Resisting the Court of Public Opinion

We Americans vote on everything.  We vote on who will be our next President, all the way down to who will be the next sheriff in Mayberry.  We even chose which Monopoly token to vote off the board!   These civil liberties can be a salutary right when exercised in the left hand kingdom.  However, when it comes to theology, the buck stops here.  Doctrinal decisions should be based solely on God’s Word as interpreted by the Lutheran Confessions, not by what the “majority,” or the “minority” think. (If you don’t understand the interpretive role of our Confessions, read Dr. C.F.W. Walther’s essay “Why Should Our Pastors, Teachers and Professors Subscribe Unconditionally to the Symbolical Writings of Our Church,” available here.)

Basing decisions on Scripture often isn’t popular.  The world, the devil, and our flesh, are very fond of twisting Scripture, each to its own liking.  Topics such as abortion, closed Communion, and women’s ordination are great examples of this conflict between Scripture and what the “majority” want.  It is here that we must draw the line. It should be obvious that the Lutheran position and that of the politically correct world are often at odds.  What may catch us by surprise though is when Lutherans disagree among themselves. A word of warning: When the “majority” of Lutherans fall on one side of an issue, that does not necessarily make them correct.  And just because some commenter somewhere questions an article of faith doesn’t mean it’s up for grabs.  As Dr. C.F.W. Walther aptly pointed out,

A doctrine does not become an open question when supposedly loyal Lutherans are not in agreement. And whoever permits such doctrines to be treated as open questions surrenders the fortress of the confession of our Church and is in reality no loyal Lutheran. [Ibid]

Taking a stand that opposes popular opinion leads to persecution, but stand we must.  As the prophet Amos advises, “They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth” (Amos 5:10 ESV).  It is easy to take the path of least resistance, the one that will create the least turmoil.  If the world is giving you a big thumbs up, it’s time to reevaluate.  Luther warns

The lie has always had the greater following, the truth the smaller. Indeed, I know if only a few insignificant men were attacking me, then what I have taught and written were not yet from God. St. Paul caused a great uproar with his teaching, as we read in Acts [17:5, 18; 18:12; 19:23–41], but that did not prove his teaching false. Truth has always caused disturbance and false teachers have always said, “Peace, peace!” as Isaiah [Ezekiel] and Jeremiah tell us [Ezek. 13:10, 16; Jer. 6:14; 8:11].  (LW 32, 12)

So make your good confession, and do not lose heart.  “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12  ESV).

photo credit: kurichan+ on flickr

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