THE Issue: AC XIV and Lay Ministry

Also found on facebook:


Ecclesia semper reformanda est – I don’t know who coined that phrase, but it’s ever so true. And always has been – see Galatians. In this sense, there has never been a golden age and we should not be disheartened by the mess our little patch of the una sancta finds herself in. The Missouri Synod is indeed by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed: the worship wars, Seminary Lite (SMP), a few charismatics here, a few would be women-ordainers there, usw.

So where to begin? What should Confessional Lutherans be focusing on in Missouri? I appreciate the work that folks like the ACELC are doing – but we need focus. You can’t move on all fronts at once. We need an issue that captures the attention of all Confessional Lutherans and one that is theological (not political), clearly based in the Scriptures and the Confessions, and as objective and black and white as possible.

It just so happens that we have this issue: Missouri’s 1989 revision of the Augsburg Confession sans Article XIV (it is the shortest article, so it’s a small revision, right?). “Lay ministry” – the intentional, “licensed,” and ongoing practice of having men who have not been called to and placed in the Office of the Ministry administer the Sacraments and preach the Word in our parishes. This is simply contrary to the Scriptures, contrary to the Confessions, and contrary to all the practice of historic Christianity.

If Confessionals cannot unite to undo this wrong, then what is the point of being Confessional? Let us make 2013 the Year of AC XIV.

Gottesdienst is getting the ball rolling with a one day conference on AC XIV and Lay Ministry in Kearney, Nebraska, on July 25th. While the whole Synod is affected by this problem, the Great Plains and the Northwest are the epicenters. Pastors, lay people, district officials, and the lay ministers themselves are invited and encouraged to attend.

Especially if you are in Nebraska or Kansas, please make plans to attend. If you know folks in those areas, tell them to attend. If you are for or against the Missouri Synod’s present practice, come and join us to study this issue. Here is the full conference information:

AC XIV and Lay Ministry
Zion Lutheran Church, Kearney, NE
July 25, 2012

9:00 – Registration (Coffee and rolls)
9:30 – Matins
10:00 – Presentation and breaks
12-1:30 – Lunch (at local establishments of your choice)
1:45 – 3:00 – Panel Discussion
3:00 – Gemuetlichkeit

Registration fee: None. The offering at Matins will defray Zion’s costs.

To register email Rev. Micah Gaunt mgaunt2000 at yahoo dot com.



THE Issue: AC XIV and Lay Ministry — 130 Comments

  1. Josh, I’ve seen people attempt to put forward the very thing you just said, but unfortunately, you are still not being clear, and in fact, you have shifted the ground a bit.

    Only the one who has been ordained into the office of the holy ministry has the authority to say, “By virtue of my office as a called and ordained servant of the Word…in the stead and by the command my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins.” So my answer remains.

    Yes, only a called and ordained pastor can say, “I as a called and ordained pastor…” but that’s not what you first posted.

    Here is your comment:

    But your original comment was:
    “Can ONLY pastors forgive ALL sins?”

    This is a significantly different thing.

    So, again, I’m going to ask you:

    Do you believe that ONLY pastors can tell another person that all their sins are forgiven, announce it to them, declare it to them, and yes, absolve them. The Gospel is never NOT absolution.

    I’m trying to help you be absolutely clear and not misspeak by saying, or suggesting, that only a called and ordained pastor can forgive sins. This would be a most seriously grave error.

    So, again, I ask you to clarify if you do mean to assert that only pastors can forgive sins, all sins or any sin.

    Please don’t let Warren Malech’s browbeating and bombast push you into misstatement.

  2. I am curious would you all agree or disagree with the following statement.

    When the Church ordains a man, the Church is not transferring her spiritual power* to the man but filling the Office of the Keys which has spiritual power*.

    *Spiritual power is defined in the Power and Primacy of the Pope as “the command to teach the Gospel, to announce the forgiveness of sins, to administer the Sacraments, to excommunicate the godless without bodily force [by the Word” (Source)

  3. @Warren Malach #50


    Since you’ve used the term “Loeheist”, you have a working definition of it–otherwise, you wouldn’t have used it.

    I doubt that people use the term “Loeheist” to refer to themselves, anyways. So you’re responsible for defining what you mean when you use it. I’m not going to guess what you mean when you use the term.

  4. Pastor McCain #51, how am I “browbeating” Pastor Osbun and being “bombastic,” other than using “caps,” which I have taken your advice to quit using? If I am not stating my questions to him properly, please tell me how to state them. Will you? But thanks for asking Pastor Osbun to clarify his teachings. I hope that he is able to do so. But in the meantime, where do *you* stand regarding “Loehist” teachings in the LCMS? Can you be “open and honest” with this forum about your *own* beliefs, or link us to something which you have written on the subject? Oh yes, and my last name does *not* have an “e” in it.

    Mr. Goodrich #52: I can’t agree with your statement because it is a tacit rejection of the Scriptural teaching, as affirmed by the LCMS in such doctrinal statements as the Brief Statement, that the Keys were given by Christ to the Church and not to pastors as a “clerical estate.” How can the Church *fill* an Office without *something* to “fill” it *with*? If the Church does *not* possess the Keys directly from Christ, then it has *nothing* to “fill” any Office with. That would be a “pious fiction” in the way in which the Roman Catholics label the Scriptural doctrine of justification by grace for Christ’s sake through faith, because the person justified is not “inwardly transformed” but remains a sinner covered by the redeeming Blood of Christ.

    Phil #53: If you want to use some other term than “Loehist” to describe those who believe, contrary to the teachings of the LCMS, that *only* pastors can forgive *all* sins, be my guest. The term “Sacerdotalist” is also used. Do you disagree with the “yes” answers which Pastor Osbun has given to my questions in this forum as a “summary” of “Loehist” beliefs? I did *not* “impose” those answers on Pastor Osbun, he freely gave them himself as a self-identified “Loehist.”

  5. Rich #55, are you speaking to me? If so, some LCMS congregations *already* have “popes” in their “Loehist” pastors, so there doesn’t *need* to be any “MoSynod Papal election” to have one! But if you’re waiting for a specific “liturgical ceremony” surrounding the election of a LCMS president, why not bring it up with your congregation, or district, or the synod itself? I’ve heard the COP described as the “college of cardinals,” so once the election of the synodical president is “reserved” to the COP, maybe you *will* see a “MoSynod Papal election”!

  6. Warren, perhaps you should focus on helping your Synod deal with its own challenges and problems. There’s more than enough to do there.

    You have left The LCMS. Go in peace.

    By the way, Warren, I can certainly now understand why you were banned from LutherQuest.

  7. Pastor McCain #57: You sound like Felix in Acts 24:25: Go away, I don’t want to deal with you! You can’t even substantiate your own attacks upon me; are you guilty of the same “troll” behavior which you have condemned in others in LQ?

    But you *have* proven my point once again, LCMS pastors are apparently not *able* or *willing* to seriously discuss or deal with their own synod’s heterodoxy in doctrine and heterodoxy in what is tolerated in the synod. They simply “run away” and engage in ad hominem attacks on the person who questions them if he is not a member of the LCMS. Can anyone say “this is an excuse”?

    Why can’t the “Loehists” explain even to *your* satisfaction how God forgives sins? Do *you* know what is being taught in LCMS seminaries about the doctrine of the Ministry?

    The threads in which I have been posting will soon drop off the “front page,” and the “discussion” will end. I want to thank the Moderators of this forum for permiting me to post (almost all of) my posts; considering that this *is* an “LCMS” forum.

    By the way, I did *not* receive a “peaceful” release from my congregation when I left the LCMS; they wouldn’t give one to someone who applied Rom. 16:17 to them in leaving, so thanks for your “peace,” even if it is a “peace” of doctrinal indifference from a member of one synod to a member of another synod which broke fellowship with the first synod because of doctrinal differences. Apparently the significant doctrinal differences between the LCMS and the WELS aren’t very important to you. Do you also grant you “peace” to those who join the ELCA?

  8. Warren, I’m trying to help you recognize that you would get a lot farther in your conversations here if you not come across as a pit bull snarling and barking at people at the end of his leash. Again, I urge you to reflect on the way you are conducting yourself on this forum. Simply put, you are embarrassing yourself.

    He who has ears to hear….

  9. Pastor McCain #59, I truly do *not* know to whom I am supposed to respond when you address me in this forum. The “Pastor McCain” who offers kind counsel based upon his own experience, or the “Pastor McCain” who “raves” at me with ad hominem attacks? Are you different “personalities” in the different “threads”?

    You have not, and apparently will not show me how I am doing the things you accuse me of. I have, at your advice, quit using “caps,” so I cannot be accused of “yelling” at anyone. So *what* is your real “issue” with me? You once said that I had some good points to make, but now all you do is avoid my questions and in a “tag-team” sort of way “kindly counsel” me in this thread and “attack” me in another.

    If you really *don’t* want to deal with me, simply stop responding to my posts, and the whole thing will “die away,” won’t it?

  10. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #51
    Make your point, Paul. You’re getting as tedious and tiresome as Warren. If you think I’m wrong, say so. I’m not interested in playing 20 Questions.

    Here’s all the more that I care to say on this matter: there are two camps in Missouri. One of them has a very high regard for the Office of the Holy Ministry. The other does not. I’m with the former.

  11. Pastor Osbun #61: How do the “Waltherians” who uphold the LCMS’ historic doctrine of the Ministry in the synod *not* exhibit a “very high regard” for the Office of the Public Ministry? They teach from the Scriptures that the Office is a gift of God to the Church (Acts. 20:28,) and that to that Office the Church commits the public ministry of the Means of Grace in the Church. Is not this a “very high regard” for the Office? Or are you simply offended that the historicc doctrine of the Ministry in the LCMS does *not* allow pastors to “lord it over” their congregations by “becoming Christ” or a “means of grace” to their congregations by monopolizing the administration of the Gospel in such a way as to rob the laity of the private use of the Means of Grace as part of the Royal Priestood (1 Peter 2:9)?

    Please don’t have *such* a *high* view of the Ministry that your nose starts to bleed…

  12. Josh, I am not willing to say you are wrong, until I understand what you are saying. Can you please regard my questions as sincere and answer them? Do not lump me in with Malech.

  13. Pastor McCain #63: Are you unwilling to share in this forum your *own* doctrine of the Minstry? Would that be dangerous for you as a CPH executive? It’s *really* sad how “public teachers in the Church” are unable or unwilling to publicly state and defend their beliefs! Should one begin to wonder about the level of theological education in LCMS seminaries today? Do the students learn *anything* at all about “apologetics”? When I was at CTSFW (1978-82) we were taught to be always willing and able to publicly state and defend our doctrine and practice. Of course, if one is teaching *contrary* to the public doctrine and practice of one’s church body, I *can* understand how one might be a bit…shy. I can only wonder if that is *indeed* the case with some of the LCMS pastors in this forum!

  14. Pastor McCain #63: *Can’t* you spell my name right? Or is there some hidden message in your way of spelling it?

  15. Warren, unless and until you can express yourself in a civil and respectful tone, I have no interest in responding to you. You will have to find somebody else to argue with. You seem to be Ana consumed with anger and bitterness, and I pray you ate able to work through this. You will receive no further response from me.

  16. Pastor McCain #66: That’s okay, Pastor McCain, you can’t/won’t engage in any meaningful or serious “discussion” anyway, no matter *how* I address you. You seem to have a “control issue” with other people. I’ve seen some good examples of it in this forum with the (other?) “Loehist” clergy. Goodby!

  17. @Rev. Paul McCain #63

    Paul, Josh answered your questions. I stated the same thing on the AC V post.

    What are you having trouble with?

    Let me try something.
    Josh is the pastor at St. Luther Lutheran Church.
    Paul, you are a member of St. Luther. Josh is your pastor.
    John is a visitor who lives nearby on Paul’s street.

    Here we go.

    John meets Paul on the street while doing yard work. Conversation ensues. John says something to Paul that angers him to the point that just about come to fist-a-cuffs.

    Paul speaks with his pastor (Josh) on how to handle the situation.

    Matthew 18 is discussed and explained.

    Paul returns home and prays. In the meantime, John goes to his own pastor and admits he wronged his brother Paul. Can the pastor absolve John? YES!

    Can John’s wife forgive John for what he said to Paul? NO!

    Paul comes to John 2 days later and they talk about the incident. John admits to Paul he was wrong and asks to be forgiven. Can Paul forgive John? YES!

    Do you see the difference? The called & ordained servants of Christ can forgive ALL sins.

    The laity can forgive the brothers and sisters who sin against them directly. The laity cannot enter into the 3rd party role of absolution because Christ has not authorized them. Christ gives that authority to the pastors.

    Ted Kober practices this 3rd party laity type of forgiveness. It’s wrong.

  18. John, you said, “Can John’s wife forgive John for what he said to Paul? NO!”

    Here is the crux of the error that apparently both you and Josh are putting forward.

    Both pastor and layperson are given the same Gospel to speak to others, each according to their calling. But it is the same Gospel.

    Of course John’s wife can “forgive” John. Actually, she is not doing the forgiving, Christ is, through the Word she can and should speak to John.

    It is a terribly profound error to suggest that the Gospel is somehow restricted when spoken by a person who is no a pastor.

    Where did you come up with this John? Surely you were not taught this at the seminary.

    If you and Josh are both saying that nobody but a called and ordained pastor is able to speak the Gospel in such a way that sins, any sins, all sins, are forgiven, this is a position that is simply contrary to what the Gospel is.

    The Gospel is never less than the Gospel. The Gospel is the absolution of sins.

    If this is actually your position, John, and Josh’s then frankly you are both advocating false doctrine.

    You need to rethink all this.

  19. John, please do not speak to me as if I am a novice to these issues.

    Do you not recognize that when you say that a layperson is unable to speak the Gospel to another that it an absolving word, you are denying the Gospel and making it’s effectiveness depend not on the Word of Christ, but on the condition that only a certain kind of person speaks it.

    This is not what Scripture or the Confessions teach.

    You and Josh are really headed in a wrong direction.

  20. John, please do not speak to me as if I am a novice to these issues.

    Do you not recognize that when you say that a layperson is unable to speak the Gospel to another that it an absolving word, you are denying the Gospel and making it’s effectiveness depend not on the Word of Christ, but on the condition that only a certain kind of person speaks it.

    This is not what Scripture or the Confessions teach.

    You and Josh are really headed in a wrong direction.

    This will be my last word, for, as I said elsewhere, I detect in both you and Josh’s comments to me a tone of disdain and disrespect, and I fear I will respond in kind.

    I’m not going there again.

  21. Please see my post in the AC V thread. I am withdrawing from this discussion, as my goals of wanting to learn about “Loehist” teachings in the LCMS and to facilitate publicity regarding those teachings in the synod have been met. I thank those “Loehist” pastors who have been open and honest in discussing teachings which they may hold contrary to the public doctrine of the synod for being candid about those teachings. I hope that they are also being candid about how their beliefs differ from the public doctrine of the synod with their own congregations and circuit/district supervisors.

  22. @Warren Malach #54
    I actually never said or meant to imply that the Keys were not given to the Church. They are. According to Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope paragraph 24, “In addition to this, it is necessary to acknowledge that the keys belong not to the person of one particular man, but to the Church, as many most clear and firm arguments testify”

    Melancthon also says in the same paragraph, “the keys are nothing else than the office whereby this promise is communicated to every one who desires it”.

    Also in the Smalcald Articles, Luther places mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren alongside of preaching, baptism, the Sacrament of the Altar, and the power of the keys as one of the means through which God God gives us strength and help against sin. Notice that the power of the keys and mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren are distinguished by Luther. (Althaus Theology of Martin Luther pg. 318 note 10)

  23. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #74
    “This will be my last word, for, as I said elsewhere, I detect in both you and Josh’s comments to me a tone of disdain and disrespect, and I fear I will respond in kind.”

    Paul, I hope you are not mistaking the easy familiarity of one brother speaking to another for an offensive lack of respect. I greatly appreciate all you did (and are still doing) to have us blessed with a solid publishing house and a confessional synodical president.

    But, with all due respect, sometimes you seem condescending, and yet treat condescension from others — and even their easy familiarity — as some sort of impertinence. Such a tone detracts from the good points you make.

  24. Yes, Ted, you are correct. It is something I’m working on.

    And, with all due respect, I think you also need to address some less than helpful tendencies you exhibit in your tendency to lay down personal insults in these conversations.

    May God strengthen and bless us all.

  25. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #78

    Yeah, you got me. I’d like to make the excuse that my impulsive nature and strong sense of humor lead me to make ourtageously funny comments that are sometimes mistaken for mean-spirited sarcasm, but… I must confess that sometimes I am being just plain mean. Not bragging, just confessing. — Hey! Are you allowed to forgive me for that? (Shoot! See what I mean?!)

    This particular exchange was not one of those mean-spirited times, and I rejoice that God has allowed you and me to grow closer. Thanks for the reminder; I will try harder to keep the insults to a minimum.

  26. p.s. It was in the novel I read years ago (“Absolute Truth”?) that a fictional bishop said in a nasal tone,

    “It has been my experience that the expression ‘with all due respect’ is invariably followed by an impertinence.”


  27. Are you allowed to forgive me for that?

    No, absolutely not, sorry, you can only be sure of being forgiven after a called and ordained orthodox, confessional Lutheran pastor forgives you. Sorry, but I can only but assure you that there is a possibility you will be forgiven. The Gospel on my lips is tentative, hesitant, not quite so certain.

    : )

  28. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #81

    You see Paul,that kind of arrogant, finger-pointing, and condescending remarks are uncalled for.

    This is the whole point.

    You stated Ted offended you. He admitted his sin and asked for forgiveness. You rejected him. You can’t. You must forgive him.

    This is a perfect example of my discussion.

  29. @Pastor Ted Crandall #80
    “It has been my experience that the expression ‘with all due respect’ is invariably followed by an impertinence.”

    At very least with an expression of disagreement… which in some circles is an impertinence! 😉

  30. helen :
    @Rev. Paul T. McCain #81
    Which of those should I assume you are not, PTM?

    Helen, I don’t know. we must both appeal to a called, ordained and confessional Lutheran pastor for the only opinion which will give us both the absolute security of its correctness. Until then, we can only hesitantly, tentatively, offer assurance of our opinions to one another and hope for the best.

    ; )

  31. @Pastor John Wurst #32
    “You see Paul, that kind of arrogant, finger-pointing, and condescending remarks are uncalled for.”

    I thought Paul was obviously being funny, presenting a parody of the position that only a pastor can forgive.

    “You stated Ted offended you. He admitted his sin and asked for forgiveness. You rejected him. You can’t. You must forgive him.”

    Actually, John, Paul stated that I am sometimes offensive in general (third-party sin) and I confessed that it was true. Then I (in jest!) wondered aloud if Paul could forgive my third-party sin. (I was joshing you and Josh.)

    It is a good thing when Paul and I can joke together and each get the joke. I think we might need to put aside for awhile this debate about forgiveness needing a pastor — at least until we can be less sensitive and able to rib each other a bit.

  32. @Pastor John Wurst #41

    Of course, brother! Christ died for this sin, too.

    Please forgive me for being insensitive, making a joke at the expense of those trying to explain the special need for a pastor.

  33. For folks listening in, we see how Pastors Wurst and Osbun are holding firmly to their false teaching and insisting on it, in spite of the overwhelmingly powerful refutation that has been provided by none other than Dr. Luther himself. Please be warned about this false teaching.

    Please read Dr. Luther’s words, which represent the overwhelmingly unanimous teaching of the Lutheran Church and all her orthodox teachers.

    “We should not think: “God forgives above, and men [forgive] here below, [but] who knows whether God above wants to forgive?” This is what we did in the papacy; no one obtained firm consolation from the Absolution, but rather we invoked our patron [saints]. This text was buried under all of this. [But Christ says:] “Do not gape toward heaven when you want remission of sins. Rather, you have it here below.

    “If [you have] a pastor, or a neighbor in a case of need, there is no need to seek the Absolution from above, because this Absolution spoken on earth is Mine. Why? Because I have so instituted it, and My resurrection will effect it. Therefore, no one will accuse you, neither death nor the devil nor I Myself, when you have received this Absolution, since it is God’s own,” etc.

    “It is true that God alone forgives sins, [but] how will I get to heaven? There is no need. Go to the pastor; in case of need, tell your neighbor to recite the Absolution in the name of Jesus Christ. Then you have the Word; when they do it, Christ has done it.

    “Therefore, we have a divine power by which we deliver people from sin, death, and the devil and bring them to eternal life, and this Christ Himself effects through His resurrection.34 May God grant us grace to believe [this] from the heart and be saved.”

    Martin Luther and Christopher Boyd Brown, Luther’s Works : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John, Jn 20:19–31 (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House, 2009-).

  34. I wonder during the 9-11 tragedy, how many laymen were telling their dying friends and collegues that since Jesus died for them they could be forgiven? I wonder how many people held hands and said the Lord’s prayer before they died?

    I told a lady at my job who said she was going to hell because she was so bad that Jesus died for her and she did not have to go there.

    I thought every pastor dreamed of the day when his parishioners went out into the world and shared the gospel and were ministers to those they had influence over.

    After BJS I realize I was wrong.

    I’m beginning to wonder if some of these Confessionals actually know Christ. They seem so willing to prevent the gospel from going out by layman and non Lutherans.

  35. Jeff…you are grandstanding.

    You clearly see that both Pastor Osbun and Wurst have been thoroughly refuted, by me, and by the BJS site owner, Dr. Rossow.

    Your statement that you “wonder if they know Christ” is offensive and you should apologize.

  36. Let me repeat what I have learned on this BJS

    Only Lutheran Churches are true churches and not even most Lutheran churches
    Layman are not ministers of any sort
    We should boot out any church which the Confessionals don’t like
    I have read where pastors have called others fools
    No I will not apologize (removed by moderator)
    and you have had to apologize so many times I have lost count.

  37. One last thing,

    As my dear wife would say

    Oh for the good old days when the only person who could read was the priest and the laity knew their role: to pray, pay and obey.

    Those days are long gone.

  38. @jeff #47
    When a man realizes that he spoken wrongly or hurt others and apologizes (even if it be many times) it is a sign of character and repentance.

    Here is what I have learned from BJS:
    Christians of all sorts can have strong convictions about what they believe. This may sometimes mean a heated discussion ensues, where different parties fall into what their sinful nature wants them to do by calling names and so forth. In a lot of these discussion I have seen honest debate using the Scriptures, Lutheran Confessions, and the writings of our Fathers in the faith. This debate has led to many people learning more about Lutheranism by learning from the Scriptures and Confessions as well. Most times I have seen true reconciliation happen between parties either in the comments or through private email. I have seen erring brothers restored. When such things happen, the angels in heaven rejoice.

    Lastly, the site is not a mandatory visit, and if what you are reading is causing you to act the way you have been in your comments, perhaps you would be better served by going to a different site. You are welcome to visit anytime and read whatever you wish – if you haven’t noticed we are trying diligently to provide some excellent content on a variety of topics to our readers.

  39. @Warren Malach #75

    Hi Warren,

    I posed a question to you and you patiently answered me in detail in the other thread. The pages of that thread don’t function for me this evening, so I hope you won’t think it thread stalking to follow you over hear to post a reply.

    In my previous post, I showed how this is not an academic only quesition for me because of the experience at a retreat of being manipulated into pronouncing absolution to the man next to me. That’s on the pronouncing side of absolution. It is also not merely academic to me from the receiving side of absolution, as I will show here.

    There is salvation, and assurance of salvation. The two are, obviously, related, but perhaps not so obviously distinct. Assurance is beyond salvation, and without assurance, we have gone, so to speak, a bridge not far enough. The proclamation of the Law and Gospel, and the Sacraments are given to convey salvation to us. When the Devil uses our sin to attack our assurance hoping that, if he can combine enough serious attacks, he can be an agent of our falling away, we need the same thing we needed when we were baptized, when we receive bread and wine, when we attend and hear the preaching of the Word, viz: visible means.

    I need visible means for assurance of salvation, and without them, my faith would become shipwrecked.

    We need visible means. We need visible means for salvation, and we need visible means for assurance of salvation. God, in his loving care for his children, has given us the pastor and the Office of the Keys (perhaps the Office to the Church, but nevertheless executed visibly by the pastor) so that we may resort to what we need, means, visible means. I say resort; we need a resort when attacked by the Enemy of our souls. This is an academic subject, but not academic only, rather, a vital one.

    Dr. Luther said in the Small Catechism, in answering the question, What is Confession, “Confession consists of two parts: the one is that we confess our sins; the other, that we receive absolution or forgiveness from the pastor as from God Himself, in no wise doubting, but firmly believing, that our sins are thereby forgiven before God in Heaven.”

    By saying, “in no wise doubting” and “firmly believing,” Luther is addressing assurance of salvation. The word “thereby” in a short catechism is no surplusage. We receive assurance thereby, viz, by the means we can see. We cannot see God and we cannot see into Heaven, but we can see the pastor and we can hear his words.

    Luther goes on to say that to God we confess all manner of sin, but to the pastor we confess “only those sins which we know and feel in our hearts.” These are the ones by which the Enemy attacks our assurance. As to the sins of all manner, from having heard the proclamation of the Gospel, by recalling our Baptism, we have salvation when we confess those sins to God. As to the particular sins that we know and feel in our hearts, the ones that undermine assurance, by the absolution from the pastor, we receive assurance.

    While the proclamation of the Gospel and absolution are, obviously, related, they are perhaps not so obviously distinct, in parallel with relatedness yet distinction of salvation and the assurance of salvation. In the 9-11 example you gave, surely, any Christian may proclaim the Gospel of forgiveness of all manner of sin, but that is not the same thing as hearing a particular confession and pronouncing absolution for it in the catechetical sense. The Christian should not attempt to have the confesser gain assurance from the Christian’s pronouncement, as though by that means God had graciously provided for his child’s assurance. Instead, the Christian should reiterate the Gospel proclamation of forgiveness of all manner of sin through the blood of Christ when asked to give an account of the reason of the hope that lies within him. He should pointed to Christ’s passive and active righteousness for his assurance. He should be told that when asked in the judgment by what deed he is righteous, he can answer, the deeds of Jesus.

    Do not sell that proclamation short. We have a different doctrine of the Word than, say, the confessional Reformed. We have somewhat similar ideas of inerrancy, but I am not now speaking of the issue of inerrancy as exhausting the doctrine of the Word. Lutherans believe that the Word actually does things, that the Word is, if you will, alive and active, by which the Holy Spirit creates faith and life where and when He wills. There is no need to try to give the Word some added boost or higher octane than it already has. Reiterating the proclamation of the Gospel will do for the 9-11 inquirer everything that anyone might hope absolution would do, because the Word is creative when the Holy Spirit wills. Any effor to add a turbocharger to the Gospel ironically undermines the Gospel because it imparts the information that the Gospel needs to be turbocharged, when in truth, the plan, simple, and pure Gospel is the power of God and the wisdom of God.

    Without this Lutheran idea of the Word, and of absolution by the pastor, it is next to impossible to avoid Enthusiasm, an imaginary meansless gospel of im-mediacy (no means).

    I hope that nothing in the tone I have taken will give you a negative experience of an personal rub. I have intended only to give an account of why I and many need assurance of salvation and how God has appointed means for me to receive assurance, and how departing from the means, while well-intended, backfires.

    T. R. in Montana

  40. Mr. Halvorsen #101: A “quia” subscription to the Lutheran Confessions recognizes that the Confessions are a witness to Scripture and a correct exposition of it, but *not* as a source of doctrine, which according to the Formal Principle of the Lutheran Church is “Scripture Alone.” Therefore I do not base my beliefs about Confession & Absolution upon what the Confessions say, but *only* upon what the Word of God Says, and I recognize that I am free in Christ to use the examples given in the Confessions regarding the *practice* of such things as Confession & Absolution or not, because where Scripture does not speak, the matter becomes one of adiaphora and a Christian is *not* under any mandate as long as one follows Scripture.

    Therefore I have to ask: “Where in the *Bible* does it command a Christian to confess their sins to a pastor?” Certainly not in James 5:16. Of course, I have already stated in this forum that, with the historic teaching of the LCMS, I don’t believe that Christ gave the Keys to pastors, but only to the Church through the disciples, in Matt. 18 & John 20. Matt. 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and Acts 1 are statements of the Great Commission, once again given to the Church and *not* merely to the disciples or pastors.

    A Christian is free in Christ, of course, to confess to a pastor for an individual, personal application of God’s forgiveness in a private Confession & Absolution, as spoken about in the Catechisms, but it is *not* mandated in Scripture, and therefore the Church *cannot* make a law about it binding upon consciences. Nor is the Absolution spoken by a pastor in any way *qualitatively* superior to the Absolution spoken through the private use of the Keys by any Christian. Therefore I can’t accept the notion that by virtue of a “rite of Confession & Absolution” a pastor can give me a *better* assurance of God’s forgiveness than a layperson can, or that I myself can directly from God’s Word. Therefore, *not* to confess to a pastor does *not* for me mean to depart from “God’s appointed means to receive assurance,” or that “to depart from such means backfires.” I will not allow anyone, no matter how well-intentioned, to put me in a “Babylonian Captivity” to what is human tradition and *not* taught in the Word of God.