Full Text for Confessions 1- Volume 35 - Understanding Faith and the Church (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CONFESSIONS 1 CON1-Q035 JANUARY 2005 CAPTIONING PROVIDED BY: CAPTION FIRST, INC. P.O. BOX 1924 LOMBARD, IL 60148 * * * * * This text is being provided in a rough-draft format. Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. * * * * >> NICK: How does faith, as described in Articles 4 and 5, shape our understanding of the church? >> DR. KLAUS DETLEV SHULTZ: Nick, the Articles 7 and 8 refer to how we should understand the Christian church. The Lutherans have always made a clear point that they want to understand the church as being an entity of faith. That is, they define it as a communion of saints, of those who believe, people are meant thereby. Add the reformers, thereby, go and take a route that is contradicting itself with the Roman Catholic position, who have always believed that there is a certain hierarchy that represents the church; a hierarchy meaning, thereby, the papacy and also the bishops and priests, all those who belong to the consecrated order of that church. So the Lutherans and Melanchthon, here, take a different route defining the church as something that is invisible, only seen by God himself. They declare the assembly of saints as being a church, the *una sancta ecclesia, the one holy church. We will not be able to see it. God himself can only do this. It is a radical statement, and was picking up those already John *Horsehead said or John *Whitcliff. The reformers, thereby, tackled the understanding of the Roman Catholic Church in a very radical form. However, it is important, here, that we also add the second part of the sentence that says: a communion of saints in which the word, the gospel, is purely preached and the sacraments are rightly administered. That means that we do not want to understand this church as being a platonic entity that kind of floats around not knowing exactly where it belongs. No. We have here, in this relative clause, where the word is purely preached and the sacraments are rightly administered, attention drawn to where we will actually find the church itself. A most vivid expression of that gathering would then be on a Sunday morning where people are gathered around the word as it is proclaimed and administered. So we never really understand the church as an entity that is not defined. It is actually found there where the preaching of the sacraments -- the preaching of God�s word and administration of the sacraments occur. The article goes on a little bit then of saying what unity is all about. It says it is enough to agree on the gospel and the sacraments, and one does not have to bring in their traditions and various ceremonies. It is good enough to agree on the gospel and the sacraments, rather than to go in all these various practices that these churches have. It is therefore legitimate to disagree on ceremonies. However, one has to see the context of the 16th century. We can see there, that the reformers, Luther and Melanchthon, had already by the year 1528 engaged in visitations of congregations. They instructed other pastors to do the same, to visit their congregations to see that they're doing their job. That came from Elector John himself, that order, who functioned as a prime Christian in the church and assumed as ruler the role of organizing such visitations. So we can say, though, that ceremonies may differ amongst congregations, that these visitations wanted to bring across the point that Lutherans should not always disagree, but should come together also amongst such ceremonies and traditions and, perhaps, find a conformity beyond those of word and sacrament. But it is correct to say that ultimately, the union, the consensus on the doctrine of justification and the gospel and a consensus around the sacraments, these are the two crucial points on which unity is based. Is it, therefore then, legitimate to speak of various denominations? How did they come about? Admittedly, as we have just said, they believe in the *una sancta ecclesia, in the one Christian holy church. How do we then come to denominations? Is that a reality that goes against this article? I do think that this article already tells us that we are obliged to preach the gospel purely and to administer the sacraments rightly. These are adverbs that we must take seriously. Therefore, we are obliged to such preaching that does not go contrary to the gospel and to understand the sacraments in such a way that does not go contrary to that what is being said in the Augsburg Confession and the lighter confessions as well. Thereby, often, denominations will arise. The Evangelical Lutheran Church claims to be the one that expresses this article in its most pristine form, wanting intentionally to oblige to that what is said of purely preaching the gospel and rightly administering the sacraments. We cannot deny our obligation to do this. It lies really in article 7. Article 8 is a very important article because it draws our attention to the reality of this church, the church militant. While we have defined the church as an assembly of saints, as those who believe, we have to say that while we are still in this world, there will be amongst us also evil people and hypocrites gathered around word and sacrament. We will never be able to identify true believers and discerned those from false believers. So the reality is, while we still live in this world, that the church is still a body of believers and evil people together at the same time. Now it can occur, this article says, that the word will be preached and the sacraments will be administered by evil individuals, by pastors who do not believe. Are God's word and the sacraments thereby declared ineffective, as the Donatists at the time of the fourth century already claimed? We clearly say with the words of this article that the word that is being preached and the sacraments that are being administered clearly are not contingent on the holiness of the people who are administering them. It is crucial that we draw all attention to the word itself as being the only efficacious means and not to be deterred by any status of that individual who administers it. Articles 7 and 8 are thus very important in defining the church and the understanding of why we today are preaching God's word and administering the sacraments. We cannot draw away from the fact that there is a reality in this world. We have to accept that we will not be a pure church, that there will always be factions and fights all over. But as long as the church militant exists, we have an obligation to commit ourselves to the proper proclamation and to the right administration of the sacraments. At the same time, we should always dialogue with other church bodies and try to bring about a consensus so that unity can be expressed visibly also beyond just being particular churches. The international Lutheran Council is a movement that tries to promote such unity of dialogue, not compromising the gospel, but at the same time, also trying to express a visible unity that is able to transgress also geographical boundaries.