Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Correction on the Preus Nomination

Since it has been called to my attention that my brief words describing the reason Rev. Rolf Preus was one of our Sabre nominees were a bit deficient, if not misleading, permit me to make a correction.

It is incorrect to say that his stance against the Evangelical Lutheran Synod was "because they had adopted an unbiblical, purely functional position on the Office of the Holy Ministry." That is rather an inference I drew from their stance, and in retrospect, without sufficient warrant.

On the other hand, it is not too much of a stretch to suggest that the reason the stance of the ELS now accomodates schoolteachers is that there is a long and wayward history among American Lutherans which sees "ministry" chiefly in functional terms, as in, any use of the Gospel, rather than as the office of the Gospel preaching, the Predigtamt. The Wisconsin Synod has wandered deeply into these waters, and the Missouri Synod has, it seems, solved her problems by ignoring AC XIV altogether (ala the Wichita Convention). A good accounting of the history of the matter is summed up rather nicely on Rev. Preus's website and may be better expressed succinctly as an elastic or even evolving view of the Ministry, with a view to accomodating schoolteachers. It is against this view that Rev. Preus took his stand. To be sure, the ELS also accomodates the view of the ministry as Office, as Predigtamt, distinct from "the priesthood of all believers," but inasmuch as it also insists on doling out a portion of this Office to the unordained schoolteacher, one still hopes their bureaucrats have not counted the matter of AC XIV settled just yet. Indeed I'm told that there are some valiant efforts afoot among the faithful there to hold the Synod together, to its confessional moorings, and that their efforts might as well be deserving of the Sabre of Boldness. Three cheers.


Gregory House said...

You were right about the ELS the first time. I'm disappointed in your equivocation.

Father Eckardt said...

Care to elaborate? I'm in the dark.

Gregory House said...

I think that what you are doing, maybe without realizing it, is letting the ELS have their cake and eat it too.

What you had written earlier is correct. The ELS has an unbiblical and functional view of the ministry. That they acknowledge (on some level... maybe...) that the ministry is distinct from the priesthood of the baptized doesn't change the truth of your original statement.

If you can cut the pie according to functions... teaching function here... preaching function there... consecration there... then you have a functional view.

That you're saying the functions belong to the office doesn't change the fact that you're defining the office on the basis of the functions.

Less words are better than more. Your first post, and the citation for Pr. Preus, is short, succinct, and clear. It is also correct. I commend you for it.

The more recent post, this one, is more wordy and less clear. Frankly, it lets the ELS off way too easily.

Commending the faithful pastors who continue to confess against the false doctrine of the ELS is good. Letting the ELS think their view is not functional... not so good.

Father Eckardt said...

House, M. Div., makes a good point, I admit. To quote John Madden, "I agree with you more than I do with myself," which in this case actually means that I agree with myself. Yet for the benefit of the ill-informed, I'll explain why I thought it best to qualify my earlier statement.

Here's what the ELS document (which Preus rejected) says, and my own comments follow:

"Extending calls to teachers who have spiritual care of children in Christian schools is not merely a laudable custom, but is in accordance with Romans 10:14-17 and Augsburg Confession XIV, not only for the sake of good order, but also because these teachers carry out a specific part of the Public Ministry. It is by human right that the church separates a limited portion of the office to one individual. But it is by divine right that one exercises that work on behalf of the Christians through whom the call has come."

I have to say, given these details, Rev. Preus is quite right in rejecting this. Romans 10:14 has nothing whatever to do with schoolteachers (go ahead, look it up:, nor does AC XIV. What we have here is a clear case of the cart driving the horse, or rather, a crystallization of some decades' long muddy thinking about schoolteachers. Teachers do God's work, surely enough (because they're helping parents, as Luther's Large Catechism also explains, under the Fourth Commandment), but they're not ministers.

That said, I'd say it's the ELS document that's doing the equivocating, saying at the same time that the pastoral office is not derived from the "priesthood of all believers," and that it is "a presiding office," etc.

So, in short, the ELS has not defined "ministry" in "purely" terms -- hence my correction -- but if you connect the dots, it is more or less where you end up, it seems to me.