Monday, January 26, 2015

Guest Post: LCMS President Matthew Harrison on Tolerating False Teaching

The Reverend Doctor Matthew Becker, LCMS clergyman and professor of theology at Valparaiso University, was exonerated of any charge of false teaching. This is a preposterous result, as the evidence of his false teaching is public and copious. Despite the brazen heresy espoused by Dr. Becker, his District President refuses to take action against him, and a dispute resolution panel inexplicably found that he was not teaching false doctrine, despite the fact that his teachings are contrary to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. There are other disturbing circumstances surrounding this case—the CCM hasn't made a correct ruling since before my Ordination, I think—but an exhaustive list would have me typing until next week.

The Reverend Matthew Harrison, President of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, made some statements today to begin to address some of the issues surrounding this and other problems within the LCMS. This is important. Under the previous administration, false doctrine was tolerated, encouraged, and fostered. President Harrison's administration hasn't dealt with error as hastily as some had hoped—and I'll readily admit that I wasn't happy about how his office assembled the 3-10a Task Force—but he has apparently decided that it's time to speak forthrightly about false teaching and practice in the LCMS and the system that allows it to exist, and as I encourage him and pray for him as he fights the good fight, I would encourage you to pray for him and offer what support you can. The Lord bless and keep you, President Harrison.

All that being said, I will let Pastor Harrison take over the blog.


"The system of doctrinal discipline in the LCMS is not functioning as envisioned and implemented by our Fathers. It must be repaired." --Matt Harrison

Walther on Doctrinal Discipline of Pastors. 
...It is impossible for a sizable church body to remain in the true faith if there isn’t a constant check to see that everything still is as it was in the beginning, when the pastor came to the congregation. Without visitation it is probably impossible for a church to remain in unity of faith and confession.
Therefore it is a terrible line of talk that the so-called “confessionally faithful” [Bekenntnistreue] are spreading in Germany: ‘‘[All that’s necessary is] that the pure doctrine be public doctrine (doctrina publica), that is, the authentic, authoritatively established doctrine that everyone is required to profess, so that every false doctrine is actually without authoritative standing!” Therefore, [they say,] provided the pure doctrine is the authoritatively established one, the Church may be ever so corrupt, yet it is a true Lutheran [church]. If the pledge of loyalty to the Confessions has not yet been rescinded but is still valid, though not a single pastor proclaims it, then the Church is still sound.
That is no different than if an organization is formed for a good purpose, and finally the members agree to do something rascally but they retain their constitution as a benevolent organization. Then they cannot say: “We are indeed committing a dirty trick, but because, according to our constitution, we should really do good, therefore we are nevertheless an honest, honorable organization, since it says so in our constitution, which we still have!”
That is what those so- called “confessionally faithful” ones in Germany say: “You see, the constitution says, ‘The Lutheran doctrine is public doctrine (doctrina publica)!’”
But it is not enough that it is on paper; nor is it enough that all pastors and teachers are pledged to it when they enter office. No, this Confession must also be faithfully practiced [im Schwangegehen].
That is why Luther, in his treatise “On the Councils and the Church” [1539], writes: “First, the holy Christian people can be recognized by their possession of the Holy Word of God. . . . But we are speaking of the outward Word, orally proclaimed by people like you and me. For this is what Christ left behind as an outward sign, by which we can recognize His church, or His holy Christian people in the world.” [Walch 16:2785f. Cf. AE 41:148f; Vom den Konziliis und Kirchen 1539, WA 50:509–653; Aland 382]
It is not enough to have a Bible lying in the vestry, but it must be proclaimed from the pulpit. Moreover, a church may have a thousand oaths sworn to be faithful to the Augsburg Confession and yet be a vile sect; and that is true of the state churches [in Germany]. In the best cases there are still good pledges of allegiance to the Confessions, but very few preach accordingly from the pulpit. One is Reformed, another is Methodist; rationalistic, yes, even atheistic, i.e., there are some who do not believe in a living God and still have solemnly sworn allegiance to the Confessions of the Lutheran Church. They simply say, “That is an old tradition, which it would be dangerous to discontinue because of the common people, who still cling to the old faith. But our superintendent, who put us under oath, knows very well what we mean; after all, he himself doesn’t accept the Confessions in their entirety either. But because the regional bishop has so ordered it, therefore we continue it.”
But such people are not Lutheran pastors. The confession of the Church must sound forth from the pulpit. And a congregation may be part of a large Lutheran church: If it has a false pastor and he constantly preaches false doctrine and it likes his preaching very much and definitely wants to keep him—that is not a Lutheran congregation either, even if the right official confessional statement is inscribed over the entrance. The [Augsburg] Confession must be proclaimed, and it dare not just say in a book somewhere that it really should be preached.
One must say: Churches that indeed teach false doctrine but have not sworn to uphold pure doctrine are not as bad (as those who have sworn to uphold pure doctrine but do not do so). They are better because the people are not so deceived by them. So when a church says “Here Lutheran doctrine is doctrina publica!” and you don’t hear it proclaimed, that church is a miserable sect, regardless of what it claims to be.

— CFW Walther, "Duties of an Evangelical Lutheran Synod," in At Home in the House of My Fathers.

"When a public teacher on the roster of Synod can without consequence publicly advocate the ordination of women, homosexuality, the Errancy of the Bible, the historical critical method, open communion, communion with the reformed, evolution, and more, then the public confession of the synod is meaningless. I am saying that if my Synod does not change its inability to call such a person to repentance, and remove such a teacher where there is not repentance, then we are liars, and our confession is meaningless. I do not want to belong to such a synod, much less lead it. I have no intention of walking away from my vocation. I shall rather use it and, by the grace of God, use all the energy I have to call this Synod to fidelity to correct this situation." 
Witness, Mercy, Life Together blog post

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