Pr. Bolland sent us this regarding his book that can be found here.
Editor’s Note: I have known Pr. Bolland for a few years. He has spoken at conferences I have attended and has a keen sense for looking at the state of the church in light of history. I have not had a chance to read this book yet (It’s on my short list) but look forward to doing so. Here is his announcement.
I have finally completed my book on the true nature of the unity of Christ’s Church on earth. Below is the Foreword by Daniel Preus for your consideration. I wonder if you’d be willing to let an image of the book and a brief description of it be published on Steadfast Lutherans or if that is against your editorial policy. Let me know please.
In John chapter 8 Jesus speaks of the relationship between the Son and the Father. The Pharisees become more and more angry as Jesus describes this relationship. Their fury grows as Jesus makes clear that this relationship is between Himself and the Father, thus drawing into the conversation the doctrine of the incarnation of the Son of God. The fellowship between the Father and the Son is experienced by the man Jesus. Jesus’ lecture culminates with the declaration, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” (John 8:58) The Jews, rightly understanding Jesus’ declaration to be one with the Father and to be the very God of Israel, become outraged and pick up stones to stone him for blasphemy.
Later in the Gospel of John, in his high-priestly prayer, Jesus speaks again of his fellowship with the Father and prays that a comparable fellowship might exist with and between those who believe in Him. Having prayed for His disciples, He continues praying and says, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in me, and I in you; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave me, I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one.” (John 17:20-22)
How God honors His children! He gives them a fellowship, a unity comparable to that between the persons of the Trinity. But Jesus makes it clear that this fellowship, this unity, is not one created by men. It is given by God. And Jesus also makes it clear in this same prayer that this unity is not given by God randomly. No, it is a unity based upon the truth of God’s Word. Jesus prays, “I have manifested your name to the men you have given me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your Word.” (John 17:6) Jesus prays, “I have given them the words that You have given me, and they have received them.” (John 17:8) Jesus prays, “I have given them Your word and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14) Jesus prays, “Sanctify them by Your truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
The fellowship which we have as Christians is not based on a sense of solidarity between like-minded people. It is not based on a human decision to associate with people of similar ideas. It is based on a common belief in the truth, specifically the truth of God’s Word.
Pastor Richard Bolland’s book, The Church is One, lays before the reader both Jesus’ desire that the church be one and His insistence that such unity can exist only when people are united in the truth of God’s Word. This unity in the Word is unity in doctrine. Pastor Bolland’s belief that this unity in doctrine is not only possible but is clearly God’s will for the church will surely be met with skepticism by many who have embraced a post-modern view of truth as relative or even unattainable. The time in which we live is typical of this type of skepticism. We live in an age in which many ridicule the very idea of truth. The concept that certain statements are absolutely correct and others false has never been more unpopular. Pontius Pilate’s cynical question, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) seems to be the motto of our age: “You have your beliefs; I have mine. You have your truth; I have mine. Let’s just both leave each other alone, go on our way, and we’ll both be happy.” Uncertainty as to what is true is even seen by many as a virtue, and faith has been redefined as an uncertain walk into the unknown.
Pastor Bolland’s book is a breath of fresh air to faithful Lutherans who hold dear the affirmations Luther made about the three Articles of the Apostles Creed – “This is most certainly true.” The church is not called to cynicism but to the truths which are clearly revealed in the Scriptures. In fact, it is in her commitment to these very truths that Christians experience an intimate fellowship given by the Holy Spirit to encourage and strengthen and give joy to the church. This precious fellowship is not optional, that is, it is not something Christians can deem unnecessary. This fellowship is God’s will for His children.
Since unity is a unity in the truth, it necessarily rejects error. Needless to say, such a view is unpopular in our culture. However, any unity which is ambivalent toward error is also ambivalent toward truth and it has always been the practice of the orthodox church to refute error. Unpopular though it may be, it is necessary. A faithful pastor will not only lead the sheep into good pasture, but will also protect them from the wolves while they are feeding. Thus, the refutation of false teaching will always be an essential part of the church’s proclamation.
Pastor Bolland makes clear that the unity of the church is a unity in the confession of the truth and in the rejection of error – both for the sake of the church. His approach may invite criticism on the part of those whose theology is aptly expressed by a bumper sticker with the admonition, “Coexist.” But his approach is the only true Lutheran one.
In his book, The Conservative Reformation and its Theology, Charles Porterfield Krauth states,
No particular church has, on its own showing, a right to existence, except as it believes itself to be the most perfect form of Christianity…. No church has a right to a part which does not claim that to it should belong the whole. That communion confesses itself a sect which aims
at no more than abiding as one of a number of equally legitimated bodies.
Krauth is not saying that all churches claiming to possess the truth actually have it. He is saying that the church body which does not declare that all of its teachings are true has no right to be called a church at all, but only a sect. Thus, Pastor Bolland’s entire book is based on the thesis that the Lutheran confession in its entirety is true; it corresponds to the teachings of God’s Word, and those who embrace it in its entirety will enjoy the unity Jesus prayed the Father in His high-priestly prayer to give them.
Frequently those who declare that everything they teach is true will be accused of arrogance. Actually, it is those who insist we cannot know the truth, even though the almighty God Himself has revealed it to us in His Word, who are guilty of supreme arrogance. On the other hand, those who submit to and embrace the revelation God offers do so in humble obedience and profound gratitude for His mercy in Christ Jesus.
Pastor Bolland’s book will be of benefit to laypeople and pastors alike and is certainly suitable for use in a Bible study setting since it frequently lends itself to lively discussion. It will be especially helpful to those looking for assistance in defending their confession
and in meeting with confidence the many assaults upon the truth of God’s Word that are common today.
By Pastor Daniel Preus
January 30, 2018