Wednesday, July 13, 2011

We still reject the papal system - right?

It’s still a few months before we celebrate the Reformation again, but the lessons to be learned from the life of Luther are timeless. Let’s see, how did it go for Martin Luther?
  • He noticed that false doctrine was being taught, tolerated and promoted in his church. It manifested itself to a large degree in the public worship services.

  • Without individually sitting down with Johann Tetzel, or with all the priests who were publicly teaching and practicing these things, or with the pope or his advisors, he publicly posted his 95 Theses identifying the errors he saw so that they could be debated and discussed.

  • His publicly posted 95 Theses were given even wider dissemination by being translated, copied and published.

  • He was told by the pope’s representatives that he was in the wrong and had to retract his statements, but they refused to actually debate the doctrine with him or show him from Scripture where he had erred.

  • He continued to publish tracts and books identifying the errors in his church and proclaiming the Gospel of the grace of God, who freely imputes the righteousness of Christ, not to the one who works for his own righteousness, but to the one who believes in Christ. All the while, Luther insisted and proved that his doctrine was truly in line with historic Christianity, whereas it was the pope who had introduced and tolerated innovations in the church.

  • The leadership in his church continued to tell him he was wrong without sitting down with him in love to show him from Scripture how the pope’s doctrine was actually in line with Scripture. One of the biggest crimes he was accused of was failure to trust those who were in charge of supervising doctrine and practice in the churches.

  • He was further warned and threatened. The pope was at least kind enough to send him a letter (Exsurge, Domine) warning him that he had sixty days to recant or be excommunicated. But Luther burned the letter and was then sent another letter (Decet Romanum Pontificem) informing him that he had been excommunicated on the basis of public statements he had written daring to question the pope’s authority and doctrine, and daring to assert that man is justified before God by faith alone.

  • After this, he was given another chance to defend himself (call it an “appeals” process). But it turned out that the “appeals committee” wasn’t interested at all in hearing, addressing or evaluating Luther’s doctrine and comparing it to the pope’s doctrine in light of Scripture; nor were they interested in evaluating whether or not the pope had followed Scripture in excommunicating Luther. They simply informed him that he was not authorized to publicly question the pope and insisted that he must recant.

  • Of course, he could not, because still no one had shown him from Scripture or plain reason where he had erred, and his conscience was bound by the Word of God.

  • Luther was declared an outlaw, and those who showed public support for him were also threatened with their lives and livelihoods. The message was clear: doctrine isn’t as important as maintaining the papal structure. Doctrine is what the pope says it is, and as long as he has some scholars and a few historical writings to back him up, no one may dare to question the pope’s authority or decision. He is, after all, appointed by God.

  • Thankfully and by the grace of God, godly men, at great risk to their persons, stood behind Luther and his pious doctrine, not for the sake of personal gain or out of arrogance or a mean or divisive spirit, but out of Spirit-given conviction of the Truth. And though they were persecuted and suffered greatly for their confession, the Gospel rang out throughout the world as a result of their steadfast witness. Soli Deo Gloria!

How does the saying go? “History repeats itself.” I wonder how many times in history the above scenario has played itself out.
    If God had not been on our side
    And had not come to aid us,
    The foes with all their pow’r and pride
    Would surely have dismayed us,
    For we, his flock, would have to fear
    The threat of men, both far and near,
    Who rise in might against us.

    Their furious wrath, did God permit,
    Would surely have consumed us
    And as a deep and yawning pit
    With life and limb entombed us.
    Like men o’er whom dark waters roll
    Their wrath would have engulfed our soul
    And, like a flood, o’erwhelmed us.

    Blest be the Lord, who foiled their threat
    That they could not devour us.
    Our souls, like birds, escaped their net;
    They could not overpow'r us.
    The snare is broken -- we are free!
    Our help is ever, Lord in Thee,
    Who madest earth and heaven. (TLH: 267)


Anonymous said...

Well, at least twice as I read these words....

Scott E. Jungen

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...


I would guess it's probably happened countless times over the past 500 years.

AP said...

I'm sure it has happened many times and continues to happen to this very moment. History tends to be very cyclical, and sinful man has a very hard time learning from his mistakes. Thucydides, historian of the great Peloponnesian War, was one of the first to philosophize about history in this way and told his story lest it be repeated again and again. For him, history was as much a moral tool as it was a chronicle of past events.

Notably, he also wrote of justice, saying: "When will there be justice in Athens? There will be justice in Athens when those who are not injured are as outraged as those who are."

Dr. Aaron Palmer

Anonymous said...

I have a strong feeling that the synod convention in a couple of weeks is going to be a significant moment in the history of the Wisconsin Synod.

If the gender-neutral NIV is adopted and the unionistic, legalistic Time of Grace is praised rather than chastised, I truly believe it will be the end of the WELS as we know it. It's not that either of those issues is as monumental as Rome's error in the time of Luther, but that they will be the two straws that break the confessional camel's back.

At a certain point, confessionals in the WELS (and LC-MS for that matter) need to wake up and realize that they are no longer welcome in their current synod--where you can be excommunicated simply for questioning the wisdom of contemporary worship.

It's time to forge a new Confessional Lutheran Synod.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Daniel Baker said...

. . . and then forge a new new Confessional synod in 100 years after the next generation that is not properly catechized, or simply abandons sound doctrine, starts to superimpose their heretical theology and practice on the new hypothetical synod?

How many new visible churches must be formed?

Don't get me wrong - I would love nothing more than to unite Confessional members from across the various synods under one body. But I fail to see how perpetuating the synod-based model would change anything for the better in the long run, taking the examples of history into account.

Maybe it will come to the point that a 'new synod' comes into existence. However, I think our duty is to stand up for the truth and stay firm in God's Word, as Luther did. If we are persecuted or excommunicated (albeit that this appears to already be happening), then it is really they who have left us and formed a 'new synod' - just as the papists abandoned the true heirs of Evangelical Catholicism.

However, I very much agree that the upcoming convention may indeed prove monumental in the ways that you imply. This is why I intend to witness it for myself.

Joe Krohn said...

Those in WELS who are dissatisfied with its lack of Confessionalism would do well in establishing an association similar to some churches in LC-MS. It is known as Association of Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Churches...

Who knows, they may even let some WELS churches join...It was WELS who broke fellowship afterall you know...

Unknown said...

Do we overstate the importance of this WELS Convention a bit? I think the 2009 Convention was a significant week when WELS made a faithful commitment to ministerial education and missions with its decisions. I think the leadership was shown that the WELS grass roots can make up its mind on matters, even when the leadership's advice is contrary to what is best.

I believe that God's faithful at 2011 Convention will hand the issues presented to them in equal fashion, including the seemingly divisive issues of Bible translation and the ToG's RSO status. There are also other issues and resolutions as well.

To think that confessionals in WELS and other synods would or should break at this time to form their own synod is premature and over reactionary. Membership in a synod (filled with sinners for which Jesus his blood), does not condemn us as individuals before God. Our faith and the resulting fruits of faith given us by God are what is important.

Any future shuffling of people in and out of the synods will still be sinful and prone to error. Confessional are no more righteous than other people. Bearing the crosses here on earth is just part of our Christian life and I am thankful we have faithful people to work with in the WELS in living out those lives.

That being said, I pray God grants me the strength to do his will as a delegate for WELS Convention 2011, to speak plainly when moved to do so and to do so in love for Christ.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Peeler. You speak good words, man. There have not been enough people getting their hackles up about the NIV 2011. It's not only the gender neutral aspects, but that the NIV 2011 was written with the attitude that God inspired concepts instead of exact words. I honestly don't see how Confessional WELS clergy and laity could, in good conscience, fellowship with any body who accepted THAT philosophy of translation. I dunno, I'm going to refuse attending any church that uses the translation and if that means leaving the WELS then I am gone! I couldn't possibly take the strict doctrinal standards of the WELS seriously if the Bible we are reading was translated by the soft-porn version of historical critical scholarship. What they call "soft porn" is just as evil, though it be less shocking. Same goes for the subtle historical criticism in the NIV 2011.

I'm actually surprised the "Intrepid" Lutherans haven't done more to sound the horn against the NIV 2011. I mean, it's one of the easiest battles that a person could choose to wage.

Andy Groenwald

Anonymous said...

Mr. Groenwald, I completely agree with you. I think the way that the NIV issue has been dealt with is another example of the "papal system" being adopted within the WELS. The average pastor, to say nothing of the average layperson, is not qualified to evaluate what the Bible says, they say. Instead, we're supposed to rely on the "experts" to tell us what the Bible says and if a panel of five "experts" tells us that we should accept the new NIV, then that's what we must do. And if you're not a fan of the new NIV, they'll even write an article in FIC about how you aren't Christ-centered and how you're preoccupied with meaningless details (as if any detail of the Bible is meaningless).

Mr. Adam Peeler

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Dr. Palmer said (quoting Thucydides), "When will there be justice in Athens? There will be justice in Athens when those who are not injured are as outraged as those who are."

This is a very perceptive comment. It hits the nail on the head.

I have gone through this or that trial in the course of my ministry, but at the moment, I am not in "crisis mode." I am not the victim of injustice. I am not being viciously persecuted. I am not being accused of anything or disciplined for anything. I can preach the Word of God freely, and both my congregation and my district president support the ministry God has given me.

So it would be very easy to just shake my head when I see men like Rick Techlin spiritually persecuted and abused, and then go on with my own life and my own ministry quietly, lest I do or say something that threatened to burst my happy little bubble here in the Southwest.

But I am outraged at the treatment he has received - not with an uncontrollable rage, but with the same kind of anger Jesus displayed when he tossed the tables of the money changers in the temple and drove them out with whips. "Stop turning my Father's house into a marketplace!"

Rick Techlin is a stone in our Father's House. He deserves to be treated as such. He has not been found guilty or even accused of persisting in any error or of committing any sin. He confesses the same Lutheran/Christian faith that I confess. He is welcome to commune at my church at any time.

Unknown said...

I will step into the fire here and say that we can not say with certainty that "God inspired" the exact words written down. Each author of Scripture wrote in their own style using the words of their time to communication "what God wanted us to know". The word inspired mean that God carried along the authors of Scripture to write down what God wanted written. The picture of a boat being carried along by the currents of the sea is what the is mean by the word inspired - as I have heard from people who know the Greek language. I am open to a better description.

While I do not like the NNIV changes and I wish to see as much effort in evaluating other translations to give the best possible coverage to making a choice, I think instead of leveling ultimatums on WELS congregations, we need to realize God is in control. No matter what translation is used for NPH publications, I expect our pastors in WELS to use multiple translations in preparing sermons and doing their jobs in studying Scriptures. I expect the pastors to be looking at the Greek and Hebrew and explaining to the laity in Bible studies and other church events what the truth of Scripture is.

No matter the synod decision, I do not believe the majority of pastor in WELS will use a single translation unilaterally to preach and teach from to the flocks. And those pastor who do so, need to be called upon by their flocks to account for this poor practice in prepping sermons, Bible studies, etc...

Anonymous said...

"we can not say with certainty that 'God inspired' the exact words written down"

In that case you reject the doctrine of verbal inspiration, which literally says just that--that God inspired the exact words (verba) written down in Scripture. Yes, of course each man wrote using his own vocabulary and style, but God worked through each man's vocabulary and style to give the exact words he desired. That's why Jesus can construct an entire argument in John 10 around a single word from the Psalms.

If delegates to our own synod convention reject the doctrine of verbal inspiration, we're in more trouble than I even realized!

Mr. Adam Peeler

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Woe, Adam, tone it down a bit. No need to pounce on Perry for one statement or accuse him of rejecting a Scriptural doctrine. A little more trust in one another, OK?

The truth is, we can say and should say that God inspired the exact words written down - in the original Hebrew (and Aramaic) and Greek words that were written by the apostles and prophets. "All Scripture is God-breathed."

That doesn't mean that there is a 1 to 1 equivalence between a Greek phrase and an English phrase. Anyone who speaks a foreign language knows very well that you can't just look up a word in a dictionary and translate word by word, or use the exact same construction or word order in one language as in another.

That means that a "literal" translation can go too far, to the point that it may be word for word, but does not actually "translate" the phrase properly into the other language. Luther wrote much about this as he was translating into German, and struggled mightily to make the prophets speak German - not because he didn't know how to translate the Hebrew words, but because a word for word translation would not have made sense to the average German speaker.

Pastor Spencer said...


Back to the "new church body" idea for a moment - once every 100 years is fine with me. In fact, I might even try to codify such an arrangement if I were to be involved in the formation of such an entity. To wit, "One hundred years from the inception date of this church body, said body shall voluntarily dissolve, and a re-constituting convention shall be held;" or words to that effect. In addition, other forms of governance should be looked at besides the "democratic/congregational" model - perhaps something along the lines used today by ELDoNA.

My point is simply that we should not expect and must not count on any large and wide-spread human church organization remaining totally and completely orthodox and confessional for more than one or two generations, perhaps three at most. WELS began it's heterodox slide very soon after the "Grace 125" celebration. Its been downhill ever since.

Pastor Spencer

Anonymous said...

Pastor Rydecki, I totally agree that the doctrine of verbal inspiration does not necessitate a literal translation. That wasn't the point that Mr. Lund was making though. His argument was that the exact Hebrew and Greek words were not inspired by the Holy Spirit--a position which must be argued against strenuously, especially when it comes from a delegate who is about to decide which Bible I and my family use (corporately, at least).

Pastor Spencer, I completely agree with your sentiments regarding the formation of a new church body every century. Looking at church history, it is nearly inevitable that after a certain amount of time all church bodies become institutionalized, concerned not about the preservation of true doctrine, but the preservation of the external organization. Forming new church bodies is a healthy exercise. If nothing else, it forces each man to decide for himself what it is that he actually believes.

The Lutheran synods we currently have in America are more a result of history and momentum than agreement in doctrine. If you were to take all the Lutherans in America, strip them of their synodical affiliation, and then shake them all up together, there's no way they would realign as they are currently aligned.

I think it's time to give things a shake.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Unknown said...

If I have offended people, forgive my trespass. I believe that all Scripture is God breathed and inspired. I am saying also that God did not dictate word by word (literally word by word) what each author wrote. God did inspire the exact words written down as Pastor Rydecki says.

To be honest, I am nervous enough about being a delegate and it seems offense is taken far to easily. Please don't put put me on a drumhead court-martial so quickly, with summary judgments coming fast and furious. Given the past several months of reading and studying and reactions and counter-reactions, I would give up my delegate status if I was not standing solid in the Word of God.

I will continue to pray for God's guidance and search the Scriptures daily. As to church bodies and synods, my God guide them in his truth. Should a shakeup come, let it be his will and give us the strength to stay in his Word.

God bless us all.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Adam, rather than being so quick to judge what point Perry was trying to make and then immediately condemn him for what you judged it to be, it would just be better form to ask him for clarification to make sure he said what he meant or meant what he said. He explained it much better in his more recent comment.

In a forum like this, we ought not expect from each other the same level of accuracy in every word and phrase as we do from a preacher in the pulpit or from a confessional statement.

AP said...

1. WELS can adopt whatever translation it wants. I pray it does not adopt the NIV 2011, but, even if the synod adopts it, I don't have to read it. I know that my pastors are working from the original languages in writing sermons. We have been sticking with NIV 1984 (which is now available on Bible Gateway) so far for Scripture readings. What WELS adopts or suggests has no direct impact on what translation an individual congregation uses. I will simply not read the NIV 2011 or buy any publication from NPH that uses that translation. It will become a bigger issue for me when / if there is a new WELS hymnal, but that is somewhat off in the distance.

2. I agree with what Pastor Rydecki said earlier. I have a pretty good life. I have an academic job in a world where those are quite hard to come by. I have many friends and a good family. I'm not being persecuted, attacked, or threatened. I have spoken out in defense of Rick Techlin simply because I pray someone would do so for me were I in his place. If we the secure and comfortable are not willing to stand up for the victims of clear injustice in the church, there will be no justice, ever, for anyone.

3. Mr. Lund--Lord's blessings on your endeavors as a delegate. I'm sure you'll make a fine one.

Dr. Aaron Palmer

Anonymous said...

If the WELS adopts the new NIV, how long will it be before people in the WELS (including pastors) will be saying that it's fine for women to have authority over men in the church, as long as that authority has been given to them, rather than "assumed" by them? That, after all, is exactly what the new NIV teaches. Check it out at

Besides, I don't want to hear my pastor standing at the lectern reading about how Adam and Eve "made love". See:

Well, I guess I won't have to listen to my pastor read that since a woman will probably be reading it anyway.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Anonymous said...

Mr. Lund,

I'm sure you'll do fantastic. I will be so bold as to offer one bit of advice. Listen to the men that are on the translation committee. By virtue of a blog like this, you get to develop a relationship of sorts. You learn to trust people. You even might build friendships. And you tend to listen to your friends. That bond isn't there with the members of the translation committee.

My point is you have heard a lot of people on this site condemn the NNIV. Some of it seems educated. Some of it seems parroting what others have said. If I were cynical (and I am!), I would speculate that some just like finding trouble. And MAYBE the trouble is there. MAYBE the adoption of this translation is the end of orthodoxy in the WELS. But please don't let that be your starting point. You've heard the side of this blog. Listen to the translation committee.

Since I last commented on this topic, I've read the Translation Evaluation Committee's supplemental report. I find it extremely balanced. More than that, I've asked around about the gentlemen who serve on it. In the case of Profs. Nass and Cherney and Wendland, the consensus is that there are a handful - 5 or 6 men - in the WELS, who have their linguistic skills. That is not meant to insult any other pastor. God grants different gifts to the body. It's simply saying, it SEEMS like when that committee was chosen, effort was made to pick individuals whose linguistic qualifications are without peer.

Moreover, if you want to do something interesting, go to the Seminary essay file and read things those three men have written. All there have essays on there. I will not claim to have read everything. And much of what they wrote - right over my head. But what you can tell is that these are evangelical men who are committed to Christ and soundly confessional.

If you read the supplemental report, they clearly don't say the NNIV is perfect. They point out it's many flaws. All they say is that they find it acceptable for us. They do not say there are others that are not acceptable too. But they have a variety of reasons to say that the NNIV would be the most logical choice.

You may disagree with that, and I will support your right to do so. You may prefer another translation, or prefer the WELS produce it's own. That's fine. But please don't do anything without first hearing those men out. They're very wise. They're confessional Lutheran. And that have come to a conclusion that disagrees with man on this blog. Their linguistic expertise and sound theology don't make them right on this issue, which is a matter of opinion. But it certainly means their voice carries every bit as much gravitas, if not more, than what you read on a blog.

My opinion.
Daniel Kastens

Pastor Boehringer said...

Dear delegates and readers,

It is my hope that the Synod-in-convention delays the final decision about a translation until the 2013 convention, if the Lord tarries.

And in these next two years, we have an opportunity. I hope that every congregation takes the time to study the principles of Biblical interpretation, to learn about the history of Bible translations, and to actually read and compare sizable chunks of the Bibles that are available.

The Translation Evaluation Committee has given us a starting point. I've contacted the Committee and asked them questions and they've been helpful in their responses. The sense I got from the Committee was one that said, "Here's what we think. Now what do you think?" I've read many of their documents and read some of their suggested reading material. They are useful starting places.

For a decision this important, we need to take our time. We have a good starting point for the conversation. But now we need every congregation to study the options, so that in two years we can get back together as a Synod and make a wise choice. This choice will have a long-lasting impact, so let's take our time.

So I thank the Translation Evaluation Committee and look forward to their continued help in the next two years.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Pr. Boehringer,

I think that's exactly the right approach, and the right way to view the work of the translation committee. I strongly disagree with them that the NNIV is acceptable for our synod's use, but I don't think any of them are incompetent, unqualified or untrustworthy.

It's my hope that, rather than having to constantly rely on the copyright whims of another church body or of a for-profit company out there somewhere, we might finally organize our synod (and also the ELS, hopefully also with help from the LCMS) to publish our own Bible translation, especially with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation coming up.

Pastor Steve Bauer said...

LutherRocks writes:

"Those in WELS who are dissatisfied with its lack of Confessionalism would do well in establishing an association similar to some churches in LC-MS. It is known as Association of Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Churches...

Who knows, they may even let some WELS churches join...It was WELS who broke fellowship afterall you know..."

1) What does "lack of confessionalism mean?" I keep hearing this accusation again and again from voices on the outside of the WELS, claiming that we are not a confessional church body. I read the confessions on my own. And in our Thursday morning bible study, we are walking through the Thorough Declaration. But the confessions don't cover some doctrines of the bible. They are the Norma Normata, not the Norma Normans. For that reason, when I want my people to know the whole counsel of God's word, I teach what the bible says before what the confessions teach.

2) What benefit would joining the ACELC bring? What good would it be to join in studying the Lord's Supper in the confessions with LCMS pastors when a sizable amount of LCMS churches don't practice closed communion? What good would it be to walk through the Augustana with them when a sizable number of their pastors make prescriptive rules out of descriptive sections (e.g. "since the churches of Luther's day had the Lord's Supper every week, then we need to---because that what the confessions say"). What good would it be to walk through the Smalcald Articles with them when there is this growing trend in Missouri to back off of the statements that the office of the papacy is the very antichrist?

It was indeed the WELS who broke from Missouri, but not after years of patient teaching. We have just as little in common with them now as we did then.

I am glad that your pastors and churches are studying the confessions. Everytime I read through them I am amazed at how clearly they explain God's word. But they don't talk about every doctrine in the bible. When we spend more time in the confessions than we do in the bible, we do ourselves a disservice.

In the future, please don't throw out blanket statements, saying that it's an assumed fact that the WELS has a lack of confessionalism. Those are vitriolic ad hominem words unsuitable for a forum such as this.

Joe Krohn said...

Pastor Bauer...There are many churches in WELS that are moving away from the confessions. Read my comment again. It wasn't a blanket statement against WELS, but directed at those who may be at a church like I was who are dissatisfied with where the leadership may be taking them. And by your statements concerning the ACELC, you clearly haven't investigated what their agenda is. WELS needs something like this association. My last sentence was tongue in cheek actually...

Joe Krohn

Daniel Baker said...

"For that reason, when I want my people to know the whole counsel of God's word, I teach what the bible says before what the confessions teach."

What the Confessions teach is what the Bible says. Your comment about spending more time in the Confessions than in the Bible sounds like my Norwegian friend, whose Church body ordains priestesses and is pietistic in the extreme.

In addition, I am concerned by your continued debasing of anything having to do with the Missouri synod on account of their allegedly errant Churches, particularly considering that there are well-documented examples of the same debauchery here in the WELS. I am also concerned by your commentary regarding the Blessed Sacrament, but I will leave that for another time.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Spencer: Are you saying the WELS is heterodox? It sounds like it to me. I'm also surprised you would encourage something like ELDoNA. As far as I can tell, they are Romanizing Lutherans. I would assume they also teach the false LCMS position on church and ministry. I'm really surprised you would promote something like that.

Pastor Steve Kurtzahn

Pastor Spencer said...

Pastor Kurtzahn,

Thank you for your questions and comments.

I believe that technically speaking, by my definition of the term [i.e. when even one public false teacher is not publicly rebuked and disciplined, especially after a good deal of time has past, such a church body becomes heterodox], WELS is heterodox. As one example among many; it and has been thus at least since DMLC Prof. Hartwig was in no way publicly confronted or disciplined for stating, in public, among other things, that our synod should make room in her Pastoral ranks for those who reject the world-wide Flood, the single authorship of Isaiah, and the complete inerrancy and integrity of Holy Scripture. That was in 1980. (I posted this whole sorted episode, along with direct quotes from his papers, on Intrepid Lutherans back in 2010.) Now, I will grant that my definition might be seen as somewhat narrow by many, including even good, solid, confessional brothers, and that we can disagree over such things. But, I think the definition is fair, and the facts of history are what they are. And yes, again, as I already posted, I confronted Prof. Hartwig directly, numerous times, and also then DMLC Pres. Huebner, and former Pres. Mischke - as current SP Schroeder can attest, since he and three others were in the same room with me at the time.

As for ELDoNA - you say, "as far as I can tell, they are Romanizing Lutherans." I am curious as to why you say that. What statement of doctrine and practice from them can you site that marks them as Romanists? I know Bishop Heiser personally, and have spoken with him on a couple of occasions, and I can assure you that he is a thoroughly confessional Lutheran.

And you say that you "assume" they teach the so-called "Missouri" doctrine of Church & Ministry. Again, on what do you base this assumption? Also, you should know that during the entire history of the old Synodical Conference, the so-called "Wisconsin," and "Missouri" positions on this aspect of Lutheran teaching existed side by side, and were not divisive of fellowship. One was not purely "true" and the other purely "false." I for one accept neither one as they are often caricatured and over-simplified in recent debates. The actual Biblical truth is most likely a combination of the two.

I see you've only been out of the seminary since '03. That's fine. I won't hold your youth against you. Neither will I think ill of you for wanting to defend your synod, or for wondering about another Lutheran groups who may have some different terminology and practices than most of us are used to. Please understand, I am not being condescending to you, my young brother. I respect you for your questions and comments. However, I strongly encourage you to - on the one hand learn to think a bit more critically (not necessarily negatively) about your own church body, and to research carefully other, newer Lutheran groups, before you "assume" anything about them. Ah, the passion of youth! I remember it well!

God blessings!

Pastor Spencer

Anonymous said...

Dear Reverend Father Spencer,

I just wanted to let you know that I did not graduate in 2003, but I colloquized back into the WELS in 2003. I'm a 1973 NWPS grad, and attended NWC for two years until I joined the CLC with my family in 1975. I graduated from the CLC seminary in Eau Claire, WI in 1979. I've served churches in Hendersonville, NC & Fairfax, VA, Dallas & Austin, TX, Austin, MN and now Cross of Christ in Coon Rapids, MN. I was a visitor in the CLC and a member of its board of doctrine (like our CICR). What I said about ELDoNA is not based on youthful idealism; rather, based on material I've read in the past. I also know very well the problems in the WELS (in part, due to Intrepid Lutherans), but I would not in a second call it heterodox like you do. If I thought it was, I never would have returned!

You should really check people out better before you make such assumptions.

I'll get back to you on ELDoNA when I have more time. Your e-mail to me said you wanted to correspond privately--then I saw you posted the same thing on this site. I'l get back to you on ELDoNA on this site, too.

Blessings in Christ,
Steve Kurtzahn

Pastor Spencer said...

Pastor Kurtzahn,

Thank you for the correction, and my apologies for MY assumption.

At least I made you younger, not older, for what it's worth!

I look forward to hearing from you in the future.

Pastor Spencer

Anonymous said...

Dear Pastor Spencer:

ELDoNA really has no statement of faith on its website. I did find the following statements, however. It is obvious that ELDoNA rejects the WELS teaching from Scripture on the ministry, which is, I assume, what they’re referring to when they reject all ‘functionalist’ views of the office of the ministry. ELDoNA categorically denies laymen the right to read sermons and administer the sacraments. I can only assume they deny this right even when the laymen are called to do so by the congregation. ELDoNA obviously denies that women can receive a divine call into the teaching ministry.

As far as ELDoNA consisting of Romanizing Lutherans, one can easily gain that impression by its episcopal form of church government, by its pastors calling themselves “Rev. Father,” (isn’t that how you refer to yourself?) by their choosing a bishop who has a lifetime position (who also seems to be the main founder of the church body), and by their insistence of ordination to serve in the ministry.

Compare the following statements from the WELS and ELDoNA, and it becomes clear there are significant differences in doctrine.

ELDoNA – Malone Theses

It is our desire to fully re-establish the confessional understanding of the office of the ministry within the Lutheran Church. Therefore, we reject all ‘functionalist’ misconceptions of the office of the ministry.

Therefore, we all agree that:

3) Laymen ought not preach or read sermons at the divine service. Laymen are not to administer the sacraments of the Church. Emergency baptism is the only exception to this rule. (AC 14)

4) The Church, corporately, possesses the office of the ministry. Our Lord Jesus Christ gave the office of the keys to the whole Church. That office is conferred upon men by the Church through call and ordination.

(Continued on next entry)

Pastor Steve Kurtzahn

Anonymous said...

(Continued fro previous post)

WELS - This We Believe

We believe that the church has the freedom to establish various forms within the one ministry of the Word, such as pastors, Christian teachers, and staff ministers. Through its call, the church in Christian liberty designates the place and scope of service.

WELS - From the Theses on Church and Ministry from WELS Doctrinal Statements

There is, however, no direct word of institution for any particular form of the public ministry. The one public ministry of the Gospel may assume various forms, as circumstances demand. Ac 6:1-6. The specific forms in which Christians establish the public ministry have not been prescribed by the Lord to His New Testament Church. It is the Holy Spirit who through the gift of their common faith leads the believers to establish the adequate and wholesome forms which fit every circumstance, situation, and need. Various functions are mentioned in Scripture: 1 Ti 4:13; Eph 4:11; 1 Co 12:28; Ro 12:6-8; 2 Ti 2:2; Jn 21:15-17 (feeding); Ac 20:28 (watching); 1 Ti 3:2; 4:11; 6:2 (teaching); 1 Ti 3:5; 5:17 (ruling). In spite of the great diversity in the external forms of the ministerial work, the ministry is essentially one. The various offices for the public preaching of the Gospel, not only those enumerated above, e.g., in Eph 4:11 and 1 Co 12:28, but also those developed in our day, are all gifts of the exalted Christ to His Church which the Church receives gratefully and with due regard for love and order employs under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit for the upbuilding of the spiritual body of Christ; and all of them are comprehended under the general commission to preach the Gospel given to all believers.


We hold it to be untenable to say that the pastorate of the local congregation (Pfarramt) as a specific form of the public ministry is specifically instituted by the Lord in contrast to other forms of the public ministry.

I’m still very surprised to read a WELS pastor like you on this site offer ELDoNA as an example to follow, when they hold to a false view on the doctrine of the ministry. I’m even more surprised to read a WELS pastor like you refer to his synod as “heterodox,” and all that that implies.

Pastor Steve Kurtzahn

Anonymous said...

Pastor Kurtzahn,

The WELS officially tolerates false teaching and practice and excommunicates those who stand for pure teaching and practice. I don't know what you think we should call that, but "heterodox" sure seems to be a fitting term.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Pastor Spencer said...

Hello again Steve,

A couple of brief points:

- I am not an apologist for Bishop Heiser and his Diocese. They are more than capable of defending themselves, and I strongly urge you to contact him directly with your concerns.
- I don't believe I offered ELDoNA as "an example to follow," only that their system of church polity might be something a future confessional Lutheran Church might look to. I don't believe either the "democratic/congregational" or "episcopal" system are God-ordained, and must be followed. I see that the system in place in the WELS and LCMS has not served very well to keep false doctrine and practice at bay in these church bodies. Perhaps another system would work better; that is all I was saying.
- As to views of the ministry, I have no problem condemning the "functionalist" view, especially as it's corollary, "everyone a minister" (see TELL for examples), has been popular in WELS since the 80s. I believe all confessional Lutherans should reject this aberration.
- And as far as WELS being heterodox, I'm not sure what you mean by "all that that implies." I imply nothing more than just what I said and proved, namely, that false teachers have been tolerated in the WELS, and not only tolerated but praised and even promoted. You are more than welcome to refute that, but to do so, you would have to show me where Prof. Hartwig was publicly rebuked, and I would welcome such, since I must have missed it. Of course, you may have a broader definition of heterodox than I, and you are certainly within your rights to do so.
- And also, Martin Luther himself spoke approvingly of the title "Father" applied to Pastors. I sense that you have an aversion to things that may seem to you to be "Roman," such as that title, wearing a clerical collar, pectoral crosses, the title "bishop," etc..... Please don't let such bother you. No one is saying you must make use of these. By the same token, don't assume that those who do use such time-honored and very historically Lutheran, though not WELSian, items are "Romanists."

Blessings & Peace!

Pastor Spencer

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

For the time being, let’s stop throwing around the label of “heterodox” when it comes to the WELS. It’s one thing for those outside our fellowship to label us as such. It’s another thing for us to start saying that about our own synod.

The fact is, that if someone is prepared to make the public declaration that his synod is heterodox, he must at the same time declare himself to be in a “state of confession” against his heterodox synod, or else be guilty of unionism himself. I’m not yet prepared to declare a state of confession, and I don’t think any of the rest of us are, either. If someone comes to the personal conclusion that the synod is heterodox, fine. Let him strive to right the wrong. But it’s not something that ought to be publicly declared in a forum like this, unless a person is ready to take other formal action.

This is not to say there are not critical and pressing issues which must be remedied, and soon. But some of these issues are more local in nature and cannot be attributed to the “WELS” per se. So until someone is prepared to declare himself in a state of confession, let’s refrain from labels and instead address the issues of concern in a godly way.

Anonymous said...

Hi again Pastor Spencer:

I agree that the form of church government is an adiaphoron. The form itself will not prevent false doctrine from infecting a church body, however. Satan will work his error into the hearts and minds of people if the form is European or American. What prevents error is faithfully proclaiming all of God's Word with an emphasis on the gospel, and the carrying out of loving Christian discipline and even separation when teachers and leaders in the church fall into doctrinal error.

I have no issues with the WELS doctrine on church and ministry. It is also the same position held by my former church body. I think the concerns many express about "everyone a minister" are overblown to a large extent. In my opinion, it is always healthy to remind our members of the priesthood of all believers, and that the church has the freedom to call people into positions of ministry even if they are not ordained.

Do you agree that it is Scriptural that women receive divine calls into the teaching ministry?

Yes, I do have a personal aversion to things that seem to be Roman. Such things as pastors calling themselves "Father", or calling the divine service "mass", etc., may have been the practice of the early church and even the first Lutherans at the time of the Reformation, but I believe such things can be offensive to sensitive consciences.

My biggest concern from what you have written is your statement that the WELS is heterodox. If it is, why are you still a WELS pastor? Doesn't your public position as a WELS pastor demand that you separate from the WELS if, as you claim, "that false teachers have been tolerated in the WELS, and not only tolerated but praised and even promoted."

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Steve Kurtzahn

Pastor Spencer said...

Pastor Kurtzahn,

You raise a very good question. I shall ponder it.

For now, I'll go with what Pastor Rydecki wrote, and continue to work to "right the wrong."

Pastor Spencer

Daniel Baker said...

I think there is a difference between heterodox doctrine and practice. If a Church is heterodox by its own Confessional statements, such as the Roman and Protestant denominations and sects are, then it would be a violation of conscience and Scripture to stay part of such a church body.

When it comes to a denomination such as the WELS, on the other hand, it is clear that we profess adherence to an orthodox Confession. As has been pointed out on this blog, our pastors (and congregations) are not bound to every new doctrinal statement issued by the WELS. Rather, we are bound to the Lutheran Confessions, which are not heterodox in any way.

Now, if certain segments - isolated or otherwise - of our church body are 'heterodox' in practice; well, it is our responsibility to point out the error and stay firmly planted in our Confession.

As we are fond of saying, Luther did not leave Rome until he was forced out. I think that there is some merit in that model.

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