Matthew Schmitz has laid out the longer landscape of Pope Francis's agenda and its prehistory in debate between Benedict XVI and Cardinal Kasper. In this history, Kasper's complaint is that Ratzinger (it was before he became Pope) failed to weigh local authority, the complex individual circumstances that are faced on a pastoral level, and the data that commends the allowance of a certain amount of pastoral diversity within the doctrinal unity of the Church. “Regrettably, Cardinal Ratzinger has approached the problem of the relationship between the universal church and local churches from a purely abstract and theoretical point of view, without taking into account concrete pastoral situations and experiences.” Ratzinger is faulted for ignoring the “data” of experience: “To history, therefore, we must turn for sound theology,” where we will find many examples of a commendable “diversity.” You can read Kasper's development going back almost 20 years in another article where he begins: "I reached my position not from abstract reasoning but from pastoral experience. As the bishop of a large diocese, I had observed how a gap was emerging and steadily increasing between norms promulgated in Rome for the universal church and the needs and practices of our local church. A large portion of our people, including priests, could not understand the reason behind the regulations coming from the center; they tended, therefore, to ignore them. This happened concerning ethical issues, sacramental discipline and ecumenical practices."
I found the article very interesting. It mirrors the very same discussion within Lutheranism, between those who insist that local circumstance (dare I say anecdote) be given weight in the elucidation and the application of doctrine. It is Luecke's premise in distinguishing evangelical style from Lutheran doctrinal substance. These are not doctrinal issues at all, it is claimed. This is a matter of how to apply them. And that is a question best answered locally. At least that is the claim.
In Lutheranism this has meant the steady erosion of such things a liturgical identity and unity in favor of a broad diversity of worship forms that often have less in common with the Divine Service and hymnody of Lutheranism than the form [and therefore content] of evangelicalism. From Walther on the complaint has been made by confessional Lutherans that adapting to a worship identity that is evangelical (Walther called it Methodist or revivalist) does not in and of itself detract from the doctrinal integrity of the Lutheran Church or its unity. It is the primacy of data (what locals want and what we think works locally). Yet we find ourselves in exactly the same circumstance today except this time the complaint is not against Lutherans in general but Lutherans within our own Synod. There is little to define or inform our liturgical unity. To some this is a great thing and to others it makes them nervous and to still others it is the undoing of our very confession (with practices that are at best inconsistent with our confession or at worst in conflict with them). All this while every convention of Synod has urged more uniformity rather than less.
In Lutheranism the old Galesburg rule and Missouri's close(d) communion have given way to a free for all. Some Lutherans (thankfully not many Missourians) open to the table to whomever happens to be present, baptized or not, creed confessing or not, repentant or not. It is reduced to a feel good moment in which the body and blood of Jesus come in second to the perception of welcome and the invitation to all so that all will feel at home. To Missouri it has meant that closed communion has given way to a close communion in which official fellowship is so often and so regularly transgressed that some accuse the practioners of open communion while they defend it as pastoral discretion and local wisdom (we know best what works here). While the extent of the divergent understandings are not nearly as wide as in, say, the ELCA, it has caused no shortage of problems for Missouri -- even while convention after convention of Synod pleads for a restoration of real closed communion with rarer pastoral exception.
In Lutheranism the once rather sacred ritual (non-sacramental but perhaps even more esteemed!) of confirmation has been undone to the point where the length of instruction and its content are so diverse as to render a unity of faith and confession very difficult. The age and the curriculum are among two of the issues that most suggest are best handled locally. So some retain a catechetical program rooted in the Small Catechism while others have veered so far afield from that book that there is little Lutheran content at all. While we might expect this of a church less confessional (like the ELCA), the truth is that Missouri labors with the fruits of this diversity as well. Ask any pastor who has had a youth move in or out of a parish in the midst of this instruction. How do you put together a program to bridge the gaps, so to speak, and integrate what is intentionally divergent (even unique). Meanwhile convention after convention of the Synod has urged greater catechesis.
My point is this. Rome and Wittenberg have the same Achilles' heel and it is local option. What discretion is helpful and what is harmful to the unity of the faith and the life of the Church? This is Kasper and Ratzinger's debate and it is also ours. If Rome is having trouble solving it with its clear hierarchical structure, how will Missouri with its congregational identity ever resolve the conflict? I wish I had answers but I am confident that we are better served by giving greater weight to the unity of the Church and the integrity of our confession than we do to local freedom and option to inform and shape practice. The growing diversity of worship practices, communion practices, and confirmation practices has done little to stem the bleeding off of our Church body. In fact, there is evidence that it may just have contributed toward it. In particular I am referring here to the many who disappear from the pews and eventually the membership roles in favor of non-Lutheran congregations all the while insisting that they have not changed what they believe. Really? When I become a Baptist that does not change what I believe about Baptism? When I become an evangelical that does not change what I believe about Holy Communion?
It sounds great to give the same or even a slightly lesser weight to "data" or experience or local discretion. Some in Rome insist this was the thrust of Vatican II. Almost all Lutherans insist that this is the primacy of the congregation and where the "real" ministry happens. At some point, however, both may wake up and realize that when people cannot go from one congregation of a particular confession to another of the same confession and find the familiar of doctrine believed and the liturgy practiced, communion has already been broken.
"To Missouri it has meant that closed communion has given way to a close communion in which official fellowship is so often and so regularly transgressed that some accuse the practioners of open communion while they defend it as pastoral discretion and local wisdom (we know best what works here)."
Sadly in Missouri, confirmation has been made essentially meaningless by the Convention delegates approving the euphemistic "Early Communion" (which can include communion of preconfirmation children down to post-baptism). Subsequent SPs and the CTCR have failed to remove this heterodox practice of "Early Communion."
"In Lutheranism the once rather sacred ritual (non-sacramental but perhaps even more esteemed!) of confirmation has been undone to the point where the length of instruction and its content are so diverse as to render a unity of faith and confession very difficult."
Generations of LCMS pastors have, with exceptions, failed to completely catechize confirmands to understand that they will be required to publicly confirm their subscription to the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church contained in Holy Scripture and exposited in the Book of Concord of 1580, which is a true and unadulterated statement of the Word of God, before they become communicant members of their congregation.
Is it any wonder that some confirmands later give little consideration to their promise to continue steadfast in the confession of this Church, and suffer all, even death, rather than to fall away from it?
Catechism certainly is critical and should be thorough but it should not include false witness regarding the oath the confirmand will take.
Rather than a false witness preferred by Lufauxrans, a Lutheran confirmand should be truthfully catechized to understand that when they publicly confess the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church drawn from Holy Scripture, as the confirmand has learned to know such doctrine from the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true, that unconditional subscription is to the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church exposited in the Book of Concord of 1580, as required for communicant members of LCMS congregations. It is not an exclusive confession to a single, isolated Lutheran Symbol.
The rite of confirmation in our Synod, as found in our service book and agenda, does not make reference to the Book of Concord as a whole. It does require the confirmand to affirm that the doctrine of the evangelical Lutheran Church to be "faithful and true". If there were a full stop after "faithful and true" then you might have a case that the confirmand is bound to the entire Book of Concord. There is not, however, a full stop there; it goes on with the qualifier "as you have learned it in the Small Catechism." That qualifier limits what the confirmand is bound to, to the doctrine covered in the Small Catechism.
You might wish that every confirmand were bound to the entire Book of Concord, and if your congregation agrees with you, it is free to make such a subscription a requirement of communicant membership. It could alter the rite of confirmation as practiced in your congregation to include specific language binding the confirmand to the entire Book of Concord. But until it does so, a lay Lutheran is bound only to the Small Catechism.
Of course, the pastor who does the catechesis is bound to the Book of Concord by his own confessional subscription. So any discussion or teaching in confirmation class that goes beyond what is contained in the Small Catechism should be Lutheran doctrine according to the Confessions. I am sure that in most congregations, it is. But that is a quite different thing from the level of confessional subscription that you are talking about. It would hardly be fair to the confirmands to ask them to subscribe to a lengthy doctrinal standard that they have not either read or been catechized from.
Also, paedocommunion or other forms of communion before confirmation are not heterodox. They are not condemned as false doctrine or false practice in the Book of Concord nor in any earlier dogmatic definition of the Church.
You may believe them to be wrong, but if so that is only your opinion. Going against Dr Strickert's opinion does not make something "heterodox."
The Lutheran confirmation vow is exactly what it states - a confession of the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from the Scriptures, as the catechcumen has learned to know it from the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true.
It is not confessing the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from the Scriptures, limited to those articles of doctrine whichthe catechumen has learned to know or remember from the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true. That is the vow and quatenus subscription of a Lufauxran.
The unconditional confession not some Lufauxran superciliousness playing sophistic games with what Lutheran theologians have recognized since 1580.
The Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Rule and Norm, 9-11 and From FC SD, XII, 40 explain that the entire collection of Lutheran Symbols in the Book of Concord of 1580 are "unanimously accepted, definite, common form of doctrine, which all our evangelical churches together and in common confess, from and according to which, because it has been derived from God's Word, all other writings should be judged and adjusted as to how far they are to be approved and accepted."
Congregational constitutions define a communicant member with this or similar words: "Communicant members are those baptized members who have been instructed and are familiar with the contents of Luther’s Small Catechism, have been confirmed in the Lutheran faith, and accept the confessional standard of this Constitution." [Emphasis added]
The context of Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, the stated position of the Missouri Synod, and the constitution of member congregations (twice in my congregation's constitution) confirm that the understanding of the confirmation vow is to an unconditional subscription to the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church which is exposited in the Book of Concord of 1580.
LMMV (Lufauxran mileage may vary)
The meaning the words of the Lutheran Rite of Confirmation in the Missouri Synod today and the understanding of the confirmation vow are clearly associated with the confirmand becomes a communicant member in his congregation.
In its November 1999 document, "Admission to the Lord’s Supper: Basics of Biblical and Confessional Teaching," the CTCR stated (pp. 45-6):
"[I]f individual church members are not seen as 'confessors' of their church body’s doctrine, then the concept of church membership is watered down to the point of meaninglessness. The rationale for any catechesis in the traditional sense of the term vanishes, and there emerges a resounding contradiction between our own confirmation process and the attitude with which we view members of other denominations. Indeed, there would be no theological rejoinder possible to a member of an adult membership class in one of our churches who publicly rejected (for example) the Lutheran doctrine of baptism and still wanted to join the congregation.
"[U]nless individual Christians can be seen as 'confessors' of their church body’s doctrine, Scripture’s teaching concerning altar and pulpit fellowship as historically confessed by the LCMS becomes virtually meaningless. It is true that one could maintain that on the denominational or even congregational levels, there should not be joint communion services. But if any of the individuals in those services could–at least in theory and under ordinary circumstances— commune together, then the formal practice would be emptied of all real meaning....
"The Eucharist is the congregation’s sacrament of unity. Differences of confession cannot be a matter of indifference when seeking the unity presupposed by the Lord’s Supper, the very unity that the Supper is given to maintain and preserve."
In his paper, "Straight Talk About Closed Communion," Pr. William P. Terjesen states:
"Closed communion (some call it 'close communion') is the Bible-based practice of normally communing only those who have been properly instructed in the teachings of the Ev. Lutheran Church and who have shown, through confirmation, profession of faith, or other proper reception into one of our churches, that they are united with us in faith and doctrine.
"Closed communion is most definitely NOT simply the personal opinion or practice of some of our more conservative pastors. It is not an option that each pastor may do or not do as he sees fit....If I were to bar the way to Holy Communion for people simply on the basis of my personal preference or opinion, and not on the basis of the Word of God, the Lutheran Confessions and the theology and practice of the Missouri Synod, I would be a cad, a lout, and a false teacher. No, those who practice closed communion do so precisely because it is taught in the Bible and the Book of Concord, and is the official position of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
"We must come to grips with the biblical fact that when you join a church, that act is a public testimony given before God and the world, and bound with an oath, that you subscribe to the teachings of that church. Whatever your personal opinions may be, your membership in this church is your public confession of faith before the world that you believe and confess what we believe, teach and confess.
Romans 10:9-10 - 9) that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10) For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
"The confession of our mouths and the belief of our hearts is supposed to be the same thing. The idea that a person would belong to a church but not necessarily believe what that church teaches is an attitude unworthy of Christian profession."
The practice of "early communion" (i.e., prior to confirmation with its public confession of the doctrine exposited in the Book of Concord of 1580) is the Lufauxran practice of open communion.
In its Response to “Concerns of South Wisconsin District Circuits 18 and 19 Regarding Infant Communion,” the CTCR points out that 1 Cor. 11:17-34 "which deals explicitly with the practice of the Lord’s Supper in an early Christian congregation (and in an immediate context where concern is registered about a proper use of the sacrament) expressly mentions that communicants ought consciously to reflect on their readiness to receive the Lord’s body and blood. Infants, our synodical catechism teaches–and correctly so–are not capable of such reflection and therefore must not be given the sacrament.” [see also AC.XXV.1]
EPLMMV (Eastern propagandizing Lufauxran mileage may vary)
Mr. Strickert does well to ignore the actual words of the vows, which are the only relevant consideration when determining the meaning of the vows.
I and other Lutherans well understand the actual words of the confirmation vow and their Lutheran meaning.
OTOH, Lufauxrans, even on Lutheran blogs, continue to hawk their heterodox and open communion propaganda and ignore the actual words of the vow, along with Holy Scriptures, the Lutheran Confession, theological positions of the Missouri Synod, and the confessional positions in the constitutions of the Missouri Synod and its member congregations.
These Lutheran documents confirm that the understanding of the vow made by a confirmand when becoming a communicant member is to an unconditional subscription to the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church which is exposited in the Book of Concord of 1580.
Lutheran isn't a language and the words don't have a funky Lutheran meaning. They are English words and have a clear English meaning. And everyone who reads them knows that. Consequently each time you are intellectually dishonest and contradict the clear meaning of those English words you diminish yourself on other topics where you might be closer to the truth.
Mr. Gray, no one claimed Lutheran is a language. What is a Lutheran is defined (in English) in this excerpt from "What is a Lutheran?":
"Being a Lutheran is being a person who believes the truths of God's Word, the Holy Bible, as they are correctly explained and taught in the Book of Concord. To do so is to confess the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Genuine Lutherans, confessional Lutherans, dare to insist that 'All doctrines should conform to the standards [the Lutheran Confessions] set forth above. Whatever is contrary to them should be rejected and condemned as opposed to the unanimous declaration of our faith.' (FC Ep. RN, 6)."
Mr. Gray, your red herrings, semantic antics, and cheap ad hominems are evidence that your continuing comments are nothing but dregs scraped from the bottom of a Lufauxran barrel of heterodoxies. Again, the Missouri Synod document, "Admission to the Lord’s Supper: Basics of Biblical and Confessional Teaching," warns against such Lufauxran duplicity in rejecting the traditional understanding of the confirmation vow as a public confession to the doctrine of Lutheran Evangelical Church, which is contained in the Book of Concord of 1580:
"[I]f individual church members are not seen as 'confessors' of their church body’s doctrine, then the concept of church membership is watered down to the point of meaninglessness. The rationale for any catechesis in the traditional sense of the term vanishes, and there emerges a resounding contradiction between our own confirmation process and the attitude with which we view members of other denominations."
Such a Lutheran position is further substantiated in various other references, documents, and excerpts provided in many of my previous comments.
You'd be intellectually honest if you argued for changing the vows on the basis that they should reflect what you write above. What dishonours you is that you try to insist that the current vows reflect what you write above when anyone with a basic mastery of the English language can tell they do not.
I've substantiated what I have written on the confirmation vow and its confession of Lutheran doctrine with references and excerpts from Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, Missouri Synod documents and statements from Lutheran theologians.
You, Mr. Gray, continue to substantiate your comments with................ nothing but Lufauxran flatulence.
Note Mr. Strickert's liberalism in his approach to this issue. To him words don't mean what they say. External authorities can take words and alter their plain meanings to achieve a preordained and ideologically conditioned end. Basically his approach to the vows is the same approach that the ELCA takes to understanding the Scriptures.
Keep scraping the bottom of the barrel for ad hominem lies you fling, Mr. Gray, as I noted a month ago regarding your Lufauxran FakeNews accusations of me being a liberal.
What I have consistently stated about a confirmand, when becoming a communicant member, subscribing to the Lutheran Confessions is also stated by the LCMS CTCR in its "Admission to the Lord’s Supper: Basics of Biblical and Confessional Teaching" (p. 57):
"7. Question: Well, how much correct doctrine does a person have to know in order to be able to commune 'worthily'?
"Answer: The question confuses the two ways of looking at a communicant. As individuals, we do not receive the Sacrament worthily because we know a certain 'laundry list' of correct doctrines. Repentance, faith in Christ’s words in and about the Sacrament, and the desire for repentant living in unity with one’s fellow communicant are the components of communing in a worthy fashion.
"But communicants are also confessors and members of church bodies. As such, it is not merely what the individual knows that is in view. It is the doctrine confessed by his or her church body that is the important thing. We ask those who join our church if they accept the teaching of the Lutheran Confessions even though they may have only studied the Small Catechism." [Emphasis added]
LMMV (Lufauxran mileage may vary)
It doesn't matter who you quote regarding a given vow, of any sort. A vow means what it says. If you want it to mean what you want it to mean then you need to use different words. But instead you use ELCA-style tactics and try to redefine the plain meaning of the words. That is not honourable.
The statement from the CTCR means what, in plain English, it says it means:
"We ask those who join our church if they accept the teaching of the Lutheran Confessions even though they may have only studied the Small Catechism."
In his "The Evangelical Lutheran Church the True Visible Church of God on Earth," C.F.W. Walther states in Thesis XXI:
"The Evangelical Lutheran Church requires its members and especially its teachers unreservedly to confess and vow fidelity to its symbols."
These statements are exactly what is asked of confirmands when they become communicant members of a Missouri Synod congregations.
BTW, claiming I use XXXA-stlye tactics is silly. Grow up, David.
The CTCR can say anything it wants but if what it says isn't reflected in the vow, which it is not to anyone with a basic or better mastery of English, then it doesn't matter a whit. Quoting or discussing any text outside of the text of the vow itself is meaningless or worse. And yes, the hermeneutic that the ELCA uses on the scriptures you, Mr. Strickert, use on the vows.
"Quoting or discussing any text outside of the text of the vow itself is meaningless or worse."
This statement is typical of a Lufauxran view which continually rejects the understanding of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, its doctrinal confession, and the positions of Lutheran theologians within the Missouri Synod in the past and present day. The text of the Lutheran confirmation vow is congruent with Scripture, the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church contained in the Book of Concord of 1580, and the previously stated positions of theologians of the Missouri Synod.
Your Lufauxran view of the confirmation vow, Mr. Gray, is sustained only by your doctrinal scotoma which rejects the Lutheran understanding of what it means to be a Lutheran.
You confuse a reasonable understanding of English with "doctrinal scotoma."
In addition to Lutheran theologians within the Missouri Synod, going back to C.F.W. Walther, earlier Lutheran theologians recognized the importance of a confirmand's confession of the doctrine of the Lutheran Church.
Martin Chemnitz was one of the writers of the Formula of Concord and helped compile the Book of Concord of 1580. In his Examen Concilii Tridentini, Pt. 2, L. 3, De Confirmatione (translated in Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, Trans. by Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1978, vol. II, p 212), Chemnitz had this to say about the rite of Confirmation for the Lutheran church:
"Our theologians have often shown that if traditions that are useless, superstitious and in conflict with Scripture are removed, the rite of confirmation can be used in a godly fashion and for the edification of the church, namely, in this way, that those who were baptized in infancy (for that is now the condition of the church) would, when they have arrived at the years of discretion, be diligently instructed in the sure and simple teaching of the church's doctrine, and when it is evident that the elements of the doctrine have been grasped, be brought afterward to the bishop and the church. There the child who was baptized in infancy would by a brief and simple admonition be reminded of his Baptism, namely, what in his Baptism the whole Trinity conferred upon and sealed to him, namely, the covenant of peace and the compact of grace, how there Satan was renounced and a profession of faith and a promise of obedience was made.
"Second, that the child himself would give his own public profession of this doctrine and faith.
"Third, he would be questioned concerning the chief parts of the Christian religion and would respond with respect to each of them or, if he should show lack of understanding, he would be better instructed.
"Fourth, he would be reminded and would show by his confession that he disagrees with all heathenish, fanatical, and ungodly opinions.
"Fifth, there would be added an earnest and serious exhortation from the Word of God that he would persevere in his baptismal covenant and in this doctrine and faith and, by making progress in the same, might thereafter be firmly established.
"Sixth, public prayer would be made for these children that God would deign, by His Holy Spirit, to govern, preserve, and strengthen them in this profession. To this prayer there could be added without superstition the laying on of hands. This prayer would not be in vain, for it relies upon the promise concerning the gift of preservation and on God's strengthening grace.
"Such a rite of confirmation would be very useful for the edification of the young and the whole church. It would also be in harmony with both the Scriptures and the purer antiquity." [Emphasis added]
The only thing binding in a vow are the words that constitute a vow. This is not a complicated concept.
BTW I like Chemnitz a lot. He really doesn't help your case even slightly but there is a lot to like about Chemnitz. I particularly appreciate his teaching that infants can be saved without baptism. He is an excellent interpreter of the Scriptures.
As previously discussed:
• The articles of doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church are contained in the Book of Concord of 1580, not just the Small Catechism.
• A quia subscription to the Book of Concord of 1580 by the confirmand as a communicant member is required in the synod's guidelines for congregational constitutions.
• When a confirmand answers "I do" when asked if he confesses the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as faithful and true, a confirmand is equivalently stating that he confesses the doctrine of the Smalcald Articles and the Formula of Concord and all other Lutheran Symbols as faithful and true.
• The CTCR report recognizes the quia subscription to the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church contained in the Book of Concord of 1580, even though the person may have only studied the Small Catechism.
• Other than a quia subscription, there are no other valid levels of subscription to the Lutheran Confessions. There is no "free trial period" or "learner's permit" level of quia subscription.
• While confirmands and new communicant members may have different views on adiaphora, they all have made a quia subscription to the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church exposited in the Lutheran Confessions.
• The absence or denial of a communicant's (including a confirmand's) quia subscription to the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, seriously erodes the importance of doctrine and makes heterodoxy more acceptable.
• The importance of a confirmand's public subscription to the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church has been recognized in excerpts from Scripture, in the Book of Concord, and in the writings of Lutheran theologians from the present-day CTCR, to C.F.W. Walther, and back to Martin Chemnitz
• It is a Lufauxran position to reject a confirmand's vow in subscribing to the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, which is contained in the Book of Concord of 1580.
It is a violation of the commandment to not bear false witness to pretend the vow says something it does not.
That only applies if you are right. And of course, on the issue of the confirmation vow you are not.
I have provided numerous excerpts and links from Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, the CTCR and various Lutheran theologians and a LCMS guideline definition of communicant member, substantiating the Lutheran position that the confirmation vow is to the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church contained in the Book of Concord of 1580. You rejected these while hawking your own personal and unsupported opinion.
It is you, Mr. Gray, who needs to be concerned about the damage your posting Lufauxran comments is obviously having on your own spiritual life.
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