Friday, November 26, 2010
A Hornet's Nest
Unfortunately, we are not all open to listening to the voice of that tradition or the words of our own Confessions. I admit that there are somethings I am not open to hearing. I would expect that each of us could make the same admission -- certain things are so deeply seated within us that they are beyond debate or question. To raise a question about them, is more personal affront than conversational and educational enterprise. That is the weakness of discussion -- not all parties to the discussion are as open to honest consideration of the matters before them as others.
Typically, Missourians tend to identify with a particular side or issue or person and we tend to follow that line whereever it leads. For me, that path is the Second Martin (Chemnitz) and the catholic vision of Lutheranism that flows from the Augustana to the Formula. The people whom I identity with are those who identify within this part of Lutheran identity. But I think it is important for me to honestly consider the fullness of the points and perspectives that are brought to the table when this identify engages other identities that equally claim to be Lutheran.
Also typical to Missouri Synod Lutherans is the fact that we abhor the weaknesses or foibles of our favorite people. It seems to make us more rabidly for someone or some issue when others question or challenge that person or that perspective. So many of our Lutheran discussions tend to be simple restatements of our positions instead of real debates. Which leads me to think that if we hope to have good fruit from Pres. Harrison's koinonia discussions, we need to figure out a way to bring something more than our defensiveness to the table. We need to be able to articulate our positions, for sure, but we also need to listen to and consider the positions of others. This is hard to do. It is made even more difficult when these things become personal or attach to the most deeply held tenets of our beliefs.
I was honestly surprised by those who disagreed with me with respect to receptionism. That said, I have been looking more at the points raised and the quotes offered and found that there was more wiggle room than I expected even among some Lutherans with otherwise great pedigrees. It just goes to show us again the problem of identifying with a person or a "party" when what binds our identity are the Confessions of the Lutheran Church and not specific Lutherans (even Martin himself). I am not disdaining the great Lutheran teachers of old or more recent origion. All I am saying is that neither Walther nor Pieper are what Lutherans are bound to and the same hold true for those who came before them and those who have come since. We are bound to the Confessions. I appreciate those teachers of every age and time whose faithfulness continues to live and speak in courageous witness to us Lutherans now. We ought to read them and identify with them as much as we can. But we must not forget that what is binding upon us are those Confessions which we call the Concordia. These occupy a position of authority and provide a teaching magisterium for the Church that we dare not ignore or disdain.
Pastors need to realize that we sometimes find ourselves in the same position as than when someone in the pew comes up to us and says "That's not how Pastor so and so said or did it or explained it..." Pastor so and so may have been a fine and good Pastor but he may also have been wrong. What forms and shapes our confession and practice is distinct from those who teach us that confession and whose practice we see growing up (or in college and seminary). So in our discussions, it may help to point to a particular teacher and say this is what he says but the final authority in our discussions is first our Confessions and second the catholic and apostolic tradition which is presumed in those Confessions.
Just something to think about . . .