by Rev. Joshua V. Scheer
Many and various sources have said that the LCMS needs to return to the Word of God, especially in areas where we have division. Our Synod President has rightly said that every great movement of God begins with repentance. I think there is a lot of hope that this will happen for our church body.
I was reading volume one, book one of “The Harmony of the Four Evangelists” by Chemnitz, Leyser, and Gerhard in my preparations for the season of Advent and Christmas this week (the book is available from Repristination Press). When the great Lutheran fathers were giving comment on Luke 1:17 they said some things that are quite timely today. The context is that Gabriel has appeared to Zechariah and is explaining to him just who his son John will be. The phrase translated “to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children” included some excellent comments (pages 88-89).
“The Jews of that time, as ‘children’ or descendants, had deviated from the doctrine, faith, religion, and worship of their fathers (that is, of the prophets) and had discovered and accepted other opinions and styles of worship. From that developed dissension and disagreement between the faith or religion of the fathers and their children.”
Sounds familiar, especially for any of you who spend more time reading the “dead-old-guys” (dogs) than you do internet blogs. A good suggestion would be to pick up a copy of “At Home in the House of My Fathers” compiled by President Harrison. In that volume you will detect a difference between the children and the fathers of the LCMS.
Another quote: “In brief, Gabriel wants to say this: ‘With his ministry, John will restore harmony and mutual agreement between the faith and religion of the fathers and the children.’ This wording shows what the true and salutary reason is for cleansing doctrine and reforming religion in the Church, as well as what the real antiquity is, because the Pharisees even at that time were peddling their traditions under the title that: ‘Thus had it been said in the olden days, Mat. 5:21.’”
We should be concerned with any defense of doctrinal purity and the practices which flow out of it that does not build upon Scripture. We do not need to resort to such tradition-based arguments, for Lutheran doctrine is the Scriptural faith of the fathers. It is what Adam, Noah, Abraham, and all the faithful believed.
Another quote: “It also shows what the procedure is for establishing salutary harmony, consent, and union in the Church, not with the result that we seek any shared feeling in the same opinion under the pretext of the quite long prescript of time nor that we establish reconciling or covering up of errors. Rather, its result should be that all religion in doctrine and forms of worship be renewed and called and led back to wisdom, not of the world nor of reason, but of the just, to whom Scripture attributes this witness and whom Gabriel understands in this passage to be the patriarchs and prophets.”
I refrain from further quotes which basically put John’s task of restoring the doctrine of the fathers among the children. The right practices follow right doctrine. John was a preacher of repentance. He called the wayward children back to the faith of the fathers, not because it was more traditional, but because it was in accord with the Word of God.
The Church of our fathers observed dedicated days of humiliation and prayer. If you have copies of Walther’s sermons for those occasions (Day of Humiliation and Prayer) you can read them and find out two things. First, our fathers’ times were not always filled with right doctrine and practice. Second, there have always been calls to repentance, for the hearts of the fathers to be turned to the children. We need that today as well. Pray for those who follow in John’s footsteps, most especially those given the responsibility of providing doctrinal oversight in the LCMS. Maybe the hearts of our fathers could be restored to us selfish children. Lord have mercy.