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23 March 2006
  Concordia Discordia

When Concordia Publishing House issued the new printing of the Book of Concord, Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, I'm sure that one of their goals was to get more people talking about our foundational documents. Sad to say, while many people are talking, not all of the talk is good.

Even though the Confessions are, themselves, used to judge doctrine in the Lutheran Church, The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod subjected this annotated translation to doctrinal review from Scripture and these self-same Confessions it translates — which it passed before going to press. However, some parties objected to certain words used in translation, since the passages in which they occur could be used to accuse certain members of the LCMS of syncretism, especially Atlantic District David Benke because of his participation in the post 9/11 service at Yankee Stadium. (Actually, this could happen even allowing alternate translations, but I digress.)

So who's saying what? A well-orchestrated campaign against Concordia emerged, evidently based in large part at the DayStar Network and greatly fueled by a negative review by Matthew Becker of Valparaiso University. Lest anyone think that only the LCMS's "vast right-wing conspiracy" thinks this way, consider this email sent to DayStar by the aforementioned President Benke.

Anyhow, the squeaking wheels got the grease and the original edition of Concordia got the axe. A cover letter [PDF] from the chairman of the LCMS Commission on Doctrinal Review doesn't say that the book contains false doctrine; it just doesn't like how it says what it says. Okay, I can buy that — at least in part. I personally was preparing to encourage a clearer distinction between the confessional content and the explanatory and historical notes. As it stands, it's hard to tell at a glance when transitions occur between 21st Century introductions and 16th Century texts. This, however, doesn't a doctrinal disaster make.

If you read the letter to the Synod from LCMS President Kieschnick and CPH chairman Robert Knox, they, likewise, carefully refrain from any accusations of false teaching. The same is true in the full report [PDF] from Doctrinal Review. While they demand that doctrinal review certification be "revoked because of numerous passages and features of the volume which are 'inadequate, misleading, ambiguous, or lacking in doctrinal clarity' (Bylaw 1.9.2.g)," they nowhere say that Concordia teaches false doctrine or deceives the reader. (NB: If you'd like to check up on the doctrinal review process, the constitution and bylaws are all available in the Handbook of the Missouri Synod [PDF].)

Contrast the nitpicking and a rather small group of disgruntled theological liberals and pragmatists with the many supportive letters, emails, and phone calls CPH received following the publication of Concordia and you have yet another indication that the Synod's doctrinal dog is being wagged by an agenda-driven tail. The following points, somewhat edited from an email I received, touch a few points I already made and add more to the discussion.

¶ C.F.W. Walther wrote, "The Book of Concord should be in every Lutheran home. For that reason our church should provide a good, inexpensive copy and pastors should see to it that every home has one" (Essays for the Church, Vol. II, p. 51). This remains the primary reason why Concordia Publishing House created Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions.

¶ In the first four months of publication, Concordia Publishing House sold more copies of Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions than it had of the Triglotta, the Tappert, or the Kolb-Wengert editions of the Book of Concord in the past 27 years.

¶ In its first seven months of publication, Concordia Publishing House distributed 40,000 copies of Concordia. Currently, there is a back order list of over 15,000 copies.

¶ Congregations and individuals from The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have purchased, and continue to purchase, numerous copies of Concordia.

Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions received endorsements both within and without The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod from laypeople, pastors, LC-MS officials, several district presidents, and seminary, college, and university faculty members. Twenty-eight of these were made available on the CPH web site are also available in an online mirror.

¶ Concordia Publishing House received only a handful of letters or e-mails unhappy with Concordia. In contrast, it received hundreds of e-mails, letters, and telephone calls praising the book.

Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions is the preferred version of the Book of Concord in the theological department of one of our LCMS universities.

Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions underwent the Synod's doctrinal review process and was certified for publication (see 2004 Handbook, Bylaw 1.9, pp. 34-36). Neither the Tappert nor the Kolb/Wengert editions of the Book of Concord have gone through this process.

¶ A January, 2006 Concordia Journal article by two Concordia Seminary, St. Louis professors was highly critical of Concordia. The article held this lay-friendly version of the Book of Concord to a standard normally reserved for academic research. And in a seemingly major conflict of interest, the article also cast doubt on the authority of these confessional documents, while promoting the Kolb-Wengert version, for which the article's primary author had served as an editor!

¶ In reaching its decision to withdraw docrtinal certification from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, doctrinal certification, the Commission on Doctrinal Review relied on a bylaw pertaining to pre-publication materials (2004 Handbook, Bylaw 1.9.2 (f), p. 35). For materials like Concordia that have already been published, another bylaw applies (2004 Handbook, "Appeals Following Publication," Bylaw, p. 173), but was ignored.

¶ Bylaw specifically states that in cases like Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, where the material is already published, the Commission on Doctrinal Review is to declare whether or not the material is "in agreement with the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions" (2004 Handbook, p. 173). The Commission did not find that Concordia disagreed with the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. Nevertheless, the Commission revoked doctrinal review certification anyway, on the basis of pre-publication Bylaw 1.9.2 (f).

¶ While it expressed other areas of concern, the Commission on Doctrinal Review's primary complaint against Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions has to do with page layout and typography, not about doctrine. "The most important point in need of revision is the clear an unambiguous distinction of the actual texts of the confessional documents themselves and all other material" (Jan. 24, 2006 letter, Decision, p. 2).

¶ That Concordia passed the Synod's doctrinal review process was noted by Rev. Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, President of Synod, and Mr. Robert M. Knox, Chairman of CPH's board of directors (March 16, 2006 Memorandum to the Synod).

¶ The first edition of Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions first edition may continue to be used. CPH will soon put out a supplement to assist for that very purpose (March 16, 2006 Memorandum).

¶ The Commission on Doctrinal Review has neither suggested nor requested that Concordia Publishing House recall Concordia, that the book's first edition be destroyed, or the book's second edition be used to replace the first. In fact, the Commission's desire for Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions is "to improve and strengthen an important book, which can and should be a lasting benefit to our church" (Jan. 24, 2006 Letter to Rev. Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick and Rev. Paul T. McCain, from Rev. Dr. William W. Schumacher, Chairman, Commission on Doctrinal Review, p. 1).

¶ How did questioning of the doctrinal status of Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions begin? Two of the original three challenges (two challenges were identical) to the doctrinal status of Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions were made by two clergymen associated with a left-leaning political group in The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod, called DayStar.

¶ Both challengers violated the confidentially normally accorded the doctrinal review process (2004 Handbook, Bylaw (c), p. 173) by making their names and their views know publicly prior to issuing their opinions to the Commission on Doctrinal Review. The Commission noted this in their cover letter (Jan. 24, 2006, p. 2).

¶ One challenger to Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions went so far as to solicit e-mails or letters against the book to the Commission on Doctrinal Review. Another challenger's "book review," substantially the same as his challenge later sent to the Commission, can still be viewed online.

¶ This same challenger to Concordia maintains that "the Bible is not and cannot be the sole source of Christian doctrine."

¶ Quite possibly, the end result of this process may be that the second and all future editions of Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, having passed the Synod's doctrinal review process plus having satisfied the concerns expressed by Commission on Doctrinal Review, may receive what can only be described as the Synod's "imprimatur."

¶ The Review Panel of the Commission on Doctrinal Review thoroughly examined Concordia in its entirety and did not determine that the book contained false doctrine. The Commission on Doctrinal Review revoked the doctrinal review certification of the book based on Bylaw 1.9.2 (f), which pertains to pre-publication materials.

¶ The LCMS Doctrinal Review site includes the Commission's full report and related letters.

This Aardvark's bottom line: It looks like the Commission on Doctrinal Review was manipulated for personal and political purposes.

Others blogging on the Concordia Discordia include Beggars All, What You Do, Do Quickly, Bunnie Diehl, Lutheran Jargon, LCMS News Spot (not an official site), Amor et Labor, Cyberstones, and Luthomas' Leanings. I imagine the throng will swell in days to come, so please leave me a comment that I might add pertinent links.

Added: Involved bloggers also include the following: watersblogged!, Territorial Bloggings, Putting Out the Fire, Cleveland Confessional Lutheranism, Nerd Heaven, Poor Michael's Almanac, Beckfest.

Also, the Alley now has the text of Pastor Rogers' DayStar letter that seemingly kicked the liberals resistance up a notch.

Technorati Tags: | | | |
Aard, the testimonials are working just fine on the CPH web site. You can access them from the CPH web page on this book.

What was probably a reasonable theological debate at the higher levels has turned into so much silliness as to become a serious problem.

Criminy, the King James version of the Bible has more translation problems than new Book of Concord.

Stopping publication of this book (which everyone in proper authority who agrees is doctrinal sound) borders on, well, silliness.
I corrected the text but left the mirror, just in case other things change, linkarama.
Watersblogged! and What You Do, Do Quickly both blog on this matter.
Good stuff.
Be sure to add this one to your list of recommended Lutheran websites:
This is beyond silliness.
Is there any hope that other garbage from CPH could be axed like:
Ethel Nelson's books..."Genesis and the Mystery Confucius Couldn't Solve" and "The Discovery of Genesis: How the Truths of Genesis Were Found Hidden in the Chinese Languages"
Pure garbage behind the mask of scholarship.
Christianity doesn't need such disfavors.
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