Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Another Lutheran Swims the Tiber. . .

Another Lutheran has swum the Tiber.  Russ Saltzman, erstwhile Lutheran Pastor and commentator, has signaled his intention to be received into the Roman Catholic Church, with his wife Dianne.  In the end, when Lutheran pastors leave Lutheranism, it is seldom to find something less but the something more the Lutheran Confessions expect but one sees all too infrequently among the parishes and jurisdictions of Lutheran bodies -- namely, evangelical catholicity.

Evangelical catholicity, as I said on another forum, is summed up best in the Augustana itself:  "That in doctrine and ceremonies nothing has been received on our part against Scripture or the Church Catholic."  Evangelical catholicity is doctrinal and liturgical - not a choice between them.  Missouri often seems to choose doctrine over practice, insisting for example upon a quia subscription to the Symbols but then entirely comfortable with an occasional Sunday Eucharist and a liturgical minimalism which would be completely foreign to our Lutheran fathers.  ELCA often seems to choose liturgy over truth, willing to allow full diversity of what is believed, confessed, and taught but more likely to follow the book and have a full sung Eucharist on Sunday morning.  Evangelical catholics cannot choose between the theory and practice but insist upon both.  They do  not believe in the need to reinvent the church or redefine away her truth for the moment but neither do they pick a moment in time or a particular person (say 1847 and Walther) as the Lutheran zenith.

In this respect Lutherans are still coming to terms with their own confessions, content on one hand to be  Evangelicals with a peculiar penchant for semi-liturgical worship or Protestants who say words they neither believe nor profess.  Evangelical catholics want nothing more and nothing less than Lutherans fully consonant with and consistent with the Lutheran Confessions.  We can find pockets of such evangelical catholicity in places but so far no Lutheran body fully fills the bill.  I would say, some might say selfishly or pridefully, that Missouri offers more pockets and more visible leadership in this direction than any other Lutheran body. . . for now.  Many Lutheran pastors who leave find the pockets too few and far between and have judged the leadership of the various Lutheran bodies as unable to restore what Lutherans lost to pietism, rationalism, Evangelicalism, and mainline Protestantism.  They have decided that a better chance of finding evangelical catholicism is in Rome (or perhaps Constantinople).  Naturally I disagree.

That said, when Lutheran laity leave, it seems more because they are looking for less rather than more.  They have been poorly catechized and so cannot see any difference between Lutheranism and the various other churches that dot the landscape.  They never got what the Word was and so they are too quick to give up the Law and Gospel for a religion of preference, feeling, and desire -- God approving and giving us the great nod that all is okay as long as we are sincere in whatever we seek or want.  They never got the Sacraments and so they quickly exchange what are only symbols for other symbols they manufacture or find more meaningful than the means of grace which deliver to us Christ and His grace.  They never got the liturgy thing and so they are all too willing to ditch what always seems foreign to them anyway.  The last thing most of them want is an evangelical catholic Lutheranism.  They want something out of the mainstream, a mixture of culture and spirituality vague enough to accept nearly everything and broad enough to see a little bit of truth in just about anything.

In other words, both Lutheran pastors and Lutheran laity who leave have given up on Lutheranism for different reasons.  I blame those who catechized most of the laity who leave and I blame the impatience of the Lutheran pastors who are unwilling to wait for the fullness they desire and so exchange one set of disappointments for another.  I know that Lutheranism is better in theory than in practice.  It is painfully reminded me over and over again when I look around Lutheranism.  But I am not ready to believe that Rome or Constantinople offers better.

If I were to head to Rome and stay in the city where I now live, I would find a Roman parish hopelessly overrun with people, running through the liturgy as fast as it can be done, relying on laity to do what priests once did, and with an abysmal program of liturgical music and congregational song.  If I were to head to Constantinople and stay in the city where I now live, I would find a small mission that is barely sure the light bill will be paid, sparse attendance at the services, and a shell of the robust liturgical life claimed by my Orthodox friends.  In the end, the little corner of my own parish offers a more robust evangelical catholicity, closer to what the Confessors envisioned, than either option.  If I were to head to one of the big box churches in town I would be selling out to the very things our Confessions decry -- Word-less, Gospel-less, Sacrament-less faith, too swept up in feelings and preferences to see the God whose is where He has pledged to be and doing what He has promised to do.

I believe more progress can be made sticking it out with the tools of the means of grace than to find a slightly different shade of grace on the other side of the fence.  So here is where I will be. . . trying to keep myself focused upon the means of grace and not me. . . trying to catechize my people so that they will be focused the same place I am. . . in the hope and expectation that this is where God wants me to be. . .

HT to Matthew Block for another thoughtful response to one swimming the river; read him with my own words above or just read him. . .


Carl Vehse said...

Well, more accurately it's "Another Lufauxran Swims the Tiber..."

Saltzmann was part of the XXXA until December, 2010, when he joined NALC, primarily because of the ordination of homosexuals, although he claims his disaffection started with the XXXA's support of abortion. The JDDJ and pastrixes in the XXXA or NALC did not appear to be theological hairballs for Saltzman. One might wonder how Rome's stand on women priests, mariolatry, and the marriage ban for priests has apparently become palatable to him.

No Lutheran decides to swim the Tiber or Bosporus. He first must decide to become a Lufauxran. Some made that first choice decades ago, and have since then been wading in and out of the water, while inviting others to join them.

John Flanagan said...

In joining the Roman Catholics, these former Lutherans are "going backwards" and will have to embrace a gospel of works, pray to Mary as co-redemptress, pray to the saints, embrace Purgatory, Papal infallibility, and reject much of what the Reformation stood for. Luther was not perfect, but he did understand the grace of God, and led us away from the darkness of Catholic theology. Nothing can convince these folks to return to Protestant thinking, because they want man based traditions and a different gospel than was preached by The Lord 2000 years ago.

Carl Vehse said...

Several years ago a Lutheran friend of mine crossed the Tiber. His reason centered on the rejection of sola Scriptura, and the seed of doubt was sown while attending college decades earlier (he later earned a doctorate in philosophy). Ultimately the doubt led to a fusion of Scripture with the writings of the church fathers and a blurring of the diistinction between the invisible Church and a visible church (e.g., the catholic Church and the Roman church).

As for purgatory, mariolatry, the pope, and other Romish notions, while he believed they may not be clearly or firmly set in Scripture, he believed there were some hints, and with the authority of the church fathers, such doctrine, even with some dubious practices, served to support the main church doctrine. While he did not anathematize Lutheranism, the preferred choice of going to Rome was clear to him.

Equating nonscripture with Scripture puts a crack in the doctrinal dam that will eventually give way to a flood of heterodoxy and heresy.

Anonymous said...

Poor guy...if he wanted to become Catholic, all he had to do was come to Clarksville and attend Grace Lutheran Church.

There, he would've found a crucifix(and a big one hanging on the wall), a penchant for genuflecting, some pew kneelers and even the use of the "C" word in the creeds.

And, if he would've come to Christmas Eve Service, he could've been scolded from the pulpit for allowing himself to enjoy some of the secular traditions of the holiday, including purchasing gifts for his children, all while roasting in an over-crowded, poorly-prepared sanctuary.

And, just for good measure, between Sundays if he wanted to read about the goings-on in the Catholic church, he could've tuned in daily to the Pastor's blog. More times than not, it is a rehashing of what's going on in Roman Catholicism.

Yep, this guy missed an opportunity to avoid all that conversion stuff and could've saved himself a lot of trouble.

Anonymous said...

Wow anonymous. If you criticize Pastor Peters & his church, at least be man/woman enough to identify yourself or clarify that you've spoken directly to him about your concerns. Why would you go to Pastor Peter's church for Christmas Eve service knowing he adheres to the Lutheran confessions and the church catholic?

I for one look forward to visiting Grace Lutheran in Clarksville, TN one day. I hope Pastor Peters chants, genuflects, uses incense, and informs me I can't take the Eucharist because I'm not a member of the LCMS. (I attend an Anglican Province of America church.) I would expect nothing less.


BrotherBoris said...

If you are going to criticize Roman Catholic doctrine, at least get it right. Yes, Rome does believe in purgatory, prayers to the saints and papal infallibility. But please don't accuse Rome of teaching the Virgin Mary is a Co-Redepemtrix. Rome has never formally endorsed that, and it is highly unlikely that it ever will. Some overly zealous Catholic laity have urged the Papacy to do so over the years, but every time it is suggested, the Pope vetoes it. It is NOT Catholic dogma. At best, it is religious opinion that some Roman Catholics privately hold, but which the Church of Rome has never made binding on all Catholics. It never hurts to be fair.

Pastor Peters said...

Dear Anonymous,
If you have a question or an issue or a complaint, please see me. It sounds as if you are very unhappy. I am sorry for your unhappiness. But I am also confused by it. I have not asked you to genuflect or kneel (nobody but me genuflects and everyone has the option of kneeling or not). Read the sermon (here on the blog) and see if your characterization of Christmas Eve is fair; I believe I said not to settle for fun but to hold out for nothing less than the full joy of the promise. And I would be interested to see a fair appraisal of how much I spend on things Roman Catholic vs how many things were sparked by something commented upon or done by a Roman source. Maybe you are correct but I am not ready to grant your point.

Let me ask you a couple of questions. Is the liturgy done decently and in good order or without the reverence that is due? Is the Word of God faithful proclaimed and the Law and Gospel rightly distinguished each Sunday? Are the hymns Lutheran and orthodox? Is the worship and catechesis anything less than Lutheran? If so, please tell me so I may make corrections.

I do not ask you to like or dislike me but to honestly reflect upon what happens in worship, Bible study, and catechesis. If it is faithful abd orthodox, then it is good and blessed for us all. If not, then what needs correction.

Thank you for your interest.

Pastor Peters

Unknown said...

Pr. Peters,

Again you insult those of us who have left as not being well catechized, well taught, etc. in other words, we are too stupid to know what is good for us, because none of us ever went the extra mile and did any studying beyond the one hour class on Wednesday nights. Of course, that is not the case. I myself am a very educated man, possessing way more theological education than many LCMS pastors in account of my field of study so i am not some dunce. The problem is the LCMS which you, time and again, refuse to acknowledge or sidestep because you dont/cant offend the District Presidents and what-not so it is easier and more convenient to label us the problem.

If catechesis is the problem, how about making sure the liturgy is served unadulterated week in, week out? Make confirmation period longer than 2 years. Why not four or more? Expect private confession. Instead of reading happy feel good books, read the Lutheran confessions. Get rid of any modern praise music. If this were done across the synod and consistently, i think you would see fewer defections. If not, quit complaining.

From a stupid convert happy on the other side of the Bosphorus. --Chris

Pastor Peters said...

Chris, you mischaracterized what I said. I did not say most or all who left were uncatechized but some and I would say the say for some lay who leave Lutheranism for Evangelicalism or mainline denominations. Some leave because they were never Lutheran in the first place -- again, blaming not them but those who catechized them.

As for what we do here, catechism for youth is three years, requires private confession, and we hold them accountable.

Some leave because they have studied and thought it out and come to the conclusion that Lutherans are wrong. It would appear that you fall into that category. I did not paint with a broad brush all laity who leave. In any case, I respect their decision even though I might be disappointed with it or disagree with it,

At least once a year, I lead a study of one of the major documents of the Lutheran Confessions, the Catechisms, the liturgy, and hymns. This is part of the ongoing adult catechesis that should accompany every Lutheran in life.

Pastor Peters

Paul Becker said...

Dear brother: would that our District Presidents and Seminary professors held up Grace, Clarksville as an example to be emulated!

Anonymous said...

Pr. Peters; great article, and whatever you are doing at Grace keep it up!

I am a Lutheran who has been married to a Roman Catholic for over 40 years, and we have seen first hand many of the debates, struggles, changes, infighting, imperfections etc. of both denominations. It has been a difficult path to walk at times, but by the Grace of God, we have managed.

There are persecutions, (if I may use that term) along the way, some ever so subtle from well-meaning friends, and family about changing (I hate the word converting) to the others religion.

We have tried to maintain our faith to both traditions, and without compromising, learned about the riches of the others faith.

Even though it has been difficult, we continue to grow in our own faith traditions. The temptation to change has come occasionally, but would never give up my Lutheran faith. (or sell my birthright, as Esau did).

So thank you for your insightful article, and God Bless!