The Doctrine of the Word
The Bible, as Luther stated, is the "cradle of the Christ." Jesus Christ is the Incarnate Word. The Scripture, as the written Word, is the only infallible authority with regard to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The purpose of the written word is that men may believe in Jesus as the Christ and that by believing they may have life through His name (John 20:30,31). Therefore, at the center of Scripture is Jesus Christ.
The preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, is the "Word of God" only in a derivative sense. For all preaching of the Word of God (Law and Gospel) has its only ultimate and infallible authority in the Bible. Therefore, preaching (kerygma) cannot be regarded as a source of the Word of God apart from Scripture.
The AALC believes and confesses that the Bible, as a whole and in all its parts, is the inspired Word of God. In theological terminology, the AALC believes in the plenary inspiration (full inspiration) of the Scripture. This is based on the Bible's clear testimony regarding itself (II Timothy 3:16, II Peter 1:20-21, I Corinthians 2:13). Because the Bible is fully inspired, The AALC believes and confesses that the Bible is inerrant with respect to its nature and infallible as respecting its authority.
We find support for our Statement of Faith in the clear testimony of the church fathers (Ireaneus, Clement of Rome, Athenagoras, Justin Martyr). The infallibility of Scripture is clearly taught by Augustine. Luther consistently holds to the position of the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture:
"I have learned to ascribe this honor, namely the infallibility, only to books which are termed canonical, so that I confidently believe that not one of their authors erred. (Luther's Words, W.II, 626) The saints were subject to error in their writings and to sin in their lives; Scripture cannot err." ("On the Abuse of the Mass")
Also Luther writes in the Large Catechism:
"My neighbor and I--in short, all men--may err and deceive but God's Word cannot err."
Though it was not a major issue at the time, Chemnitz in his preface to "The Book of Concord" (Tappert, p.8) states clearly as a premise for Lutheran theology that the Bible is to be understood as infallible:
"We have in what follows purposed to commit ourselves exclusively and only, in accordance with the pure, infallible and unalterable Word of God . . . " The AALC Policy and Procedure Manual - Appendix 1.B.
This has also been the historic position of the Lutheran church among immigrants who settled the American Midwest. This "high view" of the Bible with insistence on the inerrant nature and infallible authority of the Bible is evident in the writings of Rev. Ulrich Koren (1890), the Minneapolis Thesis (1925), the preface to "The Lutheran Hymnary" (1935) and Michael Reu's "Luther and the Scripture" (1944), as well as in the Statement of Faith of the ALC (1960).
It is of course an evident historical fact that because of the application of scientific critical methods to the text and to interpretation of Scripture, there has been a serious, progressive erosion of regard for the authority of the Bible. This became particularly evident among the more Americanized church bodies in the United States during the third and fourth decades of this century. However, by the 1950's this was also beginning to become an evident problem among the Lutheran churches as well. As a result, the greater need for insistence upon the total dependability and reliability of Scripture called forth a greater need for historic Christian and Lutheran concepts such as "inerrancy" and "infallibility."
It is the prayerfully considered conviction of The AALC that the method of scientific criticism with its presuppositions (see Braaten and Jensen, "Christian Dogmatics," Vol. 1, p.71) is destructive of the faith and life of the church. Therefore, The AALC asserts the historic Christian and Lutheran position of the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture against the "new view" of the Bible, which is the child of the scientific critical method as applied to Biblical studies.
On the basis of this conviction regarding the total reliability and dependability of the Bible, as God's divinely inspired revealed Word, The AALC believes that Christians, and especially those of our beloved Lutheran family, are faced with a critical decision. It is of the same order of magnitude and importance as Elijah's challenge to Israel of old:
"How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him." (I Kings 18:21)
For our day the challenge of Elijah may be paraphrased thus:
"Why do you go limping between two different opinions regarding the Bible . . . If the scientific critical view is true, give yourself to it. If what Scripture says of itself is true, then obey it."
It is the conviction of The AALC that we battle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers in heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12). In this battle the Lord has given us his armor. We put it on and use the sword of the Spirit as our weapon of attack against the power of evil. God did not give us a dented, broken blade but a sharp, two-edged sword. This "sword of the Spirit" is His inerrant, infallible Word.
Furthermore, it is the conviction of The AALC that spiritual renewal within the Lutheran family can take place only where there is an unwavering commitment to Jesus Christ as the only Lord and Savior and to his totally dependable and reliable (inerrant and infallible) Word, the Bible.