Thursday, July 18, 2013

Misreading of Luther. . .

A Roman Catholic blogger, complaining about the state of things in post-Vatican II Rome while he went to seminary, repeated the oft repeated error in saying:  Martin Luther and Protestantism did exactly this: they destroyed the Catholic priesthood by saying that everyone was a “priest”, underlining specifically the universal priesthood of the laity.

I will grant you that a number of Lutherans speak as if Luther replaced the specific priesthood of the Word and Sacraments for the universal priesthood of the laity but they are wrong.  I will grant you that Protestantism in general may be rightfully blamed for dismantling any nothing of the pastoral ministry as it had been known and for replacing it with a functionalism absent sacramental grace but this is wrong and not Lutheran.  I will grant you that Luther has written things that out of context appear to say that there is no real office of the ministry but merely functions that may be assigned to whomever or, in absence of the Church, assumed by any but this is wrong when the whole context of Luther is read.

The basic statement of Lutherans on the sacramental priesthood (vs the universal priesthood which is certainly taught in Scripture but in conjunction with baptismal vocation and not to exclude or diminish the Office of the Ministry) is found in Augustana V and XIV.  Interestingly enough, Rome seems not to have found much problem with either of these statements at the time of their presentation. The Confutation accords these in a positive light.  For the Lutherans inclined to a minimalistic approach, it would do them well to remember that the Lutheran Confessions were not written in a vacuum but in the context of evangelical and catholic confession and practice that the Reformers claimed was both their intent and the appeal of their protest.

It is tiresome when some less informed lump Lutheranism together all of Protestantism.  However, it is sadly understandable when Lutherans themselves are confused about who they are, what they believe, and therefore confess and practice a faith within a church decidedly less Lutheran than their Confessions and, therefore, less evangelical and catholic, and, by consequence, more sectarian.

I can understand (though not excuse) when an otherwise informed Roman Catholic misspeaks about what it is Lutherans believe.  I cannot understand and most certainly do not excuse when Lutherans, ignorant or defiant of their Confessions, choose to speak and act in ways contrary to their identity.  It would seem to me that the only polite thing for them to do would be to leave rather than gut Lutheranism of its confessional identity.  Finally, there are some things about which Lutherans have not spoken dogmatically, certain open questions, if you will, about which disagreement does not hinder unity.  These are few and far between and nothing betrays bias more than when Lutherans who disagree with their own Confessions attempt to turn settled doctrine into these open questions.

So, even though the Roman Catholic blogger should have known better and even thought some Lutherans delight in speaking and acting if this error were truthful, Lutherans did not abolish either the Mass or the sacramental priesthood through which the Mass is brought to the people to nurture, nourish, and sustain their faith.


Unknown said...

You lament that people often lump Lutherans in with Protestants as a whole. Well, whose fault is that?

Granted, the Saxons in order to avoid being forcibly merged with Calvinists back in Germany under the Prussians, migrated, but here in the states, the influence of Methodism and Baptists have crept into the LCMS and the ELCA steadily for years at times making them indistinguishable from either. I have been to many Lutheran churches which resemble a Methodist and/or Baptist church in theology, in "worship", etc. In fact, your prior President of the LCMS did everything he could to make Lutherans indistinguishable from Baptists and yet he was elected 3 times.

So quit blaming other people and blame yourself. (Most) LCMS Lutherans don't even know who they are and they hook their wagons to the theology d'jour which is evangelicalism and Baptist and Methodist.

Dr.D said...

Dear Pastor Peters, you are the only Lutheran I have ever heard say that Lutherans are not Protestants. This must be a very well kept secret, hidden away very deep (the Vatican Archives?).

Most Lutherans I have known, and that is a fairly large number of all stripes, have proudly proclaimed themselves to be Protestants.

Are you perhaps in the wrong place, Pastor Peters? Should you perhaps consider Anglicanism, Rome, or Orthodoxy?

Fr. D+
Anglican Priest

Pastor Peters said...

Just because many folks accept the error does not make it right. Missouri is certainly imperfect, confused, and, to a certain extent corrupt. BUT that is in violation of our public confession, unlike the ELCA, which has altered that confession. As long as the confession remains pure (Sasse) there is the opportunity to purify the error. When the confess itself is corrupt, it is nearly impossible to restore what was lost. Missouri has corrupt practice and doctrine that violates its own confession but the possibility remains good that Missouri can restore what has been lost.

The mechanism to restore it is, in fact, what is controverted. Supervision is the means, or, to use Harrison's word, visitation. The truth is that conservatives and evangelical catholics are as resistant to supervision of doctrine and practice as the lunatic fringe. Missouri's problem is, as one wag has put it, not that we have no pope but that we have too many.

I have real hope for Missouri despite those embittered and rendered hopeless by years of struggle, who have given up and now sit on the sidelines condemning Harrison as barely better than Kieschnick. I understand their cynicism but I do not approve it.

Lutherans were Protest-ants but when the definition of that word became an indictment of the evangelical and catholic identity (of our confessions) then we must and have refused the term Protestant. When the term allows for equal use by liberal mainlines, non-denom evangelicals, and fundamentalists, we are left as Lutherans to eschew the term and refuse to allow us to be painted with anti-confessional and anti-creedal folks who refuse what is evangelical and catholic.

Lutherans started going down hill when we found the term Protestant more comfortable than Lutheran, when we found too much kinship with mainlines, evangelicals, or fundies, and sought to hide with them instead of, if necessary and mostly it is, standing alone.

Anonymous said...

Dr. D said, "Dear Pastor Peters, you are the only Lutheran I have ever heard say that Lutherans are not Protestants."

Not quite the only one. My pastor taught us that during our confirmation instruction back in 1954-55.

Bill H.

Dixie said...

And I can confirm in the early 2000's I took a Lutheran doctrine class offered in Atlanta but associated with Concordia University Mequon. The class was a pre-requisite for DELTO students. Our professor (a Lutheran pastor) taught us that while Lutherans were the first protestants, we were definitely not Protestant. When I tried to share that with other Lutherans, it didn't always go so well....