Home » Guest blogger, Insight

Where’s Walther…in our subscription to the Lutheran Confessions?

September 10, 2010 No Comment

by Timothy Teuscher

Every congregation and pastor of Lutheran Church–Canada subscribes to the Lutheran Confessions as found in The Book of Concord. This is a legacy inherited from the founding father of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, C. F. W. Walther.

In a number of his writings Walther explains the reason for this, especially in Why Are The Symbolical Books Of Our Church To Be Subscribed To Not Conditionally But Unconditionally By Those Who Desire To Become Servants Of Our Church? (They liked long titles back then!) Another one, and from which I have gleaned a few golden nuggets, is entitled On The Primary Duties Incumbent On A Synod That Wants Rightly To Be Considered An Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Although we live nearly 150 years later, the titles themselves suggest the relevance and importance of this topic today. Now, some Walther:

“The Confessions in no way take the place of God’s Word, as some claim, nor are they on the same level with God’s Word; but on the contrary, they testify that the church does not merely pretend to accept God’s Word but that it accepts that Word in its proper sense, just as it reads. They are necessary, not because Holy Scripture is insufficient, but because so many people appeal to the Bible, but in a distorted sense. In order to do away with all controversies that may arise in our midst, it is essential, therefore, that we go back to the Confessions.

“When a synod promotes into the office of the ministry someone who does not have a firm grasp of sound doctrine, and when that person subsequently misleads a congregation, then the synod is a temptress and will be held accountable for those poor souls. However, the officials of the synod are only servants of the church, and that is why congregations must see to it that pastors are acting in conformity with the Confessions. It is better, therefore, that the synod remain small and stand correctly than to be large and have in its midst those who mess around and do not bring the bread of life.

“The Confessions must also be made familiar to congregations, as well as to pastors. As a matter of fact, the whole congregation should take an even firmer stand than that of their pastor, so it can say, ‘Pastor, do not depart from the Confessions, or you are through as our pastor.’ To be sure, there is a difference. One can require the same degree of faithfulness but not the same degree of knowledge from a congregation member, as from the pastor.

“It is not enough that the Lutheran Confessions be on paper in a congregation’s constitution or that pastors are pledged to them when they are installed into their office. No, this Confession must also be faithfully practiced. A church may have sworn to be faithful to the Lutheran Confessions and yet be a vile sect; for the Confession of the church must also sound forth from the pulpit. A congregation may be part of a large Lutheran synod, but if it has a pastor who preaches false doctrine and it likes his preaching very much and wants to keep him; then that is not a true Lutheran congregation, even if the right confessional statement is inscribed over the entrance to its building. No, the Lutheran Confessions must be proclaimed, and it dare not just say in a book somewhere that they should be proclaimed.

“The Book of Concord should be in every Lutheran home. For that reason synod should provide a copy, and pastors should see to it that every home has one. The Lord doesn’t want us to remain children, who are blown to and fro by every wind of doctrine; instead of that, He wants us to grow in knowledge so that we can teach others and contradict heretics.”

Is not that a most salutary suggestion by Walther—the synod providing a copy of the Lutheran Confessions for every family in every congregation of the synod?! Or, perhaps a worthy LWML-Canada project, LLL-Canada effort, etc.? If interested in obtaining a copy, I would recommend Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions available from Concordia Publishing House.

Walther continues: “When we see how little most of our congregations know about the Confessions, it must on the one hand humble us deeply, and on the other hand become for us a mighty incentive to familiarize the people with them. In order to set this desired goal into motion, it is very important for all congregations to introduce a time in which the Symbolical Books are studied.”

For those interested in following Walther’s suggestion, there are study guides on the Confessions available from CPH.
Central to Walther’s concern in subscribing to the Lutheran Confessions is that where God speaks, the only proper response of the church is to receive that Word with its “amen”; that is, with its confession of the same.

Rev. Timothy Teuscher is pastor at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Stratford, Ontario.

Leave your response!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.