7. EXPLAIN YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS
Greetings folks! This is question 7 of my colloquy process with the Association of American Lutheran Churches. I’ve been asked to explain my understanding of the Lutheran Confessions. Well, here goes nothing!!
I. The Book of Concord, or The Concordia. 1. General and Particular Symbols. Book of Concord, or Concordia, is the title of the Lutheran corpus doctrinae, i.e., of the symbols recognized and published under that name by the Lutheran Church. The symbols are a sign, token, badge, banner, watchword, parole, countersign, confession, and creed. A Christian symbol, therefore, is a mark by which Christians are known. And since Christianity is essentially the belief in the truths of the Gospel, its symbol is of necessity a confession of Christian doctrine. The Church, accordingly, has from the beginning defined and regarded its symbols as a rule of faith or a rule of truth. Says Augustine: “Symbolum est regula fidei brevis et grandis: brevis numero verborum, grandis pondere sententiarum.A symbol is a rule of faith, both brief and grand: brief, as to the number of words, grand, as to the weight of its thoughts. The Lutheran Confessions contain eucemenical, particular and private symbols. The eucemenical symbols would be the three Creeds, the Apostle’s, Athanasian, and Nicene Creeds. The particular symbols would be those doctrines that divide various denominations. The private symbols would be those that Lutherans in particular hold dear, such as the Lutheran view of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. They are none other than the most accurate interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. Though other Christian denominations don’t subscribe directly to the Lutheran Confessions, they often subscribe to them indirectly. The Lutheran Confessions line up with scripture much more closely than many other confessions. I grew up in independent Baptist, non-denominational, Pentecostal and Charismatic churches. Some don’t even have confessions or creeds, or even statements of faith. I However, the Lutheran Confessions are binding, and together help to create consensus, or concordia within Lutheran churches. I appreciate the fact that I am almost guaranteed to know what to expect whenever I enter a confessional Lutheran church. With that being said, I definitely subscribe quia to the Lutheran Confessions. I will go on to explain what this means.
7-a-I. WHAT QUIA SUBSCRIPTION TO THE LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS MEANS.
Quia subscription to the Lutheran Confessions means that I subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions because they agree with scripture. The Lutheran Confessions should not be modified by modern theologians. Of course, Luther, Melanchthon, Jakob, Chemnitz and the other Reformers were far from perfect, but I believe the Confessions they wrote were truly inspired by the Holy Spirit, in order to help them distinguish between what was the true gospel as told by Christ, the apostles and the church fathers, over and against the creeds and confessions of other groups at that time, like the Sacramentarians or “Zwinglians,” the Wickau Prophets, and the Anabaptists.
7-a-II. WHAT QUATENUS SUBSCRIPTION TO THE LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS MEANS.
Quatenus subscription to the Lutheran Confessions means subscription to them “insofar as” they agreed with Scripture. This latter quatenus mode of subscription meant that one must subscribe to the confessions with reservations. I believe that if you subscribe to the symbols found in the Book of Concord, then you subscribe. A partial subscription is no subscription. I would be upset if I ordered a year’s subscription to the Logia Journal and only got one magazine the entire year! I agree with Article VI of the AALC’s statement on Scripture & the Confessions: VI. Confessional Subscription
We reaffirm our acceptance of the Scriptures as the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and our unconditional subscription to the symbolic books of the Lutheran Church, without reservation, “not insofar as but because they are the presentation and explanation of the Word of God and a summary of the faith of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.” (Constitution, Article III, Section 8). We accept the Confessions because they are drawn from the Word of God and on that account regard their doctrinal content as a true and binding exposition of Holy Scripture and as authoritative for our work as ministers of Jesus Christ and servants of The American Association of Lutheran Churches.
I am a confessional Lutheran. I subscribe quia to the whole Book of Concord. This means that I believe the documents of the Book of Concord are faithful expositions and summaries of the teaching of Scripture. This does not mean that I believe the Lutheran confessions replace or stand over the Bible. But I truly believe the Confessional Lutheran churches like the Missouri Synod and the AALC are the most biblical churches out there.
I believe that one of the issues with the evangelical American church today is the relativism that has plagued the church. People are being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, like ships in stormy water (Eph. 4:14). Because so many evangelicals have such inconsistent theological foundations and/or worldviews, it’s no wonder that so some Lutheran churches would doubt whether God was truly behind the insights into scripture that were given to the first Lutherans, and to Martin himself. Quatenus subscription is easy. Quia subscription is not. A Failure to Care About Church History — Many laypersons and even preachers are apathetic or ignorant of church history. Some may perhaps have a condescending attitude towards the God-given ability of Luther, Chemnitz, Melanchthon and others to understand the scriptures. Yet upon examining the Confessions, and comparing them to the beliefs of many other denominations, I find them to be the most biblical and accurate explanation of scripture that we have, to the glory of God! This declaration … is our faith, doctrine, and confession.By God’s grace, with intrepid hearts, we are willing to appear before the judgment seat of Christ with this confession. —Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, XII 40
And so, to further give God glory, I desire to fulfill my calling into ministry by specifically doing ministry within a Confessional Lutheran culture and context. I am called by the gospel, not only into ministry, but specifically into Confessional Lutheran ministry, by the gospel itself.
7-a-III. IN VIEW OF THIS, COMMENT ON WHAT IT MEANS TO BE “CALLED BY THE GOSPEL.”
1 Corinthians 9:16 – For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! First, I would like to say that I definitely identify with the apostle Paul in the sense that I feel compelled, impelled, strongly urged to preach the gospel! I cannot picture myself doing anything else. “the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the one, true Faith…” (Small Catechism, Creed, 2.3). Article V of the Augsburg Confession states 1] That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, 2] the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear 3] the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake.4] They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word, through their own preparations and works. — So I am initially called to Christ by the Gospel. The Gospel itself, and also its proclamation, the kerygma, draws people to Christ, regenerates, and creates faith. It is the very power of God (Romans 1:16, Acts 2:37, Hebrews 4:12). Article XIV states: Of Ecclesiastical Order they teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he is regularly called. And so in saying this, the spiritual and natural gifts one must have in order to proclaim the gospel should already be recognized by the local church that one believes they are called to. I could not get up and claim to be a pastor or preacher but I am not serving the people of God at a local church. My good works are for them. And so, I am currently attending Grace Summerville Lutheran Church (LCMS), where Rev. Richard Willsea is the pastor. We’ve spoken at large on my colloquy process, and Lord willing I plan on getting more and more involved as long as it is safe to, with the spike in COVID 19 cases here in SC (currently 24 June 2020; Charleston has the most cases). But yes, I have been called to Christ by the Gospel, and also called to Word and Sacrament ministry. I feel a real sense of urgency because many of the Reformed, Charismatic and Pentecostal friends that I have are intrigued by my journey, and I believe that the Lutheran Confessions are the most accurate interpretation of scripture we have. Also, the culture of Lutheran churches, with Confession & Absolution, Lectionary readings, Law & Gospel, the Three Uses of the Law, etc., are rich and beautiful. Many of my friends could be strengthened in their faith if I am able to teach these things and utilize technology. Although they all won’t become Lutherans (and all don’t have to—but some actually want to, though!), at least they will be challenged to take a closer look at their views on things like the Sacraments. And speaking of the Sacraments, why don’t we take a look at Baptism?