October 17, 2012 Blast - The Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric of Unity

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The Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric of Unity
‘Your hands have made me and fashioned me, An intricate unity.' (Job 10:8). Job's words, which include the first use of the word “unity” in Holy Writ, reflect the creator's own understanding of what it means for something to be an intricate unity. Like the complex design of the human anatomy with its powerful but flexible frame, strong and binding sinews, miles of blood vessels and complicated nervous system, unity in the body of Christ is a powerful testimony to the Holy Spirit's creative Word and work, … and at the same time the intricate and delicate nature of that body of Christ as it seeks to live together day by day in unity – in spite of the sin that inflicts all of its members, save the Head. No, the gates of hell will not prevail against Christ's Church, but that does not mean Christ's Church will be without its losses as it struggles to discover, embrace, celebrate, and rejoice with those with whom they have true unity of the faith.
Grammar, logic, and rhetoric are the three phases of classical education. While I personally believe our public and private school systems would benefit greatly by returning to such a model, that is a topic for another time. The good and proper use of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, however, is precisely the discipline that we in the LCMS need to return to if we hope to restore the sense of unity that the founders of our beloved Synod held as they gathered to express that unity in the founding documents 165 years ago.
Grammar, the foundation for language, is the basic building block of both spoken and written communication. The grammar of unity, at least among Lutherans, is found in the Formal Principle that undergirds our understanding of the source of all theology: The Bible (sola Scriptura). For this reason our beloved Synod has always taught the original languages to its seminarians, and anyone who seeks to fill the office of undershepherd or pastor without this training is entering a divinely instituted vocation with less than the necessary grammar skills to rightly fulfill the office. But it is not enough that pastors have proper grammar skills, for the Church consists of undershepherd and congregation together. Thus it is important that the grammar of the liturgy, the Catechism, the hymns, and the like be comprehended, adopted, and used by the laity.
Logic, the God given ability to reason and draw proper conclusions from the information available, is vital to understanding, teaching, and confessing the faith. Here the Material Principle, or that which is the central doctrine of Lutheran theology, comes into play. Namely, we are justified by God's grace through faith in Christ alone. With this synopsis and summary of the Christian truth revealed in Holy Scripture as “a lamp unto our feet,” Lutherans use the 1580 Book of Concord to guide them as “a light unto our path” (Ps. 119:105) all along life's pilgrimage. Using and applying the grammar and logic thus learned, Lutherans exercise their God-given reason in a ministerial way to draw God pleasing conclusions in matters of doctrine and practice which promote, lead to, and support the unity of the body of Christ (Life Together), even as it moves that body to bear witness to Christ in Word and Sacrament and acts of mercy throughout the world.
But what about rhetoric in this quest for unity? How does it relate to the Formal and Material Principles? How can rhetoric help us to regain the unity our founding fathers discovered, embraced and celebrated?
Rhetoric is the art of discourse as it attempts to inform or persuade particular audiences. One properly schooled and well versed in grammar and logic (the Material and Formal Principles) is prepared to offer persuasive (and sometimes original) argumentation in matters that are often quite controversial. It is here where St. Paul's words in Ephesians offer valuable insight into our beloved Synod's historic wisdom in identifying and adhering to sound biblical doctrine in its founding principles and documents.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesian 4:11-16, emphasis added).
Speaking the truth in love, the ACELC identified 10 areas of controversy in the LCMS in its July 15, 2010, “Fraternal Admonition” letter to the congregations of the Synod. Speaking the truth in love, the ACELC has provided “Evidence of Error” documents for all 10 areas of controversy. Speaking the truth in love, the ACELC has filed three official dissent documents with the CTCR for those areas where the Synod has officially adopted false doctrine. Speaking the truth in love, the ACELC has forwarded a full set of our materials to the Praesidium and has appealed to them “to deal with these errors in an evangelical manner.” Speaking the truth in love, the ACELC has worked hard to bring about genuine discussion and debate regarding many of the issues that are dividing our Synod.
Speaking the truth in love, the ACELC has, and continues to demonstrate the good and proper use of rhetoric in seeking to aid this Synod in regaining the unity fractured by those who have abandoned the Formal and Material Principles of grammar and logic. We invite you to join the conversation as we follow the advice of St. Paul, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.
Pastor Bruce G. Ley
Documents Chairman, ACELC
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