Full Text for Leuenberg Concord: Three Responses (Text)

Leuenberg Concord: Three Responses CONFESSIOi\lAL LUTZ-JERAXS REACT TO LEU ENI3EliG CONCORI.) Over one huntlred persons participat~l jn the German- Scandina-crian 'I'hcological Confcl-cnce llelcl at Ratzeburg froin Allay 24 to 28. The main topic of cliscussion was the Ler~enbcrg Concord with critical analyses of this ctoc~inlcnt. This corlfercnce drew participants fro111 outside of Germany. From Sweden came :Bishop Bo Giertz of Gotebosg and from America, Dr. J. A. 0. P~:eus, President of the 3,Iissonri Synod. Lay ancl clerical representatives of both state and free churches from Finland, Den- mark, Norway, Ic(:Iancl, Sweden and Canada, participatecl in the church services and devotions, in actdition to the lectures and the discussiol~ groups. Some were at the conference for the first time, others had participated in the first conference llelcl at Sittensen in 19 63. Oberlrovidcil an iinpressive place for the \vorsl~ip services. Unfortunately aco~tstics presented a problein and a speakin8 systein i~nd to Be osed. The conference ended with the celebration of the Sacrament in the catheclral church with Bishop Giertz preaching. 11 communion service was conductccl at the end of the conference in St. Petcr's Church with I)r, Jijrgen Glenthiij of Denmark as prencIicr. Thcrc were fewer Icctures at i'lat/eburg than Sittensen. 'This allowed for lllore tl~orough discussions. I+st 011 the agentla were greetings by Dr. Prcus, prcsiclent of h.lissouri Synod, Dr. G. Rost, supervising bishop of the Breslau Synod and Dr. I-Ieuhach, professor of church history at t1.x University of Iervcrsion of the Gospel int-o I~,u~r those attempts at union based on anything else than the truth of the Gospel. Hans Ilombois, a specialist in church law, posed the question concerning the true nature of church fellowship. \Vould thc Leuenberg Concord necessitate a basic administrative restructuring of the old P~LISS~~II union hecausc of political 1-easons? In cox~clusion Asdendorf mentioned the 19th century confessional I,utlwrnns such as Vilrnar and Lohe as ecunlenical tlleologians in the propcl- sense. "The present fanaticism spells the end of the ecumenical ? 7 n~oven~ent. Ihis fanaticism has practical consequences i\r23ic11 are tlifficul t to recognize." Dr. Prcus spoke on "The Leuenberg Concord from an American Perspectivc." I-Ie reported that Lutheran-Reformed discussions in America brolte off in 1966. Documents of thesc disc~lssions were publislietl in the volume nilarburg Revisited, but they had no official valiclity and had no affect in bringing churches of the two confessions closer together. Talks were resumed in April 1972. A meeting is planr~ed for Noiic~nber to discuss specifically the Leucnberg Concord. Dr. Preus set out to explain the concept of church fellowship in the Leuenberg Concord and saw in it a confusion of the ZLIZZ sanctn catholic ccclcsia and the visible church. Preus also called attention to the dangerous lack of distinction between the Law and thc Gospel which woblcl call into question any proposed concept of the church. Finally, he pointed to the necessity of confessional Lutherans io stand together for the truth of the Gospel, and not to feel isolated. In an expanded meditation on John 17 : 17-23, Bishop Giertz discussed the indissoltible connection between the unit); in the Spirit and the outward union, a theme not seriously considered in the Leuenberg Concortl. "The title of his lecture was "That 'The); Be One --HOW IS It Possible?" Professor Dr. Peter nrunner gave a lecture entitled "Problems of the I-eucnberg Concord.'' I-Ie called for correc- tions in many points. EXc expressed the conviction that the Concord mas a good thing and earnestly clemanded to sul~l~ort the adoption of the tlocument. According to his opinion, he fa~~ored any attempt at a "union." Rather, 13,:unncr looIted at the document in the light of the unfortunate cle~~elopments within the Evangelical Church of Gernlany which are becoming more and Inore destructive of German Protestantism. Froxn this point of vie\+/, Professor 13runner saw it as an inlprovcmen t. (I<(:i.'s Note: 13rzlr.zlrel- has sii~c'e ~e17ersed h.iv~self). The final lecture was given by Dr. Glcnthoj. It was entitled I "Colnmunio Sanctorum or the New Conccpt of 'Church Fello'ivship' in the Lerrcnberg Concord." Marks of church fellowship are joy and joint purpose. At the same time, he warned against a confession that sets minim~inl ancl maxiinunl limitations. Glcnthijj also saw that in the Leuenberg Concord, the truth was being sacrificed for organiza- tional unity. Condemnations of opposing cloctrines in the Confessions as wcll as the Confessions themselves lost some of their force, but were not clearly retracted. Nothing at all was said about the almost universal recogxlition of thc rite of baptism anlong the Lutheran, Rcformecl and Linion churches. The corlnection bctir~een I'arts I to 111 to Part 117 gives the impression tl1;lt the theologians had taken 01-1 the role of church politicians. Not onc statement of the cloct~ment is validated by a Scriptural passage in spite of the fact that the study of Scriptures (Iontinates theological stuclics today. It is necessary to construct the doctrinal nletl~odology from tlie cloctrinc set doivn in the 1,euenberg Concord. In betivecn the lectures, words of greeting Icere brought: to the assembly. Anlong. those who spoke were Professor Dr. T,eiv Aalcn of Oslo, Pastor Dr. Dilllo IGviranta of I-lelsinlti and University Lecturer Erik Z'etrm of Sn!eden. Pastor Biischer spoke of the loss that Kirch- liche S~~I~IIL~IL~Z~~TL had sr~ffered through the dcath of Pastor Ilr. Helh~int Lieberg ancl his wife. At this molllent the conference united in prayer. Obcrkirchcnrat Dr. Rcller raised the qucstion in his word of greeting of how it ccrould be possible to work ~vith truth and clarity in the changing situations which the Leuenberg Concord would bring about. 111 111s opinion, tlie Leuenberg Concord coulcl cffect Eastern and Roman Catholicisln. The Leuenbcrg Concortl is going to present many ~~nansn?ered cluestions in the future for church law and politics. The cjuestion was discussecl whether the Concord \voulcl help rein- state the use of Lutheran Confessions. Time was given after the lectures to pose cjuestions to t21c essay- ists. In the midst of the discussions there was opportt~nity for fornlal words of greeting. Worthy of note was fair exchange of ~iews between Professor Rrunner and Oberkirchenrat Reller who were the onlv ones who favored the Concord, and the other participants ir.110 toik the opposing view. The unanimity was astonishing ancl not really expected. Still let it be said that the favorable attitude of Brunner and Kenner to t'hc Concord was based more on practical reasons and Ilardly on theological reasons. This reporter att-c.ndec1 only part of the discussion groups and can only report on tilcm. Group I, Dr. Iresupposes agreement among partners to the "concerti" on the follorving points, anlong others : historical differ- ences as expressed in the 16th century Confessions (LutZleran allcj Reformed) arc 110 longer viable or valid in our day, nor therefore divisive; there is a common understanding of the Gospel; agreement: can now be claimecl on previously contro~lerted articles like Christ- ology, the i.ord's St~ppct-, I?al>tism, I'redcstination; and, finally, such differences as still reil~ain clo not prevent altar and pulpit fello.ivship between thc churches that "acIin~\vlcclgc one anotl~er as the church of Jesus Cl~rist," IT'ith these prernises granted, the Ilopc is that the divided churchcs II~\T; recognize a common basis for concord. 'The task of this essay is to evaluate I.,euenberg's proposals for fellowship. It is mv hope to do this in a way which reinains sensitive to thc desired of unity, and yet with the greatest amom~t of objectivity and frankness. Anything less n~ould, I bclieve, clefcat the purposeof the I.,uthcran-l3eformed dialogues. We readily rejoice over sonle of the evangelical emphases which run through the document. This bespca1;s the earnestness with which the conferees \vorIied. On the othcr hand, it is to be doubted- unlcss a spirit of doct1.ina1 indifference has taken ovcr completely- that the mere assertion of church fellowship (29)) without actual, deinonstratecl consensus of faith, constitutes :I de fncto heciling of "the separation x~~l~ich arose in the 16th ccntury and has lasted until today." out of "loyalty to the confessions ~vhich bind them" could this be asserted, At least for Lutherans groundcd on the Book of Concord! J.,eitenberg has r-lot sho~vn that measure of agreenlcnt ~vhich woulcl all0~7 Confessional concerns (thetical and antithetical) of the 16th century to be dismissed as no longer valid or of present bearing in the di\:isions between the ch~~rc11c.s. Uor has it substan- tiated the claim that such doctrinal clifferences as still exist "clo lot imply separation of the churches" (32). The fact that t-hc.ologica1 cross-currents cut through and polarizc sides ~saithin the clcnomina- tions today-liberal .i7. conservative, etc.-does not ips0 fact0 make the "thought-forms of the 16th and 1 7th centuries" mere historically conditioned shells or antiques of no contemporary pertinence (5). Leuenberg speaks of "fellowship," not union, and to that cntl asserts that it "leaves intact the binding forcc of the conf~ssio~~s within the participating churches," meanwhile rejoicing after "thc conlmon mind reached on central matters" (37). Is such optinlislll actually in touch with reality? Union would bc the natural outco~ne then, if actual consensus in faith and teaching had in fact beer] attained and the old differences Lvcre no longer valid. The purported "common understantling of the Gospel" (3 8), on which the church fellowshil~ is to bc based, is cancelled out by Leuenberg itself when it notes that among unsettled doctrinal differences there is the Law/ Gospel distinction (39). This acln~ission, plus the expressed need for future dialogues "to clear up doctrinal differences," like "her- rneneutical understanding of Scripture, the questions of confession and churcl~, baptismal practice, pastoral office and ordination," etc., u~ould suggest to any participant for whom "the binding force of the confessions" is still intact that an adequate basis for fellowship, let alone unity, is still very much a drcam. Altar and pulpit fellow- ship on such a basis could hardly claim to be grounded on actual consensus of teaching and belief, prompted by unity of spirit, and in line with the IZeforrnation heritage, particularly sola Scripturn. UJe are dealing with eterrlal ~wities of (;otl, tatigllt I11 flis Holy !Vord, and responsible cl~urchruanshil) nlorrld aplxlal: to 1cni:c no alternative than that of 11~1-suing fello\vship on the basjs of gcn~1i11e iinit); of faith, clearly exprtsscd, as in the Doolc of C:onc.orci. T'nrt TI. A basic premise for "itclliet7ing chnrcll fello.i\:s1lipn rests on the claim that "the signatory clturches are agreed in thr? ~~i~derst:inclin~ of the GospelJ' (3 1). This ref~ain runs thro~igl~out thc clocun~cnt (par. 1, 4, 6-12; 38, 41). Of the essence is tlic. cj~iestion, \\'hat precisely is the "gospel" concerxiiiig wllick sticll iIgI.C'C 11lc'll t is claimed? This is a conccrn pressed forth 11v thc inherent contratlictioil in Leuenberg itsclf: namcly, ho-tr- can jhose nllo disagree on the I-,a\v,' Gospel distinction (39) bc in agreenient on (Ilc Gospel? We reac1il.c~ grant that it inay indeeil he possible, b!- thc \.c~.>, power of God's 'iVord in Holy Scripture, that Cllristia~ls 111 all tlte various com- lllu~lions cling in trusting faith to their S;~~~.ior fro111 sin, Jesus C11i-ist, and to no other. But it is also true, as o~il- ilisc~issio:~~ in Prii~ccton e\iidencc.d, that such clarity does not i~lit~ii~~~ exist; \vitncss, e.g., the accent: on "doing the gosllel." It is to be cloubtecl, therefore, that 3 co~nnlon understanding of the Gosl~el exists when a "con Fusion i~r ter lege71~ et evnirgelirrlr~" (FC, Sl), 1') 27) still obtains. -I'hi; is an cspccialIy sensitive point. It was then, as our Confessions attest (cf. ,,\pol. IV, 5; SA 111, IV; FC (Flit.) 1'; FC (SJ)) IT.), aud it remaiils so 110\1:. In 8encr:d it rn;!) bc gr~inted that Lelle~iberg Part I1 (ancl l'i11-t IT1 .i.i,hich belol~gs 'tvith ~t in substance) lcn\7cs tllc illlpressioll that a conccrtccl eflort \!-as ~n:tde, not only to spcali evangelically, I)ilt to bring the Heformect position more closcly in line ~vitll. Lutheran teaching and terminology on given, crucial topics, e.g., Christ's salvatory work, the sacraments, and even predestination. (As regards the latter, e.g., see par. 25.) IIo~vever, ~t-lint is explained as the conteltt of thc Gospel (9) is a .ivholly inaclequntc sumlnary of the retlernptir:e, atonintr t-.icarious ivorlc of the Savior, Jesus Christ, our I.,ord. C;hristls .~r-orl;";ls the Crucified and Risen Onc, n~ho rook upon hiin the juclgmcnt of God, and thereby made manifest the love of God to the sinner," (9b) is cast in such ambiguous terms that vir- tuallv anything, from the declaratory tl1eol.y of the atonenlent to the acccbtilation theory--and others in 1)cti.i-~n-is possible as intcr- pretation. Surcl): there must be an awareness that nl~ich of European theology at this time, Lutheran ancl Reformed, 1110.i7cs with an ai.er- sion to the blood atonement and .i.icarious satisfaction for sins, that Christ bears, satisfies, placates the avenging ~rrath of God against sin ant1 sinners. There is nothing in Leucnbcrg which supports in so many n~ords the fait ncco~npli', the objective fact, of Christ's vicarious atonement for the justification of sinners (forensic sense), a changed condition effected by Christ's propitiation, ~rrhich exists even before faith collies into the picture. The forgiveness of sins- which is not even mentioned-although it is the exact equivalent and conterlt of that act of God whereby Hc for Christ's sake declares the world innocent, acquitted, righteous, is something which faith, by the power of tl.1~ Holy Spirit, accepts, not something. which faith effects! Berkou~vcr, fl>tltch 1:cfosjned dogmatician, is cr~tlcal of fellonr- Keforl~lcd Garth bccausc llc "~.elatcs ~econciliation to faith," and so, like Brunncr, sees ultimately a discontinuity with the universality of God's grace in C:llrist (cf. bVor.1:. of C7~rist, 289). This is tlle l,l:~c.e liliewise to note that the setting 311 the midst of the ~vorld the Z~cginning of a new I-lumanity" ( 10) is a philo- sopllicnl fiction begun by Barth (or perhaps rather by Feuerbach), fostcl-ecl by l'illich in his New 'Bcing, and consum~nated in ~neta- physic.;ll spvculation hy Tcilhiird cle Chardin through his Omega l'oint ---all of it 1)Iatrtnt anth~:opocentrism. 111 such theologizing there is 110 roonl for, 11or nced for, CIli1-ist being 111nde a cursc for us (Gal. 3, 1 3 ), since Christ merely repi-escnts the neiv, obedient, true inan in the sense of a kind of "corporate personality," not thc vicarious substitute whose sacrifice brought a once and for all, perfcct offel-ing for sin (E-leb. 7,27; 10,14; 1 John 1, 7; 2,2; IZonl. 3, 24.25). A clear ~intlerstal~ding of the Gospel is also vitally connectecl wit21 the ch~lrch's whole eschatological mission in this ~vorld. Leuen- 11erg aj7l)ears to be listeninq to another drum I~eat. 'T:ternal salvation, 11.it11 ;,I1 its blessings, i; consiclcrably blurl-ccl by the doul,tful eschatology of "the Coming One, il-ho opens 1113 for thc nfo~.ld its future." Conceivably this coulcl Incan Christ in His sccontl advc11t and return for judgnicnt. 13ut it sounds 111ol:c liltc Ernst Eloch, or i\llolt- illan11 ~xxhaps, or cvcn Garaudy, talking and "infon~ljl~g," or shaping, "ChristianJ' eschatology. One ~vondcrs, from what is ;~sserted in Leuenberg ( 14), \L-hat prcciseljl the church's message to the world is to be? Since the subject-heading is "Justification as the Mcssage of the Free Grace of Gocl," one n~ight espect something trul~r evan- gelical; instead the focus runs in the direction of "teil~pornl. justice and peace between inclividuals and peoples." It is beyond debate that thesc are highly desirable goals; but a political stress is here being introduced into thc nature and meaniilg of the Gospel which is foreign to the NT, a serious conlmingling of Law aid Gospel. Excellcntljl .trd the Augsb~~rg Confession (VI) notes that "faith is bo~ind to bring forth good ~vorlts," in fact, "that it is necessary to do good -tvorlelV among its sul,portess, ~vhcthcr on this side of tllc Atlantic or the other. 'Then the ~voxds, "common understancling of the Gosl3c.1," bccomc but the fig leaf bchintl which sorely torn ch~~l-ches attcllipt to hide their shanle. Then "diffcrcnccs" go beyond mcre "si):lc of theological thought and church life" and pierce the \:cry heart of the Gospel itself. As regards ' - the Sacranlents, lye can rejoice again over Lcucn- berg's attempt to highlight their significance in the faith and life of the churches (par. 13-1 6). But as presently n;ortlcd, the document itself pronipts the question of whether the vis cxhibitivn and the vis effecati~n of the Sacranlents are really spelled out. \Vhat does the an~biguous statement, "Jesus Christ is present by the Holy Spirit," (13) really mean? It would appear froill what is said concerning Baptism, "Jesus Christ bestoivs on is through his \Voi-d the forglrle- ncss of sins and eternal life" and the renewal by the Moly Splrit, that a rather fine statement has been made in behalf of Baptism's power. Consl,icuous by its absence, ho.rvever, is any reference to infant baptism. 'This is a particularly troubling omission, in view of the growing tendency within Lutheran churches, even Catholic churcl~es, to leave the need for infant baptism as an entirely optional thing for parents. The nature ancl efficacy of Baptism and particularly the Lord's Supper as nleans of srace are stated in such general terms that the dis- cerning reader will immediately be aware that several ~xcanings can be reat1 into the phrases, including those which have previousl~~ divided the church bodies on this whole issue. Particularly is this so for the J,orc'i's Supper. As a result, Leuenberg is hardly an adequate statement on the issue of Christ's body and blood in the sacrament, at least not if past dificrcnces (and present) are born in mind, and assuming that Luthcrnns still intend to be Lutherans, and Refornled, Kcformed. The Luthcra~~ Confessions, from the Small Catechism through the Augsburg Confession to the Formula of Concord, plainly assert ir'hat tlicy ?!old to be the Scriptural tei~ching on the Lor-'s Sul~l~u>l~c'cifcail!; that con~i~i~~nicants (worthy or 11ii1'i7ortliy) receive in this Sacralncn t C'Ilrist's true, csscnf id hotly and blood (11. lieforincd t~achinn whicll consistei~tl! insists "tllat the true essential l~oci); and ? blood of CXtrist is i~bsellt" FC:(Sl)) \'11,2) in, \\.ith, and uncler the elements, 131.cacl and \irine, as Christ jl~stitr~tcltI and promised by I-jis iVord, for the forgi\,cncss of sins. 120uc.nbcrg, on thc other halid, is desigi~edly ambig~tous, ~illo\ving eit hcl- the 1:vfornlecl spiritual, or symbolical, sensc of: real prescl1cr, or, con\'ci-sell!, the I,utheran ,- - interl~rctation. L 11c Irr.ry aiui)igiiit >, of course, fa\.ors :ind sugg.csts the former! Kcetl j1.c rC'13C;lt the ('il11ti011 that this is not thr tli1lc for clever phrasing, biit for face-on, c.;i~ncst ;~ttcntion to thc issue, as the text of Scripture. 131-ods and 1)intls IIS? 'I'llc Zlcidelbcrg Catechism came c1osc.r than most in this csercise of co~~~l~romise-phrasing; 1)ut 1,utherans untierst;tndabl!~ rejectctl it. Leucnbcrg, as ii prcseiitly stands, can ho]>e for 110 ore! 'I'his is not a time for scntilncnt:11, ei~lotional rhctoric s~~hich nlcrcl!; sobs, I1o11; can there 11c strife in connection \\.it11 thc love feast? b11t for asking, sinlply ancl bnsically, ~vhat is the nature and ~nciliiing of thc T-ord's SL~~~ICL. ;1ccorcli11g to Christ's n-ortls of Institution? Closclj~ tied in with thr quation of clifferences on the I_ord's Suplwr, is the xvholc question of C:hrist's person, partic~~l:~rl~ de rlzlnbs~s ~~ntrlris ill Cl~~.isto ~bnd thc conimi~iiication of attributes. The latter is not cvcn entered into, in spite of the fact that it is so vital to a correct understanc'ling of Cli1-kt's person as true God and truc man. (Predestination lilic\\ is(: is insufficirntlv addressccl, if all ambiguities, in the Iight of past diiferc'nccs, arc to he eliminated,) The pel-sonaf union of natures in C;llrist, di\)inc and hulnan, is somctlling very dcar, $Ire line\\;, to tllv Iieart of cIrery truc Christian, Reformed or Lutheran. It \.i.ould be utterly naive, hoir.e~.cr, to believe and to say that "lie can no lonqcr :ipl>ly the former censi~res" (?3), on the strength, e.g., of a brief forn~ula like "the total unity of the PersonJ' as an adequatc statement of the Scriptural tcaching con- cerning the two natrtres in Christ. Bchincl that phrase, after all, there can still lic hidden the Reformed rejection of' tllc true com~nunion of nati~l-cs and the communication of the cli\;inc. attributes to the hunian nature of Christ (cf. Col. 2, 9; FC iilI1; ant1 Chenlnitz' De D11nbzt.q Nnturis ilz Christo.) Needless to say this n.oultl Icave the rchole illnportant matter of the erzhyyostnsin (the truc Pcrson of the Son of God in hurn:~n flcsh) in doubt, a question 011 ~.c*hich not only Lutherans divide fro111 the T3cforlned, but from "Lutherans" them- selves today, as n ~.cs~ilt of Hultnlann's dcmvthologizing. "The Church, properly so cc~lled, is the congregation of saints nho truly believe the Gospcl of Christ" (Apol. l7IT & I7III; riC 1711 & VIII; SA 111, XJI; Txge Catechism 11, 37-39). To recognize that the Church, the 13ocly of Christ, is to be found there ~~herc the marks of thc Ci~urch are present, \Vord end Sacwments, has ahrays been '1 char,~ctcristic of tllc LutEieran church altcl its Confessions. It has c~lso tdkcn seriously thc injunctions of God's Moh IT-ord towards purity of tcachi~lg in the articlcs of faith, and has established altar and pulpit fellowshil~ svith other Ch.ristians when and nlllerever a oenuine consensus in the articles of faith has been discovered. By the h same token it has vic.irctl fello.r~:shil-, \'i.itllout cloctrinal consensus as unionism, a sinful and l~nctliical cllaracle, out of ch;~racter with Scriptural iniunction. A ~ccord~ii~l~, the inere asscrtioi~ that by con~n~on dec1ar:ition "church fellowship is achieved," (34) is not only preinature, hut ~vislifol tl~inlcl!' i111rl "il,c I-iqht administration of thc Sacraments" is a sufficient basis f'or fcllo~\.sli 11). 'The C;onfcssors were actually speaking of sonlething clsc, as :\l>ol. 1'11, 31, ~wo\~cs; ~lamely, of "true, i.&., of spiritual unity, \s:itl~o~~t ulhich faith in the heart, or righteousness of heart before God cannot exist." Thcrcfore, they add that "hun~an rites" play no role llcl-c, 1101- "are the); effects of thc Holy Ghost." Further, they expound this spiritual unity to nlean "that those are one harmonious church 1x.120 believe in onc Christ; ~vho have one Gospel, one Spirit, one faith, the sanlc Si~craincnts; and j'i~e are speal