Sunday, February 6, 2011

Preview of First Issue: Augsburg Five and the Ministry: Functional or (and?) Incarnational? By Andrew Preus

The debate over the office of the ministry is not small enough to thoroughly present in one paper.  It is necessary, however, that we revert back to the sources of the office both in the Lutheran Confessions and also in Scripture.  I have decided to study the historical and theological background of Article Five of the Augsburg Confession (AC V).  The Latin translation of the confession reads:
So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the gospel and administering the sacraments was instituted.  For through the Word and the sacraments as through instruments the Holy Spirit is given, who effects faith where and when it pleases God in those who hear the gospel, that is to say, in those who hear that God, not on account of our own merits but on account of Christ, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace on account of Christ. Galations 3 [:14b]: “So that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”                              
They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Spirit comes to human beings without the external Word through their own preparations and works.[1]   
The first words “So that we may obtain this faith” give my motivation to study and write about AC V.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church has been attacked from both the Roman and Reformed schools for her teaching concerning the office of the ministry, but what are most agonizing are the inner struggles of the Lutheran Church.  Dichotomies are coined in order to simplify the debate on the definition of the ministry, one namely the view of either functionalism or incarnationalism.   
The functionalist view of the ministry is sometimes attributed to those who teach that Christ gave the functions of the ministry to the Church and that she may in her freedom distribute these functions for the sake of good order.  The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), for example, say that Women may participate in the offices and activities of the public ministry so long as they do not have authority over men.  Notice that they do not say that Christ instituted the office of the ministry.  Instead they say that He has “established the public ministry of the Word.”[2]  The Church is the one who institutes the various offices of ministry.         
The incarnational view of the ministry emphasizes that Christ’s officer stands as Christ by virtue of his call and ordination to the office.  This view marks Christ’s presence as the crucial characteristic of the ministry; however, it might also make way for a sacerdotal view of the office.  Sacerdotalism is the teaching that the officer, when ordained, is given a sacred characteristic which allows him to administer Christ’s mysteries. 
Now, it is true that the office is functional in so far as it has the functions of preaching, teaching, and administering the sacraments as laid out in Article 14 of the Augsburg Confession (AC XIV).  Likewise, it is true that the officers of the ministry do stand in Christ’s stead when they deliver His mysteries to the Church.  Therefore, laying out what the Evangelical Lutheran Church taught about the office of the ministry when Melanchthon wrote the Augsburg Confession is my goal in this study.  Also what she has taught since then will illuminate the discussion for today. 
               I mentioned that my motivation in studying this article comes from the first words which give the reason for the 
ministry: “So that we may obtain this faith.”  “This faith” is the justifying faith which was confessed in the fourth article of the Augsburg Confession (AC IV).  The teaching that we Christians are accounted as righteous before God for Christ’s sake must always remain the center of all theological discussions.  Throughout my study, I will look at the text of AC V in the Latin and German translations, and accompanied with both historical contexts and Scripture, I will clarify what the teaching of the office of the ministry means to Evangelically Confessional Lutherans today...  

[1] Kolb, Robert, Timothy Wengert, John Hick, Church Association, Emil Schürer, Adolf Harnack, and Charles Arand.       The Book of Concord. Minneapolis: Fortress Pr, 2000. 41. Print.   (Latin Text)
[2] "Statements of Beliefs." WELS. Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, 2010. Web. 1 May 2010.    <,1>.

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