16.9.10

The Missouri Synod and Heterodox Lutheranism

"The Missouri Synod Lutheran cannot understand why a rightly called but heterodox pastor, one who is thus Lutheran in name only, is allowed to lead an entire congregation, even an entire generation of the flock that has been entrusted to his care, into heterodoxy or even apostacy, while the ecclesiastical authorities stand silently by or even maintain that the congregation is after all still Lutheran because the doctrine (publica doctrina) of the Lutheran Church still has official standing in it. Who can disagree with the Missouri Lutheran on this point? Who has the right to prevent the Gospel being preached to souls deceived by others?"

Confession and Theology in the Missouri Synod, Letters to Lutheran Ppastors No. 20, July 1951).

Sasse goes on to note that conflicts often arose when other Lutherans perceived the Missouri Synod to be proselytising, but also notes Missouri's willingness to be self-critical in this matter ("to confess its sins") and concludes that the mistakes sometimes made by the Missouri Synod stemmed from her recognition of the missionary imperative of the Lutheran Church, which meant that she could never rest content with a merely "historical" Lutheranism.

For background on the different approaches to the Lutheran confessions in American Lutheranism, see Charles Arand, Testing the Boundaries: Windows to Lutheran Identity (CPH, 1995). In a period where other Lutherans were slowly moving to relativise the confessions on historical grounds, thus weakening their doctrinal authority, Missouri sought to maintain the confessions as doctrinal norms, the norma normata, adherence to which distinguishes orthodoxy from heterodoxy.

2 comments:

  1. I do not understand this question Who has the right to prevent the Gospel being preached to souls deceived by others?

    Missouri sought to maintain the confessions as doctrinal norms, the norma normata, adherence to which distinguishes orthodoxy from heterodoxy

    That is too much of a concession for my taste.

    How can one say he is confessional when he does not take the text of BoC at face value but does lip service?

    LPC

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  2. That is exactly the point, Lito. The Missouri Synod was one of the few synods to question the orthodoxy of fellow Lutheran synods, i.e. to ask them whether they were not merely paying lip service to the confessions. Missouri said a merely constitutional adherence to the confessions was not enough, the confessions had to frame the doctrine and life of the church. When this was not happening, Missouri might establish mission congregations in direct "competition" with what they perceived to be heterodox congregations. This happened even in Australia, here in Queensland for example. This went against the "gentelemen's agreement" that Lutherans did not proselytise other Lutherans.
    A similar situation exists today with the LC-MS & the ELCA and also within world Lutheranism, e.g. in Sweden, where confessional mission congregations are being established in direct competition with conrgegations of the "Lutheran" Church of Sweden.
    The question which always has to be asked with the utmost seriousness before this takes place is when does a heterodox church body become an apostate church body with a different Gospel?

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