Hermann Sasse was frequently prescient, and since his words so often apply to multiple generations, it’s not surprising that he continues (rightly so) to be read. One particular passage continues to apply to the Church in general, and to The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in particular:
Not every question can be settled by means of a friendly discussion. It is necessary to remember that in an age which has a superstitious belief in dialogue as the infallible means of settling everything. There are questions raised by the devil to destroy the church of Christ. To achieve this, he may use as his mouthpiece not only ambitious professors of theology, his favorite tools, but also simple, pious souls. Why women cannot be ordained is one of these questions. [“Ordination of Women?” The Lonely Way, II:402]
To which question Sasse spends the rest of the essay giving (or rather confessing) the answer.
Matthew Becker (someone who continually touts his position as a professor of theology) is one of those who holds to continual dialogue as the proper means of (un)settling every question. I am not commenting on this because I expect that he will be removed from my church body’s roster; I don’t have a lot of confidence in that, even though he teaches several things contrary to what has been the Synod’s unchanged position throughout its history. On the other hand, I happen to think that Becker’s particular brand of reductionistic Lutheran theology is either going the way of the dinosaur, or is going to be folded into the amorphous blob of modern, Protestant theology (which, as it turns out, are usually the same thing). But his latest public comments (in one of the few friendly online places left to him in the LCMS) are so disingenuous and pedantic, and their irony is so palpable as nearly to require exhibition. Not only that, but he manages to strike both the high notes of triumphalism, as well as the bass notes of persecuted humility (which was probably predictable, since the LCMS has failed for twenty years to find anything officially objectionable in his public teaching–which does make one wonder whether any pastor could ever be defrocked for false teaching in the LCMS, at least as long as he was able to take refuge in academic freedom and at the same time sufficiently obscure the pertinent Scriptures).
Becker’s contention is not that he doesn’t teach or advocate contrary to the position of the LCMS (and, it should be admitted, to the nearly unanimous understanding of the Church of Jesus Christ throughout time and space); his position is that the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions do not speak clearly on the issue and, therefore, he is justified in continuing to “ask questions” and pursue the “theological task” with respect to the Missouri Synod’s position. I’m not going to spend time responding to his claims about what the Scriptures do and do not say about who should serve in the Office of the Holy Ministry. There has been more than enough discussion of those points, even if Becker does not find them compelling. (Or maybe he hasn’t read them, since he seems to think that no one has ever taken up the issues which he is so nobly–even Luther-like–raising?)
But two points stand out: