Recently the topic of whether someone from outside of the LCMS can discuss or be critical of the LCMS came up on a discussion here at BJS. I have heard this “defense” of the LCMS before. Here is my answer to who can discuss or criticize the LCMS:
That’s right, anyone can and should criticize the LCMS if she appears to be in error. It is only fitting that we are a very public church body that we would gladly accept offers of correction from anyone, regardless of affiliation – with the caveat that the correction should involve either:
1. clear proof of error and the corrective teaching from the Scriptures
2. clear proof of error and the corrective teaching from the Confessions
Of course in the end there is not a difference between #1 and #2 for Lutherans in receiving correction.
There are a few observations I need to make here:
If we in the LCMS are only open to LCMS member complaint, then we are acting like a sect or worse a cult. We are not an inclusive club which only grants a voice to members, but instead we give voice to anyone properly using Scripture or the Confessions. That is the way of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, it should be our own way.
As a pastor, I welcome my members to offer critique of my teachings. I would also welcome the critique of any visitor. The only condition I have to the critique I use for them is to show me from the Scriptures or the Confessions. If they don’t quite know where in the Scriptures I will even help them to find what verses they are looking for. Why do I do this? Because I am a man, quite capable of error, and needing the correction of others at times for things I do not see in myself. I don’t think it should be any different with a group of humans (like the LCMS) who are also quite capable of error.