Full Text for "Practical" Subjects for Pastoral Conferences (Text)

Concordia Theological Monthly Vol. XIII NOVEMBER, 1942 No. 11 "Practical" Subjects for Pastoral Conferences It is an interesting phenomenon, and one entirely in keeping with the lessons of church history, including the history of dogma, that a period of intense interest in doctrinal matters and in doctrinal discussions in any church-body may be followed by a period which is characterized by evidences or ratigue and of being surfeited with studies and discussions or this nature. In other words, we may expect periods of externalization to follow generations of the required emphasis on Scriptural doctrine in its fulness and comprehensiveness. It is not necessary, of course, that such alternate seasons. should be found in the Church, that the living orthodoxy of the Lutheran Reformation, for example, should be followed by a period of Hochorthodoxie introduced and sustained by what almost amounted to an evangelical scholasticism. But this movement finally resulted, as history shows, in excrescences which culminated in Pietism and even in Rationalism. If the history of dogma teaches us anything at all, we should learn to realize that a cold intellectualism in the field of Christian doctrine is bound to have such consequences, either an externalization in the outward forms of worship or a hostility toward the emphasis upon purity of doctrine. In more than one instance this tendency has led to indifference with regard to orthodoxy and subsequently to unionism. The literature of the Church offers abundant testimony, in such instances, of developments which operate with specious arguments intended to set aside the unequivocal insistence upon a full acceptance of Scriptural truth. Many of these considerations were occasioned by observations made during the last decade, not so much with reference to any negotiations with other Lutheran bodies in America as with regard to phenomena in our own midst. There are symptoms before us, and some of these of an alarming nature, that discussions per-51 802 "Practical" Subjects for Pastoral Conferences taining to the primary or fundamental doctrines of the Bible are considered superfluous, if not boresome. Many of the topics assigned for pastoral conferences are far from the ,field of funda­mental dogmatics and Biblical theology. Have we really exhausted the possibilities of study with regard to the doctrine of justification, especially the Scriptural fact of the objective justifi,cation with its implications for mission-work and church-member$hip classes, of the atonement through the blood of Christ, of thE! reconciliation planned in the counsel of the Triune God and effected through the sacrifice of Calvary? Are all the teachers of our Church clear on all points of the doctrine of conversion, of predestination, or the election of grace, even on plenary and verbal inspiration? And even if a conference, in the course of a few decades, has apparently exhausted the topics offered by the field of dogmatics so far as the older members are concerned, what about the young men, who certainly are in great need of being firmly rooted and grounded in the Word of Truth? If we feel that a change is needed, in order to give us a new approach, what about studying the entire Bible, Ol' at least its most important books, from the standpoint of Biblical theology? It is inductive study, to be sure, and frequ~ntly requires harder work than the simpler deductive system of dogmatics. But what marvelous opportunities it offers to individuals and to groups, working along more functional lines, to ransack the Scriptures most thoroughly and to gain the con­fidence of direct contact with the inspired account! If the objection is still voiced that present-day conditions demand pTactical discussions, our reply is this: WheTe could we expect discussions which have a more direct bearing upon any conceivable circumstance of life and conduct than in the Word of the eternal and omniscient God? Of course, we here proceed from the assumption, nay, upon the claim that the Scripture is not a mere historical document which brings lessons to us only by deduction and implication but that "whatsoever is written afore­time is written for our learning," Rom. 15: 4, and that "all ScriptuTe is . . . profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," 2 Tim. 3: 16. The attitude taken by some teachers at the present time that instructions and ad­monitions found in apostolic writings are not applicable to our times by the text itself finds no support in the Bible and its demands. Unless the context of any particular passage definitely limits the statements it contains to contemporaneous conditions, we are to regard the words of the Lord as having a direct bearing upon the belief and conduct of all men everywhere. In support of our contention that the Bible is an intensely practical book and should be made the basis of all conference "Practical" Subjects for Pastoral Conferences 803 discussions at all times, we should like to present, at this time, only two suggestions, supporting each of them with an outline containing evidence for our position. Weare surely all in full :J.greement. on the point that the Bible is a book of teaching, that its purpose is to make men wise. We have in the Scriptures the words of the prophets of old, in the historical, prophetical, and poetical books of the Old Testament; and we have the words of the evangelists (including the direct teaching of our Savior) and the apostles in the books of the New Testament. Do we often pay attention to the fact that the form of presentation, and not only the content, the approach and the method, offer a very important field of study to the teacher of the Bible to this day? For example, Jesus had the words of eternal life, as Peter so joyfully confesses, John 6: 68. Yet He did not fling these words at men in various teaching situations in an indiscriminate manner, but He proved Himself a master teacher by taking into account the individual and the group, the background and the state of intelligence, in fact, every item or factor which was necessary to bring about conditions of perfect teaching. And this fact must be kept in mind with regard to all the other teachers who speak to us through the pages of the Bible. True, we cannot place them on a level with the Master Teacher, Jesus, in whom "all the fulness of the Godhead dwelt bodily," and "in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," Col. 2: 9, 3, but we know that the Holy Ghost, who gave these men the impulsus scribendi and also the materia docendi, thereby utilized and undoubtedly also intensified the natural ability of the inspired writers as bL6ax"tLxoL In other words, these men, under the Spirit's guidance, made use of their natural capacities as well as their acquired abilities, also in the field of teaching, in order to present the divine truth in the best possible form in the specific teaching situations with which they were confronted when they penned the words of their accounts, letters, or dissertations. That is why these writings are such excellent models for our study, not only for their content but also for their form. That is why an individual, or a group, could well spend decades of intensive study in order to understand the teaching methods of the inspired writers and, if possible, to follow in their footsteps. Let us take, for example, the Apostle Paul. Even a super­ficial knowledge of Biblical Introduction will enable the student of Scriptures to see how amazingly well the form of his teaching fitted the situation of each addressee whom he had in mind as he wrote. His manner of presentation differs in each of his letters, even in those which were written to the same congrega­tions and within a relatively short interval, as e. g., in the case of 804 "Practical" Subjects for Pastoral Conferences the letters to the Corinthians or those to the Thessalonians. There are similarities, to be sure, in the so-called Captivity Letters and in the Pastoral Letters. But the differences observable in these letters are just as clearly set forth, if one but takes the trouble to look for them. The Letter to the Romans is rightly called the didactica magna of the Apostle Paul, and evidently not only on account of its contents but also on account of its form. It is compelling, over­whelming in its argumentation; it leads the reader from one point to another, so that he cannot escape the conclusions which in­evitably grow out of the discussion. Let us analyze the first chapters of this remarkable document. The apostle at once establishes a point of contact with his readers, the members of the congregation at Rome, which at this time he had not yet visited. His salutation awakens interest, because it at once places the God-man, Christ Jesus, in the center of the discussion, and his greeting is sincere, eager, and en­thusiastic: "beloved of God, called to be saints." It is a positive, constructive approach, and highly practical, because it shows the apostle's intense and prayerful longing for the Roman Christians and refers to his earnest attempts to make the journey to Rome at the earliest opportunity. At the conclusion of this wonderful introduction (vv. 16, 17) the apostle states the theme of the entire letter in the words of a mighty declaration, while at the same time he suggests the question which his readers were expected to have in mind as the aim of the teaching of the letter, namely: How is this righteousness of God to be obtained? In developing his theme or topic, the apostle, having in mind to present the righteousness of God, as wrought by Christ and imputed to faith, must needs proceed from the fact of the need of this righteousness on the part of man. In vv. 18-32, therefore, he draws a startlingly vivid picture and a scathing denunciation of the Gentile world, with its unspeakable guilt before the holy God. Every word of this description is so placed and so supported as to exclude the slightest opportunity of any Gentile to offer extenuating circumstances or to plead innocence. But at this point the apostle hears an implied objection, namely on the part of one or more members of the Roman con­gregation of Jewish extraction: Surely this accusation and de­nunciation does not include me; I am not guilty of such idolatry or of such unspeakably wicked conduct. But the apostle imme­diately brings a counter-argument, which completely overthrows the protests of self-righteousness. He flatly states that the Jew and the Gentile are in the same position before God. He asks a leading and very personal question to provoke thought and to "Practical" Subjects for Pastoral Conferences 805 arouse the conscience, followed by a direct charge that se1£­righteousness tends to harden the heart and to inure the conscience. (Vv. 3-5.) Having thus stated his thesis with regard to the condemnation of both Gentiles and Jews before the forum of God's holiness, the apostle analyzes this theme by showing that the judgment of God is against all unrighteousness, no matter where it is found, climaxing a series of parallel clauses with an emphatic declaration that there is no respect of persons with God, whether a person without the knowledge of the written Law or with such a knowl­edge is concerned in the situation. This development of the apostle's major premise, up to and including verse 16, is followed by a minor premise in vv.17-29, concerning the failure of the Jew to fulfil the Law. The writer begins with an assumption or hypo­thetical case, with a description of a Jew who might feel that his conduct is in full agreement with the Law of God, vv. 17-20. But the conclusions in his own favor which the Jew evidently wishes to have drawn are skilfully set aside and proved to be inadequate a series of leading questions which definitely cause the self­righteous Jew to reconsider his opinion of himself, vv.21-23. The inevitable deduction from the obvious answer to these questions is clinched by an appeal to Scripture authority, to an argument from the Ceremonial Law, and by two rhetorical questions, vv. 24-27. The conclusion of this minor premise takes the form of an explanation which intends to have the Jewish reader fmm a correct definition of one who is a Jew indeed, namely, according to the estimate of God, vv. 28,29. But at this point the apostle senses the possibility of an ob­jection, which he must answer in order to satisfy his readers as to the correctness of his contention that the Jews are also under the condemnation of unrighteousness. Some one may say: What advantage, then, has the Jew? Is the position which he held under the Old Testament covenant of no benefit to him? Is all his sup­posed righteousness in the outward keeping of the Law an empty boast? Chap. 3: 1. The apostle begins to reply by pointing to at least one outward advantage, a privilege which is historical and therefore objectively acceptable, namely, that to the Jews God had committed His oracles. Immediately another objection in the form of a suggestive question is interjected: Surely the fact that there were some renegades among the people of the Old Covenant could not make the faithfulness of God invalid, so that His adoption of the Jews, presumably on the basis of their righteousness, would no longer stand? The negative answer is given by the apostle with great vehemence, and supported, furthermore, by a Scripture text, v. 4. 806 "Practical" Subjects for Pastoral Conferences Still another objection is implied in vv. 5 and 6, again in the form of a suggestive question calling for a negative answer on the part of the apostle: If the righteousness of God, by way of contrast to the unrighteousness of men, stands out all the more gloriously on the strength of the latter, should we assume that God is expend­ing his anger on man when He charges them with unrighteousness? Would that not militate against just judgment of God? The apostle disposes also of this objection. And still another point might be raised here, as the apostle indicates, vv. 7 and 8, namely, that the very fact of human deficiency might redound to the glory of God, for which reason God should not be so severe with those by whose sinful actions some good was caused. This leads to the climax of this part of the apostle's argument, which he introduces as a question on the part of some Jewish reader or hearer, somewhat sarcastically offered: I take it, then, that we Jews are not considered better than the Gentiles with respect to an acceptable righteousness. And Paul's reply is force­ful: No, in no wise, a statement which he proceeds to prove by a long list of passages from the Old Testament, everyone of which places Jews and Gentiles on the same level of condemnation before the forum of God's justice and tells all men, without ex­ception, that they lack the righteousness which would make them acceptable in the sight of God. And the conclusion of this entire argument, with special reference to the Jewish objector and skeptic, is: By works of the Law no mortal may hope to be declared righteous in the sight of God. The summary of the apostle's arguments up to this point may be given as follows: Major premise, God's judgment is against all unrighteousness (and the Gentiles must here be declared to be unrighteous); minor premise, The Jew has failed to fulfil the Law of God (hence the Jew also is unrighteous); conclusion: The Jew is equally guilty with the Gentile in the sight of God. Thus one might continue through the entire letter, analyzing the manner of Paul's teaching from paragraph to paragraph and from verse to verse, and thereby penetrating ever more deeply into the pedagogical skill of this great teacher. A small con­ference might do well to put the Greek text of Romans into the hands of all its members and, with the aid of some grammatical knowledge, trace the development of every argument employed for the sake of drawing conclusions and driving home the individual points. It is a project which will undoubtedly elicit much dis­cussion and will lead to a better evaluation and application of the apostle's amazing teaching ability, a form of training which clearly is invaluable for both children's and adult catechumen classes. Let us now demonstrate a second form of the study of Scrip-"Practical" Subjects for Pastoral Conferences 807 tures along practical lines. It is a form of topical study along synthetic lines, the theme being: The position and work of Chris­tian women according to the Pastoral Letters. A requirement for the success of this type of conference work is the absence of fixed ideas, of preconceived notions, for we must at all times approach the Word of God with open minds, with the suggestion of Eli, as made to Samuel, furnishing the impetus: Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth. Our theme may be put thus: What does the Lord say through His inspired apostle, concerning the position of Christian women in the home and in the Church? Let us analyze or subdivide our topic by asking: 1. What about young women? 2. What about older women? 3. What about young widows? 4. What about older widows? 1. What about young women? What is their position according to the express will of God? -The apostle names some personal virtues and habits when he states that women in general are not to exhibit the characteristics of the emancipated females of the Grecian world, and in particular of the demimonde of that day. The coiffure affected by women of loose morals, with a plethora of gold and pearls and costly garments bedecking their bodies, was definitely not in harmony with the conduct of those women of whom the Lord expected modesty and a show of quiet common sense, healthy-mindedness of the highest order, which certainly does not seek the attention of either men or women by clothing that attracts the eye, for Christian women are to dress only in modest apparel, such as is not worn with the idea of alluring men or emphasizing charms which are not intended by the Lord for public display. 1 Tim. 2: 9. Instead of this, the one and only way in which a Christian woman is truly adorned to please the Lord, as one professing godliness, is by the exercise of good works. V. 10. Does it follow, then, that a Christian woman is to withdraw from all human society and intercourse and to be condemned to a life of ignorance? Not at all, as the apostle explains in verse 11. She may and she should learn, but, as the Lord says, in silence she shall learn, in all subjection, as one who is under the direction and headship 0# her husband (or her father). Her mentality and intellectual equipment are not for one moment questioned or placed on a low level, for it is a question of headship and leader­ship only. Cpo 1 Cor. 14: 34,35. In emphasizing the point that a Christian woman should not assume the functions of a public teacher in meetings representative of the congregations ("keeping silence in the congregations"), the apostle adds: "To teach I do not permit a woman, nor to lord it over a man, but to be in silence." V.12. So it is definitely the Lord's will to have women 808 "Practical" Subjects for Pastoral Conferences excluded from positions of teaching and leadership in the Church, for the two verbs are coordinated in the sentence. And this com­mand the apostle supports by proof-texts from the Old Testament (Gen. 1: 27; 2: 7, 22; 3: 6) . On the one hand, the priority of "lI~dam' s creation is presented as the reason for the leadership of the man in the affairs concerned in this statement. And, on the other hand, there is the fact that Eve, the woman, was completely misled by Satan, so that she, literally, "became in the transgression," that is, she was involved in it, she was the first to yield to the blandish­ments of the deviL This again does not reflect upon the keenness of the woman's intellect but merely indicates that her emotional reactions may cause her to yield more quickly than the average man under the same circumstances. Cpo Eccl. 7; 28, See also the apostle's reference to the proneness to emotional instability, 2 Tim. 3:6 f. That the apostle has chiefly younger women in mind, such as may normally be supposed to live in the estate of holy matrimony, is seen from the concluding verse of the chapter, which sets forth the position and the function of a Christian woman in a most unique way, for the apostle states: "She shall, however, be saved through child-bearing," this being her special God-given privilege and a good work which would, in a particular sense, give evidence of the saving faith which lives in her heart, as the concluding words, in a generalizing statement, declare: "If they (that is, all the women who are here concerned, who fit the apostle's description) remain in faith and love and sanctification, with healthy-minded­ness." These are personal qualifications and virtues which appear in the life of Christian women in the sphere which the economy of God has assigned to them. If we turn, now, to Titus 2: 4, 5, we find an enumeration of attributes and virtues which the Lord expects in younger women. The young women, according to the text, are to be "husband-loving, children-loving," evidently as the basis of family life, and in this connection sensible, chaste. Of particular importance in this con­nection is the word ot%01JQy6~, connected with a verb which means "to perform the housewifely duties, to attend to the work of the household." Well does the adjective uy