Sunday, August 9, 2009

What the Church is

There are many days that I miss my mentor, The Rev. Dr. Tim Lull, and his wisdom for the Church. Today is one of those days. I've been studying up for the upcoming Churchwide Assembly and cracked open (literally, the book is pretty trashed) a book written by Dr. Lull and published in 1980 by something called the "Parish Life Press." The book is entitled "Called to Confess Christ" and is one of the most accessible little books on why the Lutheran Confessions actually matter for the life of the Lutheran church that I've ever read. Sadly, its out of print and damn near impossible to find. I only wish he were around today to write an updated version for us.

Here's the section that jumped out at me, and (strangely enough) is where the book naturally opened when I took it off the shelf (was this a nudge, Dr. Lull? You never were subtle.)

He's writing on page 153 about Article 8 of the Augsburg Confession which he quotes:
Again, although the Christian church, properly speaking, is nothing else than the assembly of all believers and saints, yet because in this life many false Christians, hypocrites, and even open sinners remain among the godly, the sacraments are efficacious even if the priests who administer them are wicked men, for as Christ himself indicated, "The Pharisees sit on Moses' seat" (Matt. 23:2) Accordingly the Donatiasts and all others who hold contrary views are condemned.
Then Dr. Lull adds his commentary:
Here the church is viewed from yet another angle. God's sustaining grace means that the church can continue to be the church even though it contains "many false Christians, hypocrites, and even open sinners." Because the church lives by God's grace rather than human holiness, it can survive even this internal weakness. In fact, since human motives are known only to God, the church can continue without having to try to separate true from false (and possibly, through blindness, losing some of the true beleivers and real saints in the process.) Even if some of the clergy be wicked persons, the church can endure, since it is no more founded on the excellence of the pastors than on the holiness of the people.
Who will speak the truth of the Lutheran Confessions like this to us today?

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