Church & Office: Walther's Theses On The Church And The Office of The Ministry

One of the books I have the pleasure of owning and reading right now is C.F.W. Walther's The Church & The Office of The Ministry.

I'm told it's a classic work of Lutheran literature and it was recently released as "A Study Edition" edited by Rev. Matthew C. Harrison (LCMS President) and I got my hands on a copy for my library.

It's an intimidating book just by looking at it though! Not the kind of thing you'd probably expect most laymen to be familiar with let alone have the stomach to read. Trust me, I thought twice before attempting to tackle this bad boy myself. If I remember correctly, even our last Pastor was unfamiliar with it (or at least did not have his own copy).

What I like most about it is that it's rich with our church's history and theological buzz words (including some cool sounding German words too), and so even though it's a full 495 pages if you count the Index, I know I'm going to be blessed mightily by reading it, because what I've read so far has already given me a deeper appreciation and understanding for Christ's Church as it exists here on earth under the "Lutheran" name.

Besides, just because something's "hard" or "difficult" doesn't mean we should choose to ignore it, right? That would be to our great detriment I'm sure, especially since I'm finding that so much of what we're dealing with today as a church body has already happened and been dealt with in the past by our church fathers (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

In other words, not only is this book an excellent historical document, but it's also a powerful confessional resource that we can refer to again and again for guidance when it comes to fellowshipping with other believers, to congregational challenges, and to "church politics" let's say (at least, IMHO anyway).

Today, we'll be looking at the various Theses that Walther asserts. I should point out how this book is actually split into two distinct but interrelated parts -- "Part One: Concerning The Church" and "Part Two: Concerning The Holy Preaching Office Or The Pastoral Office."

Each Part contains multiple "Theses" that Walther says are Biblical truths about that aspect of Christianity and after he lists them he goes on to break them down for us in much greater detail citing Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, and quoting other Lutherans to help support each Thesis.

First, what is a "Thesis" though? Think of a "Thesis" as a sort of "Summary Statement" and so "Theses" (the plural form of the word) simply means "More Than One Summary Statement" we could say.

In this particular case, Part One would contain all the Theses (all the Summary Statements) that have to do with the Church itself and, therefore, Part Two would contain all the Theses (all the Summary Statements) that have to do with the Holy Preaching Office or the Pastoral Office specifically. Again, separate and distinct, but obviously interrelated.

Today, we'll look at the list of Theses for each section of the book (Part One and Part Two) that Walther intends to dissect for us so that we can better understand the Confessional Lutheran perspective and position in them since the very beginning.

So, without further adieu, here are the Theses that Walther makes for both halves, or Walther's Theses On The Church And The Office of The Ministry...




PART ONE: CONCERNING THE CHURCH

Thesis I [Church Defined]

Thesis II [Church Delimited]

Theses III [Invisible Church]

Thesis IV [Church Possesses the Keys]

Thesis V [Marks of the Church]

Thesis VI [Visible Churches]

Thesis VII [Church Authority]

Thesis VIII [Flee to Orthodox Churches]

Thesis IX [Fellowship in the Invisible Church]



PART TWO: CONCERNING THE HOLY PREACHING OFFICE OR THE PASTORAL OFFICE

Thesis I [Pastor and Priest Distinguished]

Thesis II [Divine Institution]

Thesis III [Bound to Preaching Office]

Thesis IV [Office of Service]

Thesis V [Authority]

Thesis VI [Divine Call and Ordination]

Thesis VII [Divine Authority Conferred]

Thesis VIII [Highest Office]

Thesis IX [No Dominion]

Thesis X [Judging Doctrine]


These two lists alone are enough to get me excited about reading the rest of this book. There's just so many directions he could take things under each subheading. I mean, my goodness, just look at some of the topics he addresses head on!

It's just so refreshing to me in a day-and-age where everyone wants to avoid "difficult" and "messy" conversations about these sorts of things.

What about you though? Does anything jump out at you from those two lists? What Theses are you most interested in reading about?

By the way, I was originally going to include the actual meat-and-potatoes of each Thesis above, but figured I'd hold off for now so that I didn't overwhelm anyone.

So, since I plan to share my findings on each Thesis as I read through them, I'll be sure to introduce the Thesis with Walther's definitive statement on such first. I hope you don't mind.

Now, I know that this type of Book Review (where we take a doctrinally rich book like this and break it down section by section) has a tendency to become rather academic and perhaps even tedious, but I hope that's not the case, and that you find these observations of a humble Lutheran layman both edifying and educational.

In a Lutheran Layman's terms, this is an important document for the LCMS Church and for those believers who are a part of it. It was important back then and it's still important today.

Please take the time to prayerfully consider its contents as they relate to God's Word and point us to Christ and a proper understanding of His Church and The Office of The Holy Ministry that He established for us.

[NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray. Finally, you might discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog definitely fall into that category since I was a Lutheran-In-Name-Only at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. I decided to leave those published posts up only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time and help. Grace and peace to you and yours!]

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with...Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all mature spiritually (myself included) then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!