The Truth Makes Us Enemies?

british-soldiers-fighting-in-trenchesIt is a profound and disturbing commentary on our situation in the LCMS when two pastors who have never met each other before and know nothing about each other get that opportunity.  What typically takes place very quickly?  It is profound and disturbing that what takes place is the typical “feeling each other out theologically” conversation that ensues. Each wants to know who they are engaging before proceeding much further.

One instance in my not too distant past exemplified this to the hilt.  I came into contact with an individual who advanced this exploration process with me quickly and aggressively.  When he found out my theological position, he repeatedly responded: “I’ve never heard nor experienced this in all my days in the Synod.”  My response continued to be of this nature: “Are we talking about the same synod, the LCMS?”  He was somewhat older than me and held more distinguished synodical positions than me.  I finally responded: “Are you saying that my experiences are not true?”  As one may predict, this conversation and relationship went on a downward spiral rapidly.

These pastor-to-pastor confrontations remind me of Galatians 4:16 “Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (ESV)  To begin with, some commentators see this verse not as a question but as an exclamation.  Dr. Andrew Das, the author of the CPH Commentary on Galatians, is one such proponent.  His comments on this fascinating passage are revelatory for our situation:

The irony and even indignity are inescapable as Paul has gone from dear friend to enemy. Galatians 4:16 is an urgent plea for the Galatians to recognize what has happened to their relationship with Paul.  In the second century, Jewish-Christian teachers will label the apostle Paul “the enemy,” and that is precisely how the Galatians, under the influence of the first-century rivals, are coming to view Paul.  The Jewish-Christian rivals were convincing the Galatians that Paul’s message was deficient.  The Galatians may have come to view Paul as having withheld crucial information for a right relationship with God.  The Galatians’ relationship with the apostle has been poisoned. Paul counters that he has indeed told them the truth. The truth of the Gospel permits circumcised Jews and uncircumcised gentiles to eat at the same table together.  Nothing further is required of the gentiles.  Paul has already, at great risk and cost, stood firm for that truth (2:14; cf. 5:7; Eph 4:15).  The rivals are the manipulators who deceive.  God blesses the gentiles as gentiles, and that is the truth![1]

What I find central to our situation in the LCMS is which side hides the other sides’ positions from their laypeople?  Which pastors attempt to poison their congregations with deception about the other sides’ positions?  Which group of LCMS pastors has for decades sought to deceive the laypeople that it should not be your Grandfather’s church anymore?  On theological issue upon issue, the opponents of confessional Lutheranism hide the other sides’ arguments from the people and using some of Das’ language: “poison as many congregations as they can with this deception.”  Examples of this abound in our synod.  Real life disagreements among LCMS pastors occur all the time over what some have professed to be “long settled biblical and confessional beliefs.”  Included here at the least would be closed communion, the inerrancy of Scripture, the office of the public ministry, and fellowship with other Christian groups.  In a previous BJS post entitled, Why Not a Formula of Concord for Today?, I cited a conversation with a noted LCMS opponent who exemplified this hiding of the Confessional Lutheran position on such matters from his congregation when he asked me: “How am I to respond when my people ask me why so many other LCMS pastors think we are not believing, confessing, and teaching the same doctrines?”  This was and is easy to answer: “Just fairly cite our positions!  Don’t continue to deceive and then poison them against us!  Let them hear both sides and search the Scripture, the Book of Concord, and inquire of other sources.  Then they can decide for themselves.”

Personally, I have experienced such poisoning and deception as Das expertly comments on Paul’s inspired words in Gal 4:16.  More significant, many other pastors besides me can multiply this from their experience.  Who is telling the truth for the LCMS today?

Have we, the Confessional Lutherans, who wish to remain faithful to our rich heritage of those who still believe in the three Reformation Solas become enemies of some LCMS pastors and their congregations simply because we have told the truth!



[1] A. Andrew Das, Concordia Commentary on Galatians, (St. Louis:CPH, 2014),466-467.

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