18 September 2012

A friend sent me these

ruminations and with permission I repost them:


Ruminations

Lutherans are crystal clear on their understandings of Church and Ministry . . . at least . . . until they begin reading the works of the Lutheran Church Fathers, and inevitably therein, the Early Church Fathers.

Then we begin to get the "We never did it that way before" response, which pretty much tells the tale.

We swerved.  We deviated and/or, we maintained deviations.  We sought, high and low, for some Words of Scripture that seemed to justify our deviations, that we might rest easy in our conclusions.  Our Lutheran forefathers sought no deviations - they sought a return to what the Church of all ages had always taught and believed.  They rejected and tried to prevent the dominance of . . .

Law.  Self-justification for our self-induced changes to the faith.

Apostolic Succession has to do with one thing, and one thing only - the transmission of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Church down through the ages.  Apostolicity has to do with the διδαχή of Jesus, plain and simple, once authorship is established.  The authority is not to the given Apostle, nor is it even given to the Church.  It is the Gospel which is the source and means for upholding both the Church and the Apostles in every way.  The Gospel belongs to God, in Jesus - period.

Now, this is my personally-held belief, hardly to be elevated to any kind of doctrinal standard, but nonetheless, it is pertinent, I do believe.

We MUST think of the Faith and the Church as being "sacramental" by their very nature.  They are both the repositories of grace.  For the individual, faith receives the full benefits of the atoning work of Christ in all ways.  The Church, then, consisting of those in faith, cannot be anything but the same as well, and both together, work to safeguard and spread the same.

We say we are of the Gospel, when instead, we employ the Law to describe the actions of the Gospel in virtually every circumstance.  You must do it this way as a believer or the Church . . . well, okay, if the "Royal Law" is involved as per James 2.  But the swervings and the deviations from the actualities of Scripture are not hardly part of anything, really - just swervings and deviations from what it is we should be about believing and doing.

Some will understand what follows, some will not.  I have traveled from the Seven Hills to Wittenburg; then to the western shore of the Bosporous, where for some time I sat, transfixed with a longing for a return to roots.  Only one who has traveled such a path knows what I mean.  I left the first for deviations; and I sat on the banks of the Bosporous because of a misplaced longing to have the touch of the Apostles in some physical form.  That probably makes no sense to anyone except one who has journeyed as have I.

But I went back home to Wittenburg, in the end, because Luther and the Church Fathers had really done their homework, and both Rome and Constantinople were given proper responses.  Those response were not "Law" -

They were of the Gospel.

Saying so, believing so, might make me seem, in the minds of some, a crypto-antinomian.  I understand why such a charge might be leveled - 'cause I really am a Gospel sort of guy.  But there is far more to it all.

Ole Mo is a pert good girl.  She has had to endure every one of the duckings and weavings spoken of by Chesterton in Orthodoxy (maybe even more than her share).  She has endured virtually every heresy, yet emerged - not unscathed, but wiser and the better for it all, and she is STILL learning.  My Church has warts; my wife has warts; I deeply love them both, warts and all, and would not trade either.  It is not inside me, nor within the Royal Law, to do so.  And I, too, have warts - far too many for my liking.

How can I change things that are not up to par in the Church?  I need to change "me" first of all.  I need to be willing, as was the Good Samaritan (Jesus), to scoop up the wounded man, place him on my donkey of limited faith, and transport him to the hotel/place/hospital/sanctuary (Church)  of "getting better" - and I must be willing to pay the freight.  If I, the single most individual member of the Synod/Church, am not willing to be what the Gospel says I must be in Christ, Who has relieved me of the burdens of the Law, how can I possible pontificate about the wrongs of the Church?  Cue Chesterton again:

"What's wrong with the world?  I am!"

Because I harbor no illusions about my own sinfulness, I am able to see the warts of myself and the Church and even further, see the need of the Gospel and the Great Commission and absolution pronounced copiously and a good pop from the pulpit and a serious kneel-down at the very altar of God to take in the Lord of the Universe to try again to get it right - week in and week out.  If we who demand faithfulness of Synod, even as we look in the mirror and see that the Old Adam keeps re-surfacing from the waters of Baptism, are not willing to demand the utmost of our own selves and faith, then we best not be very quick to cast stones in any direction.

Sweet Mama Lou calls it "poop-patrol."  Three dawgs, lotsa poop.  Yet in a way, even though we have to clean up after "Mah Bubbies" - my pups hear my voice and heed me almost instinctively.  That is not something I, the most individual member of Synod/Church, is "inclined" to do for my Master.  I have to have the Law smash down on this thick Irish skull, and being the preacher down yonder here, I have to beat myself first, so I can again realize and appreciate and glory and wonder in the mercies of God, and see His Kingdom yet again - even if from afar.  But I also know it descends upon us at the altar - together with the angels and arch-angels and all the company of Heaven . . .

The dogmaticians might come out in force against this cri de coeur.  So be it.  Been shot at by really big guns, so BB's ain't gonna kill me.

I'll put it this way:

If you wear the backwards collar and lead from on high (altar and pulpit), then speak always the truth of God.  Your opinion will not get a single soul to Heaven - it's God's opinion that matters!  Work that Bible Study to death!  Do not pound the pulpit . . . pound those words of your sermons until they are a pleasant sound to God Himself - which will ensure they are also a pleasant sound to your flocks, which have been entrusted to your care.  Realize how huge a deal that is!

If you lack collar, but have the sincere love of God for the Holy Church/your Synod/your congregation - put on your best suit and tie of faith, and don't try to be boss, or come with the"ideal" solutions for the Holy Church/your Synod/your congregation - just scoop up the wounded man, place him on your donkey of limited faith, and transport him to the hotel/place/hospital/sanctuary (Church)  of "getting better."  Pray for him.  Pray for yourself.  Pray your pastor will bring good news.  Pray God to love you.  The last most of all!

Do that, and your Synod will be the best it can be in this world.  We are still the Church Militant, and that we have the problems we do is proof-positive that the devil is really pissed off at us for still getting the Good News as we do.

That is a very good thing.

Work out your faith with fear and trembling - because you have to, anyway.  But do it unto the Lord.  Leave the results to Him.  He's a big boy.  He knows what He is doing.

Last I checked, He was quite reliable about following through on His promises.

Solus Christus . . . pb

31 comments:

PastorMeador said...

As a brother FAR to the north, who was once not all that far to the north of you, all I can say is Amen!

J.G.F. said...

I can SO relate to this!

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

If I may--and you feel free always to say "may not," Rev'd. Weedon. Here's where I find an issue worth dialoging about.

pb wrote:

"Apostolic Succession has to do with one thing, and one thing only - the transmission of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Church down through the ages. Apostolicity has to do with the διδαχή of Jesus, plain and simple, once authorship is established. The authority is not to the given Apostle, nor is it even given to the Church. It is the Gospel which is the source and means for upholding both the Church and the Apostles in every way. The Gospel belongs to God, in Jesus - period."

But the biblical witness does not support this either/or between message and messenger. He who breathed the Holy Scriptures is also he who breathed on the apostles and gave them the keys. Succession can not merely be a matter of message, as opposed to church, to messengers. God's Word is enfleshed, and he says--even of sinful men--"He who hears you, hears me." God's Word is what calls the Church "the pillar and ground of the Truth," and promises it will prevail against the gates of hell.

So, in an effort to understand and not to misrepresent your view, let me ask:

Do you grant that there is such a thing as apostolic succession?

If so, does it involve a faithful transmission of the message?

Does it also involve a faithful succession of teachers of the message, or is this succession of teachers unnecessary to preserve the apostolic succession?

If my formulation of the questions doesn't suit, can we work on formulating something mutually agreeable so that we can understand each other?

Or tell me to leave...that's ok too.

Unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory

Pawlitz John said...

I wonder at the starting point saying that about the enfleshment of the Lord. I think that is a noble topic, to be sure, but how does that come into it?

"Succession can not merely be a matter of message, as opposed to church, to messengers. God's Word is enfleshed, and he says--even of sinful men--'He who hears you, hears me.' "

That brief reference to the incarnation is (to my mind) the biggest thing going on in there. I am more afraid of a gospel-incarnation dichotomy than a message-messenger dichotomy.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear John,

I don't get the point of your remark; forgive me.

Fr. Gregory

William Weedon said...

Father,

Of course I grant that there is such a thing as apostolic succession.

It involves faithful transmission of the message, and yet I begin to squirm when we imply that the message is somehow inert and just a thing we pass on; one thinks of the lively way the NT talks about how the Word is active: "it comes to you; it is bearing fruit and growing" (Col. 1:5) and Luke's constant refrain "the Word of the Lord grew."

Yes, it involves a faithful succession of teachers, but again you have the teachers preserving the message when it was the message that preserved the teachers, for the Holy Spirit is active in the message!

When the Lutherans constantly turn to statements in the Fathers that show the glorious Gospel shining, they are not so much rejoicing that a line of men preserved the teaching; they are rejoicing that the teaching preserved the Church and can be witnessed doing so in their witness to the faith.

Does that make any sense?

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Rev'd. Weedon:

I neither say, nor do I believe, that the Word is inert. How can He be inert, when he is risen from the dead? And how can inscriptured Word be inert when it is the product of the Holy Spirit, the "treasury of good things and giver of life"?

There should be no dispute that both are true--the teaching preserves the teachers, and the teachers preserve the teaching. To say the one does not deny the other. Without the teachings, the teachers could no longer proclaim Christ but only themselves. But without the teachers, as Paul says, "How will they believe if they do not hear? And how will they hear if they are not sent?"

So let's be clear. We both agree that a succession of the teaching is necessary for apostolic succession. This is not in dispute.

Now, can we turn to and focus on the succession of teachers in a bit more depth?

William Weedon said...

Father,

What exactly did you want to discuss about the succession of teachers? Gerhard has a fine section on this in his Locus on the Church. He cites Gelasius: "Some persons taking the place of others does not constitute succession. Rather, it is the perpetual consensus of doctrine, which joins later people to earlier people by the bond of faith." (Commen. Book 3 of Irenaeus, chapter 3 - cited on p. 372, the Church).

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

In an earlier comment you said,

"Yes, it involves a faithful succession of teachers, but again you have the teachers preserving the message when it was the message that preserved the teachers, for the Holy Spirit is active in the message!"

(The 'it', I take it, is apostolic succession.) But you seem to make things an either-or: either the teaching preserves the teachers, or the teachers preserve the teachings. Then you reject the latter in favor of the former.

The biblical witness does not support this either-or. In the biblical witness it's a both-and. Otherwise, St. Paul's exhortation to Timothy, "Guard what has been entrusted to you," would be pointless. So, likewise, would his "entrust to *faithful men*."

Note also his "continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed (i.e. the teachings), *knowing from whom you learned it* (i.e. the teachers)."

So Irenaeus does not simply refer to the teachings, but also to the teachers: "“It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about” (Against Heresies 3.3.1)"

Hence:
1. Apostolic succession is not simply a succession of teachings (which we both agree is a feature of it), but also a succession of teachers. I'd like to refer to the apostolic teachings as the 'matter' or content of apostolic succession, and the apostolic teachers as the 'form' or framework of apostolic succession.
2. Just as it is legitimate to address questions about the content of the apostolic succession (i.e. the teachings), so also it is legitimate to address questions about the form of the apostolic succession.
3. Questions about the form of an issue can often be more easily decided than questions about the matter of an issue. A court, for example, will sometimes dismiss a claim on the grounds that the person raising the claim has no legal standing to raise it.

In the case of the filioque, for example, apart from the substantive theological discussion that can be had, there is the formal point that no one patriarch or church had the right to change a universally-adopted symbol of faith, without the consent of the whole church. The filioque, whatever its theological merits, fails this formal test.

Given this distinction between form and matter in apostolic succession, and given the fact that we both grant the matter--that apostolic succession requires a continuing in the teach*ings* of the apostles, please address the issue in controversy--the *form* of apostolic succession, the succession of teach*ers*--from a Lutheran point of view.

(BTW, Luther himself recognized what I am calling the 'formal' aspect of apostolic succession in his Galatians 1541 commentary (LW 26.17, last paragraph)).

William Weedon said...

You are being more Aristotelian than Gerhard! :)

1. Of course it is not simply a matter of the teaching, though that is primary and "the form" without this "material" is worse than useless.
2. Yes, it is legitimate to ask what constitutes succession.
3. To a degree, but noting that questions of legitimacy hang upon questions of authority, which gets back to first principles and if there's disagreement THERE...

William Weedon said...

P.S. No more time for posting here today. Will be checking back though.

Pawlitz John said...

Fr. Hogg,

In reference to the either-or, the simplest explanation I can think of is either it is the merit of the messenger, or else it is the merit of the person who is spoken of in the Gospel that satisfies the demands of the Law. Since there is a particularity there must also be an exclusion, but the Gospel, itself not that merit, alludes to Christ who satisfies the demands of the Law fully.

But obviously, it is fitting to praise God for using historical teachers to teach us the Gospel.

I think it just triggered a lot of thoughts for me about how the incarnation is used in theology. Is it viewed as a legal establishment of particularity? Or is it really retained as the particular corpus by which Christ has suffered on our behalf.

What kind of particularity is the incarnation mentioning when it comes up?

Anyways, I will leave it at that, but I appreciate the discussion.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear John,

The Law is nothing more or less than the will of God. Every time you say "Law," remember that.

I'm not sure I fully grasp what you're asking wrt the Incarnation. It seems to me that it's God's m.o.--his characteristic way of dealing with the world he made.

I'm reluctant to say too much, because I'm not sure, once again, that I get at what you're asking. Forgive my slowness.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

3Hi, Pr. Weedon! Just wondering if you're going to pick up on the thread.

William Weedon said...

Father, not for a few days at least. Am finishing up a presentation for Grace Tulsa (where our mutual friend Christopher Hall is pastor) that I will deliver on Fri and Sat.; am playing an ordination tonight; have to prep for Issues Etc. tomorrow (the Creed in the Divine Service), and am preaching for another mutual friend, Lee Maxwell, this Sunday. Insanity!!!

William Weedon said...

Oh, am preaching for Chris too - and both places will be celebrating St. Michael's, but naturally, they are using DIFFERENT Gospels. Argh!

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

OK...thanks...whenever you're ready...
:-)

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Now?

William Weedon said...

Sure. Please continue?

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Here's where I'd like to pick things up:

"Given this distinction between form and matter in apostolic succession, and given the fact that we both grant the matter--that apostolic succession requires a continuing in the teach*ings* of the apostles, please address the issue in controversy--the *form* of apostolic succession, the succession of teach*ers*--from a Lutheran point of view."

How's that sound?

William Weedon said...

The Lutheran Church acknowledges herself to be of a piece with the line of teachers that Christ has preserved within the one Church from the time of the Apostles forward. She recognizes that this line of teachers is bound to the Apostolic Word as normative. Furthermore, she recognizes that at various times and places the ministry became corrupted when that Word was in some way compromised (by addition, by subtraction). Certainly that was the state of the Church on the Eve of the Reformation: a corrupted ministry which nevertheless legitimately preached, taught, and administered the Sacraments. The Reformation represents a cleansing and restoration of that ministry. We are heirs of those who truly handed on the Word, but did not always do so with the same clarity and accuracy as in other times and places. I'll expand a bit more on that tomorrow.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Thanks, Pr. Weedon. If I may, I'd like to take up your first statement...specifically its subject. When the Lutheran Confessors said, "Our churches with great unanimity believe, teach and confess..." they were referring to state/territorial, trans-parish entities.

When you refer to "The Lutheran Church" here, what is the denotation of that phrase? Missouri? Wisconsin? ELCA? Since you use the singular, I take it that this referent has some sort of unity...

I just want to be clear on the meaning of terms. Assumptions made at this level can come back to bite us later.

William Weedon said...

http://weedon.blogspot.com/2011/08/cross-posting.html

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

OK...so, I think you're saying that when you say "the Lutheran Church," the denotation of that phrase is the LC-MS and all those groups with which it is in communion. Is that correct? If not, please clarify it for me.

William Weedon said...

That is substantially correct, though it would be more precise to say: those who hold the Confession of the Lutheran Church unaltered. There are those with whom the LCMS is not yet sharing communio in sacris, but in whom we are exploring whether we DO share the same faith. So particular churches who confess the verity of the faith as contained in the Lutheran Confession constitute "The Lutheran Church."

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Sorry it's taken so long to respond. Press of the semester and all that...

In your last reply, you wrote that the Lutheran Church is, most properly, "those who hold the Confession of the Lutheran Church unaltered."

A few questions to aid my poor understanding:

1. By "those," here, do you mean individual persons, or church bodies?

2. What constitutes an "unaltered" holding of the Confession?
a) Those who practice the ordination of women and homosexuals, I take it you would say, are *not* holding the Confession unaltered.
b) What about those who use plastic disposable cups and toss the reliquae? Those who use grape juice in Communion?
c) What about forms of worship which do not derive from the catholic tradition of the Church?

3. How do you determine, in the last analysis, those who hold that unaltered confession?

4. Is there any presently-existing Lutheran body which does hold that confession unaltered--at least as measured by your article "Quia eye for the Lutheran guy" composed some years ago?

Thanks for your patience. Now, back to the semester's work!

William Weedon said...

1. Both individual Christians and particular churches.
2. An unaltered holding of the Confession is well described in the article you will recall by Walther; though I have come to wonder if Krauth actually does it better. He says that we do not interpret the Confessions by the Scriptures or the Scriptures by the Confessions, but both by the ordinary rules of language and a Lutheran is one who happens to find they say the same thing! Though there is no way around some recognition that it is their doctrinal content to which one is pledging one's self. One is not pledging one's self, for instance, to observing the Latin Mass with German songs thrown in here an there. :)

As for the specific instances you bring forward: A. correct; B. the manner of the distribution of our Lord's blood has varied across history and the Confessions don't address much in that regard except this: that the laity are not to be denied the blood of the Lord. Are individual cups and above all plastic throw-aways in accord with the doctrine of the Symbols? I'd say beyond all doubt that they are in extreme tension with what we confess and challenge wide-spread practice. This is not to say that there is some law about the chalice nor that those who commune from the plastic individual cups don't receive our Lord's blood; it is rather because they DO that "what accords with what we confess" pushes one away from the disposables and any irreverent treatment of the reliquae. C. To quote Piepkorn: "freedom exercised responsibly is itself a catholic virtue." In the Symbols we have both the insistence on freedom of the Church in each place and time to shape the liturgical heritage in ways that best serve the Gospel in those particular instances AND we have the insistence that we do not dump the vast heritage we have received from the pass: "We keep the Mass."

The short is: your point is that Lutherans are not doing a very good job of actually living out the life described in their Confessions. My response: DUH! Of course, my usual response is that we perhaps ought to actually TRY Lutheranism before deciding that it doesn't or can't work. :)

3. In the last analysis we determine who holds the Confession not only by matching the doctrine taught in pulpit and at the altar with the Symbols, but most specifically by a willingness to submit to the correction of the Symbols. As we have weak Christians who are still very much Christians; so we have weak Lutherans who are still very much Lutherans. They submit to the norm of the Symbols for correction though they freely admit that their practice has a long way to go. They still know WHERE they are headed because they hold that the Symbols are a correct exposition of the Christian faith.

What my quia article from years back showed was the extent to which Lutherans of the present are often way, way too ignorant of the doctrinal content of their own Symbols. The LCMS, the LCC, the Lutheran Church of South Africa, the Archbishop of Kenya and his clergy and parishes, etc. All these are folks who hold that the Symbols are the normed norm. As such they are willing to submit to correction on the basis of them.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Wow! Quick response...thank you.

1. Not to be a pain in the ***, but when you say "particular churches" do you mean congregations alone, or anything else beyond them? Recall our frequent discussion of "trans-parish entities" of years ago...

2. Thanks for the specifics, though I might have expected you to say that those who toss what you confess to be the blood of Christ into the trash are not holding the confession of the Lutheran Church unaltered. Unless receptionism falls under the "unaltered" category (which has its own implications, of course)...

Actually my point has *never* been that Lutherans don't live out their confessions well. For that would turn the metaphysical, descriptive statements of the Confessions into moral, prescriptive ones. One of my chief points before becoming Orthodox was precisely that when formerly descriptive statements have become prescriptive, it's a sign that the game is over. My contention was always that the (trans-parish) body those statements described, no longer exists.

3. I found it increasingly hard to say I was in pulpit and altar fellowship with the fella who got a layman to do absolution in the liturgy, but not in p&a fellowship with some in other bodies--the DJ Webber types, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, thanks for your kind and prompt responses. Somehow it seems so long ago that you and I met in a Ft. Wayne seminary dorm and talked theology...

Best,

Fr. Gregory



William Weedon said...

1. Particular churches is a term I learned from Gerhard, though it arose long before the Reformation. They are churches that share the same confession, but not necessarily the same organizational structure. Thus LCC and LCMS are both Lutheran particular churches. We freely intercommune, though we are different in administration (mostly due to locale). Same with say, the Antiochian vs. the Greeks. Same confession, different administrations.

2a. We have to confess that in Lutheranism, historically considered, the matter of the reliquae is rather undecided. Those who toss the cups specifically do NOT believe that they are tossing the blood of Christ. That should not be overlooked. Even a Sasse could state that we can't say what it is after the celebration, for Christ hasn't told us (!).

2b. As long as there are particular churches willing to confess and be corrected by the Symbols, the Church that speaks in those Symbols exists.

3. No doubt the sad divisions between Lutherans awaits the day when reunion might be granted through the gracious working of God. Odd you mention Jay. He it was who first taught me about the glorious time when "Lutheran" was just "Lutheran" and those who held the Lutheran confession freely communed as they travelled from Leipzig to Rekjavik, from Brataslava to London. May the Lord grant it again!

Miss you much, dear friend. God's peace!


Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

1. Particular churches is a term I learned from Gerhard, though it arose long before the Reformation. They are churches that share the same confession, but not necessarily the same organizational structure. Thus LCC and LCMS are both Lutheran particular churches. We freely intercommune, though we are different in administration (mostly due to locale). Same with say, the Antiochian vs. the Greeks. Same confession, different administrations.

In this sense, is the LCMS a "particular church"?

2a. We have to confess that in Lutheranism, historically considered, the matter of the reliquae is rather undecided. Those who toss the cups specifically do NOT believe that they are tossing the blood of Christ. That should not be overlooked. Even a Sasse could state that we can't say what it is after the celebration, for Christ hasn't told us (!).

This is a *serious* problem. The entire church of the first millennium, without exception, did not view this as an undecided matter. Luther himself did not view this as an undecided matter, as can be seen in the anecdote about his spilling the chalice late in his life, and how he reacted. If the entire church says "decided," and contemporary Lutheranism says "not decided," what does this mean?

2b. As long as there are particular churches willing to confess and be corrected by the Symbols, the Church that speaks in those Symbols exists.

Again--"particular" churches means something bigger than the local parish--e.g. Synods, Districts etc.? or not?


Fr Gregory

William Weedon said...

Is the LCMS a particular church in this sense?

Yes.

On the reliquae, yes is is a most serious matter and one that requires a better resolution than heretofore has been offered! Luther, of course, was no friend of any form of reservation. His solution (which strikes me as quite in line with the Verba) is consumption of all reliquae.

Yes, Synod is a particular Church.