When I was in high school, the PE Teacher / Football coach – one of the most godly men I have ever met – announced at the beginning of our freshman year, “When I’m teaching a skill, if you do it wrong, I might call you on it in front of the class. I’m not trying to embarrass you, I just don’t want to have to explain it 20 different times.” And he did. Now, this is the important part: No one dissolved in tears, or ran crying to their mommy, because he was right. In a short class period, he didn’t have time to explain the same thing twenty times. We messed up, he explained it to the whole class all at once. We all learned a valuable lesson. We moved on with our lives without behaving like spoiled pre-school children.
The LCMS could learn a thing or two from my Freshman PE class and our coach. Or, for those who are theologians, from Luther. Or, for your exegetes, from Holy Scripture. In the LCMS, anyone who dares to call out public false teaching will be assailed with cries of “Talk to them face to face!” This is not the path of the prophets, or the apostles. It is the path of the cowardly and the false teacher. Luther even says:
But where the sin is quite public so that the judge and everybody know it, you can without any sin avoid him and let him go, because he has brought himself into disgrace, and you may also publicly testify concerning him. For when a matter is public in the light of day, there can be no slandering or false judging or testifying; as, when we now reprove the Pope with his doctrine, which is publicly set forth in books and proclaimed in all the world. For where the sin is public, the reproof also must be public, that every one may learn to guard against it.”
Let me repeat that last line in case you thought the quote was TL/DR
Where the sin is public, THE REPROOF MUST BE PUBLIC, THAT EVERY ONE MAY LEARN TO GUARD AGAINST IT.
It turns out, my high school PE coach was a better theologian than most of the LCMS. (This is actually true. He was a fine practical theologian.) If there is a public sin or false teaching, and you don’t publicly address it, you are complicit, should others fall into the same error.
This is nothing more than a correct exposition of Holy Scripture. Consider God’s Word to Ezekiel the prophet:
If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. (Ezekiel 33, ESV)
I remember Coach Tuomi fondly, though he probably forgot about me the moment I walked across the stage in cap and gown (if not before). I was not memorable. The lessons he taught us, were. That’s the way it should be for teachers.
In my nostalgia, I sometimes ponder how much better the LCMS would be today if every synod leader had taken his freshman PE course…