ACELC Conference — Introduction to the Conference, by Rev. Jim Gier

The ACELC has posted all the papers from their recent conference here.

We have reproduced the introduction to the conference and welcome your comments.

All papers can be reached at the following links:

Introduction to the Conference – Rev. Jim Gier

Ecclesiastical Supervision – Rev. Dick Bolland

Communion, Unionism & Syncretism – Rev. Brent Kuhlman

Divine Service & Liturgical Offices – Rev. Rick Sawyer

Service of Women in the Church – Rev. Robert Wentzel

Office of the Holy Ministry – Rev. John Wolrabe

Unbiblical Removal of Pastors – Rev. Scott Porath

The Church’s Mission & Evangelistic Task – Rev. Clint Poppe

Pure Doctrine – Rev. Daniel Preus

History & Background of the ACELC – Rev. Dick Bolland

 

“A Fraternal Admonition: My Brother’s Keeper”

A Free Conference on Addressing Error in The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod

March 1-3, 2011

Trinity Lutheran Church, Kearney Missouri

Hosted by the Association of Confessing Evangelical Lutheran Congregations (ACELC)

Conference Introduction – Rev. James D. Gier

 

In Nomine X Jesu

A Fraternal Admonition … The very first sin recorded in Holy Scripture after the Fall is the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. When the Lord inquired of Cain as to where his brother was, Cain answered, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9). The inference is that he is not. Cain did not heed the Lord’s warning and Word and instead became his brother’s murderer.

“Am I my brother’s keeper?” YES! It is what it means to be brothers … Christians, the body of Christ where “If one member suffers; all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Cor. 12:26).

I am James Gier, pastor of Mount Calvary Lutheran Church, Excelsior Springs, MO … your brother and your keeper, as you are mine – a fellow brother and fellow keeper of the brethren. Christian faith and love commends and commands it to be so. “Brethren” … which is Scripture’s way of addressing the saints … Welcome! – to the first Free Conference of the ACELC – a group founded in part on this very basis that “I am my brother’s keeper, and he is mine.”

This conference is unique in its purpose … a free conference not simply to talk about synod issues, confined by synod sensitivities or constrained by bureaucratic tendencies toward compromise for the sake of peace … but a truly free conference to openly and publicly and in true brotherly fashion – discuss errors in the fellowship of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod – for the salutary purpose of bringing them to proper Biblical resolution, as our Lord would have us do. It is written:

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 10:1).

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 6:1).

“… If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Matthew 18:15)

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, TEACHING and ADMONISHING [emphasis mine] one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:12-16).

“Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11).

This is the Word of the Lord!

There are many venues where concerns about the errors dividing our fellowship are being discussed. And wherever these discussions are taking place, there is a good and salutary thing happening. HOWEVER, these venues largely speak to the choir – and certainly there is need for that, and there is much good done there. But even more, and has now been done, the need for writing down in no uncertain terms the errors dividing our Synod and taking them beyond the blogosphere and cyberspace and placing them directly into the life and consciousness of the entire synod.

No comprehensive reform or restoration of orthodoxy can happen in confined spaces. It must take place in view of all for the sake of all. No meaningful reform and restoration can happen apart from the very Church itself … the pastors and people –  congregations – together! Brethren … being brethren – Lutheran Church Missouri Synod congregations being the Church together – teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom … that the Word of Christ may dwell among us richly.

The Synod is pastors and congregations. That is what makes up Synod membership. We are Synod together in this way. And we as pastors and congregations – that which is the Church in every locale – possess by divine right the right to judge doctrine – and to be our brother’s keeper – to TEACH and ADMONISH – in good-willed manner. Even in voluntary association in a Synod Confession do we continue to hold that right together. The Fourth President of the LCMS, Francis Pieper, wrote in his 1905 Synodical Address, under the title The Difficult Path of Holding Forth for the Truth, the following:

We tolerate within the Synod no doctrine or practice that contradicts Scripture. The congregations that form the Synod supervise each other so that God’s Word rules in doctrine and life. Where departure occurs, we hold it as our duty, through doctrine, admonition, and punishment, to bring the erring out of their error. Where the Word of God will not be heard, there is exclusion from the Synod … From the beginning to this very day, some few have separated from our fellowship. Yet all along the Synod has enjoyed great unity. Those of us who are ourselves members of the Synod know the basis and cause of this unity. Our hearts and consciences are captive and held together by the Word of God. [At Home in the House of My Fathers, by Matthew C. Harrison, Lutheran Legacy, 2009, p.630]

Unfortunately, a growing acceptance of a counter-theology at work in our grandfather’s Church, coupled with bureaucratic restraints and pressures to keep the peace, have hindered any meaningful discussion or resolution to the growing doctrinal and practical divisions happening among us today.

Recent emphasis on Synod structure and bylaws in a growing struggle to control the Synod, is a clear sign of ever increasing division. All because we have not truly and with sincerity and concern as brethren – dealt with our issues honestly, openly, and theologically. We are a wavering Synod becoming ever more entangled in its human bureaucracy … than enlightened by the Word of God.

When Jesus came He found Israel entangled in all kinds of bureaucracy – of humanly contrived laws and regulations that in essence overwrote and choked out the truth of Scripture. The Scribes and the Pharisees made void the Word of God, says Jesus, by “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:6-9) … teaching and practicing error. False Doctrine.

As a result, Jesus said, they worshiped God in vain. Their hearts were far from Him. They were far from Him because they were far from His Word … “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Israel was no longer its grandfather Abraham’s Church. They did not recognize the Son of God when He came, because they no longer knew the God of their fathers. Jesus said of them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God … Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word” (John 8:42-43).

There was an ongoing struggle in the Church … Jesus and the Sanhedrin [the Church Council] … The Word of God and the teachings of men … the Gospel Word and Sacraments and Church Growth Methodology … there is nothing new under the sun. The outcome? … rejection of the Christ and the Gospel He taught. So they killed Him … their brother.

It is written, “We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:12).

“And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:21)

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16).

False doctrine kills. It killed Christ – though they knew not what they were doing. And it works to kill the one who believes it – though they know not what they are doing – by taking Christ and His Gospel away. All matters of doctrine are matters of Christ. May we never depart from Him, no, not even on one point. God help us!

“Doctrine is life.” That is the title to a collection of distinguished writings of the sainted Robert Preus. We are blessed to have his son as one of our presenters at this conference – to speak on this very thing – PURE DOCTRINE. And to this should also be added concerning “pure doctrine” … that it is also our unity. This point Walther clearly makes when he notes the following:

When we had our convention in New York two years ago, a renowned man from the synods of the General Council was present and observed how we studied doctrine. That led him to write in the Lutheran Missionary:

“Now I understand why the Missourians are so unified. The reason is that they always spend a great deal of time in the thorough study of doctrine. They don’t merely discuss it thoroughly, but they always get down to the basic principles and prove everything on the basis of Scripture. That is the secret of the Missourians. With that kind of approach, they cannot help being unified.” So wrote that church official. [“Duties of an Evangelical Lutheran Synod” in At Home in the House of My Fathers, by Matthew C. Harrison, Lutheran Legacy, 2009, p.299]

Just previous to this Walther wrote:

Here in America, we also use the arrangement of a synod [or council] to carry on the business of the Church; God forbid that we ever get to the point where we merely put on a big show and then have a convention in which we discuss all sorts of peripheral piffle about ceremonies, rules, and insignificant trifles [armselige Lappalien]. Instead of that, may we always concentrate on the study of doctrine. [“Duties of an Evangelical Lutheran Synod” in At Home in the House of My Fathers, by Matthew C. Harrison, Lutheran Legacy, 2009, p.299]

Some today contend that this emphasis on DOCTRINE hinders missions and the numerical growth of the Church. It didn’t in Walther’s day. In fact it was the very opposite. He accounted in 1870, 23 years after the forming of the Synod, the following: “What would have happened to the Lutheran Church in America without the orthodox Lutheran Synods? If 25 or 30 years ago a few Lutherans had sat in a corner with their faith there would hardly be an orthodox Lutheran Church in our land today.  But there are now thousands of Lutherans here who have come to life in Christ, who circulate confessionally faithful church publications, and who have founded Lutheran Church institutions for education and charity which are now in full bloom.  Our gracious God had accomplished all these through the faithful witness to and confession of the truth from the mouths of orthodox Lutheran Christians.  And if this is already the fruit in so small an ecclesiastical circle such as ours, how richer could it be in the greater church at large.” [Theses on Communion Fellowship with Those Who Believe Differently, 1870, Theses VIII pp. 33-34]

This is not to necessarily say that, “if the LCMS is faithful, numerical growth will follow.” That is not what is intended. It simply answers the false proposition by some in our Synod that pure doctrine and practice, including the idea that Word and Sacrament alone are not enough, hinders numerical growth. Walther shows otherwise.

Brethren, the only hope for true unity and true growth in the Church is to restore that by which only unity and the Church can grow – the pure Gospel and Truth.  It is true that the Church does grow where God’s Word and Sacraments are, for these are the very and only means by which He makes Christians and holds them together in unity of faith. In this sense the true Church will grow in accord with the purposes and will of God … not man.

For too long FOCUS on the divisions among us have plunged into the political trenches of “us” verses “them.” To be sure there are “sides” and “positions.” But first and foremost the FOCUS is not about “WHO is right” – pitting brother against brother – but “WHAT is right” – placing Christ and His Word back at the center of our life and ministry together.

It would be good then, brethren, to proclaim, exhort and hold this center again together – to kindle again that fire of love for doctrine in the churches of the LCMS. Christians are by regenerated nature theological people, doctrinal people, because they are Christ people. Disciples. To truly love Jesus is to truly love doctrine. Can’t separate them. Doctrine is Truth. Jesus is Truth. And where this center is held – God’s people are there – the Church.

We are the men of our age (male and female we are) … the Christians of our time … the children’s children of our great grandfather’s … Walther, Luther, Paul, Peter, James and John, … Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham who believed God, and is father of us all who share his faith (Romans 4:16), to be the grandfathers of our time and to the generations to come, to hold fast, guard, and pass along to our children’s children, untainted, unleavened, the DOCTRINE of Christ and all that flows out of it into the life of the Church in faith, worship, and ministry – together.

It is Time. It is always time to confess as Scripture teaches … “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2), for “now is the day of salvation” Not yesterday or tomorrow. But now – TODAY. God is Lord of His Church and He rules it through Christ and His Word. He is not bound by political maneuvering, nor helped or limited in any way by favorable or unfavorable election results. His will is always done – and this in accord with His Word. “Today” has always been the day to confess and stand and contend for the truth of Christ … together as brethren!

How blessed we are TODAY to see the quality of the Synod gathered here. People who care for our fellowship … for Christ – His Church and His Doctrine. How blessed we are TODAY to have a Synod President who is theological and concerned for the harmful divisions hurting the Lord’s people and hindering our ministry and mission together. How blessed we are TODAY for the renewed hope of unity and healing in President Harrison’s three-fold emphasis – Witness, Mercy, and Life Together – born out of the very DOCTRINE of the Church.

And finally, how blessed we are TODAY to have some of the synod’s top theologians to talk DOCTRINE with us – to be edified through the theological gifts and insights the Lord has graciously blessed these brothers with for the glory of His Church.

As we move ahead to the speakers, and engage in the very life and stuff of the Church, her blessed doctrine and Gospel and the promises and power held therein to save and unify, may we remember these words of the Psalmist, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when BROTHERS dwell in UNITY” (Ps. 133:1)

May it be so again!

LSB Hymn 766 (sts. 1-3, 6, 9)

Soli Deo Gloria

Introduction to Speakers

Since this is a Free Conference, it is to be noted that these papers and presentations are independent of the ACELC’s official activities and will remain the independent work and position of the presenter. Their presentations are not meant to be an “official endorsement” of the ACELC – but simply convey a mutual and fraternal care and concern about the topic matters and the need to address these matters in the Synod. We appreciate the opportunity to provide to the Synod the thoughts and insights of some of today’s most learned and capable theologians on the issues of our day.

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

ACELC Conference — Introduction to the Conference, by Rev. Jim Gier — 66 Comments

  1. @Eric Ramer #46

    Eric – the “I hear” was a reference to listening what confessional Lutherans have to say, distinct from listening to what God has to say to me in Scripture and the Lutheran confessions.

  2. One additional thought: My first post in this thread was in response to the notion that we are our brother’s keeper. And, correspondingly, the notion that calling our brother to task for his errant ways is an act of love. I do not disagree with that logic. It is what we confess to be true in our understanding of the Office of Keys and Confession.

    Fundamental to our understanding of the Office of Keys is that a brother who lives in unrepentant sin is also living in unbelief, i.e. no longer a member of the Body of Christ. It is inappropriate to use the theology implicit in the Office of Keys to draw distinctions among believing Christians. If confessional Lutherans are intentionally trying to communicate a message other than one that implies that those who do not agree with their assessment of “error” are not Christian, perhaps confessional Lutherans ought to rethink 1) the message they are trying to communicate and 2) the method used such that the message spoken is the same as the message heard.

  3. @John #51
    My point is that you appear to be reading your own “take” into the ACELC documents, i.e., “what does this mean to ME?” as opposed to “what does this MEAN?” Granted, their documents aren’t scritpure, but I thinj we’re obliged, in brotherly (fraternal) discourse to apply the latter as a matter of best construction. Rather than I hear…, I read… is much more appropriate. I’m just sayin…

    Eric Ramer

  4. @John #52
    John:

    How can I know your mind when I speak to you? How am I supposed to know what internal filters you will use to interprt what I say? I cannot, nor can the ACELC or anyone else. Therefor, all we can do is to state our thoughs as openlt, honestly and planely as possible in proper language, and trust that the hearer will accept that message as it is STATED, no more and no less. Therefore we must try to craft our communication carefully to avoid mis-interpretation (some of us aren’t as well trained as others where this is concerned) and trust the hearer knows he OBLIGATED to apply the “best construction.” The “post-modern” nonsense that the hearer has the right to apply his own interpretation outside of the speaker’s stated meaning is, just that, nonsense and is unworthy of those who choose to engage in open and honest discussion. The ACELC’s message is 1. Clearly and consisely stated and 2. Fraternally stated, directly and lovingly, in plain English.

    That’s the best any brother can do for another.
    Eric Ramer

  5. Eric – the reference to “errors” rather than a reference to “matters about which Lutherans honestly disagree” would have set a very different tone to the introduction to the conference.

    Each of us is guilty of sin. Our sins divide us. But, Christ has accepted each of us, warts and all, and called us His children. So, do we define ourselves and define our walk together on the basis that each of us has, in Baptism, been claimed by God? Or, do we insist on defining ourselves on the basis of our divisions and say that we cannot walk together until all of us agree and, not just agree, but agree to “pure doctrine” as defined by ACELC?

    To be very clear, I have been informed by one of the pastors(??) who signed the acelc document that he will not walk with me because of our differences. Moreover, he has accused me of breaking my confirmation vows. It apparently doesn’t matter to him that my confession is the same today as it was on the day that I took those vows. It does not matter to him that I am faithful in worship, faithful in supporting the work of my congregation and active in the work of my congregation. The issue that is critical to him is the list of “errors” and the fact that I disagree with him. And, one of his parishioners, who happens to be my brother, refuses to recognize me as a brother in Christ for the same reason.

  6. @John #55

    I have no idea what your confirmation vows are, in part becuase I do not find you always so clear. And it’s nice you clami to be consistant in your vows, but what if they are aquite right, or maybe wrong?

    And so what if you are faithful in worship, support the congregation and are active in it? Those are works, and while important, how many (many, many, many) times do you pound away at justification, above all else and almost exclusively?

    i don’t know about this pastor you speak of. Maybe he is Law heavy and legalistic, based on what you typed in your post. But I do feel empatheitc to him in walking a different path from you. I know I have doubts about walking a same path as you in reading your numerous posts.

    Some of us hear I am guessing are trying to discuss certain differences because they are differences. We do not desire to sweep them under the rug and ignore them.

  7. @John #55
    From your posts in this and other threads, it appears you support this proposition: The only doctrine we can hold purely is the doctrine of justification.

    If not, please say so plainly, and include what other doctrines we can hold purely.

    If so, here is the start of a reply.

    1. We can be certain of all the articles of faith expressed in the Creeds.

    Indeed, this is necessary not only for the doctrine of justification to remain what it is. It is necessary for the doctrine of justification to remain at all. Take away the Trinity or the Incarnation, for just two examples, and it will not be hard to show that there is no justification. Without the Trinity or the Incarnation, not only is justification altered; it is abolished.

    2. While, as you say, “The doctrine of justification by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ is the key to correct understanding of the symbols and Scripture,” yet under the proposition, it is no key.

    It is no key because we can never hold purely any doctrine but the key one. It never unlocks anything, so it is not a key. By this ostensible allegiance to the analogy of faith, the analogy is dissolved.

    3. If the proposition were true, the Lutherans would not have gone to Augsburg, and they would not have submitted the Augsburg Confession or the Apology.

    They would have merely sent a letter saying, “The only doctrine we can hold purely is the doctrine of justification by grace and faith, which the Roman Church has either abandoned or obscured.” More than this they could not have said, according to the proposition.

    4. If the propositon were true, the Lutherans in the generation after Luther’s death would not have tried to maintain unity through the Forumula of Concord.

    They would not have bothered with working out together the doctrine on the freedom or bondage of the will, the third use of the law, and so on, because none of those doctrines could be held purely.

    5. If the proposition were true, the Lutherans never would have opposed Anabaptism.

    Where in the proposition is there anything about the sacramental efficacy of baptism, or that the proper subjects of baptism include infants, or that there is anything wrong with rebaptizing, etc.?

    This is the mere beginning of a reply to the Only-One-Pure-Doctrine proposition. This is enough, however, to get a glimpse of the field of Agnosticism it leaves.

  8. @Jason #56

    Jason – I presume that my confirmation vows are the same as yours. In Confirmation, we affirm our Baptismal vow. I confessed that Scripture is the Word of God; I confessed that the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church is true; I confessed my desire to be a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church; and, I confessed my intent to be faithful in the use of Word and Sacrament.

    You are correct. Faithfulness, as I described it are works. Only God can really know my faith. But, note that the standards insisted on by ACELC also are works. We are one in the Body of Christ because Christ, Himself, declares it to be so. Not because we hold to the same work ethic.

    Indeed I pound away on the doctrine of justification. That is the core teaching of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. And, if we agree on that belief, how significant, really, are the things that divide us?

    You suggest that you might not wish to walk the same path with me. Please clarify. Are you suggesting that I am not Christian?

  9. @T. R. Halvorson #57

    T.R. – the doctrine of justification informs my belief regarding Law and Gospel; by belief in the Creeds of the Evangelical Lutheran Church; my belief regarding the commandments; my belief regarding the Lord’s Prayers; my belief regarding Baptism; my belief regarding the Sacrament of the Altar; and my belief regarding confession, absolution and the proper use of the Office of the Keys. If I let go of the doctrine of justification, I let go of everything else. If I let go of my belief in any of the chief parts of the catechism, I let go of the doctrine of justification. It is a “package”. Justification is the key to correct understanding – justification is the twine that holds it all together.

    Since the Formula of Concord, Lutherans have indeed argued about who are the “gnesio-Lutherans”. These have been arguments about the teachings of men. Granted, they are teachings about what men profess to believe about Scripture and about the Symbols. But, no matter how well written, such teachings cannot rise to the level of pure doctrine. And, it is such teachings to which I dismiss when I suggest that justification is the only doctrine we can hold purely.

    As I look at the history of Lutheranism, I see a good example of the proposition that the answers one discovers is very much influenced by the questions that one chooses to ask. And, in my opinion, too often Lutherans have asked the wrong question.

    Jesus has called each of us by name and claimed each of us as His own. We are one in the Body of Christ because each of us belongs to Him. Too often, Lutherans focus too much on those things that make us different – most of which is trivial in comparison with that which makes us one.

  10. @John #59
    You say, again, that ” the doctrine of justification informs my belief regarding” this, that, and the other.

    Got that. Got it the first time. Got it the dozenth time.

    “Informs” does not answer the question. It sidesteps the question.

    Are there any doctrines besides justification that we can hold purely.

  11. @John #58

    I am questioning what kind of Lutheran you are. All your posts for all these months I find would fit great with the ELCA. In the LCMS, not necessarily by certain statements or documents we have produced. (there is also the question of our disunity and adherence to offical policies) What I know of WELS fellowship doctrines, you would not fit in at all with them.

    As to your Confessions Reductionism, you will claim justification rule over eveything else, as sound as though everything else doesn’t really matter. I think you give short shrift to the Office of the Keys for admonishment, since you argue with some of us about any kind correction of our brothers. After justification, God’s calls us to do His good works He set before us, and while love is a great part of it, they are still incorporated with the Ten Commandments. Here God tells us what the good things are. And here is part of where ELCA has gone deaf.

    I could go on, bu tthe point is you seem to admire let alone follow or understand ALL of what Scripture says, the Confessions, or even follow the Small Catechism, which you have just claimed you follow. And it is really funny because you have said at times that none of us really know what the will of God is. First, I doubt He wants to keep us that ignorant, and second, if you truly believed and followed that, then how can you say that others of us haven’t figured out what God wants? How would you know? Against what would you base your reasoning?

  12. @Jason #61
    Jason, I’ve come to the conclusion that John is just here to see his name in print, which he accomplishes by being obtuse enough so that one person or another will respond to him. I’ve decided it won’t be me, however tempting the bait.

    God bless!

    I gave up LQ “for Lent” and haven’t missed it. I’m beginning to wonder about BJS.

  13. @helen #62

    Sometimes I have not responded to popelpe who get verbose. I guess I am indulging myself a bit here. Hopefully I can get something out of it, like learning how to debate. I know I am not the best at it.

    And I have to be honest, I have at times read other blogs sites. ALPB is too wide open to foster any kind of resolutions. BJS is the only one I participate in because of the charter stating its effort to discuss and learn, and try to shoot for goals. And I do learn alot, you being one of the posters I enjoy reading.

    Thanks. 🙂

  14. I am sorry to have made being here odious, and for being verbose. My thinking, for what it’s worth, was along the following lines that I had hoped made the odium worth it.

    This exchange with John (I can’t call it a dialogue, because John does not answer, he only reiterates) is worth more than it might seem. (John, I apologize for writing about you as if you were not present, which is rude, I know; but it might be necessary. You are, of course, invited to reply.)

    It is worth more for two reasons: John’s worth; and the doctrinal worth. The doctrinal part might not be merely tactical. It could be strategic as well as both historical and eschatological.

    John’s Worth

    Taking what John has said at face value, which I am doing because I have not “known” him as long as others here have, he has written from offense and pain. It is said, “Love has its own reasons.” I say, “Pain does not know its own reasons.” This trait of pain is the cause of his being obtuse. While I am not generally tolerant of the obtuse, I am generally sympathetic to pain. John doesn’t give reasons because, sincerely, his pain does not know its reasons. This is a trait generally of pain, not just particularly of John.

    John’s error is projecting personal pain onto the text of Scripture, filtering the text through his pain, and then projecting the resultant pain-centric doctrine onto everyone else as if it were universally true for us all. It’s quite an imposition, but pain feels the imposition is justified, pun intended.

    Never mind John’s counter-offensive of Justification Only, by which pain surreptitiously avenges offenses committed against it, John still is worth what every human is worth.

    Doctrinal Worth

    This exchange highlights a doctrinal problem of strategic proportions.

    Ever since the death of Pieper, there has been a long and now-classic conflict within American Lutheranism over “universal objective justification.” Of course, this conflict already existed and had made a wreck of Europe, and it already existed in America, but Walther and Pieper were able to more or less hold things together during their lives. On Pieper’s death, America’s decline into Europe’s condition accelerated, and now it is outrunning us.

    This conflict could be the soil, water, and root of all the other conflicts that rage today including: worship; equality of pastors; call of pastors by congregations; church growth; corporatism versus churchliness; ordination of women as pastors; affirming homosexual practice as holiness; and on and on. We must fight the good fight on all of those things, but the fight on those fronts is tactical, not strategic.

    If the foregoing proposition is true, then if we get the issue of universal objective justification wrong, we will inevitably reunite with everyone including: the Roman church; the Reformed church; the Weslyan/Arminian church; the Emergent church; Therapeutic Moralism; Nordic Stoicism; and all other theologies of glory. (There needs to be a caveat regarding the Reformed church, because they are going through struggles amongst themselves that parallel the struggles amongst Lutherans.) In other words, we will become part of Babylon the Great.

    Remember that Jesus said a delusion would be sent that is so strong that, if it were possible, it would deceive even the elect. What traits would a doctrine need to have to harness such delusive powers?

    It must proclaim the single doctrine on which the Church stands or falls, and cause the Church to fall, namely, justification. It must focus on it so exclusively as to make the doctrine of justification false. As described by the study of logic, the form of the proclamation must be the “single premise syllogism.” There is no valid single premise syllogism. As described by the study of propaganda, the form of the proclamation must be the “glittering generality.” The single premise is so attractive, so glittering that it dazzles the eye into not noticing the lack of any second premise. The singleness makes it simple enough to be readily digested by hearers. Hearers no longer need to “take heed how ye listen.” They don’t need to extend their attention to any second premise, let alone to the relation between premises.

    When an error of universal objective justification takes hold, justification becomes the only doctrine that matters. This does not happen all at once. It takes time, but it comes to that. Then, in turn, things start happening to worship, the office of public ministry, etc., because those things hardly matter. Under Justification Only, the dimensions of adiaphora gradually become total.

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