Who can discuss the LCMS?

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:

Anyone.

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.

 

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.

Comments

Who can discuss the LCMS? — 70 Comments

  1. I would disagree that there is not a difference between numbers 1 and 2 for a Lutheran. Luther asked the church to show him his error in the Scripture, not in his written opinions (yes, I know he did not assemble the Confessions, but the point stands.)

    When we are approached with a criticism, Scripture trumps the Confessions, which are not the divinely inspired word of God, but an interpretation written by men who did their best to rightly explain the word of God.

  2. #4 Kitty. Your claim that the confessions are without error is an error–that’s the only way I can put it. Sorry if it seems crass, but you are wrong.

    Where is your scriptural reasoning on this? Where is your message from God informing you that the men writing the Confessions did not misinterpret a single item expressed in God’s word? Apparently every other denominational doctrine is filled with error, while the mighty LCMS is perfect in God’s eyes. Jesus did not establish the LCMS as the only Holy Christian Church in the world.

    You have indeed elevated the Confessions to the level of Scripture by your statement. I can only hope that you mis-spoke what you really meant to say.

  3. @Sue Grabe Wilson #2
    “Jesus did not establish the LCMS as the only Holy Christian Church in the world.”

    Did you think He did, Ms. Wilson? (I haven’t seen anyone but you making such a claim.)

    “Your claim that the confessions are without error is an error”

    No one is saying the Confessions are infallible, but only inerrant. (There could be errors in there, but we haven’t found any.) Since you seem to believe there are errors in the Confessions, would you please expose a few examples for us?

    “Apparently every other denominational doctrine is filled with error, while the mighty LCMS is perfect in God’s eyes.”

    You overstate the case, but yes, any denomination that disagrees with the LCMS must be in error, since the LCMS simply agrees with Scripture. Again, would you please expose an example or two of another denomination’s doctrine that conflicts with the LCMS and is correct while the LCMS is wrong?

    Perhaps you’d like to begin by exposing the Scriptural foundation for the doctrine that God embraces sodomy… 🙂

  4. Which interpretation of the confessions is inerrant?  There seems to be a lot of cheerful disagreement over interpretation on this website.   Earlier this year we had 875 contentious comments on the most basic teaching in the confessions – justification.

  5. @John Rixe #4
    “Which interpretation of the confessions is inerrant?”

    Mr. Rixe, the world is full of false teachings (such as embracing sodomy), which are based upon “interpretations” of Holy Scripture itself, but that does not mean that the Scriptures have errors, right?

    Surely you don’t mean to imply that there are errors in the Confessions — or do you?

  6. I guess I have to rely on experts.  Is there a widespread opinion among theologians that every single word in the confessions is without error and has transparent meaning?  

    Pr McCall pointed out that the confessions were not supernaturally preserved from error. I make errors all the time so I find it hard to believe this big Book of Concord is without a single error. I’m open to persuasion.

  7. @John Rixe #6
    “the confession were not supernaturally preserved from error.”

    Yes, they are inerrant, not infallible. The teaching that the Confessions are merely interesting historical documents and riddled with errors is a novel teaching of “Lutheran” liberals. The only reason people think they find errors in the Confessions is because they don’t like some things they read there. In a similar way, people who want to embrace sodomy don’t like the clear prohibitions they read in the Word of God, so they dismiss those sections of the Bible as errors, too.

    Since you want to be persuaded, I encourage you to spend more time in the Confessions and see for yourself how true to the Word of God and transparent they are.

  8. The teaching that the Confessions are merely interesting historical documents and riddled with errors is a novel teaching of “Lutheran” liberals.

    I don’t agree with such teaching at all.  The confessions are clear and correct in explaining essential Christian doctrine.  Anyone who wants to use the name Lutheran should make sure he/she agrees with these essentials.  To claim that every little word in the BOC is without error goes beyond what the confessions say themselves IMHO.

  9. @John Rixe #8
    “Anyone who wants to use the name Lutheran should make sure he/she agrees with these essentials.”

    Augsburg Confession, Art VII: “And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments.”

    Jesus, Matthew 28:20: “…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

    *All* that Jesus commanded…

    “…agree concerning *the* doctrine of the Gospel.”

    Mr. Rixe, who gets to decide what part of the doctrine of the Gospel is essential and what part is not included in “all”?

  10. @Ted Crandall
    Where did the comment on sodomy come from?? If you are assuming that I am a liberal Christian, nothing could be further from the truth. My point is that ONLY the Scripture is inerrant and infallible. These two words are synonyms. You are avoiding the point by saying that the Confessions can be without error and be fallible.

    Pastor Scheer said that for the Lutheran there is no difference between his first and second points. I disagree. Scripture trumps the Confessions. Only the Scriptures are without error. The Scriptures are the only words that we have that have come down to us that are entirely inspired by God. So nitpicking about “which parts” is not the point. The point is that we must not ever imply that the Confessions are as valuable as the Scriptures for correction or inspiration.

    Warren Malach brought up a very good point when he asked if the LCMS has moved from “Scripture alone” to “Scripture + Confessions alone” Be very cautious about seeking your truth in the Confessions as the only correct interpretation and exposition of God’s word. Seek your truth in God’s word, and then read the Confessions to see if they are totally accurate or if they are in error.

  11. Inerrancy = The Scriptures do not err.

    Infallibility = The Scriptures cannot err.

    Pr Crandall opines there may be errors in the confessions but we haven’t found any.

  12. I share Mrs Wilson’s dismay.  Pastor Scheer seems to be putting the confessions on an authoritative par with the Bible. Shouldn’t we approach the confessions like Bereans?

  13. @sue wilson #11
    “My point is that ONLY the Scripture is inerrant and infallible.”
    On that we agree. We also seem to agree that Sola Scriptura means just that — the Bible *alone.* You don’t seem to agree, though, that the Confessions, while not infallible, are inerrant.

    “These two words are synonyms.”

    What dictionary are you using?

  14. Trying to divide Scripture from Confessions sounds a lot like dividing doctrine form practice. And we know what kind of mess that is…

    The Confessions may be inerrant because they mimic Holy Scrpiture. Good practices are God-pleasing when they flow from correct doctrine.

    Pastor Ted Crandall is absoluely right in that people who tend to get their shorts most in a twist are likely the ones who hate (as sinful humans are want to do) what the Word and Confessions say.

  15. Pastor Ted Crandall is absoluely (sic) right in that people who tend to get their shorts most in a twist are likely the ones who hate (as sinful humans are want (sic) to do) what the Word and Confessions say.
     
    Sorry – I don’t understand.  Please be more specific.  Who exactly hates what the Word and Confessions say?  Shouldn’t we approach the confessions like Bereans? Thanks.

  16. In response to the criticism of me putting both on the same level for Lutherans. Scripture is the “Norming Norm” which of course means that it sets everything as either true or untrue. The Confessions are the “Normed Norm” (Normed by the Scriptures) which among Lutherans (who subscribe to it as true [based upon the teachings of Scripture]) is also a “norm”. That means that we can use it as a rule.

    This morning I had the joy of bringing new members into the congregation I serve by the rite of Confirmation. In that rite, the vows mention the following:
    “Do you hold all the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God?”
    AND
    “Do you confess the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from the Scriptures, AS YOU HAVE LEARNED TO KNOW IT FROM THE SMALL CATECHISM [one of the Confessions], to be faithful and true?”

    The Confessions contain the teachings of the Scriptures.

    With a baptist I do not use the confessions, but with a Lutheran I can absolutely use them, as Lutherans have agreed (pastors agree to the whole Book of Concord; laity to the Small Catechism) that they teach what is true and faithful to the Scriptures.

    I think the views expressed here are strikingly indicative of the problems we have across Synod among pastors – just how are we to treat the Confessions and what they teach? If the confessions say something about retaining liturgy, does that matter? If the confessions teach weekly communion does that matter? If they don’t why did that pastor confess before God and the congregation he serves that they are in line with Scripture and that he would diligently study them also (as well as Scripture).

    Fundamentalism sought to demand everything come from the Bible (literally the 66 books of it). Lutheranism did not do that but maintained that anything that agrees with the teachings of the Scripture is good and useful. The phrase “God’s Word” has a different meaning for us.

  17. Excellent answer, Pastor Scheer.   You have clarified the issue for me in a patient and constructive manner.

    When a pastor makes this promise, does he then just give up approaching the confessions as a Berean?    In deciding questions, are the confessions authoritative on their own or only if and when they specifically point to Bible passages?

    I can now see this issue isn’t simple, and I have a better appreciation for a pastor’s work.

  18. @John Rixe #16
    “Who exactly hates what the Word and Confessions say?”
    I had in mind the folks within the LCMS who, for example, are determined to ordain women, practice open Communion, and embrace sodomy.

    “Shouldn’t we approach the confessions like Bereans?”

    Yes. Search the Confessions to see if what they say is true. (Please let us know if you find any errors.)

    @sue wilson #11
    “Only the Scriptures are without error.”

    I think you mean to say that only the Scriptures cannot possibly be in error, while the Confessions theoretically could. In other words, only the Scriptures are infallible (cannot contain error).

    Unless you can find an error in the Confessions, it is fair to say that both the Confessions and the Scriptures are inerrant (don’t contain error). (But only the Scriptures are infallible.)

  19. @Pastor Ted Crandall #19

    The confessions are too deep for me. If you say that theologians haven’t found a single error in all those pages, I have to accept that as amazing but true. 🙂

    Thanks for your comments.

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.