19 May 2007

A Lot of the Angst...

...that seems to afflict folks nowadays is about where final confidence is reposed. I think that those who take their faith seriously are faced with two options: you can rest your final confidence in the outward communion of some Church (and hope that you happened to pick the right one!) or you can rest your final confidence in the promises of God's Word.

God's Word says: "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." God's Word says: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved." God's Word says: "This is my body given for you, for the forgiveness of sins." God's Word says: "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain them, they are retained."

Are these promises of God's Word reliable? Do they mean exactly what they say?, Or is there a hidden clause that runs behind them: PROVIDED you are in the communion of the one and only true Church of Christ, for only there do the promises of God's Word hold true for you.

To be a Lutheran means fundamentally to say: the promises of God's Word hold without any hidden clause. They mean exactly what they say and the Church is to proclaim and hold them out for all for the salvation of the world.

It always strikes me as odd how agnostic people become once they run in that hidden clause. Then they don't know who is not church. Then they don't know whether the promises of Baptism hold. Then they don't know whether the Body and Blood of Christ are eaten by those who venture out simply trusting the Words themselves. What I want to know is how do they know that they have chosen correctly about the Church??? Does their own capacity for self-deception not give any angst? I know it would give me a great deal of angst if an ecclesiastical reference had to be run into the promises of God's Word.

Instead I can with utter and joyful confidence open my mouth to receive the Body and Blood of the Eternal Word made flesh and know that it is given to me for the forgiveness of my sins (not a hoped for, possibly someday forgiveness, but a present and active forgiveness). Instead I can look at the font and recall the Word spoken over the water that promised me an eternal inheritance and gave the gift of union with Christ and daily death to sin. Instead I can confess my sins and feel the weight of the hand on my head and hear the joyful good news that is as certain on earth as it is in heaven: "I forgive you."

Dr. Nagel put it like this: "the church is at point number 2; it lives from the receiving end of God's giving." It's when the church gets moved to point number 1 that things begin to wobble - to become uncertain and ecclesiastical agnosticism ensues. My suggestion: just trust the promises of God's Word to you. They are the anchor of the Church. The Church is not THEIR anchor.

94 comments:

Fr. Timothy D. May, S.S.P. said...

Great points!

Christ is connected to His Church, giving forgiveness of sins to people and communion with Him that He gained on the cross - forgiveness and communion that one can see, hear and taste in His Word and Sacraments. In Christ people are connected to His Church.

Still, the act of discussing "Church" does not equate with uncertainty and ecclesiastical agnosticism on the part of those having the discussion, or does it?

Unsure as well... said...

An overall argument that runs with this type of logic strikes me as you are quite uncertain yourself, but you are doing the best to reassure yourself with arguments that you have been told should be sufficient, but you haven't been quite convinced that they are. It is like the guy who goes the therapist telling him/her, "hypothetically" all about his "friend" who is having a problem. In the end, the "friend" is actually the person talking and the situation isn't "hypothetical" at all.

In other words, I have heard these responses and excuses from Lutherans before and they have always (even when I was a first year seminarian), always appeared to verge on something like an inferiority complex.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon, you wrote:

"I think that those who take their faith seriously are faced with two options: you can rest your final confidence in the outward communion of some Church (and hope that you happened to pick the right one!) or you can rest your final confidence in the promises of God's Word."

Rx: This is a false dilemma, for you have separated what God has joined together. There is no Churchless Word, since the Word was not given to individuals, but to the Church; nor is there a Wordless Church, since the Church is filled with the Word. The Protestant says, "The Word or the Church." The Roman Catholic says, "The Word and the Church." The Orthodox says, "The Word in the Church."

Having abandoned Church, Protestants also lost the Word, for within a generation or two of "sola Scriptura," its ugly stepchild higher criticism was born.

Having abandoned Word, Roman Catholics have also lost Church, for within one and the same body exist the sobriety of the Latin mass and the folly of the Barney mass. Roman Catholics themselves have documented on video what things now pass for worship.

Worth reading: "On the Western Confessions of Faith," by Aleksei Khomyakov.

The unworthy priest, and fool,

Fr. Gregory

William Weedon said...

Dear Fr. May,

Thanks! And you're right, it was not at all intended to say: "no more discussion on the church." Goodness! How can we cease to discuss the miracle that she is?

Dear Anon,

Could be. I've given up trying to analyze myself. But I don't *think* it's the case. When I am dying and Satan brings all my sins - and they are many and awful - before my eyes and reminds me of them, it seems in that final struggle I can and must cling to the promises of God's Holy Word which the Church has ceaselessly proclaimed to me - that that is the way to depart in peace, and there is no other.

Dear Fr. Gregory,

LOL. I *HAD* a paragraph in that thing that sought to address the concern of spurious alternative, and then decided to take it out. Of course there is the closest relationship between Church and Word, and yes the Word lives in the Church, but it is also true that that which is truly Church is that which lives in the Word and from the Word - for that is where all life flows: the promises of God in Christ - the giving of Himself to us in His words, His sacraments. Church does not first posses the Word; the Word of God first creates and then sustains the Church as she then passes on the good news.

But note here again - before we start running in circles - we are operating with different definitions of Church.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon,

You wrote,
"Church does not first posses the Word; the Word of God first creates and then sustains the Church as she then passes on the good news."

Rx: You still maintain them as an either/or. My comments stand.

The unworthy priest, and fool,

Fr. Gregory

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gregory,

What are you doing writing back and forth this time of the morning??? Go get ready for the Divine Liturgy!!! I have to head out in a minute too.

But it is not "either/or." It is a recognition that the Word of God is one thing and the Church is another. They belong together, but they cannot and should not be equated. She lives in it and it lives in her and it is her joy and delight to pass it on. Which is what you and I get to do this morning. May it be a faithful passing on!

Pax!

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pastor Weedon, you wrote:

"But it is not "either/or."

But earlier, someone else with your same name wrote:

"you can rest your final confidence in the outward communion of some Church (and hope that you happened to pick the right one!) *or* you can rest your final confidence in the promises of God's Word."

(I highlighted the "or" for your benefit.) So, if you say it's not an either/or, perhaps you should contact that other fellow who's using your good name to say that it is.

The unworthy priest, and fool,

Fr. Gregory

William Weedon said...

The alternative in the first place, though, was not what I was later referring to as not an either or. The alternative in my original writing was not Church vs. Word, but *outward communion of some Church* vs. Word. That remains an alternative in which final trust will repose. You will either trust in the Word of God or in some outward communion of some Church and its telling you what the Word of God REALLY means and says.

Past Elder said...

What a mind twist, to come upon this after reading a bunch of stuff on the "emerging" church! Seems like everyone's buzzing about what is church.

As a pre Vatican II RC kid, it was real clear and simple. We believe in the Real Presence and we have what we believe in because of the validity of the church in succession from the Apostles. So do the EOs. The Anglican Communion may believe in it but they don't have it because they broke the succession. So do the Lutherans. The Protestants don't believe in it and they don't have it either. Still there is sufficient ties with the Church in what the Anglicans, Lutherans and Protestants do believe for them to be saved.

Even though there was over twenty years between leaving the RC faith and becoming a Lutheran, during which I believed any form of Christianity was false -- I say this in distiction from those whose conversion to another church happens within their ongoing Christian belief -- I still had some difficulty early on wondering if Lutheranism wasn't a well-intended playing dress up but with no more real validity to it than when I dressed up in a kid's play vestments and said "mass".

Now, forgive me if the following is anecdotal rather than academic, but the turning point for me on this was not this or that book or blog, but my parents' RC funerals, where I heard again Absolution such as it was pronounced there, as contrasted with how I now heard it in the Lutheran (at the time, specifically WELS) church. That summed the whole thing up for me.

I don't see us arguing about what is either a dichotomy or a lack thereof. There is Word and Church in all of our denominations in varying degrees. They are inseparable, but not the same thing. Why should that be so hard to get for people who believe in a Triune God? To revert to my anecdote, when I hear the Word unambiguously proclaimed in the Absolution I know I am in Church, and when I am in Church and hear the unambiguous Absolution proclaimed I know I am hearing the Word. Likewise the rest of the service.

In the meantime, does it ever occur to these other guys that there has been an "emerging" church since Pentecost, or that the seeker is God and not us and he is "friendly" in Word and Sacrament?

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon,

You play so fast and loose with terms that it renders dialog difficult. In one place you make an either/or, and in another place you deny it's an either/or. In one place you claim that "the alternative in my original writing was not Church vs. Word, but *outward communion of some Church* vs. Word." But in the previous post you wrote, "It is a recognition that the Word of God is one thing and the Church is another"--thus setting up the contrast as being between Word of God, on the one hand, and Church on the other.


The unworthy priest, and fool,

Fr. Gregory

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gregory,

LOL. Who died and left logic the boss? ;)

Let's see if I can say it more clearly:

The Word and the Church are NOT the same thing. We'd both agree to that, I think.

Further, the Church owes the obedience of faith to the Word, and so does every Christian.

My original writing, though, was with those who do not see that final confidence rests in the Word - that this is what any Church that is a true Church of God would urge: "Trust the promises of God's Word!" But a Church that says instead: "Trust us, because we're the real thing" and can't give you the Word of God upon which faith rests, well, to the extent it so urges it is being at best very unchurchly.

Thus Word and Church cohere, but not in such a way that the obedience of faith is owed to anything that the Church dreams up which cannot be founded in the Word. To the extend the Church goes beyond the Word, she's venturing out on the most dangerous of ground.

William Weedon said...

Past Elder,

"The seeker is God."

Amen! How true! "For the Father seeks such to worship Him."

There is something that is mysteriously beautiful and joyful in the Lutheran funeral - not that there isn't grief and sadness, but there is overflowing joy also. And the pall and Paschal Candle preach to us of the union of this person with Jesus in His Resurrection through Holy Baptism. It is simply the joy of the NT alive and well today:

Holy Scripture plainly saith
That death is swallowed up by death;
Its sting is lost forever.
Alleluia!

Pastor Beisel said...

Bill,

Aren't you basically saying that our task as ministers of the Word is not to preach: "The Church! The Church!" and direct the Church to itself, but rather to preach: "Christ! Christ!" and direct the Church, i.e. hearers of the Word to Christ, the Living Word, the fount and source of all hope and refuge? Fr. Gregory's sophistry, as usual, blurs the main point, namely, that the certainty of Christian hope is in the Word and Promises of God alone. Period. That is what makes the Church the Church, namely, it's trust and reliance on Christ and His Promises. There is no false dichotomy there, no unsolved dilemma.

William Weedon said...

Paul,

Bingo.

wm cwirla said...

To the original post: Excellent points, all, Brother William! I would only add that where justification comes out of the center, then the Bride (Church) rather easily takes over from the Bridegroom (Christ the Word). (Of course, this happens at most weddings anyway, so we're rather accustomed to it, I'm afraid.)

Bride and Bridegroom may be indivisible in their union as one flesh, but they are distinguishable.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Rev. Weedon, you wrote:

LOL. Who died and left logic the boss? ;)

Rx:
Logic is most certainly not boss. But, having just watched a few episodes of Jeeves and Wooster, logic is a humble servant who takes note when the master has been in his cups a bit much.

WW:
Let's see if I can say it more clearly:

The Word and the Church are NOT the same thing. We'd both agree to that, I think.

Further, the Church owes the obedience of faith to the Word, and so does every Christian.

Rx:
To speak of the Church as owing obedience to the Word is already to have alienated her from the life of her Head--as if disobedience were a possibility, as if Christ were a tottering toddler, an ungainly teenager, a decrepit old man who lacked control over an unruly body. But your facile movement from the individual Christian, and what is true of him, to the Bride and body of Christ, and what is true of her, is one of the root fallacies of Lutheran ecclesiology.

WW:
My original writing, though, was with those who do not see that final confidence rests in the Word - that this is what any Church that is a true Church of God would urge: "Trust the promises of God's Word!" But a Church that says instead: "Trust us, because we're the real thing" and can't give you the Word of God upon which faith rests, well, to the extent it so urges it is being at best very unchurchly.

Rx: Again, your phrase "any Church" implies that there is more than one Church. There is not. Lutheran ecclesiology is inherently Platonic, for it recognizes only a perfect abstract Church that nowhere exists on earth, and a series of imperfect concrete bodies, called "Church" by charity. Your Word is unenfleshed.

WW:
Thus Word and Church cohere, but not in such a way that the obedience of faith is owed to anything that the Church dreams up which cannot be founded in the Word. To the extend the Church goes beyond the Word, she's venturing out on the most dangerous of ground.

Rx:
A third error of Lutheran ecclesiology: you exalt the individual over the body of Christ. "Which cannot be founded in the Word"--and who decides that? It doesn't matter whether the answer is "a pope," "a German monk," or "a middle-aged Missouri pastor." All the answers are formally alike. And all the answers are inherently wrong.

"The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth." The elder is the apostle; the elect lady is the Church; and her children are the members of the Church. Any child in a functional family, who seeks to pit Mom against Dad, will soon discover on his fundament, the fundamental nature of that error.

Tupaf,

Fr. Gregory

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

William (taking out my trusty, pearl-capped hatpin for the first jab), I am sore amazed at you.

The choice of where to repose one’s ultimate confidence is NOT Bible or Church. If it were – but it isn’t! – the Church would easily win, since the Bible itself calls the Church “the pillar and foundation of the truth” – in apparent contradiction of your Piepkorn quote.

But our ultimate confidence is to be placed in the Person of Christ Jesus our Lord. Period. And you knew that. Our faith is in HIM, and Him alone. Not in His words so much as in the One Who speaks them. Not in His sacraments, but in His Person, Who constitutes them. Not in any institution, either. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Book says.

(Sticking the old pearl hatpin carefully back into the pincushion and drawing out my new, ruby-capped one…) The Holy Scripture also says that the Church is “the fullness of Him Who fills all in all.” This is by no means any sort of “hidden clause”! Or if it is, I’d like to know who has hidden it.

The Church, although she has institutions, is not herself an institution. Moreover, she is not created by the Word, but rather IS Him (the incarnate Word), and the fullness of Him, too. This verse, no less than the things you listed, means exactly what it says. Sola Scripturists, take note.

And we Orthodox are no more in doubt concerning what goes on within the Holy Church than any Lutheran is. You knew that, too.

In fact, to this observer it appears we are more certain than Lutherans are, because we experience from within our deepest spirit all these things, to support which Lutherans seemingly must have constant recourse to the Bible (and hope they’ve got the right interpretation of it) as if they didn’t know firsthand from the direct, inner enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.

(Putting away the ruby hatpin…)

20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. 21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, 22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2 Cor. 1:20-22)

love,

Anastasia

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gregory,

Because we are operating with very different definitions of the Church (though as to whose is more platonic is up for grabs), we'll just start chasing our tails around in circles again. No use doing that - we've done it enough to know it is both tiring and gets us nowhere.

I stand by my original post: the church's anchor is the Word; the Word's anchor is not the church.

William Weedon said...

Anastasia, I'm not sure that I have any place left to get stuck!!! ;)

Seriously, though, the promises of Christ are indeed what we rest in. That He is the Son of God and that He died and rose again and lives forevermore - well that is just fact. But when He tells me that He has done all this for me, that my sins may be blotted out by His blood, that His Father's house might have a place which He has prepared for me, that by Baptism into Him I have have been given a share in His very own Sonship and receive the Spirit as gift and downpayment of what more there is to come. THIS is where final confidence rests: trusting the Gospel promises of Christ, and those promises are recorded for us in the Holy Scriptures and from them the Church delights to hold them forth and urge one and all to believe them, to trust them, to venture all upon them.

The Holy Church never says: "Because I say so!" The Holy Church ever says, as St. Augustine put it: "What counts is not I say this, you say that, they say they other, but thus says the Lord."

Now, I'm running and ducking for cover from the unsheathing of that wicked pin one more time...

Pastor Beisel said...

I agree with Weedon as to "whose view is more platonic." Fr. Gregory's idea of the Church as being incapable of disobeying Christ is not even close to the Church that was the recipient of Paul's Epistles. If the Church this side of heaven is not capable of disobeying Christ, then we are already in the new heavens and the new earth, and there is no need for us preachers, no need for repentance, no need for forgiveness, no need for the means of grace, the Word, or anything else for that matter.

Eric Phillips said...

Preach it, Pastor Weedon. Good stuff!

Fr. Gregory,

There's no problem with Rev. Weedon's logic. You say, "There is no Churchless Word," and that is exactly his point. If you're in a church, and the Word is being faithfully delivered to you, it's a distraction and a source of unbelief if you sit there worried that maybe the Word isn't true this time, because you're getting it from the wrong cleric. Word and Church go together. But we can (and must) still distinguish between the messenger and the message, between the Body of Christ and what makes it the Body of Christ. There's no false dichotomy in that.

> To speak of the Church as owing obedience to
> the Word is already to have alienated her
> from the life of her Head

Not at all. It is simply to distinguish between the Church in glory and the Church militant.

> Lutheran ecclesiology is inherently
> Platonic, for it recognizes only a perfect
> abstract Church that nowhere exists on earth,
> and a series of imperfect concrete bodies

Same Church. The difference is between time and eternity, militant and glorious, not between concrete and abstract.

Eric Phillips said...

I was just thinking how odd it is that Fr. Gregory is so vehement in proclaiming that the Church is the Body of Christ, but at the same time so quick to deny the name "Church" to large numbers of those who have been baptized into that very Body of Christ.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon,

The Church cannot be defined. This is not a controversy about verba, but about res.

Pr. Beisel,

Your post assumes the same fundamental confusion of part and whole as does Pr. Weedon's. Individual members, teachers etc. may and do err. The Church does not.

Dr. Phillips,

Your speaking of "a" church again assumes the fundamental error that there is more than one. There is not. The Church, as Church, lives with the same life as does Christ, and shares by grace all that he is by nature. And this is true, not simply in heaven, but also on earth.

But say, why don't you take your show on the road. Go to seminary. Become a pastor. Try living in reality what you so boldly speak.

Tupaf,

Fr. Gregory

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dr. Phillips,

I do not claim to know what goes on in a Lutheran baptism. Your post begs the question, at least as far as I'm concerned.

Past Elder said...

So I'll stay deliberately anecdotal.

At my parents' funerals, somewhere in there among all the "so thats" and "in order that" and "may he" and "may God" etc was the Word about what He has in fact done.

At my wife's funeral, you could not possibly have left that church not hearing the message that the only dead person there was not the one in the casket but anyone not alive in Christ and that amid our earthly sadness we celebrate a heavenly joy and extend the invitation while we're at it.

What should have been the most obvious thing about the church became the most obscure. The church triumphant and the church militant (great stuff Eric) is the same church. We have not set up any new church here among the militant to simply make the most obvious thing obvious again -- within the same church, which here is still militant, not triumphant.

I'm just glad to be in a part of it where what ought to be obvious, is. Because when the rubber meets the road, which is not a classroom or blog discussion, it makes all the literal difference in the world. Reality extends to us grunts in the pews too, even those with doctorates. It's great to be catholic and great to be orthodox, heck it's great to be Lutheran, none of which has to do with name over the door.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Okay, I'll take your word for it that what YOU rest your ultimate confidence in is promises. What I'm telling you is, there's a better way.

If the death of Jesus and His resurfrection are FACT, then ipso facto, He is the Son of God. Nothing else coould explain His supremacy over death.

And if you seen that divine and immortal Blood poured out to bring you unending life, the you know you have been forgiven (else He wouldn't do it).

And if you have met Him personally, and *know* Him, and it's His Life sprouting in your flesh -- then everything else is okay. You trust Him, who has proven Himself stronger than death, Who has demonstrated such unimaginable Love, you trust Him to guard and keep you forever. He doesn't even have to promise it. You already KNOW He will. The promises are written as aids to belief, yes. But not as the foundation or source of it.

Don't Lutherans have that hymn that says, "Christ is made the sure Foundation; Christ, the Head and Cornerstone..."? Not His promises, but Himself, for all who know Him.

And that's what the Bible as well as the hymn says, too. Beleive on Him.

It doesn't sound to me like people in this discussion are taking at all seriously the biblical teaching that the Church is the fullness of Christ! To take that seriously would mean never saying such a thing as that the Church could err. That's tantamount to saying Christ can err! People and local congregations and other groups within the Church err, in proportion to their error separating themselves from the Church as they do so -- not acting AS Church. The Church herself, being the fullness of Him Who fills all in all, cannot err.

Similarly, if Christ is not subject to the Bible, then neither is she who is the fullness of Him, nor can be.

Anastasia

William Weedon said...

Anastasia,

I guess I'm not following your meaning. To us there is not distinction between trusting Christ's promises and trusting Christ - it's a machts nichts matter. To trust HIM is to trust what HE PROMISES, nicht wahr?

Past Elder said...

I'm not following it either.

If I trust you, what does that mean apart from I believe that what you say is true, that you will do what you say, and what you do is not harmful to me but beneficial? What is it to trust you apart from that?

Christ's victory over death is a fact because he died and rose again. I ain't dead, so my victory over death is a promise to me.

I've seen death, no poetry here, death. Some of it peaceful with fulness of years, and some of it damned ugly, painful and in the prime of life. You know what? Either way, death looks pretty grim. Life is gone. Bodies get cold, sometimes not all in one piece. Not a single thing about it in my experience would suggest there's a damn thing afterward.

So my victory over death is a promise, not only because I'm not dead but also because it otherwise looks like when I am it's all over. For that matter, how do I know that he rose from the dead? Was I there? Did I see it? Then is it because it says so in a book? So is my faith then in a book, then it what it says? Or in a church, then in what it says?

We just celebrated the Ascension? What's that? How do I know that Jesus ascended into heaven except that it says so in a book and the book is supposed to be from God, or the church says so and the church is his mystical body. Did I see it? Did he tell me?

Humanly speaking, ascending into heaven is the stupidest thing a guy who rose from the dead could do if he wanted people to believe he rose. Hell, I'd hang around, proof positive that I did it, be here two millennia later to tell you about it in the flesh!

He had a different idea. He thought ascending would be a good thing, in fact necessary, so that the Spirit could come, and the Spirit would lead us. He didn't promise more books nor tell anyone to write any. So again, I find all this stumbling around about parts of a whole -- Christ, Church, Word, Spirit, Sacrament, etc -- not much different than arguing about the Trinity itself, which is another mystery of a whole with yet distinct parts.

Nobody's saying the church erred -- that's why there was a Lutheran Reformation (not to be confused with "The Reformation") so that the errors of people and groups within it would not lead the church as church into error or forever obscure what should be most obvious.

Another thing I don't follow. I'm an ex-Catholic Lutheran but I don't hang around Catholic blogs, I hang around Lutheran ones. In fact I don't hang around anything Catholic if I can at all help it unless somebody gets married or dies who's Catholic. (Schuetz doesn't count -- he was a Lutheran and I met him here anyway!) Must be another Rome/Constantinople thing.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Past Elder, a couple of points.

1) If you go back to the beginning of this thread, you'll find that it was Pr. Weedon who introduced the either/or which you so rightly bemoan here. (Note: the Trinity is not a mystery of a whole with yet distinct parts; Persons are not parts.)

2) A subtle shift occurred some time after the Formula of Concord was penned. The FC says that Scripture judges all teachings and teachers of the Church; Gerhard says that Scripture judges the Church. In Gerhard's dictum, the Scripture/Church dichotomy occurs clearly (though it does have roots in Luther himself).

3) You've come into this game a bit late. Pr. Weedon and I have a history that goes back some 5-6 years. Pr. Weedon made a remarkable 180 degree shift last year. Now, from time to time, he writes posts that in essence try to justify that shift--posts that, in essence, speak against the views he himself formerly held. So this isn't a Rome/Constantinople thing. This is a deeply saddened former friend thing. Look at the archives on this blog. Go back two years or so and read forward.

If you look carefully on this blog, you'll note that I post only, as a rule, when I sense the self-justification kind of post happening--or when some grave error is penned against the Orthodox Church.

And while we're at it, why the pseudonym? Must be another Lutheran thing.

Cordially, in Christ,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Paul T. McCain said...

Robb,

You were doing rather well there for a short bit, keeping your remarks on topic, but now you have devolved into spiteful remarks about Pastor Weedon.

I understand your angst, I really do. I understand why you had to put your faith in the so-called "Orthodox" Church when you knew you had to accept teachings that had no anchor in the Prophetic and Apostolic Scriptures. Then your only "fall back" was, as another recent convert/instant priest told everyone was to say simply that we have to "accept" what "Church" teaches even if we do not understand it.

Pastor Weedon's point are well take, even if not necessarily perfect well-put according to Hoggian logic.

I'm sticking with Pastor Luther who wrote that the Church is the mother who begets and bears her children through the Word of God.

I, for one, am very grateful that Pastor Weedon was not successfully recruited by you and your gang of sheep-stealers. I'm glad he was able to ignore the call of the "Orthodox" Sirens.

I believe your mean-spirited personal attacks on Pastor Weedon here are entirely unjustified and unwarranted.

Schütz said...

Golly, after all that, dare I add a comment?

In your original post, Pastor, you gave two sorts of examples of God's promises:

The first pair said: "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" and "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved."

The second pair said: "This is my body given for you, for the forgiveness of sins" and "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain them, they are retained."

I know you didn't make the distinction between the two sets of promises--that is my distinction and (I think) the Church's also.

The first set pertain to personal salvation. In this, there is no argument. ANYONE (no matter what heretical sect they formally belong to) who calls on the name of the Lord WILL be saved, and ANYONE (no matter what heretical sect they belong to) who believes in Christ and has been baptised (presumably in the manner instituted by Christ) WILL be saved.

But concerning the other two promises, it is important to ask: What do these promises actually say? For they concern specifics: "This" and "You". What is the "This"? and who are the "You"? In the former case the promise does not pertain to the bread and wine on my dinner table, nor, in the latter case, does the promise pertain to Joe Bloggs down in the pub. Obviously the "This" and the "You" about which these promises are made pertain to particular bread and wine and to particular persons.

It is therefore not unreasonable for individuals with full faith in these promises to seek that particular bread and wine and those particular persons to whom these promises pertain.

William Weedon said...

Father Gregory et al.,

I, too, would encourage folks to go back and read the former blog entries. There is no question that my position on the question of the Church has changed. I think 180% might be a tad of an overstatement - as I think you will find that I have NEVER written questioning the efficacy of the Word and Sacraments in the churches of the Augsburg Confession.

It is true that I had a personal moment of doubt and terror about that years and years ago. I've never blogged about it, though, since it seemed more a matter for the confessional than anywhere else. The irony, of course, is that YOU were the one God used to set my heart at rest, Fr. Gregory, and I thank Him for the kind words you shared with me that dark night. My heart has been at rest on the question ever since.

Thus, at least the topic of the original post is not one that I've had much change on at all. I think any search of the blog archives would bear that out.

But that you cannot see what Past Elder is saying - and how precious this holy absolution is in all its unconditionalness - that we receive it by faith alone, and so have great joy and confidence in the face of death... well, it saddens this friend as well.

William Weedon said...

Dear Schütz,

Spoken like a good Catholic. And I appreciate what you've said, even if I disagree with the distinction. But let me ask a question: in the Lutheran Symbols, the story (attributed to Jerome, I think) is given about the impending shipwreck where a Christian longs for absolution and a heathen longs for baptism. Then the Christian baptized the heathen and the newly baptized absolved the baptizer. This story was part of the way that the medieval Church recognized that the grace of God spilled out of its ordered boundaries in time of need. What does a good Catholic such as yourself make of such bits of the tradition that were (and are) very precious to the Lutherans?

Peter said...

Dear William

I don't pretend to understand the context of the above exchanges so please consider this a direct response to the original post.

For honesty's sake, my slant on this topic comes as an ex-Lutheran pastor now Catholic layman.

Disclaimers aside, I think your post is an excellent example of the plight of Protestantism in general. That is, it is true insofaras it goes, but it has such gaps in it's internal logic that it fails to actually GO anywhere.

For example, you rightly ask... "Are these promises of God's Word reliable? Do they mean exactly what they say?" To which any Christian must answer a resounding "YES!"

But then any Christian must ask himself, "HOW and WHERE does Christ fulfill these promises. And (as Schütz points out) through WHO?"

It is not a fair representation of a Catholic's answer to THESE questions (How, where, who) to present them as if they are answering the first question.

In other words, a Catholic who has answered a resounding YES to "can we trust God's promises" and then find his clear answer to God's promises manifest in Christ's authority in the Church, cannot be misrepresented as NOT believing that Christ fulfills his promises.

You may disagree with the Catholic on whether Christs promises are fulfilled in the "Church visible", but you should at least acknowledge that the Catholic has faith that Christ has fulfilled his promises.

You should, in turn, expect to be asked yourself "where, exactly, in concrete terms do YOU believe that God fulfills his promises made in Scripture?", where does the rubber hit the road? And the next question "On what basis can you be sure you are right about this?"

I ask these questions honestly not only because I struggled with them myself, but because I think they are the key question any Christian must face. Not just THAT Jesus promises something, but also ther HOW, WHERE and WHO of Christ's fulfillment.

Perhaps it is best to refer to a Lutheran Pastor, who posted on the matter of the Eucharist, but asks the same question, HOW does God fulfill his promises?

http://epistolaeobscurorumvirorum.blogspot.com/2007/04/sasse-and-lords-supper.html

Great to see Lutherans tackling such topics!

God bless

Peter

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Paul, you wrote:

'I, for one, am very grateful that Pastor Weedon was not successfully recruited by you and your gang of sheep-stealers. I'm glad he was able to ignore the call of the "Orthodox" Sirens.'

and then added:

'I believe your mean-spirited personal attacks on Pastor Weedon here are entirely unjustified and unwarranted.'

Rx: "Mean-spirited." "Personal." Right!

Oh, and you also said:

'Pastor Weedon's point are well take, even if not necessarily perfect well-put according to Hoggian logic.'


Rx: Let's see--that's three errors in one sentence. I'm beginning to believe you when you call yourself "Pastor" McCain, though you have no parish. It's clear that editing and proofreading skills aren't at the top of your c.v.

Tupaf,

Fr. Gregory

PS: My words about Pr. Weedon were not ad hominem; for your benefit, I added the last paragraph above to illustrate what an ad hominem is.

William Weedon said...

Peter,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I think I addressed this somewhat in an essay I posted on the Book of Concord Blog a while back. It's here:

http://bookofconcord.blogspot.com/2006/12/repost.html

Note that it reads a tad odd at the beginning. My own words begin at: "The current bishop of Rome."

Benedict XVI also wrote very helpfully of how the quest for certainty of church was precipitated by the situation preceding Luther which shook the Roman Church to the core: WHICH one of the men claiming to be pope WAS pope? If salvation and the efficacy of the holy sacraments depended upon communion with the REAL bishop of Rome, what was to be done? Each one had some sort of claim to the title, and yes excommunicated all those in fellowship with the other ones. Benedict suggests that it is from this context that Luther's looking somewhere else makes some sense in a way that modern Catholics are tempted to overlook. I can't remember where I read that - it was in something Dr. Tighe sent me, so he may recall.

Eric Phillips said...

Fr. Gregory,

> Your speaking of "a" church again assumes
> the fundamental error that there is more than one.

The English word "church" frequently refers to the building where Christians meet to worship. That was what I meant, and I made the 'c' small (in contrast to the many capital-C's in the same post) as an interpretive clue. So if you want to answer my post now, instead of misinterpreting two words of it and flying off on a tangent, that would be nice.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dr. Phillips,

I stand corrected; thank you. Note that you said, however, "If you're in a church, and the Word is being faithfully delivered to you..." The "if" looms large in this discussion.

Tupaf,

Fr. Gregory

Eric Phillips said...

Schutz,

Jesus told the Apostles "do this in remembrance of me." The Apostles passed the word on to the churches they started and ministered to. Those churches passed these instructions on down the line, and we eventually received them. The Church gathers together as the Apostles taught it to do, recounts these words, and eats and drinks, believing them to be true.

You will search the Scriptures and even the Patristic writings in vain for a qualifying "Pope clause."

Eric Phillips said...

Fr. Gregroy,

Since a church is a building where Christians meet to worship, "the 'if' looms large" only if you dispute our claim to be Christians.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dr. Phillips,

No; It looms large if the status of your ecclesial meetings as "church" is in question. I do not presume to judge the status of individuals before God. But I do dispute the Lutheran claim to be "Church"--even on the basis of the Lutheran confessional writings themselves. But go, call your bishop and perhaps he and my bishop can sit and chat.

Eric Phillips said...

Fr. Gregory,

There you go again. We MAY be Christians, i.e. members of the Body of Christ, but you're sure we aren't part of the Church, which is the Body of Christ. And you think Pr. Weedon has problems with his logic?

My episkopos keeps pretty busy running his parish, and my D.P. is probably no more eager to have that conversation than your bishop is.

Anonymous said...

as another recent convert/instant priest told everyone was to say simply that we have to "accept" what "Church" teaches even if we do not understand it.

It must not be gossip, slander or rumor-mongering if unsubstantiated, mischaracterized comments are ascribed to barely anonymous persons.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dr. Phillips,

I did not say what you claim I said. This should not be difficult for one of reasonable intelligence with a sliver of good will.

1. I make a fundamental distinction between individuals--one or many--and a corporate ecclesial entity.

2. Concerning individuals, it is not mine to judge, but God's. Period. End of discussion.

3. Concerning corporate entities, it is mine to judge. There is no Lutheran church, as judged even by the standard of the Lutheran Confessions themselves. In particular, the claim of the Lutheran Confessions that "we receive nothing new, in doctrine or ceremonies, against Holy Scripture or the Catholic Church" is demonstrably false today--whether or not it was ever true.

Now, let's look at what you say.

"We MAY be Christians, i.e. members of the Body of Christ"--yes, and then again you may not be.

"but you're sure we aren't part of the Church, which is the Body of Christ"--no; I'm sure that the "Lutheran Church" is not Church. I have no idea what you are or aren't.

Tupaf,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Past Elder said...

Everybody's over the top rope and into the ring on this one! So here goes:

Fr Hogg -- it's been real clear for some time that there's history between you and Pastor Weedon (for that matter between you and other LCMS clergy too) and if I'm a late entry into the game it's because I'm not entering that game at all. It's NOMB. Nor am I here to comment on what Pastor may have posted in the past or engage in a critical textual study of those posts and the present one. I was just commenting on what he said here. As to "Past Elder", yes that is a Lutheran thing, as in I am both proud and humbled to have been asked to serve as an elder. If you're into the "real name" issue, mine is Terry Maher, also known to the alumni office as Dr Maher, I am a member of St Mark Lutheran (LCMS) in Omaha. Drop by anytime. Finally, at the beginning of the thread I do not find Pastor Weedon introducing the either/or, I find you saying he did.

Schuetz and Peter -- how many ex LCA pastor RCs are there in Aussieralia anyway? You guys got a club going or something? Anyway, I'm not going to get into the Catholic thing here. Check Schuetz' site for that. For now -- if Benedict thinks having to choose from several popes was a problem then, how about having to choose from several "Catholicisms" now: the real one, the Vatican II one, and the "Spirit of Vatican II" one the vast majority of Catholics actually live in. Luther's Preface to the LC reads like it was written yesterday!

Pastors Weedon, McCain, and Dr Phillips: hi guys, I'm tagging out.

Peter said...

Dear William

You wrote:
"Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I think I addressed this somewhat in an essay I posted on the Book of Concord Blog a while back. It's here: [link provided]."

I think I may have missed something in your reply and in this post. Can you help me understand by pointing out what part of your article defends your initial proposition that people choosing to trust the Church do not trust God?

It may be that you overlooked this question and offered this article in response to my closing questions of how, where and who God answers his promises? (Which, while interesting, would still leaves the question on 'trusting God' unanswered.)

I think you give an admirable presentation of the congregational aspect of the doctrine of the Church, but it would be a logical and theological error to suggest that a proper understanding of the 'congregational' aspect necessarily excludes other aspects of the same doctrine.

The Catholic faith does not exclude a congregational aspect, any more than it excludes trust in God or belief in the unique authority of the Scriptures. The difference is that Catholics do not hold these doctrines in opposition to other aspects of the doctinre, other legitimate gifts of God.

Let us, for the sake of clear discussion, set the Catholic answer aside for a moment and hear clearly how, where and who bears the authority Christ gives to forgive sins, or where is his promise to guide us into all truth fulfilled?

William Weedon said...

Peter,

Thanks again for the engagement. Will write more tomorrow, God willing, but just got back from a Voters' Meeting and am too tired to do so tonight.

Pax!

L P Cruz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
L P Cruz said...

I meant to say
If Pr Weedon is of the position
people choosing to trust the Church do not trust God, then I can concur with that. Jer 17:5-8.

Nowhere has Christ commanded us to trust anyone but Him.

Or are we to blame the Bereans for looking at their Old Testament simply because Paul came to them, the Bible describes their act as noble.

Unsure,

Since when is a pastor excempted from hearing the comfort and sure promises of the Gospel for himself? Are pastors to be a model of victorious Christian life?
---

I enjoyed the devotional aspect of what Pr. Weedon wrote here. I have recommended it to others.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Mr. Cruz,

The OT reference doesn't fit. Jeremiah curses the one who trusts in man. Now either that curse would include those who trust Christ, who is truly human (which, God forbid!); or that curse does not apply to those who trust the Church, which is the Body of Christ. In other words, *because* we trust Christ, we trust his Body, concerning which he promised, "the gates of hell will not prevail against it," and concerning which St. Paul said, it is the "pillar and ground of the truth."

Tupaf,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

L P Cruz said...

Dear Fr. Hogg,

That OT passage referred to Jesus who is Lord. You are being philosophical here in. The transer from trusting Christ to trusting his Body of Christ - the Church is a bit of semantic gymnastics.

So which Church? All of US, I mean EO, RC and Protestants included?

Pastor Beisel said...

Fr. Gregory, the body trusts the head, not itself. A wife looks to, trusts, follows her husband, not herself. The Body of Christ, the Church as a corporate entity receives her Life from the head, Christ. And each individual member of that Body, each Christian in whom dwells the Spirit of Christ, also rightly looks to the head of that body, Christ. But this is such a circular argument. It goes round and round and round.

I cannot understand your logic. It is illogical to me. Perhaps my mind is too small to fit itself around it, but that is the way it is. If your goal is to win people for the East, you're not doing a very good job of making it seem appealing.

William Weedon said...

Peter asked:

Let us, for the sake of clear discussion, set the Catholic answer aside for a moment and hear clearly how, where and who bears the authority Christ gives to forgive sins, or where is his promise to guide us into all truth fulfilled?

Weedon replies:

"Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven..." To whom does Christ give the gift of the Spirit? To them He gives the keys! With the gift of the Holy Spirit comes the commission to forgive/retain. The Spirit is placed upon the whole company of the Baptized and this commission then belongs to them all.

The Pastors in their public and responsible administration of the keys are administering a gift that *belongs* to the whole company. That is why they are STEWARDS of the mysteries. "For all things are YOURS" and Paul includes the apostolic ministers in that.

Now, about the promise to guide us into all truth. Is that not first to be applied to the Apostles, and in the sense in which our Lord had spoken earlier in the same discourse: "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things *and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.*" (Jn 14:26). The fulfillment of the guiding into all truth is what the Church delights to honor as the New Testament witness itself. And the Spirit truly does lead the Christian ever deeper into truths, disclosing more and more of the mystery of Christ. What the Holy Spirit never does is to go beyond or outside that witness.

Peter, as to your earlier question: yes, the essay was in regard not to the first, but the second point (how, where, and who). As the question of where final trust reposes, I think it is highly significant that the Blessed Apostle Paul urged that trust NOT be reposed in his person, even as an Apostle. "Even if I or an angel from heaven should preach to you another Gospel, let him be anathema!" St. Paul had to rebuke St. Peter for slipping a condition into the Gospel. "Trust not in princes" - not even the princes of the Church. But do trust in the promises of God's Word! They will never let you or anyone else down.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Mr. Cruz,

There is only one Church, composed of the faithful and bishops in intercommunion throughout the world. Who is your bishop? With whom are you in communion?

And while we're at it, why the picture of Kurt Goedel? Have you studied him?

Pr. Beisel,

I have stated my position as clearly as I can. The life of the body is identical with the life of its head; any body whose life is different from the life of its head is either dead or dying. Nor is my argument circular.

A wife trusts her husband, yes; and a husband gives all that he is and all that he has to his wife. They are truly a communion of persons, united in one flesh.

Cordially,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon,

Does an unordained layman bear the authority of Christ to forgive sins, as that forgiveness is communicated by absolution and sacrament?

Ought one to be in communion fellowship with those who practice this?

Tupaf,

Fr. Gregory

Bryce P., Wandrey said...

I am no Book of Concord expert, so please forgive me for using the index. But in response to Weedon's post: To whom does Christ give the gift of the Spirit? To them He gives the keys! With the gift of the Holy Spirit comes the commission to forgive/retain. The Spirit is placed upon the whole company of the Baptized and this commission then belongs to them all, I decided to do a little research.

The Confessions (at least according to my index) never applie John 20:21-23 to the whole company of the baptized, but instead to the office of the keys, or the bishops. Now, it utilizes this commissioning in different ways, but never to apply to whole company of the baptized.

AC XXVIII: Here it is stated that the power of the keys or the bishops is a power and command of God to preach the gospel, to forgive or retain sins, and to administer and distribute the sacraments. This power is exercised only by the teaching and preaching of God's Word and by administering the sacraments to many persons or to individuals. And these benefits cannot be obtained except through the office of preaching and administration of the holy sacraments.

The same scriptural passage is also used to argue for the equality of the apostles (twice I believe) and to distinguish spirtual authority from temporal authority in the Treatise by Luther. But once again, not applied to the whole company of the baptized.

And so I wonder, where does the application come for the all of the baptized being given the power of the keys or the power of the bishop?

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gregory,

You know what the LC says about the absolution: "The origin and establishment of private Confession lies in the fact that Christ Himself placed His absolution into the hands of His Christian people with the command that they should absolve one another of their sins." (V:14)

But I presume you were speaking of a public absolution, which is sort of an odd critter to begin with. There it is indeed improper for anyone not called and ordained to take to himself what the Church has not bestowed upon him through ordination. I would testify that openly and to all, seeking to correct the false practice wherever I encounter it; only I've never encountered a lay person absolving in the Divine Service. But I most certainly would point out its impropriety should I meet the critter - just as you yourself did when you served a Lutheran parish.

William Weedon said...

Bryce,

But see the passage cited from LC and also compare Tractatus 24. If the Symbols do not apply John 20 directly to the whole Church, they do speak unambiguously about where Christ has given the Keys.

William Weedon said...

In a former incarnation, a Pr. Hogg taught very finely about the distinction between Church scattered and Church gathered. Very helpful in sorting out the use of the keys, I used to think. And still do. : )

Church gathered: that which belongs to all is administered publicly and responsibly by those the Church has entrusted to do so.

Church scattered: what which belongs to all is administered privately by each to others as love dictates.

At least that is how I remember processing this some years ago and thinking: By Jove, that Hogg has a good insight here!

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon,

The distinction between church gathered and church scattered remains a propos, and I think you're smart enough to know exactly what I was asking. In the church as gathered, do laymen have the right to absolve, whether one-on-one or one-to-many?

Tupaf,

FG

L P Cruz said...

Fr. Gregory,

Your syllogism that to trust Christ is to trust His Church, I suggest is a leap, it does not have a warrant from Scripture if so please give a passage - like so "if you trust in me, trust also in my Church".

Some logic is operating but I am affraid it slips into fallacy of accent.

My picture of Kurt Goedel is irrelevant to your syllogism, but let us say I am a fan of his.


Lito

Fr. Gregory said...

Lito,

If the Lord's word that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church, or St. Paul's words that the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth, without spot or blemish, the fullness of him who fills all things, the body of Christ etc. aren't good enough for you, then I'm afraid you wouldn't believe if one were to rise from the dead.

Tupaf,
Fr. Gregory

William Weedon said...

Father Gregory,

I thought I was clear in what I wrote? It is improper in church gathered for a lay person to publicly absolve. Of course, in the tradition of the Western Church there is an absolution which the *whole people* speak upon the presider after hearing his confession and then the reverse happens. You no doubt remember Compline and that this form was originally in the priest's preparations prior to the Mass proper starting. Doesn't the Orthodox liturgy have something like that in your compline also? "God forgive thee, father"??

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gregory,

Do you really think that Lito or I do not rejoice in all those promises? But again, the different understanding at Church leads us to hear in them something quite different from what you hear in them.

Eric Phillips said...

Fr. Gregory,

You seem to be forgetting that a collective is simply a group of individuals. Don't protest your inability to make judgements about individuals, and then turn right around and tell me that the congregation I belong to is not the Church. No matter how much you try to make that a statement about the collective ONLY, it also happens unavoidably to be a statement about ME and every other individual in it.

If the Body of Christ is simply the Eastern Orthodox Church, or the EOC and the RCC, or however you envision it--if I'm not in any of those churches, then I am not in the Body of Christ. You cannot even contemplate the possibility that I MIGHT be in it without abandoning your oft-repeated assertions to the effect that the Body of Christ is coterminous with one or several visible communions to which I demonstrably do not belong.

While you figure out which half of that contradiction you really believe, I'll console myself with God's Word. The Church is the Body of Christ. I have been baptized into the Body of Christ. I am in the Church.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon,

If it is improper in church gathered for a lay person to absolve, is it equally improper to remain in communion fellowship with those who do?

Dr. Phillips,

I do not grant that a collective is simply a group of individuals; so the rest of your post doesn't follow.

But I am not your enemy--not yours, Dr Phillips; not yours, Pr. Weedon, or yours, Pr. McCain. I am enemy of none of you who've posted. You have a convention coming up. Let one and all watch to see what happens at this one and succeeding ones. God's will be done.

The unworthy priest, and fool,

Fr. Gregory

William Weedon said...

Robb,

It would be improper to remain IF it becomes clear that the witness against the practice cannot and will not be heeded. Our God is a God who is wondrous in His patience and love - just think of how He deals with two old goats like you and me.

Fr Gregory said...

Bill,

Your answer works in a situation where something is actually believed by those in authority. It does not work in a situation where relativism has taken over, for relativists can tolerate anything--even pesky absolutists.

Chris Jones said...

I said I wasn't going to comment on this thread; I lied. Sorry.

From the original post:

My suggestion: just trust the promises of God's Word to you. They are the anchor of the Church. The Church is not THEIR anchor.

"Just trust" sounds good. But you can't ignore the means by which the promises come to you. If you don't trust the means, you can't trust the promises (because you can't know for sure that the promises come from Him Who is faithful and is the lover of mankind). That is why Augustana V says They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word; and, in context, "the external Word" clearly refers not to the Bible in the abstract, but to the Church's public ministry of Word and Sacrament -- which was established as the means that we may obtain this faith.

I do not think the Confessions leave us at liberty to seek our salvation apart from the "outward communion" of the Catholic and Apostolic Church. Nor do they allow us not to place our "confidence" in the Church; after all, we confess our faith in her every Sunday in the Creed.

The real gist of Father Weedon's complaint is betrayed by the phrase the outward communion of some Church. Note "some Church", not "the Church" (or as he put it to me in another venue, "a particular jurisdiction of the Church"). As Lutherans, we can't gainsay the need to be in the communion of the visible Church, because that is where the kerygma happens and where the covenanted mysteries exist. That is where salvation is delivered. But we can dispute whether the visible Church can be defined by the canonical boundaries of any particular Church body. That is what the argument on this thread is really about; not whether the promises of God are delivered and fulfilled in some free-floating way that is apart from the Apostolic Church. Augustana V excludes that; it's the Lutheran version of extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

Pastor Beisel said...

I seriously doubt that Pr. Weedon would hold to the anabaptist's position that the "external Word" refers to the Word abstracted from the public ministry of the Church. Yet, it is clear from the Scriptures that one can come to faith in Christ apart from the ministers, but not apart from the message of reconciliation in Christ. There were people who believed in Christ that had never met him before. "The rumor of him went throughout all the regions of Galilee." The Holy Spirit accompanies the Word. This is the promise of the Scriptures themselves. This is true whether one is called and ordained or not.

Eric Phillips said...

Fr. Gregory,

> I do not grant that a collective is simply a group
> of individuals;

You do not grant that the Church is merely a collective. I don't either. But collectives are most certainly composed of individuals. Don't try to invent your own language here.

> so the rest of your post doesn't follow.

Yes it does. The fact that the Church is MORE than a collective subtracts no force at all from my argument. Heck, even if the Church weren't a collective AT ALL, it would still remain true that you can't simultaneously deny that I am part of the Church AND allow that I might be part of the Church.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Let me try, one more time, to make my point clear.

A Baptist comes to a Missouri parish (one of the ones that practices closed communion). He asks to commune. The pastor answers, "No, because you belong to a body that doesn't confess the real presence." In so saying, the pastor has not judged the individual's faith in Christ, or even in the real presence. He's judged the body to which the man belongs.

While collectives are composed of individuals, it does not follow that a judgment of a collective implies a judgment of a given individual. The Baptist in question may or may not believe in Christ. He may or may not believein in the real presence. It doesn't matter.

So I say again:

1. I do not judge any individual, as to whether or not he is a Christian.
2. But I do judge that bodies calling themselves "Lutheran Church" are not, in fact, church.

Dr. Phillips, you need not agree. That's your right. Take your show on the road. Go to Seminary. Get ordained. Try practicing what you preach in that body called the LCMS. See where the rubber of your rhetoric meets the road of reality.

Tupaf,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

L P Cruz said...

Fr. Gregory,

I am happy to follow the "church" that tells me to trust Christ and him alone.

According to Jesus in Lk 18:31, if I do not believe the writings of Moses and the Prophets, then there is no use, I will not believe in any evidence presented to me, even if someone comes back from the dead to tell me so.

The quotes you gave were not explicit and in fact you are making them say more.

But here is what I see in your logic if I take your rules of deduction. For your statement "to trust Christ is to trust the Church" to be excempted from the curse of Jer 17:5-8, then the Church must be both God and Man too ie the Church is not in the same category of Man thus it has been made divine. I see these bishops and I must conclude they are God-Man too, and perhaps you too or me too.

That is nice! But I don't think so.

But here is another point...

By your logic what we can render to Christ we can render to the "Church" because the Body of Christ = Christ, by your rules.

So let us take another leap - to worship Christ is to worship the Church! To adore Christ is to adore the Church, to pray to Christ is to pray to the Church,...and so on.

Here is what I learned from logic, if you allow for contradictions in your system, then you can prove anything. In fact if your system of logic allows you to prove anything, guess what - it is not good news!

Unfortunately your logic is exhibiting that power.

My conclusion, I leave to the rest as an exercise...;-)

Lito

Pastor Beisel said...

I think I understand Hogg's point about judging the whole vs. individual parts. We do the same when we say to a Baptist that his church is not the Church because it denies the Sacraments, yet he himself clings to Christ and trusts in him, so we allow that his own salvation may be certain, to more or less of an extent.

I still do not understand this idea which I have heard frequently, that the Church cannot err. This side of the new heavens and new earth, I do not see how this is possible. Why else would Christ send shepherds to care for His flock? Did not the OT Church which looked for Christ to come err? Is this not why God sent the prophets, to call His OT Church to repentance? ARe we not also called to do so today? Is this not understood in the exercise of the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven? We exercise these not only in an individual or private way, but also generally, when we rebuke sin in our sermons and proclaim God's forgiveness in Christ.

Chris Jones said...

Pr Beisel,

We Lutherans do not normally teach that the Church cannot err; but we do teach that where the pure Word of God is preached and the sacraments rightly administered, there is the Church. But another way to say that is that the Church is the place where the Gospel is delivered in Word and Sacrament without error. For where there is error, either the Word is being preached with less than purity, or the sacraments are not being administered fully rightly.

If we say that the Church can err, are we not saying that the Church can be found even where the Gospel is not preached in its purity, and that she can be found where the sacraments are not rightly administered?

Of course, any bishop, priest, diocese, or congregation can stray from the truth. But if they do, and they do not repent and return to the truth, then the pure Word of God and the due administration of the sacraments is no longer found among them -- and thus they no longer are the Church. But while any individual bishop or congregation may fall away from the Church, it is our faith that the Church herself will always remain faithful, because the Saviour has promised it. That is why our Symbols say The holy Church remains forever.

That is not so far as one might think from the infallibility of the Church.

Past Elder said...

The infallibility of the Church.

I must be slipping. 70 some comments into it and I remember what the Brave New Church of Vatican II taught me!

Much was made toward the end of my days in the RC church (early 70s) of the word indefectibility. The idea was, that while papal infallibility was a relatively late development of doctrine -- note to lifelong Lutherans: "doctrinal development" in the post Conciliar church is a good thing when the doctrine that developed is the one you are pushing, and a bad thing when the doctrine that deloped is one you oppose -- the real essence is the church's indefectibility. The inability of the church as a whole and as church to err. This is where "collegiality" gets its teeth in Roman eccleciastical power politics. The pope's real authority comes from his position as a first among equals, and when he acts in a monarchial fashion -- for example, tells a professor with a commission to teach in the Church's name to teach what the church teaches -- he is acting apart from the collegiality in which he has his authority and the indefectibility of the church, not of himself. Or in more practical terms, when we like what the pope says we can follow it and when we don't like it we can dismiss it.

Apart from papal dissent, it is also what guarantees that if the church -- what's the church, well us of course, us being the dissenters -- teaches it then it is right, because the church teaches it. We are the who, what, where and when, so therefore we are right.

All very collegial sounding. Reality is, is simply re-assigns the object on which surety is grounded, from one thing that isn't the Word to another thing that isn't the Word, so that the Word is what the object of surety says it is. Or as it was said at the outset of this thread, where final (not all, but final, ultimate) confidence is reposed. And once it is so reposed, that in which it is reposed becomes indistinguishable from the Word itself therefore unassailable. The only difference among the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican II Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy is that in which confidence is reposed therefore becoming indistinguishable from the Word and unassailable.

Which reminds me of something the chaplain of the Catholic Crudent Center at the university where I did my graduate work told me when we were having a discussion about what is church. He said one of the great liberating moments of his priesthood came when in the spirit of Vatican II he now saw he didn't have to convert the Lutherans, they're just fine as the are!

I was over twenty years away from being Lutheran myself at the time, but how could I forget? The church of Vatican II -- in the person of the chaplain it gave to us university students -- taught me Lutherans are just fine as they are! Guess I don't need to swim the Tiber back, huh -- they said so themselves! Of course, this was just a few months before another liberating moment in the chaplain's priesthood -- when he resigned it to marry his pastoral assistant (female, in case you were wondering).

Peter said...

WW wrote: To whom does Christ give the gift of the Spirit? To them He gives the keys! With the gift of the Holy Spirit comes the commission to forgive/retain. The Spirit is placed upon the whole company of the Baptized and this commission then belongs to them all.

I am interested in how you come to this conclusion so confidently. I recall being shown by my Lutheran professors how it was quite clear that the 'audience' for that particular gift was distinct, both literarily and theologically, from the 'audience' of every baptised believer.

In other words I was taught, as a Lutheran, that Christ himself established the 'office of the ministry' and gave to it these specific gifts, intended to be used as instruments to pour out grace on his entire people to be sure, and to be available to each and every one of them, but to do so through his chosen instruments.

I may be missing something here, but wouldn't a more general theology (i.e. Christ gave the keys to us all) require some exegetical evidence that Christ's intended audience was wider than the apostles, wider even than the believers in his vicinity at the time? And since we are doing it from 'Sola Scritura' we'd best use ALL the accounts of giving of authority, to ensure we allow Scripture to interpret Scripture.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Mr. Cruz,
I trust the Church because Christ, who is the Truth, says of her that the gates of hell would not prevail against her. If she teaches in error, then the gates of hell have prevailed against her, and the Truth would have lied--which, God forbid. (This argument, by the way, is used by Phillip Melanchthon too.) I trust the Church because Christ promised that the Spirit would come, who would lead her into all the truth. I trust the Church because Paul called her the "pillar and foundation of truth." Now if a pillar is unreliable, then the roof it supports is unstable and the house it adorns in uninhabitable; if the foundation cannot be trusted, the whole house must fall.

LP Cruz wrote:

But here is what I see in your logic if I take your rules of deduction.

Rx:
There is not "my" logic or "your" logic. Same goes for rules of deduction. There is only logic.

LPC:
For your statement "to trust Christ is to trust the Church" to be excempted from the curse of Jer 17:5-8, then the Church must be both God and Man too ie the Church is not in the same category of Man thus it has been made divine.

Rx: Precisely! The Church has been deified. As St. Athanasius said, "God became man that we might become God."

All that Christ is and has by nature, the Church is and has by grace. Take, for example, Matthew's account of Christ walking on water. His walking on water proves that the divine perfections were communicated to his humanity at conception. But what does Peter's walking on water prove? That those same perfections are communicated, by grace, to believers (i.e. the Church). Christ does not rebuke Peter for walking on the water, but for not believing.

LPC:
I see these bishops and I must conclude they are God-Man too, and perhaps you too or me too.

Rx:
No; I have never maintained that the perfections given the Church by grace are perfectly exhibited by any particular individual (apart from the Theotokos, of course, who is "full of grace"). The *actions* of bishops, however, are most certainly divine-human--St. Paul says, for example, "He who rejects this rejects not man, but God, who has given us his Holy Spirit," and the Fathers of the Jerusalem council said, "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us..."

LPC:
But here is another point...

By your logic what we can render to Christ we can render to the "Church" because the Body of Christ = Christ, by your rules.

Rx:
No; the Body of Christ is not Christ. It is his body, "the fullness of him who fills all things," as St. Paul writes. A body is not a head; a head is not a body. Yet both share a consubstantial life.

LPC:
So let us take another leap - to worship Christ is to worship the Church! To adore Christ is to adore the Church, to pray to Christ is to pray to the Church,...and so on.

Rx:
We worship and glorify the Holy Trinity alone; but the Holy Trinity is not alone...God is wondrous in his saints.

Eric Phillips said...

Fr. Gregory,

I understand how an individual's belief may be more orthodox than the confession of his denomination. But we're talking about membership in the Church, not the content of our personal faith. We're discussing your contradictory claims that 1) Lutherans _might_ be part of the Body of Christ, but 2) the Lutheran "Church" is not the Body of Christ, or any part thereof.

> If she teaches in error, then the gates of
> hell have prevailed against her,

Then give it all up, man. If that's all it takes for the gates of hell to prevail, it happened a long time ago, when "the whole world groaned to find itself Arian." The only thing you need to explain then is the triumph of Trinitarian orthodoxy at the Council of Constantiople in 381--because that's a darn strange thing to have happened if the gates of hell had already prevailed.

I'd also like to point out the circularity of your claim here. The Church is infallible, but the only way you can tell if a group qualifies as the Church is by judging its doctrine. Think about it.

Past Elder said...

"I trust the Church because Christ, who is the Truth, says of her that the gates of hell would not prevail against her. If she teaches in error, then the gates of hell have prevailed against her, and the Truth would have lied--which, God forbid."

Exactly what I used to believe. And when I saw that the Church had begun to teach in error, explicitly turning its back on key elements of what it had taught me before, that's exactly what I concluded, the gates of hell had prevailed against it, therefore its message was false, both its current message and the one it replaced that did not endure.

Since the Protestant churches were not fully church, lacking some of what Christ gave to the Church, they were not worth investigating. The EO are fully church and I took a run at it, the problem being, the cloud of witnesses seemed to be simply a cloud, in cultural contexts of great beauty but foreign to me.

The RCs would say no, no, nothing has really changed, the EOs would say right track wrong church. The evangelicals said all you need is Jesus and forget the rest. I said forget it all.

If saving faith rests in making fine theological distinctions, few would ever come to faith! I'm glad my faith does not rest in a church. The church itself said that among the many claims, here are the book you can rely on. So that's what we do in the church, which is not LCMS, WELS, ELS or anything else.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dr. Phillips,

I have made two claims:

1. I do not judge whether individuals belonging to Lutheran ecclesial entities are, or are not, Christians. I neither affirm nor deny, either categorically or hypothetically.


2. I do judge that Lutheran ecclesial entities are not Church.

These two claims do not contradict each other.

This conversation I'm having with you very much reminds me of the discussions a Calvinist friend and I used to have. "But if God chooses some to heaven, he must thereby be choosing some to hell." Like him, you say in effect, "But if you judge that Lutheran ecclesial entities are not church, and they are made up of individuals, then you judge that those individuals are not Christian."

Taking the hyperbole of Jerome at face value displays a certain lack of judgment, surprising in one whose degree is in history. In point of fact, the Church did not teach in error. Individual bishops, some groups of bishops, and even local councils like Ariminum (and, I might add, Toledo 589) could of course err.

Tupaf,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Past Elder (may I call you Terry?), you wrote:


"Exactly what I used to believe. And when I saw that the Church had begun to teach in error, explicitly turning its back on key elements of what it had taught me before, that's exactly what I concluded, the gates of hell had prevailed against it, therefore its message was false, both its current message and the one it replaced that did not endure."

Rx: Your thinking could be summed up in a syllogism (here I rephrase what you say, in a way I intend to be faithful to what you say--let me know if it isn't):

1. The Church cannot teach error.
2. The Roman communion is Church.
3. Therefore, the Roman communion cannot teach error.

When you found the conclusion to be false, it appears you rejected the major premise. But you could have rejected the minor one.

As one of my parishioners said, "Put yourself in Luther's place and look forward. You have ten thousands of options. Put yourself in Luther's place and look backward. You have two."

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory

L P Cruz said...

Fr. Gregory,

Thanks for the reply, I am glad you clarified and followed my logic.

Would the fact that there are things you would not do to the Church but would do to Christ mean you do not trust the Church? Thus, contradict your own dictum?

Don't answer, I am just stirring ;-)

The point I am making is that we are not using the word "trust" the same way. In fact that is what I believe you defined in your last reply to me, but I am wondering why the quibble with Pr. Weedon then?

Two things I conclude, we are not using the word "trust" the same way . Likewise, as Pr. Weedon said, we are not using the word "Church" the same way.

Cheers,


Lito

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Mr. Cruz,

You're not stirring, you're shaking. And I'm not drinking it. :-)

Fr. Gregory

Past Elder said...

Bless us and save us, Mrs O'Davis.

Your syllogism is flawless. If the conclusion can be shown on other grounds to be false though logically true, then indeed perhaps it was the minor preface and not the major one that was false. Which is exactly what I predicted the EO response would be -- you were on the right track but got the wrong church identified as Church in its fulness. The next step being, sign me up for instruction classes so that I too may be EO!

Or perhaps the syllogism, whether or not it represents my thought, simply demostrates that certain language under certain condidtions functions in a certain way. That said, certainly you may call me Terry (only the alumni office uses Dr Maher any more when they send letters wanting money) though, that said, maybe you want to call me Jacques! (Extra credit, class, for catching the reference -- God bless me, maybe I can go back to being a professor after all!)

The whole gates of hell thing follows upon the Rock. What is the Rock: a man, Peter, succeeded by other men, in union with the Apostles and other men succeeding them, along with those whom they have ordained to carry out certain of their functions; a church like that but without so much of the Peter stuff; or Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God?

Past Elder said...

Premiss, not preface. Where is a graduate assistant when you need one!

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dr. Maher (I meant no disrespect by calling you Terry; forgive me),

The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope says this about the Matthew passage: "However, as to the declaration: Upon this rock I will build My Church, certainly the Church has not been built upon the authority of man, but upon the ministry of the confession which Peter made, in which he proclaims that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. He accordingly addresses him as a minister: Upon this rock, i.e., upon this ministry."

Note that for Melanchthon and the Confessions, the rock is not the confession itself, but the *ministry* of the confession. That is one reason why the lay absolution/administration of the sacraments is not a minor matter, but either the sign of the death of Lutheranism or the cause of that death.

The unworthy priest, and fool
Fr. Gregory Hogg

Eric Phillips said...

Fr. Hogg,

> 1. I do not judge whether individuals
> belonging to Lutheran ecclesial entities are,
> or are not, Christians.

> 2. I do judge that Lutheran ecclesial entities
> are not Church

The Church is the Body of Christ, and Christians are also the Body of Christ. Try that substitution of terms and then see how non-contradictory your statements look.

Re: Jerome's hyperbole, I didn't "take it at face value," I alluded to it. It's not even _possible_ to "take it at face value, because if all the world were really Arian, who would be groaning? And who would be formulating a complaint about Ariminum?

> In point of fact, the Church did not teach in
> error. Individual bishops, some groups of
> bishops, and even local councils...
> could of course err.

And those bishops weren't part of the Church? And those councils weren't councils of the Church? That's rubbish. "The Church cannot err except when it does, and then we don't call it the Church anymore until it corrects the error, at which point it becomes infallible again" is not a useful ecclesiological principle.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dr. Phillips wrote:

The Church is the Body of Christ, and Christians are also the Body of Christ. Try that substitution of terms and then see how non-contradictory your statements look.

Rx: Have you never read the Scriptures? The Church is the Body of Christ, and Christians are *members* of it. 1 Corinthians 12:27 "Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it."

Dr. Phillips:

"And those bishops weren't part of the Church? And those councils weren't councils of the Church? That's rubbish. "The Church cannot err except when it does, and then we don't call it the Church anymore until it corrects the error, at which point it becomes infallible again" is not a useful ecclesiological principle."

Rx: Have you never read the Scriptures? "1 John 2:18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. 19 *They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.*"

Tupaf,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Past Elder said...

Fr Hogg:

No disrespect taken or forgiveness needed! The blogoshpere is an emerging phenomenon (like the church?) and I have not decided whether that does or should mean academic protocol should be followed. The standard was, when I was an academic (Professor Doctor to a good German), we do not use our academic titles outside of the academic environment. But, much of the commenting on at least blogs of the high quality this one shows are from people with academic credentials, so in that sense it's something of an academic environment, and clergy usually identify themselves as such.

Pastor has begun a new thread that is related to what you bring up. I don't have a problem or a dispute with the confession and/or a ministry of the confession as the Rock. The question would be, what is the nature of that ministry? Luther, in Babylonian Captivity I think, spoke about the "sacrament" of ordination as a lot of nonsense made out of what is simply the church's selection process for its ministers. From my RC background though, it's a lot more than that. It is a special grace communicated in succession from the Apostles which marks the soul with an indellible mark. And that is what guarantees the intergrity of the church, so tis said.

In an earlier comment Pastor mentioned both of you needing to vest to do the same thing. But according to one's understanding of what this ministry is, it isn't the same thing. By RC lights, and from my understanding EO too, Pastor vested but did not perform a valid Eucharist, you did. From our lights, the validity of the sacrament derives from the promise and power of Christ, not a special grace communicated in a sacrament. In that way, I could vest and celebrate too, but mine would not be valid, not because I do not have the special grace but because I do not have a call. Likewise, I would not pronounce absolution after hearing a confession of sin, not because I don't have the power, but because I don't have a proper call to do so. (Which is distinct from assuring a Christian of forgiveness)

Eric Phillips said...

Fr. Gregory,

> Rx: Have you never read the Scriptures? The
> Church is the Body of Christ, and Christians
> are *members* of it.

So what you're REALLY saying is, the body that Lutherans belong to is not Christ's, but they might be members of the Body of Christ.

That makes things much better. Clears them RIGHT up.

> Have you never read the Scriptures?
> "...even now many antichrists have appeared....
> They went out from us, but they were not really
> of us."

What does the Bible say about antichrists who sign the canons of Ariminum, and then later repudiate them? And what does it say about the ecclesial status of a church that is led by an Arian bishop for a little while, and then by a Catholic one?

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dr. Phillips wrote:

"So what you're REALLY saying is, the body that Lutherans belong to is not Christ's, but they might be members of the Body of Christ."

Rx:
No: what I'm really saying is, when you said that Christians are the body of Christ, you spoke wrongly. They are members of the body of Christ.

EP:
"What does the Bible say about antichrists who sign the canons of Ariminum, and then later repudiate them? And what does it say about the ecclesial status of a church that is led by an Arian bishop for a little while, and then by a Catholic one?"

Rx: "There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety nine righteous people who need no repentance."

But the problems between us won't be solved by quoting Bible passages. You have a different rule of faith, composed in the sixteenth century; a rule of faith manifestly false when it claims that "in doctrine and ceremonies, we have received nothing new against Holy Scripture or the Catholic Church." But judging by its practice, it *has* received a new doctrine of the ministry, a new ecclesiology, a new sacramentology, to name a few.

But why not take your show on the road? Go to seminary. Serve a parish. Work together with your fellow clergy--ordained and lay.

Tupaf,

Fr. Gregory

Eric Phillips said...

Fr. Gregory,

Reiterating your point about the difference between being the Body of Christ and being PART of the body of Christ (which was too obvious and irrelevant to say even once) does not provide any justification for the foundational contradiction you are apparently unwilling to address.

As for "taking my show on the road," you give such wise counsel. I can picture it now:

"So, why did you become a pastor?"

"I did it to win an argument with this annoying EO priest."

"Um, I see. The Lord works in mysterious ways, doesn't he."

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dr. Phillips,

I must confess that I thought that the point about the difference between being the Body of Christ and being part of the Body of Christ was obvious too--until I saw you equate them when you said, "The Church is the Body of Christ, and Christians are also the Body of Christ. Try that substitution of terms and then see how non-contradictory your statements look."

If I had wanted to avoid what you call "contradiction," I should have been a Calvinist.

WRT becoming a pastor--there is something about academe that lends itself to spinning word-webs. Dealing with flesh-and-blood souls, and carrying the weight of their salvation, concentrates the mind wonderfully.

I am annoying, to be sure; but what do you expect when you continue to write to

an unworthy priest and fool,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

"Blessed art thou, O Christ our God, who hast revealed the fishermen as most wise, having sent upon them the Holy Spirit, and through them thou hast fished the universe, O Lover of mankind, glory to thee."