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Your Turn / Rev. Paul T. McCain, RIP
« on: November 26, 2020, 11:48:12 AM »
A message from President Harrison:

Our Lord Jesus has called to Himself our brother and fellow servant in Christ, Rev. Paul Timothy McCain (Feb. 12, 1962 - Nov. 25, 2020) to await the blessed resurrection unto life everlasting. Paul served as a pastor in Iowa, senior assistant to LCMS President A.L. Barry, and was serving as the Publisher at our Concordia Publishing House. Funeral arrangements are pending. The Lord blessed Paul with a passionate zeal for the Gospel as taught in the Scriptures and confessed in the Book of Concord. Join us in prayer for Paulís wife and children, and his CPH family. Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Your Turn / Catechism Hymn
« on: December 11, 2018, 09:59:37 AM »
My son Timothy composed the music and I wrote the words for an original hymn based on Luther's Small Catechism, which CPH considered but ultimately declined to publish.  You can hear the tune here.  Please send me a private message if you are interested in getting PDF sheet music for congregational use.

Fear Your God, the Commandments Say
Copyright 2017 by Jon Alan Schmidt

1. Fear your God, the commandments say,
  Who has made me and all that is.
Hallowed may His name be, I pray,
  And for the daily bread He gives.
Word and water, I am baptized;
Christ empow'rs me from death to rise.

2. Love your God, the commandments say,
  Who paid the price, my soul to win.
May His kingdom come now, I pray,
  And for forgiveness of my sin.
My transgressions I here confess;
Christ absolves me, my conscience rests.

3. Trust your God, the commandments say,
  Who called and keeps me by His care.
May His good will be done, I pray,
  And from temptation to be spared.
Body, blood under bread and wine;
Christ makes life and salvation mine.

Your Turn / Marty Haugen's "Mass of Creation"
« on: April 25, 2016, 09:44:48 PM »
Is anyone familiar with this particular liturgy?  I just found out that my pastor wants to try it out this summer.  From what I can find quickly online, Haugen grew up Lutheran (ALC) but is now a member of a United Church of Christ congregation, and he wrote "Mass of Creation" primarily for Roman Catholic use.  Any concerns from the LCMS doctrinal perspective?

Your Turn / The Book of Concord of 1580
« on: January 06, 2015, 12:22:14 PM »
A few months ago, I started a thread asking which version of the Lutheran Confessions the participants here consider to be the most authoritative. Of the 16 definitive responses, six chose the 1580 German Book of Concord (BoC), seven went with both the 1580 German BoC and the 1584 Latin BoC, and three said the original German and/or Latin text of each individual document. The LCMS articles of incorporation, the WELS constitution, and many (perhaps most) Lutheran congregational constitutions in the United States specifically reference "The Book of Concord of 1580" as their confessional standard. To me, that means the German BoC as published that year and directly subscribed by thousands of rulers and theologians. However, it turns out that there has never been a complete English translation of the 1580 German BoC; the authorized (but unsubscribed) Latin version of 1584 has always been used for at least some portions:
  • The 2005 and 2006 McCain editions are updates of the 1921 Bente/Dau edition; both used the Latin for the Preface, the Augsburg Confession, the Apology, and the Treatise, although some (not all) German variations are included within brackets.
  • The 2000 Kolb/Wengert edition is an update of the 1959 Tappert edition; both used the Latin for the Apology and the Treatise, and Kolb/Wengert used the second (octavo) edition of the Apology, which was widely used before 1584.
  • The 1882 and 1911 Jacobs editions used the Latin for the Augsburg Confession, the Apology, and the Treatise.
  • The 1851 and 1854 Henkel editions came closest, but (inexplicably) used the Latin for all of the prefaces.
The excellent Book of Concord website already provides free access to the entire public-domain Bente/Dau text. Over the holidays, I set up a simple new website to supplement that one by providing free access to the public-domain Henkel text of the Augsburg Confession, the Apology, and the Treatise, along with my own new translations from the German of their prefaces and the overall Preface to the BoC. I have also added the traditional section/paragraph numbers throughout to facilitate cross-referencing and comparison with other versions, although those cannot (yet) be directly linked. I encourage anyone interested in obtaining the entire 1854 Henkel edition in a searchable PDF format to download it here after making the suggested donation (or a larger one) to support the training of Lutheran pastors in Sri Lanka.

I am especially pleased to make available an English translation of the German Apology as prepared by Justus Jonas. There has been considerable misunderstanding for many years about its relationship to the original Latin text by Philip Melanchthon. Jacobs characterized it as "more of a paraphrase than a translation, differing sometimes from the original by the omission, introduction and transposition of entire paragraphs, and therefore inducing the editors of some of the best German editions of the Symbolical Books to prepare fresh translations." Decades later, Tappert likewise described it as "a very free translation which has been called a 'pious paraphrase.'" The assessment of Bente in the interim is more accurate: "The translation of Jonas is not a literal reproduction of the Latin original, but a version with numerous independent amplifications. Also Melanchthon had a share in this work ... The deviations from the Latin original therefore must perhaps be traced to Melanchthon rather than to Jonas. Some of them are due to the fact that the translation was based in part not on the text of the editio princeps, but on the altered Latin octavo edition." For more details, I highly recommend this 1999 article by Fritz Schmitt on "The Impact of the German Apology."

Finally, a disclaimer: I have no academic background or expertise in this field, and no formal qualifications as a translator. I am, as my signature indicates, an LCMS layman; I have a strong interest in theology, basic competence in modern German from five years of study in high school and college, and access to helpful online resources. As a result, my new translations of the prefaces--as well as my thorough update of the Henkel text for the German Apology, which is now in progress--are highly literal, and admittedly a bit clunky. I would welcome review and correction or improvement of my work by someone with the appropriate credentials.

May God bless all who visit!

Your Turn / Which Book of Concord?
« on: October 05, 2014, 05:22:33 PM »
I was somewhat surprised to discover that neither the LCMS nor the ELCA specifies a particular version of each of the Lutheran Confessions when formally defining their own confessions in their respective constitutions.  (Of course, they do not specify a particular version of each book of Scripture, either.)  By contrast,the WELS Constitution explicitly cites "the Book of Concord of 1580," which presumably means the German text of each document as published at that time.  Interestingly, the LCMS website page on "Lutheran Confessions" states, "We accept the Lutheran Confessions as articulated in the Book of Concord of 1580 ..."

This actually creates a bit of a problem for us today, because the most recently published English translation of the entire 1580 German Book of Concord is the 1854(!) Henkel edition.  All subsequent compilations seem to have treated the original text of each individual document as authoritative--both German and Latin for the Augsburg Confession, Latin for the Apology and Treatise, and German for everything else.  This is especially significant when it comes to the Apology, since the 1580 German version of it was apparently "a very free translation which has been called a 'pious paraphrase'" (Tappert); so much so that the variations from the Latin are commonly omitted!

The differences between the German and Latin versions of other documents are presumably minor for the most part, but given the sheer amount of text, there are bound to be exceptions.  For example, AC VII is commonly quoted as saying, "And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments" (Triglotta).  But that is really only what the Latin says; the German says, "For it is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached in conformity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments be administered in accordance with the divine Word" (Tappert).  Here it is evident that the key requirement for unity is not merely agreement between people, but adherence what God Himself has established.

Anyway, I am interested in seeing what other folks here think about this.  Please vote in the poll and then post your comments.

Your Turn / A Proposed Definition of "Pure Doctrine"
« on: September 15, 2014, 09:43:19 PM »
I am opening this new thread, separate from the one on "The Nature and Authority of the Lutheran Confessions," in the hope of giving the conversation a fresh start without any of the baggage that has accumulated in that one.  I respectfully request that everyone offer their own thoughts and only respond to what others actually post here, rather than presupposing and/or attempting to preempt what they might have to say.

C. F. W. Walther's Thesis II on Law and Gospel states, "A pure teacher is only one who not only sets forth all articles of faith in accordance with Scripture, but also rightly distinguishes Law and Gospel from each other."  Since "doctrine" is just another word for "teaching"--in fact, the same German word is used for both, and Walther originally wrote his theses in that language--I do not think that it is too much of a stretch to rephrase this as asserting that pure doctrine consists of all articles of faith that are in accordance with Scripture and that rightly distinguish Law and Gospel.

Does anyone disagree with this formulation?  Is it in any way helpful for resolving the kinds of issues that have been raised in the other discussion?  For the sake of argument, does the mere adoption and enforcement of doctrinal resolutions by the LCMS constitute an application of the Law in situations that properly call for the application of the Gospel?  Are there specific LCMS doctrinal resolutions that fall into any of the 21 specific ways that Walther identified of not rightly distinguishing Law and Gospel in the Word of God?  If so, please be sure to identify each such resolution (or at least the substance of it) and the particular thesis (or theses) that it appears to violate.

For those not familiar with Walther's theses, I have posted 19 of the 25 in another thread, and will get the other six up there soon; in the meantime, they are also available here (Dau 1928) and here (Schaum 2010).

Your Turn / Walther's Theses on Law and Gospel
« on: September 02, 2014, 05:55:45 PM »
Over the holiday weekend, I finished the CPH Reader's Edition of Law and Gospel:  How to Read and Apply the Bible, by C. F. W. Walther, and thought that it might be interesting to see what the folks on this board have to say about each of its 25 theses.  This is not intended to become another LCMS vs. ELCA debate, or some sort of hagiography of the author; after all, as far as I can tell, this particular work does not actually have any official status in the LCMS.  It has never been formally adopted at a Convention by doctrinal resolution or statement, although I would imagine that it is still used at one or both of the LCMS seminaries.  In any case, I just would like to get feedback on whether and how these 25 assertions, taken at face value, bear on current Lutheran doctrine and practice, as well as assessment of other Christian traditions.  I am also in the process of tweeting summaries of them and want to make sure that I am capturing each one accurately in 140 characters or less.  My plan is to post a thesis or two at a time and see how it goes.

Thesis I
Walther 1901:  Der Lehrgehalt der ganzen heiligen Schrift, sowohl des Alten als des Neuen Testaments, besteht aus zwei von einander grundverschiedenen Lehren, naemlich dem Gesetz und dem Evangelio.
Dau 1928:  The doctrinal contents of the entire Holy Scriptures, both of the Old and the New Testament, are made up of two doctrines differing fundamentally from each other, viz., the Law and the Gospel.
Schaum 2010:  The doctrinal contents of all Holy Scripture, both of the Old and the New Testament, consist of two doctrines that differ fundamentally from each other.  These two doctrines are Law and Gospel.
Schmidt 2014:  The doctrinal content of all Holy Scripture, both the Old and the New Testament, consists of two doctrines that are fundamentally different from each other; namely, the Law and the Gospel.
Tweet:  01 Content of all Holy Scripture, both Old & New Testament, consists of 2 doctrines that differ fundamentally from each other: #LawAndGospel

Thesis II
Walther 1901:  Ein reiner Lehrer ist nur derjenige, welcher nicht nur alle Artikel des Glaubens schriftgemaess darlegt, sondern auch Gesetz und Evangelium recht von einander unterscheidet.
Dau 1928:  Only he is an orthodox teacher who not only presents all articles of faith in accordance with Scripture, but also rightly distinguishes from each other the Law and the Gospel.
Schaum 2010:  If you wish to be an orthodox teacher, you must present all the articles of faith in accordance with Scripture, yet [you] must also rightly distinguish Law and Gospel.
Schmidt 2014:  A pure teacher is only one who not only sets forth all articles of faith in accordance with Scripture, but also rightly distinguishes Law and Gospel from each other.
Tweet:  02 Pure teacher is 1 who not only sets forth all articles of faith in accordance w/ Scripture, but also rightly distinguishes #LawAndGospel

Edit:  Added orginal German texts (Walther 1901) and literal translations (Schmidt 2014), and revised tweets.

Your Turn / LCMS Doctrinal Statements
« on: August 31, 2010, 05:42:14 PM »
The "Doctrine" page on the LCMS website includes two documents that it characterizes as "Synodically Adopted Statements;" namely, A Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod (1932) and A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles (1973). From this it seems reasonable to infer that these are the only two such statements that are currently in effect; however, it turns out that this is not necessarily the case. Out of curiosity, I used the online contact form to ask where to find the complete text of all doctrinal resolutions and statements that have been officially adopted by the Synod and remain in force. I eventually heard back from Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, Executive Director of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations. He referred me to two very helpful resources:

  • A 2004 paper on "Congregations and Synod," specifically footnote 25 on page 12, which suggests that Walther's Theses on Church and Ministry (1851), Walther's Thirteen Theses on Predestination (1881), Part I of the Common Confession (1950), and the Statement on Scripture (1959) also "might be considered to fall in this category" of formal doctrinal statements.
  • A CD-ROM available from the Concordia Historical Institute (order form is here) that contains "The Doctrinal Resolutions of the National Conventions of The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod 1847-2004," including the complete text of all of these additional documents except the Statement on Scripture, which (conveniently) is posted on the WELS website because it was also adopted by the Synodical Conference.

As it turns out, although the LCMS technically never adopted Part II of the Common Confession as a doctrinal statement per se, the 1956 convention apparently did unanimously(!) pass a resolution "That the Common Confession, one document composed of Parts I and II, be recognized as a statement in harmony with the Sacred Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions."

Some questions to consider:

  • Should the LCMS make all of these doctrinal statements available on its website? I discovered that Walther's theses and (especially) the Common Confession are rather difficult to track down unless you happen to have the CHI CD-ROM.
  • For the sake of clarity, should the CTCR consider submitting any or all of these doctrinal statements to the next convention for (re-)adoption and subsequent ratification by a 2/3 majority of congregations voting within six months, in accordance with Bylaw 1.6.2?
  • On the other hand, should the LCMS consider amending or revoking any of these existing doctrinal statements? If so, why?
  • Should one of the outcomes of the Koinonia Project be a new doctrinal statement? If so, should it supplement or replace these existing ones?

Your Turn / Poll: Born Lutheran or a Convert?
« on: August 13, 2010, 05:43:30 PM »
Someone speculated in another thread that "probably three-fourths" of Lutherans "were born into it." Several others promptly indicated that they are converts and wondered aloud if they were really such a small percentage. So I thought, why not find out, at least among the participants here? Hopefully these six options cover all of the scenarios. Which one corresponds to your story?

Your Turn / ACELC Positions
« on: July 26, 2010, 01:10:07 PM »
The proposed Association of Confessing Evangelical Lutheran Congregations (ACELC) has stirred up a lively discussion in another thread, mostly about whether its approach of forming an organization and "admonishing" other members of the LCMS is appropriate, especially with President-Elect Harrison set to take office. What I would like to do here is focus on the specific positions that the ACELC has staked out and find out what others have to say about them. If you have not done so already, please take a look at the ACELC "Definition of Confessional Lutheranism" at

1. The Marks of the Church - This should not be controversial, since it is taken almost directly from the Lutheran Confessions.

2. The Doctrine of Justification - Likewise, although the ACELC claims that the alleged errors that follow constitute "a direct attack on the central doctrine."

3. The Office of the Holy Ministry - No lay ministers, no lay readers during worship, no homosexual clergy, and no female clergy.  The last two are the official position of the LCMS, but the first two are not. What are the Scriptural and theological reasons for having lay ministers and lay readers during worship? Why not maintain the tradition of requiring ordination for preaching the Word and administering the Sacraments, especially given AC XIV?  Why not maintain the tradition of having the pastor read all of the lessons?

4. The Role of Women - No female clergy (again), elders, congregational officers, lay readers, or Communion assistants. What are the Scriptural and theological reasons for having female elders, congregational officers, lay readers, and Communion assistants?  Why not maintain the tradition of limiting all of these roles to men?

5. The Form of Worship - Keep it liturgical, and do not conform it to the expectations of the world.  What are the Scriptural and theological reasons for changing the form of worship to a contemporary style? Why not maintain the tradition of following an approved liturgy in every worship service (i.e., Divine Service) at every congregation?

6. The Administration of the Lord's Supper - Retain closed communion, which is the (widely disregarded) official position of the LCMS. What are the Scriptural and theological reasons for allowing individuals to decide for themselves whether to receive Communion? Why not maintain the tradition of requiring (and enforcing) full doctrinal agreement, as evidenced by one's public confession?

7. The Means of Grace - Judge the "success" of a congregation and its pastor by the faithfulness of their teaching and preaching, rather than changes in attendance and membership numbers. What are the Scriptural and theological reasons for employing "church growth" techniques and metrics that have been developed and promoted by non-Lutherans? Why not maintain the tradition of simply preaching the Gospel and letting God work through His Word and Sacraments?

8. The Doctrine of Vocation - Focus on what God does in making disciples, rather than "human desire, passion, or effort." See #7 above.

9. The Dangers of Unionism and Syncretism - Reject false teachings and any activities that might be construed as endorsing them; e.g., a "civic event." What are the Scriptural and theological reasons for participating in public worship "with clergy of non-Lutheran church bodies or with false religions"? Why not maintain the tradition of avoiding even the appearance of agreeing with them or minimizing the differences?

Needless to say, I think that the burden of proof is on those who want to deviate from historic practices--after all, we are Lutheran, not Reformed; we generally believe in keeping anything and everything handed down to us that is not contrary to the Word of God--but my questions here are sincere. I am hoping to gain a better understanding of the doctrinal justification for some of the practices to which the ACELC objects; i.e., how and why they got started within the LCMS in the first place. Thanks in advance.

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