November 23, 2006
Herr McCain correctly aludes to my views in the matter of the "second canon," namely:
Following the Hebrew canon, and St. Jerome, I do not consider the Apocrypha fit for the construction of doctrine; these books should be preserved only as a matter of historical interest and for their contribution to "wisdom" literature. Therefore, I did not see any reason to eject them from our German Bibles in the sixteenth century, any more than I did those disputed books of the New Testament, including the dubious Book of James.
Given the confusion within even confessional Lutheran ranks in these times, however, I am loathe to introduce the Apocrypha to English-language Bibles that traditionally have been printed without them, lest we evangelical Lutherans be seen as settling controversies by adverting to Rome. I do not want, even by unjust inference, to be interpreted as giving back to the Romanists much of what we fought to eliminate in order to purify our doctrine and to give God alone the glory for our salvation—for example, notions of free will when it comes to doing what is pleasing to God (Sirach 15), and prayers for the dead, as if these in some sense could make satisfaction for their sins (2 Macc. 12).
I have always made it a policy to retain practices that may not be explicitly biblical yet can serve as pious devotions or props to faith if one's trust in Christ as sole saviour, redeemer, and Lord is strong. Yet I am afraid that faith in our day is too weak, and controversies too vast, to introduce these books to our Bibles. It will require a generation of a strong Lutheran church inculcating in its congregants the capacity to make distinctions without fear of falling into heresy or nonsense. It will also require loyalty among those congregants to the teaching authority of the church and its pastors. We are not speaking of "infallibility" here; merely of the proper respect due offices ordained by God.
May I go back to my Thanksgiving table now? I am only on my third helping of my second serving of my fourth appetizer.
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