Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Regardless of age, denomination, or baptism....

How strange it is when radical hospitality trumps Biblical truth, confessional idenity, and unbroken historical practice.  Once again, the liberals are tearing down a church body, pillar by pillar, until there is nothing left but a false front.  Like the movie studios of the past, America is littered with church bodies that have barely a facade left of their once vigorous selves.  Funny, but if the world were really interested in this kind of empty truth you might think these churches are growing.  They are notThe unchurched may not be drawn to truth that stands for something but they respect it more than those who insist we really don't mean what we said.

But I do not know why the Diocese did not add "belief" to its list of things to disregard in welcoming people to the table of the "Lord" (I am not sure that St. Paul would call this the Lord's Table).  Why not just invite all folks for a snack and let it mean what they think it means or let it mean nothing at all?  That would seem to be the more logical end of such empty reasoning.  But what do I know.... I am a confessional Lutheran.

The Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Oregon is forwarding an Open Table resolution to General Convention that would change the rubrics and practice of The Book of Common Prayer to invite all to Holy Communion, "regardless of age, denomination or baptism.”

Adopted unanimously by delegates to the 2010 Diocesan Convention, the resolution recently was ratified by Diocesan Council for submission to General Convention. It would delete from the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church Canon 1.17.7, which says "No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this church."

However, the explanation attached to the resolution says that “We know from our strivings within ecumenism and mission that the communion Christ intended for all is perilous and difficult, and that boldness in offering radical hospitality is our calling, rather than canonically driven caution.”


Anonymous said...

Just last week I was at a get-together with friends. At one point we talked about an American city, about which all of us held various opinions. One of our friends, an immigrant, said, “I used to love this city, but the last time I was there, there were so many foreigners there, I could not stand it.” I was able to control myself, but it occurred to me that this kind of thing only happens in bad movies or novels.

But apparently …. Receiving the Lord’s Supper regardless of age, denomination, or Baptism? That certainly would have disqualified the Apostles on that night He was betrayed.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Anonymous said...

From the earliest time of Christianity, baptism has been the prerequisite of communion. This is not new or radical. It expects that faith is first, communion follows. I don't think the issue here is about anything more than suddenly disregarding 2,000 years of church practice and suddenly saying neither baptism nor faith need preclude your participation in the Eucharist. How can you benefit without faith?

Pastor Peters said...

But surely George, you would agree that the Lord catechized His disciples for three years. He gave conclusive teaching on the Lord's Supper prior to the institution in John 6, in the miracles of bread and fish multiplied, in the Passover and its familiar repetition of words and ritual, and in Jesus' own spiritual practices. So they were hardly left on their own before the meal and then surprised by what was there. Of course, they were not fully prepared but was that the lack of catechesis on Jesus' part OR their own lack of understanding. If we believe the Spirit is given through the Word, were they not in possession of that Spirit through the Word of the Lord?

Anonymous said...

Dear Rev. Peters:

The three criteria mentioned in the Episcopal proposed resolution are: age, denomination, and Baptism.

I think we are all agreed that the Apostles would fit under the age criterion. I should add the Orthodox churches allow, and even encourage infants to receive Holy Communion. Also, children fully participate in the Seder, although there is some discussion about the use of grape juice and/or smaller cups.

As to denomination, the Apostles obviously fail, although you might argue that they believed everything we believe. If you would have asked any one of them before our Lord “broke bread” whether they believed they were about to receive the true body and blood of our Lord, I suspect he would get a puzzled look on his face. As to John 6, as you know, Luther believed that “not one syllable” of that was about Holy Communion. Until fairly recently, this was the belief of the LCMS. Overall, it is difficult to know what the Apostles believed “on the night He was betrayed.” What we know, we only know from their own words after the event. Thomas did not believe in the resurrection of our Lord. I’d say that’s a “must” for participating in the LCMS. Everything our Lord told them about His dying and rising again seemed to be forgotten when, in Acts 1, they asked him, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" They did remember that they were to take part in judging the 12 Tribes of Israel, and they figured now would be a good time to start. And finally, did Judas meet all of the requirements?

As I mentioned in an earlier posting, our Lord is clear in saying that they did not have the Holy Spirit. On the same night in which He instituted Holy Communion, He said, John 14:16, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” And, John 14: 26, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” They received the Holy Spirit on Easter Sunday, not through the Word (well, there may be a play on words here) but directly from the breath of the Lord (the Ruakh Elohim).

When you write that “the Holy Spirit” is given through the Word, I suspect there needs to be some clarification. Every LCMS source I have ever read says words to the effect that the Holy Spirit gives power to the Word. If you can find any passage in Scripture that says the Holy Spirit is received apart from Baptism (or in one special case by laying on of hands) I would be very interested in seeing it.

When it comes to Baptism, there is no point writing anything, unless you adhere to the Roman Catholic dogma of “Baptism by Desire.”

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Pastor Peters said...

If you read you will find that LCMS and Lutheran sources agree that faith is the work of the Spirit and the Spirit works through the Word (written, oral, visible).

Honestly George, I do not see how we could disagree on this. Faith and baptism are the age old requirements of the Church. Our Lord had not yet issued the command to baptize in the name of the Triune God when the Lord's Supper was first instituted with His apostles. Their lack of baptism says absolutely nothing about the practice of the Church and the presumption of baptism after the command of the Risen Lord. Are you really saying that baptism and faith are optional to participation in the Lord's Supper?

Anonymous said...

Dear Rev. Peters: you wrote, “If you read you will find that LCMS and Lutheran sources agree that faith is the work of the Spirit and the Spirit works through the Word (written, oral, visible).” I do read, and I not only totally agree with the rest of the statement, but to the best of my knowledge, I have never contradicted it.

I do object to the idea that we receive the Holy Spirit from the Word; that we receive Him on any number of occasions, such as when we receive Holy Communion; that He comes and goes, depending on the sins we have committed; that He just plain “leaks out” (please do not think me disrespectful for using this terminology. It was used quite seriously by the author of a blog you visit regularly) in the course of time and has to be replenished;

As to the rest of what you write, no, I do not believe Baptism and faith are optional to participate in the Lord’s Supper (although LCMS official publications clearly state that Baptism is not an absolute requirement for salvation). My point at the very beginning of this series was that the Apostles, at the time of the Institution, would not qualify for Holy Communion in the LCMS. The intention was to point out that we are so convinced that we are correct in every aspect of our faith, that we are more concerned about the speck in the eye or others, ignoring the plank in ours.

There are two problems in our church which we have ignored for centuries: first, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, and secondly the doctrine of the Kingdom. We cannot deal with these problems, because the insistence on the correctness of our Confessions makes it impossible to question them. This is very similar to the problem of Papal Infallibility, except that the Roman Catholics have so carefully defined what it means that one could hardly find an example of it. We, however, have a thick book of infallible truth to deal with.

Having written that, I want to reiterate what I have written before in many places: I know of no explanation of the Christian faith that is better than the Book of Concord. But it is not infallible (I don’t mean in insignificant details, but in major doctrines). And that prevents us from discerning “the Body”, even with closed Communion.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Pastor Peters said...

Perhaps we are speaking past each other at least in part. The point I was making in the original post was that faith and baptism are dropped further and further in importance and priority when they no longer are prerequisites for "worthy" (as Lutherans define it) participation in the Lord's Supper.

Since the apostles were in a completely different circumstance, it would impossible for us to extrapolate faithful practice from the unique position of communing before Jesus instituted the sacrament of baptism. That was my intent upon your suggestion that the apostles would not be permitted access to the table by the insistence upon baptism first.

George, I do not, nor do Lutheran theologians that I know, speak of the Holy Spirit being given in dribs and drabs with each hearing of the Word or participation in the Supper. Rather, we receive the Spirit in baptism (at least since Jesus institution of this sacrament as the vehicle of initiation) or through the hearing of the Word. The Spirit works in us to bring forth faith and to empower us for holy living and good works. The Spirit works through the means of grace -- not as a bit here or a bit there but using these means of grace to strengthen our weak faith, to restore us when overcome by temptation, to impart understanding, to enable us to grow in good works, and to equip us to fulfill that baptismal vocation. It is the Spirit's working in the tools of these means of grace to testify to and enable us to faithfully respond to Christ who is the grace of those means.

I am not sure what you mean by the problem with the Confessions with respect to the theology of the Spirit or the kingdom of God. While the Confessions are correct and faithful expositions of Scripture, they are not complete in the sense that they address every question, every circumstance, or every doctrine. We may, however, presume from them doctrine and truth not specifically addressed with direct words since these confessions are not outside of the catholic faith confessed but within that evangelical and catholic doctrine and practice.

Anonymous said...

Dear Rev. Peters: Thank you. I did not mean to sound as if I were accusing you personally of errors regarding the Holy Spirit. But I assure you that there are some among those you know who foster them. Here is a response I received from the CTCR several years ago: “The Father gives us the Spirit in Holy Baptism (Acts 2:38-39; John 3:5-6). The Holy Spirit is also given each and every time we hear the Word (and that also includes the Lord’s Supper, which is empowered by the Word), because He is One who inspires the Word (John 14:26; 2 Tim 3:16). So, as for the second of your questions here, the Kingdom has come when you believe, for we cannot believe apart from the Spirit. Yet, because faith wavers and temptation continues, we never cease to pray for the Spirit (and the Kingdom) to continue to come to us.”

Here are three items from the Confessions, which, in my opinion, at the very least need some serious comment before being taught as reflecting the true faith:

1. The fourth item under Luther’s explanation of Baptism in the Small Catechism: “What does such baptizing with water signify?--Answer. It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

2. Luther’s explanation of the Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer in the Small Catechism:
“Thy kingdom come.
What does this mean?--Answer.
The kingdom of God comes indeed without our prayer, of itself; but we pray in this petition that it may come unto us also.
How is this done?--Answer.
When our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead a godly life here in time and yonder in eternity.

3. Smalcald Articles
Of the False Repentance of the Papists.
43] It is, accordingly, necessary to know and to teach that when holy men, still having and feeling original sin, also daily repenting of and striving with it, happen to fall into manifest sins, as David into adultery, murder, and blasphemy, that then faith and the Holy Ghost has departed from them [they cast out faith and the Holy Ghost].

Let me assure you that I have never combed through the Confessions in order to find error. I simply came across these and it struck me that we have not so learned Christ. The problem with all of these is that they impact on the true meaning of the life-giving Gospel, and therefore deserve our concern.

With best wishes to you for a blessed Easter, and particularly this day for rest, even as our Savior rested on this, the Greatest Sabbath of all time.
George A. Marquart