19 March 2011

Interesting Article

by Dr. Meilaender on the general nature of Lutheran catholicism:

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2011/01/the-catholic-i-am

HT to Pr. Tibbetts, who drew attention to it on ALPB Forum.

17 comments:

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

The comments sort of made me sad, but it was a good article.

Pr. H. R. said...

We need to find a way to be conciliatory without being handwringing. Why can't such articles say rather simply: I don't believe in purgatory and papal authority in issuing indulgences to spring folks therefrom, I don't think the Pope is infallible, I believe we are saved by grace alone through faith alone, and I don't think praying to saints is the way to go: that's why I'm Lutheran.

+HRC

William Weedon said...

Where's the like button on this thing?

Dr. Jack Kilcrease said...

Rev. Weedon- Sorry to sound a sour note, but this is an utterly unacceptable account of Lutheran catholicity. The main goal of Meilander appears to be to relativize the Lutheran confession within the Roman Church. Apparently he believes that Roman=Catholic. Ultimately I stand with Gerhard in "On the Church": the only reason why Lutherans do not call themselves Catholic Church is for the sake of convenience! The invocation of JDDJ was difficult to accept, insofar as anyone who has read it knows that it is a mere propaganda piece, aimed at convincing the LWF and the RC to not pull its funding for future ecumenical dialogue. I found the statement that we all agree about justification but not the doctrine of the Church problematic. Has it occurred to anyone that the two questions are actually interconnected? If you believe salvation is merited by performative righteousness, doesn't it makes sense that the Church would have a supreme legislator to convince us that we were doing the right works? I remember Eric Gritsch and Herman Otten Pesch arguing the same position when they came to Marquette. It is utterly unconvincing now as it was then. Also the appeal to a more law-based piety was irksome in the extreme. Has it occurred to him that forensic justification is effective because it is forensic! In other words, grace must be external to me and my salvation must be based on something other than my performative righteousness if my action are going to be disinterested.

David Garner said...

From the article:

"Our problems are, of course, exacerbated by the obvious fact that there is not some single entity called “Lutheranism.” There are different Lutheran church bodies, and they will only become increasingly different unless they take care to think of themselves as Lutheran communions within the catholic tradition and not as one more branch of mainline Protestantism."

This, I think, gets to the heart of what I have mentioned here and elsewhere before. It seems when Lutherans have issues with other Lutherans (at least here in America), instead of working through them, there is ever more fragmentation. This, I suspect, is due to a refusal by one or the other "side" to view themselves as within the catholic tradition of the Church writ large.

When the overriding principle is each may do as he pleases, it is hard to bind together. As one of the departed that Dr. Meilaender referenced, my earnest prayer is this idea is quashed among Lutherans. But as one of the departed, obviously, I'm not optimistic. I know most who read and post here do not hold to it, so hope does spring eternal.

christl242 said...

but one would have to be an utter fool to miss the significance of the fact that Rome takes up far more space in the world—and therefore embodies Christian faith and faithfulness in the world in a manner harder to ignore—than does the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.

Oh dear, oh dear. Why am I not surprised that Meilander entered into this territory.

Well, where two or three are gathered . . .

John Paul II was quite right when he lamented the fact that there were so many unevangelized Catholics. Of course, that is not limited to the Church of Rome but holding the claims that she does for herself her burden of proof is heavy.

I am glad that Meilander at least acknowledged his disappointment with modern Catholic worship, one that I also experienced not to mention that the still pervasive influence of Mary, the saints and some very dubious hagiography that borders on the magical are also part of the package that one must accept as a member of "Holy Mother Church."

I agree, Lutherans need to stop apologizing and simply live the catholicity that is ours.

The utter futility of the JDDJ beomes more and more evident as some corners of the Lutheran world continue to depart from historic Christian practice.

Christine

Jim Huffman said...

I think the problem with Catholic worship is far bigger than most in that confession would care to admit. It's not so much the details (problematic as they can be)as the general irreverence and silliness that pervades the celebration of the Mass at most Catholic churches.

William Weedon said...

Dr. K.,

It strikes me as a tad weak, but not without its salient point. Of course, THE distinctive of Lutherans is keeping the main thing, the main thing, and not allowing anything to obscure that. I think he somehow misses that, and misses that that is a VERY catholic approach to the faith. Accenting the correct syllable, if you will. So much of what we object to in Rome (as Fr. Heath pointed out) is exactly that which obscures the main thing.

David,

It's not so much a matter of fragmentation, as the recognition that once a body has renounced the Symbols, there's not much left to talk about even when the name "Lutheran" is shared.

Christine and Jimbo,

Amen, but of course, there are sad examples galore on this side of the ecumenical divide too. What is so sad is that it need not be; if pastors just USED THE BOOK we'd find Gospel-rich and beautiful liturgy all over the place.

David Garner said...

Certainly a fair point, Pastor Weedon, but if maintaining the faith taught in the symbols is what makes Lutherans catholic or reveals them to be so, what would be the impetus for maintaining the symbols if not the desire to maintain a unity of belief in what those symbols teach? Sort of a cart-horse thing.

I first became concerned with this nearly 5 years ago when we couldn't find an LCMS parish locally that was anything less than full blown CGW. We joined a WELS parish and it immediately struck me that if there were an ELS parish close by, we'd have gone there instead. But WELS and ELS are in communion with each other but neither are in communion with the LCMS. To compound the issue further, we couldn't abide in our relatively tame WELS parish, and absolutely couldn't tolerate any LCMS parish around here, but I know there are parishes elsewhere in each synod I'd have been perfectly happy with.

Forgive me for being so bold to say so -- I do so only out of genuine love and concern for my Lutheran friends -- but it seems to me at some point some consolidation needs to happen in addition to fragmentation. It seems to me there are a lot of WELS, ELS and LCMS parishes (and maybe even an ELCA parish or two) that should be in communion with each other. And a lot more WELS, ELS and LCMS parishes that should also be in communion with each other, but not in communion with the first group. What we have now is basically Lutheran orthodoxy mingled with Lutheran heterodoxy within synodical boundaries and across synodical boundaries. Shuffling the deck and coming clean with perhaps 2 or 3 synodical bodies that are internally homogeneous, as much as is reasonably possible, would do a world of good. That's something that would have to happen organically and won't happen overnight for sure. My concern is I haven't seen it happening at all.

Terry Maher said...

AKA Past Elder.

The only thing interesting about the article is what an excellent example it is of the utter uselessness and fruitlessness of such articles.

Genug damit, genug!

That article from the outset is a losing proposition taking communion and tradition and the wretched JDDJ, a betrayal of both confessional Lutheranism and confessional, so to speak, Catholicism (wrt to its own confessions prior to the 1960s) and attempting to address catholicity on Catholic grounds as if we needed to demonstrate catholicity or that we are catholic to the RCC.

I came from Rome. Let me tell you, catholicity and tradition are understood in Catholic thinking such that it will fit nothing bu the RCC. The comments, some less felicitously than others, are entirely predictable, at least to one formerly under the hallucinogens of the RCC.

You will get no other reaction than Resistance is futile, You will be assimilated. Methods and argumentation have changed since Vatican II, but not the fundamental reality of it.

It will always end being about the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church.

Let us focus on what we are about, the Word rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered, and let Rome do what it will. The Empire which created the "Catholic Church" is long gone, but it will continue to find ways to make the Edict of Thessalonica hold.

We have behaved long enough as if it still did, adopting and adapting its new liturgy instead of continuing for the most part the ceremonies previously in use, except where they contradict the Gospel not the latest trends from Rome however much space they take up.

Those still under the captivity of Babylon need hear nothing from us but "Come out from her, my people ...", and even moreso now that the Whore of Babylon seeks to reinvent itself to be more attractive to the post Imperial and post Holy Roman Imperial Babylon.

Jim Huffman said...

PE: "Let me tell you, catholicity and tradition are understood in Catholic thinking such that it will fit nothing bu the RCC."

How do the Eastern (Uniate) churches fit in with ideas of such "catholicity and tradition"? I know there are a (very) few such parishes, and I wonder how the Roman communion thinks of them. Any thoughts on that?

William Weedon said...

What I particularly appreciated in the article was the realization that life has gone on since the Reformation; that the Lutheran Church (and other churches) did develop an existence separate from the Roman Catholics, even while tied closely together through the shared Baptism into Christ. And in that development were some of the great gems that even now the Roman Church recognizes as belonging to her too - the great hymns and such.

Past Elder said...

The Eastern Catholic -- they don't like being called "Uniate" -- as distinct from the Eastern Orthodox are not at all a similar paradigm to some sort of Lutheran Use or whatever within the Catholic Church.

Why not? What is meant popularly by the Catholic Church, as a proper noun, is not co-extensive with the Roman Catholic Church There are a number of rites besides the Roman one in the Catholic Church.

The rite does not matter. What makes them Catholic is they are led by "bishops" who fit the Roman definition of bishop (which is not just occupying an historic episcopate) and those bishops are in "communion" with the bishop of Rome, whom they recognise as the successor to the role and function they believe Peter had.

The Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, I was taught as a Roman Catholic, even before Vatican II, are just as valid as we are sacramentally and just as valid as church. That is why the juridical division between the Orthodox and the Catholic churches is described as a schism, not a reformation or a revolt. It is a break within one church, which means, the one church remains, but with a rupture in its unity.

That is not the case with the "evangelical Lutheran church", or any non-Roman church, which Rome does not recognise as truly church but rather as "ecclesial unions", and that precisely because of belief, not rite.

We in the ecclesial unions do not have all of that which Christ gave to his church, and are therefore not truly or fully church. Unless we are prepared to recognise that Rome was and is indeed right in these matters and we were and are wrong, it is an utter waste of time to speculate on some sort of existence within the Catholic Church.

Actually, in that mindset, we are already in the Catholic Church, though invisibly, bound to it by those valid elements of it which we do not deny and which, like Baptism, can exist outside its visible boundaries.

Which makes its talk about fruit from separated brethren utter duplicity, aka pure crap. What they recognise is themselves, and they are the criteria of what is "fruit".

So they can sing our hymns all they want -- hell, I graduated from a Benedictine school in a ceremony with "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" as the recessional -- but in the end it is always, always, about the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church.

So again I say, we should just drop all this monkey business. Even the monkeys have better business than this, like learning to swing from a vine. So let us be about our business, unless the catholic church IS the Catholic Church.

William Weedon said...

Terry, I well remember Dr. Nagel's rather stunning observation that when we put the Church at point #1, it ceases to be what Christ intends and we make of it an idol. The Church comes at point #3 - after the Blessed Trinity (#1) and the Domincally mandated Means of Grace (#2). The Lutheran does not secure the Church in order to secure the Means of Grace; He secures the Means of Grace in order that he may secure the Church.

christl242 said...

The Lutheran does not secure the Church in order to secure the Means of Grace; He secures the Means of Grace in order that he may secure the Church.

Amen and amen, Pastor Weedon.

Terry Maher said...

Quite so. And that is why though we were taught that the EO across the street (I say that now figurativly, but then it was also literal; there was an EO parish across the street!) are as valid as we are, the word from "across the street" is not so unequivocal, sometimes Yes, sometimes No, sometimes Maybe, and sometimes "Can't Tell".

We looked and saw the same legalistic structure of Apostolic Succession as present in them and is us, therefore everything else is valid, but they looked at us and because there is some question about everything else, it's Yes No Maybe Can't Tell about validity.

So even in that context, it's the Catholic Church first last and always in the RCC.

David Garner said...

Re: my prior comments, I saw this today and while I don't know the ramifications of it, my first thought was "this might be a good start....."

http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=14239