By Scott Keith –
Hide your children. Though I am a Melanchthon scholar, my inner Luther may come out on this one. I do not believe that The Jagged Word should be a venue through which its authors argue with one another over useless in house and private language issues. I believe this is where we deal with issues of art, politics, culture, and preaching at the lay level. But I could hardly allow the post from the Emperor’s Chair to pass unanswered. To be honest, I don’t even know where to begin responding. It’s not that the post was so good and well written that I am finding it difficult to rebut. Rather, it was so aimless that it is difficult to discern what argument was actually posited. Truly, it seemed more like pope envy than anything else.
I get it, The Emperor’s Chair envies and admires the last three popes for a myriad of reasons. One seems to have preached a social gospel effective enough to destroy the evil empire, also known as Soviet communism. The other, he feels, was an intellectual giant (envy again?). Further, the envy can be sensed even more when he refers to our SYNODICAL PRESIDENT as “my own bishop.” Newsflash… We don’t have bishops in the LCMS. The last time we had a bishop he was accused of schtupping some teenage girls on a boat ride and forcing them to keep it a secret. Suffice it to say, we no longer call our non-life-term elected Synodical presidents “bishops.” Remembering the three men in modern history whom have some admirable qualities, while forgetting the host of men that the office has produced who are an abomination to “the church,” seems at best to be shortsighted. Further, throughout history, which popes do we commend? History tells us that at one point there were three at one time! Which one did the church need then? Whom then do we envy?
What is the real issue with popes and the current infatuation with the Roman Catholic Church among LCMS pastors? Plain and simple… Salvation does not come because of the church, it comes through Christ. The purpose of a pope is to support the ecclesiastical system of the Roman Catholic Church, through which they believe that the rest of us gain access to God’s grace and thereby, through the sacramental system which they guard and protect, we gain access to God. The role of the pope, I believe, is to be the head of that system thus serving as the, Vicarius Christi, or the final earthly representative of Christ.
But salvation doesn’t come through the system or any Vicar of Christ; it comes through Christ! Christ saves, not the church.
Salvation can be described as “through the church,” in the sense that the saving Christ is present anywhere Christ is proclaimed. That proclamation might come at a coffee shop or on an airplane, and it certainly comes when that Gospel is preached and the sacraments are rightly administered inside of a church building. Christ is salvation and life, not any ecclesiastical hierarchical system. Tactile succession from Peter has nothing to do with salvation. Let’s make it simple enough that we stand with Augustana Article VII on this one: “Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.” Enough said.
Finally, in reading as many of the comments as my already turning stomach would allow, I think I finally came across the crux of the issue. In responding back to a comment, the Emperors’ Chair said the following: “I’m not calling for that reconciliation at this point. I pray for it. I long for it. But we have too many substantive differences to still work out (see THE issue of Justification).” Did you see it? It was right in front of you. The article on which the church stands or falls, and the only reason for being a part of this damn church in the first place is relegated to the issue. (Yes, I get that putting it in all caps adds emphasis… BUT STILL.) Justification is not the issue, it is the whole damn ball of wax. Without justification on account of Christ alone, there is no damn church! The rest of this seems like cultural and aesthetic envy. I understand this in some sense, as I too often believe that the LCMS lacks an admirable aesthetic and cultural heritage. But this is not the answer. More bells and smells are not the answer. Forgiving one another as a body of Christ, is the answer. Loving one another as a body of Christ, is the answer. Caring for one another as a body of Christ, is the answer. Gathering together as a body of Christ, is the answer. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” We don’t need a pope. We need Christ! Let’s spend more time preaching Christ and less bemoaning our lack of one more arbitrary yet aesthetically pleasing earthly hierarchical figurehead. Solus Christus! That is what separates us and it is He who claims us. Solus Christus!