Sunday, March 04, 2007

Consistent Doctrine in 1919

[ As shown in the Presidential Address by H. A. Preus, the Old Norwegian Synod Doctrine rejected the notion that a Synod or its offices (such as Synodical President) were Divinely Instituted. I put this next quotation here so those who claim to be the inheritors of the Old Norwegian Synod's Doctrine can see what was actually believed and taught by the Old Norwegian Synod and how that same teaching was held by the formers of the "New" Norwegian Synod--the "plucked chicken" of 13 pastors who did not join the general Merger. The address concerns the direction the small group should take and what doctrinal basis there should be for working together as a Synod. Just as in H.A. Preus' address, so Pres. Bjug Harstad carefully distinguishes between what is divinely instituted and commanded in contrast with what is done in human freedom and instituted by human freedom.

The quotations presented here are from Pres. Bjug Harstad's 1919 Address to the Synod. This is the foundational presidential address for those who claim to be the inheritors of the Old Norwegian Synod's Doctrine. The address can be found at the ELS website here.

Again, I ask, "Does a Synodical President have a divinely instituted and called office simply by virtue of being a Synodical President?" And, "Where, according to Bjug Harstad, does the notion of presidential authority come?" The controversially adopted ELS statement in Part II A says that the President of a Synod is one form of the Divinely Instituted Pastoral Office:
"Missionary, assistant pastor, professor of theology, synod president (who supervises doctrine in the church), and chaplain are some examples of this."
Bjug Harstad wrote (emphasis added):

Neither must we in the orthodox Lutheran Church allow ourselves to be deceived by modes of expression about prescriptive right. Serious and harmful departures from the Word of God and the Augsburg Confession have unfortunately had prescriptive right in most Lutheran countries for hundreds of years. Church and state were early tied together to the great harm of both kingdoms. This prescriptive right has produced many sad results. How has not the right and duty of congregations to call shepherds and teachers for themselves been deprived them? The Lord has nowhere indicated that the worldly authority has any right whatsoever to meddle in the work of the church.

The church has received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the Word and the Sacraments, in order to save immortal souls through the power of the Spirit. The state has received the sword in order to protect life, property and worldly rights, nothing else. But the worldly authority took to itself even in Luther's lifetime a little, as it seemed, insignificant right over the church, when a consistorium was established to which politicians and jurists were elected and who had the right in individual instances to judge in church matters. Luther saw immediately in his time where it would lead; hardly anyone else did.

Dr. Rudelbach discusses this in this way in his book, The Origin of the Policy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church: 'When he (Luther) saw this before him, namely, the caesaropapism (the rule of princes in the church), which would come and already had then risen as a thunder cloud, he became indignant and could hardly control himself.

'Dear people,' he said, 'you will excuse me for becoming very vehement against the jurists; you are going to hear why. We have now often written in almost all our books and painted it so clearly that if a person might be able to grasp it, he should believe that this spiritual kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ in Bethlehem is to be separated from the worldly kingdom and government. And notwithstanding the most learned, most understanding jurists want to know or understand nothing about it now; but they are mingling everything together, wrapping it all into one, leading consciences astray to uncertain things. That's why I'm angry and will be angry, because they are encroaching upon the government of God ... The largest swarm of jurists, with few exceptions, and they are held in contempt by the others, are basically the pope's servants; they do not want to be called that but they prove it in what they do, since they want to govern the church and tread its faithful servants underfoot; therefore they are doomed. ... The true right, that we praise as an ordinance of God; but we will not and we cannot tolerate the harsh, wicked practices and abuses of jurists who act as though they are plowing fields, but reject them entirely. If they want to keep on doing it, then we will chase them out of the church, and they ought to get to know that the consistorium is not going to buckle under their authority but it is going to be under the pastors. ... This is what we cannot endure or tolerate: that they want to be in the church and to govern consciences. We must tear such a consistorium apart, because, briefly and to the point, we do not want to have the jurists and the pope in it. The jurists do not belong in the church with their lawsuits; they govern the world with opinion and imagination, not with right.' So far Luther.

'That is Luther's position at the very time when he is leaving the church as an angry, threatening shadow, warding off the dread encroachment which is already at hand with his last gigantic strength; but in vain,' says Rudelbach. But this disturbance developed more and more also in the Scandinavian countries until kings and princes who do not have a call from the church, or training, or qualifications according to the Word of God to be so much as schoolmasters or bellringers in the smallest rural congregation, stand as the supreme bishops of the church.

Similar abuse and encroachment have evolved in more recent times even in our Lutheran free church here in this country. They have come from another direction, namely, from the Reformed church which has always wanted to have a finger in the governing of public affairs. When prosperity increased among us, it happened, unnoticed by many, that the presidents were not to have any pastoral call but were only to be presidents. In that way people got a kind of ecclesiastical prelates who were over pastors and congregations. What their right and authority are, really now consists most nearly in whatever is pleasing to that individual. In practice, some have espoused the belief that if a pastor does not want to belong to the large church body to which his congregation belongs, then the congregation is thereby either without a pastor and can only proceed to the election of another, or the pastor is to be dismissed even if there is no other complaint against him than that he cannot swear loyalty to their church body.
In the church, all Christians, lay as well as learned, are equal brothers. They can have different positions and callings in life, given them by God as their earthly vocation. But in heavenly and spiritual things they all have, and each for themselves, the same Lord and Spirit, the same faith and hope and also the same rod and staff, Law and Gospel, which they have the right and the duty to use on themselves and on others for the correction of faith and life. They are all equal members of one and the same body under Jesus Christ as Head and the only Lord over the whole body.

If one of the equal brethren is elected to be president, then everyone must know that he has only received a human appointment to the office of servant, which everyone also otherwise actually has according to the Master's example to wash the disciples' feet and to dry them with the insight, knowledge and experience with which he can be equipped. At all times, however, he is only an advisor, and as other Christians, is in duty bound to point to what is written.

He himself is to guard himself against the conceit that he is now a head higher than the others and also always remember that he has no other duty or authority than diligently to serve the others in the things with which they have charged him, either in the constitution or in other mutually agreed upon arrangements. Such an office, I believe, ought to be discharged by everyone in turns, if possible.