The Lutheran Confessions – Why Do We Still Bother?

Title Page of Book of Concord 1580. Public Domain.

Title Page of Book of Concord 1580. Public Domain.

We have Moses and the Prophets, isn’t that enough? If Holy Scripture is God’s infallible Word and the only source and norm of Christian doctrine, what need do we have for the Lutheran Confessions? If Scripture is the ultimate authority, is efficacious, sufficient, and clear, why do we need anything else?

To answer such questions, the first thing is to state what it is that the Lutheran Confessions are. The Lutheran Confessions are a doctrinal summary of Scripture. They are a confession, a statement of faith, the response of man to the Word of God based on that very same Word. After all, that is what it means to confess – to say the same thing.

Jesus Himself tells us to confess Him before men (Matt. 10:32) and Paul writes in Romans, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (10:9-10). The mouth confesses what the heart believes.

The use of confessions of faith goes back to Old Testament times. Spoken twice daily during morning and evening prayers, Deuteronomy 6:4 was used as an early creed or confession by the people of Israel: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” This confession separated the people of God from the countless nations around them and their countless gods.

In the New Testament we see individual confessions such as Peter’s “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16) and Nathaniel’s, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49). We see short confessions such as “Jesus is Lord” (I Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:11) and longer ones such as “For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” (I Cor. 8:6).

As the devil attacked the church with his lies, additional confessions were needed to correct false teachings that showed up within the church and to prevent heresies entering from outside the church. False teachers were denying the divinity of Jesus, so the Apostle John writes, “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.” (I John 4:2-3) John tells the church to hear the confession of the teacher to determine if he is a false teacher or a teacher of the Truth.

Irenaeus in the second century writes against Gnostic heretics like Marcion who claimed Jesus was only a messenger of God and that the God of the Old Testament is not the same as the God of the New Testament. Irenaeus thus includes a confession of faith that is awfully similar to the Apostles’ Creed to address such heresy (see Philip Schaff’s The Creeds of Christendom II:13-16). The Nicene Creed was written in A.D. 325 to combat false teachers, especially one named Arius, who started teaching that Jesus is not really God. The Athanasian Creed, written about a century later, further delves into the mystery of the Trinity and precisely confesses what Scripture teaches us about the Triune God as opposed to what false teachers were teaching. In all this we see the need for confessions or creeds that teach the Truth while combating false teaching. When false teachings arise, the church responds with confessing the Truth.

The Lutheran Confessions were also written as a corrective to the heresies and false doctrines prevalent in the church at the time with the intent to return the church to the catholic faith of the Prophets and Apostles as recorded in the Old and New Testaments. The Roman church had degenerated into a Gospel-denying, forgiveness-selling, political enterprise and the Augsburg Confession was written to teach the Truth of God’s Word on various topics to correct the perversion of the Word. The Apology was then written for clarification and to prevent the Lutherans from being lumped in with the enthusiasts who were not seeking to return to the catholic faith of the Prophets and Apostles but to invent their own. For teaching and additional clarification on differing positions within the Lutheran church, other works were added to the Book of Concord to confess the Truth of God’s Word and settle doctrinal disputes.

More than mere historical documents, along with the three ecumenical creeds mentioned above, the Lutheran Confessions remain a confession of the faith against false doctrines and heresies which still attack the church from within and without. They remain for us today an explicit confession of the Truth of the teaching of the Prophets and Apostles, and a corrective against the papacy and its false worship, idolatry, and superstition on the one hand, and the enthusiasm of Evangelicals on the other (FC Ep. Intro. 2, 4). They remain a witness and explanation of the faith, and a guide in dealing with articles of faith under dispute and in rejecting and condemning teachings contrary to Scripture (FC Ep. Intro 8).

The Lutheran Confessions aren’t teaching added to Scripture. The Confessions are Scripture arranged topically so that they can be used to effectively teach and refute errors and heresies of every age. They bear witness to the one timeless, eternal Truth which is the same yesterday, today, and forever. This Truth does not change from generation to generation, but is consistent and intransient. Not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished (Matt. 5:18).

Lutheran pastors and congregations have bound themselves to follow the Confessions because they teach what Scripture teaches. Ministers of the Word must pledge to teach according to them to prevent enthusiasts from spreading their own made up doctrine and deceiving the Good Shepherd’s sheep, thus leading them astray. Congregations bind themselves to the Confessions to help prevent them from following pastors who seek to lead them astray.

The Confessions also still exist today to preserve harmony and unity in the church. Every major divisive argument still ongoing within the Lutheran church is addressed in Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. If pastors and congregations would study the confessions they have bound themselves to follow and use them to refute false teachings, the possibility for unity would be far greater. It is these very Confessions that unify in the same faith of the Prophets and Apostles. They identify who we are and remain a common standard around which to rally. They are our confession of Truth in this world full of religions and denominations that claim to follow God’s Word, but in reality follow a pope or their own subjective reason or feelings.

Moses and the Prophets are enough. That’s why the Lutheran Confessions unwaveringly teach and confess the faith of Moses and the Prophets. The Lutheran Confessions teach what Scripture teaches. The Confessions take the efficacious, sufficient, and clear Word of God and use it to teach the Truth and correct false doctrines within and without.


The Lutheran Confessions – Why Do We Still Bother? — 45 Comments

  1. Agreed, Pr. Nieminen.

    It is a sadness that in the LCMS there are camps which specifically segregate into “confessionals” and those who are something else. If the label “confessionals” can be thrown about as an epithet by various camps within the LCMS toward those who actually still subscribe to them unequivocally, I think it adds new dimension to the question you posit as your title: Why bother?

    You point out rightly that Lutherans still bother, because the Confessions are faithful witnesses to Holy Scripture. The follow on question might be, why do we bother still debating, avoiding, subverting, and disregarding them for the sake of the non-confessionals (non-Lutherans) who are active members of the synod? It’s one thing to have ecumenical dialogue with those of other confessions outside one’s fellowship… but why tolerate such things within one’s own confessional synod?

  2. “the Augsburg Confession was written to teach the Truth of God’s Word on various topics to correct the perversion of the Word.”

    To be clear, the Augsburg Confession (AC) came about because Emperor Charles V summoned an imperial diet (a high-level conference) in Augsburg, Germany, hoping to bring about unity between religious factions and thereby strengthen his operations against the Turk. Charles V had requested that statements of faith be presented by the princes and the representatives of free cities who attended.

    While the AC gives “an account of abuses that have been corrected,” that account is provided for the purpose of explaining the doctrine and practice already being adhered to by the Lutherans. The phrase, “it is taught among us,” appears in the AC many times.

    Worth noting: While Melanchthon produced the AC in consultation by correspondence with Luther, none of the original nine signatories of the Augsburg Confession were clergymen.

  3. Why bother indeed! I owe my conversion to Lutheranism on the fact that here was a denomination that wrote down in detail what they believed, then preached and taught it. What a novel idea as compared to what I had experienced in other denominations! While not being instructed beyond the Small Catechism for many years that did form the basis for going on with learning the contents of the BOC.

    Wouldn’t it be great if all the factions in LCMS could start a discussion based on the common knowledge and acceptance of the Lutheran Confessions. Here the key word is acceptance as I have known LCMS pastors who should know better than to belittle the BOC as merely the words of men and not something binding. Ummn, and what did they confess and take an oath to do when being ordained and installed? Seems to me that adherence to those oaths form the basis for a good litmus test of their suitability for holding the office they hold.

  4. @Gene White #3

    In theory, the Lutheran Confessions protect parishioners from the theological whims of their pastors. In theory, the Lutheran Confessions ensure that their will be a continuity of teaching and preaching in a congregation from one pastor to the next.

    In practice, anything goes.

  5. Dear Rev. Nieminen: I agree with you whole-heartedly, in spite of the fact that I am convinced there are serious errors in the Book of Concord. None of the Confessions you listed has ever claimed to be without error. My guess is we can exempt the one-sentence ones and the Apostles’ Creed from that, simply because of their brevity. But we only need to look at the Nicene Creed to see that the filioque controversy has divided Christendom into two parts. And no errors in that big Book of Concord? It boggles the mind that people actually believe that.
    I believe we should tweak the Confessions so that they will witness to the pure Gospel.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  6. If there are that many that openly and sincerely reject parts of the confessions, then I don’t know why there has not already been a split. Pastors are all expected to uphold the confessions. They take an oath, before God himself to uphold them. Congregations also are expected to uphold them, as they are part of their constitution. If someone wants to reject them, then they should be honest, and withdraw from membership. The fact that you have pastors who have taken an oath to uphold them, and yet do not, and even teach against them, tells us a lot about those people and those congregations.

  7. There have been lots of splits. Between the LCMS and WELS 50+ years ago. The Seminex-loyal congregations in the 70s. ELDoNA a decade or so ago. Dozens of other individual congregations all the time. I’m sure there are other significant splits in the LCMS that I’m just not aware of.

    I’d be surprised if we don’t have a dozen or so congregations leave the Synod this fall and winter because of what happened at the Convention in July. ’tis the season to be schismatic.

  8. @George A. Marquart #6

    Hey George, I don’t think it’s a question of whether or not every word in the confessions is infallible (as is the case with Scripture). The doctrines taught in the confessions are the right interpretation of scripture. That is why Confessional Lutherans can disagree with “semper virgo” and still be Confessional Lutherans.

  9. @Ken Miller #10
    No, Confessional Lutherans can disagree with “semper virgo” and still be Confessional Lutherans because “Semper Virgo” is not in the confessions as written, it was added by a translator.

    There’s a difference between infallible (cannot err) and lucky/blessed/really careful (did not err.) We assert the confessors did not err, not that they could not err. Words have meanings.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  10. @Rev. Charles Lehmann #9

    Rev. Lehmann,

    Leaving a heterodox church body is not schismatic, nor is being persecuted out of one– for, let’s say, not bowing one’s knee to the Enthusiasm that’s rampant all over the LCMS. While it’s true that some folks will divide the Body of Christ over issues not related to Scriptural absolutes, it is unfair to paint every group or individual who has left the LCMS as schismatic.

  11. @Ken Miller #10

    Ken, I have never addressed the question whether every word in the Book of Concord is infallible. I know of too many instances where it is not; however, these do not affect doctrine. For instance, quoting St. Augustine when somebody else wrote the quotation. I assert, as I pointed out in the previous posting, “Why not a Formula of Concord for Today,” that there is false doctrine taught in our Confessions to the detriment of the pure Gospel.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  12. @Matt Mills #11

    Thanks for the reply, Matt. My comment was based on something I was told when I read the BoC and had a question regarding “semper virgo.” Is there anything you could suggest in terms of reading that would explain confessional conscription more clearly? Something like a blog post, a short paper, or an FAQ would be preferable to a book.



  13. There’s an enormous amount of debate on how to read the confessions. Our fathers in the faith in the LCMS don’t even agree about it. Sometimes Walther said that our subscription required us to confess the semper virgo. Sometimes he said it didn’t.

    It’s worth noting that the semper virgo is confessed in the Formula under the article on the Person of Christ. The phrase semper virgo isn’t used, but the teaching is there. It says that Mary is still a virgin.

    Selnecker didn’t put the teaching of semper virgo into the Confessions, just the phrase.

    All of this is separate from the question of whether we are bound by our confessional subscription to confess the semper virgo. I decided to quit debating that several years ago.

    Again, it all comes down to confessional hermeneutics. How do you read the Confessions and what do you think is binding in them? Different theologians give different answers. And sometimes the same theologian gives one answer at one time and another at a different time (like Walther). And in that example, Walther would say (whichever position he was espousing) that he had an unconditional quia subscription.

  14. @George A. Marquart #14

    I found an article put out by the WELS seminary. It gives a pretty good explanation of why “quia” subscription refers to affirmation of the doctrinal contents of the BoC, rather than inerrancy. That seems like a more reasonable position to me.

    They point out things like you’ve referenced, that there are quotes wrongly attributed to Augustine, or the idea that garlic can somehow demagnetize a magnet.

  15. @Charles Lehmann #16

    I will bum a Triglotta off my pastor and read it once more, but the SD doesn’t say “Mary is still a virgin” as such anywhere. It says she delivered Jesus w/ her virginity intact, and it says she is the true mother of God and yet remained (past tense) a virgin. I’m not anti SV, but it’s simply not in the confessions, and those who say it is are stretching (and frankly causing more problems than they are solving.)

    No one worth listening to will ever use the term “infallible” for the BOC 1580, but anyone who does not hold the doctrine and praxis of the BOC 1580 as correct should in good conscience leave the LCMS, because that’s what we claim to require.

    The fact of the matter is that we’ve got (you know it’s coming) a basket of deplorable theologians in our synod who claim to have a quia subscription, for whatever reason, while supporting laymen teaching preaching and administering the sacraments, and rejecting love and public harmony by embracing sectarian Protestant worship forms. Of course they want to talk about misattributed quotes, garlic juice and SV; I would sing a happy Te Deum if we ever reached the point that we were just arguing about the magnetic effects of garlic juice, or even SV, but we aren’t there today.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  16. @Rev. Charles Lehmann #9

    The ELDoNA Pastors I know personally, from Texas Confessional Lutherans meetings, CTS CE classes, which I also attended, and such, are sound men, driven out of liberal districts because they and their congregations were conservative confessional in GK’s enthusiast NWO. [“It ain’t your grandfather’s church”! was heard quite a bit then.] Quite often, their congregations went with them.
    In no way should ELDoNA men be put in the same sentence with seminex “higher critics” who went to elca, if they were honest (and stayed to undermine synod if they were not.)

  17. @Ken Miller #17

    They point out things like you’ve referenced, that there are quotes wrongly attributed to Augustine, or the idea that garlic can somehow demagnetize a magnet.

    People dig up that garlic whenever they want to knock the Confessions. They never seem to notice that it’s included among other things you are NOT supposed to believe!

    It’s sort of like anti-Luther people digging up that paper on the Jews’ lying…without ever telling you the lies Luther was referring to.
    [The Jews said (and repeat it in their scholarly journals to this day…where do you think I read it!?) that Mary was a whore who followed a Roman soldier and Jesus was the bastard result of that.]

    You might imagine that would “upset” Luther!!!

  18. @Ken Miller #17

    Thank you Ken and thank you for the link. The article really does not add anything to the debate. As long as we insist that there cannot be doctrinal error in the BOC, even in the face of demonstrable doctrinal errors, the debate is pointless.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  19. @George A. Marquart #21


    It seems clear to me that you really have no interest in learning, but only provoking. You have not demonstrated doctrinal errors in the BOC, only your misunderstanding and seemingly intentional maligning of it.

    Unfortunate… But as you say, debate with you seems pointless.

  20. When we sign a complex binding agreement — such as a contract — in good faith, we do so on the basis of our own understanding of the text and, often, with the advice of someone else who is thoroughly familiar with the text and whose counsel we trust (e.g. parent, mentor, attorney).

    Thinking of how “subscription” means literally to under-write as by a signature on a document, a couple of basic questions come to mind for those clergy who have subscribed to the BOC:

    — To what extent was your decision to subscribe based on your own detailed examination of the text (and trust in your own judgment), and to what extent was it based on your trust in the conclusions to which other people have come?

    — Has the BOC been annotated to indicate precisely which statements reflect the “doctrinal content” to which you have subscribed?

  21. @Brad #22
    Brad, to date nobody, you included, has made an argument against a single point I have raised. Without addressing a single one of them you simply assert that I have “not demonstrated doctrinal errors in the BOC, only your misunderstanding and seemingly intentional maligning of it.” Now, you have volunteered to instruct me, and I have agreed, thus showing my willingness to learn. So I am sitting here, waiting.
    How do you know that debating me is pointless, when you have not even made the effort?
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  22. @helen #20

    Helen, I appreciate your input. You are a wise and well read sister, and seem to always approach things fairly.

    You bring up a good point regarding the garlic (and that infamous book written by Luther).

    I’m still not sure we could say that the BoC is inerrant, in the same way we can with the scriptures. If, for example, the Confessions say that Augustine said something, but he actually didn’t, or if they say that he said something in City of God, but it was actually in his Confessions, does that mean that we would have to defend the BoC or try to find a resolution in the same way we would with apparent contradictions in the timeline of the gospel accounts?

    I don’t think it’s impossible to say that you confirm the doctrines taught in the BoC without affirming that every word in the BoC is inerrant. Now, maybe no one is suggesting inerrancy in every word of the BoC, but that does seem to be Matt was driving at. He corrected my use of “infallible,” but did seem to imply inerrancy.

    I thought the WLS article linked to above was very helpful (garlic references aside), and I think maybe that is a better approach than somehow asserting inerrancy in every word. I could be wrong, this is pure conjecture, but I’m guessing Luther or Melanchton or Chemnitz would have laughed at the assertion that their writings were inerrant in every word. Do they teach the correct doctrine? Yes. Are they inerrant? That seems like a bit of a stretch, but I’d be willing to hear some arguments as to why we should view them that way.



  23. It depends on what you mean by inerrant. If you mean “does not err” then the Confessions qualify. If you mean “cannot err” then they don’t.

    I could probably be comfortable with the sentence, “The Confessions are inerrant but not infallible.”

  24. @George A. Marquart #21

    I would disagree with you on that point, George. I’ve only read the confessions cover to cover once. I’ve re-read a number of sections, and I’ve recently started trying to memorize the catechism (thanks to many encouraging posts from BJS).

    In other words, I’m no professional theologian and I don’t know everything that is in the BoC. However, based on my readings, I do not believe there are any doctrinal errors in the BoC. I believe it teaches the pure doctrine of the scriptures. I do have issues with implying that it is somehow inerrant in every word, because it is not inspired by the Holy Spirit.

    Which doctrinal errors do you find in the BoC that you could point out for the sake of discussion?

  25. @Ken Miller #25

    I’m still not sure we could say that the BoC is inerrant, in the same way we can with the scriptures. If, for example, the Confessions say that Augustine said something, but he actually didn’t, or if they say that he said something in City of God, but it was actually in his Confessions, does that mean that we would have to defend the BoC or try to find a resolution in the same way we would with apparent contradictions in the timeline of the gospel accounts?

    I don’t see people here saying that the Confessions are “inerrant” in the same way Scripture is “inerrant”. I have been taught that they agree with Scripture (whether they draw an Augustine quote from the wrong paper is irrelevant, at least to me). If the BOC is in any detail wrong, Scripture “norms” it;Scripture prevails.

    [If Augustine said something, but somewhere else, fine. If he didn’t say it at all, fine, too; what does the Bible say? (Personally, I find Augustine a bit much some days; Dr. Murray gives me a dose of him with the Memorial Moment devotions fairly often.) But Luther learned him, as an Augustinian monk, so we hear him quoted, more than some other early “fathers”.] 😉

    The important thing is that the various articles in the BOC explain/defend Lutheran doctrine and show it to be derived from Scripture. Those who disagreed with Luther did their own thing then. The ones who are “doing their own thing” now ought to be honest and drop ‘Lutheran’ from their
    [Many of the ‘enthusiast’ missions in TX district do omit ‘Lutheran’ from their names, but they still suck up subsidy from the unknowing Lutherans through the district, while confessional liturgical missions are on their own.]

    Someone can say, “Luther was wrong; ‘I’m right because I said so'” till he’s blue in the face, but if I can read the same text and find what I was taught all my life and what my Pastor, whom I trust to translate from the original languages, tells me every Sunday, what do you suppose I’m going to believe? 🙂

    God bless!

  26. @Ken Miller #27
    Thank you Ken. I am delighted to do so. #16 from George A. Marquart on September 12, 2016 at 4:16 pm This was on the previous posting on this blog:
    I am not a professional theologian either. I am a layman who, being aware of the seriousness of his sins, holds to the pure Gospel for dear life. Literally.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  27. @helen #28

    It sounds like we really do agree, then. The doctrines taught in the BoC are the accurate exposition of the scriptures, but that does not mean that every word is free from error. For example, a mis-attributed quote would be an error, but the doctrine that it was recruited to defend would still be true. That would mean inerrancy would be an inaccurate term to use, but we could still maintain that the doctrines which are taught are the true exposition of the scriptures. It seems like we’re wrangling over the definition of inerrancy, but agreeing in substance.

    Anyways, thanks for the interaction.

  28. @Ken Miller #30

    Whenever faced with a question like this, my very wise University Chaplain would always ask: “Why do you want to know?”

    We’ve got a fair amount of variety in synod today on where the dividing line between doctrine and “just words” lies. Before handing over the metaphorical chainsaw I think it’s legitimate to ask: “what are you gonna do with it?” first.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  29. One BOC passage that I’ve stumbled over is this: In the Large Catechism’s explanation of the Fourth Commandment, Luther says, “With respect to brothers, sisters and neighbors in general [God] commands nothing higher than we love them,” and “it is a much greater thing to honor than to love. Honor includes love….” (Tappert 1959, Sections 105-106)

    I’m not sure what to make of that because, to begin with, the Bible says:
    — “Outdo one another in showing honor.” Romans 12:10
    — “Honor everyone.” 1 Peter 2:17

    Secondly, it seems evident that love includes honor, not the other way around. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is a summary of the second table of the Law, which includes the Fourth Commandment, “Honor your father and your mother…”. We honor them to show our love. Would anyone say that we love them to show our honor?

    Thirdly, how can honor be higher if love is the very fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10)? Also, “now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

  30. @Carl H #32

    Yet, Scripture also says: Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Rom 13:7

    In shorthand, as we are to love unconditionally neighbors, enemies; i.e., everyone, but to honor only those deserving honor, that is the basis of the ranking.

  31. @T. R. Halvorson #33

    Mr. Halvorson: I want to be very careful in answering your question. Would you therefore be so kind and elaborate on what you mean by “a matter like that”?
    Thank you.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  32. Hey Matt, see below for an extended quote from that article that I linked to above:

    “On the other hand, when we subscribe to our confessions, we are not asserting that we hold every historical or scientific statement in them as infallibly true. There are, for example, historical errors. Ambrose is listed as the author of a quotation in Article VI of the Augsburg Confession (Triglotta, p 47). The quotation, however, was taken from a document called the Ambrosiaster, which according to modern historians was not written by Ambrose. We do not subscribe to this historical error, but to the doctrine asserted in the quotation, “It is ordained of God that he who believes in Christ is saved, freely receiving remission of sins, without works, by faith alone.” Likewise the quotation attributed to Augustine in Article XVIII is from a work which is now attributed to someone else (Triglotta, p 51). In T.D. XI, Matthew 22:14 is incorrectly cited as Matthew 20:16 (Triglotta, p 1079). In S.A. II, IV, Luther incorrectly refers to Revelation 10:3 as coming from Revelation 12 (Triglotta, p 473). The Apology’s interpretation of the words “the communion of saints” in the Apostles Creed as a description of the Holy Christian Church may not be a historically correct interpretation of the original meaning of the creed, which may have referred to the sharing of holy things, that is, the means of grace (Triglotta, p 229).

    We do not subscribe to the scientific viewpoints mentioned in passing in the confessions. Article I of the Formula of Concord says, “when a magnet is smeared with garlic-juice, its natural power is not thereby removed, but only impeded.” We don’t subscribe to the idea that garlic juice weakens magnets. In this case the use of this statement against quia subscription to the confessions is silly because the statement about magnets and garlic is not a statement of the confessors, but part of a statement of Strigel which they are rejecting. Their
    assertion is “we reject…that original sin is only an external impediment to the good spiritual powers, and not a despoliation or want of the same, as when a magnet is smeared with garlic-juice, its natural power is not thereby removed, but only impeded; or that this stain can be easily wiped away like a spot from the face or pigment from the wall.” Regardless of whether or not the confessors agreed with Strigel’s belief that the powers of a magnet are impeded by garlic juice, our subscription is to their rejection of Strigel’s doctrine that “original sin is only an external impediment to the good spiritual powers, and not a despoliation or want of the same,” not to the scientific views included in that rejection.”

    This seems like a reasonable approach to me. When we see things in the confessions where a quote is mis-attributed, or there is some outdated scientific theory recruited to draw a parallel, we shouldn’t feel the need to turn a blind eye and say, “nope, no errors here, move along, nothing to see…” Nor should we feel the need to develop some kind of elaborate apologetics to defend such errors.

    These errors do not effect the “correct presentation of the pure doctrine of the Word of God.” The doctrines presented are still correct, but not every word is correct. Seeing as how this is the case, I don’t think we should use the word inerrant, or imply inerrancy. Instead, I think “correct presentation of the pure doctrine of the Word of God” is better. When it comes to ordination, candidates, of course, should be thoroughly grilled to ensure they actually believe this.

  33. @Ken Miller #36

    I don’t think I’m disagreeing w/ you per se, and I’m certainly not either turning a blind eye to incidental factual errors in the BOC 1580 or developing any kind of apologetics to defend them. What I’m saying is that in dealing w/ the confessions it’s safer to talk about specifics rather than trying to come up w/ general rules and categories.

    Does a quia subscription to the BOC 1580 require a belief that garlic juice messes w/ magnets? No, the confessors were wrong about magnets.
    Does a quia subscription to the BOC 1580 require a belief that Ambrose wrote the Ambrosiaster? No, the confessors were wrong about that too.
    Does a quia subscription to the BOC 1580 require a belief in SV? SV isn’t in the BOC 1580.

    All good statements, but use them to make a rule, and the enthusiasts will misuse that rule to perpetrate no end of bad weirdness on the Bride of Christ. That is why when dealing w/ the authority of the norma normata the most important question is “why do you want to know? The horse is already out of the barn on this one, but again for my money, we should have limited ourselves to BOC “free passes.” See something weird and wonder: “Hey, is that a doctrinal requirement for a quia subscription?” Just ask. If it’s a dumb little factoid the synod will grant a “garlic juice free pass” for you to ignore it. But, once we say something like: “only doctrinal statements have weight,” we end up w/ Pastors preaching “decision for Christ” sermons in clown costumes, replacing the catholic liturgy w/ (bad) rock concerts, driving the children out of the “grown up church service” (perhaps after presenting them w/ a vacuous liturgical speed-bump of a “children’s sermon”), letting laymen consecrate the elements, and I don’t know, maybe communing pets, all whilst swearing up and down that they’re supporting all the “doctrinal statements” in the BOC 1580.

    I don’t loan the chainsaw to anyone before I find out what they’re gonna do w/ it.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  34. Luther says that civil authority is “derived”:
    “Out of the authority of parents all other authority is derived and developed.”
    Large Catechism, Fourth Commandment, Tappert 141

    “Derived and developed” — by whom? Does God use parental authority as some kind of raw material from which to “derive and develop” other authority?

    Evidently not, for the Bible says that civil authority is divinely appointed:
    “The authorities that exist have been appointed by God.” Romans 13:11
    “He removes kings and sets up kings.“ Daniel 2:21

    Observation: Some children exercise legitimate authority over their parents, even without their parents’ consent.

  35. @Carl H #38

    “Out of the authority of parents all other authority is derived and developed.”

    “derived and developed” — by whom?

    By you’uns and we’uns, all of us, though maybe a loooooong time ago….

    It’s basically saying the family predates and is superior to the state, again shorthand version.

  36. So we solemnly affirm the Book of Concord to be a “true exposition of Scripture,” but then we recognize that some statements in the BOC are really not expository and of those, some are not true?

  37. As another example, the Large Catechism’s explanation of the Fourth Commandment says that “man-servants and maid-servants … ought even to be willing to pay for the privilege of service….” (Tappert, Section 144)

    Is that a true exposition of Scripture?

    The Bible says clearly, “The worker deserves his wages.” Luke 10:7, 1 Timothy 5:18

  38. Luther:

    — “The godly and the obedient … live long in peace and quietness. They see their children’s children, as we said above, ‘to the third and fourth generation.'” (Large Catechism explanation of the Fourth Commandment; Tappert, Section 137)


    — ““Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.” Matthew 24:9 ESV

    — “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” John 15:20 ESV

  39. Luther says of those who follow the Fourth Commandment: “Not only shall they have bread, clothing, and money for a year or two, but long life, sustenance, and peace….”

    Don’t those specifics go rather beyond what the Bible says?

    “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12

    Is the promise vaguely about divine intervention for the benefit of the obedient, or does is it simply recognize the social connection between respecting authority and having opportunity, helping youth to understand that the commandment is not about parents just lording it over their children arbitrarily?

    Fathers and mothers help prepare their children for participation in the community at large. Youth who respect their parents’ wisdom are better prepared to get along in the world. In parts of the Middle East still today, youth who run afoul of law and custom can be ostracized, imprisoned, maimed or killed.

    Parents may admonish their children, “Brush your teeth. Finish school. Don’t drink and drive. Do your best. Be honest.” For obvious practical reasons, those who heed these kinds of admonishments are likely to be healthier and more prosperous than those who do not. And those who honor their elders in general and gain a reputation as “fine young men and women” will find their elders more willing to give them responsibility and provide them with opportunities to work and learn.

    “What does this mean?” Perhaps: Honor your father and your mother, so that you can recognize and stay clear of many dangers in the world and find respect and opportunity in your community.

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