Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I Agree with the SP

I agree with the Synod President. One of the questions President Kieschnick was asked at the Northwest District Convention in the canned question and answer session was related to the challenges the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod faces, and what needs to be fixed. His answer, and he emphasized this as the most important challenge we face, was to change the spirit of distrust and mistrust in the Synod. I wholeheartedly agree with our Synod President. There is a pervasive spirit of mistrust that causes us to spend more time defending our own “turf” than going about the “business” of the Church. This attitude could certainly be seen at times during the proceedings of the convention, though it was most often hidden by a thin veneer of piety and cordiality.

As a follow-on to his answer, you might ask an even more important question, why is there a spirit of distrust and mistrust? Of course, he didn’t address that question, because the answer would have contradicted his previous opening statement, in which he claimed that the LCMS is “exceptionally united in what we believe, teach, and confess.” No Synod whose most important challenge is to deal with a spirit of distrust and mistrust can be walking in doctrinal unity.

In World War II, the Allies fought a common enemy, yet there was an underlying distrust between the American and European allies and their Russian counterparts that at times made it difficult to hold the alliance together. After the war, the smiling faces of joint summit meetings ended. The huge political differences could no longer be papered over, and nations that were once allies became enemies. As long as our Synod President continues to maintain we are “exceptionally united,” true unity will never be attained. We may lurch along the path for a time, putting on a smile for the press release, but unless true theological dialogue is begun and our differences resolved by the Word of God and our Confession, disaster will loom not far beyond the next hedge row. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

One of the softball questions that President Kieschnick answered illustrates this doctrinal division. The questioner stated that a Ft. Wayne professor commented that the Great Commission applies to the apostles only, and the questioner asked President Kieschnick what he thought of that interpretation. He replied that he’d heard that was being taught, and strongly disagreed with it, and that it was not the official position of the Synod. The question did not seem to be particularly relevant to the occasion, and the answer certainly left no room for anyone who exegetes Matthew 28 differently. The whole question and answer seemed to be more of a jab at those who don’t agree with the everyone-a-minister concept, and would never have been asked, or answered, in a Synod that was truly united in doctrine.

President Kieschnick pointed out that unless he is an idiot, he thinks he understands what’s going on in our Synod. He stated that not all of our pastors want to be pastors. I wonder how many of those pastors, as well as those who still want to be pastors, despair because of the doctrinal divide which confronts us. There are congregations and pastors that have left the LCMS solely for legitimate doctrinal reasons. As Martin Luther put it, “...My conscience is captive to the Word of God. ...To go against conscience is neither right nor safe.” There are, right now, confessional LCMS pastors who are wrestling with these same issues, trying to answer these questions that should never have been needed to be asked. Perhaps now is the time to elect a Synod President that will confront our differences, rather than trivialize them, so that we no longer have to wrestle with these tough questions, and even tougher answers.


Robert Shipe said...

This is what happens, Mr. Diekmann, when a politician is elected as President of the LCMS and not a theologian. I do agree, however, with his assessment that not all of Synod's Pastors want to be Pastors. I believe many want to be CEO's and facilitators (while many more are content that they are CEO's and facilitators)instead of Shepherd's who have been entrusted with the Keys to Christ's Church.

There are, as you pointed out, many Pastors who really are struggling with the doctrinal divide of the LCMS. I know of Pastors who will not commune or allow communion in their parish during curcuit conferences because of doctrinal division. I know Pastors, as well as laymen, who do not commune at District or Synodical conventions because of doctrinal divide. I know laymen (me for one) who are struggling with communing at their own churches because of doctrinal divide. Doctrinal division certainly affects more than just the clergy. It affects the entire Church.

The LCMS, in my humble opinion, is at a crossroads not seen since the early 1970's. It's time for President Kieschnick, the theologian, to intervene and take the bull by the horns and address these issues. Address divisions openly, honestly and especially address all doctrinal differences theologically and thoroughly!

Anonymous said...

Wow... that sounds just like what the WELS is going thru. Our synod convention is coming up next month and we are keeping a close eye and watching for a sign as to which direction WELS will fall on Church Growth issues that are causing division. Hey, maybe the conservatives from your synod and those from ours can unite. Pray that God's Word be preached in it's truth and purity and we all weather the storms a-brewing.

Robert Shipe said...

Something about this particular blog has caught my attention and has made me do a bit of thinking and digging. I am refering to the paragraph regarding the great Commission and particularly to the subject of whether: 1. Is Jesus only talking to the Apostles when He gives His great commission. 2. Is it the official position of Synod that He is not as Dr. Kieschnick explains it. 3. What is the significance in the life of the Church catholic whether Jesus is only talking to the Apostles or to all Christians. Does this change such doctrine as church and ministry? Does it have any significance regarding the Church Growth Movement and some of the teachings grown out of the CGM? Does it change how missions, outreach and witnessing should be viewed? Does it change our view on the Augustana especially article XIV? To name but a few things that may be affected

Before I go any further with this I want to make sure that I am not posting something I shouldn't be. I believe I have understood what Mr. Diekmann has stated that his blog is and is not. If I am in error or if Mr. Diekmann doesn't think this topic would be something anyone else thinks is noteworthy or interesting I would want Mr. Diekmann to erase this post and have my most sincere apology for using his blog for something it shouldn't be. If I am not out of bounds with this post/topic then I would like to continue with my train of thought tomorrow since it is getting late.

Scott Diekmann said...

Jump right in Mr. Shipe. Those are all questions worthy of being explored.

Robert Shipe said...

I have quickly realized what a huge undertaking this has become especially from someone who is not in the least, nor pretends to be, theologically gifted. I'm sure a fine paper could be written regarding the Great Commission. In fact, a paper could be written on each of the 3 issues I stated above. I'm sure there are a slew of papers out there regarding this issue, but I haven't really read any that I can think of.

I have decided that I will, with my severely limited theological mind, not give any opinion on each of the issues but try to give the facts. Nobody cares what I think, nor should they. I will most definitely want to have input from the clergy and laymen alike on these issues.

The first question to look at; Is Jesus talking to his Apostles only when he states His Great Commission? Or is He talking to all Christians? As far as I can tell there are 4 accounts of Jesus speaking just before His ascension written by 3 different New Testament writers. Matthew, Mark, Luke and Acts have accounts. Before I go on let me just say that I do not have a Greek Bible with me. It wouldn't matter if I did since I only took 1 semester of greek 35 years ago as a college freshman. I do have a NIV and a NKJV that I will use. Maybe not the best translations, but decent and different translations.

Matthew 28: 16 says; "Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him they worshipped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'" (NKJV) The NIV version is almost identical as verse 16 also says "Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee to the mountain...Then Jesus came to them and said 'All authority..."

In Mark's account we read that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene then to the "two while they were walking in the country." (16:12) then verse 14 says; "Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; He rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.' After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it." (NIV). The NKJV is almost exactly the same as the NIV. the key verse is verse 14 that starts; "Later he appeared to the eleven... and He said to them 'Go into all the world...'"

Robert shipe said...

The account in Acts is very clear and very similar in both the NIV and NKJV. To save some time and space I will quote the NIV; Acts 1:1 says: "In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave this command: 'Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' So when they met together, they asked him, 'Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Isreal?' He said to them: 'It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holty Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.' After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight."

The account found in Luke is a bit different in one very important aspect. While chapter 24 talks about the resurrection and Jesus appearing to the two disciples on their way to Emmaus verse 33 says this after the two had their eyes opened and recognized Jesus: "They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together..." Both the NIV and NKJV use the phrase "the Eleven and those with them." When reading this account it is evident that all this is taking place continuously the same day. There is most definitely more than just the eleven apostles present when Jesus speaks His Great Commission, and when He ascends as it is found in Luke. In fact the Concordia Self Study Bible I am using has a footnote regarding this verse. Verse 33 is refered to verse 9 since verse 9 uses the same phrase. The note says in part: "The 'others' included disciples who, for the most part, came from Galilee."

The account in Luke is a bit perplexing. I know the Bible interprets itself and while I have hit a bit of a dead end, I know I am missing something. Why would Luke say one thing in one book and seemingly another thing in another book. Especially when both books are written close in date to each other? Any comments would be appreciated.

Tomorrow night I will look at the official view of Synod regarding the Great Commission. Hopefully it will not be such a long post.

Scott Diekmann said...

Thanks for your comments Mr. Shipe. While I don't normally refer somebody away from my own blog, you might consider sharing your thoughts on The Brothers of John the Steadfast as well. This post is also posted there, and is generating a lot of comments for the same reasons. If you're interested, the address there is: