Winter is Coming

Desolate winterI have always found it puzzling that we have been quick to remove pastors from office for immoral conduct but slow to rebuke false teaching in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Of course moral conduct is expected of pastors; as 1 Timothy 3:2 says, an overseer must be “above reproach.” But equally important, if not more so, is that he hold to the trustworthy word as taught, giving instruction in sound doctrine and rebuking those who contradict it (Titus 1:9). Proper discipline is vital to correct error in both cases, but you would think in a church body whose confessions prize doctrinal purity, and whose founder (Walther) regarded the LCMS as “The True Visible Church of God on Earth,” we would take false doctrine just as seriously, if not more so, than moral failings on the part of our pastors. In practice, however, the opposite has usually been the case.

But not this week. President Harrison has taken a bold stance against the panel which has decided not to proceed with charges against Rev. Dr. Becker (see President Harrison’s statement here). Our president is to be commended for not mincing words. Rather than take an “innocent until proven guilty” approach, President Harrison has called a spade a spade: Rev. Dr. Becker is a public false teacher. This is not the time to get a koinonia group together to talk about our differences and try to find common ground. When a wolf is present in the midst of the flock, action is required. If we are so apathetic or steeped in relativism that we are no longer able to discern the presence of a wolf or don’t care that he’s devouring the sheep, we have not only ceased to be Lutheran, we have ceased to be Christian.

President Harrison

President Harrison

From the wolf’s perspective, there is nothing wrong with devouring sheep. Sheep are tasty, but what’s more, this is a matter of life and death for the wolf. The wolf is not going away without a fight; he’s going to devour the sheep or die trying. There are wolves in the midst of the LCMS today, and they are not going to go away quietly. Nor is it enough to deal with only one wolf and leave it at that, as wolves tend to travel and hunt in packs. Rev. Dr. Becker’s false teaching is only the tip of the iceberg. Once this is addressed, hopefully we will begin to work on the long neglected problems below the surface.

Pray for President Harrison; it looks like winter is finally coming. Or maybe it has been winter for a very long time in the LCMS but we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking it’s spring. But thanks to President Harrison we can no longer live in denial, and that’s a step in the right direction. Under his bold and faithful leadership, there is reason for optimism in the LCMS. It may get worse before it gets better, but we may already be seeing the first signs of spring.


Winter is Coming — 10 Comments

  1. A few words regarding wolves and sheep:

    “A preacher must not only feed the sheep so as to instruct them how they are to be good Christians, but he must also keep the wolves from attacking the sheep and leading them astray with false doctrine and error; for the devil is never idle. Nowadays there are many people who are quite ready to tolerate our preaching of the Gospel as long as we do not cry out against the wolves and preach against the prelates. But though I preach the truth, feed the sheep well, and give them good instruction, this is still not enough unless the sheep are also guarded and protected so that wolves do not come and carry them off. For what sort of building is it if I throw away stones and then watch another throw them back in? The wolf can readily tolerate a good pasture for the sheep, he likes them the better for their fatness. But what he cannot endure is the hostile bark of the dogs.” What Luther Says, Volume 2, (St. Louis: CPH), 1959, 1053. Quoted in C. F. W. Walther: The American Luther, Essays in Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of Carl Walther’s Death, (Mankato, MN:Walther Press), 1987, 2-3.

  2. I think that Rev Harrison will be criticized for acting, and criticized if he does not act, but he must proceed to act in the best interests of LCMS and purge heresy. Those who agree with Dr Becker and Dr Becker himself should leave the LCMS and join ELCA, where apostasy and heresy are always welcome. But Dr Becker and like minded individuals would prefer to make the LCMS a twin brother to ELCA. In poisoning the waters, these individuals will set the stage for an exodus from the LCMS….which may have been their ultimate goal.

  3. The “Game of Thrones” reference sits well with me too, but I would rather not see Harrison face the same end as Ned Stark 🙂

  4. No, Rev. Andersen, Walther did NOT say that the LCMS was the true visible Church on earth. He said that of the Evangelical Lutheran Church — that is, those churches who confess, teach, and practice according to the Lutheran Symbols. There is quite a difference.

  5. @Rev. Steven W Bohler #5
    I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t actually say that, then. I said Walther “regarded” the LCMS as the true visible church, which is true, by virtue of its membership in the E-LC. There is quite a difference.

  6. Rev. Andersen,

    I fail to see the difference you are attempting to make: to “regard” the LCMS as the true visible Church is just as wrong as to “say” it is the true visible Church. Neither is correct. And Walther never claimed either assertion. The true visible Church, according to Walther, is not a denomination but a confession and practice according to the Lutheran Symbols. Walther was too good a theologian to fall into the trap of denominationalism.

  7. @Rev. Steven W Bohler #7
    Okay, try this: Walther regarded, saw, believed, taught, confessed, etc., etc., etc., that the LCMS belonged to the true visible church insofar as within it, the Gospel is purely preached and the Sacraments are rightly administered. That is not to say the LCMS cannot err, nor is it to say that the LCMS is THE true visible church to the exclusion of other communions. But all of this is really beside the point of my article, which is why I didn’t bother to spell this out in such detail in the first place. Walther prized doctrinal purity. He fought tooth and nail to keep it pure in the LCMS. So should we.

  8. @Pastor Eric Andersen #8
    Dear Pastor ,
    Well said, I believe it.
    And in all ways, we need to make sure those false pastors in our midst do not continue or be allowed to “possibly” devour the sheep. We must rise up and bring bold witness to men in the field that should not be. And those wolves hide well among fellow pastors.

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