Saturday, March 18, 2017

Will the real Catholics please stand up?

The Lutheran contention has always been that the churches of the Augsburg Confession were holding to the true and catholic and apostolic faith (and practice) and that Rome was deviating from the catholic norm of doctrine and practice.  Rome laughed in the 16th century and Lutherans laugh today -- so very comfortable with their now thoroughly embedded Protestant identity.  However, the issues then and the issues today are not so different -- for Rome and for Lutheranism.
  • Can the Scriptures be trusted?
  • Is the ordinary grammatical sense of God's Word what it means (or does it require special discernment, special office, or special Spirit to know what it says)
  • Does doctrine change or is it constant, always the same?
  • Is truth objective or relative, universal or subjective?
  • Where is the authority deposited (Scripture, Scripture and Tradition, Papal Authority, Episcopal consensus, Conciliar judgement)?
  • What is the norming norm that defines the faith?
According to an interview, the superior general of the Society of Jesus has said that all Church doctrine must be subject to discernment.  Speaking with a Swiss interviewer, Father Arturo Sosa Abascal said that even the words of Jesus must be weighed in their “historical context” -- taking into account the influence and practice of the culture in which Jesus lived and the human limitations of the writers of the Gospels. 

Since the communion of the divorced and divorced and remarried has been an issued raised by Jesuit and Pope, Francis, the journalist naturally pressed Sosa on the implications for these questions. When questioned specifically about Christ’s condemnation of adultery, Father Sosa said that “there would have to be a lot of reflection on what Jesus really said.” His own words:
At that time, no one had a recorder to take down his words. What is known is that the words of Jesus must be contextualized, they are expressed in a language, in a specific setting, they are addressed to someone in particular.
Father Sosa was quick to insist that this was not a questioning of Jesus' words but a desire to  examine further “the word of Jesus as we have interpreted it”  and to see if what we thought He said was really what Jesus meant.  This new process of discernment would be guided by the Holy Spirit.  So the natural end was where such a path might take you -- for example, could it lead to a conclusion at odds with Catholic doctrine?  To this, the Jesuit superior replied: “That is so, because doctrine does not replace discernment, nor does it [replace the] Holy Spirit.”

Discernment is a code word for doctrine evolving and changing -- not, of course, with the times as culture might influence but rather "within the Church" and under the teaching magisterium of the Church, sanctioned by the Pope, and guided by the Spirit.  In old fashioned liberal terms, this means that the Spirit could lead the Church past what Scripture says (sort of what the ELCA admitted when it made the sweeping changes in sexuality, marriage, and standards of ordination in 2009).  In this respect the Reformation, with its quest for authority and catholicity not dependent upon reason or personality, is still very relevant.  Indeed, the Reformation is still being played out.  This time it is in response to culture changes in morals and values that some believe require the Church to find a path around the hard sayings of Jesus simply to survive.

Do you wonder why I am a Lutheran?  Do you understand why it is even more important that Lutherans be the Lutherans our Confessions say we are [instead of the mainline Protestants, evangelical wannabes, and other deviations from the confessional and catholic norm that continue to tempt us]?


Kirk Skeptic said...

the worst part of it all is that such people as you described insist on staying in their church bodies rather than seeking ones more congenial to their pet doctrines and practices. this more suggests that these folks have what thomas sowell calls "the vision of the anointed;' ie they believe themselves to be the enlighteners of the lumpenprol pew-pilots and confessional clergy. if these people really valued the peace of the church they would leave it.

Cliff said...

This topic can be an anomaly of sorts as we search to understand what scripture means. There is no doubt that the early church Fathers were not all knowing and did not have thé fullness of understanding. As man's intellect develops with the benefits of scholarship, archeological evidence and even with the benefits of science, such as proving that human life begins at conception, We do need to be open
to deeper learning and understanding.

History has taught us that we really need to seek the true meaning and intent of Jesus' words. For example early Lutherans misunderstood Luther's intent of how often one must partake of Holy communion. In the early days of travel when the fastest mode of transportation was the horse, and the pastor only visited some parishes once a month or less, the question arose as to how often one needs to take Holy communion. Luthers comment about this matter was that one must partake of it at least four times a year. Some modern Lutherans still misunderstood this to mean they only need to go to communion four times a year.

So clarification is always needed, so discernment is a must and a fuller understanding should be attained. However, scripture must never be compromised.

Anonymous said...

"Discernment" I do not think it means what you think it means.

Anonymous said...

As important as sixteenth-century institutions and individuals may have been for the church of their time, they had little or nothing to say to the church of the present. Thus he (Rev. Benjamin Kurtz, a key leader in the American Lutheran movement and editor of the Lutheran Observer) rejected appeals on the part of both German- and English-speaking Lutherans for a return to the “fathers” of the Lutheran church—or the church of any period.

The Fathers—who are the “Fathers”? They are the children; they lived in the infancy of the Church, in the early dawn of the Gospel day. John the Baptist was the greatest among the prophets, and yet he that was least in the Kingdom of God, in the Christian Church was greater than he. He probably knew less, and that little less distinctly than a Sunday school child, ten years of age, in the present day. Even the apostle Peter, after all the personal instructions of Christ, could not expand his views sufficiently to learn that the Gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles, and that the Church of Christ was to compass the whole world. A special miracle was wrought to remove his prejudices and convince him of his folly. Every well-instructed Sunday-school child understands this thing without a miracle, better than Peter did. Who, then, are the “Fathers”? They have become the Children; they were the Fathers when compared with those who lived in the infancy of the Jewish dispensation; but, compared with the present and advanced age, they are the Children, and the learned and pious of the nineteenth century are the Fathers. We are three hundred years older than Luther and his noble coadjutors, and eighteen hundred years older than the primitives; theirs was the age of infancy and adolescence, and ours that of full-grown manhood. They were the children; we are the fathers; the tables are turned. November 29, 1849.

Excerpted from “Are We Experiencing the Lutheran Reformation Eve or Twilight?” by Lawrence R. Rast, Jr.
Emmaus Conference
Parkland Lutheran Church
Tacoma, Washington
April 14, 2016
09:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. – Lecture 1

Should we ever presume to be more enlightened that the Church Fathers?

Cliff said...

Not sure what anonymous is trying to say? It certainly lacks clarity, as who the Fathers were and what role they played. Is he saying the ancients were not wise or did they have a lot to learn? Are we beyond wisdom as well?

It would be most helpful if he would come out of the shadows and state his name. To hide behind animity gives no credence to the argument.