The ultimate ‘guiding concept’
Professor [William C.] Weinrich argues in a letter to Reporter (May 2005) that it is “methodologically mistaken to make discussion on the question of homosexual and lesbian behavior and ‘marriage’ into an issue of Biblical authority …” “The argument from the orders of creation,” he writes, “is fundamental to a meaningful response to the homosexual claims.” He likens the Missouri Synod’s response to the ELCA Statement on Sexuality to the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations’ (CTCR’s) 1994 report on “The Service of Women in Congregational and Synodical Offices,” the conclusions of which were affirmed by the LCMS in 2004 Res. 3-08A. Both of these documents, he suggests, are deficient in that they fail to show that “the argument from the orders of creation” is “indeed functioning as ‘the guiding concept.’ ”
Arguments based on the authority of Scripture, however — whether they have to do with homosexuality or with the service of women in congregational offices — are not incompatible with argumentation involving the order which God has placed in creation. The two are not mutually exclusive. It is that which the Bible teaches about the orders of creation that is normative.
In its 1985 report on “Women in the Church,” on which its 1994 report is based, the CTCR states: “God has given to that which has been created a certain definite order which, because it has been created by Him, is the expression of His immutable will. These relationships belong to the very structure of created existence” (Page 21; see also Pages 22-38).
But the order in creation to which the Commission here refers is the created order taught and applied in the texts of Holy Scripture. The members of the Missouri Synod accept without reservation “the Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament as the written Word of God,” which is therefore “the only rule and norm of faith and practice” (LCMS Constitution, Art. II, emphasis added).
The LCMS is a sola scriptura church. While the order which God has placed in creation, sometimes referred to as natural law, exists universally throughout creation, church doctrine must always be normed solely by what the apostles and prophets teach in the divinely inspired and inerrant Scriptures. This is as true for what we in the LCMS believe, teach, and confess about homosexuality and the service of women in the church as it is for all other doctrinal matters. As Dr. Weinrich would surely agree, it is the understanding of the order of creation clearly taught in Holy Scripture that serves as the foundation for what the LCMS believes about both homosexuality and the service of women in the church, and not “theological argumentation” based on natural law.
The LCMS holds that homosexual behavior is sinful because it believes that this is what the Bible teaches, e.g., Rom. 1:24-32; 1 Cor. 6:9-11. The LCMS holds that women may not hold the pastoral office or carry out its distinctive functions because it believes that this conclusion is based on “the clear teaching of Scripture.” The Synod has concluded that women may hold all humanly instituted offices because “we have no express ‘thus saith the Lord’ ” about who may hold these offices (2004 Res. 3-08A). If the job descriptions of these human offices call upon women to carry out distinctive pastoral functions, then, concludes the Synod, women may not hold such offices because this is what the Scriptures teach. In every case, determinative for the Synod is what it holds Holy Scripture teaches about these issues.
Natural law is God-created. It is universal. It is the expression of God’s immutable will. The “orders of creation” are in this sense “fundamental,” as Dr. Weinrich has pointed out. But where God’s Word does not speak clearly regarding its implications, the church should not make binding doctrinal statements. As the Brief Statement, adopted by the LCMS in 1932, makes clear, “neither an individual nor the Church as a whole is permitted to develop or augment the Christian doctrine, but are rather ordered and commanded by God to continue in the doctrine of the apostles, 2 Thess. 2:15; Acts 2:42. …”
Dr. Samuel H. Nafzger
Executive Director, CTCR
A new pattern?
The LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations’ “guide to district presidents dealing with ‘state of confession’ protests” (May ’05) regrettably follows a new pattern in our Synod that puts human regulations ahead of God’s Word. God forbids giving the Holy Supper to an impenitent public errorist. Yet someone who obeys this prohibition faithfully is to be treated in the same way as one who, contrary to God’s Word, practices “open communion”!
Then there is the notion of “ecclesiastical supervisor” invented by the Synod’s Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM). A pastor cannot be disciplined for participating in a joint service with official representatives of pagan religions if his “ecclesiastical supervisor” pretends that it is not a joint service! Further, the 2004 synodical Handbook attributes papal infallibility to the CCM and the CTCR by stating that dispute-resolution panels “must follow” their opinions.
The Reformation understood that only God’s Word can bind Christian consciences. Accordingly, the founders of our Synod refused to mix human regulations with God’s Word, but made only that Word binding and decisive. The Lord Himself said, “They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men” (Matt. 15:9). Unless these tragic lapses into medieval legalism are corrected and reversed, our Synod will cease to be an evangelical church.
Rev. Kurt E. Marquart
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology
Concordia Theological Seminary
Fort Wayne, Ind.
“Letters” may be sent via e-mail to REPORTER@lcms.org or by mail to REPORTER Letters, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295. Please include your name, postal address, and phone number. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.
Posted May 31, 2005