Friday, August 19, 2011

A Pointed Question...

While reviewing Article XXIII of the Augustana for my Sunday morning class, we talked about constant complaint about the seeming inability for priests to remain chaste.  We talked about the requirement of celibacy and how it binds the conscience in ways that are beyond and in conflict with Scripture.  We talked about the difficulty in juggling family and church for married priests (pastors for those not comfortable with the terminology of the Augsburg Confession).  We talked about the married disciples (remember Peter's mother-in-law -- I can only think of one reason why you would have a mother-in-law and that is the fact that you are married).

In a spur of the moment question I asked if priests of the Roman Catholic Church are able to marry.  A trick question, to be sure, and the predictable answer was "no."  Of course, I pointed out the Byzantine Catholics (Eastern Rite Roman Catholics) where priests are normally married and mentioned that there are Lutherans and Anglicans who have swum the Tiber and that they serve as married priests in the Western Rite as well.  And then a simple question, "Pastor, why would a Lutheran leave to become Roman Catholic?"

Short answer?  Without knowing the personal factors which may have influenced each of their decisions, I could think of one answer.  Lutherans not being Lutheran. 

If there is one thing that seems to have been in common among those who have left it is that they were well informed of the Lutheranism embodied in our Confessions and disappointed in the Lutheranism as it is practiced and lived out among us.  Those who take seriously the Eucharistic center of the Confessions are often derided as Romanists.  Those who take seriously the Confessional insistence that we depart in no doctrine nor in church usages (read that ceremonies) from the Church Catholic are often dismissed as Pastors who like to dress up and play Church.  Those who insist that Lutheranism has a liturgical face and identity on Sunday morning (the form of the mass or Divine Service) are often described as legalists and "wooden" with respect to worship.  Those who rightly speak of the role of individual confession and absolution within the life and piety of the Lutheran Christian are treated as anachronisms of another era before Lutheranism matured beyond these hold ons from the past (into its current methobaptistopentecostal identity).  Those who insist up thoroughgoing and life-long catechesis in the life of the Christian hear the constant complaints about too much focus on doctrine and not enough on relevant issues and using faith to make a better life for the child of God.  I could go on...

I have no intentions of swimming the Tiber (or the Bosporus) but I understand some of the frustrations of those who have.  I have seen congregations torn apart when the work of faithful Lutheran Pastors is followed by those who march to the beat of evangelicalism, contemporary worship, and Lutheran Lite.  I have watched as those who assume leadership positions in our church body worship in such congregations and lead us toward a Lutheranism in which the methodology and theological moorings of other traditions are borrowed with impunity because they "work."  Yes, we are seeing some of these things undone and we have an unapologetic Lutheran as Synod President (and other important leadership positions in Synod).  But... we have flirted with evangelicalism with respect to worship and piety and fundamentalism with respect to doctrine for so long that the way back will be long and difficult.  We still have any number of parachurch organizations hawking the lastest stuff from non-Lutherans trying to light a fire under our church body.

As a young Pastor I was given the wise counsel to move slowly and teach diligently as you move a congregation back under the Lutheran umbrella but the idea that such Pastors must constantly defend themselves and that they might be pariahs in their Districts and Circuits is wearing upon us.  I do not blame the people in the pew and I have found great support and a great willingness to learn again Lutheran faith and practice.  But put it all together and it means that to be intentionally Lutheran in identity, confession, and practice is a daunting path (more or less so depending upon the area or congregation in which you serve).

Lutherans not being Lutheran is one of the main reasons why some Lutheran Pastors depart and seek Rome or Constantinople.


Terry Maher said...

I can more than understand being disappointed in Lutheranism as it is practiced and lived out among us. That's me too.

But that is no reason to go somewhere where Lutheranism is not practiced and lived out at all.

Unless of course liking to dress up and play church has overridden concern for any area other than liturgy where there is a departure from the doctrine and usage of the Church Catholic, and while on our side of the Tiber think they are traditional but are all into recent "liturgies" that depart in no doctrine or usage not from the Church Catholic but the oecumenical liturgical movement.

Anonymous said...

The LCMS has been labeled legalistic
and the ELCA as antinomian. It seems
that Lutheranism has difficulty
living under the Gospel and behaving
in an evangelical manner. Both
Pelikan and Neuhaus started in LCMS,
then moved to ELCA, and ended up
in Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic respectively. I have no
doubt their souls are in heaven today
Yet the Lutheran identity crisis
remains for those of us who are
living in the 21st century.

Anonymous said...

This post can be addressed on so many levels.

First of all, no, I am not comfortable with calling Lutheran pastors priests even if Augustana did so. Again, in the immediate aftermath of the Reformation, it is entirely understandable. It is also a fact that both Roman and Lutheran worship incorporate a lot of Euro-centric practices that are not observed by Lutherans and Catholics throughout the world. Nothing wrong with that, nothing at all, but let's name it for what it is.

As for the married priests in the Roman rite, it has caused quite a bit of resentment among both laity and clergy who see a double standard imposed on celibate Catholic clergy who understand that Eastern Catholics have a different custom but permitting married Lutheran/Anglican clergy is something else altogether.

Why would anyone leave the Lutheran church to go to Rome? Because until they've been inside she glows with an entirely different patina from the outside.

Yes, Lutherans in America have problems that need to be addressed. But the siren call of Rome with its "authority" centered in the Petrine Primacy, its highly sacramentelized theology and the "stuff" of Catholicism are very enticing. I fell for it too.

All the things that Pastor Peters wants to see revived among Lutherans exist in the Roman church, and the waters of the Tiber are very troubled today. Confession is down, belief in the Real Presence is down, and Mass attendance is way down as the Church of Rome struggles between two camps, one of which thinks that Vatican II went too far, the other thinking it didn't go far enough.

Yes, the LCMS in many ways is still in the Seminex recovery mode. In time I hope that will change. We should strive to be authentically Lutheran but according to our own norms.

All this pining after things Roman is an anomaly to one who has been there.

As for Nehaus, he was a bit more realistic in his assessment in his later years. I used to smile whenever he would write that he still missed the beautiful hymns of the Lutheran Church.

And Pelikan? He wrote in his book "The Riddle of Roman Catholicisim" that the best way to promote true ecumenism was for Christians to stay in their own church bodies and work for it from within.

Neither Pelikan nor I stood by that advice and his conversion to Orthodoxy was late in his life so we'll never know how well it "took." I thank God I was still able to correct my own error in leaving.]


Terry Maher said...

When Luther talks about married priests, he means just that, married priests. And he was one, and sometimes used the expression "we priests". That was retrospective; any Lutheran pastor then was first a Roman priest. It is not prospective and presecriptive, the Reformation being a fact now. Lutheran pastors are in no way priests, Roman or otherwise. Hot until recent years with the denominationally modified liturgical movement services did I EVER hear a Lutheran pastor call himself a priest or be called "Father".

Our ministry is something different now than it was under the pope, he writes in the Preface to the Small Catechism, and that difference is obscured by using the term priest and Father going forward.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

A little addendum -- the Byzantine rite is only one of several in the Eastern Catholic churches. Danny Thomas, the famous comedian, was a Syriac-Maronite Catholic and there are others such as the Alexandrian and Armenian.


Dixie said...

Pastor Peters,

I really appreciate your assessment of why Pastors go East or West. It is thoughtful and frankly the closest to the real reasons than most of the other reasons suggested by other Lutheran bloggers over the years. Certainly the reasons run deeper than smells, bells and chancel prancing. Lutheran pastors are some of the best educated ministers of their faith out there...and accordingly they are less apt to be swayed by superficial things.

I certainly don't want to speak for any former Lutheran pastor who has made the switch, although I have met and talked with several personally. The interesting thing I find about each individual's journey is that it is unique. Each has different trigger points BUT I would agree that Lutherans not being Lutheran is the starting point for many. It is exactly one of the reasons documented by Jarslov Pelikan of blessed memory. It may not be the ultimate trigger but it can be the catalyst.

When one sees things that are, as we say down South, "just ain't right" one starts investigating. If things are going along as planned the need to investigate is greatly diminished.

Investigation turns up various issues and forces comparisons between the Church then and now. I won't bore you with my situation and observances and the issues I wrestled with. Suffice it to say Lutherans not being Lutheran was enough reason to try to understand "what gives?"

Ultimately, in the investigation process, most folks leaving for East or West come to identify error in the Lutheran church. If there is anything being Lutheran has taught to sniff out error! And Lutherans being more Lutheran cannot fix that if the error is inherent. (Of course, I wouldn't expect Lutherans to agree there is error! I am just giving you a point of view from someone who was once in and now out.)

And Pelikan? He wrote in his book "The Riddle of Roman Catholicisim" that the best way to promote true ecumenism was for Christians to stay in their own church bodies and work for it from within.

And Pelican also said the following (basically he stayed longer than he should have):

After all of these hundreds of published pages it may have been something of a shock, but I cannot believe that it came to anyone as a surprise, when, on the Feast Day of the Annunciation to the Theotokos (25 March) in 1998, I was received by chrismation into the sacramental fellowship of the Orthodox Church in America. As I said to my friend and father in Christ, His Beatitude Metropolitan Theodosius, who chrismated me, “any airplane that circled the airport for that long before landing would have run out of gas.” Quoting more broadly than it’s originally meaning the commandment “Everyone should remain in the state in which he was called” (1 Cor. 7.20), I had long been resisting the ecclesiastical conclusion to which the force of my ideas and beliefs was increasingly pressing me.

I do think had Lutheranism universally retained the centrality of the Eucharist much would be different today. But that's just my opinion...what would I know! Deacon Gregory Roeber (former Lutheran pastor, now Orthodox) has an interesting paper on this subject and the early Lutheran church. "Will No One Rid me of the Meddlesome Priest?" You'll have to google it since I am not in a location where I can give you a link. If anyone knows of a Lutheran rebuttal to it, I would be very interested in reading or listening to it.

Anonymous said...


I will refer you again to Pelikan's hobnobbing with St. John University/Abbey. As far as I'm concerned, that puts into question anything of value that he once represented.

If anyone is curious as to why I take that position, please do some research on what went on at St. John Abbey for which its reputation has been sorely sullied. I will say no more than that. No wonder Luther developed such a contempt for the monastic life.

As for the "centrality" of the Eucharist, yes, the Roman church has that. Along with a horde of unevangelized, baptized pagans. I have seen the same in the Orthodox world. Converts, in any tradition, are always better informed.

Better Holy Communion quarterly and the presence of the Word of God, which makes us wise unto salvation, than the sacramental factory that Rome has turned into.


Anonymous said...
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James said...

"Along with a horde of unevangelized, baptized pagans. I have seen the same in the Orthodox world."

Those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. As one raised in the LCMS, how is it that I never even heard of the Book of Concord or the Augsburg Confessions until my late 40s as I investigated what a Southern Baptist told me Lutheran's believe. (And I considered myself a good Lutheran.) Catholics maybe sacramentalized but cradle Lutherans are poorly catechized. There are many Lutherans out there who have no idea what the Lutheran confessions say. (But they will proudly state they aren't Roman Catholic.)

Lutherans need to stop finding fault with the Catholics and Orthodox and clean up their own house first. And in my opinion, it needs a good cleaning.


Chris Jones said...

Fr Deacon Gregory's paper can be found in PDF form here, and as a podcast here at Ancient Faith Radio.

I do not believe, BTW, that Deacon Gregory was a pastor when he was LCMS. His CV does not include any seminary degree, and I believe that he has always been an academic.

Jenny said...

Funny to see this as today's topic! I went to a R.C. church this morning for the first time, partly because I keep hearing about how awful it is which sparked my curiosity. I think I'll go back, partly because I find personal confession intriguing and I appreciate the ceremony, as long as it is meaningful ceremony. At least I know what a tabernacle is now!

Dixie said...

I do not believe, BTW, that Deacon Gregory was a pastor when he was LCMS. His CV does not include any seminary degree, and I believe that he has always been an academic.

Whoops, sorry about that. I must have confused that point about him with someone else.

Chris Jones said...


Those of us who treasure the Catholic heritage of Lutheranism, and would like to see it restored and revived, do not have any yearning for Rome, as you seem to think. Any time any of us emphasizes the liturgical and sacramental character of Lutheranism, you seem to respond by reminding us of how bad Rome is. That isn't really a very good response, because we really carry no brief for Rome. The sober and disciplined sacramental and liturgical life that we favor isn't Roman -- it's Lutheran. When you look around the LCMS today, do you really think that "Romanizing" is the most serious thing tempting us away from authentic Lutheranism?

If we don't have Lutheran teaching, Lutheran sacramental practice, Lutheran liturgy, and Lutheran piety in our congregations, what is the point of calling them "Lutheran"?

Anonymous said...

"Pelikan's pilgrimage from Lutheranism to Eastern Orthodoxy...
was a slow and gradual transformation
over the course of 40 years.
The decision grew slowly out of years

Pelikan's "The Riddle of Roman
Catholicism" was written in 1959.
This means it was published before
Vatican II as well as before the
dialogues between the Lutherans
and Roman Catholics.

My point is that his turning to the
Eastern Orthodox Church reminds me
of the young Martin Luther and the
mature Martin Luther. Pelikan got
wiser and more mature as he aged.

Anonymous said...

The oft repeated maxim from Pelikan is that when the ELCA became Methodist and LCMS became Baptist, he would become Orthodox. If that is true, then it is, as Pastor Peters suggests, at least partially because Lutherans were not Lutheran that he moved.

Rev. Weinkauf said...

Great post Rev. Peters. We are the Church militant. Theology of the cross. Our fathers didn't have it any better. Never a golden age of the Church. I undersand brother pastor's disdain for our ecclesiology in the LCMS that allows errors/poor theology to continue, be promoted; but I'll never understand how anyone could give up the Augustana for Rome or Constantinople.

Anonymous said...

we really carry no brief for Rome

Really? If I were a visitor who didn't know much about either Rome or Wittenberg I'm afraid this could be quite confusing:

We look very much like the Roman Catholic Church because of the common heritage we share.

I know when "Riddle" was written, I have a copy and yes, it was written before Vatican II was formally convened but it also bore high praise from the Jesuit ecumenist Gustave Weigel, who said he felt he could promise Lutherans that if they "came home to Rome" the Vatican would assure them of receiving Communion in both kinds and a married priesthood.

If there's one thing a convert to the RC learns quickly is that for the RC ecumenism always means coming "home to Rome."

The oft repeated maxim from Pelikan is that when the ELCA became Methodist and LCMS became Baptist, he would become Orthodox

Well he could have just gone to the ELCA, they often "look" more Catholic than the LCMS. After finding out about his involvement with St. John Abbey I have no further interest in what Pelikan had or has to say.

There are many Lutherans out there who have no idea what the Lutheran confessions say. (But they will proudly state they aren't Roman Catholic An unfortunate result of the last twenty-thirty years. But if you think Lutherans are badly catechized, you ain't seen nuttin until you've been inside the Catholic church like I was. As for the woeful state of evangelization in the RC, you'll have to take that up with John Paul II, who lamented that so many Catholics were sacramentalized and not evangelized.

Jenny, you go right on ahead and keep returning to that Catholic parish. After learning what a tabernacle is, maybe you'll also pick up on the fact that in the RC the mass is a "good work" offered on behalf of the living and the dead and find out for yourself how Pelagian the RC still is. You do know about Pelagius, right?

I find it a total hoot to hear all these accolades for the RC here when Catholics themselves have been complaining about the poor state of their liturgy for the past 30 years.


Anonymous said...

Oh, and Jenny, you might want to visit my former Catholic parish, one of the wealthiest and largest in the diocese. They are currently offering this:

Womanspirit: reclaiming the deep feminine in our
human spirituality by Susan Muto, a renowned Catholic
author and speaker, who interviewed hundreds of women
and recorded their personal spiritual journeys.

That's a biggie in the Catholic church, all about our "feelings" and "telling our stories."

Nothing, and I mean nothing, like the Catholic church my Catholic father and husband grew up in.


Anonymous said...

I can think of no better way to bid y'all Einen Guten Abend than with this little gem from the Confessions:

Moreover, we must not include among the truly free adiaphora or indifferent matters ceremonies that give the appearance or (in order to avoid persecution) are designed to give the impression that our religion does not differ greatly from the papist religion or that their religion were not completely contrary to ours. Nor are such ceremonies matters of indifference when they are intended to create the illusion (or are demanded or accepted with that intention), as if such action brought the two contradictory religions into agreement and made them one body or as if a return to the papacy and a deviation from the pure teaching of the gospel and from the true religion had taken place or could gradually result from these actions. ...

We don't believe in transubstantiation, we don't need the Eucharistic canon because we don't offer the "Holy Sacrifice of the Mass."

Luther had it right.



Pastor Peters said...

Christine, You keep referencing the bad state of affairs in Rome but we are not talking about Rome nor are we responsible for Rome. We are talking about Lutheranism and this is the tradition for which we have responsibility. Neither I nor anyone I know thinks Rome is a utopia of better or perfect Church. I have not said that on my blog.

You continually harp on things that are not mentioned here. For example, the Canon of the Mass is NOT synonymous with the sacrifice of the mass --a canon does not automatically speak sacrificial language and could be thoroughly evangelical as well as catholic (just as many Lutherans have done, including the Swedes).

Lutherans not being fully Lutheran and the despair over losing ground in this battle to those intentionally not Lutheran in faith and practice is a serious problem for us.

BTW Liturgy is not an adiaphora and adiaphora does not mean things unimportant. For example, one such adiaphora that became a matter of confession was the fraction of the host. You cannot dismiss everything with the adiaphora quote as if we were all discussing matters as weighty as air...

BrotherBoris said...

Imagine a newly ordained pastor leaving the seminary only to be assigned to some podunk parish in say, the Florida-Georgia District, for example. Here they find they are the suddenly a pastor of a parish that only begrudgingly tolerates the most minimalistic interpretation of Lutheranism in liturgy and ceremony. The newly ordained pastor, so excited at his first call, discovered his parish celebrates the Eucharist only once a month. In fact, they really don't like it when he calls it the Eucharist, or even the Sacrament of the Altar like the Catechism says. They refer to it exclusively as "the Lord's Supper", just like the Baptists. Also like the local Baptist church down the street, this Lutheran church is predominately a bare lecture hall. Little color, white walls, no stained glass, certainly no crucifix and no statuary and no kneelers. Probably just a bland freestanding altar (built to look more like a Zwinglian table than a proper Lutheran altar), some type of modernist bare cross on the wall behind it, several ugly potted plants, lots of wall-to-wall carpeting to make the room as dead acoustically as possible, and an old Baldwin electronic organ (more of an appliance than a real musical instrument) that the church bought used from somewhere else to provide the music for the "traditional" service. There are hymnals in the pews, but they are never used anymore. Several overhead screens have been added so that people can sing along to the texts projected thereon. People in this parish are more committed to following the Hallmark calendar than the Liturgical Calendar. (In fact, if the truth be known, it would actually surprise many of them to know that the Church HAS an official calendar). The High Holy Days of this parish (and they really prefer the term "congregation" as "parish" sounds way too "catholic" to their ears) are: Mother's Day, Father's Day, the Fourth of July, Memorial Day. Veterans Day, the so-called "National Day of Prayer" etc. This parish insists that Advent is four-weeks-of-Christmas-before-Christmas and insists that the Sanctuary be decked out in full Christmas splendor on the First Sunday After Thanksgiving. "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem" are traditional favorites for the First Sunday in Advent. Of course, this parish does not have a Christmas Day service and doesn't understand why anyone would want such a thing. As the President of the Congregation here says, "Christmas Day is all about being with family. Why would you want to be in Church, of all places, on Christmas Day?"

Admittedly, much of what I wrote was tongue-in-cheek, but parishes like the mythical one I described above are part of what contributes to Lutheran pastors looking for greener pastures elsewhere.

Now, the stone-throwing may commence!

Anonymous said...

Oh, and before I forget Pastor Peters, Terry is absolutely right, as long as the LCMS uses options A, B, and C for worship as well as the authentic old one-year Lutheran lectionary we will be just like Rome, pretending that the old and new rites can live side by side without any change in belief and practices.

So why shouldn't contemporary worship be just as valid as the former.

But then as former Catholics, what would be know.

Terry Maher said...

Christine harps on things that are not mentioned here, but are here, unmentioned. So far as I can see, that is why she mentions them.

For all the talk of Lutheran identity and such, there is no more recovery of Lutheran identity in going to a parish where one finds a Lutheran version of the worship on finds in "evangelical" church of this, that or no name, than in going to a parish where one finds a Lutheran version of worship on the 1960s novus ordo model of the oecumenical Liturgical Movement in RC, Episcopal, ELCA and such.

The latter is not seen for what it is because it retains smells, bells, and period costumes, but the fact is, it no less than the other is based on a rejection of tradition as once variously evidenced in these bodies.

As for the Church of Sweden, a church that boasts the world's first openly lesbian bishop is just perhaps not the best guide on orthodoxy, liturgical or otherwise.

Anonymous said...

As for Brother Boris, I can't get too excited about an ex-Lutheran who comes here to cheer us on but jumped ship and is now back to tell us that no, he couldn't stay because Lutherans are no longer Lutheran but by golly he's right there on the sidelines telling us to hang in there.

Not to mention the very unlovely caricatures he paints. I have never, not once been in a Lutheran parish as he describes it. Nor is there one thing wrong with the reference to the Lord's Supper. Or perhaps you haven't heard of the "Mass of the Lord's Supper" in the Roman church on Holy Thursday?

In fact, the one I attend has a magnificent floor to ceiling stained glass window portraying the descent of the Holy Spirt, we have wood-carved bas reliefs of Jesus the Good Shepherd and the Trinity and all the traditional beauty that many Lutheran churches have.

No, our pastor does not genuflect and we do not have a tabernacle with is as foreign to Lutheran theology as can be. In fact, one of the reasons that most VII Catholic parishes have moved the tabernacle into its own separate chapel is partly for perpetual Eucharistic adoration and partly because they want to encourage the faithful to receive Communion from hosts consecrated at a particular mass, not those left over from previous masses.

As for the Church of Sweden, I think Terry has covered that one very nicely. This is a role model?



Chris Jones said...


As for the Church of Sweden ... This is a role model?

Who offered the Church of Sweden as a role model? Not Pastor Peters and certainly not I. We don't want our Lutheran Church to be like the Church of Sweden any more than we want it to be like the Church of Rome; so telling us how awful Sweden and Rome are is no answer to Pastor Peters's points.

It seems that you are more interested in attacking Rome than in addressing what Pastor Peters has to say. There is nothing wrong with a Lutheran pointing out what Lutherans believe are the errors of Rome. But this is the wrong forum for that. You might think of getting your own blog.

I for one would put such a blog in my feed reader immediately.

Anonymous said...

Nope, has nothing to do with Rome which is not my concern here.

Has to do with mooning and spooning after Roman practices.

Never saw a Lutheran pastor in a chasuble while I was in Germany (and that would be from 1949 on, long before Vatican II).

Never. Not. Once.

And that's all I'm going to say about it. Dealing with the comment here is like being on a Roman blog.


Pastor Peters said...

By the Swedes I meant the Petri brothers and the very faithful and orthodox Swedish hymnal and prayerbook of the 16th century. It was the Swedes, after all, who saved German Lutherans in the Thirty Years War.

Germany in 1949 and thereafter is not exactly a good barometer of Lutheran faithful confession and practice. Read Herman Sasse.

Spooning over Roman practices we do not but acknowledging practices which were ours before the Catholic Church became fully Roman at Trent we will contend for.

I would suggest that you read the Lutheran Confessions. CPH has a nice reader's edition in regular or pocket size.

Terry Maher said...

The Catholic Church only became fully Roman at Trent? Then what was the Reformation all about?

Trent convened 13 December 1545. The only part of the Book of Concord written after that is the Epitome and Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, and the Preface.

The Catholic Church (sic) has been Roman since the Roman Empire defined it in the Edict of Thessalonica on 27 February 380.

The fact is, the modern liturgies in the service books of recent decades in all liturgical denoms, including Rome, would not be familiar to anyone who laboured at either Trent or on the Book of Concord, except in bits and pieces cobbled to-gether by scholars into pastiche services.

Rome's effort at Trent was to remain fully Roman; the Confessions aimed to preserve too, but preserve something else, and certainly neither was nor envisioned the revisionist agenda of modern times.

There is no tradition in joining the heterodox liturgical denoms in their current trends, any more than joining "evangelical" American trends.

And as to chasubles as some sign of anything, they are a stylised form of the late Roman (Empire) casula, an outer garment worn for travel, a "little house". Maybe in 1000 years "traditionalists" will argue for wearing parkas at services.

Chris Jones said...

Then what was the Reformation all about?

It was all about an attempt to reform -- not to divide -- the Western Church, an attempt that ultimately failed because Rome refused to be reformed. And that refusal became definitive only at Trent. Until then the hope remained that the whole of the Western Church -- not only the part of it under the control of the Lutheran princes -- could be rightly reformed.

How one sees it depends, I suppose, on how corrupt one believes the Church to have been, and for how long. On one view, the Church was hopelessly corrupt and had abandoned the Gospel at the time of Constantine (or some other point in antiquity). On the other view, the Church still had the Gospel (albeit sadly obscured and hidden) all the way up until the Reformation, with only some abuses which are new, and which have been erroneously accepted by the corruption of the times, contrary to the intent of the Canons. On this view there was, even at the time of the Reformation, no need to dissent in [any] article of faith from the Church Catholic, but only to correct those few abuses.

"What was the Reformation all about?" is indeed an important and a telling question. Either it was an attempt to replace the Catholic faith with another faith that had been lost for centuries and had to be recovered solely on the basis of the Scriptures; or it was an attempt to save the Catholic faith which had been handed down, from serious error which had crept into it in the mediaeval Church. There is no doubt in my mind which of those models of Reformation is to be found in the Augsburg Confession.

Terry Maher said...

False dichotomies.

We are not the Catholic Church only free of a few abuses here and there.

Rome "refused" to be reformed not because it came upon new formulations, but because it saw in the Reformation serious departures in several articles from the faith of the Church Catholic, against which new and novel ideas it thought it necessary to speak. It saw no Reformation at all but a Revolt against the faith of the Church Catholic; the reformation was Trent.

To misunderstand this is to misunderstand either and both sides of the Reformation.

Not to mention both sides now sporting denominational variants of the same Liturgical Movement pastiche services in which the only thing traditional is not the results but most of the sources. Such services betray both the Catholic and the Lutheran answer to the question, so what is the faith of the Church Catholic, and obscure the fact that we and they have rather different answers to that question.

Lutherans acting like American Evangelicals is bad enough; Lutherans acting like the old joke of my younger days -- Lutherans are just people wanting to be Catholic without being Catholic -- are worse.

I became Lutheran because the Confessions laid out convincingly that the Catholic Faith is not the catholic faith, and the Church Catholic is not the Catholic Church.

Pastor Peters said...

Trent institutionalized Rome's error, anathematizing justification by grace through faith, removing any possible divergence in faith and practice, and establishing one form of the mass as the only legitimate form (the Tridentine form that served Rome exclusively until after Vatican II).

The Catholic Church was not so fully Roman before Trent as it was after Trent. As for your 380 AD date, I would suggest that the Orthodox would give hearty debate with you that for more than 600 years they lived under a Roman pontiff and were assumed under the Roman umbrella.

Terry, there are nuances in history that I was applying to this discussion. History will not be painted with a broad brush, at least not accurately, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Germany in 1949 and thereafter is not exactly a good barometer of Lutheran faithful confession and practice. Read Herman Sasse.

My grandparents, driven from the Eastern regions of Germany after the war settled in Bavaria and were dedicated, faithful Lutherans. The Lutheran parish they attended was shepherded by a faithful, orthodox Lutheran pastor, a seelsorger in every sense of the word. Because he didn't fit your particular criteria of what it means to be evangelical and catholic did not by any means make him a less faithful Lutheran pastor.

As for reading the Confessions, I am about to start re-reading them -- in German.


Terry Maher said...

It is essential to understand this about Rome: the anathema re "justification by faith" does not state a new position from Rome whatever, rather, it made clear in the face of mounting error of the day that while justification by faith is indeed right, the Reformers have justification wrong.

We know this to be a confusion of justification and sanctification; Rome never has, and since long before Trent, whose anathemae were reactive and not proactive.

Likewise, the Pius V Mass was not the only rite allowed after Trent. Just as doctrinally things were addressed in terms of the controversies of the day, so liturgically, and rites were allowed to continue as long as they were no less than 200 years old and therefore not corrupted by the errors of the day.

Quite the contrary, the Carmelites, Carthusians, Domincans, Braga, and others like the Ambrosian Rite continued, and in fact their disappearance is a Vatican II phenomenon when all but the Ambrosian adopted the novus ordo.

Even the "Tridentine Rite" is not the Trent Mass; it went through several typical editions in subsequent centuries, and the present one was not even the one I initially learnt, dating only from 1962, Bugnini's warm up for the novus ordo.

As to 380, the edict in fact originated in the Eastern Empire, not the Western, whose co-emperors joined in it, but which was militarily imposed on West culminating in the Battle of the Frigidus.

Anonymous said...

By the Swedes I meant the Petri brothers and the very faithful and orthodox Swedish hymnal and prayerbook of the 16th century.Duly noted and I stand corrected, Pastor Peters!

It was the Swedes, after all, who saved German Lutherans in the Thirty Years War.

Ja, bei Gott! My Lutheran mother always spoke with reverence and pride of the "Lion of the North", Gustavus Adolphus!