National Lutheran News

LCMS version of Lutheran book of doctrine has a doctrinal problem

Concordia Publishing House will reprint new edition of the Lutheran Confessions

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LC-MS) has long prided itself on being a confessional church body. The name “Concordia,” a reference to the Lutheran confessional collection, the Book of Concord, is applied to more institutions in the LCMS than in any other Lutheran church body.

No eyebrows were raised, therefore, when the denomination’s Concordia Publishing House (CPH) offered a new edition of “Concordia” in 2005. Eyebrows did raise shortly after publication, however.

Writing in the occasional newsletter of the LCMS reform group JesusFirst, Bruce A. Cameron raised an alarm. He claimed that translators of Martin Luther’s Large Catechism had deliberately changed the reformer’s intent and meaning. In commenting on the meaning of the Apostles Creed, Luther wrote that “Heathen, Turks, Jews or false Christians and hypocrites” cannot expect God’s love or blessing even though they believe in and worship only one true God.

The new LCMS edition of Concordia instead translates Luther to read, “even if we were to concede that [everyone outside Christianity believes in and worships one true God …].” That, Cameron maintained, changes Lu-ther’s meaning in a way that no other translation of the Lutheran Confessions ever has. [A recent ELCA version, published by Augsburg Fortress, uses the “even though” language.]

Evidently, the LCMS Commission on Doctrinal Review agrees with Cameron. The group, which had previously approved the new translation, revoked its certification earlier this year, citing “lapses in sound historical scholarship, ambiguous or questionable doctrinal statements and explanations, unexplained peculiarities in the translation and a general failure to distinguish clearly between what is actually in the text of the Confessions and all other non-confessional material.”

CPH has already sold 40,000 copies of the new edition. Changes are being made before more copies can be sold.