Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Some rough water ahead for those who swim the Tiber...

All too often those who leave Lutheranism express the rationale in graphic terms -- in order to be authentically Lutheran (evangelical catholic), they must become Roman Catholic.  I do not question the motives of those so attracted nor will I here engage in a debate over the rightness or wrongness of their conclusions.  It is sufficient here for me to admit that as tempting as Rome (or Constantinople, for that matter) may be, what you are leaving from will usually follow you.  The same ignorance of things catholic, the casual approach to the Mass and piety, the devaluation of orthodox doctrine and practice -- all of the things we complain about as Lutherans is found in the churches that attract us.

Here is one honest story of a parish and school -- Roman Catholic -- though it could be Lutheran.  It is the kind of thing that challenges the idea that you have go somewhere else to be orthodox and catholic in belief and piety.  In fact, it is the kind of thing that suggests that the path to recovery and the cause of renewal is the common ground of all churches who claim to be or desire to be evangelical catholic.  It is not enough to confess in principle the doctrine and then practice whatever feels good.  It is not enough to have noble motive but to leave your people largely in the dark about what it means to believe, confess, and teach the faith.  It is not enough to follow the rubric while failing to preach faithfully just as it is not enough to preach earnestly but treat the rubrics as unimportant.

At noon I have to be at the local Catholic school—let’s call it St. Dismas—to train altar servers. I will arrive a few minutes early, and by 12:05 most of the kids will have trickled in. We are in the Southern California, so most of the boys at St. Dismas wear short pants year-round. Students are required to attend one Mass per month with the school, but it has never occurred to anyone, not their parents, not the pastor, not the teachers, and certainly not the students, that they should wear pants to Mass. The girls wear skirts that in 1966 would have been described as “micro-minis.” When I told the boys’ parents that I expected them to wear their uniform pants to Mass when they become servers, the school principal—a genial thirty-something man who insists on the rigorous use of the title “Dr.” but often wears sweatpants and flip-flops to work—cornered me outside his office for a talk. He warned me that I might get some pushback from parents on the pants requirement. “We are only a medium-Catholic school,” he informed me. “We’re not really that Catholic.”   [read the rest here. . . ]

Indeed, that is exactly the point.  Preaching and teaching the faith faithfully requires us to practice it faithfully on Sunday morning and attention to the liturgy or mass requires us to be concerned about doctrine, teaching, and preaching.  The real meaning of synod may indeed be not that people walk together according to the  common ground of personal preference but that they walk together according to the orthodox teaching and confession of the faith and the faithful practice and liturgical observance of the faith.  There can be no other unity worthy of Christ.

We do not need sacramental or liturgical entrepreneurs but those who attempt with every ounce and fiber of their being to be orthodox and faithful in doctrine and practice.  This cannot be met by meeting some minimal standard of teaching and preaching and presiding.  No church or parish will prosper as God desires by merely reaching for what is easy, comfortable, or accessible.  If we aspire only to the minimal confession required of orthodoxy or the minimal catholicity of liturgy and piety, we have by nature forsaken the very definition of orthodoxy and faithfulness.

Yet it is this spirit that has and continues to infect the churches.  We are not that catholic.  There is no catholicity by degrees or tepid orthodoxy.  We strive for fullness in confession and practice or we have abandoned every effort or desire for catholicity whatsoever.  Evangelical is not a term at odds with catholicity and catholicity is not opposed to the evangel. 

You read it and see if it could not have been written by an anonymous Lutheran.  I grieve for those who leave us thinking that they have found an end.  Every place I look is a beginning, sometimes a good effort and sometimes a baby step toward the goal of fullness in evangelical catholic confession and practice.

13 comments:

Carl Vehse said...

"It is sufficient here for me to admit that as tempting as Rome (or Constantinople, for that matter) may be, what you are leaving from will usually follow you."

That's it?!

That's considered "sufficient" warning to a person who has sworn a quia subscription to the Lutheran Confessions, either as a pastor at ordination or as a catechumen at confirmation, before they swim theTober or Bosporus?!?

Luther wrote hymns and articles about people who were tortured and burned at the stake for taking that "even unto death" part of their ordination or confirmation vow seriously.

But today admitting that apathy, bureaucracy, and carelessness also show up (along with the Antichrist) in the Roman church is considered sufficient for a person to maintain his ordination vow (and the Concordia plan) or confirmation vow.

Sigh.....

Chris Jones said...

Dr Strickert,

The scope of a blog post is necessarily limited. Pr Peters's observation in this post is certainly not the only thing that can be said about people who leave Missouri for elsewhere, nor is it the most important thing to be said; but it is worth saying, and if Pr Peters also discusses every other problem with leaving Lutheranism, the one point that he wanted to make would be obscured.

Pr Peters said nor will I here engage in a debate over the rightness or wrongness of their conclusions, but you seem to demand that he should do just that. That only serves to show that you have missed the point.

Chris Jones said...

Pr Peters,

or Constantinople, for that matter ... what you are leaving from will usually follow you

Not true, I think, with respect to the Orthodox Church. Orthodoxy has its problems, to be sure, but by and large they are different problems than the ignorance of things catholic, the casual approach to the Mass and piety, the devaluation of orthodox doctrine and practice that you cite here.

Carl Vehse said...

Pr Peters stated: "... nor will I here engage in a debate over the rightness or wrongness of their conclusions."

Of course! When a Lufauxran becames a Romanist, it is simply wrong. There is no debate among Lutherans about this; the debate was previously settled in a series of documents incorporated into what we now call the Book of Concord of 1580.

And I was not demanding any such debate with non-Lutherans, especially the Schwärmerei on the other side of the Tiber or Bosporus.

My point, was that "what you are leaving from will usually follow you" is a completely insufficient statement concerning the abandonment of the Lutheran confession because of the failures of some pastor, congregation or synod to behave as Lutherans should.

Kirk Skeptic said...

One doesn't leave one faith for another, but leaves nonthing for something; ie any Lutheran swimming any body of water (Bosprous, Tiber, Thames, Bodensee)didn't do so as a Lutheran, but had first rejected FC and anything associated with it - and for a variety of reasons.

David Gray said...

"Kirk",

That's an oversimplification of how human beings function.

Carl Vehse said...

"... any Lutheran swimming any body of water (Bosprous, Tiber, Thames, Bodensee)didn't do so as a Lutheran, but had first rejected FC and anything associated with it - and for a variety of reasons."

As noted in a recent Pastoral Meanderings blog [more correctly] titled "Another Lufauxran Swims the Tiber...."

Kirk Skeptic said...

DG: I write as a convert myself. As for oversimplifying, the idea that one goes to bed a quia subscriber to the FC on Sunday and awakens a rad trad on Monday is simply phantastic.

Jim Davis said...

What is "FC"?
I do not have an M Div.
thanks

William Tighe said...

FC = Formula of Concord (I imagine).

Chris Jones said...

FC = Formula of Concord (I imagine)

Yes.

Carl Vehse said...

For nonLutherans, here are the typical abbreviations used for the Lutheran Symbols contained in the Book of Concord (BoC) (in addition to the three Ecumenical Creeds):

AC = Augsburg Confession
Ap = Apology of the Augsburg Confession
SA = Smalcald Articles
Tr = Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope
SC = Small Catechism
LC = Large Catechism
FC = Formula of Concord, which has two parts:
1. Ep = Epitome
2. SD = Solid Declaration

Jim Davis said...

Carl:
Thank you for your list.
Although I have been a (Lutheran) Christian since my baptism on April 6, 1949, I do not regularly use abbreviations. I have trouble with texting stuff, too.