Book Announcement — The Church is One

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. 

 

Friends,

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.

Dick Bolland


Foreword

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

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

Book Announcement — The Church is One — 19 Comments

  1. I was showing my modest collection of books to a friend the other day when he said, “He’s a polarizing figure in the LCMS.” My friend was referring to Jack Cascione after noticing a book written by him. I am aware that the LCMS is layered like an onion and is influenced by the likes of various polarizing figures from Herman Otten and Jack Cascione at one end of the spectrum to Matthew Becker, Bill Woolsey, and even Dale Meyer, considered by some as a Kieschnick acolyte, at the other. I would like the strife in the Synod to be demystified but I can appreciate the reticence of rostered pastors not wanting to be too vocal because it tends to draw fire and showing all your cards can be risky and lead to an ugly food fight. The differences among our theologians can be as nuanced as the controversy found at the LOGIA URL: https://logia.org/logia-online/pqjgd52g7edlnxsydgvget79qhnynz2017 which involves the correct understanding of the nature and application of the Third Use of the Law.

    When my friend stated that Cascione is a polarizing figure, I said that I knew that factoid and we moved on. I should have said, “I know he is polarizing but is he a heretic?”

    The Orthodox are mostly despised for unwavering adherence to doctrine and practice. Why is that so? The word, “polarizing” has a negative connotation and we automatically recoil in revulsion. We abhor anything that claims absolute truth, even creeds and confessions about the truth of Holy Scripture. People confidently believe there is plenty of leeway to accommodate varying degrees of interpretation, so you better not be so bold as to say, “I have the truth right here!”

    The most polarizing figure in human history once proclaimed, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” turning “a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” Jesus was the ultimate “lightning rod” and didn’t back down from those who despised Him and the singular truth of His gospel message.

    Does Orthodoxy shatter your religious constructs and conflict with your Christian ideal of what the Church is and what Christians are – not judgmental or too critical, having the patience of Job tolerating by giving equal time to every wind of doctrine and the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming?

    My request to the Synod is, “Show me where the ACELC is wrong.” Why are they not worthy of our support and recognition? Too polarizing, you say?

  2. Hi Mark,

    Yes, mislabeling orthodox men is a popular past time in the LCMS. It always amazes me that liberals in our Synod get a pass, but those who point out their errors are the boat-rockers, the liturgical Nazi’s, the black snakes in the bedroom that need to be thrown out of the house (my personal favorite), the disturbers of the peace, divisive, and schismatic. To your point respecting the ACELC, they have said absolutely nothing that does not comport with orthodox Lutheranism, but indeed they are given all the labels I’ve noted and many more even more vitriolic.

    While my book does not actually address the ACELC, I think you will find that it will challenge the thinking of those on the left respecting what basis true Christian unity and fellowship actually is found. The bottom line is that God simply cannot call into being a Church that does not reflect His own nature – which includes the ultimate unity that God is. The notion that Christian unity that does not include unity in doctrine, practice, worship, and even in adiaphora cannot reflect the God who has created His Church.

    Many orthodox Lutherans have been cowed into remaining silent because of the negative “press” they might receive, the lack of support (and sometimes open hostility) from their District Presidents, and even the threat of removal from office on unbiblical grounds. While I understand the fears, it is our calling as pastors to speak the truth and let the chips fall where they may. If one wishes to be an orthodox Lutheran pastor, risk taking is part of the deal as is trust in the Lord to comfort and provide for the afflicted.

    Ultimately, orthodox Lutherans must decide if they value the maintenance of pure doctrine, and biblical practice more than they value “peace” in the institutional church body.

  3. @Rev. Richard A. Bolland #2

    “Calm” was the word. It’s no better. Why wouldn’t there be “calm” when the synod in convention [the “morning after”, I have to believe!] passed a resolution effectively shutting up Lutheran web sites, reducing them to sermons and devotions? (And book reports…)

    BJS used to say things that aroused some discussion!

    But those DP’s who come down on Lutheran Pastors (and promote pseudo baptists) are also elected. Perhaps it’s time to leave them to their travels to the elca and form a Lutheran Synod, which does the things this one says it does in its constitution [and doesn’t import muslims.]

  4. Helen,

    Nothing would please me more than if those who have rejected our historic Lutheran doctrine and its biblical practice would indeen head to the NALC or the ELCA. It is the toleration of error without correction which has turned our synod into a Christian sect rather than a manifestation of Christ’s Church on earth. This is done in the name of “peace” in the institution, but what it displays is a disregard for pure doctrine. Until and unless our Synod finally comes to grips with those who are, after all, of another confession, then there will never be unity in our Synod in anything other than the Concordia Plans. Those who hold to error need to be shown that they have a choice: Repent, leave, or be removed. Period. Then, perhaps, the LCMS might have a chance at recapturing the unity that Christ intended for His Church. Until then, we remain a Christian sect.

  5. Mark,

    The epithets that have come to orthodox men in Missouri are simply unpleasant background noise. They do not impact me in any negative way. They say way more about those who use them than those they are aimed at.

  6. @Rev. Richard A. Bolland #5

    I don’t suppose the new smaller synods have anything as good as the Concordia Plan or the bapto-Lutheran leadership would head over there. [Another problem, of course: no room for that many “chiefs”!] 🙁

  7. @Rev. Richard A. Bolland #2

    “The bottom line is that God simply cannot call into being a Church that does not reflect His own nature – which includes the ultimate unity that God is. The notion that Christian unity that does not include unity in doctrine, practice, worship, and even in adiaphora cannot reflect the God who has created His Church.”

    Richard – that is a very profound insight that few within the Church even understand. It is time for Ole Mo to step back and gain a perspective – especially of the fact that we have never escaped the corrosive nature of what occurred in the 60’s-80’s (which had earlier roots as well), but instead have mostly allowed it to continue by other names and themes. That Dr.Scaer, in two consecutive years, felt it necessary to address lex semper accusat re: Third Use and Article VI of the SD at the Confessional Symposium, tells us that not only is the Law being misunderstood, or misapplied, but likewise, the Gospel. Incomprehensible, almost.

    We have come to a crossroad as a Synod (again, but this time it is more subtle). I fear for the direction ultimately taken. And with the Church Growth groups constantly “re-branding” themselves, there seems to be no end to the non-Lutheran directions in which we are headed.

    Rev. Jeff Baxter, Em.

  8. Jeff,

    In my book I go into some detail to describe what Luther called the “white devil”, that is the evil that dresses itself up as good. In Missouri the white devil this time around has been the Church Growth Movement. After all, it sounds so good. Who could possibly be against missions and saving the lost? The reality is that virtually every evil that exists in our Synod uses “missions” or being “missional” as its cover. We’ve been divided in our worship (the fount from which Word and Sacrament flow into every other aspect of the Church), divided in our practice of doctrine, divided in the Lord’s Supper with many LCMS congregations and pastors throwing unity at the altar away, and we used so-called Christian “freedom” in ways that deny the unity of Christ’s Church. One of the major theses in the book is that anything that happens in the church that lends itself toward unity is of God and anything that seeks to divide the Church (inclusive of redefinitions of unity) is of the Devil himself. Satan is the original practioner of “divide and conquer” and has been doing so since the Garden of Eden. The devil always dresses evil up as “pious” and “spiritual” and the entire “missional” thrust of Missouri over the last few decades has only led us to division. Unity has been lost. I only hope and pray that it can be recovered.

    BTW are you the same Jeff Baxter that was a classmate of mine at the Fort?

  9. @helen #7

    Point well taken Helen. That cuts both ways, however. The more Confessional synods as well and outfits like the NALC have lesser health/retirement plans than the Concordia Plans. However, if that is the glue that holds us into Missouri, then we have truly lost our bearings and priorities. There’s lots of ways to get health care and even more ways to plan for retirement. What is needed is to understand that we must stand up for pure doctrine and rightly administered Sacraments and trust the Lord to take care of the details.

  10. My Friend –

    What you have written is as true as water is wet.

    My very best to Linda, it has been a long time. We did our field-work together at St. Peter’s those first two hard, but very profitable years at Sem.

    Yeah – same guy – and taught just as well as were you – same years. I can only hope and pray folks get what you are saying.

    It is incredibly important that they do.

    jb

  11. @jb #11

    Richard –

    Permit me to add – and in the TX District – for those here who might be reading, I know am slitting my own throat call-wise in saying so – especially at my age, but . . .

    “Missional” grates on my soul. It seems calvin has won – and one is left with a shell of the Christ, and mimicry of the Blessed Sacraments. There is no refuge from the assaults of the satan. Christ endured them, and calls us to “Follow Me anyway.” And so, we must.

    We are not conquering heroes – only Christ could be and IS so. We do not live in an age of the theology of glory – it is a false misleading dream. It reduces the Gospel into a muddle of which anything can be made of it.

    We are called to be faithful to the truth. Most find themselves being Pilate, asking – “What is truth.” We must answer with “Jesus.” It is what it is, and however, we must combat anything to the contrary.

    We have words, THE Word,and little else. It truly is – “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” We must deal the from the deck handed us – despite the opposition.

    The satan is resolute in his goal – we must respond likewise.

    “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

    The Lord bless and keep you and yours always.

    jb

  12. For the record, whatever Synodical resolution it was that has served as a “gag order” for Confessional discussion on the internet needs to be utterly disregarded and ignored. The robust discussion within the Church and in our Synod absolutely must be held and publicly so. This is not to “stir the pot”, but to retain our faith and confession. Such a resolution only serves to divide us further and only seeks the well-being of the institution at the cost of pure doctrine and the right administration of the Sacraments. One thing I have learned over the decades is that as long as you have the backing of your congregation, then you may speak publicly within the Synod without fear. You may have to fight some battles and collect a few scars, but if your congregation values the Word of God rightly taught and the Sacraments rightly administered, then to the battle we must go! The other observation I would make is that I have never, never seen the Synod remove a congregation from its fold. Yes, plenty of faithful pastors have been unbiblically removed, but that was done primarily by unfaithful congregations (at times aided and abetted by unfaithful DP’s).

    Confession of the one true faith requires speaking. It requires public speaking. What little I have been able to do (by the grace of God) to speak the truth to my own Synod has been nothing when I think of what Luther stood up against. The entire power of the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy were his opponents and yet speak out he did. There needs to be more of the spirit of Luther among us.

  13. Jeff,

    You are quite correct that none of us are conquering heroes. Only the Lord gets that distinction. In our engagement with our Synod we do so for the sake of our Lord’s Gospel, not to engage ourselves in the Theology of Glory. We cannot save the Synod. Only Christ can do that if He so choses. Quite frankly the Kingdom of God is not at all dependent on the LCMS…it’s the other way around. If the Synod retains its Lutheran character, it will be because Christ (through His Word spoken rightly by pastors and laymen) hear His Word and submit to it. Ours is not a call to some kind of triumphalism, that by our strength, we shall redeem Lutheranism in the LCMS. That, however, does not excuse us from that faithful proclamation of God’s truth.

  14. @Rev. Richard A. Bolland #14

    Richard –

    “We cannot save the Synod. Only Christ can do that if He so choses. Quite frankly the Kingdom of God is not at all dependent on the LCMS…it’s the other way around. If the Synod retains its Lutheran character, it will be because Christ (through His Word spoken rightly by pastors and laymen) hear His Word and submit to it. Ours is not a call to some kind of triumphalism, that by our strength, we shall redeem Lutheranism in the LCMS. That, however, does not excuse us from that faithful proclamation of God’s truth.”

    Spot on! – as the Brits would say.

    Luther should be our shining example for stepping out and speaking up – against whatever forces. Instead, it has become fashionable, or preferred, to be timid, even if one holds to Orthodox Christianity.

    I just yesterday wrote a post on my humble site as to how the Church has succumbed to the secular, cultural machinations every bit as much as has our government. It’s not much in the spreading of what should be heard, but it is all I have, sans a flock.

    I pray your book gets a wide audience. Sad that doing so is necessary – every couple of centuries, one gets a hammer and nail and defaces the door of the Church. Would that more are willing to do so.

    Pax tecum – jb

  15. This whole book-writing-publishing thing has really been a learning experience. I am discovering that the challenge for self-publishing is to be able, without the support of a publishing company’s promotion and publicity abilities, is a real challenge. Word of mouth is still the best means. The ability to access the internet is also very helpful and indeed makes this possible. I am more than grateful to BJS (in particular Norm Fisher and Josh Scheer) for permitting the book announcement here and for the discussion that has ensued and I hope continues. If you like the book you can certainly help get the word out if you are so inclined. Here’s some specific ways:

    1. Recommend the book to your friends and give one to you pastor.

    2. Post the link to the book on whatever websites you have access to.

    3. Write a review for the book on Amazon.

    4. If you are a pastor use the book with your Elders or in Sunday morning adult class (spirited discussion is virtually guaranteed!)

    5. It would make a fine gift for confirmation, or Christmas (and it’s cheap too!)

    6. Anything else you can think of.

    Honestly, I am not particularly interested in making money on this project and likely I won’t. The intent was to purposely write a small, easy-to-read book that would be easily understandable for both pastors and laymen and to help people rethink why unity in the Church is so important and models the very nature of God Himself who has established the Church.

    There has been a real effort to re-define what constitutes unity in Christ’s Church which has only served to further divide us. Reconciled Diversity is one such lie. Establishing fellowship based on the fides qua crediture rather than on the fides quae crediture is another, especially in the LCMS. The resort to seeking unity through the “tradition” of the Church is simply another form of enthusiasm. Likewise, establishing unity with others because one “feels” the presence of the Holy Spirit or the presence of God is another.

    The Preface to the Book of Concord has it exactly right:

    “After removal and correction of things that either side has understood differently, these matters may be settled and brought back to one simple truth and Christian concord. Then we may embrace and maintain the future of one pure and true religion under one Christ, doing battle under Him, living in unity and concord in the one Christian Church.” (P, 26, Dau/Bente)

  16. I posted a review on Amazon, and offered the book to our Pastor to read and consider for a future Sunday School study. Easy book to do this for. Thank you Rev. Bolland for writing it!

  17. You are most welcome Christopher. It’s been interesting in that I have received a bit of interest from pastors in Norway and in Sweden and some interest also from a pastor in Australia. Tis the power of the internet. Also, it seems that when you publish through Amazon’s Self-publishing division, Create Space, it seems that a lot of other internet book sellers automatically list whatever comes up on Amazon. That’s pretty neat. Granted, although I think there are helps in the book for non-Lutherans (as many denominations have gone through the same divisive processes as the LCMS), that the scope of the book is primarily for folks who identify with Confessional Lutheranism. That necessarily limits the market to an extent as there just aren’t that many of us in the world.

    And Christopher, thanks for the help!

  18. I realize that this post is rather far down the list on BJS, but I would be most interested in hearing any feedback on my little book. To date about 325 copies have been sold, but precious little response has been received (either positive or negative). If you’ve read the book, I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks brothers.

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