Thursday, December 13, 2012

Private thoughts... or public faith?

Had to copy Pres. Matt Harrison's quote from SasseThe culture of American Christianity is mostly an individualized culture which, though not exactly friendly to Lutheran confessional identity, has become less alien and more an adopted culture than we Lutherans care to admit.  We often conceive of the Church in these individualized terms -- the gathering of the individual saved into one place.  In reality, Lutheranism finds it hard to speak this language without caveat.  Yes, we have an individual faith born of the Spirit but that faith unites us with those who share that faith, now and through all time and eternity.  I believe for myself and yet my faith does not live in isolation from those who share our common life in baptism.  In addition what we think about Scripture and its meaning is never the private thoughts of the individual but always the voice and mind of the Church.  Scripture does not speak different things to different people nor does it speak with such vagueness that its truth and its voice cannot be known and understood.  It is through faith we hear this one voice speaking, recognize it to be the voice of God, and exercise the gift of will to acknowledge this voice and live in obedience to Him who calls us.  Our life together is not love from God for me only or love returned to God in isolation from others.  It is love from God that establishes us in community, with Him and with all who bear His name and have loved His appearing.  Love and faith always go together just as the individual and the Church are always connected. Oh, well, Sasse said it better...

God the Holy Spirit always comes to individuals. Also in our account [Acts 2] it is individuals who are filled with the Spirit. It is over each head that the flame of fire flickered and each individual spoke. But when God the Holy Spirit comes to individuals, he places them in fellowship. Its as Luther says so beautifully in his catechism: “I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the faith just as he has called gathered and enlightened the whole Christian church on earth, sanctified and kept it in the one true faith." The two go together. The Holy Spirit has called me to faith. Nobody else can believe for me. But my faith is not without the faith of others, "just as he calls, gathers and enlightens the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it united in Jesus Christ in the one true faith." This close connection between the faith of the individual Christian and that of the whole church has been forgotten in the modem world in both the catholic and evangelical churches. We have forgotten that we aren't in the church just as individuals, each with his own private thoughts. We are members together of a congregation joined together in prayer and supplication and in the confession of the one true faith. It all goes together - the unity of love and the unity of faith. Where one is missing, the other is also going to be missing. This idea of Pentecost of the early church, has probably been preserved best by the Eastern Church. It is the practice in every service to speak the creed as follows: The priest says at the altar "Let us love one another that we may confess in the unity of faith." The choir continues the sentence "the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." Then the Nicene Creed is said.

Sasse, Pentecost Sermon 1940, trans. Strelan. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent article and excellent explanation of the Christian faith so often overlooked today. We are a community of "born again" believers through baptism, called to carry on the work of the Lord Jesus Christ being that "little Christ" unto our neighbor in response to the wonderful and undeserving grace that God gives to us through faith in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
May God continue to bless your ministry.