26 September 2007

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The Evangelical Lutheran Church regards the Word of God, the canonical Scriptures, as the absolute and only law of faith and of life. Whatever is undefined by its letter and its spirit is the subject of Christian liberty, and pertains not to the sphere of conscience, but to that of order; no power may enjoin upon the Church as necessary what God has forbidden, or passed by in silence, as none may forbid her to hold what God has enjoined upon her, or to practice what by His silence He has left to her freedom. -- Krauth, *The Conservative Reformation* page 128

45 comments:

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

This quote begins with "The Evangelical Lutheran Church." I've got a question, that requires a bit of background. I pose it, because I think it's another way to get at what Fr. John, Anastasia and myself have been trying to ask you.

Linguistic philosophy distinguishes between the denotation and connotation of terms. When I say, "This morning I looked outside and saw the morning star," the denotation of the term "morning star" is the planet Venus. The connotation of the term "morning star" is of a heavenly body appearing in the early hours of the day.

If I go out at dusk, and say, "I have seen the evening star," the denotation of the term "evening star" is also the planet Venus. The connotation of the term is of a heavenly body appearing after the sun has set.

The *denotation* of the terms is identical; the *connotation* of the terms is not.

In the light of this distinction, here's the question. I understand the connotation of the term "The Evangelical Lutheran Church" quite well: a body (Church) of pastors and people that subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions (Evangelical Lutheran).

But what is its denotation?

William Weedon said...

When we use the term "the Evangelical Lutheran Church" we mean by it the parishes, pastors, and teachers who confess the Book of Concord as a true exposition of the Sacred Scriptures. Sadly, they are not all united in altar and pulpit fellowship due to numerous factors, in which the sin of man plays no little part. That remains an ongoing task (perhaps not dissimilar to the struggle to reunite ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate). The Evangelical Lutheran Church is recognized and known by her confession.

Fr. Gregory said...

At last, I think, we're approaching what for me is the heart of the matter.

You speak of the 'meaning' of the term ELC, without apparently making the distinction between the denotation and the connotation of that term.

I grant that the term ELC has a perfectly clear *connotation*--one that is as you describe it: "the parishes, pastors, and teachers who confess the Book of Concord as a true exposition of the Sacred Scriptures."

But it has no *denotation.* Why?

1. As you use the term, it exists only on a parish level, with nothing beyond the parish. You could, I suppose, speak of the Evangelical Lutheran ChurchES, by that meaning "parishes." But there is no trans-parish body which can rightly call itself "The Evangelical Lutheran Church."

2. If by "confessing" the BOC you mean a "quia" subscription, I know of no parishes, and few pastors who actually do this anyway. Consider the scion of an impeccable Lutheran family, who told me that AC 28 doesn't teach what we do today, and what it says isn't coming back. Consider also your fine "Quia Eye for the Lutheran Guy" post of some time ago...

3. The whole raison d'etre of a "quia" subscription is that it constitute a body, beyond the individual pastor and/or parish. Since it utterly fails in this "raison", by your own admission, it has no "d'etre" either.

Hence, the term "Evangelical Lutheran Church" is like the term "the present King of France." It has a perfectly clear *connotation.* But it has no *denotation*.

William Weedon said...

Aren't you glad I set that up so you could say that? I could feel it ITCHING to come out. You should really write a paper about it. ;)

Only problem is that it STILL doesn't work. Your take is that for the Evangelical Lutheran Church to exist must be a transparochial ORGANIZATION. Well, it IS transparochial - it crosses from parish to parish, from pastor to pastor, from person to person, from teacher to teacher. But it is not an organization. It IS a CONFESSION! A TRANSPAROCHIAL CONFESSION. As old Schroeder says, not the Augsburg Confession but Augsburg Confessors!

And yes, as such, it involves a quia subscription - which you know involves a subscription to the entire doctrinal content of the Symbols as being correct in their exposition of the Sacred Scriptures. In Missouri the lively debate centers not around "quia" - for that is assumed - but around what constitutes "doctrinal content." I tend to take a maximalist approach to that, as you know. But I honestly know of NO pastors in Missouri (though surely there must be some?) who would say: "I disagree with this doctrine as formulated by the Symbols."

Fr Gregory said...

In your last post, it is clear how devastating the teaching of receptionism has been for the Lutheran confessions.

Just as the receptionist doctrine of the ministry identifies the thing with its functions,
and the receptionist doctrine of the sacraments identifies the thing with the action--

so your receptionist doctrine of the Church identifies the Church with her activity. For confession is not a thing which acts; confession is an action.

The passives in key passages of the Lutheran Confessions--e.g.

"in which the Gospel *is rightly taught* and the Sacraments *are rightly administered*" (AC 7)

"the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present, and *are distributed* 2] to those who eat the Supper of the Lord"

have trumped the one passage which discusses the actor: "no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called."

Of course, this passage itself makes use of a passive in its heart-- "*be called*"--because of the irregular situation in which Lutheranism found itself already in 1530, which Gregg Roeber has so eloquently demonstrated.

And so it is that--just opposite of the fairy tale--the clothes have no emperor.

William Weedon said...

Once again, though, note the shift in terms. To us the Church - which is where this latest discussion started out - is NOT identified with an activity, but with a people: the people (real flesh and blood) and the whole lot of them in whom the Holy Spirit has worked faith which binds their hearts to Jesus Christ so that they constitute one body with Him. To us that is the Church properly speaking: the whole people of God in Christ Jesus. And now we're sort of chasing our tails again, eh? We simply do not mean the same thing by "church"!

Fr. Gregory said...

You said, "But it (the ELC) is not an organization. It IS a CONFESSION!"

Your words. Not mine. I guess it all depends on what is is.

You said that the ELC is people who make a certain confession, to which I responded that you gave the connotation, but not the denotation, of the term in question--and added that there was no trans-parish body which makes that confession.

So then you said that the ELC is not an organization, but the Confession. (Look at your words!) This denotes, but is false, for confession is an activity, not the subject of an activity.

I set aside, for purposes of this discussion, the problem involved when the very term intended to clearly demark a group--viz. "quia"--is itself the center of a debate. Whatever else happens, the usefulness of the term is significantly reduced when conflicting groups all claim it. Kinda like "sola Scriptura" there, I suppose...

William Weedon said...

You're right. I should not have simply said "a confession" I was assuming that you would supply: "those who make this confession; people, parishes, and pastors who believe, teach and seek to practice the Christian faith as this is confessed in the Book of Concord." Does that help clarify?

Fr. Gregory said...

OK. Let's try this again. Going back to an earlier remark you made, you wrote:

"...we mean by (the term ELC) the parishes, pastors, and teachers who confess the Book of Concord as a true exposition of the Sacred Scriptures. Sadly, they are not all united in altar and pulpit fellowship due to numerous factors, in which the sin of man plays no little part."

Rx: The notion of a "Church" which is not in altar and pulpit fellowship with itself is a contradiction in terms, since "Church" is by nature a sharing in the holy things. It is for this reason that I have said and repeat: there is NO Lutheran Church.

Compare the complaint oft-made about the Orthodox, that we have many jursidictions in North America. But those jurisdictions, which arose for historical reasons, are all in pulpit and altar fellowship with each other! We all share one faith, one font, one cup. We all share in the holy things. Hence we are one Church.

Eric Phillips said...

Do the EO churches that re-baptize Western converts share a single, identical faith with the ones that merely chrismate them? Or have you just agreed to have that particular debate off to one side without schism?

Maybe we have similar agreements, eh?

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

We have the same faith, Dr. P. We both submit to the guidance of the bishop, whose call it is to make. I think as the years go by, you'll see more baptising and less chrismating--it's getting harder and harder to tell, with western bodies offering such innovative formulae as "in the name of the Creator, the Child, and the Friend" and whatnot.

William Weedon said...

Just got back in from shut-in calls and am trying to catch up. To your point a few posts back up - about the Orthodox sharing one altar. Well, but that's not exactly true, is it? I mean, the old calendarists think you guys are heretics and don't commune with you (or am I wrong on that one - that is my impression, but I may be off base). Similarly there are all kinds of groups out there with the name "Orthodox" and who practice a liturgy like unto yours, but whom you do not regard as "canonical." I remember you telling me about a hierarch of one of these groups showing up at a service you were at and how he was not given the usual honor with the incense, and I assume wouldn't be communed either. So there are groups that go by the name "Orthodox" that aren't and even within the category that you would recognize as Orthodox there are some "hyper-Orthodox" (to coin a term) that would regard you as NOT truly Orthodox. Then there are other altars where things were a tad muddier. ROCOR *wasn't* in communion with Moscow, and you all were, and yet you basically recognized the same faith in them as in you.

Can you see how all of that transposes to the Lutheran side of the equation? There are those who go by the moniker "Lutheran" but who are no more Lutheran than those vagante are Orthodox! There are those who are more strict in their observance and who look at the LCMS as being lax (old calendarist to IAANC). There are those who even now are working on regularizing a relationship that recognizes a shared faith - the ROCOR thingy for you and Missouri's declaration of fellowship with TAAELC.

What it shakes down to is this, Robb: I still am in a transparochial confessional fellowship. I can commune at the altar of my sisters and brothers in Latvia with Archbishop Vanags, in Sudan with Bishop Elisha, in Canada with President Lehmann, in any parish of TAAELC here in the US, with the Church in Kenya, or the Ingrians, or with SELK in Germany. Like the Orthodox we are not jurisdictionally one, but like the Orthodox jurisdictions we have extended formal recognition of altar and pulpit fellowship to each other - because we recognize in each other a shared faith.

William Weedon said...

Oh, and on the basis of that shared confession that unites us, we consider ourselves and our individual jurisdictions as members of The Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Eric Phillips said...

"We have the same faith"

Right, because the question of WHETHER OR NOT I HAVE BEEN BAPTIZED INTO CHRIST couldn't be a matter of faith, could it?

Gregory House said...

Fr. Hogg,

If the Lutheran Church doesn't exist, why not just quit talking to us. We're phantoms, after all.

But seriously...

Your definition of church puts Christ second. The holy things are dependent upon the churchness of the body celebrating them.

The WELS has the holy things, as does the ELS, even though both bodies adhere to false doctrine which separates them from the LCMS.

I can say that, but it would seem that you can't about the old calendarists and most of Christendom.

bpw said...

I just have to interject for one second to make the point (in regards to the previous point) that this continual accusation that the Orthodox and the RC's oppose Christ with the Church is just so silly. One can barely talk about Christ without talking about the Church and vice versa about the Church without talking about Christ. I wish we could stop pitting Christ vs. the Church.

Gregory House said...

I also wish that you could stop pitting Christ vs. the Church.

If the Church becomes #1, then Christ is not #1. And, in both Rome and the East, the guarantee that you are receiving Christ is the institutional church.

Christ + ANYTHING = Not Christ

Anonymous said...

Christ (the Head) + the Church (His Body) = Not Christ

What?

The Church is the 'fullness of Him who fills all in all'. How can the two be pitted against each other?

Peace,

Andrew.

L P Cruz said...

I am way late on this one, but I was wondering why can not a term's denotation and connotation be the same? Must a term have a connotation different from its denotation?

For example, "this morning, I looked outside and I saw Venus". I am the speaker and it is up to me to make clear what I mean, and Venus does not refer to the statue of the goddess, nor a gal or dog named "Venus" but the planet.

LPC

John Hogg said...

"Well, but that's not exactly true, is it? I mean, the old calendarists think you guys are heretics and don't commune with you (or am I wrong on that one - that is my impression, but I may be off base)"

There are schismatic Old Calendar groups who do not recognize mainstream Orthodox, but then nor do we recognize them. As is inevitably the case with such groups that schism from the Church, they end up fracturing more and more. It happened with the West, it happened with the Old Believers, and now it's happening with them.

That having been said, most people who follow the Old Calendar are not in schism. Here in the Ukraine, I commune at the local MP parish all the time, us being in full fellowship, even though they follow the Old Calendar. It's simply not an issue except for an extremely small number of schismatics, most of whom have more clergy than laypeople.

"Similarly there are all kinds of groups out there with the name "Orthodox" and who practice a liturgy like unto yours, but whom you do not regard as "canonical.""

Yes, because they are not canonical. They are not Orthodox. Buying vestments and doing a Liturgy that looks Orthodox doesnt' make one become Orthodox. One must submit oneself to the Body of Christ and be received.

"Then there are other altars where things were a tad muddier. ROCOR *wasn't* in communion with Moscow, and you all were, and yet you basically recognized the same faith in them as in you."

ROCOR was never exactly out of communion. It was always in communion with Jerusalem and Serbia and never broke Communion with the rest of the Orthodox World, officially, although refraining from concelebration became the general practice. This wasn't always the case, and it was always at the discretion of the heirarchs. Before the reconciliation, I know of numerous cases of laymen communing at either altar, or even of priests concelebrating.

A ROCOR priest served at our Antiochian parish in Pittsburgh one Sunday, with his Bishop's blessing, about a year before the reconciliation.

The ROCOR situation was sort of a semi-schism, and the result of Communist persecutions of the Church making their heirarchs become more careful. Living here in Eastern Europe and talking to people, it's easy to see how deliberate and devious the Communist persecutions of the Church were, and how many ways they tried to create schisms within the Church. Thank God, the evils of Communism are being undone, and the Faith is definitely recovering here.

Probably one of the greatest obstacles right now is the large number of well funded Protestant missionaries sent here from the States, all of them having different teachings, who are spreading a Gospel of Wealth and confusing the people.


In any case, for the most part, things are very clear cut. I can and do commune in any canonical Church, being part of the same body.

Grace and peace,
John in Kyiv

P.S. Congratulations on your daughter's wedding! :-)

John Hogg said...

Also, as far as the issue of reception goes, it really isn't a difference of faith.

How to receive people into the Church has always been at the discretion of the local heirarch or synod, and the differences (ie whether to receive by baptism or chrismation) are not the result of different understandings of the faith, but rather of different circumstances and pastoral considerations.

This is different from Rome, where the decision is made based on strict considerations of validity and invalidity. Those aren't the categories we use.

We, as Orthodox, do not recognize baptisms outside of the Church. We don't say that they are invalid either.

If anything was lacking in a person's previous baptism, and he is received by Chrismation, the Holy Spirit, who does not give grace by measure, but in fulness, will make up whatever is lacking. However, in order to receive someone by Baptism, at least the form of baptism (water in the name of the Trinity) must have been there. Chrismation can't fill what was never there.

Based on this, mode of reception is a pastoral decision, not a theological decision based on theological differences.

This has always been the case, since the beginning, which can be seen in the Canons of Basil the Great.

Sometimes, desiring to receive people by baptism, he instead opted for chrismation, so as not to embarrass them and hinder their unity to the Church and salvation.

Also, sometimes with groups who had gone into schism over pride (ie in places with the Donatists), reception by baptism was decreed, even though they preserved most of the doctrine and practice of the Church in tact.

Likewise, at times, Roman Catholics were received by chrismation, or even by confession. However, when the Polish began serious persecutions of the Orthodox, reception by baptism was often instituted to make clear the difference in faith.

In all cases, the decisions of the bishop is what a layman should abide by, and is respected by other bishops. My roommate, who was received by chrismation from RCism, is now a novice on Mount Athos, and had no problem communing there. The monks said that they think it would have been better to receive him by baptism, but that the bishop has that perogative and they respect it.

So no, this isnt' a difference of faith, only of pastoral discretion.

In Christ,
John

Christopher Orr said...

We, as Orthodox, do not recognize baptisms outside of the Church. We don't say that they are invalid either.

Another way of saying this is to focus on the term 'recognize'. Simply because I do not recognize a person, does not mean I don't know them - it also doesn't mean I do know them. What is fully recognized, in this sense, is the fullness of the sacramental rite as handed down by hand to hand in living tradition from the Apostles, guided by the Holy Spirit (or, that is the belief and contention of the Orthodox).

Christopher Orr said...

Do the EO churches that re-baptize Western converts share a single, identical faith with the ones that merely chrismate them? Or have you just agreed to have that particular debate off to one side without schism?

The issue of how to receive non-Orthodox Christians comes down to what bucket of the Ecuemnical Councils canonical decrees you place modern non-Orthodox Christians. The canons of the ECs allowed for reception of the non-Orthodox by repentance and confession of faith, chrismation, or baptism. Note, these is related to groups that all considered themselves Christians and were composed of well-meaning, kind, faithful people. The issue was pastoral and sacramental. For example, baptism was required of those groups that had morphed the apostolic rite of Baptism thus making their initiation rites with water something other than the apostolic rite of Holy Baptism, e.g., single immersion, use of non-Trinitarian formulae. Proper form of the rite, as something of Christ (Who is the Church since he is not divided from His Body), was required for to guarantee grace. Pastoral discretion was also used though to build of the house of the Church and to save those who may otherwise have stayed aloof from the Church not yet fully understanding how separate they had been, choosing their own traditions, etc. St. Basil and the Quinisext Council in Trullo discuss this:

St. Basil the Great, Canon I

…I am inclined to suspect that we may by the severity of the prescription [i.e., if we demand that all who have had heterodox baptism must needs be received into the Church solely by means of our baptism] actually prevent men from being saved because of their reluctance in regard to baptism. But if they maintain [the form of] our baptism, let this not deter us.… But let it be formally stated with every reason that those who join [the Orthodox Church] on top of their baptism must in all cases be chrismated by the faithful,… and thus be admitted to the Mysteries.

Quinisext Council (451 AD)*, Canon XCV

As for heretics, who are joining Orthodoxy and the portion of the saved, we accept them in accordance with the subjoined sequence and custom…As for Manicheans and Valentinians and Marcionists and those from similar heresies, we accept them as Greeks (idolaters) and ‘rebaptize’ them. But the Nestorians and the Eutychians and the Severans and those from similar heresies it is necessary for them to write libelli and to anathematize their heresy as well as Nestorios and Eutyches and Dioscoros and Severus and other exarchs of such heresies and those who entertain their beliefs, and all the aforementioned heresies; and thus they are allowed to partake of Holy Communion.

Eric Phillips said...

John Hogg,

> So no, this isnt' a difference of faith,
> only of pastoral discretion.

If some pastors always receive by chrismation, and other pastors always insist on baptism, they are
not exercising individual discretion. They are operating according to different understandings of the faith. The fact that Basil did it the way he did it, while other bishops did otherwise, merely demonstrates that this disunity of faith goes back to the 4th century.

> We, as Orthodox, do not recognize baptisms
> outside of the Church. We don't say that
> they are invalid either.

You don't have to call them invalid. All you have to do is suggest that they might be, and you attack my salvation.

> How to receive people into the Church has
> always been at the discretion of the local
> heirarch or synod

No it hasn't. Christ didn't leave that up to any bishop's discretion. He said, "baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." The bishop who re-baptizes Western converts confesses thereby that their previous baptism was no baptism. The one who only chrismates confesses that it was. Unless he thinks that baptism isn't actually necessary for salvation? But then he certainly has a different faith than you do.

That is, unless your shared faith is that baptism is necessary for salvation except when a bishop decides that in your case, he'll make an exception. And if THAT'S the case, then baptism isn't salvific, is it? Bowing to the will of the bishop is what saves you.

Fr. Gregory said...

It is not for you, Dr. Phillips, learned as you are, to determine what constitutes disunity of faith. Or rather, you think that it *is* for you to determine. And that is why you are a Protestant.

And why you should give a fig about what anyone says about your baptism, is beyond me. If I say you have horns, I trust you don't go feeling your head. The fact is that we say nothing about your baptism. If you become a catechumen to the Church, the matter would be reviewed then.

WRT what Christ says: how did you attain independent access, apart from the Scriptures in the Church, to what the Lord of the Church says?

Look, you're a Protestant. Go for it. You gain the right to make your own judgments about what Scripture says. Because you're a doctor, and Protestantism is a school, your word carries more weight, too! All you lose is the setting in which the Gospel, Sacraments, and Scriptures are held: the Church. Only be careful--a gem outside its setting is easily lost.

Christopher Orr said...

what bucket of the Ecuemnical Councils canonical decrees you place modern non-Orthodox Christians.

To clarify, meaning that the canons referred to heretical and schismatic groups that now no longer exist. So, there has been differentiation in whether to put Roman Catholics in buckets 1, 2 or 3 depending on how one applies these canons that do not refer to RCs or modern RC errors, in particular. The "spirit" of any rule is always a slippery thing. Same with the various gradations of Protestantism and Anabaptism, not to mention the newer sects such as the Mormons, JWs, etc.

It should also be noted that pastoral discretion (economia) is not only expressed in the direction of greater liberality and 'laxity'. Economia can just as easily tend toward greater akrivia (strictness) in interpretation, depending on the situation. What has been seen in Orthodoxy is differing views as to whether it is best to draw very clear lines over which a convert must consciously cross - from outside of the Church to inside the Church - or to be more 'pastoral' and gently guide a person into the Church not requiring some official 'renunciation' when their understanding is not yet mature enough to see fully and clearly. I tend toward the former and would rather someone convert once they have fully made up their mind over the 'hard' questions - different for each, but which include prayer to the saints, relics, monasticism, monarchical episcopacy, etc. - rather than getting ahead of oneself and converting without fully understanding what one is getting into, e.g., not being fully comfortable with prayer to the saints, the place of the Theotokos in Orthodoxy, the ecclesiastical structuring of the Church, etc. We are judged more harshly in the Church for what we should have used and known than outside not having access to that which we didn't know existed. Feel free to quote Spiderman here, "To he to whom much is given..."

Eric Phillips said...

Fr. Gregory,

> It is not for you, Dr. Phillips, learned as
> you are, to determine what constitutes
> disunity of faith.

Oh, that's rubbish. It's not for me to tell you that you need to _break fellowship_ with one another (nevermind that you tell that to Rev. Weedon all the time), but it doesn't take great learning or special keenness of intellect to spot a contradiction between, "Oh, you've already been baptized; all you need is chrism," and "You've never been baptized!"

> The fact is that we say nothing about your baptism.

Perhaps you genuinely don't. The bishop or priest who insists on baptizing Western converts does, however.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear Dr. Phillips,

You quoted me out of context. I immediately went on to add that of course it's for you to determine what constitutes disunity of faith. That is why you are a Protestant.

What the pope claimed for himself, over against the East--the right to determine things without regard to the consensus patrum--that every Protestant has in turn claimed for himself. Hence the mess.

Eric Phillips said...

Right, and the only reason you think hot and cold are opposites is that St. Gregory the Theologian said they are.

John Hogg said...

Dr. Phillips,

Once again, this is not a difference of faith, but of pastoral discretion (pastoral in this case meaning episcopal, not priestly).

I can understand why things would appear the way they do to you, coming from the perspective you are. However, you're still not understanding what I'm saying, so I'll try to explain it more clearly.

You seem to want us to declare your baptism either valid or invalid. It's not just that we won't do that, but we can't do that. Unlike you and Rome, those aren't the categories that we work in. Please try to understand what I'm saying with the categories that we work in.

A clear example of how valid/invalid isn't how we work is the example of St. Basil the Great. When discussing the reception of a heretical group, he said clearly that given the nature of their heresy, he *would prefer* to receive them by baptism. Nevertheless, in order not to cause them undo shame and thus hinder their salvation, he decided, in his pastoral discretion, to receive them by chrismation. Do you see how this example doesn't work if your categories are valid/invalid, according to strict criteria?

"You don't have to call them invalid. All you have to do is suggest that they might be, and you attack my salvation."

Again, valid and invalid aren't the criteria we use. As far as you feeling that your salvation is under attack, I'm sorry if that hurts your feelings (and I don't mean that in a sarcastic way! I mean it seriously!), but what you feel about your salvation isn't a good way to do theology.

What you say about Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses probably makes them feel like their salvation is under attack, too, but that doesn't mean that you should base your theology on that.

Your salvation is not mine to judge. God is judge, and for me to usurp His judgment would be foolish. Nevertheless, the Bible is clear that there is a difference between truth and error (read the Gospels or any of the Epistles), and we must confess the Truth and cling to it.

"If some pastors always receive by chrismation, and other pastors always insist on baptism, they are
not exercising individual discretion. They are operating according to different understandings of the faith"

No, as Christopher points out, they are exercising pastoral judgment in different ways. Those who receive by chrismation are doing so by pastoral discretion, like St. Basil, to ease the path for those coming to the Church, trusting that God does not give His spirit by measure, as the Scriptures testify.

Those who insist on baptism are making clear the difference and change, from error to truth.

In neither case is a judgment made about validity, because that's something that we can't and don't know

"The fact that Basil did it the way he did it, while other bishops did otherwise, merely demonstrates that this disunity of faith goes back to the 4th century."

Again, that would only be true if St. Basil based his decision on a judgment about the validity of baptisms preformed outside the Church, but he quite explicitly doesn't!

"The bishop who re-baptizes Western converts confesses thereby that their previous baptism was no baptism. The one who only chrismates confesses that it was."

Not so. In neither case are they operating according to judgment of validity or invalidity. Those are legal judgments that the Church simply can't make, and doesn't.

In all cases, at least Trinitarian formula, water baptism is necessary for reception into the Church by chrismation, even if it might be just the form (again, that's not something that we make judgments about). Without that, no pastoral discretion can exist.

God can, and sometimes does/has, work outside the canonical boundaries of the Church. He may even work outside of baptism entirely, as in the case of Cornelius and his household, when the Holy Spirit fell on them before their baptism, thereby visably confirming the call of the Gentiles.

Nevertheless, even in such a case, as the chief of the Apostles showed, that doesn't relieve a person of the necessity of water baptism.

I hope this has helped to make things clearer for you, instead of more murky, although I'm afraid it might not have. Please do reflect on the example of St. Basil the Great's decision as an example of how such a decision can be made according to criteria other than validity.

The Orthodox Church does not approach this matter according to the law, as does Rome, but according to the Spirit, while at the same time, recognizing at least the form as being necessary for all men, even when, as in the case of St. Cornelius, God may have worked outside of the bounds that He has given us (but not thereby bound Himself).

Also, if this were a difference in faith, then bishops would not recognize the decisions of bishops who exercised their discretion differently. However, except for a few (a very few!) isolated instances, bishops do recognize each other's use of pastoral discretion, recognizing, along with the Ecumenical Councils and the Canons of St. Basil, that this is not a difference of faith, but of circumstances and pastoral discretion.

Does that make sense? If anything is unclear or if you have any more questions, I will do my best to answer them, although my answers might be slow in coming. I've been in Kiev for the past two days, but today, I'm heading back to the village where the orphanage is, so my access to the internet will be limited to every few days.

Forgive me if I have offended you or hurt you with my words.

Grace and peace,
John

John Hogg said...

Also, one little addition wrt ROCOR. Another sign that there was never a complete schism, but only a temporary odd situation, resulting from the evils of the Soviet Union is this.

There was always mutual recognition of saints. St. John Maximovich was a ROCOR bishop, and yet an OCA monastery was named after him, years and years before the Act of Canonical Communion was signed.

Likewise, (St? :-)) Seraphim Rose is widely read over here in Eastern Europe, and has been for decades. His books are sold in Russian at Church book stores here.

Thank God, the evils of Communism are, by God's grace, being undone, and the wounds are healing. May God grant us the grace always to strive together in unity and brotherly love, and to "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."

Grace and peace,
John

William Weedon said...

FWIW, "valid" and "invalid" are not very good Lutheran categories either, though the terms have crept into some translations of the BOC (Tappert). Better is simply to say that Baptism is or that it isn't. If Baptism isn't, a ceremony created by the Church originally to celebrate what Baptism DOES (Chrismation), seems a most dangerous substitute for what is lacking. [Yes, Lutheran presuppositions run through that, but you have to hear how terrible it sounds to our ears to substitute a man-made rite for the divinely mandated gift of Baptism]. So highly do the Apostles regard Baptism that *even where the gift of the Spirit had been given prior to it* they still baptized, rather than arguing that the Spirit's presence made up for whatever would be lacking.

Eric Phillips said...

John Hogg,

Thanks for your posts; I appreciate your tone, and your concern to explain things.

I do not see, though, how your rejection of the "valid/invalid" distinction fixes anything. I'm not basing my argument on those categories.

Here's the argument:

1) Christ ordained baptism as the way to enter His Body, the Church--and thus the way to be forgiven and to live forever in holiness.

2) When a convert from another church joins an Eastern Orthodox church, only one of two things can be true about him with respect to baptism: he's already been baptized, or he NEEDS to be baptized.

3) If he's already been baptized, he cannot be baptized again. He has already passed from death into life. If he NEEDS to be baptized, no bishop can alter that fact by the exercise of his own discretion.

It makes no sense to reason, "I don't want to create an obstacle that might bar this man's way to salvation, so I won't require him to receive the washing of regeneration." That's no different than saying, "I don't want this guy to starve to death, so I won't injure his pride by giving him food."

The EO Church, as a whole, has declined to judge whether or not baptism can occur outside its borders. This does not, however, make the question go away. It just forces each individual bishop to give his own answer. This results in disunity of faith. You can call it "unity" if you like, since the bishops have agreed to disagree, and still remain in communion with one another, but that's the same kind of "unity" that modern liberal churches accomplish when they "agree to disagree" amicably about whether the Bible is God's Word, or whether Jesus rose bodily from the dead.

The bishop who baptizes a Lutheran, Roman, or Baptist convert is teaching more by that action than "the difference and change, from error to truth." He's teaching that the convert was not previously among the baptized--because if he was, the bishop is making a mockery of the Sacrament. He can protest until he's blue in the face that he "makes no judgment" about that, and "doesn't deal in Western categories," but it won't make a bit of difference. Actions speak louder than words.

The Eastern Orthodox should know as well as anyone, and better than most, that praxis IS dogma. Lex orandi, lex credendi.

Christopher Orr said...

to substitute a man-made rite for the of Baptism

This is an assumption based on the idea that God only speaks to us through the surviving Scriptural text, that God was not guiding the Church when chrismation/confirmation became the universal norm of the Church. This sacrament is given specifically because it is believed to be "divinely mandated gift".

He's teaching that the convert was not previously among the baptized.

Take this up with the Fathers of Nicea. They too required those that had been baptized according to their own rites to either be given the rite of Holy Baptism according to the full form of the Church, or, out of economia according to the great defender of the divinity of the Holy Spirit, Basil, to be received by chrismation, which would fill whatever was lacking.

It is a similar 'inconsistency' as when we both would say that Baptism is required, but that in an extraordinary way the Wise Thief and many martyrs and catechumens were saved without the regular form of the rite.

John Hogg said...

Dr. Phillips and lPastor Weedon,

Since getting back to Znam'ianka a few days ago, there has been a lot going on at the orphanage (good things, thank God!) and so my time is a little short lately.

It seems like there are two different issues here that you guys are mixing together. I'll probably have time to continue pursuing one of the issues, but not both.

Do you want me to explain why the Church's view is not a difference of faith? Or do you want me to defend what the Church's view is?

I'll probably be able to do one. Doing both is much less likely.

Grace and peace,
John

Eric Phillips said...

Christopher,

Canon 19 says that converts from the Paulinist sect had to be rebaptized. I don't see any canon that gives the option of chrismating them instead.

Besides, the Paulinists weren't just a schismatic group, but a Trinitarian and Christological heresy.

Christopher Orr said...

"I Confess One Baptism..." is a book that details the 'rigorist' position in Orthodoxy. I don't have a copy in front of me, but remember quite clearly that there were different groups that were accepted in differing ways by the conciliar Church: baptism, chrismation, profession of faith, repentance. The common thread in whether these groups' Baptisms were accepted or not was, suprisingly, not the orthodoxy of their dogma, but whether they had maintained the orthodox rite in its fullness. Examples were given of schismatic groups that maintained orthodox dogma and had separated themselves from the apostolic Churches for various reasons, but had changed the rite (e.g., single immersion, sprinkling or pouring, change in the trinitarian formula). Other quite heretical groups with non-orthodox dogma, but that had retained the Rite, were received by chrismation. It is the Tradition of the Rite - part of the 'very vitals' of the faith in its practice as well as its beliefs that St Basil the Great speaks about in "On the Holy Spirit" - that is the seal of approval that it is the gift of the Baptism of the Lord rather than a man-made initiation rite with water inspired by the full rite of Holy Baptism.

Since the canons do not discuss the particulars of each schismatic and heretical groups in detail and definitely do not discuss later groups such as Protestants, papal Roman Catholics, Anabaptists, JWs and Mormons, pastoral discretion must be used in determining which rule to receive these later groups with. I have detailed the 'rigorist' view, but others follow St. Basil's advisement of economia in allowing for water and the trinitarian formula as minimally enough to ensure the Lord's Baptism.

"The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath". So, the rule is always the rule, but the love trumps rules as an exception that proves the rule insofar as it leads to the salvation of those separated from the Church (per St. Basil). If the exception is seen to be taken advantage of or not being effective in salvation, pastoral discretion can just as easily revert to the hard line, official rule. The issue at hand today, in Orthodoxy, is whether pastoral discretion should tend toward underlining the difference or the sameness of Orthodoxy and other Christian denominations to save all possible.

Christopher Orr said...

Summed up, you are correct that any and all Paulinists must be received into the Church by Baptism. However, we are talking about groups ranging from Unitarians and JWs and Mormons to various Episcopalian formulae to Charismatics baptizing "in the Name of Jesus" (biblical) to traditional Catholics and Lutherans - we are not talking about how to receive Paulinists. Perhaps someday we will have a canon on how to receive the groups listed above with the rational undergirding the decision. Until then, however, there are differing interpretations on how the ancient canons (regarding no longer existing groups we often know little about, definitively) should be applied to groups and situations that have sprung up in the intervening centuries.

William Weedon said...

John,

Feel free to contribute whatever you'd care to - whichever question you'd like to share on. I think I understand very well what Eastern Orthodoxy teaches on the question; I just think they're wrong. The Church doesn't constitute Baptism; Baptism constitutes the Church.

Christopher Orr said...

Agreed, Pastor, you do understand this issue well. Again, it all comes down to source and authority. Bible alone/primarily or the Bible understood through the lens of the Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils. The question always comes down to whether I know more about what the Apostles taught based on my 21st Century reading of the Bible, or whether these Fathers who defined the deep dogmas of the Church and who also provided rules (canons) regarding the boundaries of the Church and reception of those outside those bounds knew more than me or my group. Honest men can disagree, but all will be called to account for their answer.

It should be noted, again, that salvation is not always necessarily coterminus with the canonical boundaries of the Church, which is incarnated regularly only through the Sacraments (Baptism, Chrismation/Confirmation and Communion), but with exception that prove the rule, e.g. the Wise Thief, various Martyrs (those unbaptized and others not even catechumens), etc.

Dixie said...

"The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath". So, the rule is always the rule, but the love trumps rules as an exception that proves the rule insofar as it leads to the salvation of those separated from the Church (per St. Basil).

Very well put. I think it is difficult for those of us embedded in Western Culture to be able to embrace this approach straight away. There is a cultural vein of legalism that runs through us and it really takes some wrestling to be able to fully understand and appreciate the way of "economy". I can't say that it is natural in my thinking even yet.

I have some practical experience in my work related to laws and how differently they are approached by Westerners and by Easterners and even note variations within Western cultures. The use of economy isn't satisfying to our desire for black and white compliance with rules. I note in my work world that Western Europe and the Québécois aren't has hampered by this as those of us in the US. Anecdotal, of course. Exceptions abound. But all this to say it ain't so easy (more accurately--ain't so satisfying) for Westerners the first few times around with this notion of economy. "It is" or "it isn't" with no middle ground sits better with us. Hence...the underlying desire to see things in the Roman church notion of "valid" and "invalid".

William Weedon said...

Of course, it is not a matter of legalism and compliance with rules - at least from the Lutheran perspective - but of whether or not the promises of God in Christ can be depended on absolutely or not. "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved."

Christopher Orr said...

Well, the question to follow is, "What is Baptism?" and is what my parents and church conferred on my truly Holy Baptism or not? After all John had a 'baptism' that was distinct from the Church's, as do Mormons and other sects; Jews to this day also retain a 'baptism' of sorts (as was seen on "Sex and the City", of all things) for converts.

This is how I put the question to Pr. Alms on Fr. Fenton's blog:

"Pr. Alms,

I wonder whether it would be worthwhile to look at the issue a different way.

Are there any examples you could think of where you (or the Lutheran Confessions, or the various Synods) would not recognize [another church's performance of what they would call a] Sacrament [as valid]? What is the boundary line between valid and invalid, grace-filled and graceless Sacrament?

For instance, what are your thoughts of an uncalled Lutheran layman (of any synod) consecrating and distributing Communion? What are your thoughts regarding the Sacraments of non-Trinitarian Christians? What are your thoughts regarding sacraments performed verbatim by non-Christians (such as shamans that seek the 'greater magic' of the Christians)?

At what point are the honest intentions of a person in attempting to do God's will not enough? For any group that might not meet your standard, would it be better to lower the bar and acknowledge their sacraments were 'real' so as not to scandalize them or make them fear for their (and their deceased loved ones') salvations, or to offer them the fullness of the truth and a chance for repentance?

Not trying to be provocative, just trying to look at it from a different POV that might be helpful in understanding" how each of us and our traditions might arrive at different positions.

William Weedon said...

Ah, but Christopher, we have an answer to the question what is Baptism: It is the water included in God's command and combined with God's Word.

I know where you're coming from. I remember the first time I heard an Orthodox priest articulate the position - he was in serious doubts about his own baptism (as an Episcopalian) and truly wished that the bishop had received him via Baptism, but he believed in submission to the pastoral decision of the bishop in regard to his case.

To Lutheran ears that appears to be "just trust me, I'm the bish." And that approach does not behind it - for us - the certainty and joy that come from "God says so!" because - as you all freely confess - bishops can err. What if they are in error about this matter of great importance?

Well, I suppose the answer would likely be: "God is a great Lover of Mankind and He will honor the one who submitted to Him by submitting to His bishop."

I'm just not sure how that fits into the Lord's warning to "beware of false prophet" and how he commands each and every Christian to "test all things and hold fast what is good."

Christopher Orr said...

Again, "the water included in God's command and combined with God's Word" assumes that you know what exactly is meant by "combined with God's Word". Word meaning Jesus, Word meaning the doctrine upon which the Church stands or falls (what Lutherans define as the Gospel), as only words from the Bible or choosing words from the Bible different from the trinitarian formula to baptize with, etc. Orthodox would look at this and say that it's just an example of someone trying to jump over all history, has no trust in the faithfulness of the Church to hand down the full and proper rite of Baptism (as it was able to do with the canon of Scripture), and simply thinks they know better as to what is minimally required to meet the standard of "God's Word" apart from the tradition and witness of the Church as to the "very vitals" of the faith according to St. Basil: triple immersion, excorcisms, etc.

"test all things and hold fast what is good."

True, we are to do this. We are talking not just about sheep here, but about what the Liturgy of St. Chrysostom calls "rational sheep". While we must test all things on our own, holding this as the preeminent way of judgement places us above God, His Church and the Scriptures and is in nascent form what led to Liberalism in theology - "I'm simply testing all things and holding fast to what is good: ordination for all, salvation for all regardless of faith or life, communion for all", etc.

Before testing, we have to make sure our weights and measures are calibrated properly. Listening to your bishop is like a child listening to his parents. Only a petulant teenager or an obtuse adult thinks he doesn't have to listen to his elder more wise than he. Only those that have seen Christ, His Mother and the angels in this life with the veil pulled aside as have the saints can disagree with them. Otherwise, we're tourists arguing with a native about where his house is based on our map.