Great Stuff Found on the Web — Pastor Ken Kelly on the Book of Concord

Another great post by Pastor Ken Kelly on Priestly RantPastor Kelly points out very importantly the need to be critical of even our fathers in the faith and their stances in light of Scripture and the Confessions.  His honest (and often blunt) investigations are often refreshing.

 

Rome has the pontiff and The Magisterium. Eastern Orthodoxy has the Holy Synod and Bishops. Lutheranism has “The Book of Concord,” so there should be no question in anyone’s mind what constitutes Lutheranism, anymore than there should any question as to what it means to be Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. Whether or not there should be revisions to The Book of Concord may be a question well worth asking. Whether or not aspects of “Lutheran theology” should questioned may also be worthy of consideration, but it should be remembered that the simple posing of the question does not by default or fiat negate which is until otherwise proven, a confessional truth.

If in fact the confessions are in complete agreement with scripture, they then present Christ in all his fullness to the topics that are taken up. If this is true, then the confessions simply by their nature must stand (at a minimum) above any by-law or “rule” despite (or in spite of) what may be “legal.” To do so, is to secularize the confessions, or, to read things into the confessions that are not strictly dealt with.

The reading of the confessions within the contemporary framework of Lutheranism is I think cause for some concern. Too many times the confessions become largely ignored in favor of Lutheran fundamentalism, or worse (in my estimation) the work of Walther is elevated to the status of a confession. The same is true of Luther, and given the number of times Luther is reported to have said this or that, it seems that most Lutheran pastors have memorized the entirety of his work.

Of course where there is a confession, there will also be confessionalism. I think that perhaps simply put confessionalism is no more than the practice of embracing what is contained within our Symbols, regardless of personal opinion. I would further say that while it was and may still be fashionable to ask a candidate for ordination at their Theological Interview if they “have read the confessions,” I think it is disingenuous. What person, given the pace of the seminary has the time to spend actually studying the confessions, much less the time for reflection? Reading is a simple task; study is another matter all together. It is entirely possible that once out in a parish and the time presents itself for actual study, a pastor may have several questions. It is however the responsibility of the pastor (in my estimation) to continue to teach in accordance with the confessions, until (if ever) some sort of general council is convened to actually discuss the confessions, and to sort out those questions. It is also important to bear in mind precisely what is a confessional statement, and what is for lack of a better word “Traditionalism” within Lutheranism. “Traditionalism” (and yes, we spell with a capital “T”) and the confessions are not equivalents; they are not equals.

This disingenuousness has a tendency to lead to the self-conferral of Lutheranism, which by default and popular opinion has come to mean “confessionalism.” To call one’s self “Lutheran” is not by default the same as saying “confessional Lutheran.” Further, calling one’s self a “confessional Lutheran” has largely become a badge of courage or honor within the LCMS; it is that which one group often “is,” while another group “is not.” Unfortunately it has also become a label worn by many who simply have no idea whatsoever the very confessions they claim to adhere to actually say.

I don’t make the claim to have memorized every page in my copy of The Book of Concord (K/W), but I’ve started to actually wonder if in fact the confessions themselves aren’t the tool for reform. If they’re not, then those of us in the priestly office can simply preach and teach what we like. I think we’ve tried building the structure with regulations and by-laws first; I think most of us realize that inherent and continuing failure. It is also my belief that we’ve allowed Walther to influence our ecclesiology in a way that may not be in complete harmony with the confessions, but rather that addressed a specific concern. The result has been a congregationalism that is now afforded near confessional status.

There is I believe an christological center to the confessions, that has been lost in their continuing secularization. Picking up the confessions and reading them requires some presuppositions that may not be explicitly stated; the same is true of reading Trent. The confessions are christological but perhaps not written in, for example, the sort of mystical language that Athanasius might have used. This does not make them less christological or less incarnational; within the scholastic tradition of Rome and Wittenberg, such christology is simply assumed, the same is true of “faith.” The confessions have in essence been stripped of this center and become a Pharisaical handbook, that are largely, frankly speaking, ignored even by the structure of the LCMS, and one can’t help but wonder why anyone is asked to vow to uphold them.

If christology and the active proclamation of Christ are the center of the confessions-despite their polemic-then why aren’t they the center of the LCMS? And if they are not, it seems to me that very confessionality of the LCMS could be, to put the best construction on it, called into question. The irony is this: How does one challenge the very confessionality of the organization that claims to be the bedrock of the confessions?

When functionality replaces christology and when a secular definition of “church” consisting of by-laws and regulations, the end is more than near; it’s right in front of us.

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

Great Stuff Found on the Web — Pastor Ken Kelly on the Book of Concord — 8 Comments

  1. Rev. Ken Kelly states:

    “Too many times the confessions become largely ignored in favor of Lutheran fundamentalism, or worse (in my estimation) the work of Walther is elevated to the status of a confession….”

    “It is also my belief that we’ve allowed Walther to influence our ecclesiology in a way that may not be in complete harmony with the confessions, but rather that addressed a specific concern. The result has been a congregationalism that is now afforded near confessional status.”

    May we have some substantiation of such accusations that the work of C.F.W. Walther has been elevated to the status of a confession?

    For example, it is the understanding of the Missouri Synod that Walther’s Die Stimme unserer Kirche in der Frage von Kirche und Amt. is “the definitive statement under the Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions of the Synod’s understanding on the subject of Church and Ministry, “the official position of the LCMS,” and “that which all pastors, professors, teachers of the Church and congregations honor and uphold… and teach in accordance.”

    Are these statements false? Is the understanding presented in Kirche und Amt not in agreement with Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions? Are the pastors, professors, teachers, and congregations within the Missouri Synod who honor, uphold, and teach in accordance with Kirche und Amt heterodox because of their actions? What about pastors, teachers, and congregations who have faithfully honored, upheld, and taught such understanding on the subject of Church and Ministry for the past 161 years?

  2. Excellent post!

    “It is also important to bear in mind precisely what is a confessional statement, and what is for lack of a better word “Traditionalism” within Lutheranism. “Traditionalism” (and yes, we spell with a capital “T”) and the confessions are not equivalents; they are not equals.”

    I agree. There are many who do exactly this – and they lament about others not following their “T”raditions. Just because it is a tradition doesn’t make it confessional and everything in the confessions hasn’t been translated into a tradition.

    These “Lutheran Fundamentalists” differ very little from the fundamentalists of other stripes. Similar anti-intellectual attitudes surface. A person questioning their statements or position is treated as if this an act of betrayal. This marks a stark contrast with Pieper and others who were so capable of not only clearly stating doctrine, but were also capable of contending for it.

    I agree that the Confessions are the tool for reform – but even more so when paired with the Word. And not just using the Confessions as a “Pharisaical handbook,” but questioning them and seeing if the Word truely agrees. This should be done espcially when considering changes to how we practice ecclesiology. Such an approach only deepened my belief that the pastor holds the highest office in the church and that office exists to serve the congragation. This is because the Word is the source and norm for all Christian doctrine, not the opinion of some “sort of general council … convened to actually discuss the confessions…” Pastors are there to bring people God’s Word – not the opinions of some council or committee.

  3. To call one’s self “Lutheran” is not by default the same as saying “confessional Lutheran.”

    To the contrary, to what other kind of Lutheran could one be referring? And being a Lufauxran doesn’t count. Again, it’s like trying to distinguish between being “pregnant” and “sort of pregnant.”

  4. What say you?
    Search the Scriptures
    Correct and rebuke
    Be faithful
    A little yeast
    We must obey God rather than man
    Take up your Cross
    I am not ashamed
    If they hate you
    Be all things to all people w/o Biblical compromise
    Here we stand
    Truth and Faithfulness
    Just who are we-and at the expense of HIS HONOR?

  5. If you continue in My Word
    Over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers who will give an account
    Be faithful unto death

  6. The pastor needs to use a better edition of the Book of Concord, not one that interjects texts never included in the German or Latin BOC and one that does not change the original language of the Confessions to accommodate the ELCA’s feminist and homosexual agenda, and one that is not published by the ELCA and is replete with gender-neutered language.

Leave a Reply

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

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.