Great Stuff — The Rebellious Pastor’s Wife on The Eighth Commandment and Theological Discussion

Thanks to a loyal BJS reader who pointed out this post on The Rebellious Pastor’s Wife — Lora is a homeschooling mom and pastor’s wife. You can read her thoughts on those topics as well as on theology, books, gardening, food, baseball and more at



In my 19 years since I returned to Lutheranism, and this time to Confessional Lutheranism, I have pretty much been constantly surrounded by pastors, theology students, and other very devoted laymen. I’ve been in live discussion groups (as in, actually WITH real people), on email lists, in the blogosphere, and on Facebook. And one question has plagued me the whole dang time:

How come the Eighth Commandment doesn’t apply to theological discussion?

I’ll break this down into other questions to clarify —

Why is it okay to basically assume that a person is not “solid” until they have proven otherwise?

Since when is it considered perfectly acceptable by some to openly mock someone, just because we don’t agree with their doctrine or practice?

Who actually believes that someone will be open to change in their doctrine or practice when they are being ridiculed for what they are doing now? Why should they take guidance from you when you are treating with disdain something that matters very much to them (right nor not)?

If someone shares a quote or an idea over lunch or by email because they think it is interesting or sweet, is it good manners to pick apart the phrasing to show how theologically inadequate the statement is? In the end, even without the best confessionally-correct choice of words, you probably knew what was intended, and so does everyone else; so why cause frustration?

When did orthodoxy stop becoming a journey that we sinners are all traveling toward? When did it become a competition?

When you point out your brother-in-Christ’s flaws, Are you really trying to correct him out of love for him? Is it his well-being that you are seeking, or are you seeking to make a good theological point? Are you really the best person to address the issue, or do you think there is a better way to bring about repentance and reform? Are you willing to respectfully walk him through the issue that has drawn your attention, or do you just want to point out the fault and move on?

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are certain issues that should be corrected, but there are plenty of statements made by your average Joe that can go either way; and while they may not be phrased quite right, they still don’t do any harm. In these situations, it is just more civil to assume that it is meant in the best possible way. After all, most of us don’t expect to face the Spanish Inquisition over an “interesting” link on Facebook (NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition).

We also need to be careful because in these discussions, we might completely miss what our brother is saying when our own “issues” get triggered. Sometimes the person is just sharing their love for Jesus and actually didn’t intend to bring up the issue of sovereignty or Arminianism at all (as examples).

We are called by Christ to love each other. Jesus bore with a whole lot from His disciples, and only corrected things that were terribly crucial. Really, He ignored a lot of the nonsense, and when He did find need to correct, He generally did so with gentleness. The “Get Behind Me Satan” response is not appropriate just because someone shares an inspirational quote that gets in your craw. Jesus reserved this treatment for Peter’s denying the need for the cross.

This is not talking about true theological error. However, before we open our mouths, we should ask ourselves whether or not we are truly being loving, especially in a public forum. We should ask ourselves if this is worth hurting someone’s feelings or causing a lot of exasperation. Important theological issues are definitely worth it, because the person’s well-being is at stake. But again, it might be better to address the topic privately or even go to the person’s pastor for assistance if it is really concerning. If you find yourself getting actual pleasure from it, you probably should walk away, hang up the phone, or turn off your computer.

In the end, when we are discussing the very topic that is most dear to our humanity — our relationship with our Creator (through Christ), it is important to remember that Christ died for the person that we are arguing with, and it is a pretty safe assumption that in our quest for theological purity, our Lord doesn’t want us to forget that.

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,, 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


Great Stuff — The Rebellious Pastor’s Wife on The Eighth Commandment and Theological Discussion — 34 Comments

  1. Taking this approach is the first step but often it does not help or work. With laymen we can cut a little slack but with Pastors and “doctors” of the church we cannot. Rampant throughout our Synod theological err and doctrinal falsehoods are in serious need of correction. We can be kind and loving while still saying NO NO NO to these professionals, even if we remove them from our roster. I truly believe that most of the heat being generated today is not aimed at laymen (most are sadly clueless) but at these errant professionals who have in writing and verbally, blatantly espoused their positions. If you have ever confronted one of these folks you would soon discover REAL venom. In fact I have experienced the most obnoxious behavior from some of these Pastors when they are confronted with our Confessions versus their error. The kind of smart mouthing and arrogance not experienced in the secular world.

    As you say it is vital to begin the process with gentleness and love but sadly our Synod seems to have lost its ability to STAND firmly.

  2. Mames,

    Actually, more of my attention isn’t on those who are really committing true theological error like heresy, blasphemy, or other forms of false teaching. I’m talking about the online discussions on forums, the conversations in the seminary lunch rooms, Facebook, the email lists, etc.

    At times, when someone is in REAL error, a strong approach needs to be taken, but too often, when people talk to each other regarding issues that are not vital, they are rude, brutal, proud, and nitpicky, and this is how we are treating fellow confessional Lutheran brethren in conversational venues that are public and not places where true clarification and discipline should be sought.

  3. It occurs to me that where it *has* become a competition is in the minds of those who consider orthodoxy as a destination rather than The Way.

    IOW, where Christ and Him crucified is insufficient pastoral currency–or perhaps better put, where Christ is treated as currency rather than the incarnate One in whom His baptized live, and move, and have their being–pastoral practice becomes a competition for souls and a pure numbers game where the end justifies the means. Witness Missouri.

  4. What does solid mean? I’ve had an LCMS former Senior Pastor who has been ordained for over fifty years call me “solid” to my own pastor. On the other hand, I’ve had a CPH Publisher call me always snarky, rude and wanting to start a fight. What does this all mean?

  5. “In the end, when we are discussing the very topic that is most dear to our humanity — our relationship with our Creator (through Christ), it is important to remember that Christ died for the person that we are arguing with, and it is a pretty safe assumption that in our quest for theological purity, our Lord doesn’t want us to forget that.”

    Thank you for this reminder. I have to confess my own fault when I read this good article. Especially with regard to internet comment boards. It is easy to become a “keyboard warrior” and go too far with remarks. God help us to not shrink back from speaking the truth out of fear of hurting someone’s feelings, but at the same time help us to have wisdom to speak the truth in such a way that is manifestly out of genuine concern for the person our remarks are directed at.

  6. @Rev. Kurt Hering #3 I don’t think this point should be glossed over too quickly. If orthodoxy is a destination because Christ and Him crucified is “insufficient pastoral currency”, then self-sufficiency becomes the means travelled and counting coup the game to pass the time. Further, orthodoxy cannot be the destination arrived at all; but, rather heterodoxy. Moreover, if orthodoxy is considered a destination to which we arrive and not The Way upon which we travel, of what use is the Confession of Faith to the church to which all are to subscribe and upon which fellowship is based? One may as well argue that for the sake of kindness we must leave room for all travelers, no matter what they teach, practice, and confess alongside all the rest. Just don’t worry about that, though. Only worry about the “pests” who break the peace by pointing out the errors of those who haven’t arrived at orthodoxy yet. Never mind the fact that if orthodoxy isn’t The Way, it’ll never be the destination, either. That being the case, Second Table sins will always be of greater concern to Missourians than First Table sins. That is, playing nice is of greater importance than correcting genuine theological error.

  7. I have observed that when in the mist of an on going theological debate that people are often times quick to take a bad response from the other side as a rejection of rebuke and of Scripture and thus validation that the argument was just and holy. But far too often I have observed it was not what was being argued, but how it was argued. Some almost seem to be needlessly inflammatory just so they can be validated when they are rejected.

    We need to be careful that what the “other side” is reacting to is God’s Word and not our own rhetoric or personality. If they reject God’s Word because of God’s Word, they sin against God. But if they reject God’s Word because of our careless rhetoric or haughty personality we sin against God (as we tried to overshadow God’s Word) and our brother (as we led them into temptation).

    By all means, we should offend and offend boldly. But let it be God’s Word that offends!

    I know I am guilty of this far too often. It is something I am continuously struggling against.

  8. Great article Lora! I’ve wondered many times about what she says here, specifically how one can be “confessional” and yet not apply the confessions themselves to this very issue!

    Is this not an opportunity for each of us to revisit the notion of coming to the defense of our neighbor, speaking well of them, and interpreting everything they do in the best possible light? What would our church body look like if we did this for EVERY issue and EVERY person regardless of where they fall along the spectrum.

    For people who call everything “Concordia,” much to learn we still have. Me first.

    Large Catechism on the Eighth Commandment:

    Thus in our relations with one another all of us should veil whatever is dishonorable and weak in our neighbors, and do whatever we can to serve, assist, and promote their good name. On the other hand, we should prevent everything that may contribute to their disgrace.

    It is a particularly fine, noble virtue to put the best construction on all we may hear about our neighbors (as long as it is not an evil that is publicly known), and to defend them against the poisonous tongues of those who are busily trying to pry out and pounce on something to criticize in their neighbor, misconstruing and twisting things in the worst way.

  9. @Timothy C. Schenks #4

    After seeing various posts here and at other sites, I would definitely go with the senior pastor. While the publisher does offer up many good things at times, others times I read and say “what the…?!?” I have greatly appreciated many of your posts.

  10. Great article. I am so guilty of this. I remember I would have theological discussions with my girlfriend. She would say something that smacked of Arminianism and I would always correct her. I told her I knew what she meant, though, to which of course she responded “why did you need to correct me, then?” She had a point, just like this article. I think from our pastors we do need to require a certain precision (certainly in the pulpit, at least, maybe less so on, say, a twitter feed). When it comes to Joe Churchgoer, maybe we should take a step back before we start our heresy hunt. There’s a reason my girlfriend and I don’t discuss theology much anymore; I wish I had read this article before. Confessing theology to prove one’s confessional superiority is no more a confession than the Pharisee who thanks God for not being like that tax collector. So many times we get into the habit of “Thank you, God, for making me a real Lutheran, not like those pietistic liberals over there,” when what we really need is “Thank you, God, for having mercy upon me in Christ Jesus,” and then defending the truth of God’s mercy.

  11. @Nathan92 #10

    There is no doubt that pastors are held to a different standard than the “rank and file” when it comes to proclamation and explanation (and a host of other things), but I would submit to you and us all that they are NOT some sort of exempt group when it comes to us keeping the eighth commandment regarding them.

    Try this out: We should defend of [pastors that we don’t agree with], speak well of them, and interpreting everything they do in the best possible light.

    When pastors seem to err, there is a process by which the Scriptures and the Confessions clearly provide for addressing this. Ignoring the Eighth Commandment is not part of that process and in reality only serves the purposes of the devil.

  12. @Mark Hunsaker #11 Agreed, but when it comes time to act as Matt 18 proscribes we laymen and many of our Synodical leaders fail miserably and allow the Pastor to stay around. And the LCMS has lots of them; failure to exclude them at some point is a failure to love. I have seen excommunication work. It can be painful but after all it is not our process, it is our Lord’s. Many of the off hand comments made by our “doctors” can be a window into their real belief system and confronting them in a positive manner often does not work. General conversation on theological matters should be uplifting and stimulating and free of personal attacks. I have had many with our reformed and Roman brothers and sisters in the faith or in the4 last few years Islamist but when I see a LCMS Pastor turning into a Rick Warren or a liberal using “love and inclusion” as a shield I get livid.

  13. @mames #12

    Try this out mames: We should defend [pastors turning into Rick Warren or a liberal using “love and inclusion” as a shield], speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.

    And then, as you rightly point out, speak with them privately as Jesus commands us in Matthew 18 if we feel that they are sinning against us and/or the church. And, the great challenge is to remember that the teaching Matthew 18 does not stop in verse 20, but goes all the way to verse 35.

  14. From the Luther’s Large Catechism:

    284] All this has been said regarding secret sins. But where the sin is quite public so that the judge and everybody know it, you can without any sin avoid him and let him go, because he has brought himself into disgrace, and you may also publicly testify concerning him. For when a matter is public in the light of day, there can be no slandering or false judging or testifying; as, when we now reprove the Pope with his doctrine, which is publicly set forth in books and proclaimed in all the world. For where the sin is public, the reproof also must be public, that every one may learn to guard against it.

    The distinction between secret and public sin is that one is secret to others (except through gossip) while the latter is quite public to others. IOW, Mt. 18 is not required for public sins. However in joining the LCMS, synodical members have agreed to also follow (until changed) synodical bylaws, which do state (Bylaw

    Matthew 18 does not apply directly in cases of public sin, but face-to-face meetings are required nonetheless, even in the case of public sin, toward the goal of reconciliation and winning the brother or sister.”

  15. @Carl Vehse #14


    Who is to be the one determining if the sin is public or private? Who is “the judge?”

    Do we not have an ecclesiastical process determining this? And, more importantly, how should we treat our neighbors until that is determined?

    Paragraph 284 is not a free-for-all kind of exemption for applying (or failing to apply) the eighth commandment to people (be they clergy or otherwise) you do not agree with. It is about how to deal with public evil. Luther follows paragraph 284 with this:

    Now we have the summary and substance of this commandment: No one shall use the tongue to harm a neighbor, whether friend or foe. No one shall say anything evil of a neighbor, whether true or false, unless it is done with proper authority or for that person’s improvement.

    Now, we may disagree with the people who run the process or with the process itself. But that still doesn’t annihilate the eighth commandment! Indeed, if anything, the process and the people who run the process now invoke the fourth commandment too…eh?

  16. I still read and poke around; I traced from this:

    to this:

    eat this for your lunch.

    Just Damn!

    “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

    “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

    “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

  17. @Mark Hunsaker #15 : “Who is to be the one determining if the sin is public or private? Who is “the judge?”

    As I previously stated, the distinction between secret and public sin is that one is secret to others, while the latter is public to others. For example, if the sin is only known to you through gossip, then it is secret. When you ask someone for the source or evidence of their accusations against someone and they cannot (or won’t) provide it, or else they say someone else told them they heard it from a reliable source, you can pretty much conclude it’s secret. If you smell the roast burning, it’s probably secret.

    If the sin is contained in public statements televised worldwide and published in newspapers, or can be seen in videos at news sites and on YouTube, or is in the person’s published book or journal articles, or posted on the person’s public blog or internet site, and available for purchase, distribution, or access by the public, then it’s probably public.

    Of course, people who are members of the Missouri Synod may additionally have to check with their ecclesiastical supervisor or the CTCR, or the CCM or the COP or the Koinonia Project to obtain an official view of what is secret and what is public.

  18. @Carl Vehse #17

    So Carl, let’s cut to the chase. Are you saying that if you see a person do or say something publicly that you don’t like, then you can ignore the eighth commandment?

  19. I am a non-denominational ordained community chaplain and I am a ‘freshman’ at Concordia University. In recent years I have been surrounded by Lutheran doctrine, in books and in the real manifestation of lutheran adherents. There is a reason I haven’t ‘converted’ to the Lutheran doctrine, although there are a majority of the tenents I personally accept. Your post nailed it.

    We are the catholic (universal, I didn’t say Roman Catholic) church. Doctrinal differences are going to exists because of the wealth of personalities, experiences and culture that has made up the human clan for most of its history. We cannot sharpen each other if we abuse someone’s position on doctrine or theology…even when it is a false or misconstrude doctine/theology. Christ didn’t get mad at the honest people who had different opinions but spoke to them in love without changing or weakening His stance.

    Its called dialouge and one way to show our lives reflect Christ is to engage in doctrinal discussions without agenda to change someone else’s position but to understand them all and walk away in the light that the seed we planted we may not be able to see grow, but through the Holy Spirit, grow it will.

    That’s my opinion anyway.

  20. Thank you for the needed reminder. I think about how Jesus responded to each person based on his knowledge OF that person. (the rich young ruler, Pharisees, the Samaritan woman, etc.) Now, obviously, we don’t have knowledge equal to Christ’s, but we sure don’t spend enough time listening and learning about why a person asks the questions they do, or says some of they things they say.

    My husband is a Lutheran pastor as well, but didn’t start out as one. He was a pastor in the Assemblies of God when we got married 20 years ago. I guess because he’s “been there” and “done that”… he has great patience in teaching others where they are errant in their theology. He has a couple of questions he will ask before he ever offers answers… “Why do you believe that?” and “Why do you ask?” These simple questions give him information as to where this person is in their journey of faith, because his goal isn’t to be right. It is to educate, reform, and lead someone to the Word of God.

    I’ve learned a lot from him. I didn’t come from a Lutheran theology, but now that I have a firm grasp, I often find myself behaving much like an ex-smoker behaves around those who haven’t been able to quit smoking. It isn’t a pretty thing, and I am very thankful for the example my pastor/husband sets for me. He is the gentle voice of correction that my sister listens to because my “harping” gets on her nerves ;). I’m just glad she still listens to one of us!!!

    Yes, he is tougher on those who are Called. He assumes they have sufficient knowledge and teaching. They should be held to a strict and high level of scriptural purity. But even with them, he continues to correct… (and be corrected) in love and respect.

    Thank you for the post.

  21. An uncle of mine who was an LCMS pastor once observed:
    “You can win the battle and lose the person.”

    And I once heard a Presbyterian preacher say that the challenge is
    “to contend for the faith without being contentious”.

    2 Timothy 2:24-25: “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth […].”

    Colossians 4:5-6: “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

  22. @Mark Huntemann #16

    I promise in the future my comments will be more thought out and complete. I always look at the source of any article. In looking at “The Rebellious Pastor’s Wife” blog I noticed the

    “Blogs I Follow”

    under the

    “About Me”

    “The Rebellious Pastor’s Wife

    View my complete profile “

    “My Life in the Fish Bowl”

    The blog “My Life in the Fish Bowl” struck me as a situation that happens all to often. As a child at my LCMS church our pastor even committed suicide because of a situation similar to the above. This happened in the early 1960’s. My comments have brought these painful memories to the surface. I could not stop what happened in my Church; but do not let me know something like this is occurring in my Church today or I will be a force to be reckoned with!

    The above comment, was questioned in private. This one is a more complete response. As usual both are somewhat off topic, but I have always been somewhat off topic!

    Click on my name for more info if interested. In the future I will try to stay more on topic.


  23. @James Hutson #20

    So often we think that we can change a person’s doctrinal perspective by demolishing their arguments. Many times, however, we end up demolishing more than just their ideas.
    You’re right; it really should be a dialogue or at least a discussion.

  24. @James Hutson #20

    Excellent post to an excellent article. I’m in a similar situation. Many of the posts on this site as well as disagreements with like minded people elsewhere have brought me to the point that I wonder if I will ever actually join a Lutheran church. I often doubt it. The prospect of becoming a Lutheran used to excite me, now it feels more like the stomach flu. This is all because of disagreements with people who seem to be self-appointed authorities of all things Lutheran – even above and beyond the official systematic theology of the Lutheran church.

    Other denominations are like herding cats. Confessional Lutherans seem more like herding porcupines – the closer you get them the more you regret it!

  25. Joe and James,  the behavior of confessional Lutherans here is generally not that appealing even to  mere-Lutherans.  I think you will find a completely different, humble and welcoming attitude at your local Lutheran church and school.  I know I have.  This is the best thread of the year.  Lora, you rock!

  26. Someone I’m close to and who is not a Lutheran recently mentioned that, “Lutherans are hardcore”. This person could not define what they meant by “hardcore”. Is that good or bad, I wondered? Well, I later learned what this person meant by “hardcore” was “critical of others” or pointing out where others are wrong in what they believe or teach. I guess we can get snippy in pointing out error and probably at times and on issues that call for more tact and gentleness and loads of humility. I for one am guilty of this. Partly for my immaturity as a Christian, partly because of the church background I came out of, partly because of my zeal for the faith as confessed by the Lutheran church and wondering why all Christians aren’t Confessional Lutherans? and most definitely, because I’m a sinner/saint. I am working on a more, “shut-up & listen” approach when having conversations with those of whom I disagree. Not more compromise, more listening. Some people are ‘toughminded’ and can be delt with accordingly. Others take in information on a emotional level and care should be given. That’s why I’m trying to step back and listen to whom I’m conversing. From 1997-98 until 2008 I stayed away from the church, burned out and feeling God was disappointed at my dissmal attempts to follow Him with no desire to return. God had other plans apparently and did not run them by me first. In 2008 I became a member of the LCMS. Why? The Gospel is proclaimed! Something I was starving of before and had no idea! I needed a theology of the Cross. A theology that preached Christ from all of scripture, that reminded me of my Baptism, that absolved me of my sins and fed me the very Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of my sins! Did I really know all this going into the LCMS? No, not really, not all of it. But one thing I did know, I needed to be in a church that was ‘grounded’, if you will, in the Reformation, where Christ was preached. Of course the people were ‘nice’ and that was part of my reasoning at the time. But I stay because of the doctrine Lutheran’s believe, teach & confess. I have much to learn and to those gentlemen who were on the fringes of joining the LCMS but seem to have reconsidered because of the likes of Lutherans such as I, please forgive me and know that there are many, many wonderful Lutheran’s out there. By the grace of God, some day I’ll be one of them. We Lutheran’s are sinners too and I am convinced there is no better theology to comfort the troubled conscience. Peace.

  27. @John Rixe #26

    Thanks for the kind response – and it is good to know that other Lutherans disagree with much of the comments and/or methods on this site. The articles posted by the BJS staff are generally very good or at least thought provoking – which is why I return. There does seem to be a huge difference in many of the attitudes shown on this site as opposed to the ones displayed on Issues ETC. or by Dr. Rosenbladt on White Horse Inn. Those guys can disagree with me in a way that makes me want to hear more about why they disagree – I never have the urge to punch them in the mouth because then they might stop using it!

  28. “Other denominations are like herding cats. Confessional Lutherans seem more like herding porcupines – the closer you get them the more you regret it!

    Joe “

    II Chronicles 13:5:

    Ought you not to know that the LORD God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt?

    Matthew 5:13:

    Salt and Light
    13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

    Mark 9:50:

    49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

    Joe, As has been pointed out many times we all fall short!

    As a life long Lutheran, I would rather be among fighting struggling porcupines than docile cats.

    Yes the quills can hurt! But the pain can be a great learning experience! You can always say nothing and walk away! Find a large Lutheran Church and “Lay low” Dive in there! You know you want too!

    Porcupine Mark


  29. @Mark Huntemann #30

    …and also

    Galatians 5:14

    “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

    …and also

    John 13:34

    “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.   By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

  30. The end of all of this is at the end of the day only the Holy Spirit can lead the Servant’s life in all aspects.

    The true struggle is to bear our Savior’s Cross as we are lead with our hearts open to our triune God through the reconciliation of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.


    Yes John Rixe you are very correct!


  31. There should be discussions instead of debates on this front. I see no reason to pull out our virtual atom bombs over a discussion. Any discussion on secondary issuses should be approached with mediocrity in mind. The thought in the back of one’s mind should be ‘it is just a discussion’ not ‘if they pull out an atom bomb I will too’. All in all a very good insight on the subject.

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