Clarifying the Issues in the ELS Ministry Debate:
A Response to President John Moldstad and Professor Erling Teigen
By Pastor Rolf Preus
December 6, 2005
In documents dated October 10 and 11 2005 Professor Erling Teigen and President John Moldstad responded to the Circuit 8 Revision as well as to certain documents I have written. I would like to distinguish the Circuit 8 Revision from my personal writings, but both President Moldstad and Professor Teigen have chosen to incorporate into their response to the Circuit 8 Revision certain criticisms of what I wrote in my “Open Letter to the ELS” as well as in my paper, “Does the Bible Teach a Limited Public Use of the Keys?” The Circuit 8 Revision was a collaborative effort on the part of about a dozen ELS pastors. Those interested in understanding the rationale for the changes to the PCM document that we made should read Pastor Joe Abrahamson’s comparison document on this website. That was also a collaborative effort, as Pastor Abrahamson sought the advice of several pastors as he was preparing it.
This response to President Moldstad and Professor
Teigen is written in order to clarify what the point of controversy is.
When people don’t agree on what the argument is they will often
argue past each other. One
man will assign to another a position he does not hold and then proceed to
refute it. Arguing against a
straw man does not advance mutual understanding, clarity, or the
resolution of the controversy. President
Moldstad and Professor Teigen misrepresent my teaching and the teaching of
the Circuit 8 Revision with respect to the private use of the keys and the
Use of the Keys
Both President Moldstad and Professor Teigen
criticize the Circuit 8 Revision for changing the language used with
respect to the private use of the keys.
Both suggest that we are denying to the laity certain powers that
belong to them. President
The omission of the Office
of the Keys as being given to and utilized not only publicly by the church
but also individually in the realm of the Universal Priesthood is not in
accordance with sound doctrine (p 3).
Professor Teigen writes:
To deny that the individual
Christian has the power not only to forgive, but also to retain sins is
serious (p 2).
And again, he writes:
To deny that the individual
Christians have the right, authority, and power not only to loose, but to
retain sins is a serious matter (p 3).
And again, he writes:
any case, to deny that the believers have not only the right, but also the
actual power of both the loosing key and the binding key is as wrong as it
is to deny God’s institution of a pastoral/presbyteral/episcopal office
(p 3, emphasis in the original).
No one among us is denying
that every individual Christian has the full power of the keys.
My position on this matter is public and clear.
In “The Office of Prophetess in the New Testament” (available
on this website) I write:
The ministry belongs
immediately to the church, not only collectively, but also specifically to
every individual member of the church.
Whoever has the Holy Spirit has the ministry.
Every single believer has the Holy Spirit and so every single
believer has the power to forgive sins or to retain sins.
We who altered the PCM document to produce the Circuit 8 Revision of the PCM document changed the language used on the private use of the keys in order to conform more closely to the language of the Catechism and the Confessions. Since the Confessions use the word “keys” with reference to what is official (AC XXVIII par 5) and the term “mutual conversation and consolation of brethren” (SA III IV) to refer to what is private, we thought it good to conform to that language. We affirm and do not deny the authority of every individual Christian to exercise the power of the keys. The Circuit 8 Revision does not deny what Professor Teigen suggests it denies. The issue is not what any Christian can do or may do. It is not a question of power or authority. It is rather a question of vocation. The PCM document addresses the matter of how the keys are actually used. This is why we, in our revision, speak of what individual Christians actually do. When we do so, we deliberately stay with the confessional language.
We teach that whenever anyone – pastor or layperson
– speaks the law and the gospel to anyone, it has the inherent power of
Almighty God. We have always
rejected any suggestion that the power of God’s word is contingent upon
the office of the one who speaks it.
We deny that those who hold the public preaching office have any
authority that does not reside immediately with the church as church.
We define the church as those who are justified by faith alone,
that is, as the believers. But
even as we must define the church as believers we may not so identify the
church for the simple reason that we cannot identify faith.
We identify the church by the marks of the church, and the marks of
the church are the gospel and sacraments that are publicly
preached and administered. Our
Lutheran Confessions insist that the church be identified – not by the
faith of those who belong to her – but by the purely preached gospel and
the rightly administered sacraments.
It is the oral, external, outward, official, public proclamation of
the gospel and administration of the sacraments by which the church on
earth is recognized.
We reject every form of sacerdotalism.
Every individual Christian has the means of grace and their
efficacy inheres in them as means of grace regardless of who administers
them. We altered the language
of the PCM document on the matter of the private use of the keys in order
to speak according to the pattern of sound words to which we are bound in
the Lutheran Confessions. The
confessional subscription to the Book of Concord includes subscription to
the Preface which states:
Therefore, we also
determined not to depart even a finger’s breadth either from the
subjects themselves, or
from the phrases that are found in them. But, the Spirit of the Lord aiding us, we intend to persevere
constantly, with the greatest harmony, in this godly agreement (Preface to
the Book of Concord, par 23, emphasis added).
Note the words emphasized.
When the Confessions speak of the means of grace as used by the
laity as the people of God they do not identify them as the keys but as
the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren.
We are determined to stay with the language of the Lutheran
Confessions. A theological
tradition will move, evolve, develop, and change.
This is why confessional Lutherans refuse to be bound by
theological traditions. We
are bound by texts that cannot change.
We agree entirely with all of the Luther citations
provided by President Moldstad and Professor Teigen that show the keys
belonging to all of the baptized. It
is not apparent, however, that Luther ever intended to develop the kind of
distinction between the public and the private use of the keys that is
developed in the PCM document. Consider,
for example, a citation from Luther that President Moldstad cites:
we take our stand: There is
no other Word of God than that which is given all Christians to proclaim.
There is no other Baptism than the one which any Christian can
bestow. There is no other
remembrance of the Lord’s Supper than that which any Christian can
observe and which Christ has instituted.
There is no other kind of sin than that which any Christian can
bind or loose,” (LW 40:34-35, “The Keys,” 1530).
What is Luther
here saying? That there is a
public use that is done on behalf of the church and a private use that is
not done on behalf of the church? To
the contrary, he is saying that there is only one use.
There is no other Word or sacrament than that which Christ
instituted and which belongs to every Christian.
God’s word, sacrament, and keys are never unofficial!
President Moldstad speaks of individual binding and loosing that is done on behalf of Christ but not on behalf of the church. How can this be? Christ does not act apart from His church. When the Treatise speaks of a layman absolving another layman it says that when he does so he “becomes the minister and pastor of another” (Treatise, par 67). This is as official as if a called and ordained pastor does it. President Moldstad writes of a layman saying to another layman: “I bind your sins against you” as the “first step of church discipline.” But Jesus speaks of binding sins as the third and final step of church discipline, not the first. Those whose sins are bound are not to be treated as brothers, but as heathen and tax collectors. Yet the brother who is rebuked in verse 15 is treated as a brother in verse 16. The first step of Matthew 18 is to show the brother his fault, not to bind his sins against him. As Martin Chemnitz writes:
. . .the sinner first be privately reminded of his wickedness and the judgment of God and called to repentance. Then the same admonition should be repeated with some witnesses drawn in. But if this course leads to no effect, let it be told to the church, and let the binding key be used against such a person in the name of the whole church (Mt 18:15-17; 1 Co 5:1-5) Enchiridion, page 134.
One could argue that any preachment of the law
is in effect the binding of sins, and it is true that when one hardens his
heart in defiance of God’s word that word of God – regardless of who
spoke it or in what form it was spoken – will condemn the unbeliever.
But we don’t ordinarily speak of laymen going around binding
sins. We don’t speak of
parochial school teachers doing it either.
President Moldstad claims that a female parochial school teacher
may bind the sin of a recalcitrant child “in her position in the public
ministry of that congregation.” We
don’t call parochial schoolteachers to do that.
We don’t call women to do that.
We call men to the divinely instituted pastoral office to do that.
Public Use of the Keys: Defining the Office of Divine Institution
This brings us to the matter of the alleged divine institution of a limited public use of the keys. The issue is simple and goes to the heart of the controversy. It is a question of definition. How do we define the office of divine institution? What, specifically, did the Lord Jesus Christ establish in and for His church on earth so that the gospel and the sacraments would be publicly preached and administered? Or did He establish any office at all?
There are two competing and irreconcilable
opinions on this. The one
opinion is that Jesus established, instituted, formed, fashioned, and gave
to His church on earth an office which, if it is entrusted to a man, that
man has the duty to preach the gospel, administer the sacraments, and
forgive and retain sins as the minister of Christ and Christ’s church.
Various titles are used to identify such ministers, both in the
Scriptures and in the writings of the church.
They include: pastor, presbyter, priest, minister, teacher,
preacher, bishop, angel, and ambassador.
The most commonly used title among us is the title “pastor” but
the debate is not about the use or nonuse of this particular title.
The debate is about what God instituted.
Was it a specific office? Read
the Augsburg Confession and compare articles five, fourteen, and
twenty-eight. Does the
Augsburg Confession define the office of divine institution as I define it
above? Is it an office which, if it is entrusted to a man, that man
has the duty to preach the gospel, administer the sacraments, and forgive
and retain sins? Then read
the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, Chemnitz’ Examination
of the Council of Trent (Part II, pp 677-714) and his Loci
Theologici (Volume II, pp 698-719).
How does Chemnitz define the office of divine institution?
For a succinct summary of Chemnitz’ position read his Ministry,
Word, and Sacraments: An Enchiridion (pp 26-38).
Read Walther’s Theses on Church and Ministry.
The unanimous testimony of the Lutheran dogmatic tradition up until
the 20th Century identified the office of divine institution
with that office which we today refer to as the “pastoral office,”
that is, the office of preaching the gospel and administering the
sacraments. From within our
own tradition, read the 1862 “Theses on Lay Preaching,” adopted by the
Norwegian Synod (from which the ELS was born) and note that the divinely
instituted “public ministerial office” is the only office that God has
instituted “for the public edification of the Christians” and that
incumbents of this office are pastors.
I hold to this traditional definition of the office of divine
The other opinion is that the public or official
ministry of the church exists by means of a delegation of the private
authority of every individual Christian to preach the gospel, administer
the sacraments, and forgive and retain sins.
We may call this the “representative ministry” definition,
because it claims that whenever one Christian uses God’s word or
sacraments “on behalf of” other Christians this is the divinely
instituted public ministry of the word.
According to this opinion, every time one person exercises the keys
(or uses the means of grace, or teaches the word – the language varies)
on behalf of believers, this is the divinely instituted public ministry of
the word, whether it is a “full use” of the keys or a “limited
use” of the keys. In either
case it is representative ministry and that is what is divinely
instituted, according to this opinion.
The two opinions are clearly in conflict and cannot
be reconciled to each other.
The traditional opinion has God establishing a
specific office with specific duties that are given by divine right to all
to whom the office is entrusted. Jesus
forms the office and assigns the duties to the office as He sends out the
first incumbents of the office (that is, the apostles, see Matthew
28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16, and John 20:21-23) to do what the office gives
one to do. According to this traditional view, the call of the church in
the here and now is the call to the office established then and there by
Jesus. The Bible, not the
church, determines what is divinely established or instituted.
The new opinion does not have God establishing a
specific office, but rather establishing representative ministry.
Whenever the church (or calling body) assigns to an individual
either “a full public use of the keys” (such as belongs to the
pastoral office) or “a limited public use of the keys” (such as
belongs to the office of parochial schoolteacher) the fact that that
individual is using the means of grace on behalf of Christians is what
makes the office and call divine.
The PCM document attempts to synthesize these two mutually exclusive definitions of the divinely instituted public ministry of the word. It does so by making a distinction between what is divinely instituted and what is divinely commanded. It defines the office of divine institution as representative ministry, that is, any use of the keys (whether “full” or “limited”) on behalf of believers. Then, within this divinely instituted representative ministry, the church has the command to appoint ministers qualified for a “full” use of the keys. This is the “presiding” office or “pastoral office.” With this attempted synthesis of the two mutually exclusive definitions, we are now confronted with a divine institution (limited use offices such as the office of parochial school teacher) for which there is no divine command. This has caused quite a bit of confusion. Supporters of the PCM document disagree among themselves on whether or not it teaches the divine institution of the “limited use” offices.
Lutherans have always identified a divine institution with what has the divine command and promise. It should not surprise us to find confusion and disagreement among us in the ELS over what the PCM document actually means to say. For example, President Moldstad and Professor Teigen, both of whom support this document, take different positions with respect to what this document says about the divine institution of a limited public use of the keys. President Moldstad defends the document for teaching the divine institution of limited use offices while Professor Teigen denies that the document teaches the divine institution of such offices.
In his response to the Circuit 8 Revision
President John Moldstad repeatedly defines the divinely instituted public
ministry of the word as any teaching of God’s word on behalf of the
church. Consider the following citations from his essay:
It is true that individual
Christians in the realm of the Universal Priesthood of All Believers do
the keys “on behalf of the church” (an expression signifying public
ministry) but they do indeed forgive and retain sins “on behalf
of Christ” (p 2).
These offices (deacons,
teachers, evangelists, etc.) included certain spiritual duties that involved public ministry
(e.g., using the Word to minister to souls on behalf of the church;
1 Timothy 3:8f) (p 5).
This means, for example,
that when a call is extended to a Lutheran elementary school teacher to instruct
children in the Word of God on behalf of the church, this call
indicates that the person is serving in the Public Ministry and truly possesses
a divine call (p 7).
One must be called in order to teach the Word on behalf of the church and in the name and stead of Christ. If one has a divine call to teach the Word, that person is in the public ministry. There is no divine call but the divine call to the public ministry. It is unscriptural and unconfessional to teach the Word of God on behalf of a group of believers without having received a divine call to do so (p 9).
How can there not be
a divine call for anyone who is put in the place of publicly
teaching the Word of God on behalf of the congregation? AC
XIV itself states, "No one should publicly teach in the Church or
administer the sacraments unless he is rightfully called." How
can a confessional Lutheran be willing to permit someone to teach
God's Word regularly in the church without being rightfully called
by God to do so, through the mediation of the church (p 10)?
Romans 10 and Article XIV
speak only of the public ministry of our Lord where one uses the Means of Grace in the
name and stead of Christ and on behalf of the church.
is no other public ministry of the Word (p 11) (Bold italics
are used for added emphasis; underlined emphasis is in the original.).
President Moldstad interprets the PCM document to be
teaching that the public ministry of the word is by definition any use of
the means of grace (that is, any use of the keys or the word of God) on
behalf of the church. What is
divine about the “limited use” offices according to the PCM document
is that God’s word is taught on behalf of Christians.
President Moldstad quotes from the PCM document and adds the
It is by human right that the church
separates a limited portion of the office to one individual.
But it is by divine right that one exercises that work on behalf of the
Christians through whom the call has come.
Note what is by divine right. It is that “one exercises that work on behalf of the Christians through whom the call has come.” The PCM document teaches the divine institution of all offices in which the word of God is taught on behalf of the church. President Moldstad takes issue with our claim that only that which is divinely commanded is divinely instituted. He writes:
The revision document of Circuit #8 uses the
logic that, since God has not commanded
such offices with a limited public use of the keys, therefore none of
these “allowed or permitted” offices can be classified as instituted or established
by God. This reasoning does
not follow (p 6).
To repeat: Our adopted statement rejects the false notion that, since God has not commanded a particular office with a limited public use of the keys [“offices that the church, in her freedom, may establish”– citation from “The Public Ministry of the Word], therefore none of these offices can be/are instituted or established by God (p 7).
I maintain that if there is no divine command
there is no divine institution and that this is the historic teaching of
the Evangelical Lutheran Church. President
Moldstad disagrees. My
position is stated in these words from “A Statement of Opposition to the
PCM Document, ‘The Public Ministry of the Word’ that was presented to
the October 2005 General Pastoral Conference of the ELS by over twenty
pastors of our synod:
We believe, teach and
confess that the Office of the Public Ministry, is not just any public use
of the keys to this or that extent by other offices established in freedom
by the church, but is the concrete office of preaching the Gospel and
administering the Sacraments (i.e., the pastoral office).
We have no objection to other offices being established (Acts
6:1-6). However, these other offices stand along side of and assist the
one divinely instituted Public Ministry of the Word. What God institutes
is clearly commanded in the Holy Scriptures.
We must make a clear distinction between a divine institution and
an adiaphoron. The pastoral office is a divine institution. “Limited
use” offices are adiaphora.
If God nowhere in Scripture commands it, is it a
divine institution? President
Moldstad argues that whenever believers delegate to someone the authority
to teach God’s word on their behalf – whether this is the full use of
the keys by a called and ordained pastor or the limited use of the keys by
a Christian schoolteacher – that delegation is by divine right and the
office thereby established is divinely instituted.
True, with respect to the limited use offices it is by human right
that it assumed a particular form, but the divinely instituted office is
by definition any use of the means of grace on behalf of the church.
But where does the Bible teach that when one Christian teaches God’s word on behalf of other Christians this is divinely instituted? The theological rationale is easy to understand, but the biblical foundation for it is lacking. I understand the concept of using the means of grace on behalf of the church. I don’t object to it. But where is the biblical support for this definition of the public ministry of the word? Where does the Bible teach that the public ministry of the word is any teaching of God’s word on behalf of the church?
We can find in the Bible the divine institution
of the pastoral office. Read
“Did Jesus Institute the Pastoral Office” and “The Office of
Prophetess in the New Testament” on this website to see the biblical
basis for the divine institution of the pastoral office and the divine
mandate to confer this office on men.
Read Acts 14:23, Acts 20:28, Romans 10:15, 1 Timothy 4:14, 2
Timothy 1:6, 2 Timothy 2:2, and Titus 1:5.
All of these texts address the entrusting of the preaching office
to men. None of these texts
refers to what God gives a woman to do. None of these texts refers to what is done in a private
classroom. None of these
texts refers to a “preaching” that is not public, authoritative,
directed to the entire assembly of Christians.
Where does the Bible teach the entrusting of any
portion of the preaching office to a woman?
Nowhere! Yet the PCM
document appeals to Romans 10:15 as the basis for giving a woman a divine
call to “preach” to children in a classroom.
In defense of this novel notion, President Moldstad argues that the
word for “preach” in Romans 10 is “a more general use of the term”
and that this is also how it is used in Mark 16:15.
Apparently preach doesn’t mean preach and preacher doesn’t mean
preacher. There is nothing
whatsoever in the biblical text to suggest that the word for “preach”
should be taken in anything less than a literal sense whether in Romans 10
or in Mark 16. There is only
the ever-evolving tradition that says that when one person teaches God’s
word on behalf of believers he or she must receive a divine call to do so.
This is why “preach” no longer means preach. If it did, we would have women preachers!
The Bible clearly teaches that the call of the church
to a man to be a pastor is the call from the Holy Spirit. But where does the Bible teach that whenever one person
teaches God’s word on behalf of other Christians this constitutes some
kind of divine arrangement necessitating a “divine call”?
The only passage defenders of this new definition of the ministry
can find is a passage they are required to interpret in a metaphorical
fashion because this is the only way they can get it to teach what they
want it to teach. Preach
means preach! We don’t have
the right to impose our practice on the biblical text and change the
meaning of God’s word in the process.
No one will argue against accountability.
A parochial school teacher should be held accountable to those who
put him in office to do that which is given him to do.
But this doesn’t require a “divine call.”
Anyone doing any job anywhere is accountable to someone.
There is nothing in the written word of God that requires us to
extend “divine calls” to parochial school teachers.
To insist that this be done is legalistic.
It is perfectly appropriate for church schools to hire teachers
without providing tenure. There
is nothing contrary to God’s word in treating a parochial schoolteacher
as an at will employee of the congregation.
Teigen Disagree on Divine Institution of Limited Use Offices
While President Moldstad defends the proposition that
the limited use offices are divinely instituted, Professor Teigen denies
that the PCM document teaches the divine institution of limited use
offices. He writes:
A major criticism offered by
proponents of the Circuit 8 revision has been that the PCM document
teaches that God has instituted also a limited use of the keys. “An Open
Letter” states: “The PCM Theses assert that the divinely instituted
public ministry of the word includes both the pastoral office and offices
of churchly origin.” That accusation is incorrect. That is neither what
the PCM statement says, nor intends to say. It may be that “includes
a wide sense...and a narrower sense...” has been misunderstood. However,
it certainly does not intend to say, nor can it legitimately be read to
say, that there are two offices, one wide and one narrow, both of which
are instituted by God (p 1).
Nobody has accused the PCM document of teaching
“that there are two offices, one wide and one narrow, both of which are
instituted by God.”
Later on in his critique Professor Teigen asserts:
While the teacher exercises
the keys in a public way, it is in a limited way, having a part of the
office, not the whole of it. Does this mean that God has instituted a
“part of the office,” or “a limited use of the keys”? It does not,
and to assert that the PCM statement teaches that is to speak falsely (p
Again, he argues against a straw man.
Nobody has said that the PCM document teaches that God has
instituted a “part of the office.”
We don’t say that the PCM document teaches that there are two
offices, both instituted by God and we don’t say that the PCM document
teaches that God instituted a part of an office.
We do say that the PCM document teaches that “the divinely
instituted public ministry of the word includes both the pastoral office
and offices of churchly origin.” Here
is what it says:
The Lord has instituted the
Public Ministry of the Word. This
divinely instituted Public Ministry of the Word includes both a narrower sense and a
wider sense. The narrower sense refers to a presiding office that is
indispensable for the church; see II A.
The wider sense refers, in
addition to a presiding office, to offices having a limited public use of
the keys, offices that the church, in her freedom, may establish; see
II B (my emphasis).
Does the PCM document teach that the Public ministry
of the Word in its wider sense is divinely instituted?
Yes. Does this wider
sense include offices having a limited public use of the keys?
Yes. When the PCM
document defines the public ministry of the word it says: “This public
use of the keys is the Public Ministry of the Word.”
What then is the office of divine institution?
It is the public use of the keys.
When the keys are used publicly – whether in a so called “full
use” or in a so called “limited use” – this is, by definition, the
divinely instituted public ministry of the word, according to the PCM
document. In its first
footnote the PCM document defines the public or official use of the keys
as “the duty and authority of those who are called to act on behalf of
Christ and His believers.” This
is the “representative ministry” definition defined above. The PCM document teaches the divine institution of any and
every office in which someone teaches God’s word on behalf of the
church. That teaching of
God’s word may be the teaching of a pastor who is authorized to carry
out a full use of the keys or it may be the teaching of a parochial
schoolteacher who is authorized to teach God’s word to the children but
may not preside over the assembly or administer the sacraments.
The PCM document teaches the divine institution of representative
ministry in whatever form it may take.
Professor Teigen may not like the fact that this is what the
document teaches, but he can hardly deny it without contradicting
President Moldstad as well as the plain sense of the document itself.
As I have shown above, President Moldstad not only agrees that the
PCM document teaches the divine institution of limited use offices, he
defends this teaching while freely admitting that there is no divine
command that such “divinely instituted” offices be established.
To be fair, President Moldstad does try to make a
biblical case for the claim that these limited use offices are divinely
he addresses the biblical texts that allegedly pertain to a limited public
use of the keys (page 5), he says such things as “this implies
strongly,” “this testing appears to have been,” and “while
implying at the same time.” This is not a solid foundation for doctrinal assertions.
If there is no command from God there is no divine institution.
Nowhere in the Bible does the church appoint someone to teach
God’s word without entrusting to him the concrete office of preaching
the gospel and administering the sacraments.
If there is such an instance, let President Moldstad, Professor
Teigen, or anyone else who supports the PCM document lay it before us.
I do not deny that the deacons in the New Testament taught God’s
word on behalf of the church. Perhaps
they did. I don’t know. Neither does President Moldstad.
The Bible doesn’t say one way or another. Professor Teigen claims (p 8) that the deacons of 1Timothy 3
presided over the churches and President Moldstad takes this paragraph
almost verbatim into his paper. If
they did (which is hardly likely and for which there is no biblical
evidence), they held the presiding office, not a “limited use” office.
No one involved in
this debate denies that the church may establish offices such as Sunday
school teacher and parochial school teacher.
No one denies that such teachers teach God’s word to the children
on behalf of the church. But
the Bible does not address this and where the Bible is silent, God is
silent. We may not say that
God said it unless we can show from the Bible that God said it.
What does the
Bible say? President Moldstad
and others who support the PCM document cite texts in the New Testament
where God gives a variety of gifts. They cite Ephesians 4 where apostles, prophets, evangelists,
pastors and teachers are spoken of as gifts of the ascended Lord Jesus to
His Church. They claim that
since the word “pastor” is included as one title in a list of titles
this constitutes proof that the pastoral office is not the only divinely
instituted office in the church. This
argument fails in two essential ways.
First of all, the title “pastor” is not at issue among us.
The Bible usually calls the minister of word and sacrament an elder
(presbyteros) or a bishop (episkopos). No one is contending for titles.
Secondly, we are not talking about what God may or may not do in
divine freedom. God is God.
He can send apostles, prophets, miracle workers, and every other
kind of gift He chooses. The issue is not what God did or can do.
It is what God tells His church to do.
We are talking about an office that is conferred by God through the church.
That is the critical point that President Moldstad and other
supporters of the PCM document consistently fail to address. We are talking about the mediate call by God through the church.
What does the Bible teach us about this?
Which office is transmitted? It
is the office of preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments.
It is the office that we in our day call the “pastoral” office,
but the title we use is not the issue.
President Moldstad appeals to Chemnitz in support of
the divine institution of a limited public use of the keys.
He cites Chemnitz’ opinion that the teachers mentioned in
Ephesians 4:11 were those
to whom the chief governance
or oversight of the church was not entrusted but who only set the doctrine
before the people in a simple manner, such as catechists were later:
thus Paul (Rom. 2:20) speaks of ‘a teacher of children,’ and
the word ‘teach’ is expressly used in this sense in Hebrews 5:12 (Chemnitz,
Examen, Part 2, p. 684).
President Moldstad neglects to cite these words from
Chemnitz that immediately follow:
All these ranks the apostles
include under the terms “presbytery” and “episcopacy.”
Sometimes they also call those to whom the ministry of Word and
sacrament has been committed by the term “minister” (“servant”).
Chemnitz is not identifying these teachers as
incumbents of “limited use” offices who are not qualified to exercise
a “full use of the keys.” He
says that they are among those “to whom the ministry of Word and
sacrament has been committed.”
He is including them under the terms “presbytery” and
“episcopacy.” They are
what we in our day would call pastors, that is, ministers of word and
sacrament who happen to be serving in the specialized field of catechizing
the people. I encourage the reader to study this portion of the
Examination within its larger context.
This particular Chemnitz quote is repeatedly cited in our circles
by those seeking support among the Lutheran fathers for the novel notion
that the extent to which one is authorized by the call to use the keys
publicly is the extent to which one is “in” the public ministry of the
word. Such a notion is entirely foreign to Chemnitz’ thinking
and, indeed, contrary to the main argument Chemnitz makes in this section
of the Examination. It is
anachronistic to appeal to Chemnitz in support of the representative
ministry model popularized in the 20th Century.
Chemnitz is arguing here that there is only one office of teaching
the gospel and administering the sacraments, and that all to whom this
office is entrusted have the divinely given responsibility of teaching the
gospel and administering the sacraments, and that it is by human right
that an incumbent of this one and only office of teaching the gospel and
administering the sacraments will specialize in this or that essential
duty belonging to the office. By
divine right all ministers are equal because they all have the very same
authority: to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments of Christ.
This is Chemnitz’ teaching.
This is Luther’s teaching as well. Luther says:
If the office of teaching be
entrusted to anyone, then everything accomplished by the Word in the
church is entrusted, that is, the office of baptizing, consecrating,
binding, loosing, praying, and judging doctrine (LW, 40, page 36).
This is precisely what the PCM document does not
teach! According to the PCM
document, the divinely instituted ministry of the word may not be
identified with that office which, if a man is entrusted with it, it is
his divinely given duty to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments
of Christ. The PCM document does not identify the divinely instituted
office with any specific office. Even
when it attempts to say that the pastoral office is “indispensable for
the church” it does not quite succeed.
It does not say that “the presiding office” or that “this
presiding office” is indispensable, but that “a presiding office” is
indispensable. It cannot
point to a species of office and say that this is specifically what God
Himself has formed, fashioned, established, and instituted for His church.
Instead, it teaches that what is divinely instituted are all
offices in which the means of grace are used on behalf of the church.
It fails to support this definition of the divinely instituted
ministry of the word from the Holy Scriptures because the Holy Scriptures
nowhere teach this definition. When
the PCM document cites texts to teach the divine institution of the public
ministry of the word (in both the narrower and wider senses) the texts
cited refer exclusively to the ministry in the narrower sense, that is, to
the office that we call the pastoral office.
More Straw Men
Most of Professor Teigen’s Critique of the Circuit
8 Revision is devoted to arguing the Wisconsin Synod argument against the
Missouri Synod doctrine of the ministry.
He assigns to me and to the Circuit 8 Revision the Missouri side of
that debate and sets out to refute it and thereby to refute us.
He suggests that the Circuit 8 Revision brings into the ELS a
teaching that originated in the Missouri Synod after Walther’s time and
which is at odds with the general consensus within the ELS since the
forties and fifties. We
allegedly misidentify the “preaching office” with the “pastoral
office.” Professor Teigen
argues that the two are not the same and that to identify them is to
depart from Walther’s teaching. He
At the root of the Circuit 8
critique and revision is the assumption that the Office of the Public
Ministry and the Pastoral office are identical. This belongs to an older
view adopted in Missouri Synod circles after
Walther’s time, that Predigtamt
and Pfarramt mean or refer to
the same office. . . .In the ELS, this matter was discussed extensively in
the 1940s and early 50s. At the end of that discussion, there was a
general, but not unanimous, consensus, that Predigtamt
and Pfarramt were not identical.
Many in our synod who had been trained in the Missouri Synod rejected what
they had learned on that point — that the only one really holding the Predigtamt
is the pastor of a local congregation, which was the way Pfarramt
had come to be understood in Missouri after 1900 (p 5).
Professor Teigen is wrong, both with respect to
Walther’s teaching on the subject and with respect to the teaching of
the Circuit 8 Revision. The
Circuit 8 Revision does not teach “that the only one really holding the Predigtamt is the pastor of a local congregation.”
To the contrary, with reference to the pastoral office the Circuit
8 Revision says:
While every incumbent of
this office must be qualified to do what the office requires, it is not
necessary that every incumbent of the office regularly carry out all of
its duties. Incumbents of
this office may be serving as missionaries,
assistant pastors, professors of theology, chaplains,
We reject the teaching that the public ministry of the Word is limited to
the ministry of the parish pastor.
The Circuit 8 Revision says in its first footnote:
the term “pastoral office” refers to the pastorate of the local
congregation, but incumbents of this office may be serving in specialized
fields of labor in which they do not regularly carry out all the duties of
The Circuit 8 Revision deliberately avoids
identifying the pastoral office exclusively with the parish pastorate.
It defines the pastoral office as I have defined it above.
Again, from the first footnote of the Circuit 8 Revision:
The office to which God has
entrusted the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the
sacraments is called the pastoral office.
Note the difference between our definition of the
pastoral office and the definition of the PCM document.
The PCM document speaks of “a presiding office” as one that
entails “a ministry of pastoral oversight.”
What does that mean? As
we shall see, it is broad enough to include manmade offices whose
incumbents are not obligated to do anything essential to the pastoral
But the incumbents of this divinely instituted office are given by God the duty of preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments. If, by human right, a pastor focuses in on this or that essential duty of the pastoral office, he nevertheless, by divine right, holds the one and only office of divine institution: the office of teaching the gospel and administering the sacraments.
The Circuit 8 Revision makes this perfectly clear.
The PCM document does not.
It is true that some Missourians have defined the
pastoral office a bit rigidly, limiting it solely to parish pastors.
One need not so limit it to affirm the truth that the office of
divine institution is a real office whose incumbents are given by God the
duty to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments.
The office is not one person teaching God’s word to this or that
extent on behalf of other people with the added caveat that within this
representative ministry there must be men qualified to exercise a full use
of the keys. The Bible
teaches no such thing. It is
not as if the office exists by means of its duties being assembled
together by the church in the here and now.
Jesus Christ Himself instituted the pastoral office when He sent
out the apostles as the first pastors of the church.
In sending them out and assigning to them their duties He thereby
determined the duties of this office until the end of time.
This Christological and apostolic foundation of the pastoral office
runs counter to the American spirit of democracy from which the
representative ministry model adopted by the PCM document derives. Instead of running away from our Lutheran confession on this
crucial matter we should be confessing it with crystal clarity!
One is not “in” the public ministry of the word
to this or that “extent” as if it is the church’s to do with as she
pleases. One either has the
office or one does not. Certainly
the church has freedom to arrange matters so that an incumbent of the
office focuses on this or that essential duty of the office.
This is what is done, for example, with called and ordained
theological professors who are training men to become pastors.
They are carrying out a focused but essential duty of the divinely
instituted office (2 Timothy 2:2). That
a minister of word and sacrament will focus his work on an essential duty
of the office and not carry out all the duties that belong to the office
is perfectly acceptable. But
this is arranged by human right by the church in Christian freedom.
By divine right all ministers are the same.
They have the same duties: to preach the gospel and to administer
the sacraments. They have the same authority: the authority of God’s word.
The issue is not whether or not incumbents of the
divinely instituted office of teaching the gospel and administering the
sacraments must be serving as pastors of specific local congregations.
They usually are. That shouldn’t surprise us since that’s where the people
are. But the office of divine
institution is what it is regardless of where the incumbent of the office
is serving. God has
instituted an office which, if one holds it, he is entrusted by God with
the responsibility of teaching the gospel and administering the
sacraments. We call such a man a pastor and we call the office of
preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments the pastoral office.
This is the one and only office of divine institution.
This is Walther’s teaching and the Circuit 8 Revision reflects Walther’s teaching. Walther identifies the office of divine institution with the pastoral office. So does Adolf Hoenecke of the Wisconsin Synod and Herman Amberg Preus of the Norwegian Synod. True, these men may have used the term “preaching office” when considering the office in the abstract and the term “pastoral office” when considering the office concretely. But whether considered abstractly or concretely it is the same thing being considered. Walther consistently identifies the preaching office with the pastoral office. He uses the two terms interchangeably to refer to the same thing. In his first two Theses on the Ministry he identifies the preaching office with the pastoral office.
Professor Teigen insists on framing this issue in
Wisconsin Synod terms. He
tries to pigeonhole the Circuit 8 Revision within the anti-Wisconsin
post-Walther Missouri tradition. It
does not quite fit, as we have seen.
He also imposes the 20th Century Wisconsin / Missouri
debate back onto the 19th Century.
The result is confusion.
What can be gleaned from all
of this is that, for Walther, the office of the school teacher stems from
the Predigtamt, not from the Pfarramt,
in the sense of the local pastor. The office of the teacher is not an
assistant to the local pastor, but to the ministry of Word and Sacrament
Teigen is quite wrong about this. Walther highly commended an essay written by C. A. T. Selle
in 1869 in which Selle said:
When someone is given the
instruction of the children in God's Word, he has a teaching office and
therefore teaches publicly and administers herein a part of the public
preaching office. Proof from
God’s Word: That which brings us to this conclusion is the following:
The public teaching of the word of God is a matter of the preaching office
in the narrow sense (the pastor’s office); the teaching of the word of
God on the part of a school teacher is public since it is part of his
Selle identifies the public preaching office in the narrow sense with the office of pastor. He then derives the office of parochial school teacher from the pastoral office. This is in agreement with Walther and the old Synodical Conference tradition in the 19th Century. For Selle to speak of a “part of” the public preaching office is for him to speak of a “part of” the pastoral office. The disconnect between the preaching office and the pastoral office that Teigen spends most of his Critique attempting to establish was simply unknown to Walther, Selle, Preus, Hoenecke, and the other 19th Century Synodical Conference theologians. Teigen attributes to me (and by implication to the Circuit 8 Revision) an erroneous identification of the preaching office with the pastoral office and claims that this error is based on a mistranslation of Walther by John Theodore Mueller. That translation was done in 1962. Walther identified the preaching office with the pastoral office over a hundred years earlier.
That the fathers could and did use terms in a variety
of ways – sometimes more literally and sometimes more metaphorically –
need not concern us. Nor are
distinctions between abstract and concrete and the various nuances of
meaning in German words particularly pertinent to our discussion. The issue before us is really very simple: Did Jesus
institute (that is, establish, create, form, set down, invent, construct)
an office (a position, a job) in and for His church on earth which, if one
is entrusted with it, that is, placed into it, it is his duty to preach
the gospel, forgive and retain sins, and administer the sacraments?
Did He or did He not? I
say He did. So does the
Circuit 8 Revision, the Augsburg Confession, the Treatise, Luther,
Chemnitz, and the entire Lutheran theological tradition down to the 20th
Century. But the PCM document
doesn’t say this. It comes
close, but it doesn’t say this. It
doesn’t say this because it is devoted to the representative ministry
model invented in the 20th Century, a model that breaks with
the clear teaching of God’s Word and the pattern of sound words set
forth in the Lutheran Confessions.
Office without Divinely Ordained Duties
As we have seen, the PCM document does not define the
office of divine institution as a specific concrete office, but as
representative ministry in which one person uses the keys to this or that
extent on behalf of Christians. This
isn’t what Jesus instituted. Jesus
instituted an office, not representative ministry.
And if it is an office, then when the office is entrusted to a man
that man is obligated to do what the office gives one to do.
The office gives one to preach the gospel and administer the
sacraments of Christ. This
entails teaching God’s word to people.
That is, the incumbent of this office must speak God’s words to
people who are present to hear them.
This is the duty given to incumbents of the pastoral office.
The PCM document says:
While every incumbent of
[the pastoral office] must be qualified for a full use of the keys, not
every incumbent must be responsible for full use of the keys. Missionary,
assistant pastor, professor of theology, synod president (who supervises
doctrine in the church), and chaplain are some examples of this.
Note that it places the synod president as synod
president in the divinely instituted pastoral office.
It appears to say that he is an incumbent of the pastoral office on
account of the fact that he “supervises doctrine in the church.”
This is in direct conflict with the teaching of the Treatise on the
Power and Primacy of the Pope as I have shown in my paper, “Does the
Bible Teach a Limited Public Use of the Keys?”
In response to my comments in that paper about the office of synod
president Professor Teigen says:
For one thing, it is
asserted that in the office of synodical president the office holder
isn’t teaching. He isn’t? The paper doesn’t offer any proof from
Scripture or the confessions that this picture of a synodical president is
I don’t say that the synodical president isn’t
teaching. I say that he
isn’t obligated to teach. There
is a difference. A pastor is
obligated to teach the word of God to people, not just theoretically or
potentially but in actual fact. Once
upon a time synod presidents had altars and pulpits.
They had divine calls. They
held the office of divine institution.
This was so whether they were called bishops, superintendents, or
presidents. They were first of all pastors.
The office of fulltime synod president with no altar, or pulpit, or
classroom is a 20th Century invention. But when we have adopted the representative ministry model
the office is whatever the church says it is.
This is how a human invention becomes the divinely instituted
All ministers are equal. (Treatise, par. 7-11)
Why? Because the only
authority of the divinely instituted office is the authority of God’s
word! This is fundamental.
An office in which one pastor supervises the teaching of other
pastors is an office established solely by human authority.
Here is how Bjug Harstad put it at the convention of the little
Norwegian Synod held at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Albert Lea,
Minnesota from May 29 to June 4, 1919:
If one of the equal brethren
is elected to be president, then everyone must know that he has only
received a human appointment to the office of servant, which everyone also
otherwise actually has according to the Master's example to wash the
disciples' feet and to dry them with the insight, knowledge and experience
with which he can be equipped. At all times, however, he is only an
advisor, and as other Christians, is in duty bound to point to what is
This was the teaching of the ELS in her beginnings
before the teaching of the divine institution specifically of the concrete
pastoral office gave way to the new teaching of representative ministry.
A synod president has only a human appointment, not a divine call.
The false notion that a synod president has a divine call to be a
synod president cheapens the doctrine of the divine call.
Professor Teigen claims that I make “no argument, cogent or
otherwise” for my insistence that a divine call is a permanent call.
I must confess that I did not think any argument was necessary.
The permanence of a divine call should be self-evident.
Surely if God is the one who puts a man into office it must be God
who removes that man from office. This
is how Martin Chemnitz puts it:
For just as God calls
ministers of the church, so He also removes them through legitimate means.
But as the procedure of a call is to follow the instruction of the
Lord of the harvest, so also if one is to be removed from the ministry,
the church must show that that also is done by the command and will of the
Lord (Enchiridion, page 37).
If a synod president has a divine call to be a synod
president and this divine call may be withdrawn without cause, that is,
without demonstrating that the Scriptures require it, then the will of a
majority of voters at a convention has replaced God’s word as the
authority in the church. If a
convention majority may withdraw the “divine call” of a synod
president without biblical grounds we have redefined the divine call.
It is only a matter of time before the arbitrary will of a majority
of voters in a congregation will be regarded as sufficient grounds for the
removal of a pastor. This is
what happens in the church when human inventions are touted as divine
Accept the PCM Document
This failure to distinguish between what is divine
and what is human confuses the Spirit with the flesh.
This is why I cannot accept the PCM document. I will not permit it to be a standard for my teaching and I
do not acknowledge it as having any authority over me whatsoever.
It confuses what God says with what man says.
It takes human inventions and calls them divine.
What it says about the divine institution of a limited public use
of the keys is unscriptural. When
it talks about being “in” the office of divine institution to this or
that “extent” it is not presenting the biblical and confessional
doctrine, but the “representative ministry” notion for which there
isn’t any support in the Scriptures or the Lutheran Confessions.
It falsely claims that a synod president by virtue of being a synod
president is an incumbent of the pastoral office.
It does not make a clear confession of our historic biblical and
confessional teaching. It is
written in such a way that it can be interpreted to be teaching mutually
exclusive things. It is
poorly conceived and poorly written.
It wasn’t sufficiently debated prior to adoption.
It represents a departure from the historic teaching of the
I accept Walther’s Theses on Church and Ministry, the 1862 Theses on Lay Preaching of the Norwegian Synod, the writings on church and ministry of Norwegian Synod President H. A. Preus, and the “We Believe, Teach, and Confess” document adopted by our synod. I accept without any reservation the teaching of the Lutheran Confessions because it agrees with God’s Word.
Our current debate about the PCM document notwithstanding, we in the ELS enjoy great consensus on the topic of the ministry of the word and sacraments. We all agree that the gospel and sacraments are inherently efficacious. We agree that the preaching office belongs immediately to the church and therefore to every single Christian. We agree that we must have pastors who preach the gospel and administer the sacraments of Christ by the authority of Christ and in the name of His church. We agree that every individual Christian should teach God’s word to his family and neighbors and in his daily vocation give testimony to the same truth that the pastors preach publicly. We agree that the teaching of God’s word to the young is a holy vocation that should be honored by all. With such a great consensus among us we ought to be able to find a way to put into plain English a confession on which we will genuinely agree. This will require all of us to resist the temptation to elevate theological opinion to the level of church doctrine. A new document should be produced that is shorter, clearer, and that stays with the pattern of sound words to which we voluntarily bind ourselves in our confessional subscription.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus