* EDITOR’S NOTE: The words below are taken from the message our CLC President delivered to the synod Convention in June. We think the words–only a portion of what was said under the broader subject head “DOCTRINE” and subtitled “American Legion”–deserve careful consideration by all.
In our opinion the good words have something to say on the matter at hand both to those who fear the synod is going too far (too fast) as well as to those who are afraid it is not going far enough (fast enough).
The title used has been derived from the content of this portion of President Fleischer’s message.
* THE NEED FOR DOCTRINAL VIGILANCE
. . . The exercise of vigilance in today’s religious milieu demands that through continued study of the Word of God a confessional fellowship reaffirm for itself the principles it espouses from Scripture. The intent and purpose of such study and reaffirmation cannot be and dare not be to soften its confessional stand, to reinterpret Scripture, or to redefine its principles to satisfy the whims of the flesh.
Such vigilance includes viewing and reviewing organizations which incorporate religion into their program–as innocuous as such religious exercise may be or seem to be. Many organizations reflect a societal mindset that recognizes the necessity of religion in the life of individuals and the organizations that incorporate it in order to promote the general welfare of society.
With that we do not disagree! However, we do have a legitimate concern about the substance of the religion that is introduced, promoted, and practiced. Consistency of a confessional faith means that we as Christians and as a church do not want to be part of or lend support to the “common-dominator religions” which characterize our society, and which would involve us in unionistic practice.
The reality is that the religion that brings divine blessing is that which is built upon the doctrine of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief Cornerstone. This recognition will in turn be reflected by practice which is consistent with the Word of God.
One price of vigilance is that a confessional fellowship will suffer the stings and arrows of Satan as he seeks to divide such a fellowship–if not by the introduction of false teaching, then by creating a tension between brethren. Surely we all pray the Lord to grant us the spirit of understanding of His Word, as well as an evangelical spirit toward one another as we study together and encourage one another in our mutual effort to arrive at the conclusion that reflects God’s truth in Word and practice.
. . . In helping CLC members understand the concern expressed by the 1998 Convention and to act on the concerns related to the Legion as facts dictate actions, we will want to remember the evangelical nature of our ministry. We want to address the question in an evangelical manner as we help our people recognize the inconsistencies in which Legion membership involves them. In the same manner we will want to help them understand why they will want to extricate themselves from any quasi-religious organization of which they unwittingly and without evil intent may have become members.
The key to our action lies in the word “evangelical.” An evangelical approach keeps in clear focus the directives of the Word of God so that all that is said and done is to the glory of God and to the service of the Gospel. An evangelical ministry is one that has the welfare of souls in mind. It neither overlooks that which is destructive to the souls of people, nor drives souls as with a rod. An evangelical approach is not synonymous with, or an excuse for, closing the eyes to the question, doing nothing, expecting nothing. It is not synonymous with defending and promoting that which is contrary to the Gospel.
An evangelical approach understands that particular circumstances may dictate a terminus while recognizing that not every Christian will arrive at that point simultaneously.
We are confident that honest, patient, and faithful discussion of the present subject before us will lead us to the conclusion that reflects the Word of God and maintains a truly confessional and evangelical position consistent with our name–Church of the Lutheran Confession, and which serves the witness of the Gospel to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.