18 February 2009

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

[A fitting reminder upon the Commemoration of Martin Luther, for there are too many who think that because Luther wrote or taught something, that is the position of the Lutheran Church. On the contrary, the distinction between the Church's dogma and theological opinion is to be carefully preserved:]

The private opinions of individuals, however influential, can in no sense establish or remove one word of the Creed of the Church. Any man who, on any pretence, gives ecclesiastical authority to private opinions, is robbing the Church of her freedom. She is to be held responsible for no doctrines which she has not officially declared to be her own. -- Krauth, *Conservative Reformation* p. 265


Bryce P Wandrey said...

Sounds like what Rome said to Luther way back when. Ironic.


William Weedon said...

Where we'd differ, of course, is whether or not the Church was the instrument who made the Augsburg Confession her own, and the further documents of the Book of Concord. To us, yes, that was the Church herself speaking; Rome rejected that as did the large swaths of the Reformed (including the Anglicans).

Bryce P Wandrey said...

William, To state the obvious: you have just equated the Church with those who make the Augsburg Confession (et. al.) their own. I am sure you will state that isn't what you meant, but that is what you wrote.

My first comment was not intended to reject the theology of Martin Luther. Instead, it was to utilize the methodology of Krauth, which can quite aptly be applied to Luther in a negative way.

Krauth says that any man, "on any pretence, [who] gives ecclesiastical authority to private opinions, is robbing the Church of her freedom." You can claim that Luther's opinions were not "private opinions" because you deem them to be faithful to Scripture in opposition to what the Church taught at the time, but that doesn't actually apply to Krauth's comments.

Krauth opposes private theological opinion to the official doctrines of the Church. Luther clearly pitted his opinions on the exegesis of Scripture against the Church's exegesis of Scripture (otherwise there would have been no Reformation). To read this in any other way (ie. "the Church" was speaking in the Augsburg Confession against the "church") is to read history ahistorically. This wasn't even the opinion of the confessors of the AC; they assumed they were part of the Church speaking to the Church, not the Church speaking against another entity.

Once again, my first comment was simply meant to give us pause as we read such a judgment and do so historically and realize that many times the "private opinions" of some individuals have led to important and fruitful changes in and reformations of doctrine and the Church.

William Weedon said...


Well, of course I equate the Church with the Church of the Augsburg Confession! :) Just not the WHOLE Church; only the Church which holds to the fullness of God's revealed truth.

Otherwise, I agree with you. It's a helpful thing to remember when Lutherans are apologizing for things Luther said - as though we ever subscribed and taught them! He is and will remain a great teacher of the Church for us, but only what is in the Lutheran Symbols holds dogmatic authority for the Lutheran Church - or, to be honest, SHOULD hold such authority.