A Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod

Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk converted to Lutheranism, something we discussed at length not too long ago.  Many of us were dismayed that we went the route of the ELCA rather than the more conservative synods (LCMS, WELS, ELS). He addresses that, with reference to our discussions here, in a recent post entitled The Post-Evangelical Path and Wilderness Update.

One reason he said in that latter post is that he couldn’t join the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod because we insist on 7-day creationism and he has a different position.  I’ve heard that said by other folks who have a problem with that teaching and thus with the LCMS.  But that was new to me.  Where, I wondered, is that taught as a binding doctrine?

I found it in a document entitled “A Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of he Missouri Synod,” which was put out in 1932.  Here is a link:  LCMS Documents.

The article on Creation does specify that we follow the Bible literally in its account of the creation, including that it happened in 6 days.  It does not, however, contrary to what I had heard, specify “24 hour days” or that this is a “young earth,” issues that came to the fore well after 1932.

I myself would have no problem subscribing to the “Brief Statement,” but I’m curious about its status and its authority.  The “Brief Statement” has lots of good stuff in it.  At the same time, I was surprised to see how much it leaves out.  There is a section on the means of grace, but I saw nothing specifically on the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, and hardly anything  about Baptism.  Quite a bit on church & ministry, but nothing on worship.  It speaks of good works, but not vocation.  There is nothing on the Theology of the Cross.  It addresses Justification but not the Atonement.  There are sections on predestination and conversion that stress certain similarities of  Lutheranism to Calvinism.  In all, it seems to be a very Protestant document.

To be sure, it points to the Book of Concord as the definitive exposition of Lutheran theology, not in itself but only because it is derived from the Word of God, the only true authority.

Could someone who knows tell us a little about this document?  It can’t be on the level of the Book of Concord.  When we laypeople join the church we agree to the Word of God as confessed in the Small Catechism, as well as the confessions in the Book of Concord.  Does a layperson have to believe in everything in the “Brief Statement”?  Do pastors?

I believe the “Brief Statement” is one of those documents adopted by convention, along with other statements from the Commission on Theology & Church Relations and the like.  These too have an official status.  To what degree must a member of the LCMS subscribe to those?  (And do WELS, ELS, and other conservative Lutheran bodies–especially those in the old Synodical Council–also sign on to this?)

I agree that the church cannot just rest on its past confessions and must address new theological issues as they arise.  Should the LCMS come up with a rather less brief statement of its doctrinal position, setting forth Lutheran teachings more fully and dealing with recent theological controversies (the new perspective on Paul; the current questioning about justification and the atonement, the inerrancy of Scripture, etc.)?  Or is it better to stick with the historic confessions and leave some things open?

The exotic and sinister world of Iowa

You’ve got to read Mollie Hemingway’s take down of that article in The Atlantic, in which University of Iowa journalism professor Stephen Bloom ridicules the state that pays his salary for being religious, for having so many farmers, for eating casseroles, and other rather normal qualities that he finds shocking.

I’ll just quote Mollie’s introduction, with its great story from her father, but you’ll want to read the whole thing:

My dad used to tell me a story about a man getting off of a train and asking the station manager for information about the town he’d just arrived in. “What’s the town you’re from like?” the station manager asks. The man explains that it’s not very nice. The people aren’t that smart or nice and the food isn’t that great and you can’t keep a job and the ladies are all uppity. “Well, I imagine you’ll find this town’s a lot like that, too,” the station manager responds. When the next train stops, another man gets off and asks the station manager the same question. “What’s the town you’re from like?” the station manager asks. The second man explains that he was blessed to come from a beautiful town with nice people full of interesting conversation and fun hobbies. People work hard, the kids are generally fun and he misses it terribly. “Well, I imagine you’ll find this town’s a lot like that, too,” the station manager responds.

You get the point. Well, I thought of that story when I read this absolutely hilarious (unintentionally, I should mention) piece in The Atlantic about how much University of Iowa journalism professor Stephen G. Bloom loathes his state.

via Iowa’s ‘uneducated Jesus freaks’ » GetReligion.

Be sure to follow her links to this  parody of Bloom’s article and to the reaction of Iowans.

But what conclusions can we draw from this?

The case against Ron Paul

Conservative blogger Michael Gerson accuses Ron Paul of trying to completely undo the legacy of the Republican party and gives a litany of reasons to oppose him:

No other recent candidate hailing from the party of Lincoln has accused Abraham Lincoln of causing a “senseless” war and ruling with an “iron fist.” Or regarded Ronald Reagan’s presidency a “dramatic failure.” Or proposed the legalization of prostitution and heroin use. Or called America the most “aggressive, extended and expansionist” empire in world history. Or promised to abolish the CIA, depart NATO and withdraw military protection from South Korea. Or blamed terrorism on American militarism, since “they’re terrorists because we’re occupiers.” Or accused the American government of a Sept. 11 “coverup” and called for an investigation headed by Dennis Kucinich. Or described the killing of Osama bin Laden as “absolutely not necessary.” Or affirmed that he would not have sent American troops to Europe to end the Holocaust. Or excused Iranian nuclear ambitions as “natural,” while dismissing evidence of those ambitions as “war propaganda.” Or published a newsletter stating that the 1993 World Trade Center attack might have been “a setup by the Israeli Mossad,” and defending former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke and criticizing the “evil of forced integration.”

Each of these is a disqualifying scandal. Taken together, a kind of grandeur creeps in. The ambition of Paul and his supporters is breathtaking. They wish to erase 158 years of Republican Party history in a single political season, substituting a platform that is isolationist, libertarian, conspiratorial and tinged with racism. It won’t happen. But some conservatives seem paradoxically drawn to the radicalism of Paul’s project. They prefer their poison pill covered in glass and washed down with battery acid. It proves their ideological manhood.

via Ron Paul’s quest to undo the party of Lincoln – The Washington Post.

Those of you who support Paul, is it true that he holds these positions?  (I don’t think they are all  from his ghostwritten newsletters.)  If so, do you agree with them?

From giveaway to takeaway

Economy columnist Robert Samuelson sees our government having to transition from a “giveaway” mode, which dominated over the last half century with politicians doling out benefits and tax breaks, to a “takeaway” mode, in which many of such goodies have to be taken away.  Samuelson says, however, that the politics of doing so are just not possible.

Any resolution of the budget impasse must repudiate, at least partially, the past half-century’s politics. Conservatives look at the required tax increases and say, “No way.” Liberals look at the required benefit cuts and say, “No way.”

Each reverts to scripted evasions. Liberals imply (wrongly) that taxing the rich will solve the long-term budget problem. It won’t. For example, the Forbes 400 richest Americans have a collective wealth of $1.5 trillion. If the government simply confiscated everything they own, and turned them into paupers, it would barely cover the one-time 2011 deficit of $1.3 trillion. Conservatives deplore “spending” in the abstract, ignoring the popularity of much spending, especially Social Security and Medicare.

So the political system is failing. It’s stuck in the past. It can’t make desirable choices about the future. It can’t resolve deep conflicts.

An alternative theory is that we’re muddling our way to a messy consensus. All the studies and failed negotiations lay the groundwork for ultimate accommodation. Perhaps. But it’s just as likely that this year’s partisan scapegoating implies more partisan scapegoating. Political leaders assume that financial markets won’t ever choke on U.S. debt and force higher interest rates, stiff spending cuts and tax increases.

At best, this is wishful thinking. At worst, it’s playing Russian roulette with the country’s future.

via A country in denial about its fiscal future – The Washington Post.


China to put a man on the moon

China, the new America:

China has declared its intention to land an astronaut on the moon, in the first official confirmation of its aim to go where Americans last set foot nearly 40 years ago.

While Chinese scientists have previously discussed the possibility of a manned lunar mission, a government white paper published on Thursday is the first public government document to enshrine it as a policy goal.

China will “conduct studies on the preliminary plan for a human lunar landing”, the white paper said.

Although a manned moon mission is still some time off – Chinese experts say after 2020 – the statement highlights Beijing’s soaring ambitions just five months after the US retired its space shuttle programme . “Chinese people are the same as people around the world,” Zhang Wei, an official with China’s National Space Administration, said at a briefing. “When looking up at the starry sky, we are full of longing and yearning for the vast universe.”

According to the white paper, which serves as a blueprint for the next five years, China will develop new satellites, accelerate efforts to build a space station and strengthen its research in space. Laying the foundation for a mission to the moon, the government also plans to launch unmanned lunar probes and make “new technological breakthroughs” in human space flights by 2016.

via China push to put astronaut on the moon – FT.com.

Remember when we used to have grand ambitions like that, thinking we could do anything and then doing it?  Our last manned moon landing was in 1972.  Back then we were in a competition with the Soviets in a “space race.”  As the new and improved version of communism that China has devised outperforms us economically, I doubt that we will even care if China takes up where we left off in outer space.  For better or worse, we don’t have the same energy and optimism that we used to have.  Evidently, China has it.

The evangelical who made Democrats liberal

Scott Farris has a feature in the Washington Post about how those who lost presidential campaigns often had big and long-lasting effects on their parties and on the nation.  Barry Goldwater and George McGovern would be the obvious examples.  But the most powerful influence, according to Farris, was that of evangelical Christian best known today for battling Darwinism in the Scopes trial:

But the greatest transformation probably occurred in 1896, when William Jennings Bryan, 36, became the youngest man ever nominated for president.

Throughout the 19th century, the Democrats had been the conservative, small-government party. In a single election, in which he campaigned with “an excitement that was almost too intense for life,” as a contemporary reporter wrote, Bryan remade the Democratic Party into the progressive, populist group it remains today.

The 1896 campaign was an extraordinary struggle. Every major newspaper, even traditionally Democratic ones, endorsed Bryan’s opponent, William McKinley. Even Democratic President Grover Cleveland urged supporters to work for McKinley’s election, not Bryan’s. The Republicans significantly outspent Bryan, but he countered with a matchless energy, personally addressing 5 million people over the course of the campaign. Instead of being buried in a landslide, he won 47 percent of the popular vote and carried 22 of the 45 states.

Bryan, who saw religion as a force for progressive reform, is sometimes portrayed as a simpleton, even a reactionary, because of his crusade against the teaching of evolution as fact. Yet in many ways he was far ahead of his time. In 1896 and in his subsequent presidential campaigns in 1900 and 1908, he advocated for women’s suffrage, creation of the Federal Reserve and implementation of a progressive income tax, to name a few reforms. When Franklin Roosevelt implemented the New Deal, Herbert Hoover sniffed that it was just Bryanism by another name.

via The most important losers in American politics – The Washington Post.

This reminds us of a time when the conservative Christians we now call evangelicals tended to be politically liberal.  How do you account for that?  Can it be that applying the Bible to politics can cut both ways?

I would like you liberal readers to pay tribute to William Jennings Bryan.  You tend to say today that religion should be kept out of politics.  But don’t you appreciate how “Bryanism” gave us the New Deal and changed the Democratic party from the conservative small-government party to the progressive and big-government party it is today?

I would like you conservative readers to criticize William Jennings Bryan.  Don’t you think he should have kept his religion out of politics?  Are there elements of “Bryanism” in the Christian right today?