20 November 2007

Worth Reading

I'm referring to David Schütz's reflections on the latest discussions between Rome and the Eastern Churches. You can read here. What David notices particularly is the notion of regional churches. The Reformation implications of this, one would think, would be obvious. How much does this discussion differ from the Lutheran Symbol's willingness to grant a de jure humano primacy to the Bishop of Rome?

19 comments:

Past Elder said...

The regional churches thing is simply to allow the national churches of the East with their metropolitans and patriarchs to continue within a hypothetical "Catholic Church" of the future under Rome.

The West didn't have this development because Latin was retained rather than the local language as it expanded. Even in my youth, while the parish culture might be different, Mass at the "Italian" parish, the "Polish" parish, the "German" parish etc was the same.

The Roman primacy cannot be conceded by us because in Rome the de jure is not humano but divino -- a normative constituative element of divine institution in the Church.

Rome can soften the language, keep the tiara out of sight, elect charming German guys pope, whatever, but it remains the Whore of Babylon headed by an office bearing the marks of Antichrist, and moreso now than in Luther's time for its post conciliar mendacity most especially toward itself.

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

William,

Thank you for the reference to this post. This topic is always of interest. I have actually been writing some things down some reflections in my spare time on the concept of de jure humano in relation to Colossians 1, the papacy and civil government. It always strikes me odd that we say, for example, that civil government is given us by God but that the leadership of the Catholic Church is given de jure humano. No conclusions here.

Past Elder,
I think it is almost in our genetic makeup now to call the pope the Antichrist. I think this puts Luther in a bind when he says things like the Catholic Church still has the Gospel and the Sacraments and he would rather drink the Lord's blood with the pope than wine with Zwingli. The pope is an easy target. However, this avoids us from keeping our eyes open for the antichrists (Antichrist?) that are in Lutheran and protestant circles. Polycarp, following St. John the Evangelist, has a great little comment on the Antichrist. I will post it on my blog when I find it.

Schütz said...

Thanks for the HT, Pastor William. I think the distinction between "de juro humano" and "de juro divino" can be made a little to strongly if we keep in mind the both the Dominical authorisation of the pastors of the Church when they speak in the name of Jesus and the "all authority in heaven and on earth" that Christ committed to his Church when he said "Go therefore". Thus, the when the body of Christ acts in a certain way to determine what is God's will for the Church, then in a very real sense it is God himself that is so acting and determining. Thus, that which is established by the incarnate ministerium is also established by God. Dangerous thinking? Perhaps. But then so is the suggestion that the ordained pastor is authorised to forgive sins in the name of Jesus or consecrate a piece of bread to be the body of Christ.

RE Past Elder's suggestion of the true idenity of the Church to which I belong:

I was at a meeting tonight between the Lutheran, Uniting, Catholic and Anglican Churches (LUCA for short). One Anglican asked that the name be changed to LURCA since it is usual in ecumenical circles to call the Catholic Church the "Roman Catholic Church". One of the Lutherans went one step further. He thought it might be a good idea to call it the "LUWOBA" conference. I will leave it up to you to guess what the "WOB" was menat to stand for! (My Lutheran friend WAS joking, of course. I think... I hope so...)

Past Elder said...

Well it can't be genetic, since I'm adopted (ie a convert, and from the RCC)!!

I don't see Luther, myself, or any of us in a bind to assert -- as I do, if that got lost in the shuffle -- that the RCC still has the Gospel and the Sacraments, or that one would rather drink the Lord's blood with the pope than wine with Zwingli. The RCC misunderstands why it has the Gospel and the Sacraments, that being from the power of Christ's promise and word rather than an administrative model borrowed from Roman Imperial state religion, whereas Zwingli denies the Sacrament altogether. We're not "Protestants", in short.

Josef Ratzinger is not The Antichrist -- in fact, one would hope he shows the same courage to what passes itself off as Roman in his old age as he did toward what passed itself off as German in his youth -- nor is any other individual pope, nor is the papacy itself necessarily THE Antichrist.

Maybe one could say the fulness of Antichrist subsists in the papacy, so zu sagen, oder the fulness of the Whore of Babylon -- if your friend was joking, Bruder Schuetz, he shouldn't have been -- subsists in the RCC though many elements of the Whore can exist and be validly found outside its visible boundaries and are thus united to it, though imperfectly, in these brothelical unions.

How one theologises with a hammer, to adapt a phrase from Nietzsche, the only philosopher worth reading.

Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues." Rev18:

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

I appreciate that the "genetic" comment does not apply to you. Many lifelong Lutherans have been brought up to knee-jerk reactions (in my opinion) toward the papacy and/or Roman Catholicism. "Amen" to the comment that neither are we Protestants!

If the Church is invisible, a teaching that can be debated, then it cannot be said with certainty that the fulness of the Antichrist subsists in either the papacy or the RCC, although they may be included. John, in his catholic epistles, and Polycarp stress that the Antichrist does not find its basis in polity but rather in the teaching and belief that Jesus has not come in the flesh. This has more to do with the word and doctrine than with polity.

Br. Schütz and I have not met nor have we corresponded although I have a link to his blog on mine. Let me just say that I appreciate his level of discussion, whether or not I understand or agree with everything he says. I also appreciate his sense of humor. Anyone who makes H. Küng nervous can't be all that bad (I know, it is not Schütz but J. Ratzinger).

Like I said about Nietzche before, I do not know much about his philosophy. However, what I remember in past reading about his approach ("Super Man", "will to power") seems to come in stark contrast with the approach of that of our Lord (ie, John 1, Phil. 2)

Is what you say about "an administrative model borrowed from Roman Imperial state religion" the real concern here? This is a whole topic by itself.

Anonymous said...

Fr. May,

Is this the Polycarp quote that you are looking for?

St. Polycarp
"Everyone who does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is an antichrist [1 John 4:2-3, 2 John 7]; whoever does not confess the testimony of the cross is of the devil; and whoever perverts the sayings of the Lord for his own desires, and says that there is neither resurrection nor judgment, such a one is the firstborn of Satan" (Letter to the Philadelphians 7:1 [A.D. 135]).

Fr. Matthew J. Uttenreither, SSP

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

That is the quote. Thank you for sharing this!

Past Elder said...

Well, being a recovering academic, I try to have a little fun with this stuff rather than get all into who said what about what. Dancing, Mietzsche called it.

For example, in trying to express the idea that Antichrist and the papacy or the RCC are not co-extensive I borrowed the language the RCC uses to express that while it is the true church in its fulness other churches are part of it too though imperfectly.

I rather enjoyed the usage "brothelical union" as a parody of their phrase "ecclesial union" to describe churches that are not properly churches in themselves but still have some validity by their connexion to the RCC, zum B., if I do say so myself.

Certainly it's true about the knee jerk thing. The confessions themselves seem wonderfully clear on what is catholic and what is Catholic.

As to Herr Schuetz, I wouldn't even know who he is apart from his appearances here! I don't poke around on Catholic blogs or Catholic anything else, except for that Armstrong fella I kinda like actually. The RCC is a lot like a not well maintained rest room -- get ready to dance, my Germans! -- in that after you've been in for a while the stench isn't so prominent, but to go back in after a while out it really hits you! But Brother Schuetz was one of us -- he really ought to know better, although the RCC's latest re-invention of itself at Vatican II has fooled many. The current RCC is false even by RCC lights.

Yes, it is my contention that the RCC in any age is simply the state religion of Imperial Rome after the demise of the empire. Nonetheless the true church can be found within it. Call it -- hear that, a polka now! -- a quatenus rather than a quia subscription to the RCC.

Past Elder said...

Mietzsche. Where is the "I know what you meant" key?

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

Schütz writes: "I think the distinction between 'de juro humano' and 'de juro divino' can be made a little to strongly if we keep in mind the both the Dominical authorisation of the pastors of the Church when they speak in the name of Jesus and the "all authority in heaven and on earth" that Christ committed to his Church when he said "Go therefore". Thus, the when the body of Christ acts in a certain way to determine what is God's will for the Church, then in a very real sense it is God himself that is so acting and determining. Thus, that which is established by the incarnate ministerium is also established by God. Dangerous thinking? Perhaps. But then so is the suggestion that the ordained pastor is authorised to forgive sins in the name of Jesus or consecrate a piece of bread to be the body of Christ."

Well-stated.

Past Elder said...

Huh?

He said all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to HIM. He did not say it had been given to them, nor did he say he gives it to them.

He tells them to do two specific things, baptise and teach everything he had commanded them, and he does so on the basis of HIS authority given to HIM by the Father.

It is precisely this confusion which has allowed Rome to teach the rulings of men as if they are the rulings of God, to bind consciences where God does not, etc. It is precisely this confusion of the literal Incarnation of Jesus with a metaphorical "incarnation" of Jesus as the (Roman) church that allows Rome its many errors. God is incarnate in Jesus, not the church, and to make the church the incarnate Lord along with Christ himself is to misunderstand entirely both the Incarnation and the Body of Christ the Church.

Another member of the Schuetz family has it right -- his mother in law. "They're just men, David."

William Weedon said...

Terry,

I agree. St. Paul can rejoice "we have the mind of Christ" - but this mind of Christ is precisely what does NOT allow the Church to elevate her opinions and thoughts to the level of divine revelation. Rather, the mind of Christ is that in the Church which teaches her to always say: "Thy will be done!"

William Weedon said...

I think you can see this operative, by the way, in the way the holy Apostle speaks in 1 Cor. 7 where he lays a clear distinction between what he would speak to the Corinthians from himself and what he speaks to them "from the Lord." The dominically mandated saying differs from the apostolically offered guidance.

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

No one states that the ones Jesus sends are not mere men. However, to emphasize only that they are mere men is to take the attention off of the One who sends them. Even the pope himself says he is but a man. But why belabor the obvious?

In the Scriptures the Apostles were sent by Christ's authority which He Himself had received from the Father, with His command and promise. Thus they preached, taught, forgave and retained sins, etc. No one forgets that they were former tax collectors, fishermen, etc.

Did they not also hand over divine authority to other men to teach the faith so that the Gospel could continue as the Lord had commanded ("and lo, I am with You to the end of the age.")? Or is the faith just an historical reality from the time of the Apostles that died out with them? or ended at the time of the Scriptures? If this is the case then we can question the Catechism's use of John 20 in discussing the "Office of the Keys." Likewise, we can question the pastor's forgiveness and the effectiveness of the Words of Institution by the called and ordained servants of Christ. For there is a divine attachment to these men by the Spirit (not apart from the Word nor the Church).

If we are going to focus on the fact that they are mere men then we need to explain why Christ sends them to make disciples "de jure humano." The Incarnation shows us that Christ is true God and true man. His words are effective in doing what they say. Thus, pastors, or priests, who stand in the place of Christ at the Eucharist do so by His command and promise. God knows that they are mere men. The people know that they are mere men. When they do what He commands for the benefit of His people they are participating in something that is not mere human function.

Rather, there is a divine character to what is happening in the Church. Does not faith see the divine work hidden behind the work of men, or taking place through the work of men? If every Christian has the command and authority to forgive sins then why would a pastor or priest not have such authority? In Lutheran parlance, this is due to the authority of the Word, that is, the Word has divine authority. There are both human and divine aspects of the work that is going on.

There will always be those who look at the pastor or priest as a mere man who must be play-acting in the sanctuary burdened by some rituals. Maybe that is why many are not offended when sanctuaries are turned into auditoriums and the liturgy is replaced with entertainment.

I do not think that, if we believe that God accomplishes His will in the lives of His people in the world, that He is not or cannot also work "de jure divino" in the ministry of the pastors or priests of His Church (according to His will).

If pastors, priests and Church are doing the will of God (ie, in accordance with His Word) then what is the concern? Or are we saying here that His work ended with the Apostles?

William Weedon said...

Fr. May,

I think the concern is that we have a history (to which the Reformation bears witness) of the Roman pontiff and the churches that align themselves under his authority, proclaiming that what cannot be substantiated by the Scriptures is to be received with equal reverence and authority as that which can be. We, as Lutherans, would respectfully disagree. The true Church is known always by her speaking the same that her Lord has spoken; and not daring to venture beyond it. I know that frequently St. Basil's words in *On the Holy Spirit* are cited for this, but I think we dare not forget that the same father clearly taught:

"What is the mark of a faithful soul? To be in these dispositions of full acceptance on the authority of the words of Scripture, not venturing to reject anything nor making additions. For, if ‘all that is not of faith is sin’ as the Apostle says, and ‘faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,’ everything outside Holy Scripture, not being of faith, is sin.” The Morals, p. 204

Past Elder said...

In saying pastors are mere men I in no wise mean that they are simply play acting in burdensome rituals at church etc!!

When the pastor stands in loco Christi at Mass, at confession, at Baptism, in preaching, he indeed does so at the command of Christ clearly stated in Scripture. No question about it.

Two points.

One. When I was RC, I of course knew the priests and bishops were mere men. But they were mere men who had received an indelible character through the Sacrament of Holy Order conferred in an apostolic succession conserved in the episcopacy. And it was that and not the power of Christ's word and promise that consituted their validity. And it was that without which one can wear a Roman collar and vestments and say all the right words liturgically but there is no Sacrament. In other words, by those lights our concerns about lay administration are silly because ALL our worship is by lay administration lacking Holy Orders and therefore sacramentally invalid.

Anecdotally, we were taught to address EO priests as "Father" because they are real priests, and to address Episcopal clergy as "Father" as a mark of respect but understanding they are not real priests.

Now I understand there is no difference whatever between me and a pastor as to the power to, say, celebrate Mass. Which does not make it OK for me to do so. In fact it would be absolutely wrong for me to do so, not because I lack the indelibile character transmitted by Holy Orders, but because I have no call from Christ through his church to do so.

So in either case I have no basis to do so, but for entirely different reasons.

Two. I would agree that the "they're just men" thing can be grossly misapplied. We too often forget something Luther did not, namely, that the direct command and institution of Christ is not the only valid reason for doing something, that "good order in the church" as well as precedent as long as it does not contradict Scripture are also valid reasons.

The liturgy itself is an ezmaple. Apart from the Words of Institution, absolutely none of it exists by the command of Christ, but this does not mean we may do as we please amid shouts of adiaphora or Christian Freedom. We are not "Protestants". We joyfully accept the traditions of the Church, lovingly accepting them from those who have gone before us, gratefully using them for the right preaching of the Word and administration of the Sacraments, and hand them on to those who will come after us, rejecting only what crept in that contradicts Scripture. That's Christian Freedom! Speaking of mere men is not at all to reject what is valid, or to say that none of that is valid because it is not by the direct command of Christ.

Past Elder said...

The more customary spelling for ezmaple is example.

Christine said...

John, in his catholic epistles, and Polycarp stress that the Antichrist does not find its basis in polity but rather in the teaching and belief that Jesus has not come in the flesh.

Exactly. A reference to the gnostics of his time who taught that the body was evil, only the spirit is of value, therefore Jesus couldn't have assumed our human flesh.

As far as Past Elder's quote from Revelation, it's a very, very large stretch to assign that to the Catholic Church. The many "antichrists" (which John said had already gone out into the world) were already present in his time and teaching contrary to the teaching of the apostles, not to mention individual congregations in the early church that veered on heresy and apostacy from time to time.

I'm so glad I was brought up with one Lutheran and one Catholic parent. I had the benefit of living and learning the catholicity of both without the biblicism and neo-fundamentalism I see in some converts on either side.

Christine said...

Many lifelong Lutherans have been brought up to knee-jerk reactions (in my opinion) toward the papacy and/or Roman Catholicism."

Father May, a truism if ever there was one.

For both Lutherans and Catholics "who said what" can be very important.