Thursday, June 3, 2010

Good Advice from Our Synod President

In the June 2010 edition of LCMS President Gerald Kieschnick’s “President’s Leadership News,” he offers these sound words:
     …The unity of which St. Paul speaks [in Eph. 4:1-6] is that for which we pray and work. Such unity comes only as a gift of God’s grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord, whose perfect life and atoning death on the cross makes it possible for mortal, finite, sinful human beings to experience “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Understanding the source of this unity and giving thanks to God for making it possible is critical for our Synod’s health. Thankfully, in most cases, people and pastors in the LCMS do indeed deal with one another in a spirit of humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another in love.
     At the same time, I observe that the devil’s temptation often succeeds in replacing unity with division. We sometimes seem to have part of our DNA devoted exclusively to criticism, gossip, and failing to put the best construction on everything. That’s precisely why we cherish so deeply in our beloved Synod the Gospel of Christ. Through His death on the cross we are made righteous in God’s sight—ONE People—Forgiven. Only as we kneel at the foot of the cross in sincere confession and humble repentance is it possible for us to “lead a life worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Those who have gone before us spoke about unity as well. Their words form a nice bookend for President Kieschnick’s reminder.

Dr. Franz Pieper, the fourth President of the LCMS, somewhat mirrors President Kieschnick’s thought…
     If we want to preserve the unity in the faith, we must be sure not to give up any part of revealed doctrine. It is, however, well to note that the apostle in Ephesians 4:3 says, “[Be] eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” The unity in the Spirit can only continue to be maintained through the bond of peace. If those standing in the unity of the faith are not truly peaceable but are quarrelsome, if they don’t allow love to prevail in all things, then unity in the faith will not last long. Luther: “There, where love is not, neither can doctrine remain pure.”
     What is the chief way love should express itself? We should not argue over words. The admonition of the apostle is much misused in our time. We will argue over words in this sense, that at last we partake of the praise of our Savior telling us that we have treasured His Word. But we do not desire to fight about things that are not mandated in God’s Word and thus are matters of indifference.
     We further desire that when we must criticize one another, this not be done in an injurious manner. Fidelity over against God’s Word is quite appropriately joined with loving considerateness. If we exercise loving critique of one another, this will be by God’s grace a means to preserve unity in the faith. If we exercise over against each other criticism in an injurious, inconsiderate manner, this will be a means to destroy our unity in the faith (quoted from Rev. Matthew C. Harrison’s book At Home in the House of My Fathers, 597-8).
…and Dr. Pieper also reminds us in what it is that we are united:
We may allow to arise among us no other understanding of unity than what is scriptural, that is, unity in the faith, which is the agreement in all articles of Christian doctrine (Harrison, 596).
Lutheran theologian Hermann Sasse said:
But unity can never be purchased with a lie, nor can discord ever be eliminated by sacrificing the truth of the Gospel (Here We Stand, 54).
Martin Luther, like President Kieschnick, also mentions humility:

People speak of two kinds of humility: one which we are said to owe when doctrine and faith are concerned, the other when love toward our neighbor is concerned. But may God never grant me humility when the articles of faith are concerned. For then no action is called for which is a yielding for the sake of love, for the sake of peace and unity, for the sake of keeping the church from being ruined, or for the love of the imperial majesty. …God has reserved these for Himself and has said: You are to teach in this way! I cannot pass this injunction by. Therefore your will must yield. But when we speak like this, they say that we are proud people. In reality, however, this is true humility. God has commanded us to take this attitude. We are to connive at no omissions from His Word (What Luther Says, 677).
C.F.W. Walther, the Synod’s first President, states:
Nevertheless we consider it our duty to criticize, refute, oppose, contend against, and reprove whatever error becomes manifest in the teaching of those who wish to be our brethren, whether this error pertains to a fundamental or a non-fundamental teaching of the Word of God (online reference).
And finally, let’s close with the sage words of Dr. Robert D. Preus, former President of Concordia Theological Seminary:
It is obvious from the principle of solus Christus that all Christian doctrine is a unity. It is, as Luther says, like a large circle with Christ at the center. Again and again Luther in his sermons and elsewhere affirms the unity of Christian doctrine and the importance of this fact. He urges that we should abide by the Scriptures in purity and "unanimity." The greatest and most harmful offence to the church is to stir up discord and division in doctrine. This causes harm and ruin in the church. "Therefore doctrine must be one eternal and round golden circle, in which there is no crack; if even the tiniest crack appears, the circle is no longer perfect. What does it profit the Jews to believe that there is one God and that He is the Creator of all, to believe all the other articles [alios articulos] and to accept the whole Scripture, when they deny Christ?'" Luther urges Christians to be of one accord in doctrine, not to despise one another. When pure doctrine is divided, Christendom is divided. Disunity of doctrine causes separation in the church and Satan builds his chapel or tabernacle next door (from his essay “Luther: Word, Doctrine, and Confession”).


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

This inspired a blog post of my own. Excellent job.

Scott Diekmann said...

Thanks Pastor Brown. Your post,, was right on.