Thursday, September 23, 2010
If you recall, Agricola, Luther's former student, had followed grace to a logical but irrational and unBiblical end. He sought to guard Christian freedom by eliminating the proclamation of the Law entirely. The Law, since it does not bestow the Spirit nor bring about repentance, is left to city hall and is banished from the Church. Of course, Luther's answer reminds us of the paradox of life in the Spirit and yet in this sinful world. As long as man lives in this mortal flesh and sinful world, the Law has dominion over him. Agricola was an antinomian who fell victim to enthusiasm and pietistic moralism.
There are those who insist that there can be no rules when it comes to worship and things liturgical. Rubrics may be offered as helps, convention resolutions may adopt positions (for weekly Eucharist, for example), and church bodies may produce hymnals, agendas, and liturgies approved for usage BUT... the congregation and its Pastor are bound by none of this and freed from legalism to do what seems good and right in their own eyes. In other words, liturgical antinomians resist in principle the idea that any one can say what must or must not be done within the worship of a Lutheran congregation and seem duty bound to exercise their freedom almost to the absurd in order to prevent such legalistic requirement from taking hold.
Baloney! As long as man lives in this mortal flesh and sinful world, the Church can and must have rules. These are not the rules that require this or that for salvation but are the ordinary boundaries that define what is consistent with our Lutheran confession and identity and that which is not. The congregation and its Pastor are NOT free to do as they choose unless they choose NOT to be Lutheran.
It is as much as scandal to our confession and identity that we have hymnal using Lutheran congregations without a weekly Eucharist as it is that we have contemporary worship Lutheran congregations with nothing even close to a Mass in the Lord's House on the Lord's Day. Both are "against the rules" of our confession and our identity. Now, it is true that these rules are not enforced in the way the secular realm enforces legal code or ordinances (with punishment, fine, or other punitive measures). But the Church IS a Church of order and identity and the Church has the ability to hold up the rules as those boundaries which indicate where Lutheran identity and confession are compromised and even sacrificed in the vain pursuit of what the congregation or Pastor desire.
I think it is time we call the antinomians out for what they are and challenge them to heed the good counsel of the Church's confession and mark their practice with the identity that flows from this confession. Not all things possible are beneficial and each congregation is not the whole Church nor is each Pastor its supreme Bishop, Patriarch or Pope. We live in a relationship together in which rules and rubrics are for the common good even when it may seem they are not for the individual good.
Do the red. Say the black. (corrected) This is not some appeal to a slavish uniformity which ignores all things local but an appeal against the dictatorship of freedom exploited for the sake of freedom alone that ends up exploiting people and our common life and identity for the sake of things some claim are indifferent anyway. (And if indifferent, then why insist upon no order -- what is the big deal about giving in on this point?) The liturgy is not indifferent. It is a mark of the Church and the Church's catholicity -- and this is not incidental but urgent and essential. Without this catholicity we are but a sect and our confession is only as wide and deep as a moment. This is far removed from the words of Jesus about a Church against which the gates of hell shall not prevail.
What we see manifested in things liturgical and in worship is an antinomian spirit, thoroughly in sync with the spirit of the age but thoroughly out of step with Scripture, tradition, and the Lutheran Confessions. The Confessions are replete with reference to our unwillingness to abandon the tradition of the Church when it comes to the Mass, ceremonies, usages, and rituals that do not conflict with the Gospel but actually support that Gospel. Why do we spend so much time explaining these away so that one parish may keep the dry mass (old page 5) with an occasional Divine Service and another can turn Sunday morning into a pentecostal free for all? There can only be one reason, more important to us than anything else (as congregations and as Pastors) is the idea that nobody can tell me or force me to do anything I don't want to. And that, my friends, is as dangerous to the faith as those who worship the form instead of the Christ whom the form proclaims.