Monday, January 21, 2019

No more envy. . .

There was a time when I was envious of the Roman Catholic Church -- not the theology but the view of the church overall -- at least from the outside.  It had an order that seemed especially profound in the face of chaotic Protestantism.  It had a reverence in the liturgy for a presence that was not posited in feeling or desire but in the Holy Sacrament.  It was deeply influential even upon Protestants who did not take long to follow the lead of Rome in everything from liturgy to lectionary to Biblical scholarship.  It was blessed with universally acknowledged leaders of intellect and influence (from Paul VI to John Paul II to Benedict XVI).  It was involved in a seamless circle of social justice, social service, and educational ministries that made Protestant efforts seem paltry and small in comparison.  Rome seemed to know who Rome was -- at least that is the way it was at the time I was jealous of its self-confidence.

But no more. . . I am not envious of Rome much and in fact have grown to profoundly dislike many of the things that once seemed to attract me.  It seems to have little order at all, little discipline and even less doctrinal and liturgical supervision.  Episcopal conferences and individual bishops act independently and disagree with the teachings of Rome without fear -- as if it were an association of independent dioceses or nationalities instead of one communion.  Its reverence for a present Christ within the mass seems to have faded away and their liturgical practices shock us with their casual attitude toward rite, history, and confessional integrity.  Rome is in complete disarray with regard to the mass.  It has surrendered its moral and theological integrity until Roman Catholic institutions seem indistinguishable from their secular private and public counterparts.  While some may complain that JPII and BXVI talked the talk, it is clear that neither seemed able to rein in the homosexual subculture that produced leaders such as Theodore non-cardinal McCarrick.  The seamless garment has developed many tears and it has become a cafeteria of issues in which both teachers and the faithful seem to pick and choose what they like and do not like.  In short, Rome no longer sparkles.

My complaints with Lutheranism have less to do with the theory than the practice.  Lutheranism has always been more catholic than its people have felt comfortable with -- at least in the last 300 years or so.  Even though it was not the catholic Lutheranism of its symbols, the Lutheranism I grew up with did offer a deeper unity of doctrine and practice than we see today.  In fact, there was much to commend the faith in looking at its success in numbers, schools, universities, and catechesis.  If it was Protestant, it was a churchly protestantism that no longer exists.  I wanted Lutheranism to recover its catholic identity and churchly order -- the thing I coveted in Rome.  I wanted Lutheranism to be the church it claimed to be instead settling for the church it was.  I wanted to see a Lutheranism with leaders of stature and wisdom -- all a time when Missouri was crumbling under the split and the ALC/LCA had decided to move to the left (ordaining women in 1970 and already in pursuit of a skeptical and higher critical view of the Scriptures), I had hoped there would be those whose stature and authority might call back the forces of radical change (at least the way JPII seemed to do).  Now I must admit that Rome no longer holds much magic -- and this is not simply a statement about the more recent sexual abuse charges.  Rome has feet of clay just like Lutheranism.

It was not a theological attraction which Rome offered me but an order, a liturgical identity, and a cohesiveness that I wanted from Lutheranism (and still do).  Some of my college friends swam the Tiber but I have no such intentions.  I want the best of Rome to resurface but not as an insider who wants the best for his church.  I want Lutheranism to be all that it claims to be and this I do as one who believes the claim of catholicity of this church's symbols.  It is my fear that Christians can no longer depend upon its institutional identities to find the reform their jurisdictions so deeply need.  In the end, I hope and pray that it will be lay people who will insist that if this is what we believe, confess, and teach, then, for God's sake, this is what we ought to believe, confess, and teach.  I am encouraged by the younger pastors, especially those from my own alma mater (Ft. Wayne).  I am thankful for the many resources available to us (books, journals, blogs, and hymnal).  In the end, I am no longer sad to admit that my envy of some things Roman has long ago ended.


Archimandrite Gregory said...

Nearly one hundred years ago a Russian Abbot wrote that as we draw closer to the end times there will be ushered in an apostacy that shall have effects on all Christendom. He went on to state the denominational labels will no longer reflect what is actually being taught nor will the morals reflect true Christian call to holiness. Finally he stated that God would call those truly seeking Christ to be gathered together from all corners to await His arrival, irrespective of what they call themselves. Perhaps we are seeing this happening in our own day? Let us continue to pray!

Anonymous said...

So, can we expect the statuary, crucifixes and liturgical chants to be gone this coming Sunday?
Can we expect to be reciting the creeds as they are written in the Cathechisms and hymnals, or will we continue to let little "c" catholic take precedence over capital "C" Christian? Better yet, why don't we save a tree or two and just use the hymnals to guide us through the services?
Probably not, but a lost envy of the Roman Catholic makes for a good blog post, I suppose.

David Gray said...


The creeds say "catholic." The hymnals use an inaccurate translation.

Anonymous said...

Imagine thinking that crucifixes, liturgical chant, and statuary are solely owned by Romanism or intrinsically Romanist.

Imagine thinking that a synodal hymnal trumps "Credo in Spiritum Sanctum, sanctam ecclesiam catholicam", "Et unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam ecclesiam", and "Quicunque vult salvus esse, ante omnia opus est, ut teneat catholicam fidem" from the Tria symbola Catholica seu Oecumenica of the Concordia.

Hymnals? Great.

So, can we expect the Schwärmerei practices of some Lutherans to be gone this coming Sunday? Or at their Mass for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul? Probably not, but implying that insuffiently protestantized worship practices means someone is a closet Papist makes for a good blog comment, I suppose.

Lutheran Lurker said...

I guess the anonymous poster who appears to belong to the church Pr. Peters serves is well described by this part of his post:

Even though it was not the catholic Lutheranism of its symbols, the Lutheranism I grew up with did offer a deeper unity of doctrine and practice than we see today. In fact, there was much to commend the faith in looking at its success in numbers, schools, universities, and catechesis. If it was Protestant, it was a churchly protestantism. . .

Anonymous said...

Benedict XVI was the last academic theologian to be Pope.
The current pope is more of a social justice clergyman.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters wrote: "Some of my college friends swam the Tiber....."

I am amazed by the comments posted here that no one stated the obvious. Many discouraged LCMS pastors and laymen have left or are considering leaving Lutheranism for either Eastern Orthodoxy or for the Roman Catholic church. They are not toying with leaving because they believe that the historic Lutheran confessions are wrong. No. They leave because they believe key components of Lutheran doctrine are ignored or dismissed by others in the LCMS as "too old fashioned." Consider the "young people!"

Such confessional LCMS people feel suffocated by the other contentious groups in the LCMS, the admirers of Peter Drucker (church growth) or of Karl Barth (liberal theology) and want no part of it. They grow weary of the rabid sectarianism and the cruel "mobbing" and seek greener, calmer pastures.

The LCMS should have an easy to find section on the Synod webpage that explains why anyone should become a confessional Lutheran. Why do so many LCMS church websites function more like bland online phone books than as witnessing tools? It would be a shame for podcasts such as these to be otherwise buried on a website not formally part of the LCMS:

Padre Dave Poedel said...

The responses here by our own tribe members indicates the reason why our little Synod will never be what Father Peters envisions. We have each taken our own “Here I Stand” on some aspect of Evangelical Catholicism but our dysfunction of origin will always prevent any such consensus from ever developing.