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When Lutherans Assert that the Bible is the Verbally Inspired Word of God, and Actually Mean it, Are they Fundamentalists or Calvinists?

February 7th, 2013 3 comments

commandments

The one, holy, catholic and apostolic church has confessed throughout her entire history, until the last couple of centuries, that the Sacred Scriptures are precisely what they claim to be: the God-breathed words of God—the very words that God chose to have set down in written form. This is simply a fact.

I was reading recently statements made to the effect that insisting on this truth is a result of the influence of American fundamentalism, or if a person dares venture a bit further back in Church history, there is the charge that Lutherans who confess the Bible is verbally inspired and thus free from error and incapable of error have come under the influence of Calvinism. This is nothing short of stupendous ignorance of the facts of church history, in which one need spend only a small amount of time to find that the ancient fathers of the Christian Church were quite happy to confess the Bible is the very Word of God. Any claim that the doctrine of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures is some kind of more recent American fundamentalist assertion, or something Lutheranism took over from Calvinist is totally bogus. If or when you hear any Lutheran saying that you can be assured that you are hearing from a person who is abysmally ignorant of Lutheran doctrine, history and, for that matter, church history as a whole.

As for Lutherans…the “Second Martin,” as he was called, Martin Chemnitz, the foremost of the followers of Luther’s reformation insights after the great Reformers death, makes it abundantly clear what Lutheranism has to say about the inspired text, in his magnum opus, from which to this day remains the most definitive refutation of the Council of Trent ever published, The Examination of the Council of Trent.

The quote below comes from the very first volume of Chemnitz’ work where he is setting for the Church’s understanding of the Holy Scriptures and why they, not “tradition” or any other source are the supreme source for everything the Church believes, teaches and confesses. In great detail he works through how God chose to transmit His Word to his people, by means of written communication of His Word, seen already in how God chose to give His people the Commandments:

“It will profitably clear up and simplify the present controversy concerning the Holy Scripture by showing how the Scripture itself began. History shows—and I think this must be noted especially—that God not only instituted this way and method of preserving and retaining the purity of the heavenly doctrine by means of the divinely inspired Scriptures but that He also by His own act and example initiated, dedicated, and consecrated that way and method when He Himself first wrote the words of the Decalog. Therefore the first beginning of Holy Scripture must have God Himself as the author.

“I have related these things in order that it might be observed from the divinely inspired Scriptures, which God wanted preserved and made available for posterity, that nothing was written before the tables of the Decalog, which were written by the finger of God. It does much to shed light on the dignity and authority of Holy Scripture that God Himself not only instituted and commanded the plan of comprehending the heavenly doctrine in writing but that He also initiated, dedicated, and consecrated it by writing the words of the Decalog with His own fingers. For if the writing of the sacred books had first been begun by men, an exclusion of more than two thousand years could have been argued, where in the better times of the world and among the most outstanding patriarchs the doctrine of the divine Word was transmitted without writing, by the living voice. Therefore God Himself with His own fingers made a beginning of writing in order that He might show how much importance is to be attached to this method, according to which the purity of the doctrine is to be preserved to posterity by writings.

“For the fact that He took tablets of stone on which to write the words of the Decalog there is another reason, which is explained 2 Cor. 3.

“In order that those things which were either to be written through men of God, adorned for this by miracles and divine testimonies, or to be approved by them after they had been written, should not have a lesser authority or no authority at all for the confirmation of dogmas and the refutation of errors, God chose not to write the whole Law Himself, but, having written the words of the Decalog, He gave Moses the command that he should write the remainder from His dictation. And in order that the people of God might be certain that this Scripture of Moses was not introduced by the will of man but was divinely inspired, God gave the testimony of Moses authority through many mighty miracles both before and after the writing, and during the writing itself.

“We have thus shown two things from the most ancient sacred history: (1) that the purity of the heavenly doctrine was not preserved always and everywhere through tradition by the living voice but was repeatedly corrupted and adulterated; (2) in order that new and special revelations might not always be necessary for restoring and retaining purity of the doctrine, God instituted another method under Moses, namely, that the doctrine of the Word of God should be comprehended in writing.

“This is how the Scripture began. Now that this has been shown, it remains that we consider further what use God wanted us to make of the Scripture, and what was to be its dignity and authority. Because the history is clear, we shall be content merely to list the passages.

“Moses included in four books not only the history of his own time, the exodus from Egypt, and what happened during the 40 years in the desert, but his plan was chiefly to write the doctrine of the Law, which God delivered to the people of Israel on Mt. Sinai in the desert. Besides, in the first book, he summed up the chief points of the doctrine and faith of the patriarchs, which they had received by tradition, on the basis of the revelation of God Himself from the beginning of the world almost down to his own time, and which they had also professed.

“God commanded that the tables of the Decalog, written by God’s own hand, should be deposited in the ark of the convenant, which was in the holy of holies in the tabernacle. And Moses commanded that his own writings, composed by divine inspiration, should be put into the side of the ark (Deut. 31:25–26). The custody and preservation of this deposit he entrusted to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. He also ordered that the king should have with him a copy of the Law, written according to that which was before the face of the priests and Levites, lest he depart from it either to the right hand or to the left (Deut. 17:18–20). He also commanded that the people should write these words on the posts, the doors, the lintel, and the gates of their houses. (Deut. 6:9 and 11:20)”

From: Examination, Volume 1, pgs. 53-54.

 

One of the Very Best Things The Missouri Synod Did Not Do Last Week

July 19th, 2010 5 comments

Last week, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, held its national convention. I won’t bore you with all the details, they are widely available elsewhere. There was the usual election dramas, the votes on resolutions, the motions amended, the questions called, the amendments to the amendments made and seconded, and pro/con speeches, lots of videos of various work our Synod is doing, etc. All very important things, to be sure, but in my opinion, one of the most important things my church did not do last week is fundamentally change how it understands what is it to be church, that is, to be that group of believers called, gathered and enlightened by the Holy Spirit through the Word and Sacraments, gathered by the Good Shepherd, to hear his voice and follow him, in a specific place, in a Christian congregation.

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod had before it a series of proposals prepared by a task force on structure. One of the proposals was that our church should change the way we send delegates to a national convention. The task force proposed we cut the number of delegates at national assemblies in half, but what was even more  significant than that, the delegates would be chosen on the basis of a system that would give more voice and vote to congregations with more members. Now this sounds perfectly equitable, in fact, that was one of the terms used to describe the reason for it.

But what  may be “equitable” in the eyes of political democracy, has quite nothing to do with it, at all when it comes to the Christian congregation. The point that was apparently lost on those proposing this change is that one Christian congregation is equal to any other Christian congregation. There is nothing to be considered when it comes to how many members it has.

Why? Because the Christian congregation is the visible manifestation of the body of Christ, and our Lord’s body is beautiful no matter how large or how small. There is no essential difference between any congregation, be it a congregation of 1,000 members, or 50 members. I am very glad that we did not change this around. The proposal was effectively tabled. Here is a blog post I read today that beautifully explains why the notion that a large church is somehow more deserving of more “votes” than a small congregation is so wrong.

“Oh, it’s so cute.”

The photo is of the building in which Middletown Springs Community Church, the church I pastor, gathers each week.

The quote is something I’ve heard several times — that or something like it — typically from friends and family hailing from some steamy portion of Six Flags Over Jesus where church buildings are indistinguishable from office parks or the galleria.

Our church is “cute.” Because it’s small, old, traditional. “Cute” is the backhanded compliment for those who’d never go to a “cute” church, but want you to know they admire it and perhaps even those who aren’t privileged enough to go to a church “successful” enough for a building that is big, impressive, full-service. You know, not cute, but rather “awesome.”

But our church isn’t “cute.” It’s beautiful like a bride both blemished and perfect.

Our building is just a building, but it has stood for over 200 years on the stony soil of the oldest part of our nation, the land of Christian pillars Whitefield and Edwards, of the Great Awakenings, of Puritans and patriots, of Green Mountain Boys and hundreds-of-years-old family farms. The building is just a building but it has weathered over 200 years of harsh Vermont winters, not to mention pastors strong and weak, congregations passionate and passive, spiritual ebbs and flows of Old Testament proportions. Once upon a time the church kicked out Joseph Smith’s secretary for heresy.

Our building is just a building, but it’s not just a building. It’s a symbol of the enduring evangelical presence, small but hearty, in this least-churched state in the nation, and of the endurance of the great salt-of-the-earth people who are the church that gathers in the building for which they’re called.

The gates of hell will prevail against espresso bars and KidzTowns. But not our church.

Our church is not cute. It is epic.

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Categories: The Church

The Fathers Speak: Our Living Mother, the Church

June 30th, 2010 Comments off

“Our one Father, God, lives and our mother, the church; and neither are we dead who live to God, nor do we bury our dead, inasmuch as they too are living in Christ.”

— Tertullian
On Monogamy, 7.

Categories: Church Fathers, The Church