From Bailing Water:
Monday, October 27, 2008
Fundamental - non-fundamental
Years ago, I read an essay by Dr. P.E. Kretzmann: Fundamental and Non-fundamental Doctrines — and Church Fellowship. In this article, Dr. Kretzmann quotes from Dr. C.P. Krauth regarding the "Course of Error in the Church." It was this quote that inspired me to find a copy of Krauth's Conservative Reformation and it's Theology, and read it (this was before CPH started reprinting it). This is the quote:
"When error is admitted into the Church, it will be found that the stages in its progress are always three. It begins by asking toleration. Its friends say to the majority: 'You need not be afraid of us; we are few and weak; let us alone, we shall not disturb the faith of others. The Church has her standards of doctrine; of course we shall never interfere with them; we only ask for ourselves to be spared interference with our private opinions.' Indulged in for this time, error goes on to assert equal rights. Truth and error are balancing forces. The Church shall do nothing which looks like deciding between them; that would be partiality. It is bigotry to assert any superior right for the truth. We are to agree to differ, and any favoring of the truth, because it is truth, is partisanship. What the friends of truth and error hold in common is fundamental. Anything on which they differ is ipso facto non-essential. Anybody who makes account of such a thing is a disturber of the peace of the Church. Truth and error are two coordinate powers, and the great secret of church-statesmanship is to preserve the balance between them. From this point error soon goes on to its natural end, which is to assert supremacy. Truth started with tolerating; it comes to be merely tolerated, and that only for a time. Error claims a preference for its judgments on all disputed points. It puts men into positions, not as at first in spite of their departure from the Church’s faith, but in consequence of it. Their repudiation is that they repudiate that faith, and position is given them to teach others to repudiate it, and to make them skillful in combating it. (p. 195 f.)."
This is wise insight from a man who witnessed the decline of Lutheranism first hand, who had the courage to publicly fight against the error which was causing it, and to work toward unity. His effort not only made him a celebrated figure of his time, but a largely credible one as well.
Making application to our own time, Rev. Paul Kelm and company were asking for toleration two decades ago, and, using much the same “gee, they're so full of evangelical zeal, and such good Christian men” reasoning displayed by “WELS Pastor,” they were granted it. Some in our midst are still asking for toleration. Strident agents of "change," such as "WELS Pastor," it seems, are long past asking for toleration, however. They are demanding equivalency. It's obvious they intend to run a parallel church before moving to Krauth's final step of asserting supremacy. This is, after all, the objective of “change.”
But, while Krauth was addressing doctrine, are we not, in our case, looking at Lutheran practice? Yes and no. We are rightly concerned with practice as it is a reflection of what we Confess, and we see evidence of doctrinal error in the practice of the C&C crowd. When those who confess doctrinal unity with us engage in practice that is confusing or offensive, we have every right to demand of them an explanation, and they have every obligation to render one. Drawing the C&C or CG crowd into explanation of their practice, more and more, it seems, exposes their divergence from us and their disregard for anything more then rhetorical unity. So, while we take our queue from confusing and offensive practices endorsed by the C&C church-growthers, our concern is Confessional integrity.
As I continue to read and study, I am growing convinced that earlier discussions on this point are correct: WELS is facing a Confessional crisis.
GJ - To be precise, WELS has been avoiding a Confessional crisis for 20 years. The continued existence of Church and Change, the position of Bruce Becker in the catbird seat, the call of Paul Kelm, and the 2009 Ed Stetzer invitation - all point to a Confessional dissolution.
If the pastors can grow a spine and the laity pitch in to help, the Word can be applied to defeat this cancer. Without the Word, human effort is worthless and pointless.