Tuesday, July 31, 2007

LCMS 2007 Convention: Circuit Exceptions

I had the privilege of serving as our circuit's delegate to the 2007 LCMS convention. I need to prepare a report for my circuit. So I thought I would start here and see where I go.

One of the burning issues prior to the convention was the number of exceptions which were granted to circuits which did not meet the LCMS Handbook requirement. At first I was caught up in the frenzy, but after careful consideration, I realized that those raising the big stink were focusing on the wrong thing.

Our synodical president followed the bylaws, period. The bylaws leave the final decision to him (with no specified criteria). Just because one president uses one set of criteria and a subsequent president uses a different does not mean that either one violated the bylaw.

The real problem rests with those districts which asked for exceptions in 2004. They should have been required to realign their circuits so as to not need exceptions. One solution may be to add a bylaw stating that a district which is granted an exception must realign their circuits before the next synodical convention to bring their district's circuits into conformity with the synod's bylaws.

I also did a little math to figure out how badly the LCMS convention was out of balance. The bylaw requires that an electoral circuit must have between 7 and 20 congregations and have a aggregate communicant membership of between 1500 and 10000. Now if you divide the synod's total congregations (6044 as of 2005) by 7 and 20, you get 863 and 302 respectively as the range of circuits. Then if you divide the synod's total communicant membership (1,870657) by 1500 and 10000, you get 1247 and 187 as the range of circuits. Okay, if you are still following me, divide 863 and 302 and 1247 and 187 by 4 and you get 650.

That means there should be around 650 electoral circuits for the synod. From my best guessing it appears that there were about 652 electoral circuits for the 2007 convention. So it was pretty close to spot on. Some districts -- because of exceptions -- were over-represented (eg, Pacific Southwest, Eastern, and English), whereas other districts -- even with exceptions -- were under-represented (eg, Michigan, North Wisconsin, and Minnesota South).

Rather than complaining about the exceptions, we should be insisting that the districts evaluate the circuit alignments and correct them to be in conformity with the synod's bylaws.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Christology and Justification

Over the past few years, I have gotten into animated discussions about whether justification is the chief article. Usually what happens is I say something about justification being the chief article to which the other party says something like, "No, Christology is the chief article." Then we argue about whether the Smalcald Articles (SA, Part II) indicate the chief article to be justification or christology. Other places in the confessions clearly indicate that when the Lutheran Reformers refer to the "chief article" or the "article on which the Church stands or falls," they are referring to justification -- In the words of the Apology, this article of justification by faith is the chief article of the entire Christian doctrine” (Tappert, p. 540).

In reflecting upon these discussions, there appears to be a tendency among "Christology" proponents to change the chief article from justification to christology. First, this assertion sets up a false dichotomy. Second, this represents a not-so-subtle shift in their understanding of justification. To say that Christology is the chief article is to separate Christology from Justification.

Christology deals primarily with the person of Christ. Justification encompasses both the person and work of Christ. Making Christology the chief article permits the adherent to hold various opinions as to the work of Christ (eg, justification, deification, moral example, etc.). Holding to Justification as the chief article necessitates holding to a correct view of who Christ is.

Asserting the primacy of the article of Justification maintains the intimate connection between christology and justification. Asserting the primacy of the article of Christology allows for the corruption of this intimacy between the two articles.

This intimate connnection between justification and christology was exquisitely expressed by our Lutheran fathers. The genius of the Augsburg Confession on this point is revealed in the placement of Justification as the fourth article. Justification is the linch-pin between what precedes and what follows it. The first three articles set the stage for the work of Christ (AC IV). Articles V and following flow naturally from the article on Justification -- the Ministry (V) is the office through which God proclaims Justification; the new man produces fruit (VI) because of his justification; as new-born children of God we are gathered into the body of Christ (VII/VIII); the work of Christ is applied through the ministry in the Church by means of the Sacraments (IX-XIII); etc.

The Article on Justification is the chief article not because it is better, superior, or more important, but because it is the focal point to which all other articles lead to and flow from.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Luther on the Law of the Law

In preparation for my presentation at the Annual Theological Conference of The Augustana Ministerium, I came upon an interesting article by Tuomo Mannermaa entitled "The Doctrine of Justification and Christology" (Concordia Theological Quarterly, July 2000, pp. 206-239) with an excellent quote from Martin Luther:
Thus with the sweetest names Christ is called my Law, my sin, and my death, in opposition to the Law, sin, and death, even though in fact He is nothing but sheer liberty, righteousness, life, and eternal salvation. Therefore He became Law to the Law, sin to sin, and death to death, in order that He might redeem me from the curse of the Law, justify me, and make me alive. And so Christ is both: While He is the Law, He is liberty; while He is sin, He is righteousness; and while He is death, He is life. For by the very fact that He permitted the Law to accuse Him, sin to damn Him, and death to devour Him He abrogated the Law, damned sin, destroyed death, and justified and saved me. Thus Christ is a poison against the Law, sin, and death, and simultaneously a remedy to regain liberty, righteousness, and eternal life. (LW 26, p. 163: Gal 2:20)