13 May 2009

Thoughts on Lutheran Unity

This is from Krauth, page 265 of *The Conservative Reformation*:

In showing that the Augsburg Confession is the Symbol of our time, the Formula of Concord rests its authority on its being "the unanimous consent and declaration of our faith." The private opinion 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.

Add to this, the wise words of Dr. Piepkorn:

The Book of Concord itself indicates that no further creedal statements are necessary. Three and three quarter centuries of Lutheran experience testify to the rightness of this position. (The Sacred Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, p. 104)

If there is ANY hope for unity and concord within and between Lutheran jurisdictions, we simply MUST renounce the temptation to insist that others hold opinions that we hold that are that: theological opinions and not the dogmas of our Churches drawn from the Sacred Scriptures and confessed in our Symbols. There is not a single "modern" corruption of the faith against which our Symbols' Confession of the doctrine of Sacred Scripture does not fully resource us.

Half a century ago or so, Sasse pointed out that the problem with Missouri and all the Synods of the Synodical Conference was that they assumed the Symbols and hence unwittingly ignored them. I propose that if Lutherans are going to get their act together when it comes to the thorny questions that confront us, we can do no better than prayerfully calling upon the Holy Spirit to take the Sacred Scriptures to heart as our Rule of Faith and embrace once more the Confession of that Rule which we call the Augustana. Satis est. It really is.


timoteo said...

I see a lot of thoughts focusing solely on Lutheran unity, how about a united Christian force? I mean, isn't it one body? I understand the ideas of creeds, as I grew up in a Lutheran Church, I understand the idea of professing your faith, but why does the focus have to be on that of being a Lutheran, a Catholic, a Baptist, a Methodist, etc. Why is there not more focus on following the One True God, and the fact that he died for ALL human beings, instead of focus on subjects such as the Book of Concord, and the Augsburg confession? These are works of man, not works of God (in my opinion). The one book is simply the Bible, plain and simple, and the core message is the Christ is love, and because of his love, he died for our sins. I think it's pretty simple.

William Weedon said...


We begin with where we are. We work on that. The path to a return to unity for Lutherans is first with each other; after that we deal with the differences with others.

Jim Huffman said...

"Half a century ago or so, Sasse pointed out that the problem with Missouri and all the Synods of the Synodical Conference was that they assumed the Symbols and hence unwittingly ignored them."

Any thoughts as to why this happened? In other words, why did they assume and ignore? (I don't know; I'm not trying to make a point).

Aaron said...

Very good question, Jim. The other question is, why do we still assume the Confessions? Pr. Weedon: thanks for the post. The Confessions set us apart from all other flavors of Christianity and, as the correct exposition of the Word of God, should be front and center in our teaching and practice.

William Weedon said...

They were assumed because all the participants in the discussions were conservative Lutheran types. They thought: Here's a new problem we have to deal with and it can't have an answer in the Symbols or we'd already have that figured out. As Dr. Hein said to me yesterday, they did theology backwards: the used what their fathers taught them as the lens for reading what the bronze age Orthodox theologians taught as the lens for reading what the silver age Orthodox theologians taught as the lens for reading what the golden age theologians taught as the lens for reading what the Symbols taught. They didn't go to the Symbols directly but through the layers on layers of dogmatic theology they'd inherited. What Piepkorn (and Krauth) warn against is allowing these theological opinions and doctrinal schemata (both of which they knew inside and out) to replace a hearing of the dogmatic content of the Scriptures as confessed in the Symbols.

Anonymous said...

Would this "lens viewing" include reading Pieper and Walther as gospel?


William Weedon said...

Um, YES!!!

mlorfeld said...

As much as I'd like to agree with Pieper, I cannot. The very position he was defending does not arrive in unity, but in the abandonment of the Christian faith. This is precisely what we saw in the 70s. When Scripture's authority is essentially limited to what one calls "the Gospel" and then one's concept of what "the Gospel" actually is completely changed, the cross is abandoned and ultimately one creates a cult in their own image. There is a sense in which we must be dogmatic about what Scripture and the Confessions actually say, it isn't a free-for-all to interpret as one pleases.

mlorfeld said...

correction: Piepkorn not Pieper

William Tighe said...

Question: Was Piepkorn, as I have read, basically in favor of women's ordination (WO), or at least not opposed?

Discussion Question: do the Lutheran Confessions provide a firm and solid basis for opposing WO, as opposed to regarding it as an adiaphoron (i.e., analogously to that long exchange in April about liturgical worship vs CoWo)?

christl242 said...

why does the focus have to be on that of being a Lutheran, a Catholic, a Baptist, a Methodist, etc.Because not all Christian bodies share the same understanding of what it means to embrace what the Bible says is "the faith once delivered to the saints." And that has real consequences in living the Christian life.

Coming from a family of Lutherans and Catholics I've seen it firsthand.


William Weedon said...

Dr. Tighe,

It is reported that he was not opposed; but this does not actually fit with his own approach to the Symbols. I think he overlooked entirely the force of Lutherans confessing:

"In doctrine and ceremonies we have received nothing contrary to Scripture or the Church universal." Conclusion of the Augustana

A body that embraces the ordination of women has received something indeed that is contrary to Scripture and that has no precedence in the Church universal, and thereby forfeits the right to be the Church that speaks in the Augustana.

Additionally, Piepkorn seems entirely to have overlooked the force of the Table of Duties attached to the Catechism in which the very first passage cited (1 Tim 3) teaches "Therefore, an overseer [pastor], must be above reproach, *the husband of one wife*..."

The Lutheran Symbols do NOT leave the door open for women's ordination. They rule it out ontologically in the citation of 1 Tim 3 and they rule it out in terms of order by rejecting all novelty in doctrine and practice.

William Weedon said...


Whatever else one might find fault with Piepkorn on, being a reductionist of anything (let alone the Gospel) is not it!

boaz said...

If Christ and the Scriptures do not open the door to WO, then why even bother talking about whether the confessions do? The confessions had no reason to address the issue.

Also, timoteo's post shows the attitude that prevents true unity. Timtoeo seems to suggest that we can have Christian unity by abandoning doctrine. How can that possibly be? Let's start with the core message of Christ's loving death on the cross. Did he die for all people? How do we receive the benefit of Christ's love? How should we react upon understanding Christ's love? Confessional Lutherans are the only ones who answer these questions correctly.

Unifying around Christ's love on the cross doesn't mean anything when some believe Christ's work on the cross was only for some, or that it was incomplete and left work for us to do to receive the benefit of it, or that Christ's work on the cross was not a substitute for our punishment, or that Christ's work on the cross is to give us a prosperous life now, or whatever misunderstanding about Christ is in vogue.

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

Congrats on blog of the week!

William Weedon said...


What are you talking about?

George said...

Pr. Weedon,

You were Wilken's choice for Blog of the Week on Issues Etc this past Friday, the 15th!

George said...

You also won Soundbite of the Week.

Kyle said...

Are all the various Lutheran groups in existence today heterodox?

In other words, is there any Lutheran group that is faithful to both the Scriptures and the Confessions?

It seems that the LCMS is heterodox. One could say the same thing about WELS, ELS and ELCA. In addition, it seems the Lutheran bodies in Europe are all heterodox.

William Weedon said...


Missouri's official theology as a whole is quite sound. Our practice has some real trouble spots. In world wide Lutheranism you'll find some bodies that are stronger than others in matching their practice to their official doctrine, but throughout most of the "Western" Lutheran world you'll find churches in very degrees of disintegration or (one hopes, like in Latvia) recovery. There are some strong Lutheran Churches in Africa. I'm also impressed by what I've come to know of the pastors and parishes to our north in LCC. FWIW.