See Preface HERE.
We begin our examination of “A Fraternal Admonition” by looking at article one : Pure doctrine. It may be a small point, but when sending a fraternal admonition regarding the doctrine and practice of our synod to every congregation in the synod, it is not good that they quote our synod president incorrectly in identifying an error. While I would agree that if Missouri is to get the message out, it must first get the message straight, the quote was used at various times by our president as “incessant doctrinal purification” and “incessant internal purification.” I was unable to find a place that the two words were used together. A slash between them, or placing one in parentheses would have served the purpose. However, using quotation marks over a comment that is not a direct quote is not only bad grammar, it is sloppy scholarship. In a document of this kind, errors should be documented very clearly, and quotes should be made directly. Conflating the two quotations adds nothing to the substance of their charge (as correct as the substance of that charge should be), but takes away the precision of their argument.
I would agree that unity in doctrine and practice is the basis for establishing pulpit and altar fellowship. Agreement in the Gospel in all its articles is not only the basis of fellowship, it is the very definition of fellowship. However, I think they go too far when they claim that “absolute agreement on every word and interpretation of doctrine and practice ” is necessary for fellowship. By this, am I saying that doctrine and practice are somehow not important to unity? Not at all. But as an example, Pieper says that while the perpetual virginity of Mary is indeed a doctrinal position taken by the Luther and confessions, if one does not hold to this position we should not therefore break fellowship, assuming he is orthodox in all other respects. Ironically most pastors today would take the opposing view. That is, a pastor may hold the perpetual virginity of Mary so long and as he is orthodox in all other respects. In discussions with other pastors, I have found that significantly less than 1/4 of them hold to the perpetual virginity of Mary, even though it is in our Lutheran confessions. Many, using a reasoning similar to that used by the Seminex professors regarding Adam and eve, claim that this statement is one, not of doctrinal but of historical detail that can be ignored. Yet, would they then claim that since Pieper is not in absolute agreement with them on this particular word and interpretation of doctrine and practice that they would not be in fellowship with him because of it? Again I agree that we are not to tolerate error in doctrine and practice, but to say there must be absolute agreement on every word and interpretation borders on Donatism.