Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Roundtable 6: The Ministry

“So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given [John 20:22]. He works faith, when and where it pleases God [John 3:8], in those who hear the good news that God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake. Our churches condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that through their own preparations and works the Holy Spirit comes to them without the external Word.” Augsburg Confession, Article V, “The Ministry” (Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, 2nd ed.)

“So that we may obtain this faith.” This faith spoken of here is none other than the faith extolled in Article IV, on Justification. Article IV elucidates the object of faith: “By His death, Christ made satisfaction for our sins.” It is thus for Christ’s sake, through faith, that we are justified and counted as righteous in His sight.

But how does one receive such faith? Faith does not concern itself with “finding Jesus” by somehow traveling backward through time to the historical event of Jesus’ crucifixion. Salvation was achieved on the cross at Calvary, but it was not delivered there. The “instruments” extolled in AC V (Word and Sacraments) deliver salvation, but do not accomplish it.

The Lord does stop with merely accomplishing, or earning, the salvation of sinners. He sees to it that what He accomplished is also delivered. That is the way of gifts! Gifts must be both purchased and given. Gifts that are given must, in turn, be received. Faith, thus, receives the Lord’s gifts.

This first clause, “so that we may obtain this faith,” leaves no doubt that AC IV and AC V go hand-in-hand. The connection between these two articles is illustrated similarly by the fact that John Eck’s Roman Catholic response to AC V is refuted not in a separate article, but within article IV of the Apology.

For the purpose of obtaining faith, “the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted.” Whereas the Latin remains with the passive “was instituted,” the German makes it an active verb attributed to God: “God instituted…” In either case what is clear is that what follows and “was instituted” was not merely done so by the arrangement of men; God instituted it. As such, according to his institution, what follows is God’s mandate, thus carrying with it His promise.

What is instituted is, in the Latin, the “ministry of teaching the gospel” (ministerium docendi evangelii) and “administering the sacraments” (porrigendi sacramenta). Lest anachronistically reading some sort of “abstract” idea of ministry here (the Lord does not deliver his gifts through mere abstractions) the German renders this “ministry” as “Predigtamt,” or preaching-office.

Lest there be any doubt that this is a real office, and not merely a “function,” the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope makes the same connection between the Gospel and the Office: “Wherever the Church is, there is the authority to administer the Gospel. Therefore, it is necessary for the Church to retain the authority to call, elect, and ordain ministers” (Tr. 67).

While most modern German dictionaries do, in fact, recognize a secondary definition for “amt” as “function,” in the 16th Century context, particularly in the form of “Predigtamt,” “amt” clearly means “office,” as reflected also by the similar concern articulated above in the Treatise. Even in such instances when “amt” is understood in the sense of “function,” it is usually a “function” that is explicitly tied to a particular office – thus any effort to try are “functionalize” the Office of the Ministry, the preaching-office, or pastor’s office, must do violence to the text of AC V.

Nonetheless, this Office is not some sort of higher order, bearing a particularly oppressive authority over the people of God. On the contrary, the Office is instituted for the sake of preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments. There is not any Gospel being heard without someone put there to speak it. There aren’t any Sacraments being administered without someone there, as an instrument, to administer them. Thus, the Lord does not leave the Church with a merely abstract “Word” and “Sacrament,” but provides the Office through whom the Lord delivers His salvation in Word and Sacrament.

Through these instruments (instruments must have breath if they are to make sound) the Holy Spirit (who is sometimes called the “breath” of God) is delivered. The Holy Spirit works faith “when and where it pleases God” in those who hear the Gospel. Faith is not some sort of magical concoction that can be conjured up by the right combination of preached words or a persuasive tone of voice. Even the preached Word is powerless if the very words preached are not taken by the Holy Spirit and put to His use, according to His terms, when and where He wills faith to be given.

In the Roman Catholic Confutation of John Eck, while approving AC V, he does so with the proviso that by “faith” what should be understood is “not of faith alone…but that faith which is to be understood as working through love.” Eck cites Galatians 3:5 in a misguided effort to support his position: “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith.” Unfortunately, for Eck, he cited the verse without actually quoting it. The “work” here is not the work of “faith” but the Work of the Spirit, thus Eck had quoted a verse that worked in the favor of the argument of AC V! It seems as though some Lutherans later thought Eck’s idea was a good one, and they thus included Gal. 3:14, “So that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith,” as a marginal addition in some later Latin editions of the Augsburg Confession.

“…that God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake.” The language here, in the Latin, closely reflects the language previously used in AC IV, thus displaying again the intimate relationship between these two articles.

Finally the Anabaptists are condemned. The Holy Spirit does not come from within us (intra nos) but from outside of us (extra nos). It is not an “internal Word,” as the Anabaptists had argued, that is to be trusted as the Holy Spirit, but an external Word (Verbo externo). The German calls this Word a “leibliche Wort.” Literally, the German translates into a “physical” Word. That is to say, it is not a sort of “spiritual” Word, but it is through real, physical, human Words through which the Holy Spirit delivers through the aforementioned instruments from outside of ourselves.

44 comments:

William Weedon said...

Excellent comments. Since you've set the article also in the broader context of the Symbols, it would probably be good to note that while Amt is overwhelming the favored term, the Symbols also militate against a functionalist understanding by speaking of the office as a "stand" - or "order" - in the Church. The most striking place where this occurs is in SA III, 3, XI, 1:

"They have neither the authority nor the right to ban marriage and to burden *the divine order of priests* with perpetual celibacy."

wcwirla said...

Very nice summary, Ryan! Thank you. I think you've captured the essential points of this article quite nicely.

If I may strain at a gnat, I would quibble with the "merely" from our Lord's accomplishing our salvation, since the cross is never a "merely." I do appreciate what you intended, that the cross and its proclamation go together, which is the point of the holy ministry.

Amt/officium can be tricky business. It can indeed mean task or function, but in the greater context of the Augsburg Confession it is clear that Melanchthon is not reducing the holy ministry to a bare set of tasks (what we call "functionalism"), rather he is viewing the holy ministry in a dynamic way, that is, that office in the church which is authorized to preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments. He also defines the church in the same dynamic way in AC VII. The term "Predigtamt" captures the dynamic essence of the office quite nicely.

Functionalism, which has been our bane for at least the last 60 years since Oscar Feucht's "Every Christian a Minister," rends asunder task and authority. "Office" consists of specific tasks and a specific authority to perform them.

It is surprising to our protestantized ears how easily the Reformers are willing to use the traditional language concerning the holy ministry, as brother Weedon's quote "the divine order of priests." Try dropping that whopper at your local pastor's conference today and see where it gets you.

I also appreciate your highlighting for us the external character of the Word in this article. The Word that creates and sustains saving faith is an external Word, delivered from mouth to ear. The objective character of the holy ministry underscores this. One does not take it upon himself to be a preacher of the Word, one is called and ordained to the task.

Paul T. McCain said...

What my beloved professor Kurt Marquart loved to point out, no doubt leaning on one of his important theological mentor's, Hermann Sasse, is how instructive it is to find Article V placed immediately after IV and directly in front of Article VI. Ther e is a beautiful "flow" here. I find so refreshing, both personally and for those whom I've been privileged to preach or teach or serve as pastor, the powerful and concrete objective reality of God's work, "extra nos" as we say in Latin, "outside of us" in the person and work of Christ and then the "ad nos" of the means of grace, that we can have confidence in God's presence for us, and with us, and as a result, in us, via the means of grace, the Gospel preached and taught and received in the Word and the Gospel-sacraments by which God lavishes His love and forgiving grace on us. What makes too many of our protestant brethren grasp for security in emotionalism and the embarrassing lengths to which they go to make themselves feel the "presence of Jesus" [see my Cyberbrethren blog site for a horrid example of that!, those hideous "Jesus action hero" figures] bespeaks the poverty of a theology that has no knowledge or, nor appreciation for, the REAL presence of Christ under the bread and wine of His Holy Supper.

William Weedon said...

Another thing that I've found instructive in this article is the "als durch Mittel." The als auf Deutsch or the tamquam in Latin remind us that the Word and Sacraments are not instruments, but are *like* instruments, or means, for receiving the Spirit. I think we've tended to remove the "als" in our thinking.

Paul T. McCain said...

Bill, intriguing remark, but...I have no idea what you are talking about? Care to elaborate on that tantalizing brief observation? Do tell!

Rev. Ryan Fouts said...

Ah, yes. A wise, gnat, indeed. I repent of "merely." "Merely" is diminutive. Perhaps, rather, we should simply rejoice in the "more" rather than the "mere."

William Weedon said...

Paul,

To speak of the Word and Sacrament as "the means of grace" is to employ a metaphor - they function LIKE an instrument for conveying grace (and notice that grace is not a created substance, but the person of the Holy Spirit Himself in this article - Means of the Holy Spirit might be more accurate in the AC V way of speaking).

But though they work LIKE that, that is not what they are in themselves. Rather, in themselves, each is its own thing. Baptism IS the washing of rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit; Absolution IS the voice of God remitting sin, welcoming home the prodigal; the Eucharist IS the body and blood of Christ given and shed for us, for our forgiveness for us to each and drink; the preaching of the Gospel IS the embassy of reconciliation in Christ which remains the power of God to salvation for all who believe.

When we forget that speaking of these as "means" is to speak metaphorically and not categorically I think we run the risk of lopping off the proprium of each. Als durch Mittel.

William Weedon said...

eat, not each!

William Weedon said...

Another question:

Do you think that "He works faith, when and where it pleases God, in those who hear the good news..." could be taken to mean:

He works faith, when and where it pleases God to do so, and where it pleases God to so is in those who hear the good news.

In other words, not addressing the reality that some hear and are not quickened to faith (the mystery of predestination), but addressing the locatedness of His place of working: He works faith quando et ubi visum est Deo and the following phrase informing you of the content of that quando et ubi?

Mike said...

Amen to the comments linking feelings of uncertainty with a denial of Real Presence. I would add:

Some misunderstandings about "the priesthood of believers" (which many assume means "we're all pastors"), the weakening of the Biblical standards concerning who may hold the pastoral office, the teaching of "individual soul liberty", and the denial of the pastoral use of the keys contribute to that grasping of which Paul McCain speaks. Here again we see that weakening Article V effects fills the others with uncertainty and so it is true that we do not have many doctrines, but one unified doctrine divided among several articles.

Before I entered the promised land of Lutheranism and read this article, I often wondered what it was the pastor was. It seemed to me that he was just a marriage counselor with a degree in a denomenational interpretation of the Bible and some public speaking credentials.

This common error is pervasive among our protestant bretheren and extends to the point where many believe that to use terms like "the divine order or priests" is pharisetical and contrary to God's will.

Paul T. McCain said...

What a wonderful conversation to have. Bill W., regarding your last....again, I'm not entirely clear on what you are saying, no doubt my ageing grey matter is no longer functioning as well as it once did [I just turned 45].

But...I think I would agree with you, but I have seen folks push this thought to the point that they have attempted to suggest that the Holy Spirit can only be said to be absolving sin when it is spoken by an ordained pastor, otherwise we can only speak of "assurance," but not absolution, when the Gospel is spoken by someone other than the pastor.

I think the focus of the comment is to emphasize that H.S. does work, where and when He chooses, when and where the means of grace are employed/deployed.

I think the focus is on distancing Lutherans from the enthusiasts who held that the Holy Spirit just blows about disconnected from any external means.

I have noticed that some well-intentioned Lutherans, in an effort to defend the doctrine of the ministry, have made the mistake of suggesting that the Holy Spirit only works effectively through the Word when that Word is spoken by the mouth of an ordained pastor. No doubt, in an effort to combat the errors of "every man a minister" this approach falls into the ditch on the other side of the road.

William Weedon said...

Paul,

Notice how the Confession circumvents that understanding before it can arise. Not "the Holy Spirit works faith when and where He pleases *through those who are given the responsibility of the OHM* but *in those who HEAR the Gospel.*"

Now the OHM is given that the Gospel might be heard as this article clearly confesses, but it does not by any stretch conclude that the Spirit is given only when the ordained speak, but literally when the Gospel IS HEARD.

Paul T. McCain said...

Bill, yes, you would think this point would be as plain as the nose of your face, or mine, but...alas, I truly have found myself in conversations with pastors who, zealous to preserve the doctrine that there is in fact an amt in the Church given, have concluded that one should assert that we can only say *for sure* that the Gospel is being delivered when it is coming from their ordained mouth. I'm not making this up. I'm not indulging in hyperbole here.

I've always tried to ask them to help me understand how, and when, the Gospel can ever be something it is not. That is, how can the Gospel ever not be the Word of forgiveness in Christ? Then this sometimes leads into the assertion that a pastor's absolution is something "more sure" than forgiveness spoken by somebody else. And on, and on, and on it goes.

I am saddened by these conversations because there is in our Confessions such a beautiful joy in confessing the gifts God gives us: the Gospel, put into the mouth of every Christian, the Sacraments, the Office given to shepherd us as Christ's sheep and there is none of this trying to play one off the other.

wcwirla said...

Since this is a roundtable discussion, I'd like to pose an obvious question that is often asked of me. I know how I answer it, but I'm curious as to how the rest of you handle this. When we say "God instituted the office of the ministry," where are the "words of institution"? Our ordination rite refers to John 20 and the sending of the disciples on Easter evening, and Matthew 28 and the commissioning of the Eleven.

With Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord's Supper, we have dominical words that establish these activities. With the office of the holy ministry, we seem to have a "inferential institution," namely, God instituted these activities and He authorized the apostles to perform them, and they in turn are the foundation of the office which continues these activities in the church today.

In other words, the divine institution of the office of the holy ministry seems to be inferred from the institution of Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord's Supper. Perhaps this is the way it should be, in that the Office is not a sacrament unto itself, but rather, as the later dogmaticians would classify it, an "instrumental cause" or a means of the means of grace.

The thoughts of my esteemed brothers would be most welcome here.

Rev. Ryan Fouts said...

Our Confessions like to quote Luke 10:16. Though, in that particular context, it has to do with the sending of the 72.

Even here, though, it is connected to the idea of speaking and hearing.

I think the notion of an "inferential institution" as you put it is helpful. That's also where the German "Amt" is helpful. The Office is not instituted for its own sake. Rather, the Office is instituted for the sake of delivering the means which our Lord dominically institutes -- baptism, Lord's Supper, binding/loosing sins, etc. Thus, we do not go to Matthew 16 with Rome and locate the Office in some sort of derivative sense from the Peter. The Office is not there because having the Office is a good thing, all by itself. The Office is instituted, as AC V says, in order that we may obtain faith -- and this is done through Word and Sacrament. Thus, while the symbols reject a purely "functional" office, they also reject a "functionless" Office or, for those of you like myself who don't care much for the word "function," the Office is there for the sake the delivery of Word and Sacrament. Thus, when the Apology says that pastors do not "represent their own person, but the person of Christ" this "representation" of Christ is not according to the person's merits, or some sort of special character that makes them better. It is, rather, "by virtue of" their Office (it's a shame that these little words got dropped from the absolution in Lutheran Worship).

Paul T. McCain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul T. McCain said...

OK, roundtable that this is, it bugs the living daylights out of me [that is an odd phrase, isn't it?] that in our multiple absolution formulas in LSB we do not hear, every single time, "I, by virtue of my office, as a called and ordained servant." But, Ryan, even more significant for me is how we've managed to drop, "in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ." The powerful "persona Christi" of our Confessions when speaking of the pastor's performance of his duties is such comfort and encouragement for both pastor and the congregation.

Bill C....you ask a question I too have wondered about a bit, but from my reading in our Lutheran fathers, it would seem that John 20 is the most frequently cited "words of institution" for the ministry, and when you think of it, the words of institution of Baptism and Holy Communion are also "action oriented" in their approach.

Mike said...

Here's an ignorant question...

Why should Matt 16:15-19 not be the explicit words of institution for the office of the holy ministry.

I understand that we shy away from it because of the papist view of apostolic succession, but ignoring those verses all together and what they say about the foundation of the church appears to be the opposite extereme.

In v16, Peter declares the gospel. In v17, Christ not only praises Peter for his delevery of the Gospel, but rightly points to the source of a preacher's power and authority ("because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.")

In v18, we see Christ specifically institute a foundation upon which His church will be built. It is not clear that Peter alone is that rock (and thus the pope as Rome falsely claims), but there is a foundation either revealed or established in that verse. It would seem to me that the previous passages (v16-17) explain what that foundation is: the preaching of the gospel by the revelation, power, and command of God.

In v19, Christ goes right into the establishment of the keys, which the apostles and ministers wielded through the remainder of the New Testament up to today. In context, it makes sense that the office would be established prior to the establishment of the keys.

To badly paraphrase: On this rock (ministers who are called by the Father to preach the gospel which is revealed by God not Peter alone), I will build my church. Here are the keys to that building which I will build.

These versus do not point to a clear chain of succession, but it seems clear that Christ's establishment of the ministry and the "proper call" is more than implied(v17-18). That may be a very liberal or flat out wrong interpretation, but it seems clear to me. Am I wrong? What does it really say?

William Weedon said...

Bill C,

I think what all the places cited have in common is this: our Blessed Lord is sending forth His apostles into the world with the embassy of forgiveness - through preaching, teaching, baptizing, absolving, and giving the Eucharist. Thus, it is the establishment of the apostolate which is the foundation for the office of the ministry - and the apostolate is established in the Lord's mandating of what they are sent to give out. In that sense, I am in agreement with Michael also that Matt 16 should not be excluded, nor Luke 10 that Ryan points us to. It was not a one time handing over, but the Lord gave them this, and that, and the other, and finally said before His ascension: Now get! Go give away all I've handed over to you.

wcwirla said...

Gentlemen of the round table (can we pass "man laws" around here?):

Paul McCain: Though I find myself tripping over the new wording of the corporate absolution formula in LSB, I rather appreciate the way it sounds: "As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority..." That pretty much parses out the content of "office," especially by making "authority" explicit.

William W: Yea and Amen to all that you say. I've said it all myself, far less eloquently, and we both know from whom we received these gifts in the way of Gospel. However, there are certain steps of logic that need to be made explicit in going from Christ's sending of apostles to the pastoral office. I think Ephesians 4:11ff serves as the bridge from the dominical institution to the apostolic church, much the way 1 Corinthians 11 serves to bring the Lord's Supper from the night in which our Lord was betrayed into the ongoing life of the church.

Mike: Regarding Mt 16, you are very much in line with the Treatise which states, "As to the statement, 'On this rock I will build my church' (Mt 16:18), it is certain that the church is not built on the authority of a man but on the ministry of the confession which Peter made when he declared Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God. Therefore Christ addresses Peter as a minister and says, 'On this rock," that is, on this ministry" (id est super hoc ministerium; das ist auf diese Predig und Predigampt). (Treatise, 25)

I wholeheartedly agree that this is as close as we are going to get for a dominical word of institution for the office of the holy ministry. Obviously, we are a few logical steps removed from the pastoral office. We have to show that 1) Christ is addressing Peter as representative of the whole company of apostles; 2) He is speaking to Peter as apostle and not disciple; and 3) there is a clear connection between apostle and the office of the holy ministry. The Treatise does all the above, but I am laboring under the sola Scriptura on this point.

This is the burden that must be borne in defending the office against functionalism. I find that the divine institution of the office of the holy ministry is one of the most difficult things of which to convince people, including some who are otherwise solid Lutherans. As I indicated before, this is a derivative argument, which can make it appear as though we are playing a biblical shell game in claiming divine institution for the Office.

On a practical plane, many people hear "divine institution" and "called and ordained" as some sort of theologically driven job security ("you can't fire the pastor") or position of power rather than the comfort of the authority of Christ.

Paul T. McCain said...

Years ago I was a part of The LCMS' "Task Force on Nomenclature" -- an assignment that was truly the best committee/task force group that I served on. We had James Voelz and Roger Pittelko along with other interesting people. The fine work the group did was "deep sixed" by an irreponsible decision by a floor committee that came in and wiped out six years of our hard work. We had "solved" the problem of the silly IRS-based nomenclature the LCMS uses for various offices in the church. Our solution was simply to have two major categories: Pastors and Other and then simply call everything what it was: Teacher, DCE, whatever, but preserve "Pastor" as the overarching term for anyone ordained to the office of holy ministry among us. Why? Out of custom? No, not really. James Voelz presented a powerful exegetical study through the Scriptures demonstrating that the strongest and most frequently used analogy/metaphor/image for the church's ministry is not: overseer, minister, elder, deacon or whatever, but ... shepherd. He walked us through the OT passages and through the NT references, most notably of course the close connection between Ezekiel texts and John 10, Christ as Good Shepherd and then Paul's and Peter's use of pastoring language in their letters. After all that, when this is presented, it is difficult for me to understand how, or why, anyone would want to try to claim that our Lord has not provided servants to His Church to be shepherds. I believe a lot of it has to do with a dangerous mixture of Pietism and American Egalitarianism.

I too, Bill C., was going to respond to Mike and refer him to the Tractate which makes much of the Matt. 16 and refers to the office established by Christ for the sake of the confession.

Bill C. on the formula. I don't mind the "authority" word, but I definitely also wish we had kept the vivid, "in the stead" language. Perhaps "authority" makes that point clearly for people, but I liked the "in the stead of" ... what if they would have brought the meaning home even more by saying, "In the place of and by the command of." That might have been even more accurate?

Mike said...

"I wholeheartedly agree that this [Mt 16] is as close as we are going to get for a dominical word of institution for the office of the holy ministry. Obviously, we are a few logical steps removed from the pastoral office. We have to show that 1) Christ is addressing Peter as representative of the whole company of apostles; 2) He is speaking to Peter as apostle and not disciple; and 3) there is a clear connection between apostle and the office of the holy ministry. The Treatise does all the above, but I am laboring under the sola Scriptura on this point."

I must need to be corrected then because I do not follow that opinion. I do not understand and perhaps I have missed some part of Scripture and you can point me in a better direction.

You would have to make those same logical steps of exegesis in the opposite direction to prove that lay people should recieve the Lord's Supper:

1) You have to prove that Christ was talking to the Apostles as Christians not as his appointed ministers. 2) You have to draw a connection between the Eucharist and Christ's crucifixion for the effects of the Lord's Supper to be an part of the universal forgiveness of mankind.

You have to do the same thing about the presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer:

1) You have to prove that Christ was talking to all Christians in all future time periods and not just to those who were there for His Ascension when He promised divine help. 2) You have to draw the connection between the the promises at the Ascension, the events at Pentacost, and the work of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the the Epistles and today.

All three of these cases are instances where the words of Christ require the exact same conclusions of reason and scriptural comentary apart from a "red print only" view of Sola Scriptura.

Thankfully, Sola Scriptura does not apply only to the red print of Christ's specific words. All three of these divine institutions are supported by explicit explinations in the inerrant epistles. To me it is well within the use of Sola Scriptura because Scriptura Scripturae interpres.

If Christ institutes the Supper with only His apostles present, and inerrant Scripture explains that all believers commune in the epistles, then Christ's institution as recorded the Gospels is for all people... even though Christ never said "This is my body given to for you who are here and everyone else who drinks this cup and eats this bread for the forgiveness of sins" in the upper room.

If Christ establishes His church on Peter's rock and the Book of Acts and the epistles define that ministry in clearer terms, then what Christ explicitly instituted is supported, not by human reason or human institution, but what is God-breathed Holy Word even though Christ never specifically said, "I will build my church and you shall be called preachers and pastors.... and you shall deliver the Word and Sacraments... and do the occasional wedding and hospital visit... etc."

If we use only what Christ explicitly said at the time that he said it as a criteria for expressed words of institution then the promise of baptism is the only explicit dominican institution that extends to us today because it is the only one where Christ names us as recipients when He says "all nations". The Lord's Supper carries no "all nations" promise. How do you justify the famous "words of institution" if they were said only in the presence of the apostles with no qualifying remarks... which are appearantly required for Matt 16?

But we all know that the Lord's Supper is a divine institution for all because of the support from the inerrant epistles.

Absolution is a divine institution is often supported by the very passage I am using as a source for my argument for explicit institution of the office: ("in the stead and by the command...").

Some how, otherwise bold pastors shrink away from that stance only a few verses before because they are talking about themselves and their vocation instead of their function. As a layman, it smacks to me as a gross inconsistancy. As a lover of the Confessions, are we saying that Treatise is wrong on this point if we follow strict Sola Scriptura? Where else in the confessional writings have the fathers deviated from or added personal opinion to what is specifically stated in Scripture?

Lutheran pastors effectively say, "I envoke the explicit authority of Matt 16:19 when Jesus was talking to Peter and gave the authority for the forgiveness your sins in His stead." but then the same pastors say "I cannot find a direct connection to me as a pastor in Matt 16:16-18 because Christ might just be talking to Peter only.. or just the apostles... or the disciples who were present at that time." ...So your congregations will want to know: Does that conversation apply to ministers today or doesn't it? You cannot have it both ways because God does not double speak so that He may confuse us.

Is it really both ways like how it sounds? One verse is for modern pastors but the others are not clear or do not apply? Such an opinion casts doubt in my heart about the keys, then. How can one phrase clearly apply to you and me and the previous one not or maybe not?

Thankfully, Holy Writ says that "This is my body" and "This is my blood" is revelvant to me today in the Epistles.

Thankfully, Holy Writ says that the forgiveness of my sins by human representatives of Christ is relevant to me today in the Epistles.

Thankfully, Holy Writ confirms that the Holy Spirit is indeed present in all who believe.. not just those who heard the promise directly.

In those same chapters, Holy Writ confirms my belief that there are ministers who are appointed to preside over Word and Sacrament and shepard my soul. How are three of them promised by Christ but the last is in doubt?

Specifically to this discussion, if you believe the first two so that you can administer communion and legitimately provide absolution to the laity, then isn't it the same to say that the identical exegesis process extends to "Upon this rock"?

Where has my line of reasoning stepped out of Sola Scriptura?

wcwirla said...

Having served on floor committees, both district and synodical, I can attest that floor committees are not the instruments for theology and nomenclature. What clarity we might have achieved with such simple categories as Pastor and Other! (I'd take "Deacon" for "Other") As it is, almost everyone is a minister, as long as they are a "professional" church worker.

I think clerical "professionalism" has done much to undermine the divine institution of the holy office. When pastors seek professional status (akin to doctors, lawyers, and executives), we open the door to some nasty demons that quickly take over the house. Professionalism erodes the prophetic character of the office of the Word.

What I love about AC V is how the Office is narrowly defined - preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments. It is not some catch-all church authority or a local papacy. This view is consistently held through AC XIII, XIV and XXVIII and then more fully articulated in the Treatise. Speaking of the Treatise, I fail to grasp how Lutherans can be so confused over the doctrine the holy ministry with the Treatise in our Book of Concord. That document IS our doctrine of the holy ministry.

Not to jump the gun here, but William W. raised the point concerning the old language "holy order of priests" and how the Office really is an ordo (Stand). We can take this up later, but I'd like to put this on the round table at this time. Often overlooked, on account of translation ambiguities, is this passage from Ap XIII on the sacraments:

"If order (ordo, not "ordination" as is commonly translated) is interpreted in relation to the ministry of the Word, we have no objection to calling order a sacrament...If order is interpreted this way, we shall not ojbect either to calling the laying on of hands (ie ordination) a sacrament." (Ap XIII,11-12)

In other words, "ordination" (the placing into order, or what was called the "sacrament of order") can be understood sacramentally if (and only if) order is understood sacramentally, that is, as pertaining to the preaching of the Word. If you don't understand the nature of holy order, you won't understand the essence of holy ordination.

We will see this again in AC XIV and its requirement of an "ordered call" (ordentliche Beruf).

Paul T. McCain said...

Mike, I've posted your comments here, and thank you for thme, but I need to ask you to identify yourself, who you are and where you are. We want discussion on this blog site to be open and honest and so I do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous posts. The pastors who participate here are identified by who they serve and where they are located. We ask our posters to be similarly transparent in identifying themselves. Thanks for understanding.

wcwirla said...

I sense that my point may have been misunderstood. This can happen at the round table. I was simply trying to make explicit what is commonly left implicit in the citation of Mt 16. One must understand Peter as apostle and apostle as pastor. You can certainly get there, but we need to show how.

By no means do I wish to suggest a "red letter only" authority of Scripture. But without a "red letter" dominical word, we have no basis for saying something is from the Lord. Yet the dominical Word alone is not sufficient to establish the Lord's intent that something continues indefinitely, otherwise pastors today would not be allowed to carry wallets or an extra coat.

The apostolic word which infallibly interprets the dominical word, guides us to the right understanding and application ("Scripture interprets Scripture.")

Sound exegesis requires that we not simply cite proof texts, but explicity demonstrate their applicability. To whom is the passage speaking? How does it apply? Does it apply locally or universally? These are all very important considerations in the interpretation of holy Scripture.

The analogy with the Lord's Supper is a good example. Luther noted that without the apostle Paul's account in 1 Corinthians 11, we would have no firm basis to celebrate the Lord's Supper in the church today from the words and actions of our Lord recorded in the synoptic tradition. St. Paul's account to the Corinthian congregation, given to him "from the Lord" proves without a doubt that what Jesus did on the night He was betrayed with His apostles was intended for His church for all time everywhere.

In the same way Peter's actions and words at Pentecost affirm the understanding of our Lord's baptismal mandate in Mt 28. The dominical word and the apostolic word together provide two infallilble data points to form a reliable trajectory from historic institution to present practice. The third point that confirms and corroborates our trajectory (the proper role of tradition), is the teaching and practice of the early church, hence the importance of church history.

When considering the divine institution of the office, Mt 16 is clearly the dominical sedes doctrinae. Other passages dealing with the Lord's sending His disciples as apostles (Jn 20, Mt 28, etc as brother Weedon attests) also form the dominical foundation.

Ephesians 4:11, along with the other "office" passages in the epistles (1 Tim 3, Titus 1, etc) provide the second data point, the apostle infallibly interpreting the words and actions of the Lord. This is then confirmed by the history of the church, which has always called and ordained men into the Office of the Holy Ministry. While the institutional forms of the Office have varied somewhat historically (vis the development of the 3-fold episcopos/presbyeros/diakonos), the essence of the Office remains a constant.

I hope I'm being clear (though not terribly concise - I'm starting to write almost as long as Fouts) that I'm not trying to cast doubt on the dominical origins of the Office, I'm only trying to make explicit what is very often left implicit when we claim it is a "divine institution."

Mike said...

wcwirla, Thank you for the clarification. It is obvious that I misunderstood which I suspected was what happened.

Paul, My name is Mike Baker. I live in Corpus Christi, Texas. I joined the LCMS within the last year. I am also the "Mike" that posts on Cyberbretheren (the military funeral post and others). Is that what you needed?

wm cwirla said...

Welcome aboard, Mike.
There's always space at the round table.

Mike said...

Thank you. I just want to say that this resource (and cyberbrethren, etc) has been absolutely wonderful. When I first read the Confessions, it became clear that almost everything that I new about God, the Bible, and Justification had to be thrown out.

Roundtables like this and other online resources have given me a chance to learn valuable information from dozens of lifelong Lutherans (most of them pastors) in a matter of months. Thanks, all of you.

Jon C. Bischof said...

Paul McCain: That 6 years of work that you did with Voelz and company on nomenclature for the Office of the Ministry--especially Voelz's point about how God has always had His shepherds...

Would you happen to have any of it left on your computer that you could e-mail me?

It would have averted much confusion if we had adopted a nomenclature for the Public Ministry along the lines suggested: Pastor/Shepherd and various other designations.

Anyway, I realize its too late to unconfuse the confused at this point. It appears to me that the LCMS is slowly losing its long held doctrine of the ministry...in practice. And we know how practice often drives reformulation of public confession. That seems to be what is happening very slowly now on a district to district level, as each district comes out with its own program for uncalled and
unordained men preaching, teaching and the administering the sacraments.

wm cwirla said...

I'd hate to see the round table fall into despair over the state of any particular Lutheran church body. The beauty of confessional orthodoxy is that the normative and corrective standard remains in place even when practice wobbles badly. Jon is correct that AC XIV, which is closely related to this article, is in bad shape at the moment, at least at the institutional level.

I would note that AC V and XIV are related as to the what and the who of the Office. AC V answers what the Office is there for; AC XIV answers who is given to do it. This, I believe, is what CFW Walther was trying to say with his less than happy distinction of "in abstracto / in concreto" in his Kirche und Amt. Modern Lutherans have used this as an excuse for functionalism, but that is a case of turning a distinction into a division and then trying to have one without the other.

I'm looking forward to our roundtable on AC XIV.

Jon C. Bischof said...

If we are taking each article in order, then I can wait for further comment on our lay ministry practice when we get to Article XIV.

Probably better not to get ahead of ourselves just when we are having such an orderly and fruitful discussion.

William Weedon said...

One cannot but be struck by the pausity of comments on the article on justification and the double-sized helping on this topic. I'd suggest that it is because the point most seriously in jeopardy today is not so much justification per se, but how it is delivered, and whether indeed Christ established an office to do the delivering. When we get to AC XIV we will have to face the fact that this is a DOCTRINAL article: "Our churches TEACH" and the call to repentance that that issues to us. Indeed, not a call to despair. Where there is the forgiving mercy of the gracious Lord Jesus, there is never room for despair provided only we do not imagine that we never need repentance. Those who are beyond repentance DO need to despair indeed. God grant that we've not reached the point of believing ourselves beyond that.

William Weedon said...

paucity!!!! Grr. I HATE English spelling.

wm cwirla said...

I wouldn't describe 17 comments as a "paucity," but I do agree that AC V is today's lightning rod. While the central article may still be central, at least for the moment, the holy ministry, which was institute that we might obtain this justifying faith, is wobbling badly.

I would maintain that where the article on the office of the holy ministry suffers, the article of justification will also suffer, though we may not see the effects immediately. When we distort or deny the objective, external Word and its official working, we will sooner or later deny the objectivity of forensic justification and will inevitably lapse into subjectivism, pietism, and Schwaermeri.

Rev. Ryan Fouts said...

Speaking of "paucity," the infrequency of my own comments on this thread (when I started it!) -- I've been swamped with term papers.

Though, as I've been thinking about this, I think much of the reason why this article elicits so much discussion while AC IV doesn't has to do with the artificial division between doctrine and practice.

Theology isn't, primarily, something you talk *about.* You can talk about theology, for sure. But all that talking "about" it will always miss the mark if not connected to the actual talking *of* theology. So -- how do we actually do the talking of AC IV? AC V gives us the answer.

That's why exhorting people toward "faith alone" is not preaching the Gospel. As Luther puts it in the Large Catechism, faith must have something to which it clings, and "faith clings to the water." While justification by faith alone is at the very heart of the Gospel, the Gospel preaches is not "you are saved by faith," but "you are forgiven." The former directs people inward toward their faith (do I have enough?), the later directs them to something outside of us (extra nos).

That's why, it seems, among some there is this idea that if you can "check off" a list of all the right doctrinal formulation, then you've got all the doctrine right -- and you can do whatever you want "in practice" insofar as what you are doing talks *about* the doctrine on the list. On the contrary, the "practice" is the doing of the doctrine. "Practice" is not finding the best way to talk about what we believe, teach and confess. "Practice" is, in fact, that which be do believe, teach and confess.

That's why some would drive a wedge between AC IV and V. It's also why, I think, in most of our discussions over the ministry today it isn't cast in terms of justification. After all, if AC V is really an "abstract" ministry (rather than an office/amt), then it fits nicely in the the false dichotomy between doctrine and practice (get AC IV right, and then find whatever works best to get the abstract "ministry" happening). I have a hunch -- and while "experience" does not equal a scientific survey, my experience nonetheless confirms it -- that those who espouse a "functional" view of the Office almost always preach the Gospel by talking *about* it and exhorting people to faith rather than actually preaching "you are forgiven" (in the various ways we may do so as extolled in AC IV, Word and Sacrament, etc.).

wm cwirla said...

Interesting final sentence. I don't think one can divorce the exhortation to faith from the object of faith. ("Repent and believe the Gospel.") I agree that "talking about" faith or the gospel is not preaching, and it happens far too often, even among us who ought to know better. The imperative call to believe (ie trust) is a divine imperative that calls forth what it says. The key to this article is that both the proclamation of the object of faith (the Gospel) and the imperative to believe come "officially" with divine authority.

Paul T. McCain said...

I checked every reference to Luke 10:16 in the Lutheran Confessions recently: extremely instructive!

The Good Shepherd cares for His sheep, through those whom He calls into the Office he has established to distribute His gifts. What a powerful and wonderful comfort and joy for His people.

Rev. Ryan Fouts said...

Notice -- "faith" or "justification" does not have it's own place in the catechism. It is, rather, thematic throughout Luther's explanations. To a point this is understood in the sense that the notion of a "catechism" had never had "faith" or "grace" as a chief part. Though the technical *language* of justification is almost entirely absent. While this isn't wholly the case, it seems (in my estimation) that "justification" as a locus was often considered by the reformers to be an academic matter, not immediately relevant to the average layman. For the layman, it was right to preach Christ, the Sacraments, forgiveness, etc., as those things to which faith clings, but "justification" language is rare. That's because the notion of "justification" as a theological locus was wrought in all sorts of philosophical categories from scholasticism. Do we speak of infused grace or imputed grace? Faith formed by love? Huh? That's , in part, why you don't get AC IV without AC V. AC V is justification itself -- but not hung up in the category of "justification." It is the simple proclamation of the Word, the administration of the Sacraments, and the Holy Spirit creating faith when and where He wills.

J Nielsen said...

When did our understanding of the "Office" change to "anyone, anywhere, at anytime."

My RC friends do a lot of picking and choosing of what they want to follow, but when push comes to shove, they know that their local priest is Christ's representative to them and the one who brings God's Word and His Sacraments to them.

When I was growing up, my parents were very close to my pastor, but I never heard them call him by his first name (something that we continue to do ourselves and with our children). In fact, there were people at the church that called my dad, "Teacher Nielsen" to distinguish his vocation from the pastoral office.

When the Reformers wrote this section, they were intending to prove to the detractors that they, too, had the authority to preach and distribute sacraments (am I right?) Somehow this came to be a misunderstanding of what was meant by the "Priesthood of All Believers" and the power of the almighty voters assembly (my pastor often refers to the most well known voters assembly in the desert -building the golden calf).

Although I would hate to see all para-churchworker categories lumped into one (ie. a dce with 12 hours of religious instruction vs. 60+ hours of religious studies for deaconesses), I think that we must recover this proper understanding of the "Office" that the Church has traditionally taught. I pray that you pastors are never pressured to share your duties with "nearly-ordained" and take up less important roles as CEO (or perhaps even "first among equals")of the congregation.

Paul, thanks for this continued forum to discuss the Confessions.

Rev. Ryan Fouts said...

Or to put it another way (perhaps a bit more clearly)...

Exhortations to faith are not an essential component of the Gospel. The Gospel can be preached without the preacher speaking a single word about "faith alone," and all the while faith still clings to the promise and justifies. Without a single word about faith or justification, the Gospel can be preached and faith will still receive it. Faith need not be evoked for it to genuinely be there. Thus, a good pastor can preach a whole sermon without a word about faith or justification. He cannot preach a whole sermon without Christ.

Paul T. McCain said...

Ryan, yes, this is precisely the same point that C.F.W. Walther makes in "The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel." I think sometimes we pastors confuse doctrinal lectures about the Gospel with sermons that preach Christ and deliver the Gospel. I'm pretty sure most new pastors go through a time when they transition from "lecture" mode to "preaching" mode once they have a chance to minister to real people with real problems. Reading the Confessions with an eye toward their pastoral dimension is fascinating. Finally, that's what the Confessions are concerned about: the comfort of terrified sinners and the Gospel that brings them Christ in their need.

Gualtherus said...

Regarding "als durch Mittel" and "tanquam per instrumenta" in CA V:

The proper understanding of these terms lies in theological, historical and philological aspects.

"Als" derives from Middle High German "alse," which has similarity to German "also." At Luther's time, Early Modern High German had not completely separated "als" from "also" WRT semantic domains.

Therefore, "als durch Mittel" translates in an amplified way as "in the manner of [working] through means," as also does the Latin. One can also translate it "as through means" or "thus through means" or even "through means" if those constructions are understood as bearing said amplified meaning.

We can, however, already see that in 1529 in paragraphs 47-86 of LC IV and paragraphs 28f. of LC V, Luther understands the divine nature as inhering with the means and therefore an attempt to vary the means directly changes the Christology. Zimmermann, et al., in the 1828-1931 Geist aus Luthers Schriften clearly cite Luther's consistency here from his early works through his later ones. Meinhold and Lohse come to the same position: see Martin Luther's Theology Fortress, 1999 p.52 et mult.

So from where does the understanding of CA V per analogiam derive? That happens in the Missouri Synod after the Brux case in 1935 and the ongoing fellowship controversy that embroiled Theodore Graebner, John Fritz, Paul Kretzmann, Oswald Hoffman and many others both pro and con.

Brux graduated from Concordia St. Louis and then did his graduate work at the University of Chicago. There he fell under Lutheran and other influences that did not come from within the LCMS. He started practicing pan-Christian prayer and worship services even before he went to India. In India, he prepared a paper that used a principle of analogy to reinterpret Walther, Stoeckhardt and others.

He was recalled by the Mission Board and suspended from duty. He got into an acrimonious exchange with pastors Brand and Pfotenhauer. Karl Kretzschmar, also a missionary, expressed his concern over such analogies that derive from the historical-critical understanding of the philosophy of history.

Brux became the first LCMS pastor to openly advocate a kind of historical-critical exegesis. The result of his case was a retraction on his part and a reinstatement to duty. He, however, wanted recompensation, which the synod would not approve, and justly so, since Brux had obviously been supported by wealthy financial backers and his case became the rallying point for ousting Pfotenhauer and installing former Texas-DP John Behnken as LCMS president in 1935.

After the Brux case, the fellowship debate widened so that looser fellowship rules were affirmed in 1938, rescinded in 1941, affirmed with reservations in 1944 and generally affirmed in 1950-56 with the ratification of A Common Confession. That document also introduced gospel-reductionist language that would be used by A. C. Piepkorn and others on the St. Louis faculty and by former Texas-DP Oliver Harms, who became LCMS president in 1962 and personally backed a synodical apology to the historical-critical Brux at the 1967 New York convention.

The language of analogy, together with the post-Kantian use of "formal principle" and "material principle," which also appear as "subjective principle" and "objective principle" as well as "aesthetic principle" and "generative principle" has a history in philosophy with Kant in his Critique of Pure Reason and his Critique on the Capacity of Judgment, and briefly with Hegel. LeMaistre used the ideas therein to describe political theory regarding how a body politic forms a constitution. De Wette, Schleiermacher, Tewsten, Kahnis, Thomasius and Frank all use the terms in the Berlin and Erlangen Schools, the latter's tenets of Scripture, Confessions and Experience used older dogmatic terms but meant something new. See Welch, Protestant Thought in the Nineteenth Century v.1 (Yale, 1972). This school influenced the ULC via Sprecher, Gerberding and others, and it influenced the LCMS via Dau, Valparaiso U, and members of both St. Louis and Springfield faculties.

This language began appearing in the LCMS in 1931, about fifty years after other American Lutherans were using it. It became more common through writings of both ostensibly progressive and ostensibly conservative professors and it was inserted into English Pieper, whereas Pieper had been careful to avoid such language in the German original. Director Martin Noland of CHI and others have documented this.

So what you have is the Erlangen School language used to refute Tietjen and others in the early 1970's, even though these positions do have, at bottom, some common philosophical underpinnings. From 1969 to 1977, the LCMS debated historical-critical methods without coming to any firm definition of what they were apart from casuistry.

So when people can approach the "als durch Mittel" and, if unguided, come to the Barthian conclusion regarding the "ubi et quando visum est Deo," namely separating the inherent divine nature from the means in one way or the other and so arriving at Barth's position on Scripture, Baptism and such if followed to the logical conclusion, it is probably not based on intent. When both sides of the theological "aisle" in Missouri make the same hermeneutical moves, ones unknown to Luther or even to Old Missouri in some cases, that describes all the more a great situation of ignorance and philosophical confusion that only continues the cycle of interminable discourse in the synod.

In other words, we all could hit the books more often.

Paul T. McCain said...

Note: Gualtherus, the person who posted the previous comment, is Rev. Charles Schaum, one of my colleagues at Concordia Publishing House.

Dennis said...

I see the discussion here is rather dated, but at the risk of being overwhelmed, would a WELS perspective here be of value to you all?

And if so, would you promise not to call me a Zwinglian pietist too frequently? ;-)

Dennis Rardin