Full Text for Dogmatics 4- Volume 43 - Are there any observations made in the creeds that we should note as we speak on Ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church? (Video)

No. 43. >> We confess our faith in the church as we speak the Apostles' Creed or the Nicene Creed. Are there any observations made in the creeds that we should note as we speak on Ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church? >>DR. KLAUS DETLEV SCHULZ: Yes, I want to say that if we confess the creeds -- and you're referring here to the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed and at times perhaps also the Athanasian Creed. But let's take the Nicene Creed for example. And therein, we speak of the one holy Christian apostolic church. We may call these the four classical definitions of a church. So when we look at the church in the creeds as we confess them Sunday after Sunday, we need to be mindful of what these terms mean as we confess them. For example, if we say: I believe in the one church, what do we say about our existence here on a particular place on a Sunday afternoon or Sunday morning? It means that we are looking beyond our borders. That we are looking to the church worldwide and saying that there is an existence that keeps us together. And I've alluded previously to the fact that this oneness exists, despite all of the denominations that have separated from each other. We, Christians and Lutherans, contend, therefore, that despite our separation from other denominations, that we still affirm a Christianity existing and permeating all other church bodies and denominations. And that's why we say the one church. The one church of Jesus Christ. Being the body of Christ. With him as the head of the church. I think this oneness is important. Because some churches have a tendency to become sectarian in a sense that they don't want to have anything to do with the concept of sharing of faith with other denominations. It is crucial in our relationship with Christians as we deal with one another, with those of other denominations especially, that we come to grips of this oneness. Later on I will speak of the ecumenical character. And I've referred to you, also, already to the International Lutheran Council where churches try to get together and discuss those factors that separate them. But those factors that also unite them. The visible churches around had this world need to come together. And work hard to come together, closer, as they discuss those issues that divide them. I think that is absolutely crucial as long as we have the one confession in Jesus Christ. And that we confess the oneness of the church. Besides that, we also confess the church that it is holy. I think that that term is one that indicates that we as Christians are sanctified repeatedly day in, day out, Sunday in, Sunday out. How are we sanctified? Well, we can say that it is quite simply the work of the Spirit on us. That as we hear God's Word and are forgiven, we are given that forgiveness, that sanctification that enables us to be clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. So the church is holy. It sits with people who have been forgiven. Even if we still remain sinners in this world. That holiness might not always be reflected in the life of the church. As you all know, we constantly fight and bicker over this or that issue in our local communities and in the broader community. But the reality is that where God's Word is being preached and where the Gospel is being extended to the members, their holiness occurs because the Holy Spirit steps in and forgives us all. One further trait of the church, one classical trait, is to call it Christian. Here I need to make some explanation. The Nicene Creed in its original form spoke about the Catholic Church rather than the Christian Church. And when this creed was translated into German, Martin Luther started to think of catholic more as Christian. I think there's no distinction really between these two terms. I think they can be used synonymously. As you all know, in our new Lutheran Service Book that we now use in our worship services, you will notice a return back to catholic. It is important to note that the C that we use there is small and not large. And there might be an allergic reaction among some members that feel that they are losing the sight of the Christian word that they have traditionally used. And they might feel that they are being pushed into a catholic mode of thinking. I think we need not be too allergic about this. Christian means Catholic. In other words, all over the world, wherever we go, there are Christians who live there. There are Christians who share with one another that faith in Jesus Christ. They are taken from the whole church and exist there at this particular point, at this geographical locality. But together they form one Catholic Church. The term Catholic has been used throughout the early church. And has also been used today in a number of denominations. I think for the sake of expressing this oneness and also agreeing on one version of the Nicene Creed, we can come closer by together saying Catholic. But this is one of option. And I believe a church which wants to remain with the old usage of Christian Church is allowed to do so freely. A further term and the final -- the fourth one is apostolic. This is an interesting term because so many times it can also misused or misinterpreted. First I think the point needs to be made that the Christian Church today stands on the words of the apostles. They have recorded the sayings of Jesus Christ in the gospels. They have written about it in their letters. Mainly, the apostle Paul. But also Peter. And so it can be said that without this Word, we will have nothing about Jesus Christ. So being apostolic in the first sense I would say traditionally means to stand on the Word of Jesus Christ as is and was recorded by the apostles and it is now manifest in Scriptures. Apostolic we could say, also, could mean after that, also, a saintness. Namely, that just as the apostles had been sent out into the world, so, also, the church has been sent out for its mission to this world. So apostolic could add, also, the notion that the church is one focused. Not inside and within itself. But is also interested in bringing that Word, that Word that has been recorded by the apostles, to people outside of its midst. Often there is an interest to extend the term apostolic also to different meanings. I want to refer here to the use of Apostolic Succession. It pertains to ministry more than to the term church actually. But here there are communities worldwide that have an interest to indicate an Apostolic Succession in ordination. What they mean thereby is that from the time of the apostles, there can be a line traced of how pastors have been installed into the ministry by individuals such as bishops. And it is an interest in such churches, particularly in the Scandinavian areas, to continue that line. Namely, that there will be pastors ordained only by bishops who themselves have been ordained and consecrated by other bishops. We call that an interest to preserve the Apostolic Succession. We as Lutherans of the Missouri Synod do not promote Apostolic Succession this way. However, it can be said that we have an interest that things take place orderly. And everyone who enters ministry in our church today generally is ordained by the District president. That's a matter of polity. But it also seems to indicate that we have an interest that ordination and placing somebody into the ministry is done in an orderly and proper way. If, therefore, Apostolic Succession means a way of following certain order, procedure, as to how to get somebody into the ministry, namely, that there should be a bishop presiding over such an act, then it is quite acceptable to speak of such succession. I would, however, warn everyone who pursues the thought that he should also be aware that we are not quite clear how over time such succession ensued. It is apparent that the church often fought with one another and that that line was cut. And for a time ordination was taking place locally by pastors ordaining each other. This shows that we are not always clear about the actual validity or genuine Apostolic Succession taking place over time. But as I've indicated, it if such things are taking place orderly and that bishops preside over such an act as ordination and as district presidents do in our church, then I perhaps could agree on the use of such a term. I want to highlight the point here that was mentioned, namely, the reference to the ecumenical creeds. As I've indicated, the church is one that exists as a spiritual entity. As one where Christians believe in their hearts in Jesus Christ. And I've indicated also and I will do so later that these Christians cannot identify each other as Christians, if you will, on the basis of the faith in the heart. That ability resides in God himself. However, I would like to say this, also: That the church has attained some visibility in its confession so that as it confesses the Apostolic Creeds, its faith, it thereby affirms that oneness. That all of those churches that confess the creeds somewhat belong to a community. And we as members of the Missouri Synod, therefore, consider ourselves a main line church. You might have heard that term being used. Well, it's a quality that is given to a church that actually agrees with another church on the basis of confessing their ecumenical creeds. The Nicene, the Apostles and the Athanasian Creeds. You might also notice that we hardly ever rebaptize somebody who comes from the tradition of churches that confess the creeds. I think this is important to remember as we confess daily the Nicene Creed or the apostle creed in our worship life. Together with other Christians around the world, we share a common faith in Jesus Christ as is confessed here in these creeds. The creeds as we confess them Sunday after Sunday also indicate a unity with the east that also confesses such creeds. However, here I have to make a certain qualification as to what I've just said. First of all, we need to know that the eastern church does not quite agree with us on the creeds as we would like. And there have been ecumenical discussions. That is attempts to clarify certain differences over the creeds that are being confessed. And it is important to note that the churches need to recognize each other and also to emphasize that a return to the basic meaning of the creeds is crucial to bring back the oneness. Such issues as how the Holy Spirit works. And we have identified that as the ***phileoqua needs to be clarified. Does the Holy Spirit only come from the Father or from the Son, as well? We in the west have indicated that Jesus Christ is the one from whom the Spirit comes, as well, as the ***phileoqua. The east, however, would like to qualify that a little bit by saying we need to preserve the unity of the Father and not just bring in Jesus Christ and thereby violating the internal relationship of the Trinity. The bottom line that both would agree on I believe is that Jesus Christ also sends the Holy Spirit. That is, after he leaves earth -- his earthly ministry and sits at the right hand of God -- which is not local as we have said as Lutherans all along -- he, however, sends his Holy Spirit to the church. This Holy Spirit works in the church through the Word being preached. And so I think as we discuss the ecumenical character of the church can, the oneness, that these creeds as they are being discussed can be used as a helpful resource to clarify issues and to bring us closer. Particularly the east with the west. I also believe one thing that was always part of the life of the church as it confessed its faith, what the creeds do show is that membership in the church needs to be clearly defined on the basis of what is confessed by each individual member. So that today if we were to work towards reaching out to other people, as we try to grow, as new members should be brought in and assimilated, these creeds provide an important yardstick we could say on the basis of which we could judge the faith of other Christians. In the early church it was customary to ask somebody -- and generally this was at an adult baptism -- whether he believes in Jesus Christ. And he would confess the second part of the creed. He would also be asked whether he believes in God, the Father, the Creator and he would say yes. And also, whether he believes in the Holy Spirit. And he would confess what he believes therein. So as a Christian community grows and expands, there are certain faiths that need to be affirmed and expressed verbally and audibly so that the community can stand on it and judge for itself whether such member who confesses the faith also stands on the same faith that is confessed together.