Conscience and Moral Honesty

In the public teaching of a Lutheran clergyman or instructor, he must interpret the Sacred Scriptures according to the Symbols [Lutheran Confessions] and not vice versa. This does not mean that he is in any way prevented from considering every possible legitimate interpretation that can be placed upon any given passage or group of passages of the Sacred Scriuptures. If in the process, however, he were to come to a definitive conclusion incompatible with the teaching of the Symbols, he would be bound in conscence and in moral honesty to withdraw from the church which imposes such an obligation upon him. On the other hand, the obligation to interpret the Sacred Scriptures according to the Symbols does not permit an individual to set forth as doctrine a position that merely reflects his understanding of the Symbols. (Arthur Carl Piepkorn, “Suggested Principles for a Hermeneutics of the Lutheran Symbols,” Concordia Theological Monthly, XXIX, 1 [January 1958])

If only all pastors in the LCMS felt themselves so bound in conscience and moral honesty.


8 thoughts on “Conscience and Moral Honesty

  1. This is a bit off your topic, but conscience and moral honesty should also apply to every Christian in the pew. There are those who profess to be Christian who (1) do not know what they believe or what their church teaches relative to the Scriptures, and (2) even if they know what their church teaches, do not take it seriously as something that affects, or should affect, their daily lives. This is nothing other than hypocrisy, appearing to others as though you believe, but in fact living as though God is irrelevant.

  2. As a layman, I think that many of our lay-people do indeed lack their own personal moral and theological convictions. However, I also believe that this stems directly from a clergy which has failed to instill these beliefs in their flocks.

    While not all pastors are to blame, I have encountered many that are either wrong aboutt their theology, or just too lazy or scared to enforce it.

    Our society of relativism has convinced both pastors and laymen that everything will be just fine.


  3. The question might be naive, but as an outsuider, I would like to know what are the views opposed to the Bible and the BOC one find among LC-MS pastors?
    After all, I might have to deal with that problem soon.

  4. I don’t think the problem is in opposing the Bible and/or BOC. I think it is about how we apply our doctrinal principles.

    For example:
    As discussed previously, many times, we see an element of LCMS working to increase numbers. This is all good, except when we start changing liturgical practices or liberalizing our doctrine to do so. Perfect scenario to illustrate is close vs. open communion practices.

    So we then must ask, what is the point of increasing numbers if we sacrifice our doctrine in the process?

    Does open communion bring more people to Christ, or just more people to church?

    Does close communion chase people away, or is that God’s way of sorting out the wheat from the chaff?

    Ironically, both sides of the issue argue that they are not sacrificing doctrine.

  5. Another scenario to consier with regard to these questions is Orthodox, Traditional, or Contemporary Worship.

    Or what about inspirational religious music vs. Christian Worship music?

    I can think of all kinds of little questions like this that we use to draw lines between ‘them’ and ‘us’.

  6. Jean-Martin:

    If I understand your question correctly, you’re asking what kinds of things an LCMS pastor might believe that is contrary to orthodox Lutheran teaching?

    What you may eventually run into is a Pastor who either does not understand, or refuses to adhere to: the sinfulness of women’s ordination, or the sinfulness of homosexuality, or the orthodox teachings of Creation, or the sinfulness of abortion, or the Truthfulness of Christ’s Presence in the Lord’s Supper, and the importance of closed Communion… to name just a few I have encountered.

    The relativity concerning Truth is not found only within “liberal” church bodies… you will also find them within ours (although not in such numbers as say the ELCA or UCC or something). One of the main problems is also that while a Pastor may actually be orthodox, he doesn’t have the balls to impress those beliefs upon his congregation.


  7. Tim,
    Strangely enough, I was presented this conundrum twice this week and one from each of my parishes. I talked to two parishoners (one of them till 12:30 am ) simply because the were not well-versed in the theology that we teach. Result:

    1. Happily 1 parishoner has decided against being re-baptized by immersion and will trust in his one baptism.

    2. We have decided to continue this discussion and keep the second parishoner from the Lord’s Supper until the time he can either confess the faith or leave this confession for another one.

    In either case, both parishoners commented that they have never been given this kind of time and attention to these topics by their previous pastors. To that end, I am ashamed and I asked them for forgiveness. I believe if we hold to the standards of “Walking together” we should also share in the shame of our coleagues with who we are confessed to be part of One Body. Perhaps that view can keep the “high and mighty’s” who like to look down on our erring brothers (instead of approaching them in love) off their thrones of self-righteousness and back in the Church where they belong.



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