Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Subscribing unconditionally to the symbolical writings of our church/ 2

This is all from Walther in Harrison's book.  We are now on page 126.

Since all divisions within Christendom appeal to Scripture--papists, Schwaermer, and Rationalists, as much as orthodox Christians, who all say that their doctrine is based on the Scriptures, if only they are rightly understood and explicated--the mere confession that one believes what is in Scripture is not a confession that clearly distinguishes the confessor from the false believer.  For, in spite of this confession, no one knows whether one accepts Scripture in the true sense or not or whether one is a papist or a Schwaermer or a Rationalist or an orthodox Christian.  Therefore an unconditional subscription is indispensable.  For the sake of clarity it is necessary to declare how one understands and interprets Scripture and the articles of faith that are contained in it.  [Harrison's emphasis] It is essential to keep in mind that the purpose of our Symbols is a) that our Church clearly and unequivocally confess its faith and its doctrine before the world;  b) that it distinguish itself [H] from all heterodox bodies and sects; c) that it may possess a united, certain, general form and norm of doctrine for all its teachers, on the basis of which all other writings and teachings can be judged and regulated.  But if the Church demands only a conditional acceptance of its symbols, it virtually retracts the faith and the doctrine that it had set forth in the Symbols.  Then the document that the Church had offered as its Confession is after all not its real confession, and the charge can be raised that the Church is double-tongued and is deceiving the world with its Symbols.

By demanding only a conditional subscription to its Symbols, the church forfeits its distinctively Lutheran characteristics, and by admitting that is Symbols contain errors, it places itself on the same level with the heterodox bodies.  In this case, the church is without a united, certain, general form and norm of doctrine, on the basis of which each one is able to judge his own teaching as well as all other writing and teachings.

...Finally, the purpose of binding the teachers of the Church to its public confessions is to remove the long controversies that have been thoroughly discussed and settled, at least in the orthodox Church.  A mere conditional subscription, however, opens the door for a renewal of controversies that have already been settled and paves the way for everlasting discord.

... The declaration that one accepts the Symbols "insofar as" and not "because"' they agree with Scripture is not a pledge to teach according to the Symbols, but according to his conscience and opinion.

...Again, some say that there can be no better interpretation of the Symbols than that which is according to Scripture.  That is a fallacious proposition.  Only that can be interpreted according to Scripture which is essentially the same as Scripture.  No human writing can therefore be interpreted according to Scripture;  this applies only to Scripture.  As Scripture must be interpreted by Scripture, so every human document must be interpreted according to is own content.  If one interprets a man made document according to Scripture, he equates the two an declares a priori that any dark statement in the Symbols must agree with Scripture, a fact that would be true only of a new immediate revelation.  No, a human document must be tested and, if necessary, improved, but not interpreted, according to Scriptures.  A subscription to the Confession is the Church's assurance that its teachers have recognized the interpretation and understanding of Scripture that is embodied in the Symbols as correct and will therefore interpret Scripture as the Church interprets it.   If the Church therefore would permit its teachers to interpret the Symbols according to the Scriptures, and not the Scriptures according to its symbols, the subscription would be no guarantee that the respective teacher understands and interprets Scripture as the Church does.  It would only tell the Church what he himself holds for correct.  Thus each personal conviction of its teachers of that moment would become the Symbol to which they are sworn!

I am still chewing on that.-- One can then interpret Scripture according to Scripture, Symbol according to Symbol, even Scripture according to Symbol, but not Symbol according to Scripture, as that is bringing your own opinion to where better people than yourself have hashed this out in incredible labors and difficulties and you are supposed to be teaching what they taught, which is scriptural to begin with. 

And you are supposed to be convinced of that otherwise don't bother teaching in the church (or "Church", as it is capitalized throughout.)

But what of some honest, upright men who either lack the ability to test the whole Book of Concord according to the Word of God and therefore are not convinced that the Symbols agree with Scripture in every point, or who have conscientious scruples about certain points?  In either case, such are not fit to become teachers in the Church, for a bishop must, above all things, be "apt to teach" and "be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9)..."

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