03 May 2010

Thoughts on the Corrective Function of the Symbols

My dear friend, Pr. Larry Peters, has written a fine piece you should read here. It raises a most interesting question in my mind about the extent to which a congregation or a Synod may honestly be considered "Lutheran." I would argue that when the documents comprising the Lutheran Symbols, the Christian Book of Concord, are no longer permitted to critique and challenge current teaching or practice; when instead our Church's Confession is relegated to the museum as an interesting artifact of what was once the case, then we have lost the right to the name "Lutheran." Whenever the Symbols are dismissed with "well, they can't mean THAT because we DO that and we're Lutherans after all," their corrective voice has been silenced and stilled. Well, not really. Rather ignored and shouted down. The voice of our fathers still rings out and it still challenges what we believe, teach, confess and practice. So are you and your congregation and your Synod ready to hear the living critique which the Symbols would offer? Then there might be hope for the Churches of the Augsburg Confession yet. If not, then shut out the lights, folks, and move on. Or, at least be honest and change the name on the door...

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Right on. But I'd love to see more real discussion about what the Confessions say, and less echo chambers and strawman attacks on both sides. Let's merge worship concord and gottesdienstblog and see some real discussions.

M.A. Henderson said...

Well, some congregations down here who've adopted this position are dropping the 'Lutheran' name, but they're not leaving the synod nor have they relinquished the benefits belonging to it brings. There's a need for some basic integrity in these matters.

mmmkile said...

I agree with both of these comments, and having read my way into Lutheranism, and coming from a denomination with no substantial confession, I largely value what the Book of Concord says and represents. I thought that it was extremely awesome that the Lutheran Church had down on paper what it believed.

Edward Reiss said...

As per the linked blog post, the "road back" for a congregation which has in fact, if not formally, discarded the Confessions is a very difficult slog.

Lutheranism is, well, odd to the modern mindset.The confessions are a different world from our sentimental, huggy. touchy-feely society. How does one tell a post-modern American that his feelings ultimately don't matter very mush--what matters is what Christ actually did and continues to do for him. The he cannot, as Luther said of the Enthusiasts, swallow the Holy Spirit feathers and all, but tha he must receive the Holy Spirit via the word, and receive Jesus through his sacraments. It is only then, after we receive and meet God where he promises to be that the feelings we have are even useful.

Karl said...

Amen. And amen.

Anonymous said...

Amen. In light of hearing Rev. Harrison speak on his book "At Home in the House of My Fathers" I would add that what is happening in the ELCA today is a result of that church body no longer subscribing to the Lutheran Confessions in the B of C... Thus they should correctly not be considered a Lutheran church body.

F. V.

mqll said...

Yeah...you know Will, I don't mind that you want to use the Confessions as a club to coerce behavior. I get that and I understand that.

What I guess you don't understand--or at least really truly acknowledge--is that the reason some of us are "ignoring" the confessions is because we are trying desperately not to have America become Western Europe--a place where the church is museum piece (much less the Confessions...)

I'm interested in proclaiming the Gospel message of Christ. That is what I want my Lutheranism based on. I care--just as Luther cared--in being focused on a contextual proclamation of the Gospel to the people of my community.

You want that to mean "not Lutheran" because I'm not doing the Western Mass? They still do that over in Germany, don't they? What percentage attend church over there? Is that the model that you are comfortable with?

What I hear being shouted from the Confessions is the proclamation of the Gospel. Is private confession really shouted in the confessions? What about wearing a stole--shouted? Mentioned, yes, but shouted? Really?

Let's be clear about what exactly it is to be Lutheran. Because at the core of it, I place more emphasis on proclaiming what Christ Himself proclaimed, than holding to the traditions (good, wonderful traditions) of the church.

William Weedon said...

Dear Markus,

I suspect the problem is that whenever the Symbols are correcting *ME* then I perceive that *as a club.* But the whole joy of their correcting is precisely because they point us toward a life that is Gospel-saturated with gifts overflowing from the hand of our gracious God. Sometimes a good wack on the head can bring us to our senses! ;)

mqll said...

Mmmm...except that once again, I do what I do, because I want "a life that is Gospel-saturated with gifts overflowing from the hand of our gracious God."

And I want that same thing for others.

Your position is, I can't do this. Not because God says so; but rather because human beings say so.

That is quite a club...I just wish that you would acknowledge this.

William Weedon said...

Dear Markus,

Hardly a club. You voluntarily subscribed to them when you were ordained. No one forced you. And you promised at your installation as well as at your ordination that all your preaching, teaching, and administration of the sacraments would conform to them. It's just basic honesty.

Robbie F. said...

Marcus, are you seriously saying the "Lutheran" churches of Germany became museums because they adhered to the Lutheran Confessions? *scoff* To a great degree, the LCMS owes its existence to the apostasy of European Lutheranism 150+ years ago. And as its confessional identity has eroded, it has lost steam. Talk all you like about "contextualizing" the Gospel. If your ordination vows were worth the hot air you made them with, you would recognize that the "Gospel message of Christ" IS the doctrine of the confessions. And because it is, you can't set aside the latter & still proclaim the former.