Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Chris Jones has an interesting post up. All I can say is he argues sometimes like he's still Orthodox, which isn't a bad thing. He threw up a couple arguments that I didn't even think about (or know about for that matter).

What is the Office of the Keys?

The office of the keys is that special authority which Christ has given to his church on earth to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.

Where is this written?

St. John the Evangelist writes in chapter 20: The Lord Jesus breather on His disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." [John 20:22-23]

What do you believe according to these words?

I believe when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by his divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us himself.--Luther's Small Catechism, p. 27, 1986, CPH

So, where am I going with this?

We do believe the Office of the Keys gives the pastor the power to declare one's sins either loosed or bound. So, here comes a question no one wants to ask: is holding false doctrine sinful? Considering I have given my pastor plenty of time to give me an answer to this question, I gave the question much thought and I would have to answer yes. If you are holding to false doctrine, your faith is clinging to something that you shouldn't and, often times, false doctrine is the result of our old Adam trying to pervert the faith God gave us. Anything from our old Adam is bound to be sinful. There is no way to say that false doctrine isn't sinful.

Think you know where I am going?

Now that we have established false doctrine is sinful, let's get back to the pastor. The pastor is responsible for his flock. Being that, "all we like sheep, have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way." (Isaiah 53:6), he does have his hands full, especially with a sheep like me. I say this because, at some point, we all have to take personal responsibility for our actions because the pastor cannot monitor everything. Since he is responsible to a point, however, let us dance upon that line and see where it leads us.

Confession and absolution is often described as the third sacrament by the Confessions. It derives it power, however, through the Sacrament of Baptism. This is no coincidence. The fact we are called to daily remove the old Adam and put on the new is only possible because of our baptism. Repentance is only possible because God gave us the New Adam. Absolution is only possible because of the New Adam: Christ with us. So, what if the old Adam tricks us to clinging to sinfulness? We do not want to repent, and the pastor bounds our sins. There is one other thing we forget: the Lord's table is closed to that person. Forgiveness is also available there. However, judgment is also available and the unrepentant will find judgment there, so the pastor does the loving thing and forbids the unrepentant from coming to the table.

So, the question is, can you now see where I am going?

So, through all the rambling, we finally slam the door on this argument. The argument goes like this:

1) The pastor holds the Office of the Keys.
2) The power of that office derives from the Sacraments themselves.
3) False doctrine is sinful because the old Adam clings to such doctrine.
4) If the pastor knows that someone holds to false doctrine, yet allows that person to commune, he is not properly using his office.

There are plenty of cases where the pastor has done all he can and people still hold to false doctrine and they do not realize it. If the pastor, however, is just plain unwilling to police his own table, that is a much different story. It is one thing to commune someone accidentally, it is another to commune someone purposely. The pastor who does this and is unwilling to bind the unrepentant's sins has no business loosing anyone's sins. Those pastors need to repent themselves and begin policing their tables.

I developed this argument in a very crude form while discussing with another member of an LCMS congregation on the internet about how to undermine the E*CA's communion policy. The fact that it also works to undermine many LCMS congregations policy of open communion is just coincidence.

I'm bracing myself for the accusations that I am "unloving."

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