The Distinction Between Orthodox & Heterodox Churchesby Dr. Franz Pieper
In accordance with God's Word, we firmly maintain a twofold doctrine: first, that God
does not only have His children in the orthodox Church, that is, in the visible fellowship
where God's Word is preached in all its truth and purity; but that children of God are
also to be found in heterodox fellowships where God's Word is not preached in all its
purity, but truth is mixed with error. Secondly, however, we also maintain the great difference
between orthodox and heterodox churches. What a great difference, according to God's Word,
exists between orthodox and heterodox churches will be more exactly set forth in the
following Theses. Even we forget this difference only too easily. Indeed, it also happens
in our own midst that people who move to other areas and find no orthodox church there,
join heterodox churches. Why is that? One cannot always say that these people have already
fallen away from the true doctrine in their hearts. But they have forgotten the difference
between orthodox and heterodox churches. By taking up membership in heterodox churches,
they commit sin and place their souls in danger. Even Lutherans join sectarian churches,
or would like to do so, because the sects, for example, have more beautiful churches, are
more popular people, and the like. Why? These Lutherans do not rightly and faithfully take
note of the existing difference between orthodox and heterodox churches; they do not see
the wonderful glory of an orthodox church. Even we pastors and teachers of the Church at
times lose courage for work within the Lutheran Church when we observe the greater number
and the externally more attractive conditions within the heterodox churches. That happens
also because we view these things on the basis of our reason instead of judging the
orthodox and heterodox fellowships according to God's Word. Therefore, it is very timely
that in these sessions we consider the theme:
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
ORTHODOX AND HETERODOX CHURCHES
Click on the roman numeral to go to the full
explanation of each thesis.
Every man's first and principal concern should be, that he belong to the Communion of
Saints, that is, to the Invisible Church.
The Divinely ordained external form of the Church is its orthodoxy. Heterodox
church bodies have their existence only by God's permission.
It is, therefore, not a matter of indifference which church group a Christian joins;
but he has God's earnest command strictly to distinguish between orthodox and
heterodox churches, and, avoiding all church fellowship with the heterodox, to adhere only
to the orthodox Church.
Likewise, only in the orthodox Church is God given the honor which He requires;
and, only in it are souls rightly cared for. Fellowship with heterodox churches
militates against God's honor, and is a constant danger for the soul.
We should, therefore, regard membership in the orthodox Church not only as our duty,
but also as the greatest privilege and highest honor, even when the orthodox Church
outwardly bears a very humble form.
The reasons which have been advanced for joining heterodox church bodies, and for
remaining in them, partly sound very pious; but they are considered in the light of God's
Word, altogether invalid, and originate in our blind, conceited, self-willed, and
This essay was delivered by Dr. F. Pieper in 1889 to the Southern
District Convention of the Missouri Synod. The original essay was translated by three
former Synodical Conference pastors: G. Schweikert, P.T. Meicher, and E.L. Mehlbert. This
copy contains some improvements over its first publication which appeared in a 1948 issue
of the The Okabena Lutheran.
Dr. Franz August Otto Pieper was
a Professor at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri from 1878-1931. During the
years 1887-1931 he was President of the same. From 1899-1911 Dr. Pieper was also
President of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod.
He most widely used work today is Christian Dogmatics, a 3-volume work (4 with
index) covering all areas of Christian Doctrine from the Orthodox Lutheran viewpoint.