Saturday, January 9, 2016
A fall back position. . .
I guess that is no surprise. Nagel undoubtedly meant it in the larger sense of Lutheranism and its fall back in the Augustinian tradition to the ideas of grace and salvation enumerated previous to the official time of Lutheranism's origins. But I wonder if it is not equally or even more true of those who were not raised Lutheran but who converted. When folks meet up with something that conflicts with reason or the way they had always understood things before, the more authoritative voice is the older voice of their catechesis and identity.
We may catechize adults into the faith and do a fine job of it but it is hard to eradicate from the heart and mind what was learned as a child. It is often the base for our knowledge, from which we judge the rest of our experience, and the norm that norms the normal we may experience later. When I grew up... is often a way of saying, I don't know where you got this hymn or liturgy or idea or whatever, but it is not what I learned when I grew up in the church. And often they are exactly correct -- the confessional character of Lutheranism expressed in catholic doctrine and practice is NOT what we grew up with (even when we grew up as Lutherans).
Underneath all our veneered exterior of fine, upstanding Lutheranism, we hide the Calvinism, fundamentalism, evangelicalism, or other ism du jour. It may not show up objectively until someone asks us what is our favorite hymn. Then we say instinctively the name of one of those found not in a Lutheran hymnal collection but surely among the standards of Gospel or American hymnody. When it comes to funerals and eulogies, it is often hard to challenge the desire to hear a celebration of old Aunt Maddie's life complete with all the embarrassing stories that have nothing in common with the woman of faith she had become under the Spirit's tutelage.
I am not trying to accuse but rather to account for the fact that our catechesis in the faith often seems to find a dead end when converting the hymnody that sings in our hearts to the doctrine we learned from catechism and confession to believe. To know and acknowledge this is to equip ourselves with what we need to keep the heart of the church from being at odds with the mind of the church, finding an embarrassing conflict between the hymns we sing and the faith we hold. "I know I should not love them but I do..." admitted someone as we struggled to find a hymn for a funeral. The ones that were brought out like comfort food in times of stress were at odds with what the person confessed in life.
So catechesis must be ongoing and the faith must be continually re-taught or the emotional appeal to the heart will tear out the objective truth within the mind. Who we were will be who we become again unless we are wedded to the text of Scripture, instructed regularly and faithfully in the Catechism, and led past the altar of preference and desire to the altar of truth. What we all know only too well Nagel put in the form of a short, pithy saying that I wish I could claim as my own.