Full Text for A Response to David Lotz (Text)

THE SPRINGFIELDER July 1974 Volume 38, Number 3 A Response to David Lotz T HE IlEVEREND DAVID LOTZ has taken an interest in the present theological problems of the h~lissouri Synod and has con- tributed several essays on its problems. I4e was given the role of "theologian in residence" for the Atlantic Tlistrict. It was for the delegates of that district's conveiltions that he originally prepared three essays, which were later mimeographed for wider distribution. Mr. Lotz offered his three papers in response to the synodical leader- ship's call for general discussion on "A Statement" and related matters at Concordia Seminary, St. T2ouis. I am offering this con- tribution in response to Mr. Lotz' request in a letter of July 12, 1974, asking for "any critical comnlents." Mr. Lotz' papers were offered as a critique. To offer a critique on the critique can become very complex. I propose sirnply to respond to Mr. Lotz without gettina into the question of whether he has accurately repeated the theoyoogical positions of the principal persons involvcd in the controversy. I assume.he has. Thus I have not seen the charges in regard to the suspended president of Concordia Sem- inary, except where quoted. I have read "A Statement" issued by the synotlical president and "Faithful To Our Calling" issued by the forlller faculty majority of Concordia Seminary, but I have not con- sulted these clocuments in any way in making this responsc. 'The essays distributed by blr. I.dotz are: "An Appraisal of the 'Pheological Crisis in the Missouri Synod"; "A Brief Synopsis of the hlajor Theological-Doctrinal Issues"; and "A Critical Appraisal of A Stntenzelzt of Scriptural and Corzfcssio~znl I-'rinciples." I shall atte~npt to esan~ine certain theological principles fro111 these essays and avoid an expository verse by verse comn~entary. As thev were distributed together, I shall treat tllerll as a unit. In the essay clealing with "A Statement" Mr. Lotz remarks that the reatling of his essay "presuppose(s) a fairly high degree of theological sophistication" ("Critical Appraisal," pp. 60a-b). This kind of statement puts any respondent in a very embarrassing situa- tion. Any one might be proud to fall into Mr. Lotz' category of "a fairly high degree of theological sophistication." Etyn~ologically the word "sol3histicatio1l~ ~~1st be related to the worcl "sophist." For tl~e sake of self-csteem and self-preservation, I shall respond with a nolo colztendere defense to any charge of "theological sophistication." Real- ly the principles brought up by Mr. Lotz are very simple and not at all ~0111pli~;lted. He might well be guilty at some points of some yoor logic and cumbersome writing, but these are forgivable sins where the suppliant is repentant, Mr. Lotz agrees with me in isolating the real issues: Scriptures versus Gospel as norm, historicity, and the J,aw in the life of the Christian. Several years ago I isolated these same issues in several articles. Indeed it is refreshingly welcome to have someone else, ant1 a person with whom one does not agree, confirm one's hypotheses, . - Mr. Lotz sharpens up the position that regards the Gospel as i\ Respolzse 'T'o Ihid Lotz - - . -- . - . .. L. -. . ._ . . 227 -- . . the basic norrn for doctrine and the Scriptures as a secoilclary norm. Supcriicially it can be said that both groups arguing the question of authority in the church ~:ecognize Scriptures as possessing authority. But the q~lestion reinnins as to ~vhy the Bible possesses authority. In other words, ho\v would each group ;lns\lrer the cluestion: "l\lhere does the Bil~le get its authority?" Or, "Why should I nlaltc the Bible the authority for my Christian life?" Answering this kind of question will provide us with thc clue to the authorit!j problein in the church. Mr. Lotz' position-which he claims is that also of the fornler St. Louis faculty majority-is that the Scriptures are the autl~orit~~ because of the Gospel they contain. "The Scriptzdres alone are liorm;- tive because they bear witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Gospel is accordingly the norm within the Scriptures." ("Appraisal," p. 6). Mr. Lotz' objection is that President Preus and the fra~ners of Resolution 3-09 have incorrectly deduced that the former facultv majority says: "The Gospel alone is normative . . ." LVe shall let the question of whether Rlr. Lotz properly reflects the conclusions of President l'reiis and others, but he has helped to narrow our vision on the intricacies of the position. This is the position: The Scriptures arc azrtJ~oritative but they get their authority from the Gospel. Let t'his position bc appreciated for its positive value. Tt asserts that the Gospel is a11 essential part of' the Scriptures and thc Scriptures do plav a vital role in Christian theology. But ~vhatever positive valuc the and inacceptable inversions. This position, as enunciated by Mr. i position has is more tllan counter-balanced by its glaring inadequacies Lotz, lowers the Scriptures in the authority scale to the same level as the Lutherans now place their confessions. Lutherans l~old that the Bible alone is riornza izormans, the governing regulation, and the Confessions arc the Ilormn ~zornzntn, the rcgulatlons governed by the Scriptures. In Mr. Lotz' scheme, the Gospel beconies Tzorlnn nornlans and the Sc~:iptures become uornzcr Izormatn. For Lutherans, Script~ires do not have an authority derived from a higher principle of the Gospel. 'I'hcir authoritv is God's own. Mr. Lotz sets this new positioil uy against the one previously held, but: he is less than fair. "The Scriptures, in sum, .are the 'only rule and norm of faith and practice' bccause of their central colzte7zt -the doctrine of the Gospel, not because of their particular form as the inspired and illfallible Word of God. This is not to say that such inspiration and infallibility are unimportant or unnecessary." By his reference to the "particular form" Mr. Lotz confuses delib- erately, I dare say, the mode of inspiration with the fact. "A State- ment" holds that the Bible has its autl~ority from God and does not speak to the nloile of inspiration as hlr. Lotz suggests. The Scriptures arc authoritative for Rlr. Lotz and for those he represents not because of their theological origin but because of their teleological purpose. The older positions said what the Bible "does," it does because of what it "is." The new position says what the Bible "is," it is because of what it "does." For Mr. Lotz, the Scriptures are the Word. of God because they serve the Gospel, not hecau:e they are given by God through inspiration. This is 'basically a confusion between Scripture's origin and function. I.otlr,' position is col~sistent in defining Biblical inerrancy as "utter reliability . . . achieving its God-ordained purpose" ("Synopsis," p. 5). Inerrancy is no longer defined as being "a not contrary to fact report" but it is defined as r 7 God's carrying out his purposes not.i/. Iheology bccomes telcoIogy again. He claims that the controversy "should be made to focus on the faculty's proposed clefinit ion of 'inerrancy,' not its supposcd denial of 'inerrancyJ " ("Synopsis," 13. 6). 'This attitude demands a iong pause for thought. The former faculty majority, in the opinion of h4r. Loi~, still makes use of the tern1 "inerrancy," but has ~iven it a new meaning. The technical tern1 for this kind of reasoning 1s ecjuivo- cation, to "use expressions of clouble ~l~eaning in order to xnislead." 1)oes a person have two cows, if he calls a cow "a c~.ir~~) and a horse "a cowJ'? The, Arians of the fourth century and the lehovah's Wit- nesses of the twentieth call Jesus "God" as do confessing Lutherans. But what each group means by "God" is entirely different. This is exactly what Rfr. Lotz does with the tvorcl "inerrancy." FIere is a case of using the traditional terminology hut giving it a ne1i7 meaning. Furthermore Mr. Lotz states that the term "inerrancy" "is not found as such in either the Bible or the Confessions" ("Synol~sis," '1 * p. 5). Consider this line of reasoning. Mr. Lotz says the term In- errancy" is neither of Biblical or confessional origin; the term is r~sed by the faculty majority (but with reluctancy, T imagine); ancl the tcrnl has been redefined by the faculty. Tf this is how the former faculty really feels, then why use the term at all? One could easily get the impression that the word "inerkancyJ' is used to indicate that the faculty espouses a position that it really does not hold and does not \van t to holil. Mr. Lotr' ren~arks about the necessity of redefinition of the word 'inerrancy" to save 11s from a prescientific world view of a flat earth are not helpful. His statement that "the biblical authors clearly oycr- atc with a world view which simply takes for granted a flat earth" is hcgging thc cluestion ("Svnoysis," 13. 6). If it is so clear, let I~im ~xoduce the evitfence. "T'he matters of Biblical authority, jnterpretation, historicity, and facticiiy may be all treated together for the sake of convenience. >I!-. L,otlr ~naltes a distinction between "historicity" and "factuality." "A StatcnlentJ' intends that one word explains the other and in the docu- inent they may be considered as synonymns. Mr. Lotz sees that facti- city can take other forms besides the historical one. Thus he sees Genesis 3 as factual in thc sense of describing the fallen conditio~l of manliil~d, but not necessarily historical, in the sense of being one particular episode in time and space. Mr. Lotz' point of contention 111ust be made clear. I-le is not denying that certain events previously consickred historical llzust now be treated as metaphorical or synl- l~olical, only that they may be so treated ("Synopsis," pp. 6ff. and "Critical Aplx-aisal," 13. 6Ok). He objects that "A Statement" does not ailotv metaphorical or sjmbolical interpretations to the exclusion of historical ones. Genesis 1-3, Jonah, the Synoptic Gospels, and John are mentioned as cases where other than historical interpretations sho~lld be allowed. -4 lics~~onse TO David Lotz - - - - - - - - - - - - - -.-. -- 229 Regretfully, Mr. Lotz does not set down his principles whereby a given ac:count may be classified as exclusively metaphorical or sym- bolical ant1 not historical. I-lis reference to "literary form" without any sl'ecifjcs makes a response rather difficult. This sentence sums up his position : "'T'heir (faculty majority) position, rather, is that Gene- sis 2-3, the hoolc of Jonah, and the gospels do not necessarily hnve to he i~~terp~eted, in every detnil and in ever? part, as 7~istoricnl doczt- ments, as if the category of historical narrative were the onlypossible liteycrvy fovnz which co~lld be applied to them" ("Synopsis," p. 8; cml~hases are hlr. 1,otz'). I ! There is general agreement on all sides that the Scriptures use symbolical or nletaphorical language. What literature does not? \47hat is disturbing is the illogical jumps of thought. If some language detail is symbolical, this can hardly be interpreted to mean that all or any given part of the hole can or may be symbolical or non-historical. For example, Jesus called Hcrod a fox. This is a metaphor. Does this meall that Jesus F-Iinlself possibly beconles a metaphor, or that the events in the life of Jesus may possibly be considered as metaphors rather than parts of history? Jesus spoke parables, but does this mean that Jesus is paraboljc? Rlr. Lotz seems to believe that the use of a metapl~or or a poelll or whatever literary device excludes the historical (cf. "Critical iippraisal," 13. 60k). History can be esplainetl in poems, diaries, ai~tobiosraphies, etc. Does this mean that what is no longer poetically expla~ned is then historical? Let us grant that Genesis I contains poetic lan~uage. lloes this mcan that it cannot be history? Jonah sings a hhynin from the belly of the fish about his pun- ishnlent and deliverance, Does this 1nean Jonah's sojourn in the fish is not.historv? Tl~ere is a poeill about the ernbattled fariners at Concord's bridge. lhes the Battle of Concord suddenly become a non-historical event, a metaphor or symbol or whatever bera~~se a poet described it? More scrious, from the vieivpoints of both faith and literature, is Mr. Lotz' rema~:ks that the Gospels "do not purport to be biographical docuvze~zts in our n~oclern sense of the term, that is, strictly chron- ological and completely factual accounts of the life of Tesus" ("Synop- sis," pi'. Sf.). W'hat is Mr. L.otz tryin8 to say? t hat-if something is not written in a chro~lological outline, lt is not factual? History books are tvrittc;n to.pically and c:risscross chronologically, as do ne\vspaper and magazine articles. And what is the official biographical pro- cedure in our ]nodern \vorld? Granted that a first century docun~ent will not look lilcc a twentieth century document. Obviously! If it did -like the Boolc of Mormon a nineteenth century ~vorl<--it ~vould be regarded as a forgery. Lct it also be granted the Gospels seem to have n literary character of their own, sui ge~zeris. They are n~rittcn to pre- sent the life and preaching of Jesus to bring people to faith. Rut ~OIV does h4r. Lotz coille to the conclusion that the): therefore do not pur- port to be "completely factual accounts of the life of Jesus"? 13ut they do! Mr. TAotr is saying, however, that they are not completely factual accounts. Now let him show where. To use an olcl dogmatism, let- him cite chapter and verse. Why should we value "the coinpletc factuality" of inodern "hiogmp7zicnl documents"? \4,'hich ones? l.lo~.\ about the anticipated rnenloirs of Nixon or Kissinger? How about ill(: trade of the court biogral~hers emplo!;ed by rhe Ilc~.oes theinsel.i~es to tell "thc rchole truth"? How allout the Iiockefcller-finnnced biograplrv of Arthcr Goldberg? \VIlo .ivill conle forth .i.iith the pule historic2 clocunlent, free from all prejudices, delil~erate and nntlelibcrate 'lapses in menwry, and with no -propagandist purposes at all? If h,Ir. 1,otz is totally unfair in his appraisal of the Gospels, this is only to bc hal- anced by an unhealthy and uncritical appi:eciatjon of motlcnl docu- inehts, including those produced by modcrn 1.ristorinns who secln to be charisn~atized nit11 a near infaIIibilit~1 \vI~ich he denies to the Biblical writers. 'T'hc approacl~ set fo~:th here \~vould also permit the history re- cordetl in the Scriptures to he interpreted as syml~ols. Somethin(r 1~11ich is only "synlbolicJ' call be classified as "historicnl" or "factoal." "Facticity" does not exhaust the meaning of "historical." Mr. Lotz .i.r.oultl permit the statement that the story of Adam and Evc has a certain "factuality" abo~lt it, but it cotlld be "s):lxholic" ("Critical /ippl-sisal," pi,. 60j-lc). One could say that the story of Adam and Eve did not happcn, but it: is still "historical." Fol- "A Statement" the term "lris~orical" refcrs to what 1,lappens. For Nr. Lotz it can rcfer t:o what 11apl~ened or to what could possibly be just part of n "symbolic" story. h/Tl-. Lots upIlol(1s the position that the Gospel is the cletennining factor or criterion for what is ;incl is not to be bc:lie~etl in the Bible. "There can bc no doubt either that Scripture teaches such matters or that Chi-istians 11eed not accept them because they are not part of the Gospel. Indeecl Christians properly rcpudiatc them because they are a part of that Law whicl~ canle to an end in Jesus Christ" ("Critical i\ppraisal," p. 60e). Rlr. Lotr might not l~e aware -of his agreement ~vith the j3osition of I'l-esiclent l'reus in that the Scriptures tell us what thc Gospel. is. Of course R'lr. Lotz' real intent is that the Gospcl tells 11s what- paris of Scriptures are applicablc. It follo~~ls auton~atically tl~a~ there can be no third use of the law, the ).)ositive, n7llolesome g~~iclc in the (2hristia11's life. The Gospel as the determining principle of .r\;hat is to bc 'believeil and not believed is a natural conclusion froill i:he conccl~t t1.iat the Biblc gets its authority from the Gospel. If the C . ., -lospel ]);IS bccon~e in effect the uornza IZOI-I~L~I~S, then it follows that tbc Scriptures, the nounza laorltrata, have a truth dei-ivecl froin the Goslwl and the Scriptures must be constantly judged by the Gospel. Let us sun~marize the position of hllr.. Lotz up to this point. The Gos~d is thc principle that gives the Scriptures their authority and they are the critical principle of interpretation in determining what is applicable and what is not applicable. History can be rccluced to syn~bolic trllth, as long as the Gospel jjredominates. "Gospel," regard- less of its definition, may operate with or without a specific history. Tl~c entire system is quite consistent. 'The Gospel is the coi~trollii;~ principle. ':l'hc only thing rcnlailli~lg is to tleterllline the definition of the Gospel. According to the old definition, the Gospel is the news or report that God redecmed all mankind for the sake of Jesus Christ. It is bascti on thc fact that something specific happened. But it is right IICL-c. on this very iil~portant question that Lotz leaves a yawning gap. htlr. Lotz is 17ot willing to say that the Gospel can be set down in any J-. The position of "A Statement" sees Gocl's authority in the Scriptures. That at least is "thcolotry" and not "bibliol.at1-y." These words are adr1l:essccl to the pastors of the h~lissouri Synod :IS response to illIr. 1-otz' essays, but I do wish that they ~vould be shared with the Iny clelegates of the Atlantic District to ~vhom Mr. Lotz fii:st addressed his ~vords and ~.i:ho will not receive a copy of this essay. For such a wish to be fulfilled, I can only rely on the leaders of the Atlantic District.