A Fraternal Admonition I

A recent document from a group of pastors was sent to every LCMS congregation – at least I assume it was. I received it. It was headlined “A fraternal Admonition for the LCMS”. In it, 10 different points regarding the doctrine and practice of the LCMS are laid out. One assumes that, given the recent election of a new President, who has said that “It’s Time” to sit down and discuss our differences, these men are attempting to jump start the conversation. A fine idea. So, I will join in the conversation, posting random thoughts and reactions as I have time and inclination to do so.
My first thought is that one needs to be charitable and assume that this is the beginning of a conversation. It does not make a good start to a conversation if those who disagree assume you are issuing an ultimatum. There may be a temptation to view this admonition in that way. It does use the language of “we reject this error”, which has a certain confessional connotation to it. In this case though, they most often “reject the toleration of error(s)”. With few exceptions they do not reject the errors themselves, nor those who teach them. This is different from the language used in our confessions, which at various points condemn heresies as well as those who hold them, (Augustana) and reject and condemn heresies (Formula). While the formula does speak of errors that are not to be tolerated in the church, they do not then reject toleration of those teachings, but the teachings themselves. In this way, our confessions are more precise in speaking out against false teaching. However, this also makes the confessions less of a discussion starter than a discussion ender. (At least with regard to the reformed. The Augustana led to a spirited -though ultimately unproductive – discussion with Rome.) However, the differences between this document (discussion starter?) and the confessions can, I believe, charitably be attributed to mere semantic differences, and do not in any way diminish the force of their statements against error. Of course, it does have a certain “we will go this far and no farther” feel to it. Is that helpful for the discussion? Well, in that it is an honest airing of grievances, and if it is answered by others charitably, I believe it can be very helpful in the task which lies ahead, as we begin to address the divisions in our synod.
As for the admonition itself, I will begin to address that in my next post on the subject.

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