10 January 2008

Worth a Blog Entry of Its Own

My dear friend, Trent Sebits, raised the question about why Lutherans observe in our sanctoral calendars those with whom we are not in 100% doctrinal agreement. He pointed out that certain of the fourth century saints taught and practiced invocation of the saints, something which Lutherans regard as dangerous and not Biblical. My question back to Trent was why do the Orthodox observe:

St. Isaac the Syrian (January 28th), though he was a Nestorian.

St. Jerome (June 15th), though he taught that there was no divine distinction between bishop and presbyter.

St. Augustine (August 28) and St. Leo of Rome (Feb. 18), though both taught the filioque as Church doctrine (numerous other names could be added to that one, especially in Western Rite Orthodoxy).

St. Epiphanios of Salamis (May 12) and St. Gregory the Great (March 12), though they taught against veneration of icons

St. Ambrose of Milan (December 7th), though he taught that the words of Christ are what consecrate the Holy Eucharist.

Now, I do not at all consider the Orthodox inconsistent for celebrating feast days commemorating these great fathers of the Church, even though at the points mentioned, they disagree with the Orthodox teaching today. The fact remains that even the Orthodox do not have to agree with a father 100% of the time to regard him as a genuine father of the Church. For Lutherans it is much the same. The fathers (and mothers!) in our commemorations are those whom we rejoice in as having blessed the Church in some particular way - usually in a way that has endured. So, no. We don't agree with the fathers we commemorate 100%. As I told Trent, we don't even agree with Luther 100%. But we recognize and celebrate especially how the great fathers, when some part of the Apostolic Gospel was under attack, defended it with vigor and clarity from the Sacred Scriptures and called the Church back to that pure fountain of Israel!

41 comments:

Christopher Palo said...

Fr. Weedon,

You are right. Orthodox need not subscribe, nor should they, to the individual teachings of the individual fathers to regard them as saints who lived and died faitful in the Church.

St. Gregory of Nyssa, whom you commemorated today, believed that there would be universal salvation even for Satan, a teaching which has been repudiated by the teach.

Despite the hostility towards him, Augustine is still a saint because of his call to repentance, which, I and Fr. Seraphim Rose believe, is unmatched by any other church father. I would disagree, however, that Augustine taught and promoted the filioque. You can check Patriarch Jeremias II's refutation that he actually did.

St. Isaac was perhaps in the Nestorian camp, but not an apologist for it, definitely.

But it is the consensus of the fathers, the ecumenical councils, the Scriptures, the iconography, the prayer life, the Liturgy, all which form the tradition of the Holy Church. To weigh one against the others would be to mutilate the Gospel of Jesus Christ (so says St. Basil)

Pitting church fathers against each other serves no purpose except to prove that one is perhaps one well read. And if I may be so bold, to do so, would mutilate the Gospel proclaimed by Christ through these saints. That is why at times, I am shocked to see you do that. That was my reaction when I read your little article "Reformation Solas of the FAthers of the Church" in vol. 6 no. 3 of the "Issues, Etc. Journal".

William Weedon said...

It's no doubt the different approach to the fathers evident in either church. For us, their witness on the three solas is a bright and glorious light.

Christopher Palo said...

But again, you are pitting father against father to discredit what one says so that the one you favor agrees with you (or Luther or whomever else in the Lutheran tradition). Luther, Chemnitiz, Andreae, Melancthon, Gerhard, etc. were notorious for selecting out of context church fathers who agreed with their positions, attempting to make square pegs fit circular holes. The Church is given the authority to bind and loose, not individuals.

William Weedon said...

Christopher,

I do not mean to be unkind, but the point of the original post was that the Orthodox also do the same thing, discounting where the Fathers say things they think are in disagreement with their received Tradition.

William Weedon said...

I'd also be curious if you could show me where Luther or Chemnitz or Gerhard are guilty of citing "out of context" a given father. Do you have specifics in mind, or is it axiomatic for you that they must be, because the Fathers can't agree with the Lutherans?

Christopher Palo said...

Fr. Weedon,

I will get you some necessary examples. However, not now as it is approaching 11:15 and I need to get to bed.

Look we don't agree theologically (and never will) but accusing me of being intellecutally dishonest is absurd.

Pr. Lehmann said...

The suggestion (accusation is a stretch) of intellectual dishonesty is far from a stretch.

I've never found an instance of Chemnitz quoting a father out of context. He and Gerhard invented the scholarly study of the fathers, after all.

You are the one who made the assertion that they were intellectually dishonest. It's your obligation to prove it or retract your statement.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Christopher,

It is pointless to get into debates such as this, for several reasons:

1. They have been engaged in for years. The result is always the same. Just check out the Lutheran/Orthodox "dialogue" list on Yahoo groups and you'll see. Orthodox will say, for example, "But those same fathers speak about asking the intercession of the saints." And Lutherans will respond, "They were wrong there." The Orthodox will say, "You can't pick and choose." The Lutherans will respond, "But you pick and choose too." Etc. etc. ad nauseum.

2. The discussions quickly get into ad hominem huff-and-puff sessions. Utterly worthless spiritually.

3. The nature of the text-problem between Lutherans and Orthodox has nothing to do with a set of texts; it has everything to do with how texts are read.

4. The nature of the broader problem (Lutheran-types back off; I'm talking to a fellow Orthodox here) has nothing to do with text-problems. It has to do with Lutheranism's being a confession, and Orthodoxy being the Church. In other words, there's a metaphysical problem underlying the text-problem.

In general (again, Lutheran-types back off; I'm talking to Christopher and I don't have his email address), it's best to stay far away from burning, tottering buildings. Wait and help those who come out.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory

Fr John W Fenton said...

Let us remember that the chief reason a person is commemorated in the liturgy is not because of his or her teachings, but because of the sanctity of life. In other words, holiness is the key criteria (hence the word "saint", and the inclusion of martyrs like the Holy Innocents, who wrote nothing).

William Weedon said...

Dear Christopher,

I did not at all mean that it would be intellectual dishonest of you if it were taken as axiomatic. We all operate from certain axioms -things that we assume and do not believe need to be proven. But it is not wrong for a person who does not share that set of assumptions to ask if it IS axiomatic or if it is derived from some concrete examples. I know you were a Lutheran, so you may well have looked in the writings of Luther et al. and found examples of taking the fathers out of context. For myself, like Pastor Lehmann, I've not seen any examples of Chemnitz, Luther, Gerhard quoting the Fathers out of context. (Which is more than can be said for the Seventh Ecumenical Council's quoting of St. Basil!!!)

Fr. John,

Indeed, if you look back to the post that originated this, I believe that the collect I cited confessed that God had endowed his servants, the Cappadocians, with clarity of faith AND HOLINESS OF LIFE. Not an either / or, surely.

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gregory,

Not heeding the request back off entirely, I would just like to point out that your post did what I asked posts on this blog NOT to do. You are welcome and free to engage the questions raised; you are not welcome and free to imply to Lutheran Christians who read this blog that they're in a burning house and had best get out to save their very lives, their souls. Please, don't contribute if THAT'S the tenor of your contribution. You could simply have posted: "Christopher, please contact me. Here's my email." And then you could have trashed Lutheranism all you wanted and it wouldn't have been on my blog.

Christine said...

Let us remember that the chief reason a person is commemorated in the liturgy is not because of his or her teachings, but because of the sanctity of life. In other words, holiness is the key criteria (hence the word "saint", and the inclusion of martyrs like the Holy Innocents, who wrote nothing).

This resonates for me as a Catholic also. Through baptism all Christians are sanctified and set apart for God but the Holy Spirit distributes his gifts as he will for the good of all.

The example of the saints is always meant for the edification of the entire Church (but of course most Christians would agree with that) and some of them led truly scandalous lives (Augustine comes first and foremost to mind) before they were called by Christ.

Christine said...

Indeed, if you look back to the post that originated this, I believe that the collect I cited confessed that God had endowed his servants, the Cappadocians, with clarity of faith AND HOLINESS OF LIFE. Not an either / or, surely.

Arrghh, my apologies Pastor Weedon, I see you covered this quite nicely already in your reply to Father Fenton. My eyes skipped over it.

Pr. Lehmann said...

Robb,

Get thee behind me, Satan. You have not in mind the things of God but the things of men.

I pray that you eventually repent of your constant slander against the Gospel and the Church which the Holy Spirit has created by its preaching.

Celtic Lutheran said...

All those church fathers were Lutherans before Lutheranism was cool.

Christine said...

All those church fathers were Lutherans before Lutheranism was cool.

Only if they knew how to make a proper Reformation Day sauerkraut dinner :)

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon,

Your strategy (of asking Christopher to email me) would have accomplished my end with less collateral damage. For that I do apologize.


Rev. Lehmann (with apologies to Starkist tuna):

Sorry, Charlie.

I'm not St. Peter, and you're certainly not...well, I think you can finish this sentence.

Cordially,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

John Hogg said...

The problem is, we're all talking about theology, when the real issues here are not theological, but practical.

Grace and peace,
John

Pr. Lehmann said...

You're right Robb.

You're not Peter and I'm not Jesus. However, when you cast aspersions upon whether Lutheran Christians are in the church, you are satanic, and that's what I was saying.

And I am given to speak the Lord's Word to you. Unfortunately, it has to be a word of the harshest law, for when you say that Lutherans are a confession and not the church, you are sinning against the Lord's body, and thus the Lord Himself.

If you do not want me to quote the Lord's words to Peter to you, then do not speak in the way of Satan.

You remain in my prayers.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Charlie,

I have not cast aspersions upon whether Lutheran Christians are in the church.

I have denied that Lutheranism is Church.

This shouldn't be hard to figure out.

Lutheran Christians are individual human beings.

Lutheranism is an institution.

I am more or less agnostic about the individuals, though I have reason to hope in God's mercy.

I am completely convinced about the institution.

I hope this makes things plainer, at least to people of good will.

Cordially, in Christ,

Fr. Gregory

Pr. Lehmann said...

Robb,

If I hated you and bore ill will toward you, the last thing I would do is call you to repentance. I would want you to continue in your error and burn in hell.

I don't hate you, and I pray for your repentance. I don't call your words satanic lightly.

If you read carefully what you've written on this thread, I think you can see how it doesn't make any sense. You say that Lutheranism isn't the church, but a confession. You say that Orthodoxy is the church. Clearly, this means that a Lutheran is outside the church since they are outside Eastern Orthodoxy.

You constantly attack the holy catholic and apostolic church by attacking the Gospel which is proclaimed therein, within the Lutheran Church (which, though it is not the whole church certainly proclaims the purest confession of the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures).

You can't have your cake and eat it too. You can't say that Lutheranism is not the church and that Orthodoxy is and then say that Lutherans may be within the church.

Your "agnosticism" doesn't fly, and even if it did, it would be the epitome of arrogance. Though I disagree with Orthodoxy on many significant points, I do not deny that it is within the church, though a schismatic and heterodox corner of it.

I repeat it again. Repent. You are slandering the Gospel.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Charlie:

CL "You say that Lutheranism isn't the church, but a confession."

Me: yes... (I could also call it a corporation, I suppose...)

CL "You say that Orthodoxy is the church."

Me: ok--though to be more precise I should say "The Orthodox communion is the Church." I spoke a little sloppily. Orthodoxy is an abstract noun; church is a concrete noun.

CL "Clearly, this means that a Lutheran is outside the church since they are outside Eastern Orthodoxy."

Me: I genuinely have no idea about any particular Lutheran and where or what he or she is. To use the passive you're so fond of, "It has not been given me to judge an individual; but it has been given me to judge bodies or institutions." (Note: I've also never said Lutherans may be within the church. I said that I simply don't know. And that's what I mean.)

And you continue not to understand the difference between an individual person and an institution. If I say, "General Jackson's army is encircling Hooker's right flank," it doesn't follow from that, that each member of General Jackson's army is encircling Hooker's right flank as an individual. By making a judgment about a body, I am not making a judgment about any particular individual in that body. (From the fact that the United States is a rich country, it doesn't follow that I am a rich man, even though I am a citizen of the United States.)

Besides, consider PFC Weedon, a soldier in Jackson's army. From the fact that Jackson is encircling Hooker's right flank, it doesn't necessarily follow that Private Weedon is with them--even though he's a soldier in Jackson's army. He may be in a field hospital; he may be miles away, scouting the Union cavalry. So I can truly and definitively say,

"Jackson's army is encircling Hooker's right flank,"

and

"PFC Weedon is a soldier in Jackson's army,"

but it doesn't follow from that, that

"PFC Weedon is in the body of troops encircling Hooker's right flank."

------

There is no profit, and little point, in arguing with you about the meaning of "Church." I have repeatedly said that those who wish to stay within Lutheranism should go for it--full tilt. Speaking of cake, perhaps you could be the one to speak with Rev. Hower about his video, following the procedures established in your body.


Am I arrogant? More than you can know. So I am grateful for your prayers.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory


Note to Rev. Weedon: I would prefer to disengage from this conversation, as my earlier post--the one for which I apologized--was making just that point (urging Orthodox to disengage). I want to respect your wishes. I also want to answer what seem to me to be mistakes in thinking on Charlie's part. I do hope this thread dies a natural death soon.

Pr. Lehmann said...

Robb,

I would love to disengage from this conversation, but I can't. I can't just leave you in your arrogant impenitence.

Just think for a moment how your words are taken by the sheep you abandoned when you left the place that the Lord Himself had put you.

I'm not speaking in theory or in ignorance. I've conversed with some of your abandoned sheep.

You threw them into doubt and confusion. If the preaching of the Gospel and the giving out of the Lord's gifts doesn't do what the Lord says it does, then your so-called agnosticism leaves them with absolutely nothing.

You tell them that the Lord hasn't been working. You tell them that they're outside the church. If the Orthodox communion is the church, and they're not in communion with the Orthodox, then they're not in the church.

It is only Satan who says to those baptized in the Triune name and who have faithfully heard the Gospel and received His body and blood that you are agnostic about whether they're in the church when you would not say that about those who are baptized in the Triune name and who have faithfully heard the Gospel and received His body and blood and are in communion with the Orthodox church.

You have said these very words to the people God sent you to serve. You have turned from shepherd into wolf. You have hurt the souls entrusted to your care. You are a thief and a destroyer and a murderer.

Repent or die. It's really that serious.

William Weedon said...

Charlie and Robb,

Please, take it off the blog. You have each others email address, and I think if you want to continue this conversation that would be the most profitable forum to do so. But this discussion has strayed far from looking at how the sanctoral cycle is not determined by 100% agreement!

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

If I may point out something that I've always wondered about 100% agreement. I find I'm not always in 100% agreement with myself from a year ago, or 5 years ago, or 15 years ago. I see new things.

You look at the Fathers and the end up emphasizing different things over of the course of time - some good, some bad.

Also, I think it is a false dichotomy to divide "teaching" from "holy-living" as with regards to the Saints - not that there is no distinction, but when a Saint's life is mentioned, is that not mentioned in order to teach, as an example. We don't look at the to simply say, "Wow, they were spiffy" but to learn from their example - that is indeed teaching - just as Christ's actions are as much teaching as His sermons or Parables.

William Weedon said...

Excellent, Pastor Brown. Yes, we are ever growing into the mind of Christ in our own lives, and we can see similar growth in the saints.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Charlie,

I see that you're angry.

I have not said what you say I have said. People of reasonable intelligence and a modicum of good will can read my words for themselves and judge.

As for the people you say I've abandoned, they all know my address and phone number. They can come to me and talk with me directly if they like. (And no, I'm not trying to get them to become Orthodox.) I've always made it a practice to tell people to talk directly with whatever person they think has wronged them. I think it's in Matthew 18.

I do see some of them, from time to time; we have good conversations. I've even spoken with my successor, and I think he's an honorable man.

Thank you again for your prayers.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory

PS Thanks, Rev. Weedon, for encouraging this to be taken off the blog. I'm posting this only because I worked on it before I saw your comments...

RevFisk said...

I'm just curious how a "confession" can be an "institution"? If Lutheranism is an "institution" the way Orthodoxy purports to be a "Church," I'd like to see it! All I see is a bunch of institutions that claim to be made up of Lutherans, most of which could care less for the Confession which defines us. Can a confession be a sinking ship? Must it not be either sunk or not sunk after 500 years?

I guess I'm just confused.

But I do like the Church Fathers when they're right! And I love them when they're wrong too.

orrologion said...

Revfisk, very good. Discernment in these matters is of paramount concern - and one of the most difficult things to acquire. It is quite difficult to sit at a teacher's feet while also judging according to our own standards and understanding when they are right and when they are wrong. This is especially difficult when we find ourselves in a place that seemed to be where the Lord placed us but seems more to be the place we ended up due to the errors of our forebears. We all of us, whatever our religion or lack thereof have these responsibilities, and there are consequences salvific and denominational to our personal choices. God help us all.

Pr. Lehmann said...

Mr. Palo,

I'm wondering when you are going to either substantiate or retract your assertions regarding intellectual dishonestly among the Lutheran fathers.

orrologion said...

I tend to see Chemnitz and other patristic minded Fathers as simply seeing what they expected to see given they hermeneutical lens Luther provided. Behr makes the case that the use of such a hermeneutical lens is exactly how the Apostles and the ante-Nicene Church also approached Scripture, so that isn't a slam on the Lutheran Fathers. Put that together with perhaps more limited and/or highly edited florilegia of the Fathers all apart from the whole organism of the Church (the physical Body) and the best of intentions and the various Western Confessions on the majesterial side of the Reformation arise.

The opposite accusation can of course be made against the Orthodox - and are by Oden and other patristic minded Protestants of varying stripes, by RCs on certain topics, etc. One need not be intellectually dishonest to be wrong. In fact, most of us have already decided who we think is 'right' before we start looking at what the Fathers wrote. In many ways, this is how the early Church worked. You weren't allowed access to the Bible, the Creed, even to viewing the Sacraments until after you had undergone Baptism. There are simply certain things we can't understand if we can't see them, and we can't see them until our sight is healed. There are things I thought I understood as a student of Eastern Orthodoxy, for instance, that were quite different when I was Orthodox; there were things I didn't understand as an Inquirer, that I understood as a Catechumen, things I then only understood after being Baptized, and the same again after being tonsured Reader (e.g., the writings of Arch Sophrony beyond his life of St. Silouan come to mind, as well as most of the Philokalia). Travel writing is one thing, but visiting those places quite another, and this is a very different sort of thing than mathematics and a math textbook.

Hopefully we can all settle down and see we all simply care an awful lot about the things of God. We need not fear becoming relativists for simply saying we agree to disagree, and God can defend himself - no need for any of us to step in and rabidly defend His honor Who became incarnate and died on a cross.

Christopher Palo said...

Pr. Lehmann,

I apologize if I have not posted a response according to your timetable. I have been quite busy and I regret that I cannot provide a more thorough response than what I will write now.

Despite my inflammatory post, which, in hindsight was wrong to post, not because it was untrue, but because debating along such lines with Lutherans or Protestants, in general, is hardly useful, I will provide you with the following.

If you read the exchange between Patriarch Jeremias II and the Lutheran theologians of Tubingen University in the late 1500s, you will notice that the Lutheran Church thelogians take out what seem to be random quotes from the holy fathers and apply metaphor or analogy to those sayings and teachings to lend creedence to the solas of the Reformation. I will give you a couple of examples of quotations from the Church Fathers as pertains to the discussion of the "filioque" question, which encompassed quite a bit of the discussion between Constantinople and Tubingen.

The Lutheran theologians collect a number of "proof-texts" from Eastern fathers which, to their mind, defend the double procession (which, we still regard as heresy; it is not simply a difference of opinion). One of them is from St. Basil's "Against Eunomius" when he says that the "spirit is a true and natural image of God and Christ" and that thus, the spirit proceeds from both. However, this "insight" comes from a passage which discusses not procession or is even hinted at all but the creation of the earth and how everything is made in the image and likness of God. The Lutheran theologians argue only by analogy or what seems to fit in with their theology.

Again, if I were able to spare the time, I would give you more examples. I ask forgiveness that I was not able to back up what I said more and perhaps it was done with hubris. I will respond when the time is available. Thank you.

And by the way, it is Dr. Palo.

Jim Roemke said...

I am saddened and ashamed by all of this foolishness. You Orthodox who used to be Lutheran, let it go! You Lutheran who don't like what these people have done, let it go! What purpose is any of this serving? And honestly, if you have left the Lutheran "confession" and the church for the Orthodox church, just leave it alone. Why all this bickering and meanness? There are hurt feelings on both sides, but blog commentaries are NOT the place to work those feelings out. If you are Lutheran, be Lutheran joyously, if you are Orthodox, be Orthodox joyously and leave your former brethren alone.
That is what is so joyous about our commemorations of the saints, they have left this earthly plain with all its bickering, pettiness, hurt feelings and incompleteness and are now at the blessed wedding feast of the Lamb. Lutherans will be there as will Orthodox, then all bickering, hatred, slanderous thoughts, false humility and impious piety will be taken away in the glory of the Lord and we will share in perfect union with Christ, into whom we have all been baptized.

Jim Roemke said...

By the way, if you take issue with something I said in my comment, please e-mail me directly at pastorroemke@yahoo.com

generalscuttlebutt said...

This reminds me of the time I took Blanche to a Lebanese restaurant. The Lebs are either Muslim, Eastern Orthodox, or cab drivers. Of course, according to some of the Lutherans, there's no difference between the three. But anyway, the damnedest thing happens. The hummus is shaped just like Luther's Seal. No lie. The oil in the middle pools like a heart (at least before bypass surgery), and the goop portion is shaped like a five-petal rose. You could practically hear the cherubim singing A Mighty Fortress in the Original Greek.

Now, anybody can get a omelet shaped like the virgin Mary or a bran muffin that looks like Mother Teresa. But how many people have gotten a miraculous Luther Seal at an Orthodox eatery? I wasn't even drunk. At least not at the moment. Does this count as a "critical event?" If not, I think my last kidney stone passage qualifies.

Being the charitable champion of Eighth Commandmentism, I put the best construction on the whole thing and took it as a sign that the Orthodox are indeed part of the Holy Catholic Church. Sorry Charlie, you can't argue with crying icons, weeping statues, and Lutheran imagery carved by the Finger of God in chick peas. Like that Davey Jones fella said, "I'm a believer."

Of course, Weedon thinks I'm a "schwermer," but what do you expect from a pinochle loser who lives in a midwestern state beginning with the letter "I"?

Paul T. McCain said...

Jim, if you take issue with something I have written in a comment, please do not e-mail me privately. Whoops, I see I should not have posted this, but I wrote it before I read Pastor Weedon's request and so I'm going to post it anyway.

; )

Paul T. McCain said...

Everyone knows that Weedon just want to run his comment counts past Petersen's. That's what this is really all about.

William Weedon said...

Ah, General, there are days I'm glad there's only ONE of you. ;)

Josh S said...

The difference is that when the Orthodox pick and choose, they're under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We do it with a rebellious, anti-Church spirit. Duh!

Paul T. McCain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul T. McCain said...

Beane, er, I mean the General, is quite the character.