Continued conversations — an offense to the Gospel?…

A word from Flacius about the current desires to have more debates about things which are clearly taught in Scripture:

“A year ago, in the Christmas season, when an assembly was held in the marketplace about the new Interim at Leipzig, certain Jews asked certain Christian merchants why they held so many assemblies about their religion, whether they perhaps had doubts about it. They were Jews, a godless people according to the Christian opinion, yet they rather would have died a thousand deaths than have the religion they followed changed. We thus carry ourselves so subtly with our adiaphora, new Interim, and so many days that Jews, Turks, papists, and all the godless laugh at and scorn us, our gospel, and Christ, and God’s name is blasphemed on account of our shameful inconsistency.” (Adiaphora and Tyranny, 77)

What strikes me very odd about this is that these debates during Flacius’ time were about things considered adiaphora in a church body that was in a state of confession (see the Solid Declaration for more on that).  The “assemblies” being talked about here are talking about embracing certain things in order to keep peace with the Roman Catholic World, that these things really don’t affect the core of what we believe “the Gospel”.  But Flacius and the Lutherans saw through it and stood strong against such compromise with the world (yes, the Roman Catholic Chuch of the time was the world – and the Interims were enforced by the Emperor).  It was a matter which affected the Gospel.  The constant ongoing discussions were causing damage to the Gospel.  Jews, Turks, papist, and all the godless were laughing at these constant ongoing assemblies to discuss things.  It caused those folks to believe that the Lutherans had doubts about what they believed.

Certainly with the recent announcement of this Women’s Ordination Conference designed to discuss it again (and by their OWN admission to come up with a resolution for the 2013 LCMS Convention, that’s a little more than “discussion”) reminds me of this.  What is shocking is that we are having to have “discussions” not about adiaphora, but about things that are clearly settled in Scripture.  We are truly in ungodly times if these kind of “discussions” are a part of the Church.

This past week I have had to think of how we react to things like this Women’s Ordination Conference.  Some folks are advocating a more moderated response.  I have not been one of those folks frankly because of things like what Flacius wrote here.  The Gospel is at stake.  The issues in our church body needing to have “ongoing discussion” are causing damage to the very Gospel we preach.  The world (and other churches) are looking on at a time when we could be a solid voice for Lutheranism (like at the Theological Conference last week) and they are seeing that we have some shaking footing (like the Jews of old, they may be asking, does the LCMS have doubts about their religion?).

I am not sure of what these words of Flacius mean for things like the Koinonia Project.  They probably won’t make any impact.  We need to understand though that as we continue to converse about these teachings which have long been the clear teaching of Scripture (Closed Communion for example) it causes greater offense than just among us.  It goes to the very heart of the Gospel, causing others to think that we have doubts about what we believe – and doubt is the enemy of faith.  There are legitimate things which may need ongoing catechesis (I think the area of worship probably is one of them), but there are some teachings which should not cause any more conversation than that of the way of church discipline.

More than discussion, we need teaching.  Discussion can be helpful in establishing positions for each side (but hey, in the LCMS those positions have been long established – you are either for closed communion or open communion).  But discussion also goes to the core of the problem – thinking that each opinion is valid at table.  That is not true – the only things valid at a Lutheran theological table are the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.  Discussion leads to compromises, teaching leads to disciples.  We have, for the most part, in our continued need for conversation shown that we are a church sorely in need of being taught.  Maybe with the 500th anniversary coming up and the renewed focus upon Luther and Lutheranism we will start to learn again who we are as Lutherans and stand firmly in that, rather than continue to converse in ways which make the world laugh at us.  If we are to be laughed at – let it be for the preaching of Christ crucified, like Paul before us (1 Cor 1).


Comments

Continued conversations — an offense to the Gospel?… — 12 Comments

  1. Pastor, as I’m sure you would agree, there is an enormous world of difference between people who are, very sincerely and honestly, asking us why the Church does not ordain women. In this case we all are eager patiently, lovingly and gently to teach them the truth.

    However, when people come openly advocating the ordination of women and advocating for the Church to change its position on homosexuality, as have Carol Schmidt and Matthew Becker, this is no longer a matter of sincere asking of questions to seek understanding, but advocacy of teaching contrary to the Word of God. It is devious behavior to play at “Oh, why can’t we talk about this?” when in fact there is no desire for discussion, but advocacy for falsehood. I’ve heard one woman in particiular, for many years play the game of steadfastly refusing to answer whether she if for/against the ordination of women, but demanding everyone keep answering her “questions.”

    In the latter case we simply say, “No, we reject and condemn this.” Period.

    This reminds me of an incident related by Hermann Sasse years ago:

    “During the First Session of the Second Vatican Council a lady turned up in Rome and asked for an audience with the pope to discuss with him the question of the ordination of women to the Catholic priesthood. She was Dr. Gertrud Heinzelmann, a lawyer at Lucerne, the famous centre of the Roman Church in Switzerland. Pope John, who was otherwise kindness and patience personified, lost his patience. ‘Tell that suffragette that I shall never receive her. She should go back to her homeland.’ Why did the good pope, who was otherwise prepared for a dialog even with the worst enemies of the Church, give such a harsh answer? Could he not have replied something like this: ‘Tell my daughter that the ordination of women is against the Word of God’? This was his argument when the Archbishop of Canterbury declared such ordination to be against the tradition of the Church. Could he not have referred her for further information to one of his theologians? John was not an intellectual like his predecessor. He was not a great theologian either. But he was, as his ‘Journals’ show, a great pastor. Every pastor knows, or should know, that there are cases, when a discussion is impossible and the only answer to a question can be that ‘Begone, Satan!’ which Jesus spoke not only to the devil (Matthew 4.10), but also to his faithful confessor, Simon Peter (Matthew 16.23).” Sasse, “Ordination of Women”, in The Lutheran 5.9 (3 May 1971): 3.

  2. Dear Pastor Scheer,

    Thanks for your comments about O.W.N. and other divisive factors in the LCMS today.

    I think this comment of yours was most helpful for me: There are legitimate things which may need ongoing catechesis (I think the area of worship probably is one of them), but there are some teachings which should not cause any more conversation than that of the way of church discipline.

    I don’t know what the Koinonia Project is finding right now, although their methods and procedure is pretty clear. See the LCMS website under Koinonia Project for that: http://www.lcms.org/page.aspx?pid=1041

    I agree with you that there are some things that are so clearly contrary to orthodox Lutheran theology that there really is no need for discussion. Women’s ordination is one of those. Blessing of gay marriages and ordination of gay clergy are in that category too.

    “Orthodox Lutheran theology” means what was developed by Luther, codified in the Book of Concord, and explicated at length and in detail by Melanchthon (with a few errors), Chemnitz, Gerhard, Calov, Quenstedt, Walther, Pieper, and Hoenecke. Whatever answers the Koinonia Project comes up with has to be in line with these theologians, or it really isn’t Lutheran.

    I am finding that Johann Gerhard gives outstanding answers, both in terms of clarity and in terms of supporting arguments from Scripture and Church Fathers, to many questions that have perturbed the LCMS since the Saint Louis seminary started despising its orthodox heritage (I am talking sometime in the 1950s until the walkout in 1974).

    On women’s ordination, see Gerhard, Theological Commonplaces: On the ecclesiastical ministry, part one (CPH, 2011), page 271. On whether ordination is a sacrament, see ibid., page 209-225. On whether a call to the pastoral office is required to perform pastoral functions (issue raised by 1989 Wichita resolution), see ibid., pages 71-99. On whether the sacraments and the ministry are effectual without a call or ordination (issue raised by accusations of sacerdotalism), see ibid., pages 209-210. On the issue of whether heretics, schismatics, etc. can be in the church associating with true believers, see Gerhard, Theological Commonplaces: On the church (CPH, 2010), pages 93-106.

    On worship, many of our theologians and pastors have written excellent things to which the “semi-Evangelicals” have given no intelligent response. If you want to summarize the orthodox Lutheran position, I think Apology XXIV, 1-3 and Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration X, 5-6 & 9 about does it. The Formula’s position is explained in greater detail in Martin Chemnitz’s Examination of the Council of Trent, Volume One (CPH, 1971), 267-271 (Second Topic, section vii).

    On communion distribution policy, again, our theologians and pastors have written excellent things to which the “libertines” have given no intelligent response. If you want to summarize this position, see Apology XXIV, 1 and Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration VII on the “worthy recipient.”

    The orthodox Lutheran position, as explained above, consistently respects all of Holy Scripture as inspired and authoritative for faith and life. The “neo-orthodox Lutheran” position that was held by many in Seminex and that is still promoted by people such as Carl Braaten today, agrees on the traditional view of the Trinity and Christology, but let’s everything else in Scripture go free. The “liberal Lutheran” position held by the ELCA seminaries, colleges, and headquarters is just liberation theology wrapped in Lutheran vestments.

    These three types of Lutherans are simply and absolutely incompatible. People who want women’s ordination or approval of gay agenda will find their position approved by the “liberal Lutheran”, maybe or partially tolerated by the “neo-orthodox Lutheran,” and rejected by the orthodox Lutheran position.

    Those are my thoughts, for what they are worth. Thanks again, Pastor Scheer, for all you do to lead these discussions and to help guide many of the authors here!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  3. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #1
    I would agree. There is huge difference between false teachers (wolves in sheep’s clothing) who promote heresy and the sheep who have been misled. Sheep deserve care and patient teaching and instruction. Wolves deserve to be put out of the pasture. Even sheep so severely misled and obstinate in believing error need to be shown out of the pasture in order that they would understand the serious nature of their error.

    Next week I think on BJS there will be an article about false teachers vs. misled sheep.

  4. Good post and responses. Very helpful Pastor Noland.

    So when does the Synod say “Be gone Satan” to Carol Schmidt and Rev. Matthew Becker? Where does church discipline take place in the Koinonia Project?

    Are we to continue to commune with (should occasions arise) such false teachers and advocates until if and when Synod takes action?

    Sincerely inquiring of your thoughts.

  5. @Martin R. Noland #2
    I agree with you that there are some things that are so clearly contrary to orthodox Lutheran theology that there really is no need for discussion. Women’s ordination is one of those. Blessing of gay marriages and ordination of gay clergy are in that category too.

    “Orthodox Lutheran theology” means what was developed by Luther, codified in the Book of Concord, and explicated at length and in detail by Melanchthon (with a few errors), Chemnitz, Gerhard, Calov, Quenstedt, Walther, Pieper, and Hoenecke. Whatever answers the Koinonia Project comes up with has to be in line with these theologians, or it really isn’t Lutheran.

    When it’s evident that a topic is settled already based on Scripture and the Confessions, confessional Lutherans should not be asked to waste time (and money) listening to renegades explain why the opinion should be changed now.

    This [baloney sausage] has been pedaled more or less openly for 50 years.
    That should be more than sufficient. Let’s get back to being the church.
    If some don’t want to be (Missouri style) Lutheran, there are plenty of options!

  6. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #3: “Next week I think on BJS there will be an article about false teachers vs. misled sheep.”

    2 John 1:10 has some application here.

    @Rev. James Gier #4: “Where does church discipline take place in the Koinonia Project?”

    As indicated in 1VP Mueller’s tapdancing, the Koinonia Project does not involve church discipline. Helen’s description of the Koinonia Project as “baloney sausage” is far too polite… and insults baloney sausage. 😉

  7. @Carl Vehse #7
    Helen’s description of the Koinonia Project as “baloney sausage” is far too polite… and insults baloney sausage.

    Helen meant to be referring to things like “OWN”, evolution, Genesis as myth and all the other higher critical tripe (which is why she said, “50 years”.) But if this sort of thing is going to be be regurgitated yet again for Koinonia, instead of discussing how we should live in accord with the inerrant Scripture and the Confessions, there is not much hope of our getting back to being Lutheran.

  8. In the Harmony Task Force “Progress” Report, under “Inability to deal with diversity” (which is the first of seven so-called “aspects of disharmony in the LCMS, the following issues are included:

    – Admission to Holy Communion,
    – Worship substance and style,
    – The Office of the Public Ministry,
    – The role of laity in the church, and
    – The service of women in the church

    Let the reader translate the meaning of these phrases.

    The text also noted a concern by “some presenters” about an “unhealthy ‘doctrinal diversity'”

    But an April 15, 2011, WMLTblog article, More “Talk” about the Koinonia Project…, stated:

    “The point is, most people can identify at least some of the problem. Of course, it is also true that how each person (including myself!) evaluates the issues and conflicts will be colored by his or her political biases and expectations. No one should be surprised by this. It’s been part of our life together for a long time. In fact, this phenomenon is one of the clearest examples of the need for an effort like the Koinonia Project. It’s also the source of some misconceptions about the project.

    These statements make it appear that the Koinonia Project is more a matter of sorting through political biases and expectations to reach harmony.

  9. @Rev. McCall #10: “Any burning questions you would like a political wish-washy response to?”

    In addition to the above excerpt, I think the response to Ginny Valleau #5 question on the WMLTblog and the reference back to Comment #2 on that blog, pretty much fills the Koinonia Project’s wishy-washy quota.

    To quote “mames” from Nov. 2, 2011,

    “A process full of good intentions but I thought we already had a formula for concord.”

    “Might I add that this is not a Matt 18 process but a process borrowed directly from secular conflict resolution. It would be great if it worked but it does not”

  10. @ Pastor Scheer

    “There are legitimate things which may need ongoing catechesis (I think the area of worship probably is one of them), but there are some teachings which should not cause any more conversation than that of the way of church discipline.”

    I agree that there are things that do not deserves discussion in our church, including homosexuality. I wonder though about your comment that the area of worship may need” ongoing catechesis”. My understanding of the word is that it concerns teaching, not discussion. When it comes to contemporary worship, do you believe that discussions that might lead to an acceptance of contemporary worship would be a possibility, or are you (by your choice of “catechesis”) indicating that you feel that those involve in this form of worship simply need to be educated back into traditional worship? As a supporter of contemporary worship, I’m curious as to what you are saying about this particular subject.
    Thanks.

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.