15 August 2008

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

We remember that so doughty an adherent of the Augsburg Confession as Blessed John Brenz could say of the bodily taking up of the Virgin to Heaven: "About this let everyone think as he will." And that the great Lutheran hymn-writer and preacher of the late seventeenth century, Blessed Valerius Herberger, presents a careful justification of this theological opinion in a sermon in his *Evangelische Herzpostille*. It is when these pious opinions are elevated to the status of dogmas which must be believed under pain of eternal condemnation that we delcare this kind of constraint - rather than the opinions themselves - to be antichristian and diabolical. -- A. C. Piepkorn, *The Church* p. 330

13 comments:

Paul McCain said...

And, as long as no teacher in the church attempts to put forward such non-Scriptural pious fictions/legends as truth, or as any sort of "mark" of being genuinely churchly, or more committed to historic Christianity, or "more" whatever, but merely observes them as his own private opinion, and is orthodox in all other respects, we should no condemn them.

But we do not serve the Church well by trying to put forward these legends as "possibilities."

Lucian said...

It's not dogma, it's Church history

Pastor Zip said...

as long as no teacher in the church attempts to put forward such non-Scriptural pious fictions/legends as truth...

Are you suggesting that it was okay for Brenz and Herberger to speak publicly, but not for us?

Pax, Steven+

Chris said...

Holy Mary's Dormition was obviously no fiction to Martin Luther who insisted that the festival still be retained celebrated in the churches on August 15.

William Weedon said...

On this one, Pr. McCain, I agree 100% with Pastor Tibbetts. To call it legend or pious fiction is to declare that it is an IMPIOUS opinion. Our Lutheran fathers certainly did not think that way. They knew that they could not speak definitively on the matter since Scripture cloaks it in silence, but they also knew that it was a pious opinion that was held and treasured in many parts of the Church and by numerous Christians, among them also is Herberger (who features so prominently in the new Treasury of Daily Prayer).

William Weedon said...

Chris,

I don't have the quote at hand, but I believe I read that Luther himself did not call for keeping August 15th per se, and though he preached upon the festival he also professed himself an agnostic about whether Mary was bodily taken into heaven. I think he set forth the matter much as I did: it suffices to know she is with her Son.

Carl Vehse said...

Calling the bodily assumption of Mary “legend or pious fiction” is no more a declaration that such an opinion is IMPIOUS than describing the opinion against Mary's bodily assumption in similar terms is a declaration that it is IMPIOUS opinion.

Arguing that it is would imply that one must not hold, or at least publicly state, such an opposing opinion about Mary's bodily assumption. That elevates the bodily assumption of Mary from being a pious opinion toward being a dogma, with which Christians may not disagree without being accused of the sin of impiety... or worse.

Chris said...

Luther has no problem with and publically proclaims Mary's perpetual virginity even though that has no or little Scriptural support and yet he rids himself of her dormition and the festival to commemorate him. Luther is nothing if not inconsistent with how he approaches the tradition of the church; he casts off and keeps what he wants almost at a whim. Very dangerous.

William Weedon said...

Chris,

I wouldn't characterize him quite like that; but I would note that the area of calendar reform was not one which occupied much of his attention. He speaks about it here and there, but the Lutheran Church by no means simply followed his opinions on the matter. He was dead set against Holy Cross Day and yet it not only continued to be observed in Lutheran Churches but also became one of the single most popular names of those Churches.

With the Assumption, though, recall that this was not dogmatically defined by Rome until 1950's! We not dealing here with any sort of universal ancient tradition in the same manner as with perpetual virginity. And the two traditions that speak of her body being assumed into heaven differ completely on the location of her death. By the way, the most curious circumstantial evidence of such an assumption is the total lack of relics of the Blessed Virgin in the early centuries.

Paul McCain said...

The Assumption is a non-Biblical pious myth/legend/opinion. It has no grounding in our Lord's Apostolic Word, therefore should really not be part of our Lutheran teaching. Those [very] few Lutheran fathers who may have actually taught it were and are wrong. No, it was no "OK" for them to put these things forward in the church. Neither is it for us. And Piepkorn should not have tried to, no pun intended, resurrect this stuff either.

Hermann Sasse put matters extremely well when he wrote in his masterful essay on the subject of Mary and the Pope:

“The proclamation of the dogma of the bodily assumption Mary into heaven in the Apostolic Constitution 'Munificentissimus Deus' of 1 November 1950 was felt as an event by all of Christianity, Roman and non-Roman alike, which affects all churches, and all Christians. And rightly so! For this dogma is either true or it is false. Either it really is 'divinely revealed dogma, that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, after the completion of the course of her earthly life, was taken body and soul into heavenly glory,' or this assertion is blasphemy against God. Either it is actually the vicar of Christ who declares in this doctrinal assertion directed at all of Christianity that anyone who 'denies or casts doubt,' has defected from the 'divine and Catholic faith,' or the correct faith - who else could pronounce such a dogma as revealed by God and demand its acceptance at the cost of eternal life? - or it is the Antichrist who speaks here, the Antichrist who in this 'last,' 'evil' time, the time in which Christianity on earth awaits the parousia of her Lord, has sat down in the temple of God, in the church of Christ, and seeks to deceive the faithful, and bring about apostasy from the correct faith. Tertium non datur....

“What is the task of the Lutheran Church in this situation? First of all, it is certainly rejection.”

http://wittenbergtrail.ning.com/profiles/blog/%E2%80%9Dhttp://www.clai.org.au/articles/sasse/marypope.htm%E2%80%9D

Dr Matt Phillips said...

I don't think Luther preached on the Assumption after the early 1520s. I am disinclined to believe in the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. I think Luther was also. However, there were numerous writings that testify to this belief in late antiquity. They also disagree over the nature of her Dormition/Assumption. These writings were recorded 300-500 years after the events took place. The lack of bodily relics of the Virgin is not really a good argument. Christians in the 4th and 5th centuries would have had a very difficult time finding legitimate relics. It was also not a common practice to venerate relics before the 4th century. I seriously doubt that any bodily relics of New Testament figures are in any way close to authentic. The bones of late antique and medieval saints could be authentic in many cases. I agree with Rev. McCain for the most part, but simply because a doctrine or historical event did not appear in Holy Scripture doesn't make it a myth or legend either. It seems to me that the only doctrine that is unacceptable regarding Mary for a Lutheran is invoking/venerating her as an intercessor.

Carl Vehse said...

Dr. Matt Phillips wrote: "...simply because a doctrine or historical event did not appear in Holy Scripture doesn't make it a myth or legend either. It seems to me that the only doctrine that is unacceptable regarding Mary for a Lutheran is invoking/venerating her as an intercessor."

In his Christian Dogmatics: A Handbook of Doctrinal Theology for Pastors, Teachers, and Laymen, St. Louis, CPH, 1934, p.85) John T. Mueller, Professor of Systematic Theology, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, warned:

"[W]hat the Christian church must demand of all dogmatic treatises or books is a clear, thorough, and practical presentation of Scriptural truths. The only theology which deserves a place in Christ's Church is sacred theology which God Himself has given in Holy Scripture. From this surpassing treasure of divine truth the Christian theologian dare not deviate in the slightest; if he does, he is disloyal to the charge entrusted to him. In his system of theology the two distinctive principles of the Christian faith, the sola Scriptura and the sola gratia, must stand preeminent; otherwise his entire theology becomes rationalistic, paganistic, and destructive, a disgrace to the name of Christ and a menace to His Church. Quod non est biblicum, non est theologicum. All dogma that is not found upon this axiom does not deserve the name of Christian theology."

Furthermore, there is the admonition of the Solid Declaration (X.7) against "useless, foolish displays, that are profitable neither for good order nor Christian discipline, nor evangelical propriety in the Church" (which, if not describing the opinion for the Assumption of Mary, then other Marian cult practices). The Solid Declaration (X.14-16) also warns against the use of adiaphora, which would include the pious opinion for the Assumption of Mary, particularly since 1950, when the Antichrist declared it to be dogma of the Romish Church:

"14] For here it is no longer a question concerning external matters of indifference, which in their nature and essence are and remain of themselves free, and accordingly can admit of no command or prohibition that they be employed or omitted; but it is a question, in the first place, concerning the eminent article of our Christian faith, as the apostle testifies, that the truth of the Gospel might continue, which is obscured and perverted by such compulsion or command, because such adiaphora are then either publicly required for the sanction of false doctrine, superstition, and idolatry, and for the suppression of pure doctrine and Christian liberty, or at least are abused for this purpose by the adversaries, and are thus viewed [and are believed to be restored for this abuse and wicked end]. 15] ... For as soon as this is weakened and the ordinances of men [human traditions] are forced upon the Church with coercion, as though it were wrong and a sin to omit them, the way is already prepared for idolatry... 16] Moreover, by such [untimely] yielding and conformity in external things, where there has not been previously Christian union in doctrine, idolaters are confirmed in their idolatry; on the other hand, the true believers are grieved, offended, and weakened in their faith..." [Emphasis added]

William Weedon said...

Why, Dr. Strickert, do you cite the Formula on matters of adiaphora on this topic? I'm not quite following. Clearly the Lutheran Church believes the silence of the Sacred Scriptures on this topic makes it a matter that can at most be a pious opinion, but I see nothing in the passage you cited that would lead one who held to it as a pious opinion to be in any way troubled. It would be wrong if one were to INSIST on this opinion as dogma (which is what Rome has done since the middle of the 20th century); that is scandalous and an offense to those of us who hold that the Sacred Scriptures alone establish articles of faith. But those who hold it as pious opinion do not at all affirm that it is a dogma that must be believed. I want to read the Herberger sermon myself - maybe when next I'm in St. Louis. I'd like to translate it and share what that Lutheran Divine had to say on such a topic.