LCMS Pastor Jonathan Fisk and the Keys of the Kingdom

I’m not sure how many forum frequenters are familiar (look at that alliteration) with Pastor Fisk of the LCMS, but he does at least a weekly YouTube video on some issue of Lutheran doctrine and/or biblical interpretation. His YouTube video of June 5, 2015, Everlasting Extras - Absolution and the Hebrew Roots Movement, addressed absolution and the keys of the kingdom. Often, even when it seems unnecessary to the topic, his videos run to a distinction of Lutheranism from a warped (and seemingly bigoted Reformation Era) understanding of Catholicism. For instance in this video, he calls the confection of the Eucharist by the priest magic, which is odd considering the Lutheran belief in a form of the Real Presence. Anyway, amongst all the literal handwaving, I get lost on what the keys actually mean in Lutheranism. It feels like there is an internal incoherence within this doctrine and an incoherence of this doctrine with the rest of the doctrine regarding Lutheran “orders”. Could somebody help me flesh this out? It just seems like a bunch of sophistry to me in order to distance Lutheranism as far from Catholicism as possible. (Sorry if this should have been under “Non-Catholic Religions”; I wasn’t sure.)

:popcorn: :coffeeread:

JerryZ, did you get a chance to watch the video?

I’m quite certain that they do have a lot of internal incoherence and confusion about that. It is really they who will have to make sense of it because it doesn’t make any sense to me.

I love Pastor Fisk and enjoy his podcasts, sermons and books.

However, he seems to still think of the Catholic church in the same way that we Lutherans experienced Pope Leo X five hundred years ago.

We Lutherans shouldn’t get too cozy with Catholic dogma as we’re still guilty of various heresies (from the Catholic viewpoint) - but I find Pastor’s Fisk bombastic style a bridge too far when it comes to Catholics.

Catholic and Lutherans (in my opinion) need each other in this secular world to proclaim the Gospel and administer the Sacraments - and we need to respect each other, understand the differences between us and do so in a way that makes us stronger in our relationship with Christ Jesus.

In short, in this case, Pastor Fisk is not helping our relations with each other.

Perhaps his interest in doing so is non existent. I might think he would know better than the Priest who confects the Eucharist is is performing a “magic show” The Power of the Holy Spirit brings about real presence and that is right in the CCC.


Ben, he almost seemed defensive to me, like he resents the fact that Catholic priests can trace their line of succession back to the Apostles but he can’t. Otherwise, why attack as magic a Catholic priest’s ability to do something that he ostensibly believes he and fellow Lutheran pastors are able to do without Apostolic Succession.

Frankly, the Lutheran doctrine of the keys doesn’t seem to bestow any authority. If everybody has authority, then nobody does. The whole bit about the symbiosis of the pastor and the congregation sounds well and good until the congregation disagrees with the pastor on a matter of doctrine or various pastors and congregations disagree with each other. Then whose authority of the keys trumps the other’s?

Cessation of Apostolic authority seems hard to verify based on the relative unity of the Church until the time of Luther. Before Luther with Apostolic Succession, you have the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox and a few other very small apostolic Churches and the Catholic Church, so arguably four branches of the Church in 1,500 years. After Luther with the “cessation” of Apostolic Succession, you have, I think I count, at least six considerably different Protestantisms within the first 200 years. Giving the keys to the whole church seems to have encouraged everybody to find their own door attached to their own building.

I thought he’d know better than to say popes consecrate their successor popes, but apparently the anti-Catholic blinders are so effective that he didn’t notice that almost all the former popes are dead before the next pope becomes pope.

I just don’t see what good the keys are if everybody wields them. Whose keys are trump when disagreements inevitably arise?

I don’t think that Lutheran pastors believe that they are making the bread and the wine become the body and the blood. It is God who is making the body and the blood present for those receiving during communion. Lutherans (or at least most Lutherans I think) also believe that it is only in reception that it becomes the body and the blood. Before and after communion, it is just bread and wine to most Lutherans. :shrug:

Well, granted they don’t believe in transubstantiation, but is the pastor that unnecessary? No Catholic priest believes he’s confecting the Eucharist without the power of God, but Catholics do believe you can’t confect the Eucharist without an ordained priest, another reason for our high regard of Apostolic Succession.

And receptionism is probably beyond the scope of this thread.

Here’s one explanation I found online by Grace Lutheran Church of Phillipsburg, NJ (ELCA):

You will notice how throughout my explanation I never used the word “becomes” or “is made” to refer to the consecration of Christ’s body and blood. Why is that? Certainly we believe that the pastor is necessary to perform the Eucharistic actions in order for the bread and the wine to be Christ’s body and blood? You see, Luther believed that if the pastor using the Eucharistic actions (elevation, prayer, and fraction) make the bread and wine Christ’s body and blood then you are admitting transubstantiation is valid. Instead what Luther argued is that the Eucharistic actions are necessary for the priest to reveal the bread and wine as Christ’s body and blood. Again this fit into the incarnational thinking for Luther. Was not this illegitimate child from Nazareth named Jesus also the Son of God? Yet, he was not known as such until John the Baptist revealed it at the waters of the Jordan having it revealed to him from on high.

And so it is with this ordinary bread and wine that the word reveals through the authorized speaking of the priest that this bread and wine is Christ’s body and blood. Christ’s body and blood could not function in that capacity until it was revealed through the speaking of the priest in the mass. And so as Lutherans who adhere to the Lutheran confessions this is what we believe, teach, and confess is true about the Lord’s Supper.

I would hope he is just ignorant and not purposefully using an anti Catholic agenda that is incorrect.


the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present."203

1375 It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament.

The Church Fathers strongly affirmed the faith of the Church in the efficacy of the Word of Christ and of the action of the Holy Spirit to bring about this conversion. Thus St. John Chrysostom declares:

It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but he who was crucified for us, Christ himself. The priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their power and grace are God’s. This is my body, he says. This word transforms the things offered.204

What is the role of the Pastor then in Holy Communion? Is he necessary or could anyone say the words of institution such as an elder?


It wouldn’t be the first time Pastor Fisk has gotten way ahead of his Catholic ramblings - he’s done it before in another podcast. I don’t remember the context - but it was embarrassing.

He needs to do better than this - he’s a good theologian with a feisty mind that needs a bit of tempering.

Fair enough.


Many Lutherans may indeed think that - but if I’m reading correctly, what you’ve described is the heresy of receptionism.

More info in this CAF thread:

I like Pastor Fisk, a lot of times I agree with him, but a few times I kind of scratch my head. Recently, well fairly recently, he made some comments on Orthodoxy which I took issue with, but I suppose that’s to be expected when hearing criticism about your world view, you can expect someone to respond.

Pastor Fisk and the Lutherans I have listened to (via Issues etc which he frequently guests on) are opposed to what they call “mysticism” and the lack of being objective. Still calling the Roman Catholic use of the sacrament magic seems a bit hypocritical.


Lutherans (or at least most Lutherans I think) also believe that it is only in reception that it becomes the body and the blood. Before and after communion, it is just bread and wine to most Lutherans. :shrug:

And this is an indictment of our poor catechesis that any Lutheran would hold such a heterodox position, that being receptionism.

The Augsburg Confession:
*Article X: Of the Lord’s Supper.

1] Of the Supper of the Lord they teach that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present, and are distributed 2] to those who eat the Supper of the Lord; and they reject those that teach otherwise. *


I think he’s done this more in the last couple years than earlier. Lutheran pastors that appear too cozy with Catholic or Orthodox positions can be hammered by the confessionals. By confessionals, I mean the vocal ones who howl when a sheep leaves the fold for “other” pastures - such as the outrage when Joshua Genig left.

It makes me weary, all the striving against each other.

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