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American Lutheranism by Friedrich Bente


105. Attitude toward the Scriptures. -- Regarding the constitution of the Tennessee Synod we read in the Report of 1827: |Whereas the constitution [of 1820] of this Synod is blended with the transactions of the session at which it was formed, and as the unalterable articles are not distinguished from those that are local and of a temporary nature, and as the language is not sufficiently explicit, it was deemed necessary, in order to supply those defects, to supply another. Consequently a committee was appointed to draw up one for examination.| The committee complied with the order, drew up a constitution, and laid it before the body. Every one of its articles having been critically examined, Synod resolved: |1. That this constitution shall be annexed to this journal [Report]; but it shall not now be adopted nor ratified, so that the absent ministers, as well as the congregations may have the opportunity of alleging their probable objections, or of proposing necessary amendments. This also affords an opportunity for the members of the present session to reexamine it.2. But that, if no objection of importance shall be alleged, or necessary amendments proposed by any member of this body, or by any congregation, and be laid before the next session, it shall then be considered as the adopted and ratified constitution of this Synod.| (9.) In the following year the new constitution was adopted and ratified in a somewhat revised form, and appended to the minutes of the same year. The English version is found also in the Report of 1853. The First Article of this constitution reads as follows: |The Holy Scriptures, or the inspired writings of the Old and New Testaments, shall be the only rule of doctrine and church-discipline. The correctness or incorrectness of any translations is to be judged according to the original tongues, in which the Scriptures were first written.| (B.1828, 13; R.1853, 20.) The Introduction declared: |Nothing relative to doctrines and church-discipline ought to be transacted according to the mere will of the majority or minority, but in strict conformity with Holy Writ.| (B.1828, 12; R.1853, 19.) According to the constitution of 1828, therefore, Tennessee recognized the Holy Scriptures as the only norm and rule of doctrine and life. This had been the position of the Tennessee Synod from the very beginning. As early as 1822 they declared: |Forasmuch as the Holy Bible is the only rule of matters respecting faith and church-discipline, and because the Augsburg Confession of Faith is a pure emanation from the Bible, and comprises the most important doctrines of faith and discipline, hence it must always remain valid. Therefore our Synod can neither be governed by a majority nor a minority, now nor ever hereafter, with respect to doctrine and discipline. This is the reason why nothing can be introduced among us, now nor at any time hereafter, which may be repugnant to the Bible and the Augsburg Confession of Faith. Neither the majority nor the minority shall determine what our doctrine and discipline are, because they are already determined in the above-named rule. But that we assemble from time to time is neither to form new rules, doctrines, nor traditions, but as united instruments in the hand of God we wish to promulgate the doctrine of the Bible, and to execute the rules already laid down in the Holy Scriptures. But with respect to local and temporary regulations, such as the place and time of meeting, and such like things, which do not interfere with matters of faith and discipline, the Synod suit themselves to the conveniences of the most of their members. We refer the reader to the Seventh, Fifteenth, and Twenty-eighth Articles of the Augsburg Confession of Faith, where he may find more satisfactory instructions with respect to these things.| (R.1822, 9 f.)

106. Augsburg Confession Adopted with a |Quia.| -- From the very beginning the Tennessee Synod regarded the Book of Concord as a correct exhibition of the teachings of Holy Writ, although at first only the Augsburg Confession was officially received into the constitution. At its organization in 1820 Synod declared: |All doctrines of faith and the doctrine of the Christian Life, as well as all books which are used for public worship in the Church, shall, as far as possible, be arranged and observed according to the Holy Scriptures and the Augsburg Confession. Especially shall the youth and others who have need thereof in our Church be instructed according to the Small Catechism of Dr. Luther, as has been the custom hitherto. Said Catechism shall always be the chief catechism of our Church.| (4.) |Whoever will be a teacher shall solemnly promise that he will teach according to the Word of God, and the Augsburg Confession, and the doctrine of our Church.| (5.) The minutes of 1821 record: |On motion made by Mr. Peter Boger, it was resolved that a copy of the Augsburg Confession of Faith, likewise a copy of the minutes of the Synod, shall be deposited in every church.| (8.) The Second Article of the new constitution, adopted 1828, reads as follows: |The Augustan Confession of Faith, comprised in twenty-eight articles, as it is extant in the book entitled 'The Christian Concordia,' is acknowledged and received by this body, because it is a true declaration of the principal doctrines of faith and of church-discipline. Neither does it contain anything contrary to the Scriptures. No minister shall therefore be allowed to teach anything, nor shall this body transact anything that may be repugnant to any article of this Confession. Luther's Smaller Catechism is also acknowledged and received, because it contains a compendium of Scriptural doctrines, and is of great utility in the catechising of youth.| (R.1853, 21.) The |Remarks| appended to this article explain: |Creeds fraught with human tradition and opinions are rejected by this body. Neither is the authority of a general council considered as valid, or sufficient to establish any point of doctrine. . . . Now there is a considerable difference when a body of Christians receive a human composition [symbol] as an unerring guide in addition to the Scriptures, or when they receive it to show their views as respecting points of doctrine. Lutherans acknowledge the Holy Scriptures as the only rule of doctrine and discipline; nevertheless they receive the Augustan Confession because it exhibits the same views they have on the Scriptures, and is a formal declaration of what they believe. But if it were possible to prove that the views on the points of doctrine contained in the Augustan Confession were erroneous, it would be the duty of this body to renounce it; nevertheless, in that case they could by no means be Lutherans, as they would have rejected the views of Lutherans. As there have been various editions of the Augustan Confession, this body have chosen the one which is extant in the book entitled 'The Christian Concordia,' because they are well assured that that is genuine.| (22.) The revised constitution of 1866 recognized the entire Book of Concord as being the doctrinal basis of the Tennessee Synod, thereby merely giving expression to the position which the Tennessee Synod had actually occupied from the very beginning. In their letter of December 10, 1826, addressed to the pastors of the North Carolina Synod, Daniel Moser and David Henkel declared: |We also wish to appeal to the book called 'Concordia,' as it is one of the principal symbolical books of the Lutheran Church.| (R.1827, 28.) The sixth of the |Alterable Articles| of the proposed constitution submitted to synod in 1827 reads: |The book entitled 'Concordia,' which contains the Symbolical Books of the Lutheran Church, shall be viewed as a directory in Theology.| (24.) After visiting the Tennessee Synod in 1855, Brohm wrote: |Creditable witnesses have given me the assurance that, as far as their persons are concerned, all the pastors of the Synod adhere to the entire Concordia.| (Lutheraner 11, 78.) When the Tennessee Synod was organized, it was the only American Lutheran synod which was pledged to the Lutheran Confession, not merely with a quatenus, i.e., as far as it agrees with the Bible, but with an honest quia, i.e., because it agrees with the Bible.

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