01 February 2006

A Theologian of the Cross...

...calls a thing what it is. But I really shouldn't USE that sort of language on a public blog....

What are we in communion fellowship with? A member of mine just returned from a long visit with her family. They attend a parish in another state that is one of our LCMS parishes and where, shall we say, there is a tang of salt in the air. Bulletins were brought to me. They reveal so many interesting things.

How's this for a communion statement: "As Lutherans, we believe that Christ's body and blood are truly present for the forgiveness of sins, in, with, and under the bread and wine. We invite all those who share this understanding and believe that Jesus is their Lord and Savior to attend his holy supper. White grape juice is provided for those who do not consume wine...."

"Under the bread and wine"..."white grape juice"? And I don't suppose anyone needs to be baptized - just share our "understanding and belief"? So much for closed communion!

Oh, but it gets better. One of the bulletins indicates that the homily was delivered by the deaconess. Isn't that precious?

After one of the Eucharistic prayers, we get: "Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ, in the unity of the Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, O God, now and forever." [Traditional form: Through Him, with Him, in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, forever and ever!]

Obviously using the ELCA's latest tripe, so I suppose that the word HIM (and heaven forbid, the word FATHER!) is like unto the unpronounceable name of God and must be avoided at all costs even in parts of the LCMess.

And I just love one of the hymns they sang:

"I'm trading my sorrows,
I'm trading my shame,
I'm laying them down for the joy of the Lord.
I'm trading my sickness,
I'm trading my pain,
I'm laying them down for the joy of the Lord."

We commune with this each week we celebrate the Sacrament as members of the altar and pulpit fellowship that is the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. Doesn't it make you feel all warm and fuzzy?


Anonymous said...

You know, Fr. Weedon, maybe you should publicly out this congregation. After all, what we teach and how we worship is public. Oh, wait, I forgot that now if you have a problem with public false teachers you're obligated to hop in the car, or get on plane to confront them in person first, then go to your DP, and then maybe he might do something about it...riiiight.

Fr. S.R. Cota

Anonymous said...

"I'm trading my sorrows.."

Yup thats what Christ meant when he said "Take up your cross..." Thats what running the race is about.

Hopefully, your parishioners saw throught the smoke and mirrors.


William Weedon said...

Father Cota,

LOL. That's right I cannot tell you anything about the above until I fly out to... oops! I almost slipped up. Isn't it horrible, though? Lord, have mercy!


I hope that the one thing that came through loud and clear was that this was not church as she has come to know church!

Anonymous said...

Yes...this is familiar territory. Sounds just like my husband's LCMS church which also used to be mine until the one Sunday the pastor was out of town and the elder conducted the service, consecrated the elements and served Holy Communion. It's a slippery slope...

Wartburg said...

Pastor Weedon,
Greetings to you my brother in Christ. I love your passion for TRUTH. I think tomorrow I will be getting the book you suggested I read. I am working my way through Dr. C.F.W. Walther's, "...Law and Gospel" work and I'm loving every word. American Lutherans need to get back to their roots because there are crows on the branches.

"Therefore my faithful request and admonition is that you join our company and associate with us, who are real, great, and hard-boiled sinners. You must by no means make Christ to seem paltry and trifling to us, as though He could be our Helper only when we want to be rid from imaginary, nominal, and childish sins. No, no! That would not be good for us. He must rather be a Savior and Redeemer from real, great, grievous, and damnable transgressions and iniquities, yea, from the very greatest and most shocking sins; to be brief, from all sins added together in a grand total."p.106 (Luther).

Hope all is well with you.

Rev. Ryan Fouts said...

The irony, of course, Fr. Weedon, is that you are criticizing a "theology of glory" and seem suprised that the church is perceived also, and only, under suffering and the cross.

Until we run our ecclesiology in the way of the theologia crucis (whether or not such language is helpful on a public blog or not) we're apt to push our ecclesiology in pursuit of a theologia gloriae sort of Church, one where suffering and the cross is a "bit more bearable." Until one comes to grips with the fact, however, that the Church *is* corpus Christi, and as such is partaken of most surely only through suffering and the cross, we'll always chase our "tail" in pursuit of the "one, true, Church," and never find her, despite the fact she's been right there, where it gets put into your mouth, and into your ear-hole, all along. Suffering and the cross, error and destruction, couldn't keep down the corpus Christi on Calvary -- it can't keep her down now. I suppose the question is, shall we remain like Mary, the Mother of our Lord, and the beloved St. John, and stand before our Lord, as corpus Christi, in suffering and the cross? Or, shall we flee like the others?

Hence -- why Luther's hidden/revealed Church (while sometimes using similar language inherited via Augustine) is night & day different than Calvin's "visibile/invisible" church.

William Weedon said...

Seminarian Fouts,

Straw man, I think. I am not and have never looked for a Church that is not afflicted by the sins of man and suffering. There IS no other Church in the world. My concern is not that foolish and evil things are done, but that foolish and evil things are embraced, held to and celebrated. There is a difference, a huge difference. Remember Pieper's words about what makes a church heterodox.

By the way, what do you think of this description of the Church:

If you cannot recognize the Holy One hidden among the sinners of His Church and in the shame of His Passion, you will not be able to recognize Him at His glorious Second Coming... It is the same with the Church: its true nature is defined by what God calls it to be. The pettiness and sins of the Christian people pass away in the course of history, but the Word of God remains and never ceases to be heard in the sermons and the church services. The Word of God is the permanent element in the life of the Church, defining its form and directing its development, despite the mediocrity of its members. God Himself expresses this idea through the mouth of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 55:10-11 is cited). To know what the Church really is, we should not describe the way it appears in some particular parish, diocese, or country, or at some particular time in history; rather, we must study the way in which its Creator describes it. Through the constant action of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God continues to be creative in spite of the obstacles raised by man's sinfulness which delay the realization of God's plan.

Rev. Ryan Fouts said...

Where is there a church where foolishness and error is not embraced among her members? How can there be sin under which the Church suffers where there aren't those embracing it? Sin doesn't float around in some sort of ephermeral way making the Church suffer. Sin is a "verbal" noun, it implies someone embracing it.

Hence, Apology VII/VIII, "But why belabor the obvious? If the church, which is truly the kingdom of Christ, is distinguished from the kingdom of the devil, it necessarily follows that the ungodly, since they are in the kingdom of the devil, are not the church—although in this life, because the kingdom of Christ has not yet been revealed, they intermingle with the church and hold offices in the church. Just because the revelation has not yet taken place does not make the ungodly the church. For the kingdom of Christ is always that which he makes alive by his Spirit, whether it has been revealed or is hidden under the cross, just as Christ is the same, whether now glorified or previously afflicted."

So it follows: the ungoldy (in this context, those who *embrace* foolishness and error) may intermingle with the Church. As such the Church, with Christ, stands under suffering and the cross. This Church, then, either hidden in suffering and the cross, or revealed through suffering and the cross (or, finally, at the consummation of the age). Further, then, just as Christ is most clearly perceived in suffering and the cross, the quote you offer later entirely misses the point. Where do you look to recognize the Church? Do you define the Church according to man (kata anthropon), beginning with our bottom-up stuff? Or, do you define the question from the Lord (kata kurion)? Where do you look to find it? According to the Confessions, only where the Lord has located His promise: through the proper preaching of the Gospel, and the administration of the Sacraments according to the Gospel. The quote *almost* gets it... but not quite. At the last minute it slips back into the theologia gloriae...

From the quote you offer: "Through the constant action of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God continues to be creative in spite of the obstacles raised by man's sinfulness which delay the realization of God's plan."

In spite of? Is the Lord your Lord "in spite of" the "obstacle" of suffering and the cross? Does "sin" delay the Lord? Or does the Lord, who became "sin" itself, come in, and through, our suffering of man's sinfulness?

Further -- if you're going to take a quote from someone's writing, it isn't helpful to just leave bits and pieces and allow the Lutheran mind to read it in a Lutheran way. I thought we were supposed to understand people on their own terms! One must also hear how this quote stands within the rest of a single piece of writing... so what else does this unnamed piece of writing have to say about the Church?

I did a little searching and located the quote you offered. Interestingly enough, the clincher at the end is getting yourself "unified" with the Lord through the "Holy Mysteries," but nothing of the forgiveness of sin, or the sinfulness for which we too are forgiven, is there.

With respect to the Pieper quote: I've always been amazed at how much "heterodoxy" was tolerated within the relam of orthodoxy in the early church. That said -- does the presence of heterdoxy tolerated among leaders, and pastors, in a particular synod mean that there is no longer "church" going on there? Heaven forbid if sinful man could so easily squelch away the Church! Not to mention, it seems a bit odd that one could use a dogmatist from one tradition as a "clincher" to go to some entirely foreign tradition. Cling to the Piper quote if you were to run off to another church tradition, and you'll just as soon have to get up and leave again. If you push the Pieper quote too far, you end up with no where to go... period. That is, unless you wish to "commune" with the Lord alone -- which itself is heterodoxy, i.e. sunercomai. We recognize our heterodoxy. We don't jump from a frying pan into a fire.

(in suffering and the cross))

William Weedon said...

Dear Ryan,

I think you are being unjust to the authors of the quote.

As to why I didn't supply the whole context: my fingers got tired of typing! : )

It is worthwhile to read the whole section, indeed. The whole section quite clearly states that the Church is what she is by the creative call of the Word of God to her, and that one must not judge the Church by merely what one sees.

As to the goal being union with God - that a seminarian ready to graduate finds that troubling is beyond belief to me! Is John 17 excised from your Scriptures? The means is forgiveness; the goal is not forgiveness, the goal is "Thou in Me; I in them; that they may be perfectly one in us." After all, the Blessed Apostle did not announce that the mystery of God was "Christ for you, the hope of glory!" but "Christ IN you, the hope of glory!"

The "obstacle" referred to in the quote was our human sinfulness, which does indeed hinder the will of God (but not finally - Deo gratias!); not the sufferings which God uses to bless His Church.

The assumption about the use of Pieper was curious (I find these interesting days when people I scarcely know, know more about my own life than I do); in any case, I always thought - and still do - that it was perfectly fair for a tradition to be examined in the light of the claims of its own teachers?

Whatever! I do indeed wish you, dear brother, every good thing in Jesus Christ, both peace and joy greater than all the sufferings of this world, but most of all, I wish you union with God through Christ - for that is what He made you for!

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory to Him forever!

Rev. Ryan Fouts said...

Fr. Weedon,

I never denied the "mystical union," but what troubles me about the way this seems to be flushed out by those whom you reference is that it seems as though they see the Sacraments, or "Mysteries," as things which take part in a "process" of gradually being "unified" with God. Further, it seems like they do some interesting things with essence/substance, etc., that I'm not sure is compatible with the Lutheran understanding of "mystical union," or even the bride/bridegroom image which I, most certainly, adore. Maybe I'm mis-reading the EO here... you could surely enlighten me.

The document does define the Church by the WORD -- but then it goes on to say:

"The Church means the "Ecclesia," the assembly of people, the faithful, where the Bishop ('Apostle' in a line of succession of Apostles) is, the Church ... the assembly of the faithful are then able to be fed by the Holy Mysteries of the Church."

Now -- I'm all for a Lutheran understanding of "apostolic succession," with respect to the ministry of the Word. This, of course, which is evident by the great pains taken elsewhere in the document, isn't the same understanding of "apostolic succession." Likewise, what seems to trouble me, (perhaps you could explain) is that the *ability* of the people to receive the benefits of the Sacrament hinges upon this succession. Wait... I thought the Church only depended upon the Word? Is there a contradiction here, or am I merely missing a crucial connection?

One more point -- when I talked about the document being light on "sin" and "forgiveness," it wasn't merely by absence of content, but by describing man's condition in terms such as "mediocraty" that seems to betray a view of man that is only partially fallen, only a little corrupt, with some goodness still floating around in there. How does this fit with De Servo Arbitrio?

Rev. Ryan Fouts said...

P.S. My comments of the Pieper quote never intended to aim at something about you that I couldn't know (after all, we do only scarcely know each other).

I merely attempted to flush out the implications of what Pieper says concerning heterodoxy. Where does one draw the line? Where has heterodoxy been tolerated "too much," and how much do we put up with, for how long, before we reach the point whereby it is necessary to hit the road. I never intended to suggest, by my reaction to the quote, anything concerning yourself. That, good Father, was your own connecting of the dots.

Anonymous said...

Fouts: "...what seems to trouble me, (perhaps you could explain) is that the *ability* of the people to receive the benefits of the Sacrament hinges upon this succession. Wait... I thought the Church only depended upon the Word? Is there a contradiction here, or am I merely missing a crucial connection?"

The Sacrament is dependent on the proper succession of Orders, in Orthodoxy, in the same way that the Sacrament is dependent on using bread and wine. Popcorn and Pepsi won't do. The outward form must be maintained, and the outward form of the continuity of the Church is found in Apostolic Succession. However, just as eating bread and wine themselves in Church do not make the Sacrament, neither does Apostolic Succession on its own. In both cases it is the Word that makes of these visible "signs", "forms", etc. a Sacrament.

We should all always be careful not to require people of a completely separate tradition to speak in ways that have become standard in our own communities, often shut off from much of the rest of the Christian world. What would the Church's view of succession been at the Ecumenical Councils that both of these sides share in common? What was the ecclesiology of the Council that upheld Dyotheletism, for instance?