Bob Dylan wrote several classic songs during his early years as a recording artist; songs like Blowin’ in the Wind; Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right; and The Times They Are A-Changin’. A personal favorite is All Along the Watchtower, written by Dylan in 1965 and made famous by Jimi Hendrix in 1968.
The title of the song is gleaned from Ezekiel 33. It talks about a watchman who had been appointed by the nation of Israel to warn the nation whenever he saw danger approaching.
In a similar way, this Synodical observer has these concerns regarding certain Romanist tendencies within our beloved Synod. For example:
- The centralization of authority in one person. A Romanist way of “life together” permits one person to function like the Roman Pope.
- The deployment of authorized messengers throughout the world to teach and model, and impose whenever possible “the ministry traditions” of Rome. A Romanist way of “life together” functions in this way, much like the Jesuit Order.
- The centralization of litmus tests of orthodoxy and ortho-practice in a small group of theologians, who also serve as the interpretative “scribes,” rendering normative judgments upon doctrinal issues and ministry situations. A Romanist way of “life together” functions much like the Roman Curia.
- Use of self-appointed agents of orthodoxy who monitor the ministry activities of the Members of Synod and who, when necessary, report un-orthodox ministry practices. A Romanist way of “life together” functions like the Dominican Order.
- The elevation of extra biblical sources and various traditions of men; often these “sources” and “traditions” carry more normative weight and authority than the words and practices of Christ and Scripture. A Romanist way of “life together” permits tradition to become equal to — or even supplant — the Word of God.
Luther Fought Romanist Tendencies
One of the seminal writings of Dr. Martin Luther was To the Christian Nobility in which he identified three invented “Romanist walls” of “straw and paper” that hindered the Church of his time from experiencing the evangelical life and freedom that God intended for His people as the priesthood of all believers.
(Editor’s Note: See below for additional information and to read Luther’s “An Open Letter to The Christian Nobility of the German Nation Concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate”)
Luther, in his introductory thoughts, exhorted the laity of the Church to pursue the necessary reforms since “the time to keep silence has passed and the time to speak is come” (The Works of Martin Luther, Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 2:61).
It was Luther’s fervent prayer that God would help them in their moment of great need and “give us just one of those trumpets with which the walls of Jericho were overthrown, to blast down these walls of straw and paper…” (LW 44:127).
It’s Time to Act
It is my hope that the clergy and laity of our Synod will nominate new servant-leaders and take the actions necessary to reform our Synod in ways that are true to our nature as an Evangelical Lutheran Church in which the Gospel, Christian liberty and congregations matter.
Pastor Anthony Steinbronn
New Jersey District President, LCMS
Additional Essay Information:
What did Luther list as Romanism’s three invented straw and paper walls? The First Wall was pretending that there exist those in the “spiritual estate” who are above and different from “princes, lords, artisans and farmers — the ‘temporal estate.’” The Second Wall was the invented belief that certain people assume unto themselves the role and sole ability to interpret Holy Scripture. Luther’s Third Paper Wall was that leaders in the Church could insulate themselves from the just criticism of others by controlling the councils (or in our case, the triennial LCMS convention).
These three walls stand in direct opposition to Luther’s understanding of the “Priesthood of All Believers.” CLICK HERE to read Luther’s “An Open Letter to The Christian Nobility of the German Nation Concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate” from 1520 online.