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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

21 April 2007

First, Do No Harm

The following essay was published at Aardvark Alley and is reprinted with the express permission of CAT 41 News.

Hippocrates“I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous.”

So reads the ancient oath of Hippocrates, perhaps an enfleshment of what he advocated in his Epidemics, (Bk. I, Sect. XI): “As to diseases, make a habit of two things — to help, or at least to do no harm.” To this end, all were made to “swear by Apollo the physician and Aesculapius, and Health, and All-heal, and all the gods and goddesses” to “keep this Oath and this stipulation.”

One must wonder, “Why?” Why would such an oath be necessary when, surely, such is but common sense? Perhaps because, while it was more than two millennia later before Lord Acton would utter his famous dictum in a letter to Bishop Creighton, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Hippocrates already understood this truth and sought to legislate against it among those who would hold such power over the human body as those would be trained in the art and science of medicine.

Martin LutherLuther writes in the Large Catechism that all must feel temptation, “although not all in the same manner, but some in a greater degree and more severely than others; as, the young suffer especially from the flesh, afterwards, they that attain to middle life and old age, from the world, but others who are occupied with spiritual matters, that is, strong Christians, from the devil.” From this we see that those who are concerned with the health of the soul may well be more tempted — as they are more able — to do the greatest of harm by following things that ‘seem right’ to them without giving them (and their source) due consideration.

It is for this reason that we advocate a very reasoned approach be taken by all convention delegates  ... that no issue be allowed to be a ‘slam dunk’, but all things be looked at thoroughly. It is unfortunate that the LCMS has remained with the antiquated system of circuit representation for its conventions (a system that was adopted because the synod grew too large to fit all the delegates into a church; with the use of convention centers, the LCMS could easily go back to the better representation of one pastor and one layman for each parish), and it is even more unfortunate that there are many things to be considered at the convention that aren’t even released to the delegates until two months before the convention — and then, in a phonebook-sized volume. Slow and steady is the tone that such a convention must take, if it wishes to be faithful to God’s Word and God’s people.

Jerry KieschnickThose who have succumbed to the demonic temptation of which Luther warns will call such a considerate process of dealing with resolutions “stalling,” no doubt, or “obstructionism.” When one considers the rapid decline of the LCMS in both membership and funding since the beginning of the Kieschnick presidency — a decline that is tied directly to the lack of fidelity to Holy Scripture seen in the Kieschnick administration and its approval of everything from gerrymandering to syncretism to continued violations of Romans 10 and Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession and the continued state of denial regarding that unfaithful Communion practices of an amazing number of LCMS pastors and parishes — shouldn’t a faithful delegate’s first obligation be to keep harm from being done by the rushing through of new error-ridden resolutions?

Since the Kieschnick administration has refused to “abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous,” it is the duty of the delegates to ‘put on the brakes’ and enforce such abstinence for them. “The Synod” is not whatever the synodical president, the district presidents, and whomever else ‘out there’ or in St. Louis wants; it is the congregations and their pastors walking the same path together, the path of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions (not the demonic and worldly path of least resistance).

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Anonymous Carl Vehse said...

Congregations need to hold synodical delegates accountable for carrying out their duties at the synodical convention and to have the delegate report to the congregation before and after the convention to explain the positions of their votes at the convention. If a potential delegate is not willing to do this, he should not be elected (or elected again in the future).

The delegates' duties also include being informed or trained in the procedures of a convention, incuding Robert's Rules of Order. They must recognize and be able to proactively use the rules to the advantage of their positions (opponents will do so), and communicate their position with other delegates at the convention.

Above all, the delegates needs to be informed about the basic Lutheran confessional positions of the Missouri Synod.

Whether the statements correctly portrayed actual ignorance or were merely anti-Walther propaganda, it was an embarrassment that the 2001 Synodical Convention Proceedings recorded a delegate's (failed) substitute resolution:

"WHEREAS, Many delegates, members of the congregations, and members of Synod have not read C. F. W. Walther’s Die Stimme unserer Kirche in der Frage von Kirche und Amt, called in English Church and Ministry; and WHEREAS, Critical questions have been raised concerning the available English translations of Church and Ministry; and WHEREAS, There appears to be much confusion concerning the questions of the church and the Office of the Holy Ministry..."

21 April, 2007 17:40  

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