The Euphemist

Reflections on Jewish Studies and many other subjects big and little, by a perpetual student who sometimes searches a little too long for just the right word ...

My Photo
Location: Minnesota, United States

Christian, truth seeker, husband, son, brother & uncle, Lutheran pastor, musician (cello, etc.), Jewish Studies grad student, intellectual historian, aquarium enthusiast & pet owner, philologist, astronomer, Norwegian-American, Ford pickup driver, buffoon.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

What Would Luther Do ...

... if he were forced to choose between the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions (parts of which he wrote himself) as the one book he could save in an emergency? I think it's very clear from his own writings that he would choose the Bible.

Yesterday, via Lars Walker, I came across this post in which "Othniel" argues that the Book of Concord (the collection of confessional documents which officially define Lutheran doctrine - some, but not all of them were written by Martin Luther) would be the one book to save if you were only permitted to "choose one (count'em "1") book by which to salvage all of human history, knowledge and spirituality."

I dashed off a response/challenge to his argument, which may be viewed as a comment on Othniel's post. I'll also include it at the bottom of this post.

Yesterday I had also posted something about it on this site. Then, after awhile, my conscience told me that in my fury I had let a little of the flesh show through, so I deleted it. Nevertheless, I stand by the content of my comments. I think Othniel meant well, but it seems very clear to me that Luther and the Reformers would have never, never, never intended their writings to take the place of the Bible.

Maybe I'll blog more about this issue in upcoming days. Meanwhile, we're praying for you, Othniel, and thanks, Lars, for the nod.

My comments, as posted at Othniel's "Cross Theology":

I'm a Lutheran pastor, and I can't leave this post unchallenged. To put it bluntly, I think if Luther were a blog reader today he would post you a comment, and it might not be printable in the "Lutheran Witness." Furthermore, I think he would lament, loudly, that the things he and others fought for were on the verge of being lost.

Let's ask the age old question, "WWLD" (what would Luther do?) - He said, "...nothing better could be wished than that all books would be put aside and nothing else stay in all the world, especially among Christians, but simply the pure Scripture or Bible." Seems like that just might be what his answer would be to the question you pose. He also said, "I ... often wish that [my books] would perish, because I fear that they may hinder and keep the readers from reading Scripture itself, which alone is the fount of all wisdom." Keep in mind that parts of the Book of Concord were written by Luther. He also said, "Why make many books and yet forever stay outside the really principle Book? Come now, drink more of the spring itself than of the rivulets which have led you to the spring." I get those quotes from Ewald Plass' "What Luther Says", paragraphs 341, 342, and 350.

It's certainly true that the Small Catechism contains sufficient Scripture to lead us to salvation, but it DOES NOT contain all the Scripture that is "God-breathed" or "profitable" (2 Tim. 3:16); nor does the entire BoC.

You overstate the impact of the lack of the "original source documents" of the Bible. Scripture has, by far, the most extensive array of manuscript evidence of any ancient writing, even compared to much more recent writings such as Shakespeare. Even the BoC has its manuscript discrepancies, as a look at a scholarly edition will attest.

What do you mean by "losing" the Apostles' Creed? Memorize it, man! It's short! Memorize the Catechism, too - you should have already done so in Confirmation.

You say that saving only the BoC will "guarantee" against the rise of a "cult of dispensationalism", but you underestimate the power of the human imagination. Sooner or later someone reading AC article XVII will wonder, "what 'Jewish opinions' are they talking about?" And when it's explained, they'll say, "That doesn't sound so bad!" And people will start wondering, "Where's this Bible that the BoC is always quoting, and why did the 'Cross Theology Guy' withhold it from us? Especially since FoC Epitome Intro. I says "We believe, teach and confess that the only rule and standard according to which at once all dogmas and teachers should be esteemed and judged are nothing else than the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and New Testament..."

BTW, what "antilegomena" are you talking about? The book of Revelation? Take care not to to risk disobeying Revelation 22:18,19.

So my answer is to save the Bible (the spring) rather than the Confessions (the rivulet). It's readily available in compact, inexpensive editions. You can memorize a good portion of the Confessions and should have been doing so already if you're confirmed.

And I am so audacious as to claim that I think Luther would agree with me and have some choice words for your proposal to withhold God-breathed Scripture from future generations.


Post a Comment

<< Home