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Fortieth Anniversary Historical Vignettes

vignette (vin-yet’), n. 1. short literary essay; sketch

vignettist (vin-yet’ist), n. a maker of vignettes, painter, photographer, or writer

Dateline: Mankato, Minnesota


(From the Editor: The following writing is not, technically speaking, an historical vignette. Yet it is offered in this series as a pertinent reflection on the place of doctrinal controversy in our synod’s past and current history.)

As we celebrate the fortieth year of the Holy Spirit’s work in the Church of the Lutheran Confession, we should soberly reflect that historically orthodoxy lasts about forty years in a church body. Then begins an inexorable decline. Many times this has happened: the grandchildren of the founders have little or no direct experience of the doctrinal controversy which led to the founding of the church body. It is easy for them to take orthodoxy for granted and to assume that they know what is right. Then comes the rude awakening: a set of heretical teachings or unscriptural practices has quietly arisen, and the members are forced to choose between pastors and congregations which remain orthodox and those who have strayed.

During the history of the CLC, we have had a number of doctrinal controversies, some of which were very sharp. As agonizing as these trials were, the Lord of the Church has put them to good purpose to train the younger members of the synod to be discerning, vigilant, and diligent in the study of His Word. Even so Satan, that most wily of enemies, will seek to undermine our victories by tempting us to a casual or weary attitude towards the next controversy–just as an ambitious sports team hopes to surprise an opponent accustomed to winning easily.

At the 2000 CLC Convention we will face a difficult question of application: does membership in the American Legion or a similar organization compromise one’s Christian witness? For those of us who do not qualify for membership in the Legion, this may seem to be not very relevant or not worth a lot of “fuss and bother.” Nevertheless, as in all such cases previously before us, the purity of our doctrine and practice is at stake. We want no legalism to take away legitimate Christian liberty, and we want no unequal yoking with heterodoxy to cloud the clear light of God’s Word among us.

The apostle Peter said it best: “Be sober, be vigilant: because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith. . . . ” (1 Peter 5:8-9a). May God grant that it can never be said of us, “You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:7-9).