Should I Retract my “Clarifying the Issues” Paper?

I will not retract my paper unless I am shown that I have written what is untrue or contrary to God’s word.  If I am not shown this I cannot in conscience retract because it would be to submit to an extra-biblical authority on a matter where the Scriptures alone must judge.  Those who argue a retraction for the sake of peace are arguing against FC SD Rule and Norm, paragraph 3: “We pledge ourselves to the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments as the pure and clear fountain of Israel, which is the only true norm according to which all teachers and teachings are to be judged and evaluated.  The synod and its president are under the word of God.  Our teachers and teaching must all submit to the judgment of the Scriptures.   

As long as President Moldstad refuses even to attempt to show that I have said anything that is untrue or contrary to God’s word in my “Clarifying the Issues” paper I am bound by my ordination vow to refuse to retract, recant, or withdraw this paper or any portion of it.  When President Moldstad demands that I retract my paper as a condition for membership in the ELS without showing me where in my paper I have spoken falsely or taught anything against God’s word he sets himself up above the word of God and demands obedience that belongs to God alone.  Our unconditional subscription to the Lutheran Confessions requires that we use the Holy Scriptures as the Confessions say the Scriptures must be used.  When we teach that the Bible “is the only true norm according to which all teachers and teachings are to be judged and evaluated,” we are thereby pledging ourselves to use the Holy Scriptures in the task of judging all teachers and teachings.  The fact that the synod has adopted a doctrinal statement that it claims is in agreement with the Scriptures does not acquit the synod of its responsibility to appeal to the Scriptures when judging the teaching of pastors who belong to the synod.  Even when synodically adopted doctrinal statements are entirely in agreement with the Holy Scriptures, the Scriptures remain the norm of all doctrine, not just in theory, but in actual practice. 

In my “Clarifying the Issues” paper I explained where and how the synodically adopted doctrinal statement, “The Public Ministry of the Word” (PCM document), presented theological opinions as divine doctrine without demonstrating that these opinions were based on the clear Scriptures.  Where does the Bible teach that whenever one Christian teaches God’s word on behalf of other Christians this is divinely instituted?  Where does the Bible teach that one is “in” the divinely instituted ministry of the word to this or that extent?  Where does the Bible teach that there is a “manifestation” of the pastoral office that requires no preaching, no teaching, no forgiving or retaining of sins, and no administration of the sacraments?  Where does the Bible teach anything about an office, bestowed by God through the church, in which the teacher is forbidden to preside over the assembly, preach to the entire congregation, and administer the sacraments?  I have challenged President Moldstad and other supporters of the PCM document to show from the Scriptures that these opinions are scriptural.  They have been unable to do so.  Yet, when I call these opinions unscriptural on account of the fact that I cannot find them anywhere in the Bible, I am excluded from the fellowship.  When, after fruitless efforts to persuade the President of the Synod to show me that these and other theologoumena contained in the PCM document are biblical, I say that I cannot acknowledge the adopted document as having any authority over me, I am excluded from the fellowship for sowing seeds of discord among brethren.  But this is a false charge.  To insist that all of our doctrinal assertions are grounded solidly in the written word of God is not sowing seeds of discord.  It is to build up the brotherhood by driving us all to the pure and clear fountain of Israel. 

President Moldstad has suspended me for sowing seeds of discord.  I reject this charge.  I have not sown seeds of discord.  I have appealed to the word of God.  As long as President Moldstad insists on my expulsion from the ELS without showing me from the word of God where I have taught falsely, he sets himself up above God’s word.  It has become painfully obvious that President Moldstad cannot answer my criticisms of the PCM document by an appeal to the Scriptures.  He can appeal only to a synodically adopted document and argue that the synod has spoken.  By his actions, President Moldstad has rejected the normative authority of the Holy Scriptures.  He has led many “little ones” into sin.  Meanwhile, he and his supporters are blaming me for bringing division to the ELS and to my former congregation by my stubborn refusal to retract my paper.  I believe that my refusal to retract or withdraw my paper unless shown from God’s word where it is false is required of me by my ordination vow.  Before they rescinded my call, I told my former congregation that if I were to retract a doctrinal statement without being shown from God’s word where it was in error I would thereby forfeit my right to preach God’s word to them or to anyone else.  Six months later I am of the same opinion. 

Rolf Preus

August 14, 2006

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