1955 Synod Convention Essay
Respecting the authority of the Bible is distinctively Lutheran. The Roman Catholic Church acknowledges the principle of the authority of the Bible but it violates that principle by making the Pope the highest authority in the church insisting that he shall interpret the Bible. The Reformed churches also acknowledge the principle of the authority of the Bible but they set aside that authority by teaching that human reason must have a voice in determining Christian teaching. The Lutheran church alone upholds the principle that the Bible, and it alone, can determine what we are to believe and do. Even a casual reference to the Lutheran Confessions makes that fact clear.
The respect of the Lutheran Church for the authority of the Bible stems from the central teaching of the Lutheran church, salvation by grace through faith in Christ.
Lutheran theology sets forth the fact that the main purpose for which God has given us the Bible is that we may be made wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3;15).
We may very well apply to the entire Bible the statement of the Gospel according to St. John, 20,31, familiar to all of us because it is from the old standard series of Gospel lessons for the Sunday after Easter: “These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; And that believing ye might have life through his name.”
This Christ-centered purpose of the Bible is emphasized in our Lutheran Confessions — (The Apology IV, 87, 102; XII, 53; XX, 2) — These and similar portions of the Lutheran Confessions show us that the purpose of God in giving us the Bible is that we should believe in Jesus as our Savior. The Apology to the Augsburg Confession goes so far as actually to say, “Without the knowledge of the Gospel the Bible remains a meaningless book.” (Ap. III, 255).
It is the love of God in Christ Jesus which gives the Lutheran the deep respect he has for the authority of the Bible. The Lutheran sees the God of the Bible not as a stern and ferocious Judge who is ready to pounce upon him and throw him into hell. He sees the God revealed in the Bible as a loving Father who has adopted him into the heavenly family by bringing him to believe in Jesus as his Savior. The precious promises of salvation, the glorious message of reconciliation, the prospect of an eternal home in heaven, these are the concepts which move the heart of man to respect the authority of the Bible.
Lutheran theology proclaims this love of God in Christ to all the world. The outcast of society, the prodigal son, the wayward daughter, the proud Pharisee, the crucified thief, all these are drawn through the love of God in Christ Jesus to take their places beside Moses and Abraham, Paul and John in the kingdom of glory.
Because the love of God in Christ Jesus is meaningless without the authority of the Bible to confirm this outstanding message, therefore, Lutherans respect the authority of the Bible.
This respect for the authority of the Bible becomes evident even when disruptions occur within the Lutheran Church. At such times Lutherans who are true to their confessions show a marked concern about safeguarding the doctrine of salvation by grace.
The moment that Lutherans fall from the teaching of the Bible that salvation is from start to finish the work of God’s grace in Jesus, that moment they lose the truly Lutheran respect for the authority of the Bible.
If a person takes credit for ever so little of his own salvation to himself, he loses a measure of his respect for the authority of the Bible, because he discredits the biblical concept that God’s grace in Christ is totally indispensable.
Respect for the authority of the Bible was demonstrated rather forcefully in the two recent meetings of a committee of three members from each of the four synods comprising the Synodical Conference. That was the committee on doctrine appointed to study “The Common Confession” adopted by the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and by the American Lutheran Church.
At the meeting of those twelve men, it became thoroughly evident that there was a uniform respect for the authority of the Bible. That respect for the authority of the Bible, we are confident, characterizes our entire Synodical Conference, casual aberrations notwithstanding.
The entire Synodical Conference is agreed that the Bible is the only rule and guide for faith and life. All of us are agreed that every word of the Bible is given to us by the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit.
Everyone in our Synodical Conference will endorse the following statement from Doctor Pieper:
“Holy Scripture possesses divine authority, that is, in all that it says it is entitled to the same faith and obedience that is due God … This divine authority of Scripture is absolute.” (Christian Dogmatics, Vol I, page 307.)
“To settle a doctrinal controversy, two rules, to which also our old theologians constantly call attention, must be observed. 1) Define exactly the question at issue … and 2) When that has been done, let those passages speak which treat of the controversial point. Then Scripture itself will decide the matter with the greatest clearness and certainty. Christian Dogmatics, Vol I, page 350).
Everyone within the Synodical Conference subscribes to the statement with which “The Formula of Concord” begins:
“We believe, teach, and confess that the sole rule and standard accord to which all dogma together with (all) teachers should be estimated judged are the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and New Testament alone …”
However, in view of some situations and disturbances which have arisen within our Synodical Conference, the president of our synod asked for an essay on the topic:
RESPECTING THE AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE
When issues arise which touch the very heart of the precious doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Christ, we need to be very careful; on the one hand, that we allow nothing to contaminate our precious treasure of salvation, and, on the other hand, that we allow nothing to excite us to the point that we forget the beautiful example of patience and forbearance, even while rebuking error, which our Savior is compelled to exercise with each and everyone of us in order to keep us in the faith and lead us into heaven.
Our synod became disturbed in 1938 when our sister Synod, The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod did not flatly reject the following sentence from the so-called, “Declaration” presented to it by the American Lutheran Church:
“To this end He (God) also purposes to justify those who have come to faith.”
We were disturbed because one may get the impression from this sentence that coming to faith is some kind of meritorious work performed by man, which influences God to justify him.
Our synod explained its dissatisfaction with this sentence. The explanation is found in our overture to the Synodical Conference Convention. It was printed in our Convention report of last year, page 44:
“This means that the term ‘justification’ applies only to believers, to those who are ‘elected in view of their faith,’ (Lenski’s Commentary on Romans 1:17) not to the ‘ungodly’ or to ‘sinners.’” (Lenski on Romans 4:5 and Romans 5:16–19).
Our respect for the authority of the Bible has moved us to oppose steadfastly the false doctrine of an “election in view of faith.”
Similarly, and also in the area of the sinner’s justification before God (we are confining ourselves to that area in our essay), our respect for the authority of the Bible has made us zealous in upholding the biblical doctrine that God has declared the whole world righteous in Christ.
This doctrine has often been called by our older theologians “Objective Justification.” It is a precious teaching of the Bible. Therefore, our synod was disturbed when our sister-synod, the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, adopted at its convention in 1950 a document called “The Common Confession” which contains the sentence:
“By His redemptive work Christ is the Propitiation for the sins of the whole world; hence the forgiveness of sin has been assured and provided for all men. (This is often spoken of as objective justification.)”
From this sentence, one may gain the impression that although Christ has redeemed all people, God has not declared all people righteous in Christ.
Our synod expressed itself as not satisfied with the definition of objective justification just quoted from “The Common Confession.” In our overture to the Synodical Conference Convention last year, our synod stated:
“… The doctrine that forgiveness of sin has been secured and provided for all men belongs to the article concerning Redemption, not to that of Justification. And the American Lutheran Church has never denied that the redemption of Christ covers all men, whether they believe or not …” (See Convention Report of our Synod, p. 44).
Since “The Common Confession” was to have settled, among other things, the difference which has existed between the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and the American Lutheran Church on the doctrine of objective justification, our Synod expected a statement so clear that one would have no trouble in understanding that God has declared the whole world righteous in Christ before any individual takes personal possession of that justification by the operation of the Holy Ghost through the means of grace to believe it.
In its respect for the authority of the Bible, our Synod presented its overture to the Synodical Conference and asked that body to adopt a definition of objective justification which is clear and concise. This the Synodical Conference did.
The definition reads as follows:
“This doctrine (of universal justification) is expressly stated in Romans 5:18; and it is, therefore, not only a biblical doctrine, but also a biblical expression, that ‘justification of life has come upon all men’ (Luther’s translation). Only a Calvanistic interpretation could explain this passage so as to make out that only the elect have been justified …
Those who say that God has made the whole world righteous, but deny that He has declared the whole world righteous, deny thereby in reality the whole of justification; for this that the Father has declared the world righteous must not be separated from this that the Son made the world righteous, when the Father raised Christ from the dead.” (See Report of the Thirty-seventh Regular Convention of the Norwegian Synod of the American Evangelical Lutheran Church, page 43).
The clarity with which Romans 5:18 sets forth the doctrine of objective justification becomes apparent when a person compares a few popular translations of the passage.
The King James Version translates:
“Therefore as by the offence of one (judgment came) upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one (the free gift came) upon all men unto justification of life.”
The Revised Standard Version translates:
“Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.”
Phillips, in his Letters to Young Churches, translates:
“One man’s disobedience placed all men under the threat of condemnation, but One man’s obedience has the power to present all men righteous before God.”
“Accordingly then, as through one’s fall — for all men a verdict of condemnation; so also through One’s verdict of justification — for all men a declaring righteous to life.”
Microscopic analysis is not necessary to show that all four of those translations set forth the doctrine of objective justification.
Objective justification of all people has taken place before individuals have taken personal possession of their justification through faith in Jesus. That is why it is called “objective” justification.
Dr. Pieper says:
“Objective justification precedes faith, for it is the object of faith, and its proclamation creates faith.” (Rom. 10:17. (Christian Dogmatics, Vol. II, p. 552).
In article IV of the Augsburg Confession, the teaching of the Lutheran Churches on Justification is stated as follows:
“Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, Who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight.” Romans 3 and 4.
In this article we notice justification presented in both its aspects: objective in considering what people believe, subjective in considering when people believe.
Ir the expression “freely justified for Christ’s sake” would be entirely isolated from its context, we would have what we call objective justification. Taking that expression in its context, “are freely justified for Christ’s sake, when they believe that they are received into favor …” we have what we call subjective justification.
Doctor Pieper sets forth a very clearcut distinction between objective and subjective justification when he says:
“When the sinner comes to faith in Christ or in the Gospel, he is at once justified before God by his faith. Since the Gospel offers him the forgiveness of sins gained by Christ for the whole world (objective justification), the acceptance of this offer, by faith, is all that is needed to accomplish his subjective justification.” (Christian Dogmatics, II p. 503).
Because our respect for the authority of the Bible is motivated by our appreciation of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Christ, we wish to do all that God gives us grace and opportunity to do to safeguard this precious doctrine from anything which might possibly serve to create misunderstanding in regard to any part of it.
Therefore, our synod asked the Synodical Conference “to reject the St. Louis Resolutions of 1938 and “The Common Confession” as satisfactory doctrinal statements.” This request the Synodical Conference referred to a committee of representatives from each of the four synods in order “to remove whatever might threaten to disturb” the unity of the Synodical Conference.
While it would be of great value to the unity of the Synodical Conference if the two documents were rescinded, it would be of even greater value if the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod would adopt at its convention next year, resolutions similar to the following:
“We reject any interpretation of the Common Confession, the 1938 Union Resolutions, or any existing document, which implies election in view of faith.
“We reject any interpretation of the Common Confession, the 1938 Union Resolutions, or any existing document, which implies that God has not declared the whole world righteous in Christ.”
Such procedure follows the sound Lutheran practice cited earlier in this essay: “1) Define exactly the question at issue … 2) Let those passages speak which treat of the controversial point. Then Scripture itself will decide the matter with the greatest clearness and certainty.”
When the suggestion of such clear-cut rejections of false doctrine was made to the representatives from the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod at the meeting of the Synodical Conference committee dealing with “The Common Confession,” all three members from the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod agreed at once to such a rejection.
Furthermore, all three of those men indicated that they were certain that their synod would not hesitate to adopt such resolutions.
The resolution adopted at the June 15, 1955, meeting of the Synodical Conference Committee on Doctrine reads as follows:
“WHEREAS in consequence of the recent fellowship negotiations fears have been expressed that error may creep into the constituent synods of the Synodical Conference; therefore be it
RESOLVED, that the Synodical Conference Committee on Doctrinal Issues recommend to the President of the Synodical Conference that he immediately request the various synodical presidents to ask their Union committees at once — jointly — to draw up antitheses concerning those points which have caused apprehension in any of the constituent synods; and, be it further
RESOLVED, that the Synodical Conference Committee on Doctrinal Issues request the President of the Synodical Conference to ask the chairman of the Missouri Synod Committee on Doctrinal Unity to take the initiative and call a meeting of the Union committees of the constituent synods for this purpose as soon as possible.”
However, our respect for the authority of the Bible requires more than resolutions and official confessions of churches with which we are in fellowship.
Dr. Pieper puts it this way:
“A church body is orthodox if the true doctrine, as we have it in the Augsburg Confession and the other Lutheran Symbols, is actually taught in its pulpits and its publications and not merely ‘officially’ professed as its faith. Not the ‘official’ doctrine, but the actual teaching determines the character of a church body, because Christ enjoins that all things whatsoever He has commanded His disciples should actually he taught and not merely acknowledged in an ‘official document’ as the correct doctrine.” (Christian Dogmatics, Vo. III, page 423).
Therefore, we have been given the assurance that our discussions with the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod will cover all fields in which there have been differences between us.
Our respect for the authority of the Bible must be of such a nature that it includes all things which are commanded us of God, even those areas which involve human judgment in the timing of our application of Bible passages relating to the continuing or the breaking of fellowship relations with a church body in our Synodical Conference.
The apostle Paul and his co-worker Barnabas went from Antioch to Jerusalem for a discussion regarding a matter of doctrine and practice in the early church. When the conference was over they returned to Antioch and reported.
That done, the apostle Paul said in effect to Barnabas: “Let’s take a trip to all the cities in which we’ve preached the gospel and see how the people are getting along.”
Barnabas agreed but wanted to take John Mark along. Paul’s answer was to the effect: “Nothing doing. Mark abandoned us at Pamphylia on a previous trip and I simply will not consider taking him along.”
Sad to say, “The contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; and Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.” (Acts 15,36ff.)
We are confident that both Paul and Barnabas governed their actions on the basis of Bible truths. However, in the case before us there was a difference in human judgment in the application of Bible truths to a specific case.
Paul’s judgment said: “I want a co-worker who does not quit. No second chance for one who has failed me before. The work is too important to chance having a quitter along.”
Barnabas’ judgment said: “Mark needs another chance. He needs more encouragement to be faithful to his Savior.”
In His grace, God showed that Barnabas had not done wrong in giving John Mark a second chance to prove himself. Mark turned out to be a very faithful servant of the Lord. The Gospel according to St. Mark proves that very well.
St. Paul was such a monument to God’s grace in Christ that he modified his judgment and accepted John Mark as a coworker in the ministry. Paul proved that when he wrote to Timothy: “Take Mark and bring him with thee; for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” (2 Timothy 4,11)
By God’s grace, all of us have been brought to a deep respect for the authority of the Bible. We have been troubled by some of the things which have happened within the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. With equal respect for the authority of the Bible, some among us have concluded that now is the time when we must follow Romans 16,17 and “Avoid them,” while others have concluded that now is the time to continue to apply Galatians 6,1 and “restore such an one in the spirit of meekness.”
By God’s grace, and out of respect for the authority of the Bible, we recognize that all of us still have flesh and blood. Those who wish to break now realize that flesh and blood cry out for an end of annoying situations. Those who wish to continue to try for harmony realize that flesh and blood cry out to escape inconveniences.
Therefore, we scrutinize the passages involved very carefully, weighing them and balancing them with our conduct.
The clarity of Romans 16,17–18 has never been questioned in our Synod. It is so clear that a modern translation of the Bible such as the Revised Standard Version casts no shadow over it. We quote: “I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissension and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by fair and flattering words they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded.”
While there are circumstances under which there is a proper involvement of human judgment in the timing of the application of this passage, circumstances never arise which permit the mutilation of the passage. It is altogether false teaching to say that human judgment is to determine whether or not a person causing divisions is serving his own appetite and, on the basis of that judgment, to determine whether or not such a division-maker is to be avoided.
As a result of some questionable exegesis of Romans 16,17–18, thrown out for discussion in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod in 1945, the president of that body had a guideline for study prepared and distributed in 1951. That guide line sets forth the Scriptural truth that we are to avoid those who make divisions and offenses, and that it is not our province to determine whether or not they serve their own appetites, because God has settled that matter for us.
However, as we have indicated, there are passages in the Bible which our respect for their authority compels us to view simultaneously with Romans 16,17 and similar passages.
Galatians 6,1 is such a passage: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” Likewise, Ephesians 4,2–3 comes into consideration: “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forebearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
We wish to give full respect to the authority of the Bible in considering passages which ask for severance of fellowship and also for those which speak of seeking to restore the unity which the Spirit of God produces through His Word.
We are giving thought to a resolution of the Synodical Conference which would make it impossible for the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod to become involved with such negotiations with other church bodies as those which brought about the 1938 Resolutions and “The Common Confession.” The resolution which was adopted reads: “Resolved, That we respectfully petition the four constituent synods to agree to act in unison in any possible future discussions with other church bodies…”
This resolution has not been invalidated by a recent article in the Lutheran Standard which speaks of friendly relations between the commissioners of the American Lutheran Church and the unity committee of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.
We are also giving thought to a resolution of the Synodical Conference which prompted each synod to appoint committees to study “such areas of doctrine and/or practice as need clarification and settlement among us …” Study of such matters was assigned to the theological faculties, mixed conferences, other smaller groups and the sessions of the Synodical Conference.
We are not ignoring the effect which the merger action of the American Lutheran Church with the other bodies of the American Lutheran Conference will have upon the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.
Human judgment is not infallible. But when it comes to the timing of severance or continuation of fellowship with the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod at this stage of developments, human judgment is inescapably involved because of our respect for the authority of the Bible. We do not want to violate even one passage of the Bible.
We acknowledge the limitations of human judgment and we admit that circumstances create fluctuations in our thinking. One is reminded of something William Hays wrote way back in 1913:
“The self-same person, according to the line of thought he may be in or to his emotional mood, will apperceive the same impression quite differently on different occasions. A medical or engineering expert retained on one side of a case will not apperceive the facts in the same way as if the other side had retained him.”
In the matter before us this year regarding our relationship with the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synods, we must bear in mind that each one of us voting on this matter assumes a tremendous moral responsibility. We have to answer as individuals such questions as: “Before God can I honestly say I have done all that lies in my power to help the weak and to encourage the steadfast in my sister-synod? Am I treating my brothers and sisters in the faith in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod with a patience and long suffering which approximates very closely that which my Savior must exercise with me if I am to enter heaven?”
It is difficult to forget the statement of St. Luke to which Pastor Christian Anderson made reference in the latest Clergy Bulletin. Pastor Christian Anderson referred to the words of the husbandman: “Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.”
The more deeply we have tasted the goodness and the love of God revealed to us in the Bible, the more we have found comfort in our Savior’s manner of dealing with the lost and the fallen, the more we have become very, very conscious of our own utter and complete dependence upon the grace of God alone for our personal salvation, the more sincerely we confess with the hymn writer, “Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling,” the more we will be inclined to pray: Oh, Thou merciful and gracious God, who hast snatched me from the clutches of the devil and hast closed the abyss of hell before my very eyes, grant me grace that in all my dealings with my fellowmen, Thy love for me may be clearly evident. If, O Lord, I should make a mistake in my dealings with my fellowmen, let me ever remember that Thou hast declared the whole world righteous in Christ, so that my mistake may be that I have leaned too far on the side of love, sympathetic understanding of human frailties, patience and forbearance, than that I have become guilty of leaning too far in the direction of cutting them off too soon from my fellowship.
If the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod had declared that it had abandoned its doctrinal position set forth in its Brief Statement, if it had declared that it no longer believed and taught the doctrine of objective justification, if it had declared that it no longer would accept the principal of verbal inspiration, then our respect for the authority of the Bible would demand that we sever our relationship with that church body at once.
But the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod has never made such a declaration of abandonment of its doctrinal position as set forth in the Brief Statement.
On April 21, 1955, I wrote to the President of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod as follows:
“Dear Doctor Behnken,
“I am one of the essayists for our synodical convention to be held in June. I’d appreciate it very much if you would be willing to inform me on a matter which has puzzled me somewhat.
“What is the relationship between the Brief Statement and the Common Confession in the doctrinal position of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod?
“Is one to assume that because the Common Confession is the more recent statement of doctrinal position, it supersedes the Brief Statement?
“Or, is one to assume that the Brief Statement is to be interpreted in the light of the Common Confession?
“Since the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod is the major synod in the Synodical Conference, is it proper to assume the resolution passed by the conference in Chicago, ‘… not to use the Common Confession as a functioning union document …’ signifies that the Brief Statement is still the primary statement of doctrine for the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod?
“Would you kindly grant me a reply to these questions in such a form that I may be permitted to use those answers in my essay as direct quotations from you?”
The following reply was received from Doctor Behnken on April 30, 1955.
“Dear Brother Strand,
“Your letter, under date of April 21, was duly received. Gladly will I give you the requested information as well as I can do it. “The Brief Statement was officially adopted by the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod in 1932. Though no attention was given the matter at the time, I have been informed that it was not unanimously adopted. There was one vote against it. At our Centennial Convention in Chicago, Synod voted to reaffirm the Brief Statement.
“The resolution read: ‘RESOLVED, That our Synod again declare that the Brief Statement correctly expresses its doctrinal position; and that our Synod fervently pray the Lord of the Church to keep us faithful in the truth of His Word and preserve us from all error. That the Brief Statement, adopted by Synod in 1932, be incorporated in the official Proceedings of this convention.’ (1947 Proceedings, Page 476)
“The Common Confession (Part I) was adopted in 1950. The vote was not unanimous. To the best of my judgment there were about six to eight votes against the resolution to adopt. We do not hold that the Common Confession supersedes the Brief Statement, though it is a more recent statement. We still hold firmly to the resolutions of 1932 and 1947 concerning the Brief Statement.
“We have never claimed that the Brief Statement is to be interpreted in the light of the Common Confession. We have held that the Common Confession is not at variance with the Brief Statement.
It is a shorter document. It has received some clarifications and amendments in Common Confession, Part II, which, however, has not yet been adopted by the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. I might add here that, if any interpretation must be given, one in the light of the other, (though I do not believe that this is necessary), then the Common Confession must be interpreted in the light of the Brief Statement.
“The Brief Statement is still the primary brief statement of the doctrinal position of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. In reality the primary statement of doctrine is Holy Writ and the Lutheran Confession, which we believe to be the correct interpretation of Holy Writ. However, in the Brief Statement our Synod has stated very briefly what its doctrinal position is. We believe that it sets forth the Scriptural doctrine very excellently.
“Hoping that the above gives you the desired information and wishing you the Lord’s blessings in the preparation of your essay for your Synodical Convention, I am with kindest greetings, Fraternally yours, J.W. Behnken.”
In view of this statement from the president of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, one cannot regard as contrary to the Bible the judgment of those who are inclined to hope that through brotherly meetings with people from our sister-synod there will emerge clear, unambiguous statements on the doctrine of inspiration, objective justification, church fellowship and all doctrines and practices involved in our disagreements.
We have every reason to believe that the mutual respect for the authority of the Bible which prevails in all the synods of our Synodical Conference, will, by the grace of God, bring into being a clarification of our doctrinal position which will heal the bruises which have been sustained and will be carried over into our practice without fail.
Our respect for the authority of the Bible demands of us that we give the same reverence to I Corinthians 13, that we give to Romans 16,17–18.
It is admitted among us that there are many within the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod who are staunch defenders of the truth and who are bearing testimony against error whenever it arises. It is also recognized among us that efforts toward maintaining discipline are being exerted in our sister synod, even though scant publicity is given to those efforts, as far as outsiders are concerned.
It may not be taken amiss to state that an official of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod informed me that a letter was sent to all clergymen in that church body with the information that disciplinary action is being taken by that synod in the case of a pastor who has made doctrinally unsound statements in public gatherings.
True, we may sometimes be inclined to view some of the disciplinary action taken by our sister synod as inadequate. However, that does not actually indicate that it is hopeless to believe that as long as there is a mutual respect for the authority of the Bible, it is definitely in the range of the power of God’s grace to re-establish “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” among us. The real issue before us is this: Can we be of more service to the Lord in His efforts to lead His people into the kingdom of heaven by breaking this year with the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, or by using our opportunities in all meekness and love to rectify what is amiss?
I believe I will not be misunderstood if I say in conclusion that when Cain asked the Lord: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The Lord’s treatment of Cain indicated that the Lord was not so much concerned about whether or not Cain regarded himself as his brother’s keeper as He was concerned about whether or not Cain had been his brother’s brother.
As we contemplate our relations with the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod on the basis of our respect for the authority of the Bible, let’s be sure we ask ourselves very earnestly: “Am I my brother’s brother?”