Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Experiment That Failed?

In the Spring issue of the Day Star Journal, Pastor Gene Brueggemann contributes his article "The Experiment That Failed," as an examination of how the LCMS missed a golden opportunity to celebrate the liberty of the church through its own constitutional structure. He writes at the end of the article:

Rather than trusting the Holy Spirit to work within the congregations, the conferences and the theological faculties of the Synod to create a consensus on doctrinal issues in an evangelical spirit, the new preeminent authority in Synod, President J.A.O. Preus who was more in the Stephan than the Walther/Pieper mold, skillfully and powerfully led the Synod along a new path, the path of power politics, control of the synodical conventions, and resolving doctrinal controversies by convention resolutions, that is, by tools of the law. It has been downhill ever since for those who work and pray for the primacy of the gospel in the teaching, mission and ministry of the Synod, whose conventions were designed to celebrate, not fashion, doctrinal unity.

Some key points to note in this quote are:
-We need to 'trust' that the Holy Spirit working though the church will arrive as the truth through consensus.
-Power politics where doctrinal unity is attempted through conventions is counterproductive.

It is true that "power politics" is not an effective means to achieve lasting unity and fellowship in the church, not to mention doctrinal unity. However, unity remains important to the overall witness of the church, and striving for a unified voice is always good for the church's voice to the world. Simply "trusting" that people will always get it right, or that whatever they come up with should be tolerated in the spirit of Gospel freedom and liberty, bears no resemblance to the earliest history of the church that fought hard to a common voice and confession. Reading the Day Star Journal and its newly published book, we would do well to develop a healthy skepticism about where this freedom ultimately leads. Claiming that Evolution is a teaching compatible with Holy Scripture, campaigning for women's ordination, and trying to arrive at the truth with substandard tools of Biblical interpretation (Higher Criticism), remains a continued relic from the past that didn't work then and doesn't work now for the good of the Gospel

Liberty is a part of healthy Christian work in the church, but unrestrained liberty - liberty without careful boundaries and guides - descends ultimately into license. This will only damage the church's witness in the long run. A careful look at the ELCA is sufficient warning here.

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