A debate is currently underway in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod regarding fitness for ministry. (Gottesdienst has the background) Essentially, it boils down to “is there such a thing as…” Historically, the church has made a distinction between forgiveness – which is available to all who are repentant – and fitness for ministry – which disqualifies most people. It does not mean they can not be forgiven for their sins. But if a pastor is caught embezzling money, repeatedly getting drunk, persistently teaching false doctrine, or committing adultery, etc. then he can no longer serve as a pastor.
Similarly, a man who is not apt to teach can not serve as a pastor. This is true whether he is unable to teach and so can not become a pastor, or suffers a debilitating stroke while serving and can no longer speak, and so must step down. Of course, the faithful pastor recognizes when that moment comes because of infirmity. The unfaithful pastor who is caught in great sin is often times unable to recognize that moment. And so, they either continue speaking without a call (what Luther called an “infiltrating and clandestine preacher”), or attempt to illicitly re-enter the Holy Ministry via bylaw and procedure. In either case, they claim, “God has forgiven me. I am therefore able to re-enter the Holy Ministry.” This is demonstrably false. It does not stop them from attempting to fool the unwary.
One of the scriptural examples they use is King David. “After all, King David committed adultery AND murder! He was not removed from office. Therefore, my adultery does not disqualify me,” they will say.
They may want to pick a better example than King David. I’m not even sure you can say he wasn’t removed from office. You certainly can not say there were extreme temporal consequences. Let’s look at the punishment laid out by Nathan:
(1)Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house…
(2)Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house.
(3)And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.
“I have sinned against the LORD.”
And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.”
David won’t die. That’s the promise. The son conceived in such sin will die. An innocent will suffer the penalty for David’s sin. But Nathan never said, “You will die.” Nor did Nathan say, “Your kingdom will be given to another.” He said that someone from David’s own house would rebel.
And what happened next? Well, David’s worthless son Amnon noticed how David got away with taking a woman to bed, and so raped his sister Tamar. David’s other son Absolom – David’s favorite son – was close to Tamar, and hated Amnom. And then killed Amnon. And then was exiled. And then returned and began a revolt. David was driven from the palace. Absolom slept with his father’s concubines on the rooftop, in view of all Jerusalem. And then Absolom (David’s favorite son) was killed.
So, yeah. Everything Nathan said would happen, happened. The only thing David managed to gain for his faithfulness was his own life, in exchange for the lives of three sons.
Maybe unfaithful preachers should actually read the bible before they start expounding it. But then, maybe if they read, marked, learned and inwardly digested it in the first place…