Friday, March 30, 2012

Whether I'm right or whether I'm wrong... I'll do it my way...

Remember that woman denied Holy Communion at her mother's funeral?  Remember how she was offended that she was excluded from the Sacrament because she was a lesbian living with a woman?  Remember how it then turned out that she was Buddhist?  Well, it seems this woman is well enjoying here fifteen minutes of fame and trying to extend it.

She is now speaking of the road back to Catholicism that she has been on.  She indicated that she has been coming back to Catholicism for a while now but that she will return on her own terms.  Hmmmm. On her own terms.  What does that mean?  Does it mean her own timetable?  I could understand that.  Or, does it mean returning not to Catholicism to be a Catholic but to return to some form of Catholicism which she finds amenable to her own predispositions of doctrine, truth, and piety?  Me thinks it is the latter.

Of course the media loves it when ordinary folks stick it in the face of those princes of the Church who think that doctrine and practice are not self-defined by the individual member but of the essence of the Church.  It does not matter what religion you claim as you own, the media not only delights in but expects that you will remodel this faith so that it is unique to you -- in this respect, irrelevant of the religion, we all come to God on our own terms (at least a liberalism and the media might define faith).

According to Johnson, that decision is up to her — a stance that Catholic leaders label with one simple word, which is “Protestant.”  As a member of a church body often called Protestant (though it is not really, at least as modern day definitions of that word define it), I am both offended by this characterization and saddened at the regrettable truth of it all. 

Luther had no desire nor idea that the legacy of the Reformation would be a fractured Protestantism divided in doctrine and practice and subject to the definitions of almighty human will and decision.  If he had, he may well have chosen silence rather than speak up against the abuses which had largely silenced the Gospel in his day.  For the tyranny of a church in which the Gospel is warred against by the sacrificial understanding of the Mass, by the scandal of indulgences, and by the corruption of the church structures would be balanced at least by the content of the liturgy which clearly speaks the language of the Gospel.  The sad truth today is that without the liturgy and lectionary to bind the creative juices of clergy, we have seen Christianity transformed into an entrepreneurial system modeled more after Wal-Mart than anything else.

Freed from any constraint, worship has glorified in self more than the sacrificial and atoning death of Jesus Christ.  It has harvested the Scriptures to turn the truth of the eternal Word into helps for a better life now, a better family, and a better job.  It has let the individual mind and conscience rule over Scripture to determine what is orthodox and what is relevant (and cast off the ancient creeds and confessions as mere historical appendages that have little impact upon what is believed or taught today).

Sadly, the lasting legacy of the Reformation is marred by the reality of its terrible abuse and the glorification of self that insists any path to God must be made on my own terms and not on His nor subject to the boundaries of Scripture and tradition.  I am loathe to admit it, but the Catholic leaders who characterized Johnson's coming home to Rome on her own terms as "Protestant" are nor far off the mark.  It is not whom Protestants have claimed to be but it has become what Protestants are.  Sometimes the truth hurts.  Well, most times.

BTW in case you are thinking otherwise, my solution is not to row to Rome across the Tiber but to reconnect our Lutheran identity so fully with our Confessions and marry our practice to those Confessions that we will reject the tyranny of ego and remain captive to the Word of God.  Our own terms gladly sacrificed for the sake of truth and obedience, we will find renewal and restoration solely through the means of grace that deliver to us Christ and Him crucified -- complete with all His gifts and grace.


Rev Mathew Andersen said...

I would very much disagree with the basic premise of this post, that the legacy of the Reformation is "a fractured Protestantism divided in doctrine and practice and subject to the definitions of almighty human will and decision."

Any student of philosophy and literature can tell you that the fractures around us today were inevitable with or without Luther. They were the result of a huge number of factors.

What Luther's actions did was to ensure that some of that fracturing took place in the right way - toward the pure Word of God rather than away from it.

boaz said...

The idea that Luther cared enough about unified practice that he would have preferred silence over the many offenses to the gospel is absurd. He saw the rise of zwingli and the anabaptists with their many heresies, as well as the many divisions amonglutherans. He never wavered in his belief that the Roman church is and remains the seat of the antichrist. If you can't confess that, you aren't Lutheran. This is the most ridiculous thing ive read in a long time.

Janis Williams said...

Always read to the bottom of the post, please.

Pastor Peters said...

To Pastor Anderson, I would only say that we do not get to choose what our legacy will be. Certainly this is not what I would define as the legacy of the Reformation but it is universally seen by some within Lutheranism and most outside that Protestantism is the child, I would say illegitimate child, but child of the first reformer and the first reformation movement not killed by the church or the monarchs in the name of the church.

I was only saying and quite accurately I believe that Luther believed the tyranny of the individual conscience over truth as being even more abusive than the Roman captivity. Different enemies of the Gospel to be sure but both enemies. With Rome he had a monolithic enemy. With Protestantism, the enemy was divided and impossible to disarm or even argue against.

Again, we do not always get to determine our legacy. It is determined for us. My final paragraph indicated where I thought the resolution needed to be for us Lutherans.

Sorry if you missed my point.

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