23 January 2009

It strikes me

that so many of the disconnects between Lutherans and EOs or RCs in discussions boil down to whether the Holy Spirit's gift of the Sacred Scriptures THEMSELVES are the light that illumines our path or whether they NEED illumination from another source (i.e., the Church). Loehe must have sensed this too, for in his Three Books on the Church he wrote:

His Word and His Apostles' Word is intelligible to all. This is the most important point in the doctrine concerning the Church. Everything said in this little book is nothing, if the Apostles' Word, if Scripture, is not clear. Here is all danger. If here we conquer, we have won; if here we lose, then all is lost, and lost not for this or that particular Church only, but for the whole Christian Communion on earth. For if the Scriptures cannot be the point of union of the Church, then there is no point of union, because every other, in itself, without backing of Scripture is less than vanity. (pp. 29,30)

The rest of the chapter is well worth reading. It explains so well why the attack upon our Church and her confession must always begin with attacking the Scripture as the light that it is.

144 comments:

Chris Jones said...

No, the Holy Scripture are not themselves the light that enlightens our path. Jesus Christ is the light of the world, the light that enlightens every man that comes into the world. Like the Forerunner, the Scriptures are not themselves that light; they bear witness to the light. We must never confuse the witness to the light with the light Himself.

To say that the Scriptures are themselves the light, in such a way that we do not need the Church to understand them, is to separate the Scripture from the Church and her rule of faith. That way leads to folly and heresy. We must never separate the Scriptures from the Church.

If the Scriptures are clear, they are clear only to those who have received the rule of faith from the Church; and they are clear only to those to whom the Holy Spirit has been given through the Church's ministry of Word and Sacrament. The Scriptures are never clear to those who are separated from the Church, or to those who would sever the Holy Scriptures from the Holy Church.

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...

That the Scriptures illumine or are authoritative is not disputed among traditional Catholics and Orthodox. Is there also a Tradition or Church to go along with the Scriptures?

The Scriptures are not so elevated that they do not speak to people and from them form in the Spirit a new people re-created in Christ. Then there is a Scriptural Tradition with real texts and real people so that we would consider disagreement with Loehe's fine quote here, or disagreement with the Lutheran Confessions, though not equal to Scripture itself, as a disagreement with what Scripture teaches. The Catholics and Orthodox also have extra-Scriptural texts, as we have our Confessions, that like our Confessions rely on Scripture and confess and teach the faith.

Does this mean there is total agreement or union in Church? Just gather a few Lutherans together. No one sees full unity in teaching the faith, though, of the three, Lutherans stand out as being the most distinct for the Catholics and Orthodox have more in common with each other.

There are some caveats with this quote. Placing one's foundation merely on the intelligibility or clarity of Scripture poses the possibility of reducing Scripture to communications theory/perception on the one hand and denying the ability of the Church or Tradition to teach and pass on the faith on the other. Attempts to be clear can risk the "whole" nature of Scripture and passing on the catholic faith.

Of course, if one attacks the Church one clearly attacks Scripture and vice versa and both come to light once this takes place. And while this affects not just those who claim the "sola" of Scripture neither does it follow that the authority of Scripture is, by its nature, opposed to the una, sancta, catholica et apostolica ecclesia (unless we truly believe it is just me and my Scripture).

His Word and His Apostles' Word are clear enough so that all traditions, whether or not they have Church or Tradition to pass on the faith or whether they live in the moment by themselves with Scripture and their own understanding, believe indisputably that Christ is the head of the Church.

It is valuable to praise the worth of Scripture before the whole Church but it becomes a clanging cymbal if we cannot accept that a Church or Tradition apart from our own does not share that Scriptural truth if it is not communicated in exactly the way we communicate it. Nor can we learn from others above the noise.

William Weedon said...

Dear Chris,

Christ is indeed the light which shines forth from the Scriptures. They point to Him at every turn. But we need to beware of driving a wedge between the Lord and His holy Word which delivers Him to us in His fullness.

Fr. May,

Of course there is a tradition which accompanies the Scripture, but which can never be allowed to "trump" them with exchanging the clear light for the darkness.

William Weedon said...

That was supposed to read "without exchanging..."

Father Hollywood said...

Dear William:

All very true, but at the same time, we must guard against the temptation to abandon our teaching office and just leave Bibles in hotel rooms.

The Word of God is a package deal: Christ, Scriptures, Church, and ministry. One could even wrap the package with the terminology "tradition" (that which is handed over, which for Lutherans, includes the Book of Concord). In this age of post-modernism, most Americans (and a goodly number of Lutherans) think "all I need is my Bible (sola scriptura) - I certainly have no need of Christ (in His sacramental presence), Church, or a pastor."

We can't forget the Ethiopian eunuch who needed one "apt to teach" to guide him through God's inspired and inerrant Word - not because of a deficiency of Scripture, but because of his own limitations and sinful nature.

This is why we confess the Church to be "apostolic."

The Church is the cradle in which the Word is held and manifest to the world. For without the Church, the Bible is in the hand of Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Muslims, higher critics, and Atheists. Without the Church, there is no way of even knowing what the Scriptures are - for it was the Church (not the Scriptures themselves, nor non-believing critics) that discerned by the Holy Spirit that, for example, the Book of Hebrews is Scripture, that the letters of Ignatius are not, that 1 Peter is firmly in the canon (homologoumena), while 2 Peter needs other witnesses to establish doctrine (antilegomena). It is only by the witness of the Church that the question of the Old Testament Apocrypha can be hashed out.

"Sola scriptura" is certainly true if the "sola" refers to what we can depend on as the inerrant Word of God and absolute norm of doctrine (which excludes things like personal revelation, the Koran, and even the (uninspired) writings of later fathers).

But to the Christian in the real world, Scripture is never alone - for the Christian is organically connected to the Lord and to his brothers and sisters in the Divine Service, in the parish, under the cross, and placed in the care of a "called and ordained servant of the Word."

I think we really need to explain what "sola Scriptura" is and means before we simply trumpet it. Sola scriptura means something very different to a Lutheran vs. say, to a representative of the Gideons organization or a non-denominational Christian.

William Weedon said...

Reverend Dean,

Amen to all you wrote. I hope my words are not taken in way contradictory of it.

Most curious is the use that Loehe makes of the Ethiopian Eunuch! If you can review the chapter from Three Books you will enjoy it.

William Weedon said...

P.S. Krauth really does the bang-up job on explaining the difference between primarily sole-source vs. primarily the sole norm, rule, and guide and shows how we Lutherans, then, end up on a very different page than the Reformed.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear William:

You wrote: "I hope my words are not taken in way contradictory of it."

I hope my remarks didn't come across that way, for I know well where you stand on this issue.

It's just that people have so much "baggage" that a Protestant may well misinterpret the Lutheran "sola" as the Protestant "sola" - which are indeed rather different.

Bryce P Wandrey said...

"His Word and His Apostles' Word..." Here Loehe himself seems to imply a distinction between the Word of God and the Word of the apostles. Distinction does not necessarily mean opposition but indeed, two things instead of one.

Von Balthasar nails this with great succinctness: "Scripture is the word of God that bears witness to God's Word. The one Word therefore makes its appearance as though dividing into a word that testifies and into a Word to whom testimony is given. ...The testifying word is the sequence of scripture from Genesis to the Apocalypse which accompanies the progressive revelation of the Word in the flesh and which reflects it as if a mirror - a function which distinguishes it from the former Word. ...In this distinction we part company with many Protestants. Scripture is not identical with revelation. And although it is truly God's word it is so only in the mode of testifying to revelation. Scripture is in fact only the mode of God's self-witness in words, while there are besides other modes of his self-witness" ("The Word, Scripture and Tradition," Explorations in Theology I, pg 11).

So indeed, theologians like Von Balthasar would disagree with your statement about Scripture itself being the Light. I would as well. You deny the fundamental distinction between the Word and the words of the biblical writers. This is no "wedge" but instead a simple recognition of the mode of God's self-revelation and witnesses to that self-revelation.

Also, you claim that there is disagreement over the issue of scripture illuminating itself or other things being necessary for that illumination. Here again I think you simplify and overlook things that Lutherans themselves (because they are human beings) must do. If indeed Scripture interprets Scripture, and that is the hermeneutic of choice, we cannot pretend that this itself does not involve a human element. It does. It engages human reason on either an individual or communal level.

Indeed, to start with, the scriptures were written by humans, they are read by humans and applied by humans to human lives. The history of the Christian tradition has born witness that this process has always involved diversity.

The canon itself is a result of the human interpretative process which involved the acceptance and rejection of texts.

Finally, I am not sure if Loehe is saying what you want him to say. He draws attention himself to His Word and His Apostle's Word".

Past Elder said...

Being a type whose academic career was in theoretical models, it might help too to remember what sola scriptura is -- an ablative of means.

So it does not translate "only Scripture" or "Scripture alone", as if to say if we have the Bible we don't need no stinking church, or sacraments, or anything else, the Bible alone, that's it. But it sure can look that way when we say "Sripture alone".

It translates "BY scripture alone", the means by which something is done, not an identification of something that stands alone.

Not to mention, if it were sola in that latter sense, there could not be three solas!

So while we're at it, the other two solas are ablatives of means too, identifying not something that stands alone, but the means by which something is done -- by faith alone, by grace alone.

So to understand the solas, one must understand what it is to be done by the means identified. Which the pastors above have laid out nicely. I'd just add, getting the solas right just as a statement, translating them right, would help getting them right as to meaning.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

This is the most important point in the doctrine concerning the Church. Everything said in this little book is nothing, if the Apostles' Word, if Scripture, is not clear. Here is all danger. If here we conquer, we have won; if here we lose, then all is lost...

This confuses me on a couple of different levels. The first one is, I would have thought this was describing the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone. I thought that was the central thing in Lutheran thought, the thing upon which the Church stands or falls.

Loehe's statement also gives the strong impression that we should put our ultimate faith in the Bible. That would be a mistake I wrote about a few days ago at http://anastasias-corner.blogspot.com/2009/01/faith-in-what-or-in-whom.html

Father Hollywood said...

I think Anastasia makes a great point here, and that (biblicism) is certainly a danger of a biblical faith severed from Christ - which would be a "bibliolatry."

I came from a Protestant background where this was a constant peril.

But we certainly can put ultimate faith in the Bible, for it is the Word of God. Putting your faith in God's Word is putting one's faith in God. But if one treats the Scripture as a book apart from God's Word, it can become a superstition.

Lutheranism has never seen the Bible in a superstitious way, though American Lutherans are often unhealthily affected by American Protestantism.

As far as the "doctrine by which the church stands or falls" goes, I think that can be misleading as well. For example, I have a buddy who grew up Lutheran, converted to Eastern Orthodoxy, and then later (after a remarriage) re-converted back to Lutheranism - though he joined an ELCA "church."

So, he belongs to a "Lutheran" congregation that confesses the doctrine of justification by grace through faith - but that congregation also has a woman "pastor."

So, unlike the situation in the sixteenth century when the front-burner issue in the west was indeed the meaning of the word "grace" and the place of faith and works in the economy of salvation (which led to the crystal-clear Lutheran confession of justification - which is really just a re-confession of Augustine and Paul), we now have to deal with such things that were non-existent in the 16th century, such as "women pastors" - which go beyond error right into heresy.

Personally, I would rather my friend take a valid eucharist from the hands of an Orthodox priest than to partake of the cup of demons with a priestess of an anti-incarnational feminist cult that has no place in the Christian Church.

This is the very real danger of parsing the faith and assigning some doctrines to be "chief" instead of viewing it as a total package - doctrine, practice, Church, ministry, Scripture, sacraments, and all that the Christian life entails.

For example, justification becomes a meaningless discussion if one, for example, is a Unitarian.

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Larry,
You label those communions which ordain women as "anti-incarnational" feminist cults. I wonder...

Based upon this logic--that the priesthood can only be male because Christ was male--how do you understand the saving work of Christ, in his body, on the cross, in the grave and at the resurrection, to apply to all of humanity? Did Christ assume maleness or humanity in the incarnation? Where does the sex of Jesus of Nazareth begin being a determinative factor for doctrine and where does it end?

Past Elder said...

Indeed.

Sola Scripture means something in which everyone agrees Scripture is authoritative. That is the context in which it was said.

"The Bible says .. " doesn't settle anything for someone to whom what the Bible says carries no particular weight over any other source of religious direction one may choose to accept.

So Protestants say "The Bible says .. " and RCs and EOs say "The Church says ... " and people say "So, what does that prove except the Bible says something and the Church says something". Even in the church sometimes.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Bryce:

In other words, you want me to refute female "ordination" in a blog comment.

I'll just summarize with a few points:

1) The OT people of God were "strange" for worshiping one God, whose priests were exclusively male - unlike the fertility cults that surrounded them, which had male and female clergy.

2) That male priesthood continued as Jesus chose only men in the new testament apostolic ministry.

3) Scripture never refers to the ministry in the feminine gender - nor are there examples of ordained females in Scripture.

4) Thousands of years of catholic tradition (the same tradition you argue should be an interpretive voice in reading Scripture) speak to male-only ordination.

5) In Scripture, only men are to have authority over other men, men are the heads of the household, and women are to submit to masculine authority - not the other way around.

6) After a half century of female "ordination" we can clearly see that bodies that "ordain" women have a low view of scripture and endorse such clear abominations and rebellions against the created order as homosexuality (see Paul's argument in Romans 1).

7) In our Lutheran tradition, we've seen the degeneration of the faith into a feminist cult, in places like Sweden and Finland where faithful Lutheran pastors are oppressed by the "bishops" of the cult of feminism.

So, yes, Jesus saves all humanity, and all human beings are of equal value (Gal 3:28) and created in God's image, male and female. But the vocation of ministry is exclusively masculine - at least in the Christian Church - just as the vocation of marriage involves one party of both sexes. Having men submit to feminine spiritual authority is no different than having a husband submit to his wife's auhtority.

All the clever circumlocutions in the world cannot turn men into women, turn Christ into a "Christa", or turn the vocation of pastor into something other than what Christ founded, or turn a distorted same-sex couple into a "marriage."

I believe the faith is something we have to submit to, as it is, not something each generation gets to make subject to the whims of that generation's secular worldview.

Chris Jones said...

Fr Wandrey,

I rather doubt that Fr Weedon would be pleased if this thread were sidetracked into a discussion of the ordination of women. This is an issue on which the teaching and practice of our Church body is a settled matter, and Fr Beane's allusion to it is just that -- an allusion, not a developed argument. In other words, given that the ordination of women is a heterodox practice (which, for us, is indeed a given), Fr Beane would prefer his friend to commune in a Church which does not suffer from that heteropraxis.

In particular, Fr Beane did not make the argument that the priesthood can only be male because Christ was male. Nor did he make any other specific argument on the issue. One might infer that such is his position, but he did not state it.

I admit that Fr Beane's language was strong, but the fact of the matter is that there is no communion in the sacraments between the Missouri Synod and the ELCA because (as we believe) the ELCA no longer believes, teaches, and confesses the Catholic faith. The ordination of women in the ELCA is not the primary problem; it is but a symptom of that Church body's heterodoxy. Perhaps "anti-incarnational feminist cult" is strong language, but I am not convinced that it is inaccurate. The values of feminism are indeed very important in the ELCA and other "mainline" Church bodies, and it is certainly arguable that those values take precedence over the Church's rule of faith. For religious bodies whose teaching and practice are not normed by the Church's rule of faith, the word "cult" is not necessarily inaccurate.

Andrew said...

Fr Dcn Wandrey,

Just out of curiosity, would the vicar at your parish, Fr Jonathan Trigg, happen to be the same Jonathan Trigg who wrote the book on Luther's understanding of baptism?

As for the female priesthood and the incarnation, this post may be of interest to you:

http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2008/12/17/the-christology-of-feminism/

My apologies for sidetracking this conversation.

William Weedon said...

Dear Bryce,

I'd encourage you to get hold of and read the whole of Loehe's *Three Books* - surely a worthy endeavor for anyone who wishes to understand the Lutheran position on the Church. I think you'll find he says precisely what I represented him as saying - the whole of the chapter it was taken from finds him speaking of Sacred Scripture as a whole, though distinguishing the New from the Old Testament.

Dear Anastasia,

To heed the light of Scripture is to repose all confidence in the light that is our Lord Jesus Christ in His triumph over death and the grave. But there is, as Fr. Beane noted, no real gap between trusting Christ and trusting the Words inspired by His Spirit, for to trust a person is to trust also what they say, to know it as truth.

Terry,

Yes, the ablative is vital.

MG said...

Father Hollywoord--

You wrote:

"The Church is the cradle in which the Word is held and manifest to the world. For without the Church, the Bible is in the hand of Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Muslims, higher critics, and Atheists. Without the Church, there is no way of even knowing what the Scriptures are - for it was the Church (not the Scriptures themselves, nor non-believing critics) that discerned by the Holy Spirit that, for example, the Book of Hebrews is Scripture, that the letters of Ignatius are not, that 1 Peter is firmly in the canon (homologoumena), while 2 Peter needs other witnesses to establish doctrine (antilegomena). It is only by the witness of the Church that the question of the Old Testament Apocrypha can be hashed out."

Do you think that the formal definitions of Christian doctrine given by the Church are infallible (divinely-authoritative and unrevisable)?

MG said...

Pr Weedon--

I'm not sure if you ever got a chance to look at my post on St. Jerome's teaching about the tri-fold ministry, but it was briefly taken off of my blog for editing purposes. Now all the Latin phrases are translated into English, and here it is for you to read. I would appreciate your criticisms and comments, especially considering I argue that St. Jerome teaches the view of the ministry held by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglo-Catholics.

http://wellofquestions.wordpress.com/2009/01/18/jerome-on-the-tri-fold-ministry/

ps. would you still read my responses to your last comment to me on your post "lectio divina" if I posted it?

William Weedon said...

MG,

I didn't get the chance to read the paper though I did glance over it (to determine that I didn't have time to deal with all of that at the moment - no offense, mind you; I appreciate a man who takes the time to think through these things). Of course I'd read anything you post on the topic and respond when I can. I can't keep up with everything on my blog and the other blogs I read! But I'd ask you to post your comments UNDER the other topic to keep the topics in somewhat of a straighter order. Thanks.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear MG:

You ask: "Do you think that the formal definitions of Christian doctrine given by the Church are infallible (divinely-authoritative and unrevisable)?"

Sure.

Doctrines don't change, but confessions are "revisable" in the sense that doctrine may need to be clarified - for example, when the Nicene Creed was added to at Constantinople. Although the Creed changed, the Church's doctrine didn't.

Doctrine is confessed and pre-existent. It is the truth. If the Church's doctrine is malleable, that means we could one day "discover" a 4th person of the Trinity, or "discover" that the virgin burth is a myth, or "discover" a doctrine of female ordination - just as activist jurists in the U.S. have "discovered" a right to abortion in the Constitution.

Doctrine confessed by the Church isn't true "because we say so," but rather we confess it because it is true.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Dear William and Dear Larry,

There is a distinction, though. Loehe's words aren't even applicable unless our faith is first and foremost in the Bible. If it's primarily in Christ, and only becausse of Him, secondarily, in the Bible, then all is NOT lost even if the whole Bible should disappear. The Church would simply write more Scriptures, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Andrew said...

Do you think that the formal definitions of Christian doctrine given by the Church are infallible (divinely-authoritative and unrevisable)?

That is the rub, isn't it. I am very curious as to what Fr Hollywood and Pr Weedon have to say on that.

Pr Weedon,

I do not mean to be provocative, but MG's post on Jerome and the trifold ministry should take precedence in your blogging endeavors. I have followed your blog for quite awhile now, and time and time again you have put forth Jerome as being the preeminent supporter in the tradition of a kind of Presbyterian church governance. He is your go to trump card, if you will, whenever the topic of the Church's ministry comes up. If Jerome does not in fact teach a kind of Presbyterianism, then your position (at least historically) is significantly weakened.

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Larry,
I didn't ask you to refute female ordination. I did ask you to explain how Christian communions who ordain women are anti-incarnational feminist cults by drawing logical conclusions from your inference that those who ordain women are anti-incarnational. Your use of the incarnation of Christ argument in reference to the maleness of the priesthood interested me. I was interested only in that line of thought and the inherent difficulties raised by pursuing that line of thought.

Chris,
Indeed. I thought twice about posting what I did in order not to sidetrack this thread but when such strong language (like anti-incarnational feminist cult) is used publicly which describes an ecclesial communion of which I am a part I felt compelled to press the issue.

Andrew,
Yes indeed. That is the same Jonathan Trigg; a fine Luther scholar.

William, Point taken.

Father Hollywood said...

Andrew wrote:

"I do not mean to be provocative, but MG's post on Jerome and the trifold ministry should take precedence in your blogging endeavors."

I dunno. Isn't that for William to decide?

William Weedon said...

Indeed it is, Fr. Beane! Thank you for pointing out the obvious. Blogging is a hobby; I have a vocation too as the pastor of St. Paul's parish and this is and remains my first task. I will point out, though, that Jerome's words are his words - they say plainly what they say, no matter how uncomfortable they may be. But his words are not what my conviction that presbyters and bishops are essentially identical is founded upon. That would upon the witness of the New Testament writers, inspired by the Spirit of Christ. THAT'S what settles the matter; Jerome is merely a witness to the plain and obvious meaning of the NT on the matter.

Anastasia,

No, the NT could not be written again. True, the same Spirit of Christ is within us, but it is WHAT they witnessed - the Word Enfleshed in the time of His humiliation and then His glorious triumph over death and decay that make their witness irreplaceable and the very foundation on which the Church rests. The Holy Spirit has seen fit to fix their words for us in the Sacred Scriptures that we might always have this witness at hand and be able by it to discern what is apostolic in truth and fact and what in name only.

Now, speaking of St. Paul's, I'm off to evening Mass. Today has brought along already a private confession, a house blessing, a shutin communion, several phone calls that needed tending to and finally this afternoon a few minutes to compose the homily for the weekend!!!

Father Hollywood said...

Anastasia wrote:

"There is a distinction, though. Loehe's words aren't even applicable unless our faith is first and foremost in the Bible. If it's primarily in Christ, and only becausse of Him, secondarily, in the Bible, then all is NOT lost even if the whole Bible should disappear. The Church would simply write more Scriptures, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit."

I think you're driving a wedge between the enfleshed Word and the inscripturated Word - which is completely unnecessary. How can one attempt to place the Scriptures either above or below the Christ who speaks to us by them? The former is bibliolatry and the latter is ecclesiolatry. Why not let the Word of God speak on its own, to be confessed by the Church? Then all the lifeboat scenarios become moot.

We could also speculate about how we would baptize if all the water in the world were suddenly replaced by 7-Up, or if we had a great famine and if wheat and grapes all ceased to be.

But the point is that the Lord providentially supplies the Church with its daily bread (by which man lives, but not alone), as well as every word from the mouth of God - even as God's Word is preserved for the sake of the Church.

There is a reason why the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans is deemed Scripture whereas the Letter of Father Demetry to the Greek Fest committee is not.

The Bible's preservation through the ages has been miraculous. "These things are written that you might believe."

To believe the Bible is to believe what Christ says. There is a reason why the Church Catholic makes a distinction between Scripture and non-Scripture - even if both are 100% true.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Bryce:

The early Gnostics had no problem with women's "ordination," since they downplayed the physicality of our Lord - which includes his physical maleness.

Church bodies that today are more likely to question the virgin birth and the resurrection are those very church bodies that are also more likely to purport to ordain women. They are also more likely to shun the "sexist" baptismal formula and support the homosexual agenda.

The downplaying of the physical maleness of Christ leads to women's "ordination."

I find it interesting (I need to dig out the article) that a few years ago, a RC parish called Holy Incarnation had a pro-WO priest. Eventually, a good bit of the church left with their priest and started a new "church" that embraced WO. They changed the name from "Holy Incarnation" to "Holy Spirit." Interestingly, this same congregation calls male pastors "Father" but refuses the title "Mother" to their female counterparts. I find that telling. The sexes are not simply interchangeable.

WO is not merely disobedience against the Scripture and the repetition of Eve's seizure of that which was not given to her - it is to mock the order of creation as well as the maleness of our Lord. Some advocates of WO even go so far as to question our Lord's physical masculinity - and you don't get much more Gnostic than that.

Past Elder said...

"Did Christ assume maleness or humanity in the incarnation?"

To be incarnate is quite specific as to time, place, species, sex, and culture.

To become incarnate is to choose a specific time, place, species, sex and culture to do so.

Jesus' maleness is no more a barrier to being incarnate for males and females alike than his Jewishness is a barrier to being incarnate for Jews and Gentiles alike.

Or that his time and place is a barrier to being incarnate for all times and places.

Yet we roll back the time and place he chose to become incarnate to reveal a supposed universality that is already there.

Yet we roll back the culture he chose, indeed prepared, to become incarnate to reveal a supposed universality that is already there.

Yet we roll back the sex he chose to become incarnate to reveal a supposed universality that is already there.

And not surprisingly, usually in the same church bodies.

Even the Apostles heard of the Resurrection first from women; which did not make the women Apostles.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Well, let's avoid the bunny trails about whether the Scripture could be rewritten or whether I'm driving any wedge between Christ and the Scripture; what wedge would that be? There is none.

The issue is very simple. Do we know Christ and believe in Him because of the Bible? "For the Bible tells me so"? If that's the case, then and only then do Loehe's words apply. But if our faith in Christ is primary instead of secondary to faith in the Bible, if it is not derived from the Bible, but the other way around (that is, we believe the Bible because of our faith in Christ), then Loehe's words are not applicable.

Which is it?

Note: even if we say it's both, then Loehe's words still do not apply. In such a case, all is not lost if some of the words in the Bible turn out not to be so clear, because our faith in Christ doesn't rest on the sacred words alone.

P.S.) The church, besides being the "pillar and foundation of the Truth", is also "the fulness of Him Who fills all in all" making "ecclesiolatry" somewhat difficult to achieve.

Father Hollywood said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Father Hollywood said...

(Typo corrected! - Mea culpa +LB)

Dear Anastasia:

When I believe the Bible, I am believing Jesus. When I believe Jesus, I am believing the Bible. It's really that simple.

You keep quoting the Methodist children's song "Jesus Loves Me" as if it were the Book of Concord. Look, I got the insult the first time around - we're silly, childish, and not as sophisticated as the Real Church - yes, I get it.

If we don't believe that the Scriptures are God's Word, then let's pitch them. But if they are God's Word, we ought to listen attentively as you are bidden to do in your liturgy. Why is this even being debated?

I would think the Eastern Orthodox would see a decree by the bishop of Rome under the auspices of "papal infallibility" to be a kind of "ecclesiolatry" - at very least a type of error that places a lone bishop's bureaucratic declaration - rooted in his belief that he is the head of the church by divine right - even over the Scriptures themselves. This would place a single churchman's opinion over the Word of God, wouldn't it? You would think there would be common ground among EO and Lutherans on this.

In the same way, people who are troubled and open the Bible and read the first thing they see for guidance are practicing a fortune-cookie kind of bibliolatry. Ditto for the "Bible Code" and other such nonsense.

But when we pray with the Psalmist: "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet" we mean both the incarnate Word and the written Word, for we don't sever the Scriptures from the Holy Trinity. And aside from attacking a Lutheran straw man, why would a person even entertain such a notion? Of course we believe the Church is the pillar and ground of truth. But Lutherans and the EO define "The Church" differently, so we're never going to agree on what exactly that means - which is why Lutherans and Orthodox so often speak past one another.

Discussing it for the nine hundredth time is not going to change this fact.

But as far as this business about "Christ versus the Bible," you're creating a false dichotomy and not accurately describing what we Lutherans believe.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Back to the Loehe quote. "Everything said in this little book is nothing, if the Apostles' Word, if Scripture, is not clear."

St. Peter testifies that there are elements of St. Paul's writings that are "hard to understand," which certain persons wrest to their own destruction. (Whether "hard to understand" is a synonym for "not clear" is beside the point.)

Clarity, like understanding, is a relational term. A thing is clear to person x under circumstance y. Many of the Lord's sayings were not clear to the apostles before his passion and resurrection, for example.

So when Pr. Loehe says that the Scriptures are clear, we need a follow-up question. Clear to whom, under what circumstances?

Clear to the apostles before the resurrection?

Clear to a 19th century German cleric of reasonable intelligence?

Clear to the Society of St. Polycarp, or to Dr. Rick Strickert? (Would Dr. Strickert, a Lutheran of impeccable credentials, endorse all that Loehe derives from the clear Scriptures? Past experience with his view of Loehe suggests not; and if not, what does it say of clarity when two people from the same tradition cannot agree on something so basic as the doctrine of the Church?)

Or clear to the Church, the pillar and ground of the Truth, the fullness of him who fills all things?

And the difference between Lutherans and Orthodox is not a difference of definitions. It's the difference between the organic continuation of the body Christ founded, and a group that thinks having proper definitions will solve things. I recall a discussion with an intelligent Lutheran layman who told me, over a period of months, that the Lutheran definition of the Church was biblical. Finally I replied, "Please point me to the actually-existing Lutheran body that satisfies that definition." After some silence, he replied, "There is none." "Then what are we arguing about?" I answered. That was the end of that. The problem is not definitional. The problem is existential.

On this thing Pr. Beane is right, Anastasia: discussing the same things for the 900th time will have no effect. It is better to follow the advice of Patriarch Jeremias II. Pr. Beane and Pr. Weedon are fighting as hard as they can to preserve something they consider precious. Let us commit them to God, who is good and loves mankind. (Perhaps then Pr. Weedon will have time to read the fine work which MG has compiled.)

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Past Elder wrote: "Jesus' maleness is no more a barrier to being incarnate for males and females alike than his Jewishness is a barrier to being incarnate for Jews and Gentiles alike."

I agree completely. And this is my point. It is flawed logic to use the incarnation as a justification of a male only priesthood. One could actually (and I am sure many have) use the incarnation to justify female ordination (ie. since Christ has redeemed all of humanity and dignified all of humanity by becoming one of us then all are redeemed for service, etc...). According to Larry's logic--that those ecclesial communions who ordain women are anti-incarnational because they deny the maleness of Christ--the Christian Church should also ordain only Jewish males who were born of virgins. No?

William Weedon said...

Bryce,

No, because our Lord's Apostle did not specify that only virgins could hold the office in the way he specified that only males could be teachers of the Church.

Fr. Gregory,

I did read it last night and posted my response - brief though it is - on the other thread. The temptation for everyone is to SEE through their lens and ignore what their lens doesn't bring into focus.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Bryce:

I don't think it's just happenstance that in the OT, the males who opened the womb were declared holy to the Lord, and that the passover lamb was to be male, or that God took the form of a male human being, or that He only established a male-only clergy in the Old Testament, or that He only chose male human beings as apostles in the New.

Is this all a big coincidence? Or perhaps God is sexist?

Nor is it by accident that pagan cults, unlike the Christian faith of the Old and New Testaments, have both priests and priestesses - as they serve as a "type" pointing to their gods and goddesses.

This typology (the male pastorate) is a confession of our Lord's masculinity - which is important because every human being has the quality of sex. God could not take human flesh without being either male of female. He chose to be male. Biological sex isn't like nationality or some casual external trait - it is part and parcel of our humanity.

The early church was surrounded by women priests. Isn't it interesting that not once does Jesus, Paul, or any apostle ordain a woman? Jesus could have made His mother an apostle, or Mary Magdalene, or Martha, or a thousand women who, according to appearances, were far more qualified than the 12 *men* He chose. But He didn't. The odds of picking 12 men purely by chance would be something like 2 to the power of 12.

Church bodies that do so not only dismiss God's Word in Scripture, but thumb their noses at God's Incarnate Word whose called and ordained servants call to mind His (hot *her*) enfleshed humanity.

And, Bryce, it isn't *my* opinion. The burden of proof is on you and your colleagues who are the innovators.

Bryce P Wandrey said...

You miss the point. I am not talking about what the OT laws prescribed; I am not talking about what the apostles chose to do; I am not talking about being counter-cultural. I am simply showing that your use of Christ's maleness is not a determinative factor in who gets ordained or not. You can use all of those other bits to support your understanding of a male only priesthood. What I am saying is logically you cannot use the maleness of the incarnation as one.

But let's say you can, for old times sake, use this logic - what other doctrine is determined by Christ's maleness other than an all male preisthood? If the maleness of Christ is determinative for this doctrine, what else is it determinative of? Anything? Where in Scripture does St Paul or St John or St Matthew or St Luke or St Peter or any other NT writer utilize the maleness of Christ to establish a doctrine of the Christian faith?

Father Hollywood said...

Bryce:

Logically, why do pagan religions that have male gods have male priests, and those with female goddesses have priestesses?

Logically, why does YHWH, who reveals Himself as a Father (biologically, not merely metaphorically) and as Son (incarnationally, not merely spiritually) choose to have a male-only priesthood in the OT and a male only apostolate and presbyterate in the NT?

Logically, the only options are: 1) It's all just a great big coincidence, the maleness of Jesus is utterly unrelated (which seems to be your answer), 2) YHWH is a sexist (which is quite often the feminist answer), or 3) the maleness of the incarnate Jesus is indeed represented in the maleness of the apostles and of those the apostles ordained into presbyterial/episcopal ministry.

Logically, I don't know of any other doctrine the maleness of Jesus implies. And logically, it doesn't have to. The maleness of the sacrificial animals, the maleness of Isaac, the maleness of the OT priests, and the maleness of the apostles are all typologiclly related to the maleness of Jesus. I don't see why you need some other doctrine based on that. Isn't Christology sufficient?

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Larry,
I am thinking in these terms:

St Paul wrote: "[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation."

The writer of Genesis wrote: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."

And so, Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Humans, male and female, are created in God's own image.

For God to become incarnate in human flesh he indeed had to choose a gender.

Christ is the representative of humanity - made in the image of God, made male and female - before God.

He must represent both males and females, ie. humanity in total, before God.

Christ's maleness is determinative of no Christian doctrine. His humanity most definitely is.

This is not to make Christ androgynous or sexless but instead to stress what is really important about Christ: the unity of the divine and human (not the divine and male).

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Bryce:

I don't deny any of that. Male and female are both in the image of God.

But typologically, you can't just ignore the role of sex (not gender - gender is a grammatical, not a biological term) in the incarnation and the office into which a man stands, by his vocation, in the words of the Common Service, "in the stead and by the command of" Christ.

So which is it, Bryce, a coincidence, a sexist God, or is there some reason the sex of the Incarnate One is the same as the sex of the ones He chose to carry out his ministry?

The gals at www.herchurch.org actually pray to the "goddess." Are there any churches that claim to be Christian that have both a male-only pastorate and who also pray to the goddess? Maybe there are, but I have yet to see it.

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Larry,
First of all, where do you find evidence to accuse me of claiming God to be a sexist? Aren't you the one accusing God being sexist? You claim that God restricts his charism of holy orders to men. That is a sexist position by a strict defintion of the word. I haven't put forward any position of the sort.

Secondly, you don't agree "with all that" when you respond to my last post because then you would agree that the sex of Christ is non-determinative of any Christian doctrine.

Can you please provide for me evidence from the NT where a writer makes the explicit case for a male only priesthood on the basis of Christ being a male?

Father Hollywood said...

Yes, Bryce, look at the names of all the apostles - and of Timothy and Titus for that matter.

William Weedon said...

Bryce,

I think you're missing the point: we don't have to PROVE the all-male priesthood, for it has been the centuries old heritage of the Church. You have to PROVE the right to depart from that unbroken tradition and from the words of the Blessed Apostle who forbad women to teach or have authority over men, both of which they would have to do as incumbents of the Office of the Ministry. How do you justify serving under a female priest without discarding the Apostle's words?

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Larry,
If that is your answer to my question, then I will take your answer to be, "There isn't any."

William,
I haven't asked you or Larry or anyone to PROVE an all male priesthood. I have asked Larry to explain how the maleness of Christ is determinative of an all male priesthood and maintain that Christ's maleness is inconsequential for all other doctrines. Both of you have simply took this enquiry as me trying to DISPROVE an all male priesthood. I will save that for another day.

There has not been, in my opinion, a sufficient answer or engagement with my first question. There has instead been appeals to other "proofs" of an all male priesthood, but not a sufficient reason to emphasize Christ's maleness here and yet minimize it elswhere, notably when it comes to such things as say redemption, salvation, justification, etc.

William Weedon said...

The maleness of our Lord is essential if he is to recapitulate the father of our race, becoming in deed and truth "the Father of the age to come."

Father Hollywood said...

Bryce wrote:

"You claim that God restricts his charism of holy orders to men. That is a sexist position by a strict defintion of the word."

Well, there you have it.

Maybe we can get our blessed Lord enrolled in "sensitivity training" or at least some kind of affirmative action program. Goodness! He had all kinds of "qualified" women to serve in the ministry, but overlooked them all.

His recruitment program resembles the LCMS, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Eastern Orthodox.

Well, it's a good thing brave souls like Bishops Spong and Robinson have come along to correct Jesus's sexism (and homophobia).

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Larry,
Ultimately, you have failed to address the one issue I was interested in and that was the accusation of ecclesial communions who ordain women being "anti-incarnational feminist cults". The fact that you have not presented sound evidence for making such a statement, purely on the basis of the incarnation, is no fault of mine. You present other evidence, which is fine. Yet, you have not adequately defended your initial statement. And still, you take the logical conclusion of your position and try to turn it on to me in your final post.

All I can say at this point is that I did not begin a dialogue with you to argue for a priesthood that includes both men and women (I know that that is a lost cause with you). Instead, I chose to bring to light a felicitous way of arguing for an all male priesthood (that your proposed in your initial comments) which you have taken as license to discuss any and every thing but that facet of the issue.

MG said...

Fr Hollywood--

You wrote:

"Dear MG:

Sure.

Doctrines don't change, but confessions are "revisable" in the sense that doctrine may need to be clarified - for example, when the Nicene Creed was added to at Constantinople. Although the Creed changed, the Church's doctrine didn't.

Doctrine is confessed and pre-existent. It is the truth. If the Church's doctrine is malleable, that means we could one day "discover" a 4th person of the Trinity, or "discover" that the virgin burth is a myth, or "discover" a doctrine of female ordination - just as activist jurists in the U.S. have "discovered" a right to abortion in the Constitution.

Doctrine confessed by the Church isn't true "because we say so," but rather we confess it because it is true."

I think I might agree with you when you say "Doctrine confessed by the Church isn't true 'because we say so,' but rather we confess it because it is true." The Church saying "x" doesn't make x true because the Church says it--as though the Church is creating truth ex nihilo.

But there seems to be another issue lurking around here. This is the question of whether or not "the Church says x is true" indicates "x is true". This goes back to the word "because" in your phrase "because we say so". Depending on how we understand that "because" will affect what we mean when we consider the question of the authority of the Church.

Is "because we say so" to be understood in terms of "we make it to be true by means of saying it"? Or is it to be understood in terms of "the fact that we are saying it indicates its truth"?

With the infallible authority of the Bible, we would want to say the latter. If the Bible says x, it indicates x is true. The question then becomes whether we can say the same thing of the Church. Is the Church's actual canon, as it has been formalized and publicly taught, beyond the possibility of being revised? (note: the question is not "are we certain that it is true?" but rather "what kind of authority backs it up?") If so, the Church is infallible, for its teachings are unrevisable.

On the other hand, if the formal canon is revisable, then it isn't divine doctrine. It is a tradition of men, and not Christian teaching. But then anyone who wants to change the canon can do so. And the Bible's authority is kaput.

So it seems we must choose between saying the Church is infallible and saying the Biblical Canon is not. The infallibility of the Church would entail the falsity of Sola Scriptura, as far as I can tell; for it would meant that there is another source of infallible divine authority about Christian doctrine that is distinct from the words of the Old and New Testaments (even if all the content of Christian teaching is contained in the propositions expressed in Scripture). The non-infallibility of the Biblical Canon would apparently entail the falsity of Christianity.

How would you respond to this dilemma? Can a Protestant maintain that the formal canon of the Bible is unrevisable? If not, then how can he claim it is divinely-authoritative teaching, and not a "tradition of men"?

Father Hollywood said...

Dear MG:

You write:

"Can a Protestant maintain that the formal canon of the Bible is unrevisable?"

Why don't you go ask one?

William Weedon said...

MG,

Lutherans hold that Scripture itself is the first form of traditions, with its transmission and the handing down of the canon being the second form of tradition which we accept.

Steven said...

Bryce said:

Larry,
You label those communions which ordain women as "anti-incarnational" feminist cults. I wonder...

Based upon this logic--that the priesthood can only be male because Christ was male...


Even though this question is directed at Pastor Beane, I will take a shot at it.

how do you understand the saving work of Christ, in his body, on the cross, in the grave and at the resurrection, to apply to all of humanity?

I understand "the saving work of Christ..." to apply to all of humanity in the same that Adam's fall applies to all of humanity.(Romans 5 and 1 Cor 15), but since this is discussion about who according to Scripture can receive ordination and not about who can receive salvation, this has nothing to do with Pastor Beane's point. It is often the mistake of the pro-WO lobby to equate these two things. Who can be an "heir according to the promise", and who can be a "steward of the mysteries of God". It seems to me that this is a confusion of Law and Gospel.

Did Christ assume maleness or humanity in the incarnation?

He assumed both. Christ is incarnate as a male human. Both are critical for soteriology. If Christ is not a human, we humans are not helped by Him. ( Hebrews 2)

If Christ is not a male, he is disqualified from being a priest and offering the Sacrifice of Himself. This would disqualify the Sacrifice itself because the Law required a male Lamb. Also see what Pastor Weedon wrote a few comments above.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Sorry, Pr. Beane; I never intended any insult. I simply ask one question and point out what the significance of the answer is.

“When I believe the Bible, I am believing Jesus. When I believe Jesus, I am believing the Bible. It's really that simple.”

So the question is, what is the basis for believing either? That’s the question.

And the significance of the answer is that whatever is the basis, that is what gives credence, credibility, to everything else we believe. That is the most trustworthy thing. That is our highest authority, our un-normed norm. That is the center of our belief. That is what we believe first and foremost, in order to derive the rest of our beliefs from it. That is the primary thing in which we place our faith, upon which we stake everything.

So what is this basis?

Loehe’s words only make sense if his answer is, the Bible, alone.

Okay, Fr. Gregory, now I’m ready to take your kind and sage advice. Thank you.

MG said...

Fr Hollywood--

You wrote:

"Why don't you go ask one?"

There is a difference between claiming "I can believe x" and being able to *consistently claim from within a system of beliefs* "I can believe x". I apologize for my former lack of clarity as to what I'm asking. But I am specifically wondering from you or anyone else who can speak on behalf of Protestantism how it is possible to consistently claim from within the Protestant system of beliefs that the formal canon is unrevisable. For if the canon as it has been recognized by the Church can't be revised, then it has been formalized with infallible authority. But this implies Protestantism is false, for Protestantism is incompatible with the claim that the Church's decisions have infallible authority. So even if you are a Protestant and claim that the canon as it has been recognized by the Church is unrevisable, it doesn't seem you can do so consistently, for it implies something that is incompatible with the fundamental principles of Protestantism.

William Weedon said...

MG,

I don't mind the term Protestant for Lutherans, but Fr. Beane objects to it and now we see why. You are trying to paint Lutherans by a general association with Protestantism in a way that falsifies what we ourselves believe.

Unlike the others, the Lutheran Symbols provide no listing of the canon.

Unlike the others, the Lutherans preserve the ancient church's witness to canonicity to such an extent that we still recognize the difference between antilegoumena and homolegomena books when discussing canonicity. If the ancient Church were not unanimous in its reception of a certain book, that book among us is not used for the foundations of doctrine, but it may be used to confirm doctrines found in the books unanimously witnessed.

Unlike the others, Lutherans, though indeed possessing a theological system, place scant value on making that system be logically self-consistent. Our concern is rather to be faithful to the revelation that the Blessed Trinity has vouchsafed us in the Sacred Scriptures. If this doesn't fit logically together in our small minds, so much the worse for our small minds. We cling to what has been divinely revealed in the Sacred Scriptures as "most certainly true."

Finally, the great A.C. Piepkorn on the canon is most instructive:

"The term 'canonical' in Christian tradition is always relative; it refers to the actual canon in use in a given diocese or province at a given time. The content of the canons varies from time to time and from place to place. The canon was never fixed for the whole Church by an ecumenical council."

Past Elder said...

Was? Past Elder writes "Jesus' maleness is no more a barrier to being incarnate for males and females alike than his Jewishness is a barrier to being incarnate for Jews and Gentiles alike." and you agree completely?

Unglaublich! Past Elder wrote that to say that being male is not something incidental to Jesus -- I have to be male or female, so I guess I'll be male because they get that in the time and place to which I'm incarnating myself, but later on they'll understand it doesn't mean bupkis -- but part of what he specifically chose to be incarnate, and conserved in those who stand in his place as the Bridegroom bestows his gifts of Word and Sacrament on his Bride the Church.

No wonder the churches who sanction same-sex unions have female clergy -- they're already remade the marriage of Christ and his Church into one!

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Past Elder,
Okay. My bad. I could have sworn that sentence and all of your "roll back" language meant that Christ has to be either male or female (of course) but what is most important is the universality of his incarnation for the human race.

Re: your last comment. No comment. If you feel the need to resort to such rhetoric then I feel the need not to respond with any substance.

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Honest question for William, Larry, and others who want to chime in.

Do you allow non-ordained people to assist in administering communion, teach Sunday School, Bible classes, read the Scripture lessons, etc. in your congregations? If so, do allow both sexes to share in these roles?

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Bryce:

You write: "Do you allow non-ordained people to assist in administering communion, teach Sunday School, Bible classes, read the Scripture lessons, etc. in your congregations? If so, do allow both sexes to share in these roles?"

In my congregation, laypeople of both sexes teach children in Sunday school. Other than that, the pastor handles all of the above-mentioned duties. Come on, Bryce, you've been in the LCMS. You know the "lay of the land." Why even ask such "questions"?

Now let me ask *you* a question about *your* congregation's practice: do women preach, absolve, or say Mass? Are they ordained as deacons or priests? If so, how do you reconcile this with: 1 Cor 14:34-35, 1 Tim 2:11-15; 3:2,12 - not to mention two millennia of Catholic tradition and consensus?

You obviously left a church body that refused ordination to women in order to join one that does. You have obviously found some way to reconcile your personal beliefs with the NT restrictions against women in ministry.

So, obviously, the LCMS, the RC Church, the EO Church, and a goodly number of your fellow Anglicans, as well as millions of conservative church bodies of various Protestant stripes - all have it wrong - as did the entire Church Catholic, and arguably Jesus and the apostles.

But your own Anglican Communion was "fixed" by the ECUSA (the same body that gave the Anglican Communion the "gifts" of Atheist Bishop Spong and the proudly homosexual Bishop Robinson) in the 1970s by "ordaining" women to the presbyterate.

That has been as much a blessing to the Anglicans worldwide as the Church of Sweden has been for Lutherans - giving the world not only women "priests," but also gay and lesbian "bishops" and even an "art display" in the Cathedral of Uppsala depicting our Lord and the apostles in the form of homoerotic pornography. Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus!

This is what happens when man - including bishops and individual "church bodies" claim to trump Scripture rather than submit to Scripture. It is no coincidence that the homosexual movement, and even pornography, find a home in "churches" where Scripture is overturned and women are "ordained" - which brings us back to Pr. Weedon's original argument about the Church being bound to the Scriptures as opposed to being lord over them.

But I suppose if a Missouri Synod pastor tolerates (or even okays) a woman reading the epistle lesson (which I don't), we're hypocrites for not ordaining women?

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Larry,
Taking your tirade into account, I will answer your questions:

I asked the question because I see it like this: if an ecclesial communion allows non-ordained people to teach with authority and to administer the sacraments, but then restricts those roles only to men, that communion is essentially sexist. Why? Because no longer are you saying one is qualified to exercise those roles on the basis of ordination but instead on the basis of sex.

Yes, a woman celebrates the Eucharist at the congregation that I am currently deacon at. How do I reconcile that with the NT and tradition? Because I am neither a biblical or traditional fundamentalist. I think that both scripture and tradition are were written by human beings, inspired by God, at a certain time in the Church's life. They also wrote as witnesses to God's self-revelation. The task of theology is to continue to wrestle with what the Church did in XXXX and what the Church should do and teach now.

Now before you accuse me of giving up Scripture and throwing it out the window because I am not a fundamentalist: how do you reconcile being in an ecclesial communion where all of the women don't where veils and all of the men don't cut their hair short? I think St Paul has some pretty clear and strong things to say about those issues. Contextual? Or God's revealed "law" for the Church for all time?

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Bryce:

I appreciate your candid explanation of how you reconcile Scripture with your congregation's practice.

I can only wonder what the limits are in such a hermeneutic. I mean, what good is Scripture at all if we're free to do the utter opposite, because to do what it says is to be a fundy?

And what about taking such a drastic step apart from any consensus of the church catholic? It just seems like under your way of reading and interpreting Scripture, it boils down to "anything goes." I'm sure the pornographers who decorated the Uppsala Cathedral would make the identical argument, one of an evolving sense of truth - which is what the great English thinker C.S. Lewis called "chronological snobbery."

If I were a woman, I would indeed wear a veil to church. My wife's hair goes roughly to her knees, and is considerably longer than my own. St. Paul speaks of a woman's hair as a "covering," and my dear wife could indeed ride a horse completely in the buff to, say, protest taxes, and still retain her modesty. That wouldn't work for me. Even in our anything goes culture, we still expect men to remove their hats in church or when the national anthem is played.

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Larry,
How do you reconcile allowing all women who are not your wife to disregard St Paul's injunctions and hence disregard Scripture? It seems that that introduces a hermeneutic not far from mine. Or was St Paul speaking only of personal preferences of piety when writing that section of 1 Corinthians?

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Bryce:

If I were all on my own, if the Bible just fell from the sky and I had no ecclesiastical "lens" through which to read it, it would be a problem.

But we don't read Scripture that way (as an individual) - we read it as the Church.

When one communion (and, in fact, only one faction of that communion) acts independent of all the others to break with 2,000 years of hermenuetics and to unilaterally "ordain" women, that is acting individually. There was no new revelation, only a new secular culture.

When Paul tells Timothy to drink wine for the health of his stomach, we don't read it as some kind of universal command that everyone imbibe for gastrointestinal healthcare. Those were specific instructions for that one man. But we can all agree that there are also universals in Scripture.

In Paul's day, prostitutes went around with heads uncovered. The principle behind the veil is *modesty* - which indeed remains a problem in our churches just as it was in St. Paul's day in Corinth - even though immodesty today is manifested in things like tight jeans and cleavage instead of unveiled heads. The culture has changed, but the underlying principle is the same.

I handle the problem of immodesty the same way as Paul did - pastorally. I encourage women to adopt modest attire as befitting a daughter of the King. In most cases, they don't even realize what they are doing. This is a very different situation than women defying the Church Catholic and seeking holy orders. They are not "innocently" doing so out of ignorance.

But the prohibition of women in the ministry is not simply a social construct - as is the case with how a culture defines immodesty. For the Greco-Romans had all kinds of priestesses. And, like I said, the prohibition of women clergy even goes back to the OT, when God (not men) commanded only men to serve as priests. Male and female are not (though a lot of feminists will disagree) simply social constructs, but incarnational realities.

A woman without a veil may mean something entirely different today, but men are still men, women are still women, and our unique vocations remain unchanged.

The argument that a male-only pastorate is simply a social construct falls apart when we look to our Lord.

Jesus was not afraid to break social constructs and to be controversial. He did not interpret Scripture in a legalistic way. Had He *wanted* women in the ministry, putting one into office would have been a piece of cake. In spite of women being the first witnesses of the resurrection, in spite of the women being more faithful at the cross than the male disciples - the Lord Jesus Himself limited the apostolic ministry to *men.*

The apostles followed suit, and the apostolic Church followed in turn.

St. Paul doesn't appeal to cultural traditions in 1 Tim 2:12, but explains the prohibition in verse 13 by pointing out: "For Adam was formed first, then Eve" e.g. a universal order of creation argument.

My first theology teacher, a Jesuit priest, simply said we can ignore this passage because Paul was a "misogynist." Can we cherry-pick the Scriptures in such a way, or are they the Word of God that requires our submission - even when we don't like it?

I mean, it wouldn't be submission if we always liked it.

William Weedon said...

This conversation has gone all over the board, eh? Well, backing up to Anastasia's comment, I'd like to say:

It is the resurrection of Christ which stands at the center of our faith in the Scriptures. It is because there was a man, a true man, who died and yet rose in incorruption, that we listen to what HE says about the Words of God and we believe those whom He sent to witness to us about what they experienced in and with Him. Further, HE, our living Lord, continues to infuse and fill the words by His Spirit. I'd commend to you the marvelous account by Metropolitan Anthony of his encounter with the Risen One in the year he was ready to commit suicide at the meaninglessness of life. He met the Living One. But where did he meet Him? IN HIS WORD. It was as He READ the Gospel of St. Mark that the gracious living Lord brought him from despair to hope, from death to life. He found that the Bible isn't about words, but that it delivers the WORD Himself and having met Him as a real and living person, his life was forever changed.

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Larry,
My goal and purpose in starting this dialogue way back, upstream somwhere, was not to convince you that ordaining women is the way to go for you or the LC-MS. Instead, it was to challenge the claim that those ecclesial communions who do ordain women are anti-incarnational. The Church of England and the Anglican Communion do not deny or reject either the humanity or the maleness of the Incarnate Word of God. And neither do so becaue we ordain women. If that were the case - that ordaining women denied the humanity or the maleness of Jesus of Nazareth - then I wouldn't be a member.

We confess the Ecumenical Creeds with you every week, hence affirming "His only Son our Lord". You can indeed point to some extreme practices in the Anglican Communion that contradict this confession (I guess), but I can point to some extreme practices in the LC-MS, the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, etc., which contradict their confessions. Neither would be indicative of the ecclesial communion itself, would it?

I also do not find the cases of Phoebe, Prisca and Junia in the NT to be clear and definitive. It appears that these women held quite important positions in the NT Church, one being called a deacon(ess), another teaching Apollo (a Christian preacher), and another possibly being called an apostle (the history of translation of Junia(s) in Romans 16 is not conclusive, most now concluding that it is indeed a woman).

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Bryce:

I appreciate that you have a fundamentally different hermeneutic that leads you in an opposite direction - not only from me, but from the millennia of church history and from billions of other Christians on such basic questions as to who may be ordained and what are the implications of the order of creation.

Your arguments have convinced me even further that not only are such communions in denial of reality, they are in rebellion against the created order.

Paul calls such denial of the natural order "idolatry" in Romans 1, and it is not by chance that the "gender" issue is ripping the Anglican communion (and the Nordic Lutheran communions) apart.

Bishop Giertz is right - the issue of WO is at its base a radically different understanding of the Scriptures themselves. And I believe that radical understanding of the Word (Scriptures) is also a radical understanding of the Word (the incarnate one) - which enables communions like yours to play loose and fast with the issue of sexuality.

I know you disagree, but I am more convinced than ever that this is the Anglican communion's biggest obstacle to proclaiming the Gospel.

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Larry,
So I guess this is where I say, "You win! You're right. The Anglican Communion denies the Incarnation!"

But I won't say that, because it doesn't. All of the prognosticators - you, Bo Giertz, etc. - can predict our doom till the cows come home. But we also believe that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. Yes, even the Church as it is manifested in the Anglican Communion.

I have no problems with or obstacles to proclaiming the gospel on a weekly basis, taking into account the obstacles that all of us face in accomplishing that task.

It is exceedingly interesting that you can continue to tell me that I don't believe in the Incarnation, over and over and over. I guess confession isn't all that important after all. I guess my, and the Anglican Communion, confessing of the creeds every week isn't all that important any longer. Instead, according to you, I will be told when I have given up a key doctrine of the Church's faith even though I insis that I haven't. And so Larry, please let me know: When were you gifted with windows into people's souls?

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Larry,
I also take Canon A8 of the Church of England seriously (as I take all of the Canons):

"Forasmuch as the Church of Christ has for a long time past been
distressed by separations and schisms among Christian men, so that the unity for which our Lord prayed is impaired and the witness to his gospel is grievously hindered, it is the duty of clergy and people to do their utmost not only to avoid occasions of strife but also to seek in penitence
and brotherly charity to heal such divisions."

That is one of the goals in most, if not all, of my theological dialogues with Anglicans or Christians of another ecclesial communion. Is it one of yours?

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Bryce!

Bishop Spong confesses the Nicene Creed like the rest of us, but he is basically an Atheist.

You can deny the virgin birth, the resurrection, the existence of heaven and hell, basically be an Atheist - and not only remain in the Anglican Communion, but even be a bishop.

Do you honestly believe Spong is a Christian?

I don't believe it to be a coincidence that jurisdictions that welcome Spong (which to be fair includes jurisdictions that use the name "Lutheran") are precisely those jurisdictions where sex (and even the ambiguous concept of "gender") are severed from the order of creation and the biblical prohibitions of pastoral vocation.

I have no "window" into people's souls. I don't have to. Your fellow members of the communion of Canterbury write books to tell us what they confess and believe. They're proud of it, and they face no scrutiny from your hierarchy.

At least there is opposition from other Anglicans - such as the various continuing Anglican groups and those who are resisting the Trojan Horse you keep trying to assure me is nothing more than the same faith we all hold and confess every Sunday in our creeds.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

How interesting that this thread should begin referring to the clarity of the Scriptures, and end up speaking of different "understandings" and "hermeneutic" of the Scriptures.


If the Scriptures were clear in the sense that Lutherans mean it--a non-relational sense ("intelligible to all", to use Pr. Loehe's phrase)--they would need no hermeneutic. But if their clarity is relational--ie clear to the body of Christ the Church, then once again we come to the chief issue of our time: where is that Church?

She is not a school, an understanding that establishes communion; she is a communion that establishes understanding. Nor is she "manifested in" various human groups--which would make the union merely accidental. St. Paul does not write to the Church of God which is "manifested in" Corinth, for example, but to the Church of God which *is* in Corinth. (She is still there today, by the way.)

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Larry,
By the way...you continue to reference Rome and Constantinople as great friends and compatriots on this issue of the ordination of women. Strange bed fellows since neither Rome or Constantinople recognize your ordination (or mine for that matter). I would simply appreciate it if you wouldn't call them to your defense in this facet of ordination when you will so freely disagree with them on other facets of ordination.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Bryce:

Why don't you let Rome speak for itself. I would encourage every Lutheran to read "Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue IV: Eucharist and Ministry."

You'll find a much more interesting picture regarding the Roman view of Lutheran ministry and sacraments.

William Weedon said...

Fr. Hogg,

Once one decides to depart from the clarity of the Word, there are no end to the rationalizations about why our God really didn't mean what He said: "I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man." One either lives in that clarity, or renounces it.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Father Gregory:

I'm not sure what your point is about the church still being at Corinth.

The Church at Philippi isn't, and the one at Constantinople is now a Mosque.

And yet, the Church goes on.

Past Elder said...

Speaking of clarity --

It doesn't matter in the least, from the Joint Declaration to the Creed, if we use the same words, if we mean different things by them.

Male and female, btw, are not about gender at all. They refer to biological sex. Gender is a grammatical construct, not biological -- masculine, feminine and neuter.

A female groom and a female bride is a same-sex union, not "such rhetoric".

Bryce P Wandrey said...

William,
You wrote: "Once one decides to depart from the clarity of the Word, there are no end to the rationalizations about why our God really didn't mean what He said: "I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man." One either lives in that clarity, or renounces it."

St Luke wrote: "[Apollos] began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and expounded to him the way of God more accurately" (RSV Acts 18:24)

Can you clarify these two statements without rationalizations, but with clarity of how they appear in Scripture without discrepancy?

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Larry,
Your point on reading the Ecumenical dialogues is something that I will take up since I own the book.

Yet, a minor sidenote to the issue (because it isn't overly important to me): Rome does not fully recognize Lutheran orders in the way they recognize and view their own. Sacramentally, Rome only recognizes that Lutherans have "valid" baptisms and marriages. This is true unless my RC priest friend, who pursued a PhD in Canon Law, doesn't know his canons very well.

William Weedon said...

Yup. And you can find out too by checking out the Church's traditional teaching on this. It's not the conundrum you're making it out to be. To teach or have authority over a man is given in 1 Timothy in reference to the public exercise of the office (the whole chapter makes that clear, no?); privately, in the mutual conversation of brothers and sisters, there has always been give and take. However, it may also well have been that Aquilla and Pricilla took him aside and she allowed her husband to speak for her in correcting him. In either case, can you show me where Priscilla ever preached in the Christian assembly or consecrated the Holy Eucharist???

Bryce P Wandrey said...

William,
No I can't; but if I could I am sure we wouldn't be having this discussion would we?

Your first explanation is quite plausible. Your second one is laughable at least which means I am sure your first explanation is the far more sensible one.

Ultimately I am not trying to prove the NT witnesses to the ordination of women in those times.

But do you know what else I am not trying to do? To unchurch you or Larry or anyone else reading this thread. Increasingly, as much as I love having theological discussions, it appears that doing so with some of my "former" brothers and sisters is unfruitful and prohibited because it always comes back to trying to convince me that I am actually a heretic.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Bryce:

I never claimed Rome recognized our orders. That was the recommendation of the RC theologians - a recommendation not acted upon by the Vatican. Nevertheless, the RC contingency was convinced by the evidence from church history that Lutheran orders can well be recognized by Rome.

But it was not all that long ago that the RC Church would not even accept our baptisms - and now they do. It was not long ago that Roman Catholics would not even step inside on of our churches. A lot has changed.

I have an 86 year old parishioner whose late wife had been baptized as an infant by one of my predecessors at our font. Her widowed mother remarried an RC man, and the child had to undergo "rebaptism."

This is contrasted today by fact that the baptisms I conduct of children of "mixed" marriages are recognized by the RC Church and by other churches as well.

I even baptized the little girl of a practicing Eastern Orthodox father whose wife is a parishioner of mine (even after I made sure he understood full well that we don't share church fellowship, that the Orthodox Church would not likely recognize a Lutheran baptism, and advised that he consult with his parish priest).

I do believe that in the future, the RC Church will recognize the validity of our orders - including some Anglican orders - but the church bodies - Anglican and Lutheran - that "ordain" women have thrown a money wrench into the works.

These church bodies made feminism a priority over ecumenism, deciding that reconciliation with the secular culture was more important than reconciliation with their fellow Christians.

Not that we depend on recognition from any particular church bureaucracy, but I do think working toward such recognition to be worthwhile. I think it is a very good thing indeed that Lutherans who become RC and vice versa are not placed into the circumstance of questioning their baptisms.

Past Elder said...

I should think an Anglican would be more concerned about Rome's recognition of Anglican order than Lutheran ones, re which, Paul VI I believe it was spoke definitivly on the issue, saying WO is not simply something the Church of Christ will not do, it is something it cannot do because it departs from the institution of Christ, which later popes, looking at canonical regularisation of Anglican orders, have identified as a more formidable barrier to same than the historical ones that already exist.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Bryce:

You write:

"Increasingly, as much as I love having theological discussions, it appears that doing so with some of my 'former' brothers and sisters is unfruitful and prohibited because it always comes back to trying to convince me that I am actually a heretic."

It's not that this is about you, and whether you are a "heretic" - but it does demonstrate the brick wall the issue of WO puts up.

Your former brethren in the LCMS don't refuse to ordain women for flippant reasons, for reasons of style, or just because we just happen to choose not to - rather (and you know this having been a pastor in our synod), we consider it a biblical and ecclesiastical matter. It is the elephant in the parlor that we just can't simply overlook.

I'm sorry that it has to be that way, but it does.

We can't just have theological discussions with Mormons and overlook the little "polytheism" thing. We can't dialogue with Muslims and just pretend we worship the same God.

You left our communion for a reason, Bryce. Don't be shocked at us for being what we are. We don't see the WO issue as just window dressing, and asking us to do so is asking us to live a lie.

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Past Edler,
I am not overly concerned about Rome recognizing my orders or LC-MS orders. It was a contextual point that I raised for a reason which is explained somewhere up above.

Larry,
Indeed, I did leave the LC-MS for certain reasons. One of those reasons was the inability of LC-MS pastors and theologians to look beyond differences (just for a second) and engage in meaningful dialogue with Christians of other ecclesial communions. I personally don't sit around all day and think about sex: either the sex of the person or the sex they are having. Maybe that is one of my liberal traits. Could be! Oh well.

But in the end, you are probably right. Me coming on here (which for the past couple of weeks is the only Lutheran site that I have made a comment on) is probably a bad idea. Dialogue seems to be impossible or at least near unprofitable. I wish it weren't the case. But I can accept it. And so, I will spare the "orthodox" my presence and my destructive and disruptive theology. Peace.

William Weedon said...

Bryce,

I wonder at times about the whole notion of theological "dialog" - which too often seems to mean accepting that heterodoxy is no big deal. But of course, it IS a big deal. Christians of various confessions have always spoken to each other and about the differences between them, but what we can never do is pretend that differences on a matter of such import as women's ordination is a little matter over which Christians shouldn't get worked up. It is, to us, anything but that, and seeing the long-term effect it has had on formerly Lutheran bodies that have embraced it, is what leads us to question the extent to which the Church herself can even be preserved where it is embraced. I know that those are painful words, but if you're being open minded you need to LOOK at where those Churches have gone that have embraced this. Study Sweden's sad history, Bryce. What can possibly stop your own communion from heading down the path of its communion partner across the sea there?

William Weedon said...

But also, I might add, check out what has happened in Latvia and the hope that it gives where repentance is embraced. The women who were ordained there are no longer allowed to preach and celebrate, but they are provided for - acknowledging it was the Church's sin and she assumes responsibility for it. And so what a revival of real Lutheranism under Archbishop Vanags!

William Tighe said...

Re: "The women who were ordained there are no longer allowed to preach or celebrate."

Since when, Pastor Weedon? This was emphatically *not* the case when I interviewed Archbishop Vanags in Riga in July 1999, not when I took him out to lunch there a year later. In our interview, he made it clear that (at the time at least) the practice of WO (which had been rammed through the Latvian Lutheran Church's synod meeting in 1989 at the behest of the then newly-elected Archbishop Gailitis) had been "suspended" not abolished, "suspended" pending the results of a further study of the issue by a committee composed of representatives of the Latvian Lutheran Church and the Lavian Church Outside Latvia (which has its own archbishop and in which, as of three years ago, 80%+ of the ordinands wer women) -- a committee which seems to have taken as its own the old saying of the Emperor Augustus, "festina lente."

In the mean time, the nine or so actively-serving "ordained women" (out of a total of 14 ordained between 1975 and 1992) could still exercise a ministry of Word and Sacrament -- and when I asked Abp. Vanags how this could be, he replied "the Church has given them its commission, and it cannot now withdraw it."

The interview can be read here:

http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=14-04-031-i

but it does not include the above quotation, which the archbishop spoke at a later point in the interview, when I returned to the question. (He gives an answer to the question in the interview as published -- the published interview amounted to about only 40% of the whole -- but IMHO not a very cogent one.)

It would be a good thing to know that the Latvian Lutheran Church has formally repudiated WO (as I have been informed the Polish Lutheran church did a decade or so ago), but I have not heard of its doing so. The late Professor Marquart told me some years ago that one of the reasons for the scattering of votes at the Missouri-Synod assembly that approved the altar and Pulpit Fellowship agreement with the Latvian Lutheran church was precisely because that church allowed previously-ordained women to continue to exercise a ministry of Word and Sacrament in it.

William Weedon said...

Dr. Tighe,

Have you read this?

http://www.wwrn.org/article.php?idd=29001&sec=17&cont=5

William Weedon said...

I *thought* I had read that he had retired them, though I cannot find the article at the moment. Retired, but chosen to still support. I will keep searching.

William Weedon said...

Dr. Tighe,

You are right - I CANNOT find what I thought I had read on that, and the only info I can find confirms your Touchstone Article that they continue to serve. Dang. I am VERY sorry I am wrong about that - but I am still thankful that there have been no further ordinations in the Latvian Church of women. His great statement in the interview was that they couldn't stand in the pulpit and read certain passages of Scripture - because they told them they shouldn't be there!

William Tighe said...

Thanks for the link. I just read the article; it seems both confused and confusing -- but it does state pretty clearly, in its fifth pargraph, that already-ordained women can keep on serving as pastors.

Among its confusions are the reference to the "Latvian Synod of Bishops" in its first paragraph having chosen to "break communion" with the Church of Sweden over WO.

Until about two years ago, when three dioceses (the Riga archdiocese, the Liepaija diocese and the Daugvapils "missionary diocese" for the overwhelmingly Catholic Latgale region) were created, the "Archbishop of Latvia and Riga" was the only bishop in the Latvian Lutheran Church. Archbishop Vanags was elected archbishop by a "Church Assembly" (or "Synod") in 1993, and then reelected for life in 2003. At our lunch together in Riga in July 2000 he told me that the Latvian Church had remained in communon with the Church of Sweden despite the latter's purported "ordination" of women, but that it would "probably" have to break communion formally with the Swedes if they went on to accept "homosexual marriages."

I have not heard that the Church of Sweden, or "SveK" for short, has formally accepted, endorsed and promulgated "homosexual marriage" services -- although they were certainly proceeding, slowly and somewhat reluctantly (the latter because the SveK bishops had made a decision a few years ago along the lines of you-can-do-it-if-you-wish-but-if-you-don't-you-don't-have-to for pastors which was premised on the notion, then enshrined in Swedish law, that "homosexual civil partnerships" were a distinct entity from "marriage" -- but barely had the bishops done this, than the gov't announced its decision to change the law to abolish the distinction between "civil partnerships" and "marriage," which took place last year) but no doubt inevitably in that direction. If the "Latvian Synod of Bishops" has indeed broken communion with SveK, it is probably over SS (let the reader understand "Sanctified Sodomy") rather than WO -- but in that case, why haven't they also broken with the Danish "Folkchurch," which is further down the slope? The Norwegian toboggan is well on the way, too, and the Finns are putting theirs in shape as well.

William Tighe said...

Oh, and the fact that "civil partnerships" and "marriage are now one and the same thing in Sweden -- technically, and in legal terms, it was "marriage" that was abolished -- means that all pastors are, or soon will be, required to "bless" (or, if SveK retains the term, "marry") all "legal couplings" regardless of "gender," or face sanctions, or at least the possibility of them.

It has even been suggested, in the Swedish parliament and elsewhere, that clergy of other bodies, including Catholic clergy, should be required to perform all "legal marriages" -- at least for members of their confession -- regardless of "gender," or forfeit the right to perform any legally-recognized marriages for anyone whosoever.

Father Hollywood said...

When critics of WO first posited that WO was a slippery slope that would one day lead to same-sex unions and gay ordination, they were roundly laughed at.

I can't wait to see what will be next.

Andrew said...

Okay, I'm a little confused. Is the LC-MS in altar and pulpit fellowship with the Latvian Lutheran Church? If so, why, if the Latvian Lutheran Church has ordained women?

Glass houses and stones and all that.

William Weedon said...

Yes, to LCMS in full altar and pulpit fellowship with Latvia. I believe that at the convention that moved this the question was raised about those women still in office in Latvia and we were assured this agreement did not mean we'd accept them into the pulpit or presiding at the altar of any LCMS Church. If you will, we were declaring fellowship and support with Latvia as it moved forward and away from women's ordination. You can check out a bit about the Latvian Church here:

http://www.lelb.lv/en/

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Andrew:

One of our pastors who has served for many years in Lithuania has filled me in on the situation in Latvia.

There are maybe four remaining women "pastors" in the entire country (Latvia). WO became the policy in that country during Soviet times. After the fall of the USSR, the church repudiated WO, and elected Archbishop Vanags - who refuses to allow any more women to be "ordained." There are legal considerations that makes it impractical to defrock the remaining female "pastors" but it is clear that the Archbishop completely opposes this practice, and is letting it die off as an anomaly of strange times. He is heroically standing up to the forces of political correctness.

The LCMS voted to go into fellowship with the Church of Latvia - but specifically excluded fellowship with female "pastors."

But it really is nice of you to care about what we Lutherans do and who we're in fellowship with. You know, some Eastern Orthodox do not believe our churches are Christian churches, nor accept Lutherans to even be fellow members of the one holy catholic and apostolic church - so it really is touching of you to care about us, and obviously in such love and brotherly concern.

William Tighe said...

Back in that conversation with Prof. Marquart I expressed some surprise that there were a higher number of votes against Altar and Pulpit Fellowship with the Latvian Lutheran Church, on account of the female pastors allowed to function within it, than against that with the Lithuanian Lutheran Church, despite the latter's being, unlike the Lavians (who rejected it at the last moment) a full member church of the "Porvoo Communion." (Remember your late President Barry's pointed and severe critique of the Porvoo Agreement?)
Marquart laughed, said that that surprised him too, but that "we would be working with our friends in Lithuania to get them out of that intanglement."

Well (and under correction from Fr. Hollywood, if he can get further and updated information from his Lithuanian friend), in 2003 the long-serving Lithuanian Lutheran bishop, Jonas Kalvanas, died, and as a result of obscure machinations (obscure to me, at least) involving the Lutheran World Federation and other liberal Lutherans, the election of a new bishop was postponed for well over a year, and when it finally happened two firmly "confessionalist" candidates divided the "conservative" vote and allowed the third, moderate, candidate, a young pastor of 30 or 31 years, to win. I read at the time that he favored WO (unlike the other two candidates) but pledged not to push for its adoption in the Lithuanian Lutheran Church -- and I have not heard that he has disregarded his pledge. And yet, on the other hand, the Lithuanian Lutheran Church remains a full member of the "Porvoo Communion," and this in full sacramental communion with some of the most grossly revisionist and apostate bodies (the Church of Sweden, etc.) in the world -- as well as with all four British Anglican churches.

I am surprised that this has not caused an outcry in the Missouri Synod. Missouri is in full church fellowship with Lithuania, which is in full church fellowship with Sweden, England, Norway etc., all of which purport to ordain women, and two of which (Sweden & Norway) have "women bishops." This is a strange denoument. I wish Prof. Marquart were still available to ask "how did you get to here, and how are you going to get out?"

Andrew said...

Heavens! So in a roundabout way Missouri is in full sacramental communion with Bishop Spong. That isn't good at all.

Prs Weedon and Hollywood: you should do something about that.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Andrew:

You're new at this. I can tell. You need to get the official "talking points" from Fr. Hogg.

When you spend your days trolling Lutheran blogs being obnoxious and insulting, there are so many more salient points you can make that go beyond just being obtuse: grape juice served at communion, "Jesus jiggers", lay celebration, etc.

These are all genuinely distressing matters to us who are struggling to be faithful, and you'll have such better luck trying to demoralize us with those kinds of things.

And, as a bonus, you get to look so pious and above it all as members of the True Church.

You just need a little mentoring. The other folks on Lutheran troll duty will get you up to speed.

Now, don't forget to proudly invoke your humility when you sign your name, you know, like "Andrew, Chief of Sinners" or, if you are a priest, "the most unworthy priest who wost unworthily bears the name of the apostle Andrew" or some such.

Oh, and don't forget to use the work oikonomia. Club rules.

In fact, I think the EO offer a "merit badge" for badgering Lutherans.

Happy hunting!

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Fr. Hollywood,

Why the need for such ad hominems?

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Fr. Gregory:

I know you're an American history buff.

It's analogous to the conversation between the Union soldier and the Confederate soldier, in which the Union soldier asks: "Why are you fighting us?" The Confederate soldier replied: "Because y'all are here."

You're misusing the term "ad hominem." "Ad hominem" refers to ignoring an argument by instead attacking the character of one's opponent.

My intention with the last post is precisely to point out the rudeness that goes on when a certain group of EO visit Lutheran blogs.

When a drunken uncle barges into a person's home and vomits all over the floor, it is not an "ad hominem attack" to point out that such behavior isn't appealing.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear Fr. Hollywood,

I know a little about what an ad hominem is. I teach logic for a living, at the university level. Your post to Andrew was an ad hominem, directed at least in part at me. Andrew's point was that, given the meaning of church fellowship, you are in fellowship with Bp. Spong among others. Instead of addressing the point he made, you chose to make remarks about 'certain' Orthodox--naming only me. To "to point out the rudeness that goes on when a certain group of EO visit Lutheran blogs" is precisely to make the issue one of personal character instead of point raised, and hence is an ad hominem.

Rudeness is one of my many vices. So is pride. But making ad hominems is, usually, not. (I know of two times I've done ad hominems in all the posts I've made. Both of them were directed against Rev. Paul McCain.) I continue to hold you in high regard, because of the things you have suffered and because of the fight you're engaging in.

In effect, Orthodox commentators are noting that your right flank is in mid-air, when we note that sola Scriptura allows views as diverse as yours and Mr. Wandrey's (to say nothing of baptistic denials of the real presence in the Eucharist). Andrew expanded that thought when he noted that, through the Lutheran Church in Latvia, you are in effect in communion fellowship with Bp. Spong. You, too, are a student of American history. What happens when a right flank is in mid-air?

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Two caveats from my promise to not post here any longer:

1) I am not a Missouri Synond Lutheran any longer Fr Hogg. I am currently an ordained deacon in the Church of England and I should be priested by the Bishop of Edmonton this summer.

2) It is the Lutheran Church in Lithuania and not Latvia that the LC-MS is in fellowship with and that my communion is also in communion with. AB Vanags of Latvia did preside at the service and consecrate the new Bishop of Lithunia though. Supposedly, the Bishop of Lithuania has also recently consecrated a woman in the Lutheran Church in England as well.

That is all...I promise (just felt it was necessary for me to clear those two things u).

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Thank you, Bryce.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Father Gregory:

It is not an ad hominem attack to point out rude behavior.

Andrew is not trying to be helpful. Neither are you. I would never, ever lurk on an Orthodox website and then point out weaknesses or problems in your communion - and believe me, they exist. That would be almost pathological behavior.

Look, Robb, you left the Lutheran Church and its problems. Why are you still so wrapped up in them? Is it because you have no problems to address in your own parish? Is it because you have no issues that need addressed in your own communion?

What I find among EO folks who spend a lot of time on Lutheran blogs is that they are haughty and devoid of Christian charity. They are not trying to keep us out of hell, but they want so badly for Everybody To Acknowledge Their Rightness.

Just this "your flank is in the air" nonsense proves the point.

As a Christian, you shouldn't be looking at my flank at all. You should be more concerned with your own flanks. Maybe if you attend to your flank, and the flanks of other Orthodox, you might be in a better position to "help" with mine. But again, you're not interested in "helping."

There is a reason people consider buzzards to be unattractive.

In the real world, Bishop Spong is not in communion with the LCMS. The LCMS is roundly ridiculed (as is the Church of Latvia) for actually believing in the Scriptures and the Christian faith that Spong has repudiated.

But the real world is indeed messy. For example, just yesterday I learned (and am dismayed) that my cousin's husband has essentially lost his faith because of a sex scandal in his church.

The pastor has been covering up two pedophiles in the parish (my cousin herself caught one *in flagrante delicto* in the church). They went to the bishop, who was aware of the problem, but did nothing. My cousin's family and a few other "whistle blowers" were excommunicated. The priest is still serving that parish.

You are in communion with the bishop who is covering up the pedophilia. My cousin's husband now considers the EO church to be a "cult." My cousin has found another EO priest who disregards the excommunication, but her husband has bailed on the faith.

I'm terribly distressed by this, and it is my prayer that he returns to the faith. I want my cousin's husband to continue attending and taking sacraments in the family's new EO parish. I am not looking at this as an opportunity to "sell" him on Lutheranism. He needs to understand that the sinful acts of a wicked priest do not nullify the grace and mercy of Jesus.

But you are all in communion with the bishop and priest who have perpetrated this evil. Does this mean it is a reflection on you? By no means.

So, maybe you would be better served in lurking on Orthodox sites and looking at exposed Orthodox flanks and calling your own people to repentance before you search our Missouri Synod Lutherans to harass them about motes in their eyes.

The conduct of you and your group of those dedicated to harassing Lutherans is a very poor Christian witness.

But, I forgot, you don't consider us to be Christians. So I guess expecting you to treat us as brothers and sisters is not reasonable.

Don't be surprised when you bully people when they hit back. If I went to your blog and attacked your faith, I would deserve just what I would get.

I hope that clarifies matters for you.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear Pr. Beane,

1. Look at the topic of this thread. It's about sola Scriptura. Look at the few remarks I've made. Until you brought up my name, they were on the topic. Period.

2. There is a world of difference between personal moral failings and systemic doctrinal failings. Anyone who wishes may post anything he wishes about alleged systemic doctrinal failings of Orthodoxy on my blog. That kind of comment led me to do a series on prayers to the Theotokos, for example.

3. I have never said that you or any Lutheran is not a Christian. I have repeatedly said, and will continue to say, that Lutheranism is not church.

4. I do not attribute bad motives to you when you defend Lutheranism, or attack Orthodoxy. I consider you an honorable Christian in a difficult situation. I continue to hold you in the highest regard.


Fr. Gregory

Andrew said...

Fr Hollywood,

I just think it's ironic, that's all, given all the heat you'd previously give Fr Dcn Wandrey.

William Weedon said...

You guys topped the 100 comments mark. Good gravy! I've not had time to keep up with everything that was being discussed here.

Andrew, your comments did come across as a tad snarky. The LCMS does seek to strengthen confessional Lutheranism where it finds it, and this has led to these intercommunions in the last 15 years or so, where more liberal Lutheran Churches were discovering or rediscovering their confessional roots. Frankly, I applaud the Synod moving away from her insistence on complete unanimity in doctrine and practice, and instead moving toward the position Krauth advocated on the General Council - a Church that is willing to be corrected by the Sacred Scriptures and their exposition in the Lutheran Symbols is about the best we're going to get in this sadly fallen world.

Bryce, I hope you know that you needn't feel any obligation not to post here. I've made clear to you from the get-go how much I disagreed with your decision, but you are my brother in Christ - we share a common baptism - and though I think you made a horrible mistake in embracing the COE, I still appreciate your insights and thoughts. Feel free to come back whenever!

Robb, I understand and sympathize with Fr. Beane's concern. You need to let it go. You've moved on; you've made it very clear where you and I stand, and so I can't for the life of me fathom why you keep hanging around here. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend" you always cite and yet you've made it clear that you can't apply that verse to our relationship at all anymore. Unlike the Patriarch who was willing to entertain the further conversation with the Tübingen theologians "for friendship's sake" you can't do that - so why are you here if NOT to further recruitment efforts for your jurisdiction? I wish you no ill, but I do wish you'd heed the advise your spiritual father gave you several years back. It's NOT healthy. Too often it seems to us you come to pick at our wounds - self-inflicted wounds, I readily admit. Is it any wonder you are given less than a cheerful welcome? Your time is better spent praying for us than attempting to show the world how foolish and errant we are.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Bill,

Let those with less-impassioned eyes look back on this thread some months from now. Let them ask themselves concerning the number and nature of my posts, and whether they were to the point of the thread or not, and whether they were ad hominem or not. Indeed, my first post ended with an appeal to Anastasia *not* to engage you guys.


I don't want to recruit you or anyone else for the Church. As an academic, I have an ongoing interest in the logical structure of the Lutheran claim (the "sola Scriptura"). In my posts, I've sought to address that intellectual claim. That is my interest.

William Weedon said...

Robb,

You write about your participation in this thread; in the minds of many (myself included) it cannot be separated from your participation in other threads on this blog. Let the dispassionate reader review the totality of your interactions here and then draw whatever dispassionate conclusions he or she may. As to "logical structure" of Lutheranism, you might want to dust off your copy of Krauth (assuming you still have it) and review his treatment of the topic - most thorough and concise and answers all the usual objections with his dispassionate clarity.

MG said...

Pr Weedon--

You wrote:

“I don't mind the term Protestant for Lutherans, but Fr. Beane objects to it and now we see why. You are trying to paint Lutherans by a general association with Protestantism in a way that falsifies what we ourselves believe.

I meant no offense, and I know that Lutheranism is different from other Christian groups that came out of the Reformation. In fact I find Luther's sacramentology (especially his exegetical arguments) and understanding of the atonement to be especially good. I also really enjoy Bohnoeffer and Aulen (though I'm not aware if they're representative sources for Lutheran theology, and you guys might not consider them to be very classical Lutherans; would you?). By a Protestant I just mean someone who believes in justification by faith alone and the infallibility of Scripture alone. I do *not* necessarily mean by Protestant someone who believes in a *modern caricature* of these doctrines.

You wrote:

“Unlike the others, the Lutheran Symbols provide no listing of the canon.”

But surely there is at least an implicit canon that is held to, right? Everyone has the same list of books in the Lutheran Church, and they are obligated to believe them, right?

You wrote:

“Unlike the others, the Lutherans preserve the ancient church's witness to canonicity to such an extent that we still recognize the difference between antilegoumena and homolegomena books when discussing canonicity. If the ancient Church were not unanimous in its reception of a certain book, that book among us is not used for the foundations of doctrine, but it may be used to confirm doctrines found in the books unanimously witnessed.

Unlike the others, Lutherans, though indeed possessing a theological system, place scant value on making that system be logically self-consistent. Our concern is rather to be faithful to the revelation that the Blessed Trinity has vouchsafed us in the Sacred Scriptures. If this doesn't fit logically together in our small minds, so much the worse for our small minds. We cling to what has been divinely revealed in the Sacred Scriptures as "most certainly true."

If consistency does not matter, then we can be inconsistent with our application of the principle that “we ought to believe what has been revealed in the Scriptures as most certainly true”. So it seems like we don't actually have to believe anything that is revealed in the Scriptures as most certainly true, if you're right.

I am all for mystery, but contradiction is another story, and I see it as a sign of the collapse of a theological system.

You wrote:

“Finally, the great A.C. Piepkorn on the canon is most instructive:

"The term 'canonical' in Christian tradition is always relative; it refers to the actual canon in use in a given diocese or province at a given time. The content of the canons varies from time to time and from place to place. The canon was never fixed for the whole Church by an ecumenical council."

I can definitely appreciate Piepkorn's comments; they are quite sophisticated and careful, unlike so many statements on the canon. Most people don't realize for some reason that a canon was the rule of a bishop.

But what would Piepkorn make of the list of books in the canons of the Quinisext?

And regardless of Ecumenical Councils, it does seem like there is a lowest common denominator among canonical books across different canons, and that this lowest common denominator was considered unrevisable divine doctrine. It consisted of what you would call the homolegomena. The formal canon developed by accretion of more books, sure; it is true that the Church's formal consensus about the canon developed over time. The material canon never changed, though—the words of the Bible were always infallible and inerrant and grace-filled. And nothing was ever subtracted from the formal canon, because it was considered unrevisable. Books held by only a few hierarchs were considered to be up for consideration; they could be either accepted by the rest of the Church over time (and thus become part of the formal canon) or not (and those lose status as canon and become important Christian writings). And throughout time, the Church seems to have reached an implicit consensus on what the books of the Bible are in that a certain (larger than the original) collection of books is publicly taught by the hierarchy as a whole to be divine doctrine.

Surely you as a Lutheran agree that there are certain specific books that are to be considered Scripture by the Church. So again, I am curious: is this formal canon unrevisable? Could human judgment overturn the authority that obligates us to believe in the canon that the Church has recognized? If not, then it seems the formal canon is infallible. But if the canon the Church has formulated is infallible, then the Church is infallible and Sola Scriptura is false, because there is at least one source of infallible divine authority of God on earth that is distinct from the contents of the Old and New Testaments. (of course I would still say there is a lot that is still good about the sophisticated view of Sola Scriptura that you hold to, but its just not *quite* right from what I can see)

So the dilemma as I see it (unless you want to present another alternative) is this: is the Church infallible, or is the canon a tradition of men?

William Weedon said...

MG,

On the canon, Franzmann gives this helpful summary:

"Only a God who is the Lord of all history could risk bringing His written into history in the way in which the New Testament was actually brought in. Only a God who who by His Spirit rules sovereignly over His people could lead His weak, embattled, and persecuted churches to ask the right questions concerning the books that made their claim upon God's people and to find the right answers: to fix with Spirit-guided instinct on that which was genuinely apostolic (whether written directly by an apostle or not) and therefore genuinely authoritative. Only God Himself could make men see that public reading in the churches was a sure clue to canonicity; only the Spirit of God could make men see that a word which commands the obedience of God's people thereby established itself as God's word and must inevitably remove all other claimants from the scene. This the 27-book canon [of the NT] did.... ***The question of the limits of the canon may be theoretically open; but the history of the church indicates that it is for practical purposes closed.*** The 27 books are THERE in the church, at work in the church. They are what Athanasius called them, "the wellsprings of salvation" for all Christendom. And in the last analysis, the church of God can become convinced and remain assured that they are indeed the wellsprings of salvation only by drinking from them." [The Word of the Lord Grows, pp. 294,295]

Thus Lutherans confess a theoretically open canon; a practically closed one; and a self-authenticating canon. The Church did not ESTABLISH it so much as RECOGNIZE it.

William Weedon said...

P.S. What canon are you referring to at Quinisext? You know, of course, that it is regarded in the West is regarded as a local council and one that rejects numerous practices that the West embraces.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

"The Church did not ESTABLISH it so much as RECOGNIZE it."

Please explain the difference?

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

"The Church did not ESTABLISH it so much as RECOGNIZE it."

It was indeed a remarkable, even miraculous feat of the Holy Spirit.

He still does such, daily, which is why the Os are not Sola Scripturists.

William Weedon said...

Anastasia,

The Church has no authority to declare something the Word of God that isn't, simply by her saying so. But since "my sheep hear my voice," the Church recognized the voice of Him who spoke in the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures.

William Weedon said...

Yes, Anastasia, we heartily agree with you: the EOs are enthusiasts. :)

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

But, William, this is another one of those distinctions without a difference. Obviously the Church has no authority to declare *anything* so that isn't so! When the Church declares anything, it is because that is the Truth she has recognized, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. So for the Church to declare truth is (for the true Church) for her first to have recognized it. The Holy Spirit Who led her into the Truth concerning the Scriptures continues to lead her, the same way, into *all* Truth.

It's not as though, at some point in history, for some strange reason, He had stopped doing it, except through the sacred texts.

William Weedon said...

He leads her indeed, Anastasia, into an ever deeper inner appropriation of what the Sacred Scriptures witness. It's not that He leads her to anything that is not already THERE in the Apostles' words and witness.

I'm glad you recognize that the canon (when we use that word to mean list of Biblical books) is the Church's recognition of the Sacred Writings and not the cause of a particular writing being Sacred. Sometimes it has almost sounded that way to me...

By the way, the theoretically open canon for Lutherans, as I remember it being discussed, would arise should, say, another epistle of St. Paul come to light, in which the Church again recognized the authentic voice of her Shepherd, and which could then take its place with the other writings. We don't expect such a thing, but we don't rule out the possibility either.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

1.) Sort of depends upon what you say is "there"...

2.) "All truth" doesn't fit between the covers of any book. Truth is Christ and Christ is infinite...

William Weedon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William Weedon said...

About the Bible and infinite, think of the icon "more spacious than the heavens." There was in Mary's womb that which was bigger than the whole universe outside it. That same one, by the working of the self same Spirit, is present to us in His holy Words and thus the Words too are "more spacious than the heavens" for they deliver Him to us.

William Weedon said...

By "there" I mean it in the same sense that St. Irenaeus would argue that the mark of authentic tradition is that it delivers nothing to you but what's in the apostles' writing. It was his opponents, the gnostics, who argued for holding to that in tradition which couldn't be demonstrated from the Scriptures...

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Christ is infinite, the bible is finite. The Holy Spirit "delivers Christ." With or without the Book.

No, I don't think "more spacious than the heavens" applies to the Bible. It applies to Christ and Christ alone, and it's not right to put the Bible on any equal footing with Christ.

The Gnostics held to that which was *not* in Holy Tradition. That's why St. Irenaeus referred them to the Church.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Anastasia:

You wrote:

"The Holy Spirit 'delivers Christ.' With or without the Book."

I'm surprised to hear an EO say this - as it sounds a little more along the lines of Quakerism. The way you're wording this almost sounds as if the Holy Scriptures are optional, if not a luxury, but hardly necessary.

Were the ancient Greek fathers ever so dismissive of the Scriptures?

Your assertion also implies that the Church can well exist "without the book" - which it can't. For the Church without the book is the Church without the liturgy. The Church without the book is the Church without the Words of institution - for even if you have them only in an oral format, such as how Paul got them (paradidomi), you still have "the book" even if orally.

Books are the words, not the ink and paper. And these words are God's "theopneumatos" words (2 Tim 3:16). It just doesn't seem right to shrug them off with a "meh."

Again, making Scripture sound so unimportant to the Holy Spirit's work of revelation to the Church sounds more along the lines of Quakerism than Eastern Orthodoxy.

And, historically speaking, the Church has never been "without the book" - even before the NT had been written, the Church had the OT. She has always had the written oracles that the Lord intended her to have at that time, and the people of God were encouraged to internalize the Scriptures (Prov. 7:3).

And, for the Church to be "without the book" is to render our Lord a liar, since we have His promise that this will never happen (Matt 24:35).

To speak of the Church "without the book" is like speaking of fingers without a hand. I don't even see how it is possible to see a Church without the Holy Scriptures even as theoretical.

William Weedon said...

Amen, Fr. Beane.

Anastasia:

"'Tradition' for the early Church is, as Florovsky put it, 'Scripture rightly understood.' Irenaeus' appeal to tradition is thus fundamentally different to that of his opponents. While they appealed to tradition precisely for what was not in Scripture, or for principles which would legitimize their interpretation of Scripture, Irenaeus, in his appeal to tradition, was not appealing to anything else that was not also in Scripture. Thus Irenaeus can appeal to tradition, to establish his case, and at the same time maintain that Scripture cannot be understood except on the basis of Scripture itself, using its own hypothesis and canon.... Scripture, as written, is fixed, and though the tradition maintained by the succession of presbyters is similarly fixed in principle, in practice it is much less secure, and, in any case, it can never be, for Irenaeus, a point of reference apart from Scripture." John Behr *The Way to Nicea* (SVP 2001) p. 45

MG said...

Pr Weedon—

You wrote:

On the canon, Franzmann gives this helpful summary:

"Only a God who is the Lord of all history could risk bringing His written into history in the way in which the New Testament was actually brought in. Only a God who who by His Spirit rules sovereignly over His people could lead His weak, embattled, and persecuted churches to ask the right questions concerning the books that made their claim upon God's people and to find the right answers: to fix with Spirit-guided instinct on that which was genuinely apostolic (whether written directly by an apostle or not) and therefore genuinely authoritative. Only God Himself could make men see that public reading in the churches was a sure clue to canonicity; only the Spirit of God could make men see that a word which commands the obedience of God's people thereby established itself as God's word and must inevitably remove all other claimants from the scene. This the 27-book canon [of the NT] did.... ***The question of the limits of the canon may be theoretically open; but the history of the church indicates that it is for practical purposes closed.*** The 27 books are THERE in the church, at work in the church. They are what Athanasius called them, "the wellsprings of salvation" for all Christendom. And in the last analysis, the church of God can become convinced and remain assured that they are indeed the wellsprings of salvation only by drinking from them." [The Word of the Lord Grows, pp. 294,295]

Thus Lutherans confess a theoretically open canon; a practically closed one; and a self-authenticating canon. The Church did not ESTABLISH it so much as RECOGNIZE it.”

But if the Church does not have some kind of intrinsic authority, it doesn't seem like the fact that the Church stated “we recognize x” really indicates much of anything. If the Church's authority just consists in its ability to repeat what is stated in the Bible, then the fact that the Church recognized the canon has no inherent importance. It doesn't imply anything about the canon other than “these books have been recognized by fallible men”. It certainly doesn't mean that the Church's act of recognition implies we should agree with the thing she recognized.

It seems like you (and Franzmann) want to say that in some sense the Church's recognition of the canon has settled the issue of what the canon is—at least it has settled what *can't be removed* even if it hasn't settled what, if anything, *can be added*. So the Church's decision has some kind of normative quality to it. It sets up a rule that we can't violate. It is unrevisable, at least in terms of subtraction. And here I would agree with you—there might be more stuff that needs to be added, but there certainly isn't stuff that can be taken out.

But this is just to say that the Church is infallible. For if we are bound to not violate the rule (canon) that the Church's act of recognition imposed, then it must be a rule with divine authority behind it. And this would mean that Sola Scriptura is false.

MG said...

Pr Weedon—

You quoted Fr Behr:

"'Tradition' for the early Church is, as Florovsky put it, 'Scripture rightly understood.' Irenaeus' appeal to tradition is thus fundamentally different to that of his opponents. While they appealed to tradition precisely for what was not in Scripture, or for principles which would legitimize their interpretation of Scripture, Irenaeus, in his appeal to tradition, was not appealing to anything else that was not also in Scripture. Thus Irenaeus can appeal to tradition, to establish his case, and at the same time maintain that Scripture cannot be understood except on the basis of Scripture itself, using its own hypothesis and canon.... Scripture, as written, is fixed, and though the tradition maintained by the succession of presbyters is similarly fixed in principle, in practice it is much less secure, and, in any case, it can never be, for Irenaeus, a point of reference apart from Scripture." John Behr *The Way to Nicea* (SVP 2001) p. 45

Fr Behr's quote definitely shows both the similarity between Irenaeus' approach and Sola Scriptura, as well as the irreconcilable gap between them. Surely Irenaeus thinks that the content of theological teaching is all contained in the Bible. This is very Orthodox; and it is something that Lutherans and other Christian groups that came out of the Reformation can likewise agree with.

But the difference between Irenaeus and Sola Scriptura consists in the fact that Irenaeus thinks that the interpretive decisions of the Church, including past interpretive decisions that he inherited from his teachers, are normative for how the Scriptures should be understood. These past interpretive decisions can override the private judgment of individuals, whose interpretations would be set up against the hierarchy of the Church and its past interpretive decisions. There is something about the Church's judgments that is Spirit-infused, and carries with it divine authority that members of the Church must submit to. For, as he says, (paraphrase) “In the Church is found the Holy Spirit; but the Spirit is truth.”

MG said...

Also, hate to badger, but I wrote the following above and would still be interested in a response:

If consistency does not matter, then we can be inconsistent with our application of the principle that “we ought to believe what has been revealed in the Scriptures as most certainly true”. So it seems like we don't actually have to believe anything that is revealed in the Scriptures as most certainly true, if you're right.

I am all for mystery, but contradiction is another story, and I see it as a sign of the collapse of a theological system.

William Weedon said...

Dear MG,

Your last point does not take into consideration the limitations of human reason since the fall. When I said that Lutheranism was not concerned to produce a logically coherent system, but to faithfully produce the Scriptural teaching, I meant that there are mysteries revealed in Scripture which to human nature seem irreconcilable, the classic instance being the universality of grace and divine monergism in salvation. Lutherans do not seek to explain away either end, but to faithfully teach, in line with the Sacred Scriptures, that He is your entire salvation and that if you are lost, the fault lies entirely with you.

To us, there is no inconsistency in regards to the canon, because we accept and rejoice in the ancient father's witness to the Scriptures as the Word of God; their correctness on this does not lead to us making them infallible on all points. Rather, the same men who teach us the list of the Biblical books also tell us NOT to believe what they teach unless it can be shown to be in accord WITH those books.

You believe that they speak against "private judgment" but I'd refer you especially to the citation of St. Cyril of Jerusalem up above, which he gave to the Catechumens, urging them not even to believe HIM as he taught unless they received the proof from the Sacred Scriptures. Thus do all the true teachers of the Church speak: they never ask us to repose faith in the Church per se (for what is meant here by Church?), but in what the Word of God teaches. Even an Orthodox admits that bishops can err, councils can err, and yet you say "the Church" does not err. It is interesting that St. Vincent of Lerins thought that the time might indeed come when the Church had widespread and great error: "What if some novel contagion seek to infect not merely an insignificant portion of the Church, but the whole? Then it will be his care to cleave to antiquity, which at this day cannot possibly be seduced by any fraud of novelty." Thus a catholic Christian by the exercise of private judgement may turn from widespread error in the body of the Church to the ancients and their testimony of the Scriptural truth and cleave to it against those who plead "the Church! the Church!"

Are you cradle Orthodox or convert? Either way, the point came at which you by an act of private judgment chose to submit yourself to what you believe is "the Church's" infallibility. But on the Last Day, your Lord will ask about the exercise of your private judgement, for to you he has said: "Test all things; hold fast what is good" and "Beware false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruit." Both call for judgment on your part, a judgment you cannot escape.

William Weedon said...

P.S. On Irenaeus, if Lutherans did not regard "past interpretative decisions" as authoritative, why do you think we recite the Creeds, have the Book of Concord, and study the writings of the fathers? It is because we recognize, in our parlance, in them a norma normata - a normed norm, which is normative vis a vis all Lutherans, but which is normed itself by the norma normans - the norm that norms, the Sacred Scripture.

Father Hollywood said...

"It struck me" while studying the texts for Transfiguration that St. Peter makes the argument that the Scriptures are "more sure" than even his own eyewitness of the Transfiguration.

See 2 Peter 1:16-21, especially verse 19, where Scripture is called "something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention." In the next verse, Peter makes it clear that in this context, he means "Scripture."

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

H.A.W. Meyer ad loc 2 Peter 1:19--

"De Wette's view is more suitable. According to it, the comparative is put with reference to the event mentioned in vv. 17,18, so that the thought would be, 'and the prophetic words is more stable to us (now) from the fact that we saw and heard that' (thus, too, Schmidt, II. p. 213, Brueckner, Dietlein, Schott)...It is incorrect to take the comparative here as implying that the word of prophecy is placed higher than something else, for this could only be that event mentioned in vv. 16, 17. But the very stress laid on it and on the _epoptai genehthentes tes ekeinou megaleiotetos_, is opposed to this view. How inappropriate would it be, if in comparison with it the word of prophecy should be brought prominently forward as more stable and sure!" (p. 394)

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Gregory:

It's interesting that the commenter makes his argument ultimately based on human reason ("how inappropriate it would be...") - even given the fact that the word is grammatically a comparative and makes the most grammatical sense in a way he finds "inappropriate."

There are some translations, however, who agree and don't render it as a comparative of "sure" (i.e. "more sure"), such as the Jerusalem Bible, the NAB, and the NRSV (the NKJV translates it not as a comparative (i.e. "confirmed"), but hedges its bets in the footnotes - "more sure").

The KJV, Douay, RSV, ESV, NASB, as well as the Vulgate, French, German (Luther), and Swedish translations, however, all translate it as a comparative version of the adjective "sure."

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

"Similarly in 2 Pt. 1:19 the _profetikos logos_ is _bebaios_, i.e., sure, reliable, but also valid; its declarations are fulfilled for faith by their enactment. Here a _logos_ is _bebaios_, not in so far as it maintains an insight, but in so far as it shows itself to be grounded in an event." TDNT I.602

Ver. 19. _bebaioteron_. Originally a legal term. See note v. 10; cf Phil. 1.7, 2 Cor 1.21. _ton profetikon logon_, i.e. all in the O.T. scriptures that points to the Coming of the Messiah. The prophecy is now supported by its partial fulfilment in the Transfiguration." Expositor's Greek Testament V.131.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

"The Christian hope is guided and sustained by the inspired Old Testament prophetic word, now made more sure by the apostolic witness to the majesty of Christ, the fulfillment of that prophecy." Franzmann, _The Word of the Lord Grows_, p. 228

MG said...

Pr Weedon—

you wrote:

Dear MG,

“Your last point does not take into consideration the limitations of human reason since the fall. When I said that Lutheranism was not concerned to produce a logically coherent system, but to faithfully produce the Scriptural teaching, I meant that there are mysteries revealed in Scripture which to human nature seem irreconcilable, the classic instance being the universality of grace and divine monergism in salvation. Lutherans do not seek to explain away either end, but to faithfully teach, in line with the Sacred Scriptures, that He is your entire salvation and that if you are lost, the fault lies entirely with you.”

Before dropping common sense principles like “A and ~A can't be true at the same time in the same way” I think it would be good to review the evidence for monergism; I've found it lacking, personally. Unfortunately this would take us way too far away from the intent of this discussion. But if there's no reason to drop the common sense, then we probably shouldn't though, right? Its not virtuous to *try* and make Christianity sound and seem intellectually untenable as much as possible, even if Scripture doesn't demand it, right?

Also, would you say that this is an actual contradiction? Or just an apparent one?

MG said...

You wrote:

“To us, there is no inconsistency in regards to the canon, because we accept and rejoice in the ancient father's witness to the Scriptures as the Word of God; their correctness on this does not lead to us making them infallible on all points. Rather, the same men who teach us the list of the Biblical books also tell us NOT to believe what they teach unless it can be shown to be in accord WITH those books.”

The question is what kind of significance their witness has. *Why* are we supposed to believe what they say about the canon? What is it about their witness that makes it the kind of thing we *should* believe?

Also, I would dispute that they “tell us NOT to believe what they teach unless it can be shown to be in accord WITH those books” in the sense that you mean this. I will attempt to answer your patristic arguments (below and elsewhere) specifically in some comments in a little while.

MG said...

You wrote:

“You believe that they speak against "private judgment" but I'd refer you especially to the citation of St. Cyril of Jerusalem up above, which he gave to the Catechumens, urging them not even to believe HIM as he taught unless they received the proof from the Sacred Scriptures. Thus do all the true teachers of the Church speak: they never ask us to repose faith in the Church per se (for what is meant here by Church?), but in what the Word of God teaches. Even an Orthodox admits that bishops can err, councils can err, and yet you say "the Church" does not err. It is interesting that St. Vincent of Lerins thought that the time might indeed come when the Church had widespread and great error: "What if some novel contagion seek to infect not merely an insignificant portion of the Church, but the whole? Then it will be his care to cleave to antiquity, which at this day cannot possibly be seduced by any fraud of novelty." Thus a catholic Christian by the exercise of private judgement may turn from widespread error in the body of the Church to the ancients and their testimony of the Scriptural truth and cleave to it against those who plead "the Church! the Church!"

Are you cradle Orthodox or convert? Either way, the point came at which you by an act of private judgment chose to submit yourself to what you believe is "the Church's" infallibility. But on the Last Day, your Lord will ask about the exercise of your private judgement, for to you he has said: "Test all things; hold fast what is good" and "Beware false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruit." Both call for judgment on your part, a judgment you cannot escape.”

What you describe as an exercise of “private judgment” in rejecting the present consensus of the Church on some issue is precisely what is *not* meant by private judgment. Private judgment is a specific understanding of the role of an individual in relation to the Church in the process of assenting to doctrines. Everyone makes personal, individual decisions to believe things (in some sense—depending on the degree to which we think we have control over our beliefs). That's not in dispute, and that's not what I mean by private judgment. There is always a necessity of trying to be accurate in our attempts to understand what Christian doctrine is.

But authority and accuracy are distinct. The following is an excerpt from a blog I wrote on this subject awhile back:

“Accuracy is an intellectual disposition where one tends to validly infer information from data (data could be deductive argument or sensory input or something else). To say that some mechanism for belief-formation is accurate is the same as saying the beliefs produced by this mechanism tend to be true. Similarly, to say that a person is accurate is to say that they tend to get things right.

Authority is a normative power. It is the ability to directly morally bind human consciences to believe and do certain things. To say that someone is an authority means that when they command that something ought to be done or believed, we ought to agree and follow through if possible.

On the contrary, to indirectly bind human conscience to believe or do something would involve a speaker using persuasion and appeals to reasons that the audience should accept. If someone who hears the speaker grasps the intellectual force of the appeals being made, then they might be bound to believe or do what the speaker suggests. But they are not bound to believe or do what the speaker said *based on the fact that it was the speaker talking*; in other words, they are not directly morally bound to believe or do something. Rather, they are bound because they had independent motivations (other than “the speaker says so”) that they accurately recognized as valid. The speaker just brought these motivations to mind. This is the difference between *suggestion* and *command*. Suggestion appeals to the accuracy of the hearer to discern the accuracy of the speaker and the verifiable validity of his reasons. Command appeals to the authority of the speaker as a reason.

So with respect to adjudicating authoritative decisions, we might say that it is our obligation to accurately discern where authority is. And when we discern it, we ought to obey it.”

(From my post http://wellofquestions.wordpress.com/2008/12/30/accuracy-authority-and-the-visibility-of-the-church/ )

Now, keeping all of the above in mind, private judgment *as I am defining it* is the idea that there is no inherent authority behind the interpretive decisions of the Church throughout the ages. We are not bound to believe in the consensus of the Church about the interpretation of the Scriptures. This doesn't mean the Church got it wrong—it just means that any individual with a Bible is not obligated to assent to the interpretive decisions of any past Christian(s) as being inherently binding.

To give an analogy, if we were allowed to exercise private judgment with respect to whether or not a teaching of the Bible was *true* (not just how to interpret its true teachings) then we would not be in any sense morally bound to believe “x” just because the Bible says “x”. The Bible could still be perfectly accurate—it could be right about everything. But we would not be bound to believe anything it says *in virtue of the fact that it said so*; we would need independent grounds for affirming what it says.

Now that this has been cleared up, it is obvious that what St. Vincent is suggesting is not private judgment at all. He is suggesting that we judge the present opinions of the Church—true. But he is asking us to accurately apply an authoritative standard to the present opinions of the Church—the past authoritative consensus of the Church. He doesn't say that we can just take the Bible, interpret it by ourselves and that this would be sufficient to settle the doctrinal correctness of the present day (or future, I guess) Church. Sure, one can accurately conclude that the teachings of a particular bishop or council as false; but the standard by which they can be judged is the consensus of the Church in the past.

MG said...

You wrote:

“P.S. On Irenaeus, if Lutherans did not regard "past interpretative decisions" as authoritative, why do you think we recite the Creeds, have the Book of Concord, and study the writings of the fathers? It is because we recognize, in our parlance, in them a norma normata - a normed norm, which is normative vis a vis all Lutherans, but which is normed itself by the norma normans - the norm that norms, the Sacred Scripture.”

One explanation for why you might recite the Creeds, have the Book of Concord, and study the writings of the fathers is because your private judgment leads you to accept what the Creeds say, what the Book of Concord says, and what some of the Fathers say. But that doesn't make them authorities necessarily. They may not be any more authoritative than an atheist is authoritative if he were to accurately interpret a Bible verse, if you saw his interpretation was correct, and you were therefore bound to behave a certain way because you recognized its correctness. There is nothing about the atheist himself that is authoritative; he just so happens to get things right. He is accurate, and you recognize this, and are bound by his verifiably accurate interpretation of an authority.

So do the interpretive decisions of the Fathers decide how we ought to interpret the Scriptures, or not? Or should we only agree with them when our own private judgment (as defined above) leads us to accept what they say about the Scriptures? Notice that I'm not disputing the primacy of the authority of Scripture. I am just asking whose interpretations of the ultimate authority are authoritative—if any.

MG said...

I have posted the following points elsewhere on your blog as well ( http://weedon.blogspot.com/2009/01/on-that-private-judgment-thingy.html ) but considering you have brought these quotes up in multiple places, I will respond here too:

Pr Weedon—

you wrote:

“St. Cyril of Jerusalem urged his catechumens:

"For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless you receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures."

How is this not an urging to use private judgment?”

Do you think that in this quote, Cyril is denying the divine authority of hierarchs? Or that he would be okay if we hold something contrary to the inherited oral tradition of biblical interpretation that the Church keeps, based on our own ideas about how to interpret the Scriptures? Or that the interpretation of the Bible that is presented by the Ecumenical Councils does not bind our consciences, based on the fact that it is a manifestation of the chrism of truth given to the Apostles' successors? Or that the Church doesn't set the canon?

Unless you think Cyril would deny *all* of this, then you can't say he believes in private judgment. Whatever this quote means, it can't contradict his other beliefs, right?

Notice that he says people should not give him “absolute credence”. But one can deny the theory of private judgment and still think that we are not obligated to give absolute credence to what some particular hierarch says. Authority can come in degrees, and some degrees of authority may not be sufficient to completely bind someone's conscience.

Also, notice that he doesn't say that the judgment of the Church as a whole is not infallible. He is just talking about himself as a particular heirarch. But that doesn't mean he would deny that the Church as a whole is infallible.

Consider these quotes:

"But in learning the Faith and in professing it, acquire and keep that only, which is now delivered to thee by the Church, and which has been built up strongly out of all the Scriptures....Take heed then, brethren, and hold fast the traditions which ye now receive, and write them on the table of your heart."

“[The Church] is called Catholic then because it extends over all the world, from one end of the earth to the other; and because it teaches universally and completely one and all the doctrines which ought to come to men's knowledge, concerning things both visible and invisible, heavenly and earthly… for this cause the Faith has securely delivered to thee now the Article, And in one Holy Catholic Church;' that thou mayest avoid their wretched meetings, and ever abide with the Holy Church Catholic in which thou wast regenerated.”

"Learn also diligently, and from the Church, what are the books of the Old Testaments, and what those of the New."

Doesn't this seem to be an endorsement of the inherent authority of the Church?

MG said...

You wrote:

“Or better than St. Cyril, when the Apostle Paul urged the Christians of Thessalonika:

"Test all things; hold fast to what is good."

How is this not an urging to use private judgment?”

What standard is he asking them to test things by?

MG said...

You wrote:

“Or again, St. Gregory of Nyssa, when he wrote:

"Let the inspired Scriptures then be our umpire, and the vote of truth will be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine words."

The passive "are found to agree" sounds to me as though he were inviting his hearers to judge whether or not the teaching he was presenting accorded with the Divine Words of the inspired Scripture.”

Again, do you think Gregory would deny the divine authority of hierarchs? Or that he would be okay if we hold something contrary to the inherited oral tradition of biblical interpretation that the Church keeps, based on our own ideas about how to interpret the Scriptures? Or that the interpretation of the Bible that is presented by the Ecumenical Councils does not bind our consciences, based on the fact that it is a manifestation of the chrism of truth given to the Apostles' successors? Or that the Church doesn't set the canon?

Unless you think Gregory would deny *all* of this, then you can't say he believes in private judgment. Whatever this quote means, it can't contradict Gregory's other beliefs, right?

It seems to me this quote is easy to interpret as teaching private judgment if read out of context. But lets take a look at what he says. St. Gregory is opposing people he keeps referring to as “they”. “They” are not members of the Church. They are “our enemies”—Trinitarian heretics:

“Now they charge us with innovation, and frame their complaint against us in this way:—They allege that while we confess three Persons we say that there is one goodness, and one power, and one Godhead. And in this assertion they do not go beyond the truth; for we do say so. But the ground of their complaint is that their custom does not admit this, and Scripture does not support it. What then is our reply? We do not think that it is right to make their prevailing custom the law and rule of sound doctrine. For if custom is to avail for proof of soundness, we too, surely, may advance our prevailing custom; and if they reject this, we are surely not bound to follow theirs. Let the inspired Scripture, then, be our umpire, and the vote of truth will surely be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine words.”

St. Gregory of Nyssa, On The Holy Trinity http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf205.viii.iv.html

When we read the section as a whole, we see that the reason he only tries to appeal to Scripture is because he is abiding by the rules of persuasion. You don't appeal to authorities your audience is unwilling to accept if you are trying to persuade them of something. The heretics wouldn't accept the councils' rulings on their teachings, so of course Gregory wouldn't want to let councils be the umpire. This would be an illegitimate appeal to authority. Instead he makes an appeal to authority that is legitimate: he appeals to an authority that is recognized *in common*. This is Scripture—something that these heretics about the Holy Trinity would actually accept. So because they will accept Scriptural proof, he appeals to inspired Scripture to be our umpire to judge the dogmas of heretics.

But notice that he thinks that both he and the heretics have dogmas. They both have teachings distinct from Scripture that they consider to be authoritative. Because Gregory submits to the authority of the Catholic Church, he considers the dogmas of the Church to be dogmas. In fact, he apparently thinks that both he and his opponents would try to say that their customs are the kinds of laws or rules that can bind those who are members of their respective communions.

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf205.viii.iv.html

Also, consider this quote:

“[S]eeing, I say, that the Church teaches this in plain language, that the Only-begotten is essentially God, very God of the essence of the very God, how ought one who opposes her decisions to overthrow the preconceived opinion... And let no one interrupt me, by saying that what we confess should also be confirmed by constructive reasoning: for it is enough for proof of our statement, that the tradition has come down to us from our Fathers, handled on, like some inheritance, by succession from the apostles and the saints who came after them.”

That sounds like a denial of private judgment to me. It sure seems like the tradition (=right interpretation of Scripture) that has been handed down is inherently authoritative.

William Weedon said...

It sounds like a denial of private judgment to you because you do not confess that the normative form of Tradition IS the Sacred Scriptures, which either authenticate or prove false whatever else goes under the name Tradition.

William Weedon said...

The standard St. Paul was urging is that witnessed in Gal 1 - the Gospel he preached, which Gospel was written down for us by the Holy Spirit, so that, as St. Ireaneaus would say:

Since, therefore, the tradition from the apostles does thus exist in the Church, and is permanent among us, let us revert to the Scriptural proof furnished by those apostles who did also write the Gospel, in which they recorded the doctrine regarding God, pointing out that our Lord Jesus Christ is the truth, John 14:6 and that no lie is in Him. -- St. Irenaeus, Ad. Haer. 3.5.1

Or as St. John of Damascus could similarly say:

"It is impossible either to say or fully to understand anything about God beyond what has been divinely proclaimed to us, whether told or revealed, by the sacred declarations of the Old and New Testaments." St. John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, Book I, Chapter 2