CTCR responds to the ELCA “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust” Statement

In 2009 the ELCA adopted their statement “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust” which allowed for them to now ordain practicing homosexuals into the pastoral office as well as be militant voices in support of the homosexual agenda sweeping across the United States.

The 2010 Convention of the LCMS asked for the CTCR to respond to the statement (Resolution 3-01A found at the end of the CTCR document) and that response is now publicly available.   One of the things that this response shows is how the ELCA has consistently misused Luther and Lutheran theology to justify its own progressive agenda.  It is a good reminder to all of us to use our fathers as they intended to be used (remembering context in using the fathers).

Here are some notable quotes from the document:

Justification by grace through faith alone is essential for a Lutheran ethic, but it can never be used as a principle that negates ethical discernment. The doctrine is misused when it is taken as a justification for sin rather than the justification of the sinner. Lacking Luther’s clarity that God’s who walks before God in righteousness and holiness, HSGT diminishes the dynamic of Lutheran teaching, providing a way for a sexual ethic that is elastic and ultimately undefined. Faith in Christ becomes permission for the Christian to determine his or her course of action when it comes to a sexual ethic within the nebulous bounds of self-designated love for the neighbor. (pages 4-5 always good to remember what Justification is meant for)

Another one:

Here HSGT is suggesting that, perhaps, contemporary scientific research might alter traditional readings of Scripture on homosexuality. From the standpoint of theological ethics, however, it is irrelevant whether homosexuality is a result of a genetic order, environment, or personal choice, since Christians recognize that all of creation after the fall is subject to bondage, disorder, and death. (page 10 dealing with the enthusiasm of trying to use the new revelations of “science” to change the meaning of Scripture)

Another one:

 The definitions of sexuality given in HSGT are largely shaped by the vocabulary of contemporary social and psychological sciences with eclectic references to God. (page 10 again, I quote this one to remind us of a growing trend in LCMS circles to use the vocabulary of contemporary social and psychological sciences)

Another one:

The redefinition of marriage suggested by HSGT discounts the heart of Luther’s definition. More importantly, the document represents a radical departure from what God has instituted and it opens the way for the church to bless what God condemns. (page 16, firm language)

Another one related to the ELCA using “bound conscience” to excuse heresy:

In a crucial move HSGT does two things. First, it identifies the question of same-gendered relationships as falling into the arena of ethics and church practice, suggesting that this not an issue of doctrine which should divide the church. Second, HSGT argues that committed Christians engaged in moral deliberation and discernment may indeed arrive at conflicting conclusions. These varying conclusions could be protected by an appeal to “the bound conscience;”  (page 16 again, quoted again to show the tactic of liberals to demote things into the realm of ethics or practice when in fact doctrine is involved and also the relativism involved in coming to such “conclusions”)

Another one on the conscience:

HSGT, however, gives wide berth to the function of conscience, neglecting its limitations and unreliability.57 For Luther conscience is not bound to itself. Bound to itself, the conscience will either be captivated by the terror of the law’s accusations or driven by impulses toward self-justification. The conscience is alternately accusing or excusing (see Romans 2:15-16).58 This aspect of conscience is ignored in HSGT. (page 19)

One of the best statements made in the response:

In spite of many thoughtful and critical voices within the ELCA,64 HSGT became the theological foundation for a devastating departure from Holy Scriptures in regard to the blessing of same sex couples and the ordination of practicing homosexuals. In an essay written in 1936, Lutheran theologian Hermann Sasse observed that “Where man can no longer bear the truth, he cannot live without the lie.”65 Sasse then goes on to describe forms that the lie takes on: the pious lie, the edifying lie, the dogmatic lie, and finally the institutional lie. We must frankly conclude that each of these aspects of the lie finds its way into HSGT. Most pertinent for our response is the fact that what Sasse called the dogmatic lie—the notion that our age has greater understanding than our ancestors and so we have reached a “doctrinal maturity” that enables us to modify dogma— has now been made concrete in the ELCA by means of “the institutional lie” as that church body has officially adopted a heretical position on human sexuality. This is not merely a case of misapplied ethics but a dogmatic decision that is, in fact, schismatic. The evaluation of Wolfhart Pannenberg rings true: “If a church were to let itself be pushed to the point where it ceased to treat homosexual activity as a departure from the biblical norm, and recognized homosexual unions as a personal partnership of love equivalent to marriage, such a church would stand no longer on biblical ground but against the unequivocal witness of Scripture. A church that took this step would cease to be the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.”66 The ELCA has now taken this step, embodying apostasy from the faith once delivered to the saints.67  (page 21, emphasis added)

Another great statement:

In what is intended to be compassionate and pastoral, there is a deep cruelty in HSGT for it is incapable of finally speaking either law or Gospel. Failing to do this, tolerance and affirmation of freedom for choice within the bounds of a community of love and trust take the place of absolution. Our deepest disappointment with HSGT is not only that it is a revised ethic that only mimics our decadent culture but that it undercuts the church’s proper work of absolving sinners in the name of Jesus Christ. (page 22)

A final quote of encouragement to Confessional Lutherans:

It is imperative that confessional Lutheran church bodies continue to develop theologically responsible ways to provide authentic pastoral care to individuals whose lives have been marred by sexual sin of whatever kind. Our unflinching rejection of current attempts to provide theological justification for homosexual behavior is not born out of a Pharisaical stance of self-righteousness or a squeamish homophobia but from a commitment to God’s truth revealed in Holy Scripture. We are equally committed to showing appropriate compassion to those who struggle with this sin. Sin is never to be addressed with hateful attitudes, words, or actions. The truth of God’s law must be spoken with clarity but it must be articulated with kindness and care for those to whom it is addressed. Bigotry and disdain will only deepen the resistance of those who are secure in their sin. Ministry to people who are enticed with same gender attractions or who have committed homosexual sins will require patient and consistent speaking of both God’s law and Gospel, even as congregations support them in the struggle to live as sons and daughters of the Father in the freedom that comes only in the forgiveness of sins. Given the climate of our culture this is a daunting work. Yet we have the promise that the Word of the Lord will not return to Him empty. Clothed with the deep compassion of Christ for sinners, we will seek to undertake this work with both truth and mercy.72  (page 23)

Thank you to the CTCR for this document which deals with the ELCA statement quite well.


About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.


CTCR responds to the ELCA “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust” Statement — 134 Comments

  1. Baptisms done by Mormons or JW’s are not valid. Why? This is the whole key to this. They are not valid because despite the words they use, they are not done in accordance with God’s Word and the names they use are not the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as revealed in Scripture. We do not take individual congregations or people on a case by case basis from the Mormons or the JW’s. Rather they are shown that what they had was no baptism at all but rather a hollow meaningless act, done in the name of a false god. So they must be baptized.

    Now all of a sudden, whether it is for sentimental reasons, or because it hits closer to home, or whatever, we can’t wrap our minds around applying this to the XXXA. Why? All of a sudden we want to start giving out half credit. Their baptisms are not done in accordance with God’s Word and the names they use are not the same Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as revealed in Scripture. Therefore, no baptism. Therefore just like with JW’s or Mormons we don’t take it on a congregation or case by case basis. There is no partial apostasy. You belong to an apostate body, therefore by definition your sacraments cannot be valid. Rather, what they had was no baptism at all but rather a hollow meaningless act, done in the name of a false god.

  2. @John Rixe #102
    Please go back and read the Brief Statement again. It does not say “we reject as apostasy from the Christian religion all ‘church bodies'” it says “We reject as apostasy from the Christian religion all ‘doctrines’ whereby man’s own works and merit are mingled into the article of justification before God….”

    To be sure, there are indeed some entire church bodies we consider apostate, but as of right now, the XXXA isn’t one of them. So you’re all good! 🙂

  3. @Fws #98
    No Helen. As a Lutheran, you should know that this is clear Lutheran doctrine that is true about all of us.

    Pr. McCall seems to have answered your question, fws.

    @Rev. McCall #100
    @Fws #98
    Yet baptism does not trump unbelief. “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.”

    And belief is more important than baptism, if baptism is unattainable for some reason. A believer would desire baptism and not despise it. But I am baptized (though a colleague who does not believe in infant baptism is contemptuous of the practice). [Another topic]

    @John Rixe #102

    John Rixe: my baptism was “old ALC” when that body was confessionally Lutheran.

    Baptisms performed in feminist fashion are doubtful, because not Trinitarian. Beyond that, our theologians would have to determine where to draw the line.
    If the resolution is passed we will have recognized what has been true for some time: xxxA is not following Lutheran doctrine and more recently is in defiance of Scripture.

  4. Pr McCall

    This is so complicated. So the publicly confessed doctrine of a church body can be rejected as apostacy but the church body itself is cool along with its baptisms?

    Example: the Roman Catholic Church isn’t apostate but its doctrines are. Makes no sense to me.

  5. @John Rixe #105
    If you have “Essays of the Church” by C.F.W. Walther, the first volume, the first article talk about the relationship between faith and baptism. It helps immensely.

    There are sort of two possibilities when it comes to apostasy.
    1. Apostasy in some doctrine. This would mean that some of the teachings of a church are apostate, but we are still willing to say that baptisms done there are at least valid and there is the possibility that people can hear the true Gospel in spite of the churches public teaching/stance. They haven’t perhaps so totally screwed things up that some semblance of the church still remains, all be it a very tiny fraction in some cases.

    2. Total apostasty. Basically I would say this means that every doctrine has been so corrupted that nothing the church teaches is Biblical anymore. The entire “faith”, as publicly declared by that church body, is false. Mormons are an easy target I guess and there is a great article on BJS written by a Mormon. Nothing the Mormons teach or believe is Biblical anymore. Even the names and places mentioned by them that sound Biblical have been twisted and given different meanings. Hence we cannot accept their baptism or anything else as valid.

    As an example, skim the Book of Concord. We clearly have no problem with some of what Rome believed and taught. From the Apology we see agreement in Article I, Article III, Article IX, most of II and X and XI and so on. We see enough marks of the church (Word and Sacrament administered correctly) that we are willing to say God is still at work in spite of their teachings, teachers, and the pope.

    So has the XXXA reached #2 yet (no pun intended)? I guess that’s what we’re debating. And you are right, it is no easy thing to talk about! God Bless the LCMS as we seek to reach out to our brothers and sisters in Christ with the truth of the Gospel.
    God Bless!

  6. @Rev. McCall #106

    I would suggest that that debate was taken up by the Evangelical Lutheran Church and resolved. And we should study carefully their reasoning, rather than Walther’s, to see where they ended up, and more importantly , what their reasoning was to end up where they did.

    I would suggest that the place to start here is Augustana VII and VIII.

  7. @Rev. McCall #106

    what I find fascinating Pastor Mc Call, with no sarcasm at all in that word “fascinating”, is that I imagine you to call yourself a “confessional Lutheran”. But I am seeing that the organic source of your doctrine, together of course from Holy Scripture, is Walther, or Luther’s private writings, or maybe even synodical decrees ala Carl Vehses sole source for this doctrine.

    I am wondering if you would even be capable of presenting the Confessional arguments here as they were developed and resolved in determining what place the Roman Catholic Church of 1530 would occupy? Totally outside the visible church? You do indeed seem to “skim”.

    The Confessions do not, as you imply , merely compare a list of held doctrines as you suggest. and then… “they have alot of the [check]list right…” That is exactly what you are suggesting we are to do with the ELCA and Rome and I suggest that is not quite it…

    The Confessors actually developed a theological argument much like the one you are presenting.

    Only theirs appears to be a vastly different argument . Why?

    I suggest their difference from your own argument is to be found in the fact that theirs is based upon a proper distinction of Law and Gospel centered in holy baptism.

    You seem to not want to engage this on a confessional level. You are using your own reason here based upon anecdotal prooftexts from Walther and Luther that ignores their formal and personal confession of faith that can be found in only one place. Can we please carry the argument to that one place dear Pastor Mc Call? They would want us to do that I suggest. They would beg us to ignore their private writings as to relative weight of argument.

  8. @Rev. McCall #106

    Rev Mc Call. You are a doctor of the Church whether you formally hold that title or not. I apologize if I have failed to show due respect for your office.

    It troubles me to not see you place Confessional texts and arguments at the center instead of personal writings of Luther and Walther and synodical decrees and brief statements…

    Why not use the Confessions organically to form your theology in the way you use the personal writings of Luther and Walther? This question keeps popping up in my head.

  9. Walther’s writings I mention were public and he shaped and framed them within the context of the Confessions and Scriptures. He did not come up with an independent line of reasoning and thinking. In fact, the essay I refer to was a public address given at the Ninth Synodical Convention in Fort Wayne, IN. Walther includes numerous quotes from the Confessions and Scripture to show how his response to baptism is harmonious with both. In fact the bulk of his paper is direct quotes from the Confessions, so I think it is fair to say his argument comes organically from the Confessions. So I’m not sure your concern is valid or even holds water.

    For instance, citing from both the Augsburg Confession and the Apology, Walther states that the Confessions rightly conclude,
    “Baptism without faith offers no benefit.”

    This seems to be your position though. That baptism is efficacious merely because the words and formula are used. That God works even when there is no faith present, either in the parents who bring the child to baptism or in the case of adult converts. Walther continues on citing even more from the Confessions and then cites Luther who says,

    “It would be better not to baptize even one child than to baptize them without faith, since that is using the sacrament and God’s holy name in vain. For the sacraments neither can nor should be received without faith.”

    Walther and Luther are both saying, as Walther clarifies later, that “little children are brought to baptism by the faith and work of others” but once they get there and are baptized they receive faith and Holy Spirit for themselves. Point being, if parents do not have faith or have a false faith and bring their child to be baptized into the name of a false god (despite what title they use for him) and in that false faith, that sacrament is not a valid sacrament. This is exactly what Mormons and JW’s and every other apostate church body does, they baptize without faith. Their “faith” is in a false god and a false gospel and therefore that “sacrament” they perform is not valid in any way. It is a hollow, empty ritual void of the Gospel and promises of God. This is what we are saying about the XXXA. They are apostate. They do not have faith nor the Gospel. Therefore whatever Sacraments they seem to be doing are actually nothing at all.

    This is also how the Confessions speak of the Sacrament of the Altar. Do those who deny the Real Presence (i.e. commune without faith) receive the true body and blood of Christ despite using the “right formula”? No! They receive what their “faith” believes, nothing! They get cookies and punch.

    So where faith and the Gospel are not present (apostasy) there can be no Sacraments. I think I stand firmly in line with both the Confessions and the Scripture when I say that and Luther and Walther are not bad guys to have on your side! So the only question, to rightly get at the crux of the matter, is does the XXXA have the Gospel and are they of the faith or are they apostate? Clearly then if they are apostate there is not faith and there are no valid Sacraments. If they are not wholly apostate then they are still of the faith and still retain the Gospel so their Sacraments are valid.

    So only one question remains, and how you answer it makes the conclusion clear concerning Sacraments. Are they apostate or are they not? I can see no doctrine or public confession of faith where they have the Gospel or the one true faith. Therefore I agree that they are apostate and therefore as much as it pains me and all of Christendom, they also do not have valid Sacraments, including Baptism.

  10. @fws #108
    I would look at their public confession and if the Gospel were still present I would acknowledge that they still retained some marks of the Church and therefore their Sacraments are valid. I believe that is what the Luther and Confessions conclude as well.

  11. @Rev. McCall #112

    by public, I mean a document that someone has personally taken an oath to as their formal public confession of faith, that overrides anything else they have ever written. Like that.

    The Lutheran Confessions are alone that.

    “This seems to be your position”
    Behave! My formal confession of faith is found in the Book of Concord.
    Don’t do hearsay. QUOTE me where my words allow a reading that is contrary to my public and formal confession of faith i made in my confirmation.
    I will hastily clarify to conform my private writings here to the Confessions.
    Exercise more charity here please!

    ” I can see no doctrine or public confession of faith where they [the ELCA]have the Gospel or the one true faith.

    Therefore I agree that they are apostate

    they also do not have valid Sacraments, including Baptism.”

    A google of ELCA and Lutheran would show many public confessions of true Faith in Christ. And there are also many examples of false doctrine. Ditto a google of the LCMS . Ditto a google of the WELS. Ditto a google of Roman Catholicism. Fortunately purity of Doctrine is not a requirement for salvation.

    When I google the Mormons and JWs I find, 100% of the time (!) that they redefine each and every word that matters. No exception to that finding. None! So your sylogism is true about those two groups.

    So your major premise appears to be false. And also your minor premise and conclusion therefore.

  12. @Rev. McCall #113

    “some marks”. That is like being half pregnant. It is not Confessional or Lutheran to speak in this manner.

    Church discipline, ie the Law is NOT a mark of the church by the way!
    You seem to make it one.

    How do you appear to do that? practice on homosexuality, doctrinal discipline, etc etc. church polity, following the rules, etc etc. law , law , law.

  13. @fws #114
    Are we now using Google in place of the Confessions? 🙂
    Which part of what the XXXA publicly confesses have they not redefined as well? Please cite an example because I cannot find one. They have redefined the Scriptures, Justification, God, Original Sin, and on and on. Before you say my major premise is false you must offer a better conclusion than “Google says so”. Let’s look at their public confession. Their official doctrinal stances on issues like Justification. Like sin. Like open communion. Like their redefining of Law and Gospel that they have publicly done. Where is the Gospel? Where are the marks of the church? They are not there! If you would like me to go point by point through their confessions, I would be happy to! You start though. Where do you see the Gospel in their public confession?

  14. @Rev. McCall #115

    Amazing Rev McCall. How do you DO that?!

    You simply assume that your sylogism is true and accepted by me and , assuming that, premise a new question!

    There is no Confessional argument for this as you well know. Stop making such wierd rhetorical questions like you actually believe my response could even remotely be imagined to be different than the one I am giving you. Grow up.

    The Apology, in art III I think, says that Baptism does not work ex opere operato. “It must be accompanied by good emotions” is what they say. Good emotions= true fear, love and trust in God= saving faith.

    We aren’t used to calling faith a good emotion any longer, so that sounds wierd to us. but there you have it big fella! You seem to reduce faith to intellectual assent to a true proposition. I say “seem to”. I assume that my perception is completely false. Why? You have taken and oath to confess as our Confessions do. So in love I need to assume that you do not deviate even a hair from what the Book of Concord says, and where you do, as we all do…. you would readily repent.

  15. @fws #116
    Right, they are either pregnant or they are not. They either have the Gospel (in some way, no matter how small) or they don’t. I’m not sure I see this as a “partially pregnant” argument. Perhaps I was not clear in my wording. But this does not mean they have entirely Scriptural teaching. To beat a dead metaphor, one can be pregnant and yet still come to the wrong conclusions about pregnancy and how it happens and what takes place during it.

  16. @Rev. McCall #117

    “Are we now using Google in place of the Confessions? ”
    Was that supposed to be wit or humor?

    I agree that somewhere in the ELCA someone or more than someone has redefined just about everything . They are pagans. There is that Gay church in SF. And this appears to be fully tolerated in the ELCA.

    I do not agree that this equals that “the ELCA has redefined everything.”
    I could point to their new hymnal. Which is a trainwreck theologically. They neuter God. I agree this is a fatal error. As in “road to apostasy”. And not much is more “official” than a hymnal.
    Rome makes some fatal errors in their Missal too.
    I could find someone, somewhere , also in the WELS and LCMS who are doing some really, really, faith threatening things. I don’t need to look to hard unfortunately!

    Like that Concordia Publishing book “[Thomist]Natural Law: a Lutheran Reappraisal”. It is a book edited by a former ELCA now LCMS pastor who things Luther was a Thomist and sees Thomism to be in perfect harmony with our Confessions. It is a theological trojan horse. And men like you skip over that log in the LCMS eye and chose instead to focus on the log in the eyes of the ELCA. Why?

    Look Pastor McCall. If you want to have a real adult serious conversation we can do that.
    But cut out the sarcasm and false assumtions when you should just know better.


  17. @fws #118
    Didn’t I just say that same thing?

    From comment #112
    “Baptism without faith offers no benefit.”

    So there is no argument for valid baptism within an apostate church body. I was simply trying to get agreement on that issue so we could focus on the true issue, whether or not the XXXA is apostate. My apology for the wording or if I offended you. That was not my intent. I simply wanted to make sure this other line of arguing about individual (personal or congregational) confession apart from public confession somehow negated each other and made apostasy irrelevant. In looking back I see that this seems to have come from other comments and not yours. So again, my apology.

  18. @Rev. McCall #119

    Our conversation needs to start sounding like two fraternal brothers having an … enjoyable… conversation over a beer.

    I am more than willing to have it be that. Be the stronger christian here if you like to my weaker christian. Show me how to turn the tone of our conversation from one of sparing.

    otherwise… we be done here. …. This tone only feeds my Old Adam. It is damaging to my personal discipline and to yours as well.

  19. @Rev. McCall #121

    I accept your apology pastor. It did offend me alot.

    Please accept my very sincere apology wherever I have not shown the respect or deference due you as a spiritual father and doctor of our church in your office as Pastor.

  20. @fws #120
    It was supposed to be humor. It seemed to be getting too upsetting and that was not my intent.

    You are shifting the point again. I am not talking about individual congregations or churches. I am talking about the public confession of the XXXA. This is precisely why public confessions of faith and denominations matter. Every church body has its sinners. In this life there can be no perfect bride of Christ. So we must look to what is publicly confessed and subscribed to by virtue of ones chosen affiliation. If their public confession and faith does not have marks of the church, they are not pregnant. Period. Like you have said. We have to look for the Gospel and the marks of the church somewhere. So we look to what is publicly confessed. And nowhere in the XXXA’s public statement of faith do I see any Gospel or any marks of the church. Show me where and I will be happy to say they are not apostate.

    I’m not sure at what age one is allowed to be considered an adult, but most folks tend to lend me that benefit of the doubt. I see your argument as this, “The XXXA still retains some mark of the true church so therefore they are not apostate.” I am simply asking you to back this up. Where do you see the marks of the church in the XXXA’s public confession of faith?

    I want you to know that I have no doubt you are a indeed a Confessional and Scriptural man. If our only disagreement comes in some silly external matter such as the apostasy of another church body I rejoice that we have such small differences to quibble over! Should you ever to desire to have a “beer summit” I would be happy to treat! God Bless!

  21. @Rev. McCall #124

    I would need to do a google dear pastor.

    I am actually more concerned than anything else the ELCA has done by their new hymnal that neuterizes the Name of God.
    That is a direct assault on what defines us as Christian and makes us Christian.

    I think the issues of Antinomianism and how they work through the homosexual issue and womens ordination pale in comparison to that actually.

    I’ll be back shortly…

    I live in Brazil. Rio De Janeiro. The Beer is just above freezing or just below and is excellent. Whereabouts are you?

  22. @fws #125
    I agree with the hymnal as well. An XXXA pastor in town proudly showed me his churches copies when they came in and thought little of my concern for the gender neutering.

    I am in TX and the beer here is decidedly German in it’s influence (which I tend to be partial to anyway) and is also excellent as well.

    I thank you for your frank and candid discussion. You have provoked good thought and have encouraged me to be a better scholar and reader and I thank you for that! Such is the silver lining that comes about from such discussions even when agreement is not always reached!

  23. @Rev. McCall #126

    My assumption is that we are already in a profound and complete agreement that anglicans or presbyterians or roman catholics would not think possible. We just may not always know it. 😉 So our discussions always aim for that knowing!

    It is predictable what will happen with the ELCA. Their doctrinal formulations will become like a modern 39 articles. Or the Altered Augsburg Confessions even. They will be written such that they can be understood in terms of Hegel or Bultman or leap of faith into the abyss Kierkegaard , and also be understood by true believers in an orthodox way as well.

    But I would not agree that that vitiates those documents completely.

    The 39 article has lead many Anglican friends of mine to become truly Evangelical Lutheran in ways that many Lutherans I know are not.

  24. @Rev. McCall #124

    “…. I am not talking about individual congregations or churches. I am talking about the public confession of the XXXA. This is precisely why public confessions of faith and denominations matter. Every church body has its sinners. In this life there can be no perfect bride of Christ. So we must look to what is publicly confessed and subscribed to by virtue of ones chosen affiliation.”

    I am not sure this was ever really true Pastor. Before the pope and metropolitans… there were the donatists and lots of groups. After there was only the western church.

    I could argue that Lutheranism was maybe really a revival of “confessionalism” that was dormant after Chalcedon and however the Athanasian Creed came to be (which I understand was necessary because at one point most of the western church was Arian).

    So Lutheranism sorta marks the begining of a modern phenomenon called “denominationalism”. Rome became one with the Council of Trent. I think of currency when I hear that word denomination. No sect wants to be the leftover loose change do they? They all want to be the large bill that was claimed to be “changed” or split up.

    Now we are moving back to community churches and real congregationalism. Atomization. Atonymy (sp?) . It’s very American. Denominations are trying to resist this by centralizing power. It probably won’t work.

    So this sorta messes with our wish for fellowship practices and excommunication/Church discipline and all.
    And more than even we need to be clear that Liturgy and such things are pure LAW. Their purpose is to pray similarly to drive commonality also in doctrine which is more LAW, so that individual churches are truly united.

    The pope has a magisterium to do this. Anglicans have their prayer book. We could probably profitably borrow from both as long as we remember that real unity apart from externals, is alone Faith in Christ.

  25. @fws #128
    C.F.W. Walther (I know, I know, it’s not the confessions, but… :-)):

    “There is no doubt that a Lutheran who accepts the symbols of both churches in the aforementioned fashion (any type of Reformed/Lutheran union) will disgracefully deny his faith rather than confess it.”

    If a church makes no confession at all (which is basically what the XXXA does when they allow for any interpretation or doctrine to be acceptable) are they even the church then? It sounds more like universalism to me which, IMHO, is a denial and rejection of the Gospel and the one true faith.

    I agree totally with your assessment of denominations. So maybe we should really make it more simple. Either you accept the Gospel in it’s entirety as revealed and given to us by God through faith and as witnessed to in Scripture or you don’t. If you don’t, we are left to say as I quoted from Luther, we cannot call you brothers and of the same faith. Therefore we commend you to the judgment of God.

  26. @fws #129
    Yes we were void of denominations. But now, whether we like it or not we have them. So it does mean something to say we publicly agree with and support X, Y, or Z church body and its teachings concerning Holy Scripture. It’s hard in my mind for one to claim to be of the same faith when they deny justification (for example).

    If Luther couldn’t say his faith and Bucer’s were the same faith, even with agreement on all points of doctrine but the Lord’s Supper, that says a lot to me. So maybe we should, as I mentioned before, make it more simple. Either you believe the Gospel or you don’t. No partial credit here, it’s either pass/fail. Because really and truly how can one change one article or aspect of faith and not have the others be affected as well? For instance, a denial of Original Sin affects Justification, the Law, the Gospel, Good Works, Baptism, and on and on. But we don’t seem willing to say that it is all or nothing and I often wonder why that is. Jesus certainly speaks that way. Believe! Do not doubt the promise/Gospel! It is not an intellectual assent or understanding or Law. It is simply the Gospel. Either you accept it in faith (even those parts that rationally do not make sense) or you question it and doubt it.

  27. @Rev. McCall #130

    You lost me Pastor!

    I expected a response to my post @ 127.
    Yes. The fact that they are in fellowship with just about everyone but Rome and brag about working on that as well calls into question how they read the Confessions. Granted!
    But didn’t I address your challenge and concern all the same?

    It is fine to quote the church fathers. Walther is great. The Confessions claim to be “a” correct exposition of Holy Scriptures, not “THE” correct exposition of Holy Scriptures. 🙂 You know that. I am saying this so you are clear that I know this as well pastor.

    I would love to go into alot more detail on how Holy Baptism is central to this discussion. And for that, I suggest we start from the Small Catechism on Baptism and work out to where this discussion is contextualized. What do you think of that idea?

    Can we try an experiment Pastor?
    What if we disciplined each other to basing what we each assert only on the Lutheran Confessions? Not by prooftexting. I mean actually presenting the very arguments the Confessions present on this very topic of who we are to recognize as “church”. Those arguments are there. Why arent we using those?

    I would invite you to parse Augustana and Apology VII and VIII together with me, drawing in from the other confessions for clarity where necessary. I say that what is there is better than Walther. Why? They were faced with much the same situation we are in today I suggest. We are post denominational. There are various schools in American christendom that span denominational boundaries. This is very similar to the western pre-trent church with its various schools from scholasticism to mysticism.

    Apology and Augustana VII and VIII are directly about how we can know who is and is not in the “church” and what that church is. Better : it does this by employing the proper distinction between Law and Gospel in the form of the Doctrine of Two Kingdoms as it applies to the earthly Government called the Holy Catholic Church.

    What would be the advantages or drawbacks of doing this? I have tried to demonstrate that the Confessions, in the Augustana and Apology and the Catechisms amply and very directly and cogently address this very issue.

    My own theological mortification right now is to limit myself to the Confessions. I wish to have what I believe, teach and confess very tightly and organically shaped, formed and moulded by the very phrasing and architecture, if you will, of our Confessions. Not just content. But that, of course too. I don’t want to use them only as a proof text or as a check-list paper magisterium.

    I believe that this voluntary exercise has given me greater clarity on such issues as this one. I want what I write to breath what and how they write. I want to constantly be accused of plagarizing them and of having not even the slightest original thinking of my own.

    Of course that intensely also means engaging the Holy Scriptures as the sole rule and norm of our faith and our life. But our Lutheran unity is to appeal to the Confessions. I want to be an agent for that unity. Our unity with other Christians, Confessions and Scriptures.

    It would be great to engage you in this way. I could benefit greatly by your greater educational depth here. I have about 30+ years of koine greek and a little more of classical german and latin. My Hebrew is only good enough to detect when someone is pullin a fast one. And I have been a devoted student of our Confessions in all 3 languages since 1970. I was a wierd kid. That is another story 🙂

    I lack however what you have. I dont have the wide theological reading you have or the theological training on hermeneutics , exegesis and so many other things. Whaddya say Pastor?

  28. @Rev. McCall #131

    As to denominations. You stated earlier that the way to skin this cat is to look to the public confession at the denominational level. I implied that that is probably no longer a realistic approach. It is sort of like the fact that congress and nations no longer declare war formally. Society has shifted from lots of structure and formal norms. You seem to agree. To expand on this a little….

    If the ELCA is in full pulpit and altar fellowship with 5 or 6 other “denominations” what is a denomination in that case? And it is a lamentable fact that some LCMS districts and congretations seem to just ignore alot of rules. I am suggesting by that that a wooden imitation of synodical polity from the time of walther or even from the 50’s sorta misses some facts on the ground. So as a result, following some fixed rule on closed communion might not be the thing to do. And trust me. I think closed communion is essential. That is not to argue.

    So I presented the official doctrinal statement of the ELCA on their web site. There is Gospel there. And it can be read in an orthodox way actually. I didn’t actually see alot that could NOT be read that way. And you dismissed it. I don’t completely disagree with your implied “why not”.

    Then you said this:

    But we don’t seem willing to say that it is all or nothing and I often wonder why that is. Jesus certainly speaks that way. Believe! Do not doubt the promise/Gospel!
    It is not an intellectual assent or understanding or Law.
    It is simply the Gospel. Either you accept it in faith
    (even those parts that rationally do not make sense) or you question it and doubt it.”

    First comment: I question and doubt the Gospel ALL the time. But I am dead certain that I am reconciled to God in Christ. I was Baptized!

    Comments on some Law and Gospel distinction here:
    1) Lutherans Confess that “articles of faith” are the governmental laws of the HCC. (cf SC)
    2) Articles of Faith are not “the Gospel”. “articles of faith” is an ,misleading term. Example: There is no ‘proof’ for the NT miracles, yet they are a historical fact that Satan and a hipocrite can and do believe. Saving faith is not necessary for this.
    3) Believing those article is something we do. It is a good work. Hypocrites can believe these things. Satan believes these things the Confessions declare. To believe these things is not saving faith. It is a fruit of the Law.
    4) All good works we can sense-ibly do are ALL extorted out of our Old Adam by the Law.
    5) There are no parts to the Gospel. So what is the Gospel (you know this, I am just showing you that I too know…)?
    Fact: Christ Crucified is the most terrifying preaching of the Law that exists.
    Question: How is it that we are Justified by a preaching of Christ Crucified that is the most Terrifying Law that there is? (Cf FC Law and Gospel)
    Justification has two meanings : to be declared righeous and that sinners are made holy. (cf Apology art III)

    Penny for your thoughts.

  29. @fws #133
    Lots to respond to. I do agree on denominations, that they were not an issue in Luther’s time and seem to becoming less and less an issue in this day and age as well. The problem is, when I stood up and took my ordination vows, when a layperson joins a church, they publicly acknowledge that they accept that churches teaching as true and correct. Now if you want to say you no longer believe that, either as a pastor, layperson, or congregation, you need to renounce that vow and disassociate yourself with that confession. Otherwise you cannot have two public conflicting statements of faith and claim that both are right. Hence the Walther quote. If you want me to take an individual or congregations beliefs seriously, then they need to take them seriously first.

    Your response is precisely the problem with the XXXA’s website. I can read Article IV in a Lutheran way or I can read it in light of their signed, public, joint declaration with other denominations on Article IV and see it in a totally Methodist or UCC way. So at best, they are liars and distorter’s of Gospel, saying whatever itching ears want to hear. That is not the Church. That is not the Gospel. I can go down the line with all their beliefs. Creation? Since Scripture just contains God’s Word they publicly teach that evolution is a perfectly acceptable belief. Really? Either you stand for the truth of the Gospel or you are a liar.

    Finally, (I have to be quick because I have Bible Study!) doubting the Gospel and perverting the Gospel are two different things. All men doubt at times. There is a huge difference between doubting and then returning to God’s Word and Baptism for peace and then doubting and changing the Gospel in order to feed your own self-delusions. In doing the latter you reject the call to repentance and the call to stop doubting and instead firm yourself up in your unbelief and pervert the Word of God in order to justify your own heart.

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