Why not a Formula of Concord for Today?

bookofconcordimageIt should not be disputed today that unfortunately there is much doctrinal divergence still in the LCMS.  One easily discovers this when traveling to other congregations and discovering the wide range of belief, confession and practice of various doctrines.  Some efforts in various forms and in some areas of the synod have begun trying to address this disunity, e.g. Visitation, The Koinonia Project.  One significant factor of such approaches is the need for time and patience.  To this, it may be noted that we have been at discord since the 1930’s or as late as the 1950’s.   Also, our tendency has been for some time to be obsessed with church polity solutions.  Wait until the convention and try to get a resolution passed.  This needs to be challenged and debated.

What is rarely mentioned in such a discussion is the spread of leaven among the dough or more to the point, how large a group of the laypeople will we allow false doctrine to be taught and preached to them as the truth before we take more decisive action?  Or put into biblical terms, how long will we allow the leaven to spread in the synodical dough? (1 Cor. 5:6-7 and Gal. 5:9)  The non-confessional side of this equation has personally and privately said to me (and I’m sure to many others): On which doctrinal differences will we draw the line in the sand?  Or another said to me: What do I tell my laypeople when they ask why do so many others in synod disagree with us?  It is readily apparent that this side requests and even demands that time and patience be given for divergent teachings and practices.

This is not the historical Lutheran approach to allow the leaven time to spread even further.  We as the theological children of the Lutheran Confessors subscribe to this:  “Likewise, we desire furthermore to agree in a friendly way among ourselves earnestly, using whatever means possible, to maintain this work of concord in our lands, according to our own and each community’s circumstances, through diligent visitation in the churches and schools, through supervision of the presses, and through other salutary means.  And should the present controversies about our Christian religion again surface or new ones arise, we agree that to protect against all kinds of scandal they be settled and reconciled in a timely way before given a chance to spread.”  (Preface to Book of Concord, 24)

In my 2002 book Testing the Claims of Church Growth it was proposed that we address this issue of the Church Growth Movement with a Formula of Concord of our own time.  Not many conversed with me either agreeing or contesting this proposal.  However, have heard many over the past decades declare that we don’t need a new Formula of Concord (FC)!  All we need to solve our disagreements is found already in the Book of Concord!  If this reasoning is solid, than why did they ever need the FOC?  It was all there in the Augsburg Confession (CA)!  And to go even further, why need the CA when one has the Nicene Creed?  The answer is obvious.  At the time of writing of the previous tremendous confessional statements, the doctrinal divides were not in play.  As the very beginning of the FC states: “A Summary Epitome of the Articles in Controversy among the Theologians of the Augsburg Confession, Explained and Reconciled in a Christian Manner under the Guidance of God’s Word.”

Isn’t this exactly the position we find ourselves in today?  The various doctrinal disputes have not been adequately, officially and intentionally addressed with both sides’ sincere position given attention and then God’s Holy Word is expounded in both affirmative and negative theses for those who wish to declare concord.

What have we to lose by immediately beginning a FC deliberation on the doctrines under dispute?  Is it fear of division?  Certainly those in the years after Luther’s death up to the publication in 1580 of FC had this looming threat maybe more than we today.  It didn’t prevent them from FOC and it shouldn’t prevent us either.

What have we to gain?  For one result is the salutary and respectful treatment of all sides of the dispute under solely God’s Word.  Thus, a Lutheran, biblical approach to first documenting the doctrines under dispute and then only allowing Scripture as the only allowable evidence.  Many have been opposed to allowing Scripture to have this singular role among us, even though we tout ourselves so proudly as the church of Sola Scriptura.  This increasing tendency among us to resolve doctrinal disputes by vote and polity rather than Scripture Alone has in my mind gagged God’s voice among usWe can quickly and confidently as the Confessional Lutherans we are reestablish His truthful voice among us by implementing a Formula of Concord solution among us.  For His sake and glory!

About Rev. Rodney Zwonitzer

he Rev. Rodney Zwonitzer graduated with a B.S. in Business Management from the University of Wyoming in 1971. From 1971 to 1975 he served as executive trainee for Westinghouse in Denver, CO. Then from 1975 to 1979 he was marketing director/administrator for Storage Technology Corporation of Louisville, Colorado. From 1979 to 1984 he was Product Marketing Manager for United Technologies/Mostek of Carrollton, Texas. Then another calling came into his life. After attending four years of seminary at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, he was called in 1988 to serve as Pastor of Peace and Trinity Lutheran Churches in Trail, British Columbia, Canada. He served there until he was called to be Senior Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Dearborn, Michigan in 1991. In 2012 he was called to be Director of Broadcast Services for the LCMS. The Rev. Rod Zwonitzer is author of Testing the Claims of Church Growth (CPH, 2002). He is co-founder of the Peacemakers Dialogue Group, has served on the Board of Directors of LATINO (Lutheran Action Improving Native Spanish Outreach), is a co-founder of the Ephphatha Lutheran Mission Society, and has served as an adjunct professor at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne. Rev. Zwonitzer retired in 2015 and resides in Florida.


Why not a Formula of Concord for Today? — 94 Comments

  1. Huzzah, Rev. Zwonitzer!

    I think your proposition is the forerunner of what could emerge as a new Synodical Union. If we could put some of our best Confessional Lutheran theologians to the task of drafting such a document, and then circulate it among the Lutheran pastors (regardless of current synodical affiliation) I think what might emerge is a Lutheran Synod marked more by unity in doctrine and practice than by bureaucrats and politics.

    Let’s do it!

  2. “Fo-getta bout it”. Waste of time. As a Synodical Rep., we proceeded to make some good progress on repairing some bad practice. The LCMS is still the best and only true Synod that is Lutheran on paper. Yes, some rogue Churches and Pastors, even bureaucrats, but we are making progress.

  3. @Pastor Prentice #2

    I sincerely disagree, Pr. Prentice. Not only do I think you will have a very hard time marshaling evidence that “the LCMS is still the best and only true Synod that is Lutheran on paper…” I also recommend not being quite so dismissive and insulting to Rev. Zwonitzer. He has made a suggestion not far afield from the early efforts which actually formed the LCMS, and the earlier synodical unions in this country.

    It would only take a few decent Lutheran theologians to pen a “2nd Epitome”, as it were, draw the line in the sand for all Lutheran pastors and congregations (within and without the LCMS) and let the chips fall where they may. On the somewhat more left-leaning conservative movements that emerged from the ELCA controversies, they penned the “9.5 Theses” which gave cohesion to their various reformers, and eventually coallesced into the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). I’d bet that if some stalwart Lutheran theologians from the more conservative side penned a complimentary new Formula or Epitome, then the actual Lutherans that are still left in the LCMS might be able to guide the other conservative Lutheran refugee movements into a broader Confessional consensus.

    I think Rev. Zwonitzer is onto something, not because it is a novel idea, but because in fact it is a very old, and very Lutheran idea… and to my reckoning, a much more churchly idea than waiting endlessly on bureaucrats to reform the institution they made.

  4. Rev. Zwonitzer,

    How does the ACELC’s admonition to the LCMS over specific errors fit into things? It seems like they have specifically addressed errors like a FC would but it hasn’t led to any changes (at least that I’m aware of). Are you saying a new synod and/or a break from LCMS is necessary for confessional Lutherans at this point? And if so, couldn’t that group just “retreat” to Scripture as expounded in the 1580 Book of Concord and leave the errors and resolutions of the LCMS Inc behind?


  5. A post-modern FC is not necessary, as all the points of contention are clearly set forth in the BOC 1580. A post-modern FC is not salutary, as those with whom we are in disagreement already know that all the points of contention are clearly set forth in the BOC 1580. The Schwarmer do not desire unity w/ the Confessionals, they desire liberty of conscience to break unity w/ the Confessionals whilst maintaining their retirements and medical care policies, at least until they are in a position to enforce their rejection of the doctrine and praxis of the BOC 1580 on what remains of the Confessionals.

    What is necessary is a willingness amongst the Confessionals to conclude (as Luther did w/ Oecolampadius and Zwingli at Marburg) “You have a different spirit from ours.” There are many practical and salutary reasons to do this while there is still a Confessional SP.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  6. @Brad #3
    Dear Brad,
    In reality, I do wish we had more time to talk and discuss, but we do not need a new document, or a new Epitome, etc. Yes, I wish the Synodical Convention was more like the Council of Bishops, etc., but that is not our polity.

    In today’s world, any new document would be divisive, someone, many would cry foul.

    We already have the line in the sand as you say, but now we need to “get it done”, but in more timely manner.

  7. @Brad #3
    Before anyone pens a “2nd Epitome”, I’d like to know what’s missing from the first. Until proven wrong, my assertion is that everything dividing the LCMS is already in there, and all we lack is the resolve to enforce it.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  8. @Matt Mills #7


    When I teach the Confessions, I try to explain how they proceed from common points. The FC is an exposition or clarification of the AC, bringing contentious points to clearly delineated conclusions, and forcing a yea/nea vote of subscription or rejection on each.

    While I would agree that everything we need for unity of doctrine and practice are clearly present in Holy Scripture, it only took the Church a couple centuries to find that they needed clear Creeds to bring certain points of doctrine to inescapable focus… a practice the Ecumenical Councils attempted to continue through the 8th century. By the 16th century, the Church had need of clear and clarifying Confessions, once again to bring central Scriptural doctrines back to inescapable focus. Given the absolute mess of 20th and early 21st century Lutheranism, I can see why our pastors and theologians would want to bring the confused articles to inescapable clarity once again.

    Dealing with heresy/false doctrine/false practice, is an ongoing wrestling match, where the innovators constantly attempt to wiggle out of doctrinal formulations of orthodoxy. It is my humble opinion that from time to time, and perhaps every few centuries, the Church needs to re-state its orthodoxy in ways that pin modern errorists to the mat with no room to wiggle free. Doing so will certainly be divisive, but that’s really the point– to make clear distinctions between the orthodox and the heterodox, for the sake of a clear and faithful witness to Christ, and the health of the people who need that witness to sustain saving faith in the Gospel.

    But those are just my thoughts, such as they are.

  9. @Pastor Prentice #6

    Pr. Prentice,

    The problem is that we precisely do not have a firm line in the sand. Presenting a Summary of teaching from the Scriptures and the Confessions in declarative form (this we accept, this we reject) would indeed be divisive for those who refuse to live according to Scripture and the Confessions. It will make bureaucrats squirm and heretics scream, but that is exactly how the Church is supposed to present truth and resist error.

    Hand wringing half gestures with plenty of loop holes against eventual compliance is no way to settle the abuse of the pastoral office currently run amok in the LCMS, which is in clear violation of AC XIV. Endless Koinonia dialogues will not resolve rampant Enthusiasm throughout the synod, from aberrant worship forms which effectively abolish the mass and disregard historic rites in clear violation of our Confessions, to piped in heretics and heretical Sunday Schools materials used for educating youth and adults, to 5/2 “Sacramental Entreprenuer” movements that are infesting whole districts. These need to be called out as contrary to Scripture and the Confessions, and a clear line set between those who will accept or reject sound doctrine. Point blank, no wiggle room, no loop holes. That’s the model St. Paul used, and what we see across all of Holy Scripture. If the LCMS were a Biblical, Lutheran church body, it would embrace a Biblical and Lutheran model of dealing with error.

    Instead, bureaucrats broker peace treaties to keep the Enthusiasts and the Confessionals from letting their quasi-private cold war turn hot and public, and impacting the flow of money to the bureaucrats and their projects. I don’t think you can show me where that reflects anything akin to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, though it is awfully similar to the Anglicans, the Romans, and various Evangelical movements where protecting the bureaucracy is valued over sound doctrine and practice.

  10. @Brad #11
    I guess I still don’t know what a new FC would be for. There’s an extent to which the catholic creeds failed to address some of the bad weirdness the church faced in the 16th century, but I’m struggling to see anything truly “innovative” coming out of our current crop of LCMS enthusiasts. What do you see so “new” that the BOC 1580 doesn’t deal w/ it?

    @Pastor Prentice #8

    @Brad #10

    On the question of pace and resolve, I guess the biggest problem I see today is that there seems to be a basic disconnect between the polity of the LCMS, and the pace our current (solidly Confessional) SP seems to be accepting. A bishop installed for life (or barring significant moral/theological infractions) can afford to take a very long-term approach. Wait for Pastor X to retire, and replace him w/ Pastor Y; stop most of the yahoos from graduating from sem, and put the few that sneak through under sound men; incrementally address praxis etc. But, if you’ve only got three years guaranteed, that kind of thing seems foolish in an almost “putting God to the test” sort of way. The wolves he doesn’t kill today, could be eating the flock once his term ends.

    Context is everything. If you’re Tsar Alexander I or Stalin, maybe you can afford to retreat deep into your own territory and wait for winter, but it didn’t work too well for Saddam Hussein.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  11. @Brad #11
    Dear Brad,
    Brother, I hear your passion, here is the problem, we “got a lot of sand”. With the onset of Internet, etc., a problem spreads faster than cancer in a body. As we fix one spot, it breaks out all over.

    We are calling out error, but you need to discern true error from childish methods or ways.

    Take WIKI 52. We in Circuit Winkel, and with others Circuit invited discussed it. Yes, some of the stuff they tout I do not get. Personally, I do not know enough, so we await the Mission Facilitators going and reporting back…then we will discuss more in earnest and with knowledge to debate.

    Perhaps the biggest problem is time and the nature of how things spread. Yes, in the business land, bankruptcy is the only way to fix a bad company…do not think we are there just yet.

  12. @Matt Mills #12
    Dear Matt,
    I agree on the time issue. Is that not what is the core of the devil’s work in the Screwtape Letters? Time. Give them time and …. please note that I voted against moving the Synodical Convention to 4 years. And it passed. We stay at three years (for now).

  13. @Matt Mills #12


    If you’ve been watching the missives coming out of the Northwest District, you know that they intend to file a theological disagreement on the use of lay deacons. I think they also intend to explore exceptions as the implementation dates get closer. Re-presenting AC XIV as a clear, emphatic repudiation of any and all forms of laity publicly preaching and administering the sacraments would fix that dodging. Those who wish to keep up the bad practice, continue to promote the idea that there’s fuzz around the issue, which gives them space to do what they want to do while still calling themselves Lutheran. Re-presenting that article with a clear and inescapable series of “this we accept… this we reject” will take away the political maneuvering and the hiding behind opaque synodical processes.

    Likewise, though the AC and FC both support traditional Christian worship, the Enthusiasts in the LCMS still promote a fuzziness to these confessional articles that they think allows them to exercise Enthusiast worship forms and still call themselves Lutheran. Re-presenting those Confessional points to clearly and inescapably promote sound, historic worship and repudiate Enthusiast worship in its manifold current forms would remove the wiggle room and sift the wheat from the chaff.

    The same could be said of hermeutical principles in play among Lutherans today, and the derision Law/Gospel exegetical preaching is experiencing from non-confessional quarters. Perhaps it is time to put a formal declaration regarding Textual Criticism into our Confessions, as that is one that has wreaked havoc in our churches for over a century, and still pops up from time to time. Perhaps our self-inflicted institutional suicide of birth control, which has been successfully shrinking our families and consequently our churches for the last couple generations might be addressed… or Natural Law regarding human sexuality, the Order of Creation, and various other points made fuzzy by the heterodox. I can see at least a dozen or so topics that ought to be addressed from a Confessional perspective with something more robust and enduring than the politcal flotsam and jetsam of synodical resolutions.

    Where the heterodox promote confusion and lack of clarity to accommodate their error, the orthodox must arise and clarify the truth. The deposit of Apostolic doctrine has not changed, but the enemy is always changing… and the Church pivots her focus and confession to meet the errorists of the day.


  14. I note with some anguish that the opposition to the very respectful suggestion is based on law: we have enough regulations, we disagree about the regulations, and regulations must be enforced.
    Therefore, it should not be surprising that support for the suggestions should come on the basis of ascertaining the purity of the Gospel. If the people in our Synod would become genuinely concerned about this subject, I suspect that many of the problems, which we now look to solve through the Law would disappear. I also suspect that we would see a rejuvenation in our church that would confound the Church Growth people.
    Unless we recognize that there are serious errors in the Book of Concord, we will not ever have a pure Gospel. I have not tried to search the Book of Concord for such errors, nor do I deem myself qualified to conduct such a search. I do, on the other hand, consider it the height of arrogance to proclaim that of all the people on the face of the earth, God has blessed only us with the only true written Confession. At least the People of Israel had God’s word to prove that they were chosen.
    What I have come across, I noted in my search to resolve certain conflicts, either within myself or with others. Here are a few items. Space and, I am sure, the patience of the keepers of this site do not permit me to produce the complete arguments. I am relying on the conviction that the Holy Spirit will lead faithful people to the knowledge of the truth.
    1. In the Apology, Art III, it states that what, according to Jeremiah 31 is written in our hearts is the Decalogue. How does this affect the purity of the Gospel? In 2 Cor. 3, St. Paul writes about the writing on our hearts with the “Spirit of the living God,” and he contrasts the ministry of death “on stone tablets” with the ministry of the Spirit.
    2. Small Catechism, The Second Petition. “Thy kingdom come.
    What does this mean?–Answer.
    The kingdom of God comes indeed without our prayer, of itself; but we pray in
    This petition that it may come unto us also.
    How is this done?–Answer.
    1. When our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead a godly life here in time and yonder in eternity.”
    The problem is that the Kingdom never comes to us; we come into the Kingdom once at Baptism, at which time we also receive the Holy Spirit, Who stays with us for our earthly life. He does not come to us every time we pray this petition.
    3. The Smalcald Articles – Of the False Repentance of the Papists.
    “43] It is, accordingly, necessary to know and to teach that when holy men, still having and feeling original sin, also daily repenting of and striving with it, happen to fall into manifest sins, as David into adultery, murder, and blasphemy, that then faith and the Holy Ghost has departed from them [they cast out faith and the Holy Ghost].”
    This assertion involves the entire doctrine of the Forgiveness of Sins, what kind of sins there are, and the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit. I believe it violates all of them.
    4. The Small Catechism – The Sacrament of Holy Baptism.
    What does such baptizing with water signify?–Answer.
    It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
    Where is this written?–Answer.
    St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
    Not everyone will agree with me that this is evidence for Luther’s pietistic streak, but I certainly believe that this does not comply with the purity of the Gospel. If anyone thinks that St. Paul indeed teaches that in Romans, Chapter 6, then I do not think our argument is about Scripture or the Gospel, but about the fundamental meaning of words.
    5. Penal Substitution. My only comment here is that it is not compatible with the pure Gospel.
    6. That we receive the forgiveness of sins when drinking the Blood of our Lord in the Sacrament. This is a holdover from the medieval belief that attaches grace to concrete substances – relics for instance. No proof in Scripture for this assertion, and for some reason, the Body of our Lord does not convey such forgiveness.
    If anyone choses to respond to me, please do not use personal invective or slurs on my person, or suggest that I get help from my pastor. Please address the issues. I was born and baptized a Lutheran, and I pray to God that I will die a Lutheran. I have been aware of living in an imperfect church for most of my life and I accept that simply as the imperfection of God’s creation after the Fall. If Luther was wrong when, late in life, he wrote “Von den Juden und Ihre Lügen,” or even early on, when he wrote the first of the 95 Theses, of which sadly so many pastors today are so enamored, could he not have been wrong about a few things that happened to be included in the Confessions?
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  15. @George A. Marquart #16

    Greetings, George,

    I think you have many misunderstandings above, but this thread is not likely the place to address them. My recommendation would be to petition the editors to allow you to present your questions in their own thread, perhaps one at a time, so they may be addressed completely and openly.

    If that’s not in the cards, I’d be happy to carry on a private correspondence to address the questions you raise.

    Blessings to you,

  16. @George A. Marquart #16

    If anyone choses to respond to me, please do not use personal invective or slurs on my person, or suggest that I get help from my pastor. Please address the issues. I was born and baptized a Lutheran, and I pray to God that I will die a Lutheran. I have been aware of living in an imperfect church for most of my life and I accept that simply as the imperfection of God’s creation after the Fall. If Luther was wrong when, late in life, he wrote “Von den Juden und Ihre Lügen,” or even early on, when he wrote the first of the 95 Theses, of which sadly so many pastors today are so enamored, could he not have been wrong about a few things that happened to be included in the Confessions?

    As i understand what you have written : “Luther could be/was wrong” ; “the BOC, [written/vetted by numerous theologians], “is wrong” ; “George is always right”.

    He will fly into another fury if I say his credentials, as he himself states them, are no better/worse than mine. I second Nicholas.

    6. That we receive the forgiveness of sins when drinking the Blood of our Lord in the Sacrament. This is a holdover from the medieval belief that attaches grace to concrete substances – relics for instance. No proof in Scripture for this assertion, and for some reason, the Body of our Lord does not convey such forgiveness. –G

    Matthew 26:27b-28
    Drink ye all of it; for this is My Blood which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

  17. @Nicholas #18


    I think that was a good start, and probably could be used as a base document to start with. Right now, it’s just a LCMS synodical document, that carries the weight of a synod political process (which means it could be undone the same way). I think the synod has some good statements out there, but I agree with the original poster that a synthesized new confessional addendum which builds upon and provides focused clarity which the heterodox cannot dodge, is probably due. Our Confessions use a phraseology that puts an incredibly fine point on the controversies of their time, and explicitly articulate what is accepted or rejected. It wouldn’t be hard to build the same kind of addendum that addresses the issues that the heterodox try to confuse and muddy the waters over in our time, demonstrate clearly what the true and false responses are, then call all pastors to either affirm or reject it… Then add it to the BOC, like the FC was added 50 years after the AC was presented.

    Again, though it might cause division in the LCMS, I bet we’d find friends out there we didn’t know we had.

  18. @Brad #17

    Thank you, Brad. It was not really my intention to debate each item on this posting. I was more intent on creating a “bill of particulars” that would lead to a review of the Confessions not with the preconceived idea to prove them right, but to admit the possibility that there are errors in them. But somehow I guessed that some people would object to individual items.
    Is there some way I can find out what your qualifications are to be my instructor? Sorry, you are probably a Doctor of the Church, but I have no way of telling. In any event, thank you for the offer.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  19. @Nicholas #19

    Thank you, Nicholas, for your constructive response, and for educating me. I had to look up ALPB so I would know where to go back to.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  20. @helen #20

    Helen, first, whatever I write, I believe it to be correct. Do you know of anyone who writes something knowing that it is wrong? I do make mistakes, and I even learn from them, but I only learn when people address the issues I am raising, not when they are simply accusing me of wrongdoing without specifics.
    With regard to the forgiveness of sins received with the Blood of our Lord in the Sacrament, the sentence from the Scripture you quoted is a very simple one. “Drink”, “Blood”, and “remission of sins” are mentioned, but from the sequence of the words you cannot assert that we receive forgiveness when we drink the Blood of our Lord. Now, please do not accuse me of saying that the Bible does not teach the forgiveness of sins. It does in many, many places but it does not teach that we receive it when we drink the Blood of our Lord. “It was shed for …” And yes it is the same Blood.
    So where does this idea come from? Luther teaches it in the Small and Large Catechisms. No other place in the Book of Concord mentions it, as best as I can ascertain. The argument is made in the Large Catechism. Could you do me a favor? Could you look up the section of the Sacrament of the Altar in the Large Catechism and read the section Luther devoted to this question. Pretend that I wrote what you are reading and then see if you agree with it.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  21. There were some pastors in Australia that kind of did this. They wrote “The Word Shall Stand: Our Evangelical Lutheran Confession”. They were, however, adamant that this wasn’t a new Confession, but a reaffirmation of the Book of Concord (WSS pg.7). This may be something similar to what you are talking about, it was written to deal with modern controversies in the Lutheran Church in Australia, e.g. Creation/Evolution, Women’s Ordination, Pentecostalism, the Inerrancy debate, etc.

  22. @George A. Marquart #23


    If you would like to exhaustively examine your questions, I’d be happy to do that in a private dialogue that doesn’t hijack another individual’s thread– I think we owe that to Rev. Zwonitzer, so that his original idea can be discussed.

    As for my qualifications, we can discuss those privately, as well. Though I suspect qualifications were not a primary concern for the responses you sought, since you posted your “bill of particulars” in a public forum, unrelated to the original post. If you provide a private email address, either here or through the moderators, I will continue our dialogue. Otherwise, I will not contribute to submarining Rev. Zwonitzer’s thread by continuing your disputations here.


  23. Some general responses to most of the replies to my piece on FOC for today. First of all there was no insinuation on my part that there would be a new Synod formed out of such an effort. Likely as it was expressed, a number of people would not sign on to a new concord agreement. It has to be asked, wouldn’t it be better to start afresh with concord? We do the word concord and its derivatives disservice in our day, sad to say.

    Second, some have replied that all that such a FOC would put into clear writing backed by Scripture has already been pinned? Where is this? Likely what they would give as evidence is not of the nature where synod members pledge their agreement with it. So polity rules and as my article expressed, lots of us believe this is not the Lutheran way of solving doctrinal issues.

    Third, there are ample doctrines which could use a FOC resolve. Five come to mind: Closed Communion; Scriptural Authority and its relevant issues; The Office of Public Ministry and its issues; Worship, Liturgy & Adiaphora; and Creation/Life issues which could and should include the sexual issues which plague us. These would at the least be a great place to start. Where does the BOC clearly address these which divide us today?

    Blessings in Christ!

  24. @Brad #15
    From my perspective the big risk of a new FC is that it’s going to be seen as reopening settled theological points for debate. To write a new confessional statement on laymen preaching teaching and administering the sacraments, gives the impression that AC XIV is somehow unclear, or at least open for reinterpretation. Ditto for liturgical worship and Apology XV. These are not open debatable points for Lutheranism, and a renegotiation will only increase “unity” by decreasing clarity and rigor. That’s a kind of “unity” that we would be better off without.

    There was a sense in the late 16th century that the Lutheran Churches were “playing too close to the edge” because of the power vacuum caused by Dr. Luther’s death, but that they did want to stay faithful. That’s what facilitated the success of the FC. We are not there today.

    Bottom line, if our enthusiasts are recycling the heterodoxies of the past, then the Confessions of the past are sufficient to oppose them.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  25. @Matt Mills #29


    I’m sensitive to your concerns, and I don’t think you’re wrong. What you describe, however, is already happening across the various synods and within the LCMS itself. The heterodox have created confusion and muddied the waters over points that are well settled in Scripture and the Confessions, with the result that the LCMS can have a convention where they vote by huge majority to uphold the Confessions, traditional worship, yada-yada-yada, while whole districts (and most others to lesser degrees) are infested with active Enthusiasm.

    That Lutherans can all look across the table at themselves and nod their heads in agreement while knowingly living in obvious contradiction, isn’t lost on the rest of the Christian world. They see the ridiculous caricature the Evangelical Lutheran Church has become across nearly all her constituent synods, and serious theologians seem to take it less seriously every day. Our willingness to live a muddled theological existence has made us no better than Rome or Canterbury or Constantinople, who all preserve “peace and unity” with divergent doctrines so as to protect the bureaucratic entity which constitutes their real core confession. And when one gets down to brass tacks, there’s nothing particularly endearing about the bureaucracy of the LCMS or any other Lutheran entity that has the pedigree of other, more ancient bureaucracies like those mentioned above. I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll say it again– if the LCMS thinks it can win the Christian evangelism game by playing its “Our Beloved Synod” card, it is going to lose big, because only the most near-sighted apologists of the LCMS can actually believe this monstrosity of an organization is more sufferable than other church structures out there. When one stacks the Purple Palace up against its rivals, if it doesn’t win on doctrine and practice, it loses on every other conceivable point.

    I think each of these muddied articles of doctrine and practice, which are clearly confessed in Scripture and the Confessions, could be re-stated and re-presented as “this we accept… this we reject” so that all the abuses of the heterodox in our day can’t wiggle away from them. The practical reality is that if the Evangelical Lutheran Church cannot emphatically and clearly declare its boundaries in this day, it will boil down into the soup of some other fellowship… a process that is already well under way. It would mean a smaller LCMS, that’s for sure– but it would actually be confessionally Lutheran rather than confessionally bureaucratic, and would help keep the lights on in the House of Augsburg for another generation.

  26. @George A. Marquart #25

    Helen, first, whatever I write, I believe it to be correct. Do you know of anyone who writes something knowing that it is wrong? I do make mistakes, and I even learn from them, but I only learn when people address the issues I am raising, not when they are simply accusing me of wrongdoing without specifics.

    No doubt you believe what you say; it does not follow that i have to!

    Luther says, in the large catechism, that we receive the forgiveness of sins when receiving the Sacrament if we have faith in Christ’s words.

    if you don’t believe it, you don’t.

    I hear that I have that forgiveness in that way from a Pastor every Sunday.
    [besides having memorized the catechism]

    I don’t think I have anything more to say to you.

  27. @Bruce Foster #28

    Bruce, there are a number of ways to define who is a Lutheran. I like one written by contributor “Brad” on 12 September 2014, “By definition, a Lutheran is one who holds all that the Holy Scriptures teach, and receives the Sacraments as Christ instituted them.”
    When you try to “outdefine” me from the Lutheran Church, you act just like those who demanded Luther recant at Diet of Worms. We must stay away from the issues at all costs and put undesirable labels on our opponents. Why are you so predictable?
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  28. @Brad #31
    If, like I am, you’re willing to embrace “a smaller LCMS,” why not just hold the enthusiasts to the standards set in 1580? Why go through all the extra work, and accept all the additional risk, of reformulating the formula? What if the new formula sucks even a little bit, and we lose not only the Schwarmer, but folks who were lock-step w/ the BOC 1580 because a problematic word or phrase gets through the editing process? I don’t think you’ve got a appreciation for just how lucky/blessed we were in the late 16th century. I’m frankly unwilling to kick the bear again.

    Additionally, a new FC just gives the enthusiasts the opportunity to say (probably unfairly): “Our Churches 100% support the Scriptures and Confessions, but the jerk-face Confessionals have added all sorts of new stuff, and we aren’t going for it.” They would say that even if we don’t add anything new, but again there could be legitimately weird stuff sneaked into a new document.

    No Brad, nothing to gain, everything to lose.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  29. @Matt Mills #35


    I’m not suggesting (and I don’t think the OP is, either) that we re-formulate the Formula. I think the suggestion is that we need another Formula in addition to the previous one, that clarifies what our contemporaries have striven to make unclear.

    Perhaps I see it differently, because I perceive that we really don’t have much to lose… I think we’ve lost it already. The LCMS does not have a clear Lutheran confession to the world, because it does not live out the faith and practice of Scripture and the Confessions.

    What I envision is some kind of ecclesiastical statement which quotes the authoritative Confessional article, then explicitly names the current false teachings and practices which we reject. Maybe if the Formula currently has an Epitome, this new statement might be called and Epilogue.

    Gotta do something, though… and I’m not sure if “we” who would hold the Enthusiasts accountable to the Confessions, are in sufficient number to accomplish the task.

  30. @Pastor Prentice #32

    I guess you hold a low regard for all pastors and men (women too) that went to convention and did the best they could in the framework given…you must hold the office we serve in low regard.

    No, you may well have “done the best you could in the framework given”.
    [That the results/you may have been manipulated seems not to occur to you.]

    You all did something very foolish in voting to “keep doctrinal discussions among peers” [i.e., “away from confessional laity who might be disturbed”.]
    Pastor’s comments disappeared from these threads as of that moment.

    The church was “pastor and people together”. Until then.

    Laity supported and protected Luther.
    As someone observed, “All of the signers of the AC were laity.”

    There are no princes among us now, but we are similar in one way :
    we laity still hold the purse strings.
    Those of us who still remain and hope have been patient…perhaps too patient. But Missouri is not shrinking solely because children are an expense, not the cheap labor that they were “back on the farm”!

    I hold the Office of the Holy Ministry in very high regard. I gave a son to it and his son has followed him.

    But those who are in it for money and power are a shame to the OHM.
    Those who allow Lutheranism to be deformed by false teaching share the guilt. Honest Lutherans didn’t/don’t need 12.07a

  31. The LCMS does not have a clear Lutheran confession to the world, because it does not live out the faith and practice of Scripture and the Confessions.

    The overwhelming majority (85%?) of members of LCMS congregations don’t agree with you.  I remain baffled why those who do agree with this remain.  Why be miserable?  There are plenty of constructive alternative options.

  32. If I may ask, what’s stopping you from writing one, Rev. Zwonitzer?

    The original FC didn’t fall out of the sky; it was the result of many attempts by many theologians at finding unity over and against false teaching–the final entry on a long list of failures and prototypes spanning decades. It endured because there was a real need that enough people recognized and it fit the bill well.

    If we’re in an analogous situation, then we’re seeking out something that fits the bill well from theologians who understand both the theology and the need. It only takes one to get the ball rolling

    If, on the other hand, our situation is not analogous–if, for example, there isn’t a real need or not enough people recognize it… then perhaps another FC isn’t really a good next step in reforming the Church.

    Personally, when it comes to the current abuses in our denomination, I think we’re still waiting for a good 95 Theses. We’ve got a long road ahead of us.

  33. @George A. Marquart #34

    But to be fair, George, I’ve never defined a Lutheran contrary to the Lutheran Confessions. It may be true that different Lutheran entities around the world hold greater or lesser affirmation of all the constituent parts of the 1580 BOC, but I’m not aware of any that would deny the Augustana and the Small Catechism and still presume to be Lutheran.

    And from a practical point of view, how could anyone propose to be Lutheran when he denies the Catechisms composed by Luther himself, or the Augsburg Confession to which he fully subscribed? By what standard could someone claim the mantle of Lutheran, if apart from what Luther and his inheritors believed, taught, and confessed?

    You do help make my point, however, and perhaps that of the OP– we are in desperate need of clarifying precisely what Lutherans mean in their Confessions when applied to modern folks and their respective misunderstandings.

  34. @Brad #40
    Dear Brad, I have forwarded you my private email, and I am beginning to regret it. If what I have written “denies” the Augustana, and the Small and Large Catechisms, then there is a little logic you need to catch up with. Denying specific parts of a document does not mean denying the entire thing. There is, as a matter of fact, a legal principle that covers this, but I cannot recall its name. I have written repeatedly in other places that I know no better written confession of faith than the Book of Concord. Do I need to remind you again what Luther wrote about the Jews? I do not write that to judge Luther; I write it simply to call into question the doctrine of Immaculate Confessions.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  35. @John Rixe #38


    I’m sure the overwhelming majority (85% or more) of the ELCA thinks it has a clear Lutheran confession to the world, too. The claims aren’t validated by the subjective opinions of the group, but by the objective measures of their living out the Confessions.

    And why bother being miserable in the hope the LCMS would one day again be Lutheran? Some of it is rank sentimentality… some is for the sake of the friends I know who still suffer there, as well… and for the young men I counseled into the Holy Ministry, whose lives will be severely impacted by the relative faithfulness of the LCMS in which they serve. There’s also the sociological impact on my own children, who watched the ELCA dive off the proverbial cliff as the largest Lutheran church body in America, and now watch number two fully ablaze with Enthusiasm, and ask whether there can still be an authentic Lutheran witness in our time and place… or if time has come to pack it in, and find some other Christian expression that has a local congregation less hosed up than anything near them with “Lutheran” in their name.

    Or, it could be a hope that the remnant of Lutherans in the LCMS and other various Lutheran synods are waiting for someone to pull a Walther, and start a new synodical union that actually does live out the Scriptures and Confessions, treating the Enthusiast compromised LCMS like we once treated the Calvinist compromised Union Churches of Europe.

    Or, I could just be a glutton for punishment. That’s probably it.

  36. @helen #37
    Dear Helen,
    We in Winkel discussed this of late, complicated. In reality, nothing to vote on, as this portion of the day was ongoing. CCM, oh, complicated, you know that.

    I do believe in airing things out in public. But, I also believe some things do need to be handled internally, as not to cause “the little ones” to sin.

    Trust me, I am not in it for the monies.

    But, please, a “high five” next time for accomplishing something, then a “but you need to do some more…”, would be OK.

    It is a balancing act, wrestling with issues, and being pastor to the flock. And CV and Synodical rep. We do the best we are able…pray for us helps.

  37. @Brad #36

    If we had an SP that would support the new formula idea, then we wouldn’t actually need a new formula. If we do it, it will be a dog’s breakfast of a document and will cause contention amongst the solid Confessionals, and derision amongst the Schwarmeri. Feel free to start, just don’t ever say I didn’t warn you.

    @John Rixe #38

    You keep telling BJS that 85% of LCMS congregations are with us, an yet in my travels it’s a struggle to find an LCMS congregations worshipping IAW Apology XV, or preaching IAW AC IV. I believe the 85% number originally came from SP Harrison, but it’s either a political feel-goody number, or at best self-delusional optimism. Either way, I don’t see the value in repeating it here.

    -Matt Mills

  38. A remark from one of your ELS brothers at the back of the class…

    I would not say a new BoC. I would say a renewal to the original BoC.

    I would also say that the burden of work falls upon those who challenge or liberally reinterpret the BoC and thus snuggle up to American evangelicalism in doctrine and practice to vindicate their stance through vigorous, contextual Scriptural study and exposition.

    If the BoC is to be disdained or swept under the rug as some LiNOs (Lutherans in Name Only) seem to think (5/2 anyone?), then it should be a fairly simple exercise to run to Scripture, contextually exegete it, and display in what ways the BoC falls short. Right?

    On the other hand, those who diverge from confessional doctrine and practice should be pressed upon why they are so quick to mimic American evangelicalism, when American evangelicalism as a whole is taking a further and further foray into the realm of extreme heterodoxy, and in some cases outright heresy.

    I posit that Lutherans, in the name of “relevance” and “spirituality,” are running after acceptance in the eyes of their evangelical counterparts, and as such are sacrificing sound doctrine for increased numbers in the pews and a Christianity that looks more like the world than it does the Risen Savior who bled and died for our sins.

  39. I guess I would just say that the Formula of Concord we already have *is* for today. And the main reason I’d not advocate writing a new one is that I doubt it’d be any more effective in producing doctrinal unity than the first one has been.

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