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A Lutheran Manifesto

Reading "Synodical Defection From Scripture" today, I think it's hard for anyone to disagree with the opening statements.


The case of Dr. Matthew L. Becker illustrates defection from Scripture by the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. This defection is not by the laity, nor by a majority of its theologians, doctors, seminary professors, or pastors, nor its President. This defection is by the Synod as synod. 
Dr. Becker is on the roster of ordained clergy of the Synod. He is an impressively accomplished Professor at Valparaiso University. He has done fill-in or vacancy work in congregations, including teaching confirmands. He publicly teaches a variety of doctrines that are, to put it politely, at variance from those of the Synod.[1] These teachings touch on the office of public ministry, creation, the order of creation, the fall, sin, Scripture, and I don’t know what all (but I keep reading more of it, and it’s voluminous).[2] 
The problem is not Dr. Becker, for "the Beckers ye always have with you." In fact, this is the same tired, old, unimaginative stuff from the 1880s, 1920s, and 1960s. The problem is the Synod.


Welcome to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) circa 2015.

It's quite unfortunate that we live in a day and age when our Lutheran Confessions (as compiled in the Christian Book of Concord) have become an afterthought to a majority of people.

I would even go so far as to say that they have become nothing more than a quaint knickknack that adorns Lutheran church libraries, Lutheran Pastors' desks, and Concordia Seminaries despite the lives that were destroyed (in some cases, the lives that were lost).

Why were people willing to die to preserve the truth? Because there were some faithful believers in times past who wished to see to it that you and me had such writings which proclaim Biblical truth, Law and Gospel, and Christ crucified for the sins of all mankind in all its precious glory.

So many of us have broken hearts this week after the images of the Coptic Christian martyrs being slaughtered for their faith in Christ were burned into our brains in recent days, and rightfully so.

Yet, how many of us realize that there were many other Christian martyrs from roughly 500 years ago who are also deserving of our tears? After all, they gave us the gift of the Christian Book of Concord, paid for with their own blood, in order to preserve the truth about the only shed blood that truly means anything in this life because it's the bridge to the life to come for all eternity with Christ Jesus.

I'm afraid we've come to the point in the history of Christ's Church as it exists in the LCMS where we need to repent and return to "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) and snap ourselves out of this spiritual amnesia that has prevented us from remembering how we became the Lutheran Church in the first place.

Back in 2008, Pastor Fritz Baue crafted a remarkable document he called "A Lutheran Manifesto" in response to the false teachers and their false teachings infecting the church from within with "its purpose is to exhort the reader to action."

His carefully written confession prompted several Pastors and laymen to sign their name to the document in support of its goals and message to believers today.

Here are just a few of the things that people had to say about it (from some names you'll surely recognize too)...


Pastor Timothy Rossow: "This is a masterfully crafted piece of theology for the 21st century. It is simultaneously firm yet irenic. May God use this document to unite Lutherans around the Augsburg Confession (and the other Confessions) at this crucial juncture in church history."

Norm Fisher: "Very powerful statement!"

Fritz A. Raedeke: "Thank you for drafting this manifesto. I pray that it may serve as a rallying point for our church."

Steven L. Bobb: "May my own parish read and learn."

Larry Lee: "A magnificent public declaration of Christian principles that made my day! This brings about renewed memories of the joyous feeling of my new birth. Thanks."

David Atkinson: "Thank you for a clear and timely summary of Confessional Lutheranism."

Ron Revels: "A wonderfully concise treatise of Christian beliefs."

Rev. James A. Roemke: "Lord, keep us steadfast in your Word; curb those who by deceit or sword would wrest the kingdom from Your Son and bring to nought all He has done."

Rev. Larry Yaw: "Thanks for a clear voice, when most things seem indistinguishable. 'I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.'"

Gayle Wehrli: "Thanks for writing such a clear, concise and forceful document of how we confessionals feel about what our place in the new order of things in the Christian church should be."

Michael Mapus: "We needed something like this for Confessional Lutherans to rally around. Very well done."

Sherry Grote: "Thank you for such a concise statement of Lutheran doctrine. May the Almighty Father grant us His Holy Spirit, that His Word may not be bound but have free course and be preached to the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people, that we may serve Him and abide until the end."

William E. Sinkhorn: "I pray every Lutheran signs this and that the ideas inshrined are accepted by ever Christian in American and the World. Help us Christ!!"

John A. Mohler: "What this adult convert has been wishing for!" Rev Lee Wenskay: "A clear clarion call that is much needed in the church today. I will forward it to the brothers in the circuit, whom I am sure will join me in signing this. Is there a melody that accompanies Men of Wittenberg, Arise?"

Rev Andrew Wollman: "Thank you for this fine summary of our confessions and how they apply to contemporary matters in our church. I recommend it for all to read!"

Elder Andrew Hansen: "We are fighting the good fight here. Please all pray for us, we need it desperately!"


I know, that's quite the introduction, but I can assure you that it's certainly warranted.

My dear friends, that was 2008. Here we are, 7 years later, and it seems as if things have gotten much worse instead of better. I mean, this is the #YOHBT , isn't it?

That's why I wanted to share this exemplary Lutheran Manifesto with you. Personally, I find it to be quite powerful as well and it's the perfect complement to the work currently being done by the ACELC too.

I'm even going to call it "Required Reading" for all Lutherans, especially those in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS).

Pastor Baue introduced his Lutheran Manifesto with the following letter.



 
A LUTHERAN MANIFESTO 
Cover Letter

Dear Reader, 
Greetings to you and blessings through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! 
You have before you a document entitled, "A Lutheran Manifesto." Let me say a word about it by way of introduction. 
I the undersigned am the sole author. I take complete responsibility for its contents. I have called it a "manifesto" in that its purpose is to exhort the reader to action. The manifesto contains twelve theses, each derived from the Articles of the Augsburg Confession. There are twenty-eight articles in the Augsburg Confession, but as a number of these address the same subject, I have combined them thematically. 
What I am trying to achieve here is to view the current confessional crisis in the Lutheran church through the lenses of the Augsburg Confession. 
The crisis is this: many Lutheran pastors, teachers, laymen, and congregations have not fulfilled their vow to be faithful to the Lutheran Confessions. They uphold the Bible, but waver on the Confessions. 
I want to show that the Augsburg Confession, written in 1530, is still relevant. It still is valid. It still speaks to the issues and conflicts we are faced with today. 
Let me be perfectly clear about one thing. This is not a new confession. I am not seeking to create division in the church, but unity. I am not seeking subscribers in the confessional sense. However, if readers wish to indicate by the website petition form that they agree with what I have said, they are certainly free to do so. 
Most of all I want the manifesto to stimulate evangelical conversation. I want it to influence thinking. And I want it to move us back toward concord.  
It is painfully obvious that we do not have concord -- "complete unity in doctrine and practice" -- in the LCMS today. At the 2007 Convention of Synod, an amendment that said that the Missouri Synod was divided lost by a 51-49% margin! 
I have tried to make this manifesto irenic and not polemical in tone. But in defining the issues, the manifesto will I think show that not everyone who claims to be Lutheran truly is Lutheran. The manifesto is worded so as to call back to the fold those who have strayed. However, it does seem clear that at some point in the future hard decisions will have to be made. This would entail a decision on the part of those who have strayed, either to repent or to leave. Or it would entail action on the part of church leaders who must call them to account. 
About the writing: for rhetorical purposes I am using the word "men" in its correct, historic, and inclusive sense. I am using "we" in the sense that I am articulating a generally-held climate of opinion among authentic Lutherans. By "authentic Lutheran" or a "man of Wittenberg" I mean someone who not only accepts the Bible as divinely inspired and inerrant, but who also fully, firmly and unreservedly accepts and applies the teachings of the Book of Concord in doctrine and practice. This as opposed to those who, while outwardly Lutheran, assimilate to the doctrine and practice other religious bodies. 
While I am a pastor of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, I am writing also on behalf of teachers, laymen, and congregations who still hold to the Confessions, as well as brothers and sisters in other American Lutheran church bodies. Also, while I am a citizen of the United States of America, I am aware that our Lutheran brothers in other lands, who are facing problems similar to ours, will perhaps be aided by this document. Therefore I have minimized specific references to the American context and to the LCMS. 
Jesus is for everyone. 
So is Luther. 
I wish to thank the laymen -- "especially those of my own congregation" -- pastors, and theologians who have critiqued this manifesto during its development and given helpful suggestions for revision. Permission is hereby granted to all who wish to reproduce these materials, provided the source is indicated. 
Again, my prayer is that it may help draw us together as true Lutherans, united in doctrine and practice as we seek to save the lost with the comforting message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone.  
Thank you very much. 
Your servant in Christ, 
Dr. Frederic W. Baue Pastor, 
Bethany Lutheran Church, 
UAC Fairview Heights, Illinois


Again, that was from 2008 (7 years ago), and yet, his words "it does seem clear that at some point in the future hard decisions will have to be made" and "this would entail a decision on the part of those who have strayed, either to repent or to leave" or "it would entail action on the part of church leaders who must call them to account" was quite prescient.

Actually, he was spot on, wasn't he? How ironic that these debates and discussions are occurring with greater frequency and greater intensity as we approach the 500-year anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 too.

I intend to list only the Introduction, the 12 Theses that follow it, and the Conclusion, but I sincerely hope that you will read the entire document from start to finish and then share it with others.



A Lutheran Manifesto 
Introduction

We are in the church militant. We live in a time of war. The forces of Satan with his lies and deception are arrayed against us. Only by standing as one can we gain the victory, with the help of God. We must not only take up the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. We must also take up the shield of faith, that is, our public confession of doctrine. Therefore as Lutherans -- "as true men of Wittenberg" -- we stand with pastor Luther, with teacher Melanchthon, with layman John the Steadfast, and with our fathers in the faith in holding fast to the sacred vow we made upon our ordination as pastors, our commission as teachers, or upon taking membership in a Lutheran congregation as laymen. That is, we accept the entire prophetic and apostolic books of the Old and New Testaments as the sole source and norm of doctrine and life, and we subscribe wholeheartedly and unreservedly to the three Ecumenical Creeds and the Confessions of the Lutheran Church, as contained in the Book of Concord of 1580, as a right exposition of Christian dogma. We accept all the truths that Scripture and the Confessions teach, and we reject all the errors that they condemn. 
At the root of our current crisis is a problem in the area of confessional subscription. Traditionally we have recognized two bases for confessional subscription: quia "because" the Confessions agree with Scripture; and quatenus "insofar as" the Confessions agree with Scripture. The quia basis of confessional subscription has normally been found in the more conservative, or confessional, Lutheran church bodies which retain the traditional doctrine of Scripture, and also fully accept and apply the doctrine and practice enjoined in the Lutheran Confessions. Quatenus subscription is found in the more liberal bodies, among whom, we say with tears, it usually accompanies a compromised view of Holy Scripture, along with a weakened commitment to the Confessions. 
To these however may be added a third basis: quasi, or "partial" subscription. This view is found among erstwhile conservative men who accept the Bible, but see the Confessions as an historical document that is not central to determining church dogma and practice today. They disregard some articles, especially those which, if followed, would make them distinctly Lutheran and forbid them from assimilating to other faiths. As a result, some of our pastors have become attracted to Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox communions. A few have even left. Others, while remaining among us outwardly, no longer truly walk with us. They have adopted the doctrine and practice of Evangelicalism (note 1). Both groups have the same flaw: a quasi basis for confessional subscription. To them we extend the hand of Christian love: dear brothers, we beseech you, do not forsake your vows. Walk with us in concord. 
We men of Wittenberg hold that both Scripture and the Confessions are relevant to our current situation, and we look to them for guidance in doctrine, ministry, and life, especially as we face new challenges to our faith from within and without in this hour of crisis. Specifically: 
Thesis One. Unity. 
Thesis Two. God. 
Thesis Three. Sin. 
Thesis Four. Christ. 
Thesis Five. Justification. 
Thesis Six. The Office of the Ministry. 
Thesis Seven. Good Works. 
Thesis Eight. The Church 
Thesis Nine. Baptism. 
Thesis Ten. The Lord’s Supper. 
Thesis Eleven. Civil Government. 
Thesis Twelve. Confession. 

Conclusion  
Men of Wittenberg, we live in perilous times. If we do not preserve the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ, who will? If the Gospel is lost, what will men do? Where will they go to find balm for burnt consciences? And yet... if we do preserve the Gospel, will anyone care? Will anyone want it? Already in our time there is a great falling away. Men's hearts grow cold. Faithful pastors soldier on, bringing good bread to small, struggling congregations, while down the street the megachurch preacher attracts thousands with a message of straw. 
We must fight for the Gospel if only for the sake of Christ who died to give it to us. For as Lutherans we have solemnly sworn to uphold both Scripture and the Confessions. And it is the Confessions that squarely and solidly proclaim justification by faith in Christ alone as the central teaching of Scripture. The Confessions were written for the sake of the Gospel. 
Most of our pastors, teachers, laymen, and congregations are firmly committed to Sacred Scripture. In this they have fulfilled their vow. For this we thank God. 
But for many the Book of Concord is just another book on the shelf, to be accorded mere lip service. In this they have forsaken their vow. This is what has eroded concord among us. For this lapse we ask God’s forgiveness. 
Let every true man of Wittenberg renew his vow to be faithful both to Scripture and the Confessions. Let every man then live up to that vow in thought, word, and deed.


Amen! Amen! Amen!

Personally, I don't understand how any self-professing Lutheran -- let alone any self-professing Christian who is ultimately concerned about believing, teaching, and confessing the one true apostolic faith (Jude 1:3) -- can ignore a document like this.

It's so simple, so straightforward, and so Scriptural that it demands discussion, doesn't it? I mean, all we're after here is U-N-I-T-Y in doctrine and faith, especially within our very own Synod.

You'd think that would be possible to achieve at least to a greater degree of success than we've been accustomed to for quite some time now.

My goodness, I've only been a Confessional Lutheran for a couple of years now and I'm repeatedly disgusted and heartbroken over the things I experience, hear, read, and see from other so-called "Lutherans" but the sad thing is that I've learned that it's been this way for decades now so I can't even imagine how so many of you must feel when another year passes and things go from bad to worse.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, we cannot judge another Christian's heart, but we can judge their confession, which is precisely what we are instructed to do throughout the New Testament in order to protect ourselves and others from those who have a Degree in Wolfology as evidenced by their false teachings and outright rejection of our Confessions.

My dear friends, what subscription to this Lutheran Manifesto does is draw a line in the sands of time that says that our generation would not allow those who admit they do not share our confession to remain with us as a part of the LCMS.

Yes, we are to pray for peace and unity in doctrine and practice, but for those who continue to resist our heartfelt pleas to repent and return, the consequences are clear.

If they truly remain unrepentant, then I'm sorry to say it, but the reality is that there are many other pews in other denominations that they can fill as early as this coming Sunday that would make them feel right at home given that they share the same liberal, progressive confession.

I pray it doesn't come to that. Scripture tells me to expect otherwise though.


1 Corinthians 11:18-19 (ESV) 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 (ESV) 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.


Maybe it's time for us Confessional Lutherans to bring this Lutheran Manifesto back into the limelight. Maybe we start by electronically signing and signaling our support for a 7-year-old document that seeks to stabilize the Good Ship Missouri with God's help.

Maybe enough's enough.



NOTE: I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or a Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this note, I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. 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 inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 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 Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries. I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a dude's diary in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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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 and social media 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 sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training 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 arrive at the truth of God's Word (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!

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