of us you think to be in error. The goal should not be to come together to chat just for the sake of chatting (kinda like all the so-called theological convocations which have taken place under Pres. Kieshnick), but to come to a conclusion concerning those issues which divide us.

    What is not healthy for our synod is to continue pretending that we’re not divided, or that the things over which we are divided are not important enough to grapple and resolve. We’ve been doing that for decades and we see very clearly where that has gotten us. No, we need to seriously tackle these divisive issues, admitting that we hold contrary positions on them, and seeking to determine which positions are in line with our confession of the faith and which are not.

    Who knows, Mark? Maybe the end result of the deliberate and focused theological dialogue Presidential Candidate Harrison has in mind would be in agreement with the positions you hold, which are contrary to mine. Then, stubborn “confessionals” like me could get of your way and let you have the synod and do with it as you please. That would be much better than what we have now, which is a pretend (and false) fellowship, where we confess one way on paper, but allow everyone and their brother to practice another way in reality.

    Let’s have some serious theological dialogue. Let’s put our cards on the table, admitting our differences, so that we can come to some definitive conclusions about the issues which divide us. Let’s do so not in a postmodern, “sissified,” “agree to disagree” way, but in an honest, forthright, “this is what I believe” way. That doesn’t mean we have to treat each other like “step-children,” etc. We can do this respectfully and lovingly, but respecting and loving one another does not necessitate taking a compromising attitude into the dialogue. We should, rather, respect and love one another enough to tell the truth and put our positions on the table, having the desire for our synod to reach unity on those issues which divide us, even if that means our positions will not allow us to remain in fellowship in this synod.

    That’s what I’m saying, Mark. So, please, enough with the “Don’t be hatin’, player” stuff. It ain’t about hate; it’s about finding the truth and living together under that truth. We haven’t been serious about that for a long time in the LCMS. I, for one, think “It’s Time” to get serious about it.

    Now, I would also fully expect that we would bring the Word of God and the Confessions on our positions, in order to make sure that there is a standard for truth. No doubt about that. But for you to be expecting a lecture and not a discussion is disingenuous to what Rev Harrison is calling for.

    I certainly don’t speak for Rev. Harrison, nor am I claiming that what I’ve written here (or elsewhere) jives with what he has in mind in carrying out the approach he suggests we take. I’ve read “It’s Time” a few times (and listened to it, too), but that doesn’t mean I know how Rev. Harrison would implement his plan should he get the opportunity to do so. What I do know is that he is suggesting that we fashion the ten-year, deliberate dialogue after the Formula. And, that being the case, it seems like he envisions us putting our divisive issues on the table with the goal of coming to conclusions about them, not simply coming together for discussions. We’ve been coming together for discussions for a while now and they’ve gotten us nowhere. I think that’s kinda Rev. Harrison’s point. If it’s not and he means only for us to just come together to chat for the sake of chatting, then I would be the first to state my disagreement with him, since that would continue to bear no fruit and get us no closer to actually resolving our divisions – not to mention that it would be in no way, shape, or form anyway like what transpired as the Formula was being formulated. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

    One of the things I appreciate most about Rev. Harrison’s “It’s Time” is his admonition for all of us to be ready and willing to repent. If there will be any move toward true unity, that will be the key. The Word of God is the only power that can truly resolve what ails us. We need to be willing to allow that Word, and our Confessions, which are a correct exposition of that Word, to guide the process of our dialogue. We also have to be willing to allow those things that are truly adiaphora (not the “anything goes” definition of adiaphora which currently plagues our synod) to remain such among us, even if that means you or I don’t particularly care for this or that thing. But, at the same time, we need to honestly seek to resolve our differences and even be willing to leave if we can’t honestly live with the resolutions that are determined. There is room for some give and take in those matters that truly do not divide us doctrinally, but not for those matters which do. In other words, I don’t imagine the end result of what Rev. Harrison has in mind to be some lock-step uniformity in all things, so that every pastor and congregation in our synod does everything my preferred way (which is how some of you often wrongly portray some of us), but I would expect that we come to agreement on those matters which do touch upon doctrinal unity and commit to living under that agreement (or, again, leave).

    In the words of that great theologian Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

  3. This string is reminding me that just as certain people do not belong together on the same blog, certain people do not belong together in the same synod.

  4. @Rev. Jack Gilbert #48

    How can anyone poke his nose in here if it’s such a “public” site? I thought that was one of the many great things about the BJS blog–everyone can see it and anyone can post here!

    Pr. Gilbert, I thought I made clear that I was referring to those who poke their noses into blogs like this one ONLY to tell everyone how mean they are, throw out generic criticisms, and so on. Yes, this is a public site and, yes, anyone is welcomed to comment here. I, personally, just don’t have sympathy for those who want nothing more than to throw their daggers and run, that’s all. I’m not referring to thoughtful posters such as yourself, but to those who know full well the positions taken here and want nothing more than to get their jabs in. That happens, by the way. Not just here, but in other places as well. It would be like me chiming in on Jesus First’s blog (oh wait, they don’t have a blog or any other means of facilitating open discussion – sorry, couldn’t resist! :)) only to tell them how un-Lutheran I think they are, refusing to provide substantive reasons for my assertions, and so forth. That gets old . . . way old.

    Also, what’s generic about saying that some people see the welcoming of anonymous comments as a less than commendable practice? You don’t have to agree, but this is by no means generic!

    Please point me to where I have ever said that criticism about welcoming anonymous comments is generic. To my knowledge, I’ve never said any such thing. I don’t think that’s generic at all. It’s quite clearly a specific criticism. So, I agree wholeheartedly with you on that.

    What’s generic about pointing to articles that are taken down without apology to those named or a retraction for all of the readers to know what took place? Do you agree with that practice?

    Again, please point me to where I have ever said any such thing. Again, this would be pretty dang specific and not at all what I was talking about. I’m not sure exactly what you are talking about here. If there was an article that was taken down in the manner in which you describe here, no I would not agree with that practice. I would think that at least an explanation would be in order and if necessary, an apology and retraction, too. But, again, I have no idea what you’re referring to here and would reserve a final opinion until after I was able to hear the other side (my mom always taught me that there were two sides to every story, after all).

    What’s generic about saying that there are innacuracies in at least one article here that remain unresolved? I’ll point to it if you absolutely insist, but I much prefer to continue dealing directly with the author until it is resolved.

    When did I ever claim that this is generic (I’m sensing a pattern here). Pretty specific again, and I have no problem with this sort of critique. And no, I don’t need to be pointed to this. Please do continue dealing directly with the author until it is resolved.

    Do you take my obervations and suggestions as mandates? I’ve never said the BJS blog HAS to do anything. (This is consistently misinterpreted by readers here.) I have made observations regarding a number of questionable practices here, that if done away with, MIGHT raise its external credibility.

    Nope, I don’t take your observations and suggestions as mandates. Neither do I have any problem with you making your observations and suggestions. This doesn’t mean that I agree with everything you observe and suggest to be questionable and in need of change. But, I do appreciate your effort and willingness to put them forward. As I said above, my comments about those poking their noses in has nothing to do with you. I’m pretty sure I told you before that I appreciated the manner in which you handle yourself here, so I am a little confused by your response to me here.

    In an effort to be clear, what I mean by generic is throwing out the idea that people who post here are mean, cruel, unloving, etc. WITHOUT supplying substantive evidence for such accusations. E.g. Pr. Louderback entered this thread with some criticism and accusations, the only specific one being about anonymous comments. He talked about “shrillness in tone” and “refusal to engage,” but didn’t point to anything specific to back up those accusations, even after he was asked to do so (well, except for the smart-aleck comment about my response being an example in his mind). That does not fall under the category of valid criticism, but false (or, at least, unsubstantiated) accusations. Plus, not being specific, it throws anyone and everyone who posts here under the bus, so to speak, as if we’re all just a bunch of mean, nasty jerks, which is hardly the case at all. It’s stupid and cowardly and I have no sympathy for those who use this method. But, hey, that’s just me. Perhaps others think it’s all the rage, or something. This does not mean that I have a problem with Pr. Louderback posting here and seeking to engage people here in dialogue. I just don’t have sympathy for him, or anyone else, when they simply throw out generic criticisms and such, that’s all. I mean, the “you’re a bunch of meanies who engage in shrill attacks and refuse to engage those who disagree with you” stuff is just a bunch of nonsense and a clear attempt to avoid honest, sincere engagement.

    Surely we can all learn from valid criticism! I have been shown that some of my criticisms here were invalid, and I appreciated being taught why.

    Amen to that, brother! As Christians, we should welcome and encourage valid criticism and seek to learn from the same.

    So, remind me, what are we arguing about here, ’cause I don’t get it.

    Pax!

  5. Pr. Gilbert,

    “From what I can see, it is a suggestion for open, possibly face-to-face communication regarding differences in our synod. Obviously it’s impossible to be anonymous in such a context, or for anyone to say anything while using “Peter Pan” as a pseudonym.”

    Really? Impossible to say “anything” under a psuedonym? I hope you are engaging in hyperbole for effect, something I engage in myself and can understand. Otherwise it kinda backs up my general point that all this hyperventilation about anonymity and shrillness is an attempt to change the subject. We have bigger problems to discuss than snarky blog comments.

    “I do say that anonymous = bad for the external credibility of the website that “welcomes” it.
    Do you agree with what I do say regarding anonymity? Can you at least understand my viewpoint?”

    Well, no, I don’t agree. I do understand your viewpoint. I’m pretty unlikely, though, to ever embrace the notion that ideas are automatically discredited if they are borne by or are found in proximity to people that one finds annoying. We will have to disagree on that,
    but I get it.

  6. @Rev. Thomas C. Messer #54

    Rev. Messer,

    Sorry for the confusion. I assumed that because you wrote against “generic criticism” in comment 43 and did not address what I wrote in comment 37, you included my obersvations in your description of “generic”. I should have been clearer on that, and asked you if you didn’t think my complaints were generic, why you then chose not to respond to them. Your responses provided in comment 54 are appreciated.

    I hope you will take my word that an article was removed recently with no apology to the pastors named or retraction for readers to see. This is wholly inappropriate in my opinion. Indeed, your mother was right! There are two sides to this story, and I eventually got both after a number of weeks. I understand the context of what took place in that specific situation, and I think the administrators should hold themselves accountable in such cases. If history serves as an indicator for future decisions, I don’t expect many official apologies or retractions here. Perhaps that will change, should the need present itself again. It’s hard to know that pastors’ names and reputations were on the line, and it was left for the readers to scratch their heads and wonder what happened. It seems likely to me that most readers probably just remember the negative assumptions put forth about those pastors without knowing that the author had a change of heart.

    @James Sarver #56

    James,

    I guess it comes down to how one defines “open communication”. The way I understand open communication, it requires full disclosure of who everyone is, and no one feeling a need to “hide” or intentionally hold back his/her identity from the others who are engaged in the discussion. If there is face-to-face communication (which I kind of expect to some degree with the proposed Koinonia project), surely I can’t tell you I’m Peter Pan and have you believe it, unless I’ve got Tinkerbell hovering around me, or a driver’s license to back it up!

    No hyperbole employed, just a need for clarification.

    Also, I’m glad we are on the same page regarding anonymity and its possible effect on this website’s external credibility. Of course you don’t have to agree, I’m just glad you see what I’m getting at.

    In closing, I don’t think anonymous ideas should be automatically discredited. I do think if it’s a serious matter, and that both disagreeing sides truly care about, those being adressed anonymously might think, “Why not just come out and say it, so that we can actually talk about this?”

  7. @Rev. Jack Gilbert #57

    Rev. Gilbert,

    This anonymous poster has a quick question for you. Do you and does the pastoral staff at the church you serve have an equal amount of concern about anonymous or unknown visitors who want to commune at the alter you serve? I remember reading a post on a previous string by a former member or visitor of your congregation complaining that your congregation practices open communion. I hope that is not true.

    Yours truly automatically discredited,
    Anonymous

  8. Tom Messer,

    Hey, I’m back.

    Well, Mark, even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. O happy day! I’m right about something. Man, it’s about time! I was wondering if I was going to be wrong about everything forever. Pshew!

    I get your point…but at the same time, I would remind you that at 100 yards, no one would be able to distinguish us apart. You get tons right, because you and I agree on tons.

    In fact, we agree on the most important thing in all of the universe–the Gospel. After that, it is all gravy.

    Why would you refuse? If you are convinced of your position(s), then you should want a seat at the table, shouldn’t you?

    No. It is not just a matter of having a seat at the table. Because the question is one of “Why are we sitting at the tale?” If we are sitting at the table to talk and listen and hear one another out — we are good to go. If the place is one of “You’re here to be corrected!” sorry, not interested.

    Not that I am not interested in correction–but rather I am not interested in talking with someone who denies that he needs correcting.

    No matter what I say about you? Are you sure about that? You know how mean and vicious I can be; how “shrill” my “attacks” often are. But, hey, if you want to keep yakkin with me, great.

    Well, as hard as you try, you are really not that shrill and snarky. We disagree, but you don’t put words in my mouth and make up stuff about me. So I am good to go.

    h, see Mark, here’s the rub: We’re not equals when it comes to doctrine and practice. That’s the thing, my friend. We’re divided. We have different, incompatible views. One of us is right and the other is wrong. To believe otherwise is just plain dishonest – and very postmodern. That’s my point. Thanks for making it for me so clearly.

    Sure. I agree with this. And you know what? Might be you. That is why we come and speak as equals, to see what the Word of God says and teaches.

    gain, if you (and yours) are convinced that your positions on the issues which divide us in our synod are in line with what we Lutherans believe, teach, confess, and practice, according to Scripture and our Confessions, then you should adamantly defend them and seek to persuade those of us you think to be in error. The goal should not be to come together to chat just for the sake of chatting (kinda like all the so-called theological convocations which have taken place under Pres. Kieshnick), but to come to a conclusion concerning those issues which divide us.

    I agree. And I even agree about the convocations — sorta, I guess I understand that we need to simply practice coming together and trying to listen to one another, since we don’t do it too well…

    But my point is that in coming together, we both need to set aside any chips on our shoulders and humbly come before the Word to let it correct us.

    Who knows, Mark? Maybe the end result of the deliberate and focused theological dialogue Presidential Candidate Harrison has in mind would be in agreement with the positions you hold, which are contrary to mine.

    Well, if we follow the Word of God, we sure will…but churches make errors…

    Let’s have some serious theological dialogue. Let’s put our cards on the table, admitting our differences, so that we can come to some definitive conclusions about the issues which divide us. Let’s do so not in a postmodern, “sissified,” “agree to disagree” way, but in an honest, forthright, “this is what I believe” way.

    I agree.

    In the words of that great theologian Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.

    And I agree completely with your words. Absolutely. The emphasis being that we all need to be ready to repent and turn from our sin and hold to what the Word says.

    But all of this agreement with you does not turn me away from what I previously posted: I am interested in discussion based on God’s Word to determine right and wrong. I am not going to attend a lecture on why I am wrong, given by those whose very approach is “You are wrong and that is that.”

    Once again, as I have said before: if I had 15 minutes with your congregation, they’d agree with me. Hopefully, we’ll have that chance in future dialog.

  9. James Sarver,

    I’m sorry, I just don’t believe that that is the actual conversation. I’m sorry, I don’t. I think it is more like this:

    Person A: You are an idiot!

    Person B: You ought not to speak like that.

    Person A: Oh, so, you don’t think I should criticize anyone huh? You can do what you like, and not receive any feedback. That is not the role of the Christian Office of Judgement and Reproof. You just want people to do whatever you want and …

    Person B: (sigh)
    —–

    That is what I feel the conversation is.

  10. @Mark Louderback #59

    In fact, we agree on the most important thing in all of the universe–the Gospel. After that, it is all gravy.

    Well, that really depends on how the Gospel is defined, now doesn’t it. Are Baptists or Methodists or Pentecostals or Americanized Evangelicals in agreement with us on the Gospel? In a sense, yes they are. I mean, they’ll quote John 3:16 as the Gospel in a nutshell, just like us. They believe Jesus is Lord. They would even claim to agree with us when we confess that we are justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

    But, have them flesh out what they mean and we see that their definition of the Gospel is radically different from ours. And one of the clearest ways this difference can be seen is in how they practice delivering the Gospel. We see their doctrine of the Gospel play itself out in their preaching, teaching, and administration of the Sacraments. We see their doctrine of the Gospel put on display in their approach to worship. And then we say with Luther, “They are of a different spirit.” Which is why, by the way, we are not in altar and pulpit fellowship with them. This is also why our practice of delivering the Gospel MUST BE DISTINGUISHED from theirs. We simply cannot worship like them and maintain the integrity of our confession. That dog definitely don’t hunt.

    So, no, I don’t see how it can be said that we are agreed on the Gospel. We may define it the same way on paper, but the way in which we practice that Gospel reveals very real differences, Mark.

    No. It is not just a matter of having a seat at the table. Because the question is one of “Why are we sitting at the table?” If we are sitting at the table to talk and listen and hear one another out — we are good to go. If the place is one of “You’re here to be corrected!” sorry, not interested.

    I would imagine that the initial gatherings involved in the deliberate ten-year Formula-like dialogue Presidential Candidate Harrison proposes would consist of the very thing you’re talking about here, namely talking, listening, and hearing one another out. I would hope that these initial gatherings would then result in clear positions from both sides regarding the issues over which we are divided in our synod. Then, the real debate would begin, with each side defending their positions on the basis of Scripture and our Confessions.

    Again, as I said in my last post, I don’t pretend to know exactly how Harrison would implement his plan, but I do know that if it would truly follow the formula of the Formula, there would necessarily come a time when the time for talking, listening, and hearing one another out is over. Once the positions of each side are established, it would then be time for decisions to be made regarding which positions are in line with our Lutheran confession of the faith and which are not.

    And, even during those initial gatherings, I would hope that they would not be used simply to allow everyone to wax poetic and chat away, but rather to put down on paper what exactly are the differing positions, so that we could work towards definite conclusions on the issues which divide us.

    But all of this agreement with you does not turn me away from what I previously posted: I am interested in discussion based on God’s Word to determine right and wrong. I am not going to attend a lecture on why I am wrong, given by those whose very approach is “You are wrong and that is that.”

    I hope you meant to say “. . . on God’s Word and our Lutheran Confessions.” Actually, I really believe that this omission of our Confessions, whether intended or not, reveals a major difference between us. In our many conversations with one another, I often hear you making your pleas based on your interpretation and understanding of God’s Word, as if our Confessions are not the lens through which you approach God’s Word. I don’t operate that way. I believe our Lutheran Confessions are a correct exposition of God’s Word, which means that I approach God’s Word through that lens. This is what both of us vowed to do, isn’t it? We vowed that we would perform all our duties in accord with our Lutheran Confessions. I don’t see you living up to that vow. Indeed, in much of our online arguments, fun though they may be, I hear you putting forth Mark Louderback’s positions and not the positions of our Confessions. I’m not trying to be snarky or mean, and I don’t mean this as a “shrill attack,” it’s what I honestly hear from you, and I think this is where the disconnect between us lies.

    Once again, as I have said before: if I had 15 minutes with your congregation, they’d agree with me. Hopefully, we’ll have that chance in future dialog.

    And, as I have told you before, you are DEAD WRONG about this. You could spend 15 minutes or 15 hours or 15 days with the congregation I serve and they would NOT agree with your position on worship. They’ve been catechized. They know what our Lutheran theology of worship is, what it looks like, and how it is practiced.

    It is bad form for you to continue to make statements like this, since your presumption is that laypeople are stupid and easily manipulated. Please stop presuming this about them. You are also making a spurious presumption about me with this repeated assertion, namely that all the catechesis I have done with the people I serve could be done away with in 15 minutes by you. Not to mention that every time you make this ridiculous statement, you come off as a cocky, conceited, arrogant, boastful ass. Who the h-e-double-hockey-sticks do you think you are, Mark? Seriously. Stop it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.