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First, I agree that “the Lutheran Confessions are the closest expression of the Gospel in the Christian Church.” I do not write this to imply that my agreement has any special importance or authority, but so that my further statements would be understood in that light.Secondly, I wonder how serious people can believe that a volume of several books, that rivals the Scriptures in size, and has been written by imperfect people, would not contain error. I don’t mean insignificant error, like claiming that St. Augustine said something, which he did not. I mean major doctrinal error.But the quia confessor is bound to refuse to even consider that possibility, thereby making Scripture dependent on the Confessions, rather than the other way around. He merely has to memorize the “Was heißt das?” portions of the Catechism without actually having to understand what they mean.Take just “The Small Catechism”, the “Laymen’s Confession”. Fortunately I never had to deny my children food for not studying the Catechism, but there are at least three major doctrinal errors in it. I have not searched it with the intent of finding error; it is just that any Christian using what St. Paul calls “spiritual discernment” should become aware of these. Space will not permit addressing all three here, but here is, in my opinion, the most important one – important because it can have a serious detrimental effect on the faith of people.Small Catechism, Baptism, “Fourthly.What does such baptizing with water signify?--Answer.It signifies that the old Adam in us should (“soll”, in German, which is not Conditional but Imperative, “must”), 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.” Nowhere in Scripture, not even in Romans 6, which Luther claims in support of his statement, does it say that “a new man daily come forth and arise …” A new man arises out of the waters of Baptism – one time - not daily. To be “simul iustus et peccator” means that, what Luther calls the old Adam, will always be with us. “Ersäuft” does not allow for resuscitation; how does the Old Adam come to life again after he has been deprived of life?The effect on the faithful is obvious. If a person does not feel that he is able to kill the Old Adam (shall we say “the flesh” with St. Paul, since there is no “Old Adam” in the Bible) every day or does not feel that a new man arises every day, is he justified in thinking that maybe Baptism did not “take” in his case?Peace and Joy!George A. Marquart
Dear George:Indeed, to make a quia subscription requires careful and sober study. One might agree or disagree with the symbols. One who agrees is a Lutheran. One who disagrees may be a Christian, but isn't a Lutheran Christian. This is one of the blessings of symbols. If a person doesn't agree with, say one of the articles of the Nicene Creed, he is not a Christian. if you are a Christian that rejects the Small Catechism, it means that we are simply Christians of differing confessions. The confessional writings help us to draw those lines and to help us confess what exactly we affirm and what we condemn.
Dear Larry, thank you for your gracious and measured response.I tried, in my first sentence, to make sure it was understood that I do not reject the Lutheran Confessions, or the Small Catechism. To reject one small part, does not mean to reject the whole. That may be a “quia” axiom, but it is not a logical one. It may even work for one of the Ecumenical Creeds, but when you get to the Athanasian One, you begin to reach a limit. No, I cannot think of anything in it with which I disagree, but it’s a matter of scale. If I disagree with one sentence of the Book of Concord, that does not write me out of the Lutheran Church. I was baptized in it more than 76 years ago, and by the grace of God, I will die in it. But I am most disappointed by the fact that you did not address the substance of my concern. I have had similar responses from others in the past, who consider that just labeling me as one who is not a “quia” confessor ends the argument. Peace and Joy!George A. Marquart
Larry, it wasn’t until after I posted my last comment that something you wrote triggered a thought: “If a person doesn't agree with, say one of the articles of the Nicene Creed, he is not a Christian.” If that is true, then none of us are Christians, because the western Church decided hundreds of years ago that one of the articles of the Nicene Creed was wrong, and added the word “filioque”. In this way we are all “quatenus” subscribers, and the eastern Orthodox churches have remained “quia”. If it is proper to call into question a three paragraph confession written by an Ecumenical Council, why do we insist that the Lutheran Confessions, which are at least three orders of magnitude larger than the Creed, cannot contain any error?Peace and Joy!George A. Marquart
Dear George,I don't claim to speak for anyone else. I studied every word of the Book of Concord very carefully under the tutelage of your remarkable and beloved brother. I pored over the text, and weighed each article carefully. It was a privilege to do so, and I am eternally grateful to Professor Marquart.After receiving a call, I took an oath that this confession is my own, that I believe it quia it is a true exposition of the Bible, and pledged that it would norm my teaching. There was no cafeteria option for subscription.Some of my classmates, upon further study, changed their minds. Some are today Eastern Orthodox, some Roman Catholic, some Anglican. I'm saddened by it, but I respect their honesty and integrity. One does not cease being a Christian if one leaves the Lutheran communion for another Trinitarian confession of the Church Catholic.But again, speaking only for myself, if I were to draw a conclusion that the Small Catechism has three major points of doctrinal error, I don't think I could remain in the office of the holy ministry of the Church of the Augsburg Confession in good conscience. I don't think it would be good for confirmands to have their pastor telling them that parts of the catechism are untrue. Can you imagine how damaging to their faith that would be? I would think it would be better to seek a communion that likewise would perhaps accept some, or maybe even most, of the Small Catechism (my Baptist relatives like nearly all of it), while having the liberty to reject parts of it as well.It is my understanding that, while pastors and congregations must subscribe to the entire Book of Concord, lay people are only obligated to confess the Small Catechism. At least this is how our confirmation vows read. If someone wanted to join my parish, but said he believes the Small Catechism has doctrinal errors in it, I would be perplexed as to why he would want to join a Lutheran church. I would imagine it would be like the local Roman Catholic pastor receiving an inquirer who said he wanted to join the parish but rejected the Vatican's ministerium or the "infallible" pronouncements of the pope..I'm afraid that postmodernism is blurring the lines between membership in a church, and doctrinal confession. Today, one can find Lutheran pastors who deny objective justification, the virgin birth, the resurrection, the literal Genesis account of creation, Article 24 of the Augustana and the Apology, the third use of the law, and Article 14 - just to name a few.This strikes me as a contradiction. It's a little like saying, "I'm a Marxist, but I believe in private property and free markets," or, "I'm a Roman Catholic, but do not believe the pope is the head of the church." If the Lutheran Confessions don't define Lutheranism, then we're left with something subjective, either a percentage ("I believe 90% of the Book of Concord"), a cafeteria ("I believe in all the Symbols except the Athanasian Creed, the even articles in the Augsburg Confession, and the Large Catechism"), or simply a cultural identity ("My grandfather was a Lutheran pastor, my mother spoke fluent German, and I adore black forest cake."). (continued)
“It is my understanding that, while pastors and congregations must subscribe to the entire Book of Concord, lay people are only obligated to confess the Small Catechism. At least this is how our confirmation vows read.”A called pastor, at his ordination, publicly subscribes without reservation to the Book of Concord as the true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God. So also the laity at their confirmation, when they are asked:“Do you hold all the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God and confess the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from them, as you have learned to know it from the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true?”Confirmands who answer, “I do,” have affirmed that they confess as faithful and true (without condition) the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, which is contained in the Book of Concord, even if they have only memorized parts of the Small Catechism during their catechesis.A confirmand who confesses “I do” and takes his first communion, becomes a communicant member of that Lutheran church, of which their constitution states (per “LCMS Guidelines for the Constitution and Bylaws of a Lutheran Congregation”) that “Communicant members… accept the confessional standard… of this Constitution.” That congregation’s confessional standard is the unconditional subscription to the doctrinal exposition of the Book of Concord (per LCMS Constitution, Article II.2).So, while lay members of a church in the Missouri Synod are not ordained, at confirmation or on becoming a congregational member, they have all subscribed without reservation to the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church contained in the Book of Concord.
Dear Carl:That's true, but there is a distinction between the vows taken by pastors, which mention the Symbols by name, and the laity, whose vows only mention the Small Catechism. We don't require them to read the Formula of Concord, for example. So while their church is committed to that document, they are not themselves subscribing to it personally. I do think it is fitting that pastors take more rigorous vows. I don't think we should require children to read every document in the BOC and subscribe to it. I doubt that has ever been the practice in the Church.
“there is a distinction between the vows taken by pastors, which mention the Symbols by name, and the laity, whose vows only mention the Small Catechism."Since the vows by both pastors and confirmands are quia subscriptions to the doctrine contained in the Lutheran Confessions, the distinction is rather trivial. After all, confirmands also vow to continue steadfast in their quia confession and church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it. Besides, both pastors and laity promise to hold all the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God without mentioning each book of the Bible by name. “We don't require them to read the Formula of Concord, for example." Each Lutheran congregational member is not required (but should be encouraged) to read all doctrine contained in the Book of Concord of 1580, either in an English translation or in its original German before affirming an unconditional subscription. Each Lutheran member is not required to study the original Hebrew and Greek texts of the Old and New Testaments before affirming all such Scripture to be the inspired Word of God. Each Lutheran member does not need to provide an affirmation that they have read and compared all of these documents before he publicly subscribes without reservation to the BoC and becomes a communicant member. ”So while their church is committed to that document, they are not themselves subscribing to it personally.”To the contrary, each confirmand confesses the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, which is contained in all of the Lutheran Symbols, not just the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true (without condition). The confession is not quatenus (in so far as), which allows the confirmand “wiggle room” in case at some later time, if he gets around to actually reading the Book of Concord, he can reject, here or there, some doctrine, which he finds inconvenient or disagreeable.Also, the confessional standard of a Lutheran congregation is not separate from the confessional standard required for each confirmed communicant member: “Communicant members are those baptized members who have been instructed and are familiar with the contents of Luther’s Small Catechism, have been confirmed in the Lutheran faith, and accept the confessional standard… of this Constitution.”
continued...I just don't know how else to define what a Lutheran is other than by what a Lutheran believes, teaches, and confesses, and I think one of the most important words to this discussion is the pronoun "We."I became a Lutheran by conversion, being baptized, confirmed, and communed on the same day when I was 18 years old - after I was catechized and made a confession of faith. I still believe all of it, not because the "Book of Concord tells me so," nor because of anything to do with Luther - but because I studied it and concluded that it is the truth in its totality as an exposition of Scripture.I agree with Pastor Wilken that the Lutheran confessions are definitional to what it means to be a Lutheran, just as the ecumenical creeds set the parameters of Christianity. The filioque is a case in point, as if one accepts it, he is not an Eastern Orthodox Christian, just as if one were to reject it (the doctrine, not merely the use of the word in the recitation) one cannot be a Roman Catholic. The historical debate over "filioque" is not a "Book of Concord Cafeteria License."Again, I don't claim to speak for anyone but myself, but I simply don't see any scenario in which a person can doctrinally reject parts of the Small Catechism and be Lutheran. I mean no offense. This is just the first time in my life that I have encountered a person who describes himself as Lutheran claim there are doctrinal errors in the Small Catechism. And, of course, my opinion is just that of one pastor - I don't speak for the LCMS in any kind of official way. If I have misconstrued the Book of Concord somehow, I am eager to be corrected. Pax!
Larry, thank you for your response and the kind words about my brother.I am sorry, because I know you must be very busy, and it takes time to put something like this together. With regard to the filioque controversy, the fact remains that we; that is the western Church, including Lutherans, decided that a Creed written by an Ecumenical Council is wrong. If we were quia confessors of that creed, we would not permit that. We decided that, in this case, we would chose truth over formality. But my frustration continues, because nobody wants to address the substance of my allegations. Is there no teacher in Israel?By the way, I very much enjoyed your series about your visit to Russia, a country in which I lived for over ten years.Et tecum,George
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