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Ask the Pastor

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

01 October 2008

Are the Lutheran Confessions Infallible?

Q: Do we consider the writings of the Lutheran Confessions to be infallible?

Book of ConcordA: No, but....

Since Christ clearly taught the veracity of the Scriptures, we believe that they are, as our confessions note, the only true source doctrine and practice and that they are verbally inspired and inerrant. Since our confessions proclaim only the truth revealed in Holy Scripture, some might make the leap to stating that the confessions are, with Scripture, infallible.

However, Lutherans have always drawn back from making such an all-encompassing claim. A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles from The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod notes that “we recognize that not everything in the Lutheran Confessions is a part of its doctrinal content, but we reject all attempts to abridge the extent of this doctrinal content in an arbitrary or subjective manner.” In other words, non-doctrinal portions of these confessions may contain human opinion and even certain errors of fact. However, this doesn’t mean that we pick and choose among the clear, Scriptural doctrines enumerated in our confessions.

As the Statement says, “We recognize the Lutheran Confessions as a true exposition of Holy Scripture and therefore reject the opinion that our subscription to the Lutheran Confessions leaves us free to reject any doctrinal statements of the Confessions where we feel there is no supporting Biblical evidence.” This is because, regardless of what “we feel,” the confessions draw their entire doctrinal content directly from Scripture.

The Luther RoseFurthermore, the Statement declares, “We confess that the Holy Scriptures are the only rule and norm for faith and life, and that other writings ‘should not be put on a par with Holy Scripture’ (FC, Ep, Rule and Norm, 1-2). We therefore reject the notion that it is legitimate to maintain the doctrinal conclusions of the Confessions without accepting their Biblical basis....”

Because Lutheran Confessional teaching is Biblical teaching and since nothing in these confessions denies Scripture, “We affirm that our acceptance of the Lutheran Confessions means not only that we tolerate the doctrinal content of the Lutheran Confessions as a viable option for Lutheran Christians today but that we in fact preach, teach, and confess the doctrinal content of the Lutheran Confessions as our very own.”

In a nutshell, while we do not say that the Lutheran Confessions are infallible, we do claim that their doctrine is nothing more nor less than that of inerrant Holy Scripture. And should you want to study the Book of Concord in more detail you might consider ordering Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions in hardcover or the Concordia software in Libronix format from Concordia Publishing House.

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Column #558:2


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