Monday, August 8, 2011

A shocker in Bible Study...

We were continuing our way through the Augsburg Confession in my Sunday morning study and we had just ended the first section (Articles 1-21).  Then before beginning Article 22 we read:

Inasmuch, then, as our churches dissent in no article of the faith from the Church Catholic, but only omit some abuses which are new, and which have been erroneously accepted by the corruption of the times, contrary to the intent of the Canons, we pray that Your Imperial Majesty would graciously hear both what has been changed, and what were the reasons why the people were not compelled to observe those abuses against their conscience. . . For Your Imperial Majesty will undoubtedly find that the form of doctrine and of ceremonies with us is not so intolerable as these ungodly and malicious men represent. . . nothing would serve better to maintain the dignity of ceremonies, and to nourish reverence and pious devotion among the people than if the ceremonies were observed rightly in the churches.

I asked simply do you think this is true today...  The answer was silence.  This was not the first time we had made our way through the Augustana since I have been here but we sometimes forget what the Confession actually says.  We dissent in no article of the faith from the Church Catholic and we maintain the dignity of the ceremonies [of the Church Catholic].  (capitals from the Book of Concord web site)

Lutherans have gotten too comfortable in their Lutheran identity as Protestants, who did not so much rebel against innovations and abuses but against the whole idea of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith and its consistent practice.  We have grow too secure in our denominational identities and not secure enough in our Confessional identity.  We have grown to think of ourselves as conservative Methodists or liturgical Presbyterians or high church Baptists when the Confessions remind us that we are reformed catholics.  The whole genius of the Lutheran Reformation was lost to the Radical Reformers who insisted that Luther and his cohorts did not go far enough while they insisted the others went too far.  And we have forgotten about it as well.

I am not speaking here to ceremony or ritual but to how we see and understand this church of ours called Lutheran.  Certainly Walther and the Saxons were scandalized by what had happened to Lutheranism in America and went so far as to refuse to borrow Lutheran church buildings for their services (choosing instead to use the Episcopal cathedral in St. Louis).  This was not for the trappings of it all but a refusal to be identified with the kind of Lutheranism Lite that flirted with Protestant America and only reluctantly admitted their marriage to the Lutheran Confessions and the liturgical identity which flowed (still flows) from those Confessions.

I am amazed at how casual so many Lutherans are toward evangelicalism, fundamentalism, and the mainline Protestants in America and how their hair stands up on the back of their necks toward Rome.  Before you rush to hit the comments button I am not advocating that we belly up to either buffet but feast from the riches of our own diet of confession, creed, liturgy, hymnody, and sacramental piety -- one which is thoroughly Lutheran and thoroughly evangelical and catholic in the best sense of those terms.

It amazes me how tough it is for folks to find a Lutheran congregation in which the liturgy is used and hymns are sung from the hymnal.  I know because my parish sends out dozens of families every year to the various parts of the nation and the world and they complain back that they have trouble finding another "Grace" [code word for Lutheran parish that is unapologetically Lutheran in belief and practice).  I have seen families who left for 3-10 years and move back only to have been desensitized to this Lutheran identity of faith and practice by a congregation of our Synod flirting with evangelicalism or some other generic non-Lutheran identity.

Sure, I know that there are a few parishes that might seem more Roman than Rome out there but they are so few as to be insignificant in this discussion; so I turn my attention mainly to those whose very identity reflects a dissent from evangelical and catholic belief and practice.

It is NOT that Lutherans like me are Romanizing or in love with Eastern Orthodoxy.  I am not.  But what I do appreciate is that we speak more a common language than the current gurus of church life in Mars Hill, Saddleback, Willow Creek, Lakewood Church, and the string of others so influential on our Pastors and our people.  I will tell you up front that I feel very little in common with the Southern Baptists, Methodists, Church of Christ, Nazarene, and non-denominational (or generic churches who hide their denominational affiliation).  I do not speak the same language and our identities and piety are rooted and grounded in very different realities.  Yet, there are times when I feel like I am just as out of step with many of the larger and more influential parishes of my LCMS District and Synod.

The statement in the Augustana that prompted our discussions was declarative.  It was a simple statement of who we are as Lutheran people, where we stand, and how we live together around the Word and Sacraments that are His gifts and define us as the Church.  Yet, truth to be told, such a statement may not declare who we are or how we see ourselves today.  And that, my friends, is the heart and core of the problem...


Anonymous said...

I have been following your blog for a little while now and, once again, I am tremendously appreciative of your most recent post. I am in complete agreement. Good, solid evangelical catholicism is constantly being sacrificed at the "Lutheran" altars of relevance, pietism, consumerism, Pentecostalism, Evangelicalism,and a host of other "-isms" designed to make the Church appear relevant and attractive to the world.

I also, however, have to admit that I did find myself also chuckling at the end, even as you yourself commented on not hitting the comment button too quickly. The "Lutheran" Zwinglians and Calvinists among your readership are going to have a field day!

Keep publishing the truth! Soli Deo gloria!

Anonymous said...

Amen! Wonderfully written.

Pr. David Oberdieck said...

I greatly appreciated your church during my time and Ft. Campbell especially because of its Lutheran/Biblical ethos. As a Chaplain I was required to attend one of the post chapel services, but I always tried to make it to Grace with my family.

Your wrote: "We have grown too secure in our denominational identities and not secure enough in our Confessional identity."

Wow - I think that steps on a lot of toes (mine included). What is the basis of our identity? Is it LC-MS or the confession? Good point.

Anonymous said...

Right on, brother. Lutherans need to get back to their doctrine and confession. Thanks for your fine efforts.

Anonymous said...

From a Catholic Q&A site:

Jesus said "I am the Bread of Life. If you eat this Bread, you will never hunger again". So why do we have to receive it weekly? He said that we would hunger no more. Thanks and God bless!!

Answer by Fr. Jay Toborowsky on 2/21/2011:

We don't have to receive it weekly, though it is a privilege we should make use of as often as we can. As Catholics, we are only obligated to receive the Eucharist once a year. This is usually tied into the similar obligation we have to go to confession at least one time a year (the two together are called the "Easter Duty"). We are, though, obligated to attend Mass weekly, and this is the fulfillment of the Commandment to "Keep holy the Lord's Day". A beautiful papal letter on the subject is Pope John Paul II's "Dies Domini".

As the one offering the "sacrifice" a priest is obligated to receive Communion at every mass at which he presides.

Are you sure we are speaking the same language?

The hyperliturgicalism of the RC is as bad as the reductionism of the Baptists, Methodists, etc.


Anonymous said...

If this was a BIBLE STUDY, what
part of Holy Scripture was studied?

It sounds like a BOOK OF CONCORD
STUDY and no Biblical references
were discussed.

The real shocker...Bible Study is
based on Scripture as the primary
source not the Book of Concord.

Frank Sonnek said...

anonymous, you are absolutely right! but that does not mean we need to dispense with written sunday school materials, or pastors sermons, or hymns and decide to just read only and exclusively from the text of the holy scriptures.

This is where your logic would require us to go isnt it?

Anonymous said...

Er, Anonymous -- I do believe that the Book of Concord is a correct exposition of Scripture as undestood by confessional Lutherans.

If more Lutherans read it we just might get back to using an authentically Lutheran form of liturgy, not the mix and match of the Catholic/Protestant liturgical movements.

Our confessional symbols are a clear and orthodox interpretation of how Lutherans read the Scriptures.

Even those who claim to use the Bible and the Bible alone interpret what they read.


Janis Williams said...

Anonymus, I agree with Mr. Sonnek. If Fr. Peters announced he would be teaching Scripture that Sunday, you could call it a bait and switch.

I think most of us would agree that "Bible Study" is a convenient moniker for Adult Sunday School. Many Lutheran Adult Bible Studies fall far short of accurate exposition or even teaching the Gospel.

What Baptist, Presbyterian, Nazarene, etc. doesn't study the particular theology belonging to their heterodox denominations? When is most convenient? When are the largest number of people likely to attend?

By the stated reasoning we should become anti-creedal Baptists (since the Creeds are not Scripture), claiming "no creed but Christ." We should cease saying the Creeds during the Divine Service?

Kudos for that last sentence, Christine. As a former Baptist I can affirm that they believe they have the "right" interpretation.

Pastor Peters said...

Can we discuss what the Augsburg Confession teaches without invoking Scripture? Can we Lutherans confess our faith without at the same time confessing God's Word? If you read the Confessions, you are drawn into that Word that informs and shapes our Confession and into the catholic faith confessed throughout the ages that is consistent with this truth.

Anonymous said...

As a former Baptist I can affirm that they believe they have the "right" interpretation.

We are privileged to have you as Lutheran Christian sister in Christ, Janis.

For Lutherans Sunday Christian Education can encompass many subjects that shed light on the Biblical truths that we embrace.


Janis Williams said...

Thank you, Christine. May I always remain in the Faith.

Another thought. How many Bible Studies (and sermons) simply mine Scripture for "life tips" or "steps to a better life?"

We must not drift from Sola Scriptura - and the Book of Concord in all it's various parts was written according to and under that principle.

No, Fr. Peters, we can not discuss Concordia without invoking Scripture, nor confess the Faith without the Word.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Martin Luther protested against
the RCC by his 95 theses. Thus his
followers became Protestants. If we
like it or not we are considered
Lutheran and Protestant by the
religious community.

"Evangelical catholic" is a term
by crusaders such as Carl Braaten
and his ilk who want to reform
Lutheranism and assimilate them into
the Roman Catholic Church.

Anonymous said...

Do you suppose that when most folks (even Lutherans) think of Protestant they think of the Augsburg Confession? Or, do they have in mind something completely different? I am not so sure that we fit the word as most people might define it. If we do then we have a problem with our own Confessions!

Sage said...

Wow, Pr. Peterson you were right about the tendency to reject anything closely resembling RC practice. I delighted in the confessions and thought they were the most inspired writings I'd seen since scripture. Every line item was backed up by scripture to its defense and basis.

I see nothing wrong with correcting where the faith took a curve to one side or another. Luther did just that. I do see today the fruits of many dissenting voices within the faith who wish to interpet God's word according to man's desire rather than the goal of maintaining or returning to the catholic faith.

From the outside (another Baptist refugee here), the glory of the gospel being preached faithfully is a cherished possesion worth fighting and defending. I see nothing catagorically wrong with the proper worship attitude exhibited by RC's and EO believers. We in the US have taken too much liberty with what was such a hard won return to the faith of the apostles and watered down what is left to the point of ppm.

Perhaps if we studied the confessions more in depth as congregations we would have a better idea of what we've left behind in our quest to become modern and homogenized.

Sage said...

Sorry about the typo Pastor Peters....I shouldn't try and do 3 things at once. :-)

Anonymous said...

Just a copy&paste of my comment to the BJS website about this article: I live in Georgia and have attended a Baptist church for many years. I would love to switch to a church that teaches, professes, and preaches the theology I hear from guests and hosts of Issues, Etc…, Rev Fisk, and Pastor Wolfmueller. But our Georgia LCMS churches (and specifically our local one) don’t fit into that category. As far as I can tell, the closest possibility is 2+ hours away in South Carolina. In the meantime, I inject as much good Lutheran theology into my discussions with the Baptists as I can.

The statement “our churches dissent in no article of the faith from the Church Catholic, but only omit some abuses which are new, and which have been erroneously accepted by the corruption of the times” is essentially what led me to Lutheranism after looking into early church father teachings. It seemed that the fight against Rome’s abuses led to throwing the baby out with the bath water and that was worsened by The Enlightenment.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters,

Do you think there is still time to reverse the decline of the LCMS. Can the "Sleeping Giant" (LCMS) be awakened. Does President Harrison give us hope, or is he just another figurehead.

There are so many disaffected Evangelicals, and hardly anyone within the LCMS sees the opportunity to sell Confessional Lutheranism to them. They are seeking a new church home, and all they see within the LCMS is a bad copy of the pop theology that they are trying to escape.

I look for good news on the various Lutheran blogs regarding the LCMS, but I haven't been able to find any. I hope the situation changes soon.

Terry Maher said...

Well, we were first called Protestants not because we protested against the RCC but against the 1529 Diet of Speyer decisions.

For as much as we need to understand that catholic is not Catholic, we equally need to understand that Catholic is not catholic. For as much as we need to understand that orthodoxy is not Orthodoxy, we equally need to understand that Orthodoxy is not orthodoxy.

Indeed, much if not most of all this sounds way more like a light version of the Braaten/Jenson mentality of the "oecumenical" liturgical movement -- in one of whose hotbeds I went to college and heard all this stuff as it was happening -- than the Confessions: a tradition that is not tradition at all, but a cut and paste, mix and match, pastiche resulting in new service books across liturgical churches that resemble each other far more than their respective church's orders.

And we wonder why they swim the Tiber or the Bosporus, or why they seek to include yet more in the cornu copiae of worship.

Carl Vehse said...

"Certainly Walther and the Saxons were scandalized by what had happened to Lutheranism in America and went so far as to refuse to borrow Lutheran church buildings for their services (choosing instead to use the Episcopal cathedral in St. Louis)."

That Walther and the Saxons refused to borrow (or rent) Lutheran church buildings for services does not seem to be substantiated in information from the books of Gotthold G√ľnther (The Destinies and Adventures of the Stephanists who emigrated from Saxony to America, Dresden, 1839, pp. 49-50), Carl S. Mundinger (Government in the Missouri Synod, CPH, 1947, pp.86, 149-154), and Walter O. Forster (Zion on the Mississippi, CPH, 1953, pp. 320-323, 345 435, 460-461, 504).

The facilities of the German Protestant congregation in St. Louis had not been completely built in March, 1839, when the Saxons, with the permission of Bishop Kemper, began using the new Episcopal church, which had been finished in February. Later the congregation of Trinity Lutheran Church did request permission from the German Protestant congregation in St. Louis to use their facilities and were initially given permission to do so. However, the Pastor, Rev. G. Wall, was adamently opposed to letting the "Stephanists" used the church, even threatening to resign at once (augenblicklich). The German Protestant congregation, initially ready to open their space to the Saxons, finally decided not to let the Saxons use their church.

Other than occasionally using school classrooms, the Saxons held services in the basement of Christ Church Cathedral until they dedicated their church in early Dec. 1842.