Saturday, May 15, 2010

WELS & LC-MS once one?

Today I read the following question on my Facebook page:

Question for LCMSers (pastors, laymen, whateva). Since the WELS and LCMS were in fellowship at one point, wouldn't that mean that the LCMS at one point agreed with the WELS views of fellowship, women's suffrage, and the Office of the Ministry? I'm wondering whose position changed, if any?

The answer may be that both changed, but not so much on these issues, but more on how much heterodoxy matters.  The WELS determined that heterodoxy matters just a little more than the LC-MS determined.  Even this is not accurate, it would be better to say that for the WELS their claim to orthodoxy mattered more than with the LC-MS.  The WELS counted themselves more orthodox than the LC-MS had become.

To understand the significance of this one needs to read what Francis Pieper teaches on this matter in his “Christian Dogmatics”, the long-standing standard doctrine textbook for seminarians in the two synods.  In volume III, beginning on pg. 422, Pieper defines orthodoxy and heterodoxy.  He condemns heterodoxy and insists that it must be avoided.  Then, however, he allows that the heterodox communions can be called “Churches in so far as they still retain enough of the Gospel of Christ that men can come to faith in Christ and thus can become true children of God.”

For both the WELS and the LC-MS, following this understanding of Church and fellowship/communion, the issue is not one of orthodoxy versus heterodoxy, but rather it is a matter of better or worse.  Who is the better Church is the question.  Are they good enough that we can tolerate them?

True unity in the faith was not really the issue.  The real issue was that the LC-MS had moved a bit too far for the WELS to tolerate.  (The LC-MS did the same with the ALC.)  The WELS did not cease calling the LC-MS a Church.  Neither did they cease calling the LC-MS Christian.  No, they determined that they had to stand apart from their fellow Christians, not on the basis of them being outside the communion of the saints, but as not being in their communion.

This false view of Church and Communion has led to the demise of both church bodies.  Both church bodies or communions have walked the road of tolerance.  Today, both church bodies have enormous degrees of diversity and yet they each still count themselves as orthodox.

In the revelation given to John, the Lord Jesus condemns tolerance and threatens to take away the preaching office, that is the Holy Ministry, from those who practice tolerance.  He warns that they will lose their identity as the Church and therefore will no longer be able to stand as the light of the world.  Why?  Because they will have tolerated that which is false.  Truth and falsehood cannot be mingled.  Truth that has been mingled with falsehood is no longer the truth.

Thus even among the so-called Lutheran bodies there is division rather than unity, but each continues to call the other Church.  By this they say that their faith is in one who lies, because they call Jesus a liar.  This is why they preach not Jesus Christ and Him crucified, but the WELS and the LC-MS.  This is why the Church Growth Movement has taken over both church bodies.  This is why both church bodies look more and more like those whom they officially denounce and yet call Church.

This is the way of the Pharisees.  This is utter hypocrisy.  It has the same effect as in the days of old.  It has the same effect as when the Pharisees encountered the one whom they professed to worship.  Their worship was of their own making and when the Lord confronted them in their hypocrisy they rejected Him.  They chose rather to seek to preserve their nation and temple and way of life and worship.  Today many faith traditions call themselves Christian, choosing various traditions and manners, clinging to certain basic or essential doctrines but allowing that other matters can be compromised and still be called Church.  In the end they each get what they have chosen, they get to boast of being the Church and to count themselves as more the Church than the others or more orthodox or more friendly or whatever other more is better in their judgment, all part of a loosely defined identity in which no one is really wrong, merely not right enough to stand with “us.”

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