What Pastors and Hearers Owe to each other

The Table of Duties in Luther’s Small Catechism first attends to the vocations in the Church:

For Bishops, Pastors, and Preachers.

A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; not a novice; holding fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. 1 Tim. 3:2ff ; Titus 1:6.

What the Hearers Owe to Their Pastors.

Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel. 1 Cor. 9:14. Let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Gal. 6:6. Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the Word and doctrine. For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn; and the laborer is worthy of his reward. 1 Tim. 5:17-18. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you. Heb. 13:17.]

The dyad of relationships in this calling is between Pastors and “hearers.” What a remarkable way to think of the members of the congregation. We are “hearers.” That is, we are those who hear God’s Word.

Pastors love and serve their hearers by preaching and “holding fast the faithful Word.” Hearers love and serve their pastors by submitting to their pastor’s faithful teaching and by supporting him financially and by giving him honor.

Conflict between pastors and their people is tragic and all too common. The spirit of love and service on both sides would solve a lot of those problems.

For various holy orders

Now we come to the section in Luther’s Small Catechism that teaches the DOCTRINE OF VOCATION. Namely, The Table of Duties.

This part of the catechism has been shamefully neglected, in my opinion, and thus the doctrine of vocation has faded out of even Lutheran churches, in many cases. The previous hymnbook, “Lutheran Worship,” included the catechism, which was good, but totally left out the Table of Duties!

I have been linking to the translation of the catechism used by the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), but that version inexplicably leaves out the headnote to the Table of Duties, which is key to its meaning. In the words of the headnote, the Table of Duties consists of

Certain passages of scripture for various holy orders and positions,
admonishing them about their duties and responsibilities.

“Holy orders.” That is the exact language used to refer to the Roman Catholic religious orders of priests, nuns, and monks. But here the “holy orders” are husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and workers.

Notice how the Table of Duties organizes these different holy orders into dyads; that is, pairs of callings that relate to each other. This teaches that vocation has to do with relationships. Each vocation given here is paired up with the particular neighbor in that calling who is to be loved and served.

Note too how Biblical the doctrine of vocation is. The Table of Duties, unlike the other parts of the Catechism, consists of nothing but Bible verses.

Part of the purpose of the Cranach Institute and this Cranach blog is to bring back the doctrine of vocation, so in the days ahead, we’ll look at the Table of Duties in detail, taking each vocational pair and catechizing each other as to its implications.

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven

This next section of Luther’s THE SMALL CATECHISM is controversial to non-Lutherans, though I wonder what they do with John 20:22-23. Confession and absolution is simply a personal application of the Gospel. It is very powerful in giving pastoral care to someone in need of God’s grace. Notice here the doctrine of vocation: in the pastor’s office, through which Christ is working, and in the consideration of what sins we should confess; namely, those we commit in and against our vocations. (Here I disagree with the translation: instead of “situation,” it should read “station,” a reference to how God places us in particular vocations as places of love and service to our neighbors.)

What is the Office of the Keys?
The Office of the Keys is the special authority which Christ has given to His Church on earth: to forgive the sins of the penitent sinners, but to retain the sins of the impenitent as long as they do not repent.
Where is this written?
The evangelist writes, John 20:22-23: “Jesus breathed on His disciples and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; and if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’”
What is Confession?
Confession consists of two parts: one, that we confess our sins; the other, that we receive absolution, or forgiveness, from the pastor or confessor as from God himself, and in no way doubt, but firmly believe that our sins are thereby forgiven before God in heaven.
What sins should we confess?
Before God we should acknowledge ourselves guilty of all sins, even of those which we do not know about, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer. But before the pastor or confessor we should acknowledge those sins only which we know and feel in our hearts.
Which are these?
Here consider your own situation according to the Ten Commandments, whether you are a father, mother, son, daughter, employer, employee; whether you have been disobedient, dishonest, lazy; whether you have injured anyone by word or deed; whether you have stolen, neglected, wasted anything, or done any harm.

I have heard some rather amazing accounts of the effects of personal confession and absolution, of people being delivered from tremendous guilt, tremendous sins, and even demonic affliction. Does anyone have any experiences like that? (Pastors, of course, can never reveal what was said in a confession.)

A consensus on marriage?

The last few days we’ve been having some occasionally contentious discussion about where marriage fits in with the church and the state. I had started to worry that if even Christians don’t know what marriage is, how it is constituted, and how it is governed, how is it going to be possible to defend it from all of the attacks? But then, after thinking about some things Pastor Cwirla said and Scylding’s historical perspective, thins started to crystalize in my mind. How about if we consider marriage as follows:

(1) God did establish three distinct orders or estates for human life: the church, the family, and the state.

(2) Marriage is the foundational vocation of the family.

(3) The family, like the state, is part of the temporal order, God’s Earthly Kingdom.

(4) The family has a unique, intimate connection with God, since marriage is an image of Christ and the Church, and parenthood is an image of God’s Fatherhood. Thus, it is related to God’s Spiritual Kingdom.

(5) Both Kingdoms must help, support, and defend marriage: the State by means of laws, enforcement, and temporal power; the Church by means of blessing, prayer, teaching, and pastoral care.

(6) What constitutes a marriage–that is, the creation of a new family–is the consent and the vows of the couple, followed by a sexual consummation. (This is actually the formulation of the canon law that sees marriage as a sacrament; it accords with Protestant traditions; and, I believe, it is the universal cultural practice.)

(7) When Christian couples marry, their vows, publicly proclaimed in the marriage ceremony, should be ratified both by the Church (in the marriage rite) and by the State (in the marriage license with its accompanying laws).

How does that sound? Could we all agree on this? Does it accord with Scripture? Does it violate any confessional teachings of any church body?

Discussions of God’s Earthly Kingdom generally focus on the State. But I’m thinking now that the Family is a better test case for the Kingdom of the Left. The State with its authority is more remote. The Family with its authorities, relationships, the necessity of making a living, and its temporal blessings provides a more dramatic and immediate example of God’s presence and provision in vocation.

The state is like food, drink, & air

The post about God & the State led to even more discussion of a previous post regarding whether marriage is primarily the business of the church or of the state. I wonder if we could set aside the topic of marriage for awhile and just consider the teaching that God works through the state and the civil order in general.

I don’t expect non-Lutherans to believe what Lutherans do. After Manxman and Webmonk are finished mocking and deriding Lutheran theology, they are welcome to explain how they view the relationship between God and the state. But some of you Lutherans are sounding like anabaptist separatists, whether Amish pacifists or Muntzerian revolutionaries, as if the state were at best a necessary evil, but an intrinsic evil nonetheless.

The force of the article by Cameron MacKenzie (a board member of the Cranach Institute!) is that Walther’s view that the state can have no authority over the church is not necessarily the full summation of Two Kingdoms theology. If anything, Walther underplayed state authority compared to Luther and the Confessors. Recall that Luther called on the secular arm (the German princes) to reform the church (over the authority of the Pope). And certainly Lutheranism has existed in state churches. I remain a Waltherian opposed to state churches, but we are confessionally obliged to see the state, in principle, as a positive good.

It remains under the moral law and the authority of God and His created order, so that we can indeed criticize its evils, work for its reform, and watch it come to ruin when it violates what God has ordained. Just writing it off will mean, in practice, passively accepting its dysfunctions.

Also, I don’t recall anyone in the comments relating the state to vocation; that is, to how God is present in and works through the state to care for His creatures.

This is from Article XVI of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession:

The Sixteenth Article the adversaries receive without any exception, in which we have confessed that it is lawful for the Christian to bear civil office, sit in judgment, determine matters by the imperial laws, and other laws in present force, appoint just punishments, engage in just wars, act as a soldier, make legal contracts, hold property, take an oath, when magistrates require it, contract marriage; finally, that legitimate civil ordinances are good creatures of God and divine ordinances, which a Christian can use with safety. . . .

Meanwhile it permits us outwardly to use legitimate political ordinances of every nation in which we live, just as it permits us to use medicine or the art of building, or food, drink, air. Neither does the Gospel bring new laws concerning the civil state, but commands that we obey present laws, whether they have been framed by heathen or by others, and that in this obedience we should exercise love.

All of these civil and even secular matters are “good creatures of God.” They are “divine ordinances” in the created order. They are ours to use just as we make use of medicine, buildings, food, drink, and air.

The Second Table of the Law

More in our series on THE SMALL CATECHISM. The first group of commandments is about loving God; the rest of the commandments are about loving our neighbors. Notice how the commandments zero in on vocation: loving and serving your neighbor in the course of ordinary life. Also how both avoiding doing wrong and positively doing right flow out of true faith and a right relationship with God (“we should fear and love God, so that. . .”).

Honor your father and your mother, that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God, so that we do not despise our parents or superiors, nor provoke them to anger, but honor, serve, obey, love and esteem them.
You shall not kill.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God, so that we do no bodily harm to our neighbor, but help and befriend him in every need.
You shall not commit adultery.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God, so that we lead a chaste and decent life in word and deed, and that husband and wife each love and honor the other.
You shall not steal.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God, so that we do not take our neighbor’s money or goods, nor get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his goods and means of making a living.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God, so that we do not lie about, betray or slander our neighbor, but excuse him, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God, so that we do not craftily seek to gain our neighbor’s inheritance or home, nor get it by a show of right, but help and serve him in keeping it.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is his.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God, so that we do not tempt, force or coax away from our neighbor his wife or his workers, but urge them to stay and do their duty.