Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Confessional Subscription

Does it seem like the churches today who claim to embrace a Confessional Subscription understand this in like manner to a magazine subscription? Do the churches who claim to subscribe to the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church treat their Confessional Subscription like an old subscription to a magazine that upon delivery by the postal carrier is then tossed onto a dusty stack? Do they perhaps dust off the stack from time to time to show others how big their stack is?

A recent post on a “Confessional” blog of a prominent clergyman leaves a person wondering just this. In fact, one of his loyal readers responded with a gentle challenge, which was guffawed and brow beaten into submission.

The post is actually copied and pasted from another blog and then praised as a wonderful example of true Lutheran confessionalism. It is a portion of another translation/edition of CFW Walther’s Church and Ministry.

Isn’t that grand? Isn’t that splendid? Yet another edition of Church and Ministry, as if one translation into English was not sufficient. And with all of the English translations of the Book of Concord, that was translated again not long ago, too. Wow, the Concordia Triglotta and the Jacob’s Edition and the Tappert Edition and the Kolb Edition were not sufficient!

Now the new president of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod has shown how devoted he is to the faithfulness of the LC-MS fathers and has shown how truly scholarly he is by producing another translation of Walther’s Church and Ministry. The portion that is posted by President Matthew Harrison on his blog Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison is entitled, ““Missouri's Position on Intercommunion - Warning! Strong Lutheran Content!” This is copied and posted by Paul McCain at “The LCMS Position on Intercommunion: WARNING – STRONG LUTHERAN CONTENT.”

McCain introduces it, saying:

From the president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Pastor Matthew Harrison, via his blog site. Pastor Harrison is providing the Missouri Synod with a new edition of C.F.W. Walther’s Church and Ministry, this is from his revised translation.

In the Comments section the following comments were shared:

From Jeff K:

Kind of a jarring juxtaposition to the immediately preceeding post where you heartily commend us to listen to Dr. Albert Mohler, a Baptist. Last time I checked Baptists denied the Real Presence in the Lord’s Supper and Baptismal Regeneration.

McCain responds:

Insert face palm here.

I invited you to listen to an academic lecture, not to take communion with him.

Good grief.

Then after a supportive comment from an ELCA pastor Jeff K responds:

OK, I figured that you would draw a distinction between a lecture and Communion, and I hope that you would continue to post good things that you hear from Dr. Mohler. May God have mercy on all of us who call on His Name but for conscience sake are not able to share His Supper with each other on this side of heaven. @ptmccain

I offered a comment in which I encouraged Jeff K not to abandon his very valid challenge, and the ever fair and magnanimous and open McCain deleted my comment. Imagine that!

Jeff’s question or challenge is a valid concern. McCain’s answer is typical of the modern understanding of Confessional Subscription. “We hold to a quia subscription to the Lutheran Confessions. We hold them to be true expositions of God’s Word and we treasure them! Just look at how many translations we have made!”

But did McCain even read what Jeff did? Jeff noticed and responded both to the statement by Walther as well as Walther’s quotation from the Apology of the Augsburg Confession from the Book of Concord that Walther boldly quotes and Harrison translates.

First the statement of Walther:

B. Every believer for the sake of his salvation must flee all false teachers and avoid fellowship [Gemeinschaft] with heterodox congregations [Gemeinden] or sects.

Next the quote from the Apology:

2. Witnesses of the Church in Its Official Confessions
Apology: “Nevertheless, we should not receive or listen to false teachers, for they no longer stand in Christ’s place [Christus statt] but are antichrists [Widerchristi]. And Christ clearly commands [befohlen] us regarding them: ‘Beware of false prophets’ (Matt. 7:15). And Paul [writes] to the Galatians: ‘If anyone preaches any other gospel to you, … let him be accursed’ (Gal. 1:9)” (Ap. VII/VIII [IV]. 48; German text, Triglot, pp. 242–43; Mueller p. 162; BSLK 246.20f.).

Let’s see if we can decipher what Jeff must have misunderstood.

Walther says: “Every believer for the sake of his salvation must flee all false teachers and avoid fellowship with heterodox congregations or sects.”

What does McCain say? “Insert face palm here. I invited you to listen to an academic lecture, not to take communion with him. Good grief.”

What does the Apology say? “Nevertheless, we should not receive or listen to false teachers, for they no longer stand in Christ’s place but are antichrists.”

So McCain encourages people to listen to lectures from those whom the Confessions to which he boldly and loudly subscribes say we should not receive or listen to. The Confessions say that such teachers have nothing good to say because they are antichrists. McCain says, just listen but don’t take communion with them.

Jeff says: “Huh?”

McCain says: “Good grief.”

McCain is in agreement with President Harrison. Yet both actually do commune with them as well. Both are in communion with the pastors and congregations of the LC-MS, most of which practice open communion where people who have not even been baptized frequently are communed.

How do I know this? I have read the communion statements of LC-MS congregations where this is what they themselves declare as their practice. I also have spoken with people who are not members of these congregations, who have not been baptized, who do not have any substantive understanding of the faith, who have no idea what the Sacrament is, yet they commune regularly from the hands of smiling LC-MS pastors.

Yes, these people have been some of my customers. Yes, I talk to my customers about what they believe and where they go to church and how they understand the Sacraments. The LC-MS pastors who claim to be so caring and loving and welcoming don’t talk to them about these things, but their arborist does.

So why bother quoting Walther on this issue? Why bother translating the Confessions and quoting them?

What is the point?

It brings to mind the many road signs that say, “Right lane closed ahead.” Which is translated by somewhere between 45 and 85 percent of the drivers, depending on the length of the line:

“Stay in this lane until it runs out and then force your way into line ahead of your neighbors who have respectfully merged and waited their turn.”

It also brings to my mind the many times the same sign has been left posted for weeks after the road work has been completed.

Why do men like McCain and Harrison make so much noise about their Confessional Subscription? Why do they go so far as to translate such things anew and post them for everyone to read, and then deny the meaning of the words when someone asks?

Do you know why? Can you guess?

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