Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Another point of view

Anonymous --

This article is typical of so many articles on the doctrine of the ministry. It pits human writers against human writers without even one (that's right, not even one) clearly expounded scripture, leave alone a majority of scriptures which speak to the doctrine. I have struggled to fully grasp both sides of the old Synodical Conference's doctrine of the ministry for years and find flaws in both when they are carried to their logical extremes in practice (which both have been in the history of the WELS and LC-MS).


This lack of biblical evidence warps this article as it does so many others. It seems to come across that we understand the Bible in light of the confessions instead of saying we understand the confessions in light of the Bible. Which is the ultimate authority and sheds light on the other?
There is a reason why the doctrine of the ministy was not devisive in the Synodical Conference. With the wholesome tension, neither WELS nor LC-MS could carry its doctrine to its logical extreme. Now, almost fifty years after the break in fellowship, both WELS and LC-MS have factions which are taking their doctrine of the ministry to its logical extreme and the weaknesses in the logical extremes of both are showing.

At the Diet of Worms Luther asked to be shown from scripture or sound reason what was not true about his teachings. In this current case of the doctrine of the ministry, sound reason has not prevailed because there has been mostly an unending pitting of the church fathers against each other to no avail. What we need is clear and determinative exegesis of the sedes passages on the ministry, followed by clear and determinative exegesis of non-sedes doctrines on the ministry. Even there one problem will be to find unbiased exegetes on either side. It seems we are more interested in doing exegesis of Walther, Pieper, Schaller, and Meyer, rather than the scriptures. That has led to confusion and to the weakness of our arguments. If we can only "prove" a position by quoting the church fathers, but cannot "prove" the same position by quoting sola scriptura, we have gone the way of Rome.

April 7, 2010 11:06 AM

9 comments:

Gregory L. Jackson said...

Recent synodical leaders are not "church fathers." Augustine, Jerome, et al. were church fathers. That is the problem. The self-worshiping synods think the norma normata is the collected works Walther or something else - like the dog notes of J. P. Meyer. To suggest one of these mortal men might be wrong is to admit to the fallibility of a given synod. Just thinking that is enough to get the Left Foot of Fellowship, vigorously applied "for the good of the Church."

John said...

This comment you entitle "another point of view" beautifully expresses the Baptist et al view of the Confessions and the role of confessions in the Catholic Church, i.e. the Lutheran Church. It first throws out the red herring "doesn't quote Scripture." Please. In the LUTHERAN church to quote the Lutheran Confessions is to quote the Scriptures understanding of an issue. That is what "quia" means, BECAUSE the Confessions correctly expound the Scriptures we subscribe them. For Lutherans the Confessions are the correct understanding of the Scriptures because they are drawn from them. So in times of conflict the Lutheran Church says "This is our understanding of the Scriptures."

So then for LUTHERANS appealing to the Confessions is to appeal to the correct understanding of the Scriptures. To do as this commentator suggests is to interpret the Scripture according to THEIR understanding of the Scriptures.

Thus among Lutherans the Confessions settle the issue when there are differing Scripture understandings on the issue. Yes, if I were talking a Baptist (or whatever Protestant he or she may be) I would begin with the Scriptures and then show them how the Lutheran Confessions say the same thing as the Scriptures. But when a Lutheran teaches something that is not in accord with the Confessions, and one shows them what they teach is contrary to the Confessions, that is the same thing as saying they disagree with the Scriptures.

The view this commentator espouses is simply a quatenus subscription clothed in Biblical dress.

So. The article this person comments on shows how many WELS writers and the WELS understanding of the Doctrine of the Holy Ministry disagrees with the Lutheran Confessions which in a Lutheran audience to which this paper was delivered means contrary to the Scriptures. The purpose of the presentation was not a dialectic on the Ministry but to instruct a largely LCMS audience what the WELS teaches on the Ministry, as many in the LCMS don't undertand the WELS view as many in the WELS do not understand the LCMS view.

I will direct this commentator to my article in the Gottesdienst Journal (2009:1) for the ontological understanding of the Office of the Holy Ministry that underpins this article, with plenty of Scripture to chew on. It is entitled (and isn't this the best title, ever?) "Why My Wife Cannot Be a Pastor and I Cannot Have Sex with Men."

Cordially,
Rev. Fr. John W. Berg

Gregory L. Jackson said...

In fact, Rev. Father John Berg, Chemnitz made the same point as the posted article in his Examination of the Council of Trent. People have a tendency to line up their Synodical Conference favorites as if that settles all disputes. Chemnitz quoted one of the earlier authorities in saying "Where the water is muddy, we must return to the Source, the Scriptures." That is my paraphrase from memory.

Anonymous said...

I used "church fathers" for lack of a different term in referring to the LC-MS and WELS men quoted in the article. To me the article does not offer any real scriptural and very little Confessional argumentation on the doctrine of the ministry. It offers more of what LC-MS and WELS men have written about it than what the Bible or the Confessions say about it. It was my intended point to bring that out. (I realize the article was written for other purposes, but here and now it is in public domain for wider audiences.)

We sometimes study more deeply what people have written than what the Scriptures or the Confessions have said. Often this revolves around the meaning of a foreign language word like "Amt." Here an exegesis of Scriptural passages is essential to clarify the correctness of the meaning of a word used in the Confessions or by synods who have written on the topic. The Confessions are still "normata," even with a "quia" subscription -- especially when different people understand or translate the German or Latin words of the Confessions differently. Sometimes it seems that our understanding of the Bible or the Confessions is what Walther or Meyer said is it, even though the two may seem to disagree.

The logical extreme of the LC-MS view of ministry seems to leave out room for discipline of those on the clergy roster by those who are not parish pastors (professors, synod presidents, etc.), to allow the retention of the title "Pastor" or "Reverend" for those on the "clergy" roster who are not parish pastors and thus not in the ministry (assuming the parish pastor is the only God-ordained form of ministry), to "call" teachers or "contract" teachers depending on the whims of local circumstances, and to pick and choose whether they need to follow the LC-MS doctrine on such things as close communion (not enough Confessional evidence?).

The logical extreme of the WELS view of ministry has allowed for the ordination of male teachers and, I believe, even female teachers for a while, the addition to the office of ministry through a call of those who do not meet the scriptural qualifications of "a minister of the gospel" (eg., some of the synod's financial service men who are (were) not theologically trained or certified), and "calls" for some of the elected lay positions in some of the congregations, even when they do not teach the word.

There is no doubt that the Confessions are a true and clear presentation of Scriptural doctrines on all points and need to be studied and upheld through use and discipine. It is also true that the Confessions are not as complete as scriptures, lacking major discussions of some doctrine suchh as the Doctrine of the Word and the Doctrine of Fellowship.

To some scripture remains a red herring. Others may see the confessions as a red herring. When one argues that for "LUTHERANS appealing to the Confessions is appealing to the correct understanding of the Scriptures," there are those who might ask, "Why not just quote the scriptures then? Are they too unclear on the doctrine or not authoritative enough? Are the Confessions more clear or more reliable than God's Word?" My point is not to undermine the Confessions but to simply show that this is the way some people will respond -- even among LUTHERANS -- to doctrinal articles that are void of scriptural study.

Of course, neither the Scriptures or the Confessions are red herrings. But must be quia subscriptions -- the Bible quia it is God's Word and the Confessions quia their teachings accurately reflect the teachings of the Bible.

John said...

I'll not answer your straw man comments re: the red herring issue.

You and Mr. Jackson should reread my first note and the purpose of this paper (which contrary to your assertion is not void of Scripture, which I would hope you know well enough to know when I reference it without adding a citation). WELS teaches contrary to the Lutheran Confessions on the Doctrine of the Holy Ministry, an issue that is hardly as you suggest above "void" of discussion in the Lutheran Confessions. Interesting that you do not discuss the substance of the paper. Exegetes can say what they wish (and whoever suggests there has not been a vast amount of exegesis on the issue is not a very well read person and incredibly naive), but finally if they do not find themselves in agreement with the Lutheran Confessions, they can't call their teaching Lutheran.

Mr. Jackson, I hardly "lined" up Synodical Conference favorites as you suggested, but I contrasted WELS writings and doctrinal statements with Luther and the Lutheran Confessions as I informed a largely LCMS assembly on how to read WELS writings.

Cordially,
Rev. Fr. John W. Berg

Gregory L. Jackson said...

Sorry, Rev. Holy Father John, I never joined the Berg Synod, whether run by your father or by the offspring. Saying WELS is wrong on the ministry is as shocking as revealing that water is wet. Re-read your effort? I would rather have root canal surgery while watching Oprah. Thanks for the morning laugh.

John said...

Gregory L.,

I like Oprah, too!

Cordially,
The Reverend Holy Father John

Gregory L. Jackson said...

"The holy and divinely inspired Scriptures suffice for all instruction in the truth." [Athanasius, Contra gentes] Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 152.

"What more shall I teach you than what we read in the apostle? For Holy Scripture fixes the rule for our doctrine, lest we dare to be wiser than we ought. Therefore I should not teach you anything else except to expound to you the words of the Teacher." [Augustine, De bono viduitatis, chap. 2] Martin Chemnitz, Examination, I, p. 152.

"Wherever the place has been determined, let us see to it that the canonical codices are on hand and if any proofs can be produced on either side, let us set everything else aside and bring so important a matter to a conclusion." [Augustine, Letter no. 163, about private disputations about religion] Martin Chemnitz, Examination, I, p. 154.

"For the book of the evangelist and apostles and the oracles of the ancient prophets plainly teach us what we are to think concerning divine matters. Therefore let us cease our hostile discord and take the solutions of the questions out of the divinely inspired sayings." [Constantine at Nicea] Martin Chemnitz, Examination, I, p. 154.

"If anything is said without Scripture, the thinking of the hearers limps. But where the testimony proceeds from the divinely given Scripture, it confirms both the speech of the preacher and the soul of the hearer." [Chrysostom, commenting on Psalm 95] Martin Chemnitz, Examination, I, p. 156. Psalm 95.

"There is a short way for pious minds both to dethrone error and to find and bring out the truth. For when we return to the source and origin of the divine tradition, human error ceases." [Cyprian, Ad Pompejum] Martin Chemnitz, Examination, I, p. 158.

"Beautiful is the statement of Cyprian, which Augustine declares to be the best without any doubt, showing what ought to be done when examples and customs are held up to us which do not have the authority of the canonical Scripture. 'If,' says he, 'we return to the head and origin of the divine tradition, human error will cease. For if the channel of water, which before flowed copiously and purely, either fails or brings muddy water, then certainly one goes to the source in order to find out whether there is something wrong in the veins or in the source, or whether something got in midway.' So also it is rightly, necessarily, and indeed safely done when things that happened in later times in matters of religion must be examined." Chemnitz, Examination, III, p. 237.

"We believe, teach, and confess that the sole rule and standard according to which all dogmas together with [all] teachers should be estimated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament alone, as it is written in Psalm 119:105: 'Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.' And St. Paul: 'Though an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you, let him be accursed,' Galatians 1:8." Formula of Concord, Epitome, Part I, 1, Concordia Triglotta, p. 777. Tappert, p. 464. Heiser, p. 216. Psalm 119:105; Galatians 1:8.

"Other writings, however, of ancient or modern teachers, whatever name they bear, must not be regarded as equal to the Holy Scriptures, but all of them together be subjected to them, and should not be received otherwise or further than as witnesses, [which are to show] in what manner after the time of the apostles, and at what places, this [pure] doctrine of the prophets and apostles was preserved." Formula of Concord, Epitome, Part I, 2, Concordia Triglotta, p. 777. Tappert, p. 465. Heiser, p. 216.

Frank Sonnek said...

Gregory Jackson

You are so right that if it is a contest between holy scripture and the Lutheran Confessions , then of course, the Scriptures must always win.

But in that case we would be talking about forming a christian sect that is no longer Lutheran.

The only thing that identifies us, and should unite us , as Lutherans, is in the book of concord. And Lutheran pastors therefore bind themselves, in their ordination, to read holy scriptures stictly as interpreted by our Lutheran Confessions.

So I am confused. Are you saying that it is wrong to ask Lutheran pastors to take this vow at their ordination?