03 February 2007

You Do Not Have the Right To Exist

No, I'm not talking about the way that some mothers speak of their unborn children. I'm talking of the way that other Christians sometimes speak of the Lutheran Church:

"You do not have the right to exist."

This is in essence the message which is sent back to us by Lutherans who have swum the Tiber or the Bosphorus. It is the message received from our sisters and brothers in the various Reformed Churches at times too - who are aggravated that we cannot deny the Scriptural Confession of the Supper long enough to welcome them with open arms.

DOES the Lutheran Church have a right to exist? Truthfully, no. She has no such right.

IF she exists, she exists solely by the grace of God, who raises her up as a witness to His Son's free salvation - a salvation richly given in Baptism, the preaching of the Word, the Holy Absolution, and the Most Holy Eucharist. She doesn't have a right to exist, but by the grace of God she persists nonetheless BECAUSE of the power of God which is at work in His means of grace. She remains a Church unable to hide her warts and blemishes behind the smoke of incense or the supposed sanctity of her clerics. A Church full of the sinfulness of men that nevertheless fails to overcome the compassion of a forgiving God, who manifests His undying love for the world in the gift of His Son and His Holy Spirit.

Would the world be the poorer for her disappearance? Yes, I believe so. Immeasureably. But that's no cause for pride on the part of those who live within her. For us, it's enough that the grace of God is made perfect in weakness, that the folly of God is wiser than the smarts of man and that the weakness of God is stronger than the strength of man. We have one hope, one boast: Christ crucified for us and for all. In Him alone, we are privileged to shout to the world and to the church, there is hope, there is life, there is salvation.

Just as the world told him: "You have no right to exist," so it tells us. We shouldn't be surprised. We should instead delight to live through and with Him a life that this world and no one in it can destroy or ever take away.

Glory to You, Lord Jesus Christ! Glory to You alone! Keep us faithful to You that we may give all glory to God and all comfort to poor sinners. Use as a witness to your whole people - we who are so weak, sinful, and afraid. Amen

109 comments:

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

I'm not quite sure who you're meaning, or which arguments you're referring to, when you say that Lutherans who have swum the Tiber or the Bosphorus are saying that the Lutheran Church does not have the *right* to exist.

I, for one, have made no claim about the Lutheran Church's right to exist or lack thereof. I have said all along that judging by the light of the Lutheran Symbols themselves, the Lutheran Church *does* not exist--that the phrase "Lutheran Church" is, like the phrase "the present King of France," non-denoting.

And as for Lutheranism: "It's not that Lutheranism isn't mostly true; it is. It is that that truth is itself distorted when it is taken out of the fuller truth in which it is meant to live and made to be a thing unto itself. That makes what is true become false, false in its self-sufficiency." (Those last were not my words, but someone else's.)

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

William Weedon said...

Dear Father Gregory,

To say that the Lutheran Church does not exist according to her Symbols is to say the same thing as our parishes do not have the right to exist - at least so it seems to me.

My own words (which you quote) I would still stand by: to treat the BOC as the WHOLE conversation, instead of as PART of the conversation that has been going on for a long time, ends up distorting Lutheranism from the get-go. My hope and prayer is that our parishes and pastors may hear the BOC as part of a bigger conversation and so understand it in that larger context, but even so they remain truly parishes and pastors of the one holy Church which shall be and remain forever.

Wishing you, as always, every good thing in Jesus our only Lord and our gracious Savior!

Pax!

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear Pastor Weedon,

When you write, "To say that the Lutheran Church does not exist according to her Symbols is to say the same thing as our parishes do not have the right to exist - at least so it seems to me," you conflate several things which must needs be thought of distinctly:

(1) The distinction between Church as a trans-parish entity (which is surely the way that word is used at least *sometimes* in the BOC, and underlies the "our churches teach" phrasing throughout it), and parishes of such trans-parish entities. Note that in your original post you speak of "the Lutheran *Church*," not parishes.

(2) The distinction between a *right* to exist and existing. (Existence isn't so much a right as it is a gift, anyway.) I have never said that "the Lutheran Church" has no right to exist. I have no idea what that would even mean, or how one would determine such a right. I have said that, by the light of the Lutheran Confessions themselves, the Lutheran Church as a trans-parish entity in fact no longer exists. Anyone can see that Lutheran parishes exist. But, central to the meaning of "church" as parishes are, they do not exhaust the meaning of that term.

When you say of Lutherans, over against the Reformed, that "we cannot deny the Scriptural Confession of the Supper," how does that fit the lay celebration and plastic disposable cup reality of those with whom you are in communion fellowship? Is the Scriptural Confession of the Supper a confession in words only? Is your dispute with the Reformed merely verbal, since the practices are becoming indistinguishable?

You continue, "My own words (which you quote) I would still stand by: to treat the BOC as the WHOLE conversation, instead of as PART of the conversation that has been going on for a long time, ends up distorting Lutheranism from the get-go." But you miss the "Lutheranism is true--*mostly* of the original quote.

Wishing you, too, every blessing in Christ Jesus the only Lord and Head, and in his body the Church, the fullness of him who fills all things!

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory

Past Elder said...

As one who swam the Tiber the other way (out!) may I say I was never taught that the Lutheran Church had no right to exist, but that by even its own lights, shouldn't exist.

Luther intended to reform the church not create a new one, the Lutheran documents assume an existence within the church, and so on, the upshot being we (Lutherans) belong in the church rather than in separate ecclesial unions which retain a part of what is intended to be a whole.

It's apostolic succession again, a confusion of church as a visible entity with church as a body of believers. Did Jesus establish an ecclesiastical structure which organically extends through time, or not? The Roman answer remains yes he did, and we are the fullness of it, though parts of it also exist outside that visible structure.

That is not our answer. Jesus didn't found any Lutheran synod indeed. Nor did he found any other visible denomination, nor is any visible denomination to be understood as either THE, or the fullness of THE, one, holy catholic and apostolic church he did found. A Luthern synod is simply an association of parishes of the church Jesus founded where we believe the Gospel is righly taught and the sacraments administered after the institution of Christ as correctly taught from Scripture in the Book of Concord.

To form such associations would only put one outside of, or in imperfect union with, the church Jesus founded if one identifies that church with some other association of parishes.

Rome does, we don't.

William Weedon said...

Amen, Past Elder!

Fr. Gregory,

The "mostly" at that time reflected my struggle with the "reconciliation of the Father" language; I gladly admit now that I was in error about that. But in another sense it need not be retracted and that is to assume that the BOC dealt definitively with ALL matters of the faith - in point of fact it dealt with items under dispute at the time and not everything was. Thus, the Churches of the Augsburg Confession gave not dealt fully with a question such as infant communion (though some are further along in dealing with it than others, as you know).

Blessed journey into the Triodion! You and yours are daily in my prayers.

John Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon,

This and the previous post sadden me beyond words, and I'm not referring to the replies to the posts. :-(

I am praying for you and will continue to pray for you. But please, take to heart the words of St. Isaac -- "If you love Truth, become a lover of silence."

Wishing you the best of everything in Jesus Christ, as you prepare to begin your Lenten journey.

John

Anonymous said...

Why is it so hard for you Orthodox Christians to believe that this post really isn't about you? Pr. Weedon wrote this in response to a personal e-mail from me. You see I am a member of one of the Lutheran Parishes that has been abandoned by their pastor for the East. I struggle daily with feelings of depair because it seems that while I am to believe that everything I received from my Pastor while he was a Lutheran was good and right and true, now that he has been chrismated into the Orthodox church, I am somehow a child of a "Lesser God," adrift on a raft in a stormy sea. (I might add happy to be there because it is where Christ comes and says, "Peace be still.")

Thank you Pastor Weedon for helping me to see that by "the grace of GOD" I am a child of the "ONE TRUE GOD" and in the end that is really all that matters.

Past Elder said...

I suppose it would solve all these difficulties if we just became liberals! In Scripture courses at my Benedictine university, some of whose staff were periti at Vatican II, we learned that passages such as two mentioned in the previous post reflect a source (Quelle, Q) of earlier material the gospel writers worked from constructing Christs of Faith none of which exactly correspond to the real Historical Jesus, therefore we don't have to get so concerned about the Christs of Faith in turn constructed on their four accounts since we as they did all got it wrong to some exent anyway.

A little different idea than writings inspired by the Holy Spirit, let alone sola scriptura. As if it were akin to whether BOC translations should be made from the 1580 Latin and German texts alone or other variants as well.

Which leads to this: the BOC includes not just the six confessions of the Lutheran church but the three ecumenical (non Vatican II meaning) creeds as well, all of which were written to clarify issues at controversy at the time and none of which is Scripture itself written by God himself containing all he has revealed necessary for our salvation. The BOC and everything in it including the three creeds are an utter waste of time if they do not correctly teach what God has revealed in Scripture, and it is holding to that rather than a hierarchical pedigree that constitutes our walking with the Holy Apostles who unlike any of us believer or unbeliever literally walked with Jesus.

That's the real Q!

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear "Anonymous":

When Pastor Weedon referred to former pastors who "swam the Bosphorus," I think that *does* make his post a bit about us. I don't know who you are, or who your pastor was--for all I know, it could have been me.

I am sorry to hear of your feelings of despair. If your pastor's experience was anything like mine, I have no doubt he had many of those same feelings for years. And no doubt, like me, he actually went head-to-head with those who practice lay absolution, toss the individual cups into the trash etc. No pastor I know who's become Orthodox has done so without years of agony and struggle. Every pastor I know who's become Orthodox continues to struggle with the more mundane issues of life, like how to put food on his family's table.

Pastor Weedon and others may, on the one hand, be doing you and other Lutherans a great service if they preserve you from despair. On the other hand, if what I have said all along is so, they may in fact be doing you a grave disservice. God has given you eyes and ears, your reason and all your senses. I encourage you to make use of them by monitoring the situation of the LC-MS. Is lay absolution loosed, the use of disposable cups tossed out, creative worship destroyed? Are the Confessions really believed and practiced, a la Pastor Weedon's "Quia Eye for the Confessional Guy" post of some months ago? That would give you reason to hope. But if they remain, if what the Confessions teach continues to be optional...

In any case, by claiming that I and others have said that "the Lutheran Church has no right to exist," Pastor Weedon is misrepresenting the claim we have made--setting up, in effect, a "straw man". I have said that the Lutheran Church, as trans-parish entity, *does* not exist. How else does one explain that Pastor Weedon rejects the use of the things above, while his colleagues in the LC-MS embrace them all? And the situation is no better elsewhere in Lutheranism.

No Orthodox Christian would consider you a child of a lesser God. Christ has compassion on those who were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd, and bids us all come to the fullness of life in him, the Head, by means of his Body, the Church, the fullness of him who fills all things. May he remember you in his Kingdom!

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

William Weedon said...

Dear Fr. Gregory,

I don't think I set up a strawman, but in any case, what I was trying to address is the clear implication of your words to Anon: that she is not "in the Church" via her Baptism into Jesus and her reception of Christ's body and blood in true, repentant and saving faith.

This is the mischief: it teaches one to doubt the gracious promises of God in Christ. I know you do not intend your words to be such, but such they are nonetheless.

Past Elder said...

The month after I made my adult profession of faith, the synod removed the pastor who had worked with my wife and me during our catechumenate. Not the same kind of an exit, but an exit nonetheless.

When I was in the Roman church it bothered me to no end that since Vatican II you had no idea whether what happens in one parish is more or less what happens in the next, and what used to happen in all of them happens nowhere.

More recently I was not at all happy to hear mine be the only Nay voice at a voter's meeting for a certain nomination for synodical office, let the reader understand.

The problems in the LCMS are well known. I joined anyway. From my experience with the EO they are no strangers to heterodox belief and practice either.

I think I get where Anonynous is. It feels like hell, so to speak, or at least my version of it did. Now, I'm not a priest, a pastor, or even an elder presently. But I'll say this: if one were to base one's church involvement on whether there were by its own lights heterodox practices, heterodox preaching, or whether the leadership took action against it, there isn't a visible church body on earth to remain in for a week!

I find this as hard to accept as anyone, but the fact is, church is not heaven on earth, it is full of sinners and they, we, sin. Might as well register surprise at there being so many sick people in a hospital.

It ain't about individual cups! Why worry about that when the practice of taking the bread in the hand originated to represent the idea that faith is not passive but involves my action too, a direct contradiction of the truth that faith is entirely the work of the Holy Spirit and I am incapable of it through my action.

I am Lutheran because I believe what is laid out in the Lutheran Confessions is the true faith of Jesus Christ revealed in Scripture. I believe in that, not the LCMS, WELS or anything else. I am a member of the LCMS because it is the best place for people who believe that. As Chaz said on another blog, it's the worst synod in the world, except for all the others. But the root is the faith. If we truly have the Gospel rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered, and I believe we do, then expect the gates of hell itself to try to overcome it. We have been promised they will not prevail, not that they will not try. If what we teach is the truth, that is the only question, not whether individial cups are used or who wins the synodical election no matter how strongly I feel about it. If what we teach is the truth, we have our shepherd, our Head, and we are part of the Body. It's the faith that matters.

christopher3rd said...

There is a difference, at least in Orthodox practice, in whether God is believed to be loving and gracious and whether I am saved. Salvation is not simply forgiveness, it is being conformed to His image. God has proven His love for us through His incarnation, life, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. But God does not require me to perceive Him as 'lovable' to prove He is love - this is a different question. God is love and loving even if I am damned. We can doubt whether we are being saved while not doubting that God is loving. In fact, every Orthodox Christian - including priests such as Fr. Gregory - doubts whether he himself is saved. How much more doubtful may this salvation be for those outside of the Ark during the Flood - though not impossible as Patrick Barnes' book, "The Non-Orthodox" discusses (available free to read online at orthodoxinfo.com, BTW).

An interesting question to ask would be as to what the 'status' of the baptism of various early heresies and schisms were, and were they 'in the Church'? Chemnitz said that these ancient Christians and their traditions are 'more reliable' than later traditions and in line with the Apostolic teaching. What did they teach about those outside of the Church, as something more than just the sum total of all those who rightly believe no matter their 'organized religion'?

William Weedon said...

Christopher,

*I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.* 1 John 5:13

St. John wished to assure believers that the promise of God in Christ were completely and reliably true for them. This is what faith seizes hold to: the promises of God in Christ.

As to whether salvation is exhausted by forgiveness, I think you might be thinking about forgiveness in too small a fashion. The Apostle could write with joy: *In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of his grace.* (Eph 1:7) Forgiveness and redemption are there equated, it seems, nor is this the only place. For when our Lord sends forth the Holy Apostles, he summarizes their embassy thus: *that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations.* (Luke 24:47) and so we are not surprised to hear the Prince of the Apostles declare: *To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name* - this the conclusion of her sermon to Cornelius (Acts 10:43).

Pax Christi!

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear Pastor Weedon,

You did indeed set up a straw man, in that you ignore the distinction between Church as congregation and Church as trans-parish entity, and in that you speak of a "right" to exist when the issue is the *fact* of existence--and that by the Lutheran Symbols' own light. Your arguments, such as they are, are beside the point.

Whether Anon or anyone else is in Christ and his Church is not my business to judge. That belongs to God alone. But that Lutheranism is not Church is anyone's to judge, given its own official statements.

1. The Church is the assembly of believers, in which the Gospel is rightly proclaimed and the Sacraments are rightly administered; and such proclamation and administration is sufficient for unity. (AC 7) I understand this statement to be a definition of the Church. The underlying logic of this statement is that x is church, the assembly of believers, if and only if the gospel is rightly proclaimed and the sacraments rightly administered in x.
2. The Gospel is not rightly proclaimed, nor the Sacraments administered according to Christ's institution, when:
a. They are performed by those who have not been "rightly/ritely called." (AC 14)
b. that which is said to be the blood of Christ is treated as a common thing--e.g. by being tossed in the trash.
3. The things in #2 above take place, not only in Missouri but all across Lutheranism today.
4. Hence Lutheranism is not Church.

None of these steps are argued from an Orthodox presupposition. They all derive from statements of the Lutheran Symbols themselves. The only way of escaping their implication, is to reject a "quia" subscription to the Symbols--i.e. to acknowledge that the Symbols say this, but that they are wrong.

I take no pleasure in pointing these things out. I put it this baldly so that people can see the logic underlying my statement that there is no Lutheran Church, set forth in a quasi-syllogistic fashion to render response more direct--in other words, if you disagree with the conclusion, you have to state which of the premises are false.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory

"As therefore the Lord does nothing without the Father, for says He, “I can of mine own self do nothing,” so do ye, neither presbyter, nor deacon, nor layman, do anything without the bishop." Ignatius of Antioch, to the Magnesians, 7.

William Weedon said...

Father Gregory,

You've made your case before. I don't find it convincing and I am not alone, but I'm not inclined to rehash the whole discussion again. Each must do as they think they can answer for before the judgment seat of our Lord. May the Lord grant us all to find mercy on that day!

In Him!

William Weedon said...

Past Elder,

Again I must say: "Wisdom! Let us attend!" You've expressed it very well.

Pax!

Anonymous said...

You know, I'm baffled.

Why is that the injunctions to silence apply only to the Lutherans? I mean, the beards are scarcely grown out on our newly minted Serbians, and the orthodrones cannot stop talking: blogs, articles, or even worse, those gimme-that-old-time-religion books of the converts: think trophy convert Frank Schaeffer or Peter Gilquist.

Surely these guys have a bishop who could order or at least encourage them to stop talking for a while, and digest their new denominational affiliation before they hector everyone else, especially those who are still Lutheran, like some of them were just a month or two ago.

Fr Gregory Hogg said...

Dear Pastor Weedon,

This past Thursday in an ethics class, I defended the syllogism:

1. It is wrong to take the life of an innocent human being.
2. That which is conceived is an innocent human being.
3. Therefore, it is wrong to take the life of that which is conceived.

After some discussion, particularly concerning premise 2, no one could refute it. But one girl said, "I don't agree." I said, "What is wrong with the argument?" She answered, "Nothing. But I don't agree."

I tell this story to show that I am accustomed to the sort of response you offer my chain of reasoning wrt the existence of "the Lutheran Church" (all of it from the Lutheran Confessions). I find it sad, but not surprising. But perhaps others will consider for themselves the implications of such denial.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gregory,

It may not be logical to trust the promise of the Word of God to accomplish that which the Lord sends it to do, but it is surely the path of wisdom. It was to that Word of grace that St. Paul commended the presbyters of Ephesus and told them it was able to build them up and to give them the inheritance among all who are sanctified. Such is the power of the Word of God. And on that a person can rest with full assurance, no matter what logic is offered to get him to doubt that Word and promise.

Fr Gregory Hogg said...

Pastor Weedon,

The presbyters to whom St. Paul spoke, faithfully passed on that Word to those who came after them. Sadly, a thousand years on, one of the successors of those presbyters, the bishop of Rome, anathematized his four chief colleagues in office. Five hundred years after that, a German monk was separated even from that successor--for reasons which are understandable--but the result is a no-less-broken ecclesiology.


God's Word is an enfleshed Word--first, in the flesh of the God-man Jesus Christ, and then, through him the head, in the flesh of his body the Church. Lutherans made a fateful decision in the 1530's when they jettisoned any organic connection with the presbyters to whom St. Paul spoke--men whose successors continue to this day in the Orthodox Church.

There is no end to the apostasy that can be tolerated with the views you have chosen to espouse. As Richard Bolland once noted, "Many simply do not believe that there can be a true visible church on earth (TVCE). Then follows the reasoning that since no church can actually get it right, that it then becomes a matter of finding the church with the lesser wrong. Now the difference between all Lutheran churches becomes one of degree, not of kind. If one believes that there IS a true visible Church, then the difference between churches is one of kind, not of degree. The true orthodox person/congregation can never settle for anything but a manifestation of the true, visible church on earth. The one who disbelieves in the existence of a true, visible church is willing to accept heterodox teachings as part and parcel of life in a world where no such TVCE exists. Therefore it is possible to remain in a heterodox LCMS, ELCA, etc."

But what a progression we see!

"Unless I am convinced by the Word of God *or by evident reason*, I cannot and will not recant"--Luther, 1521

"Concerning the following articles we may treat with learned and reasonable men, *or* among ourselves."--Luther, 1537

"Darn the reason--full speed ahead!"--Weedon (paraphrase), 2007


The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gregory,

Satis est. What is the point of discussing this further? Folks can read back on this blog for my answer to what you just posted and your answer to that and my answer to that, and yours to that, ad infinitum.

Perhaps heeding John's earlier post is as good for the goose as for the gander?

Past Elder said...

Hah! Now we're down to the real deal. Justification is indeed the whole issue on which Christianity and any church claiming to be Christian stands or falls.

Every Orthodox Christian doubts if he himself is saved; if I deny a conclusion I must identify which premiss is false. It would seem that no less than when Luther said it, the sad fact is that what should be the most obvious thing about the church has become the most obscure! I am either declared just by faith in the merits of Jesus or I am not, and I either carry a message of the sure promises of Christ or I don't.

Look at what the celebrant says in the Divine Liturgy after the confession of sin (Confiteor)in the "apostolic" churches versus ours -- subjunctive, may almighty God forgive us our sins and lead us to life everlasting, right when a sinner confesses his sinfulness he gets a wish that instead of the sure promise that God has indeed forgiven us our sins and will in fact lead us to life everlasting, as our pastors say.

Here is what I have to state: not which premiss is false but whether a syllogism, or for that matter even an enthymeme, is applicable at all. As it is written our faith does not rest on human wisdom, but on something that is foolishness to those who trust in human wisdom (the "Greeks", Gentiles) and blasphemy to those who trust in the Law (Jews).

Great Caesar's Ghost! Even Aquinas said that while reason may grasp part of the divinely revealed truth, for the other part we cannot argue from reason but from Scripture, and that God has revealed all of it, that which is attainable by reason and that which is not, to men to be known by faith that it may be the sure possession of anyone -- and that those who oppose it do not think we believe on the basis of weak human arguments.

Thanks be to God who has delivered me from the realm of subjunctives and syllogisms to where I can hear clearly and distinctly the grace of God announced to me and that my sins are forgiven in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!

Looks like another post posted while writing this. OK then, ich bin am Ende!

William Weedon said...

Oh, shoot. Not heeding my own words, one last exercise in logic for what it is worth:

1. No teaching which contradicts the teaching of the Apostles recorded in the NT can be regarded as Apostolic doctrine.
2. The NT clearly teaches the synonymity of presbyters and bishops.
3. The NT clearly teaches that St. Timothy was ordained by the presbytery.
4. Therefore, any Church that teaches that presbyters are fundamentally different from bishops and that presbyters cannot ordain by divine right has thereby departed from Apostolic doctrine and cannot be regarded as an Apostolic Church.

That's logical, I suppose. What say ye?

Chaz said...

An instructor of mine was once served by a pastor Robb Hogg, before Mr. Hogg denied his presbyteral ordination (and his baptism).

He observed (while showing great love for his former pastor) that this Mr. Hogg always had an idiosyncratic view of logic. If you didn't approach the topic exactly in the way that he did, then you were wrong. Or, if you didn't follow the rules of debate as Hogg defined them, you were wrong.

Hogg would never admit that his approach might be flawed, and if you argued that it was, he would appeal to the rules that defined his approach in order to demonstrate that it was right.

My instructor is very wise. He hit the nail on the head. As I read through this thread tonight I notice a number of things.

1. Hogg's main argument against Pr. Weedon is that Pr. Weedon doesn't argue the way Hogg does.

2. Weedon's logical consistent argument is ignored by Hogg because he doesn't follow Hogg's rules.

3. Hogg, as usual, fails to follow his own rules. He fails to make a distinction between practices and aberrations of practice. He assigns the part to the whole ignoring that the part is a cyst on the whole.

It makes sense, though. Mr. Hogg has been spending significant amounts of time since his conversion attempting to justify his choice to abandon the pure proclamation of the Gospel for a legalistically muddled one. Sometimes, as I pray for him, I fear that perhaps he has gone further than that into apostasy.

Granted, I don't know Mr. Hogg very well and can't discern as well as my instructor what the spiritual change may have been.

John. I'm adding you to my prayers. Your tone betrays the same sort of pride that I've learned to expect from the Orthodox. I wish it were not so. But, like your father, your refrain seems to be "if only you studied a bit more, or were a bit more intelligent, you would apostacize to Orthodoxy."

Lutherans stick to Lutheranism because of the Gospel. It's really that simple. It's not a lack of study that keeps us here. It's a hunger and thirst for the mercy of God. The Gospel keeps me a Lutheran. And I know, from the great love shown Pr. Weedon by his parish and his friends, that it is the Gospel that keeps him among us too.

If you want to pray for Pr. Weedon, then pray for him. But do not pray a satanic prayer. That is what you would be doing if you prayed that he abandon the sheep God has given Him to serve or if you prayed that He do anything but preach the Gospel that he has been given to preach... the very same Gospel he has preached there for over 14 years.

cheryl said...

It's amazing how I have spent the last several months studying Eastern Otthodox Soteriology and Eschatology, and find an almost universalist salvation, and then come onto the blogs (and messages boards) and listen to individual EO question their salvation. You guys may think it's a mark of humility, but it's not. It's doubting the promises of God, and that is revolting. Have "The Church"! Have the Bishops! Have all the ecclesiastical orders! The incense! The "Tradition"! And all the other things your Church prides itself on! None of that matters if you're going to hell. I'd rather have a pastor with questionable credentials and a church that ahem "doesn't exist", by "Orthodoxy's standards, and have Heaven. I use to lay in my bed at night and wonder if I was going to heaven or not, it's still something I struggle with. Do you guys really....I mean really know what that's like? No, you don't. Because if you did, you'd be running away screaming from whoever taught you to doubt your salvation, and wouldn't be parroting them as if it were "the way to be". It is the most incredible hell you can imagine. Just doubting, not even full blown certainty of damnation. As much as I respect the Orthodox Tradition, it has only been because I do not believe they teach as some of you claim, I do not believe they teach us to doubt our salvation. If I did, I'd have no use for them. All I want is to go be with God in heaven, and a church that teaches me to doubt my salvation a church that isn't worth listening too.

Fr Gregory Hogg said...

Chaz:

Why the reliance on anonymity, instead of naming this "instructor"? Why the ad hominems, piled up on one top of another? My "idiosyncratic view" of logic is the result of studying it on a graduate level and teaching it for years. Where does your view of logic, or your instructor's, come from?

If your claim is that the things I listed are mere aberrations, then when, to you, would they become more than aberrations? When they're officially approved by the Synod? When they're widely practiced and accepted?

In any case, Chaz, I encourage you to go out into the field and be faithful to the school you have chosen. Try to make what you've read, happen in reality.

Cordially,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Chaz said...

Mr. Hogg,

Did your graduate work in logic fail to inform you on the fact that there are schools of logic that are in absolute and irrevocable conflict with one another?

I had a delightful conversation with a fellow seminarian about this. He has a doctorate in mathematical structure and logic from Berkeley.

All logical systems are built on assumptions. There is conflict among logicians regarding what the assumptions should be and how the logical systems should be used.

Your approach, in my experience, utterly fails to recognize this.

You don't get to pull rank and use it to deny the clear word of the Lord or to obscure the Gospel. Just what do you make of 1 Timothy 4:14?

My attacks may be ad hominem, but I am talking to a man, and the man's credibility is a legitimate issue. You'll have to pardon that my favorite Aristotelian treatise is his rhetoric, not the posterior analytics.

Anonymous said...

Pr. Weedon,

Your chain of thought on what the NT 'clearly' teaches jumps over all subsequent, recorded history as to how the Church understood these issues. If the Church understood presbyterial and episcopal orders to be exactly the same, and unchangingly so because God gave us all we needed in the NT, then a major component of the order of the Church was lost or changed at a very early stage. We cannot simply jump over all subsequent evidence to what we think the 'real' teaching is - this is simply the theological version of the Jesus Seminar searching for the 'real Jesus' apart from all the proof available and according to one's own standard of what is believable and reliable.

St. Peter also taught that we partake of the divine nature in the same NT, but later clarity on the issue makes it clear that the divine nature is unexperiencable. The NT can also, to those so inclined and equally well-intentioned, 'clearly' teach that we are not saved by faith alone and that the Son is lesser than the Father, and the Holy Spirit not necessarily a divine person, and many other odd doctrines. 'Clear' is in the eye of the beholder.

Your argument also leaves out the fact that all we have of the Apostolic documents are those that have survived, not all that they wrote or said that may have expanded upon or clarified all that remains to us. Casual experience on the blogs shows how easily one can be misunderstood in one's letters.

You are right, though, that this is all old ground for anyone already or previously interested in these sorts of things. When one adds feuding brothers with feelings of betrayal (on all sides for different reasons)...

We all bring our own criteria to the table. For instance, what is 'salvation'? What this means, and whether and how it is a past, present and/or future event (or state) is often bypassed in favor of chest-thumping and righteous indignation - I must admit that it is more enjoyable than parsing assumptions, studying ancient languages and archaic documents spanning centuries. However, it is exactly these foundational assumptions that often get people angry, confused, offended, etc. in conversation - unless they lead to the opposite shoal of relativism.

This is the purpose of, and represents the need for, 'good ecumenism'. Simply getting at what we are really saying is foundational to our understanding of each other, and of converting and being converted to The Truth. It is most often the case that arguments (and logic) do not persuade. A change of vision (theoria) or paradigm is required like learning to 'see' those Magic Eye pictures from the 90s - or to 'break open our eyes' as artists say (at least those on 'Six Feet Under'). In reality, this vision is a reordering and re-understanding of one's assumptions and can lead to salvation, damnation, despair, and joy - oftentimes mistakenly so.

Christopher Orr

William Weedon said...

Christopher,

I won't rehearse it all again, but there IS subsequent recorded history which shows that the NT data as I presented it was pondered and acted upon. I have heard people say that they disagree with Piepkorn on this, but I've not seen any refutation of the copious details he provides on the topic.

But I agree that it is important to get to assumptions and the topic of what IS salvation is one well worth the exploration.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

1. Re: justification being the whole issue--Alistair McGrath comments, "...the early Christian writers did not choose to express their soteriological convictions in terms of the concept of justification." Iustitia Dei, p. 19.

If one wanted to say that soteriology, coupled with Christology, is the whole issue--then there might be some profitable discussion.

2. Our faith does not rest on human wisdom, that is true. Yet Luther himself made much use of the disputatio, and the syllogisms by which the disputatio is argued. Even late in his career, he did a set of theses on John 1:14, did he not?

3. Cheryl, there is no question we should flee from doubting God's promises. But there is also no question that the Scriptures speak another way too: Paul says, "Not that I have already attained" (the whole of Philippians 3 is worth a read). We do not doubt God's promises, but we do not trust ourselves either.

4. Further, the argument that the Lutheran Church doesn't exist, is founded on Lutheran standards alone. Nothing is imported from Orthodoxy there.

Here again there could be room for discussion, given Chaz' claim that the things I cited are "aberrations of practice." The next step, I suppose, might be for Lutherans to state clearly and unequivocally when the line from aberration to norm has been crossed wrt lay administration and disposable cups. But then, I have an idiosyncratic view of logic.

5. Chaz: Aristotle's Rhetoric assumes his logic and, as he notes in the Rhetoric itself, "The man who is to be in command of (the three means of persuasion) must, it is clear, be able (1) to reason logically, (2) to understand human character and goodness in their various forms, and (3) to understand the emotions..." You'll note that he lists logic first of all.

I take it by your answer that you've had no formal training in logic at all. I have delightful conversations with my doctor and with attorneys all the time, but that doesn't allow me to prescribe or to sue.

Finally, if you knew me as I am, stubbornness would be the least of the vices you'd list for me.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory

dspeers said...

Hogg writes

"We do not doubt God's promises, but we do not trust ourselves either."

So why the non-sequitur, Fr Hogg? What does one have to do with the other?

pr dave speers

Chris Jones said...

Cheryl,

We are not to doubt God's promises, nor his desire that we should be saved; but we Lutherans do not teach irresistible grace, nor "once saved, always saved".

St Peter cautions us: Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall (2 Pt 1.10); and the Apology to the Augsburg Confession comments on St Peter's words thus:

For Peter speaks of works following the remission of sins, and teaches why they should be done, namely, that the calling may be sure, i.e., lest they may fall from their calling if they sin again. Do good works that you may persevere in your calling, that you [do not fall away again, grow cold and] may not lose the gifts of your calling, which were given you before, and not on account of works that follow, and which now are retained by faith; for faith does not remain in those who lose the Holy Ghost, who reject repentance, just as we have said above that faith exists in repentance.

These are not the words of a teacher who believes that one's salvation can never be at risk. We are given the "assurance of salvation" in the sense that we may always rely on the promises of Him Who won that salvation for us, but we are never to be complacent nor unwilling to run the race that is set before us.

That is why what Fr Gregory wrote ("We do not doubt God's promises, but we do not trust ourselves either") is not a non sequitur.

John Hogg said...

Chaz,

I'm sorry if I've given a mistaken impression to you about what I meant or what I think. I don't think, and haven't said, that if you studied more or were more intelligent, you'd become Orthodox. Since I've never said that, I'm not sure how it could be my refrain. But, with all the hurt here, on both sides, between friends (hurt that has, perhaps, more to do with these conversations than do the arguments themslves -- again, on both sides), I can understand why what I'm saying could seem that way to you.

If I came across that way to you, I'm sorry, and I hope you'll forgive me.

Of course, I'd be glad to see you become Orthodox, just like you'd be glad to see me become Orthodox. But I don't think that you not becoming Orthodox is due to stupidity on your part. Indeed, I have nothing to boast of as Orthodox. God's mercy and wisdom are made manifest in weakness, sinfulness, and lack of human wisdom. If I believe Orthodoxy to be Truth, I can only give thanks to God for what He has given me, and not believe that it's due to wisdom, intelligence, or diligence in studying on my part.

My comments about keeping silence were not meant towards Lutherans in general, and not meant towards Pr. Weedon *because of* him being a Lutheran, but for other reasons. I wrote and continue to write in sadness at what I'm seeing.

Please don't assume that I'm identical with my father. I love and respect my dad, and we do have certain things in common, but we are not the same person. Any arguments you and my dad may or may not have had are between the two of you. I can understand why my dad is pursuing this the way he is, but I don't necessarily think that his method is very productive, but I can understand the feelings of a hurt friend leading to his approach, just like I can understand whatever hurt you might have experienced leading to you calling my prayers "satanic."

On another note, I can understand you and Pr. Weedon being concerned at seeing people being lead to doubt their salvation. Providing comfort to the afflicted and the doubting is certainly a good thing. But that comfort must be a real and living comfort. Here I'm not speaking of the comfort that you may give to your doubting parishoners, as much as concerns I have with the theology that I'm seeing proclaimed here, both in word and deed. What I'm concerned about is that the version of salvation that I'm seeing presented here is a cross-less one, a comfort of salvation that exists in the absense of repentance and the daily taking up of one's cross. This is a false comfort. A comfort that leads one a way from repentance leads one away from Christ.

I do not deny that many of the words and ideas expounded here are beautiful, and often beneficial. But if this is merely a faith of the mind, it avails nothing, and, however beautiful, is dangerous. Only faith can save. Christ gives us that saving faith. But the faith that He gives us and saves us by cannot be a faith of the mind only, but must become, daily, a faith of the heart.

May we all attain to such faith through the grace and mercy of Christ, our Lord and God and Savior, who alone loves mankind.

In Christ,
John

"For thine it is to save us, O our God, and unto Thee do we ascribe glory...."

dspeers said...

Chris Jones writes

"We are not to doubt God's promises, nor his desire that we should be saved; but we Lutherans do not teach irresistible grace, nor "once saved, always saved"."

Chris,

It wasn't Cheryl who posted this question for R. Hogg, it was Dave Speers.

Hogg's statement has nothing to do whatever, with 2 Peter or the Lutheran Confessions. His statement betrays a synergism in matters of SALVATION and the unrest and doubt that comes from this.

Wrt to the notion of once saved always saved. One does not need to inject the human will, works, efforts etc into the mix and create uncertainty (oddly enough what one finds in Rome, the Reformed/Evangelicals (not by design) and the Eastern Orthodox), but rather, learn the Scriptures concerning sin, and the temptation to stumble into synergism will be cured. But when one rejects a biblical doctrine of sin, one must then try to repair it with your own hands.

Chris Jones said...

Pr Speers,

My comment was in reply to Cheryl's comment of 11.26 PM. The fact that I alluded at the end to your "non sequitur" comment does not mean that Fr Gregory's statement was the main subject of my comment.

I haven't "stumbled into synergism" any more than article II of the Solid Declaration has "stumbled into synergism". If our Symbols can teach that we are to cooperate with the Holy Spirit's work of renewal and regeneration, then so can I (and as a confessional pastor, so should you). And if cooperating in the work of regeneration isn't "synergism in matters of SALVATION", then I don't know what is.

Chris Jones said...

John,

the version of salvation that I'm seeing presented here is a cross-less one, a comfort of salvation that exists in the absence of repentance and the daily taking up of one's cross.

I don't think this is accurate or fair. A Church whose public confession tells us that ... faith does not remain in those who lose the Holy Ghost, who reject repentance, just as we have said above that faith exists in repentance is not a Church which preaches a "cross-less version of salvation".

It's true (in my experience, anyway) that outward Christian discipline and self-denial is emphasized more in Orthodoxy than in Lutheranism. But that does not mean that Lutheran pastors do not teach their people the necessity of daily repentance and the struggle with sin. Where the rubber meets the road (in the pulpit and in the confessional), I am sure that your father never taught a "cross-less version of salvation" when he was a Lutheran pastor; and I am sure that none of the Lutheran pastors on this weblog teach such a thing either.

dspeers said...

John Hogg writes

"What I'm concerned about is that the version of salvation that I'm seeing presented here is a cross-less one, a comfort of salvation that exists in the absense of repentance and the daily taking up of one's cross. This is a false comfort. A comfort that leads one a way from repentance leads one away from Christ."

John, I would caution you not to confuse the crosses that men devise for themselves or for others with the cross that God gives...they are not the same. In fact, those crosses, self/man-devised can only be the work of the devil, who consistently sought to lead even Jesus away from the cross that the FATHER placed upon him.

The crosses that one sees in those communions that claim piety, "look at how we repent, deny ourselves, are silent", all ironically are of NO value to God or the bearer. Crosses are only given by God, in vocation, and are not duplicated or imitated. What I see, as I look east, a serious concern, and the reason why I post to things like this, is rejection of the WORD (and here I am speaking about Christ and the WORD's He gave through the Spirit, which cannot be separated by men or tradition without denying Christ), especially as one rejects a biblical understanding of sin (and hence loses the gospel in more ways that one cares to count), an unbiblical anthropology, and again, one loses the gospel, and an unbiblical understanding of the gospel, and hence a loss of the good news, and in its place, doubt, fear, and anxious activity which amounts to nothing. (Ecclesiastes 1-2)

Chaz said...

Mr. Hogg,

I guess you'll just have to forgive me for not scrimping and bowing before you because I have less formal training in logic than you do.

The point is still valid, whatever your logical system, that logical systems are based on assumptions and that your assumptions may be faulty.

One does not prove that their system is valid by appealing to the rules of the system. All that proves is internal consistency. One can make an internally consistent logical argument that is wrong.

Your appeal to logic and to your graduate training is part and parcel of your arrogance and unwillingness to hear challenges to your presuppositions (such as what is confessed by Lutherans and what is an aberration).

One does not need to be formally trained in logic to be logical. And there are many formally trained logicians who know nothing of it.

Present company included.

Charlie

dspeers said...

Chris jones writes

"and if cooperating in the work of regeneration isn't "synergism in matters of SALVATION", then I don't know what is."

You do not yet understand what the Lutheran confessions mean when they talk about cooperation. The only place they speak about cooperation, explicitly, is where they tell us that we cooperate, not as two horses pulling a wagon. But the reality, Chris, is that you need to read the context around 2 Peter 1:5ff. Peter says

"1:2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,
2Pet. 1:3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,
2Pet. 1:4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."

Now, Chris, read the text which appears before, it is through the grace and promises of God that these things come to pass. You are confusing what God builds and what man rejects. To each of those things Peter mentions, the new man is directed not to the self, his new powers etc, but to the means/promises, which effect these things. It is like the Epistle lesson for yesterday, 1 Corinthians 9:24ff, in which Paul speaks about how severe he is with himself, but the text says NOTHING about Paul building anything. Rather, it is assumed that Paul, warning the people as he does in this text about the need to be severe wrt their sinful nature, does not tell them to build anything. Rather, that comes through the means, and the means alone.

dspeers said...

Chris,

One other thing, I did not say that you stumbled into anything. I said that those who deny a clear doctrine of sin, (not necessarily referring to you in this paragraph), try to fix it by pushing man into the whole business. Do you confess an Eastern understanding of sin and anthropology?

Again, the Lutheran Confessions, NOWHERE say that sanctifcation/renewal is the result of anything but God's work through the means.

Chris Jones said...

Pastor Speers,

You spend a good deal of time correcting me, and purport to know what it is that I do or do not understand; but you appear to be attributing to me positions which I do not hold.

What did I say -- specifically -- that indicates that I do not understand what the Confessions mean by cooperation? And where did I say that our ability to cooperate comes from anything other than the covenanted means of grace?

Chris Jones said...

Pastor Speers,

Do you confess an Eastern understanding of sin and anthropology?

Well, strictly speaking, I do not know what you mean by "an Eastern understanding of sin and anthropology", although I could probably guess. So I won't commit myself to whatever it is that you think the Eastern Church teaches on those matters.

I will say that I confess original sin and anthropology as taught by St Maximos Confessor. If that's "Eastern", I plead guilty. And I will also say that my beliefs on these points have not changed since I was Orthodox.

dspeers said...

Chris Jones writes,

"specifically -- that indicates that I do not understand what the Confessions mean by cooperation?"

You wrote

"And if cooperating in the work of regeneration isn't "synergism in matters of SALVATION", then I don't know what is."

This is about unlutheran as you can get....Salvation is an accomplished fact. There is a clear distinction between salvation and renewal or sanctification. Sanctification does not effect or add anything to the matter of salvation.

Drew said...

'Salvation is an accomplished fact.'

If we can fall away through sin and unbelief, then it seems like salvation, at least in some sense, it not an accomplished fact.

William Weedon said...

Pr. Speers,

Is there not room in Scripture to speak of salvation BOTH as accomplished fact and as ongoing work - obviously using the term in the first instance in the narrow sense and in the second instance in the broader sense (justification AND renewal)?

I was thinking of how St. Paul could say in 1 Cor. 1:18: "But to us who are being saved it is the power of God." He could have written to us who have been saved, but he uses the present passive participle. Similarly in 1 Cor 15:2 and 2 Cor. 2:15, I believe.

When Christopher uses the word "syngerism" he simply is using the same word via the Greek that the Formula uses in the Latin when it speaks of the new man's *cooperation* in all the works of the Holy Spirit. I think because Lutherans usually use the term "synergism" to refer to a human contribution to justification, we are not always careful to listen to how others use the term when they mean simply what the Formula itself freely grants - certainly no sort of "equal" cooperation, but a cooperation in great weakness that is fully the result of the Spirit's setting our will free in Holy Baptism.

Chris Jones said...

Dear Pastor Speers,

There is a clear distinction between salvation and renewal or sanctification.

Thank you. Now I understand what the problem is.

You are using "salvation" as a synonym for "justification". I was not; because I do not believe that it is right. There is indeed a valuable distinction to be drawn; but not between "salvation" and "sanctification". "Sanctification" is an aspect of salvation, not an add-on or a follow-up. The distinction to be drawn is between "justification" and "sanctification" as two inseparable (but distinguishable) aspects of the reality of salvation. This distinction is what Fr Weedon is talking about in his latest (excellent) post when he says "Is salvation completed? Yes. And no."

You, on the other hand, are (in my opinion) going beyond distinguishing between justification and sanctification, and actually separating them. The consequence of that is, inevitably, to impoverish the idea of sanctification and to de-emphasize it.

Perhaps this is quibbling over semantics. But if what you really meant to reject is "synergism in justification", then I have no quarrel with you. I was never taught that as an Orthodox and I do not hold to it now.

Chris Jones said...

Fr Weedon wrote:

When Christopher uses the word "syngerism" he simply is using the same word via the Greek that the Formula uses in the Latin when it speaks of the new man's *cooperation* in all the works of the Holy Spirit. I think because Lutherans usually use the term "synergism" to refer to a human contribution to justification, we are not always careful to listen to how others use the term when they mean simply what the Formula itself freely grants - certainly no sort of "equal" cooperation, but a cooperation in great weakness that is fully the result of the Spirit's setting our will free in Holy Baptism.

That is exactly what I mean; and it is exactly what I was taught as an Orthodox.

dspeers said...

Chris,

I certainly understood that term and the problems that it produces for the orthodox and lutherans as they seek to discuss these issues, but, you see, when one goes to quoting the Lutheran confessions, one cannot just quote bits and pieces, one must read them in context and that includes the little bit from 2 Peter that appears in Ap XX and also in FC SD IV 33. And in order to understand the reference in the apology one must read on in the formula and note what is said wrt the socalled cooperation and what is effected, sustained etc and how, in paragraphs 34ff. I am guessing that it does not mean what you said, right?

Second of all, the problem I perceive with the EO take on Lutheranism is that they do not understand the doctrine of mortal and venial sin which the Lutherans used again and again to help Rome see that their criticism of the Lutherans, especially wrt their "impoverished" view of sanctification was quite wrong and backwards. This doctrines runs through Ap IV (on justification, especially as the Lutherans define faith, and this impacts what we mean when we discuss faith in FC IV 34ff), and also impacts our understanding of faith and in particular sanctification and salvation. In fact, the fear, and that never makes for good doctrine, which is evidenced by EO wrt sanctification/salvation/renewal (and which you expressed as you speak about impoverished lives...something that the Lutherans have answered again and again, by pointing those who are concerned about such things to a proper and biblical definition of faith, sin and the means, all of which were lacking in Rome in particular at the time), is really, I believe brought about, not because Lutherans are particularly sinful people, lacking in good works, (as they are observed by EO et al), but because EO theology has some rather large gaps in their theology which they have tried to fill with human activities, hoping that these things are pleasing to God. They believe that they are actually producing piety with these ideas, but they are devoid of the Word and so have no power and no value in the eyes of God.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear Chaz,

Apparently something I said to or about you some time back, has gotten your hackles raised against me. For whatever it was, I am truly sorry. Truly. Before God.

My question about your qualifications in logic has nothing to do with pride on my part. If I were getting work done on my car, I would tend to trust the word of someone who's been trained as a mechanic, over the word of someone who hasn't. That doesn't make the mechanic infallible, or the other person worthless.

I think I did acknowledge my willingness to hear challenges to my presuppositions when I asked you "to state clearly and unequivocally when the line from aberration to norm has been crossed wrt lay administration and disposable cups."

Cordially, in Christ,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

John Hogg said...

Chris Jones,

I wasn't making a comment about what the Lutheran Confessions teach nor even about what most Lutheran pastors teach. My comments weren't meant as a critique of Lutheranism.

Pastor Speers,

When did I say anything about ascetical crosses? You seem to be answering a point that I didn't make.


Grace and peace,
John

Past Elder said...

All right I'll jump back in the ring too. Before getting all into salvation, synergy and whatever, (third use of the Law anyone?) this started as You Have No Right To Exist. The reason we have different answers as to whether "priests" may ordain or whether there is a visible true church on earth (therefore I ought to be in it) is because we haved different answers as to what ordination even is, or does.

In the Roman and Eastern rites, ordination is a sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ himself, passing on his priestly power and role to the Apostles, who in turn pass that on to what we call bishops, who in turn pass some of that on to what we call priests. This passing on and power carry an indellible mark in him who receives it. A priest is a deputy of his bishop, stands in the place of his bishop in some but not all of his full apostolic function -- the priest literally cannot confirm or ordain. If this view of ordination is correct it is impossible to accept a valid ordination of priests by priests. This is also why priests are assigned by their bishops, since they represent them, rather than called by their parishes.

It is for precisely this reason that as an RC youth I was taught that the EO across the street (not a metaphor, there was a Greek Orthodox parish across the street) though is schism nonetheless has valid sacraments, real priests, a real Mass (or Divine Liturgy) because they have real bishops, whereas the Episcopalians and Lutherans down the street may believe in the Real Presence but they don't and cannot have it, and for which reason they strictly speaking are not churches since they lack and deny an essential element Christ has given to his church.

The Lutheran Church (we who don't exist) holds to none of this. What has become Holy Orders is simply the way the church chooses her pastors. The power to say mass, hear confessions, etc belongs to every Christian by right of being Christian. I have as much power to say mass as Pastor Weedon. Or for that matter any of you "priests" -- not sure if any RCs are lurking out there; somebody wake up Schuetz. The reason why I don't and he does is I don't have a call to do so and he does. But the call did not transmit the power. There is no sacrament, no indelible character, nothing of the sort other than the church in good order choosing her pastors. If this view of ordination is correct, it is impossible to accept that the visible church depends upon a sacramentally valid succession of bishops and their priests, or that in existing apart from church bodies which hold to that, we have gone outside of or are in imperfect union with Christ's church.

So before hashing over whether a Lutheran Church exists or not, is there a sacrament of Holy Orders or not.

Personal aside -- this is the second time in my life that a move to EO has come up. Many RC refugees from Vatican II, like myself, took that route. Looked into it myself. Thank you God for the BOC and faithful pastors like our host. I didn't convert to anything, I simply get to be a part of the only church there is where the Gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments rightly adminstered -- or not administered at all as sacraments if they aren't.

Chris Jones said...

Past Elder,

You've given a good sketch of the Roman Catholic system, in which "validity of orders" is a primary consideration, and is independent of the status of the Church body in which the ordination is done.

The Orthodox Church does not look at it that way at all. For the Orthodox, the orthodoxy of the Church body is primary. "Valid orders" of the minister do not confer authenticity on the Church; it is the other way around. And a bishop or priest does not, and cannot, exercise his ministry apart from the Church for which he was ordained.

That is not to say that canonical, episcopal ordination is not important. But it does not make the ordinand a sacramental "free agent" with special personal powers; it authorizes him to serve in a specific office in a specific Church.

Thus it is not, as you say, that we must first decide whether there is a sacrament of holy orders or not, and then explore whether the Lutheran Church "exists". The first question is whether the Lutheran Church is a Catholic and Apostolic Church. If she is, then the mystery of ordination exists there; and the only thing to talk about is the tidying up of some canonical irregularities. If she is not, then all the formal "validity" in the world (if we had it) would not make up for it.

For the Orthodox, to speak about the formal validity of orders before speaking about full agreement in the faith makes no sense.

Chaz said...

Validity and efficacy are neither Lutheran nor biblical ways of speaking.

Chaz said...

Fr. Hogg,

Even as I accept your apology and forgive you in Christ's name, I have to say that it's hard for me to hear your apology.

My heart is very hurt and it's gotten used to being angry at you. I want to forgive you, but I find that it's very difficult.

I forgive you, but it will take time for my heart to catch up with my mind.

Forgive me for this. I am an evil, sinful man, and though I don't want to hold a grudge, I am, at least for now. I have been praying a lot about your apology since you posted it. I want God to purge the anger from my heart, but my heart is holding onto to it very firmly.

Past Elder said...

Thank you, Chris Jones, for laying out the EO view of orders. If I understand you rightly, the validity I was taught to see in EO orders and therefore the EO church, but not in the Episcopalian or Lutheran churches, is because EO fits Rome's criteria rather than because the EO understanding is correct. (Validity may not be a Lutheran or Biblical way of speaking but it is a Roman way and I was speaking of what I was taught in the Roman church.)

If I further understand you correctly, then if we (Lutherans) came to Orthodox belief, understood as authentic Christianity, orders apart from canonical mattes would take care of itself because then the mystery (sacrament) of ordination will be there.

Which makes sense of the original argument in this thread, that the "Lutheran Church" not only fails as true to the faith of the Apostles but fails as true to the Lutheran Confessions themselves.

As a point of clarification, a Roman priest is not by his ordination a free agent either; he will function as assigned by the bishop he represents, and to function within another bishop's church be must obtain an approval called "faculties of the diocese", which leads sometimes to some interesting intramurals for priests in religious orders (regular clergy; those who live under the regula or rule of a religious order, as opposed to secular clergy, the typical parish priest) who answer to an abbot or provincial as well as a bishop!

While I would stand by my statement about the formal validity of orders at least with regard to the Western Church, then the question might be with regard to the Eastern is orders a part of the faith of the Apostles. As far as I can tell, the Lutheran answer would still be no and for the same reason -- the priesthood belongs to all Christians, and what distinguishes those in the Office of Holy Ministry is a proper call to exercise the functions of that God given (or if you're WELS, church determined)office.

As to strong emotions, I don't know any of you personally, but strong emotions certainly were a part of the journey to what is now the peace of the faith of the Lutheran Confessions.

Dixie said...

Now that some of the dust has settled, I'd like to offer something for consideration.

Pastor Weedon, you write:

"You do not have the right to exist."

This is in essence the message which is sent back to us by Lutherans who have swum the Tiber or the Bosphorus.


Is this really what they say or is this what you hear? I have found that when I communicated to loved ones about my conversion from Lutheranism to Orthodoxy...some didn't hear what I said but took the words "I am leaving the Lutheran church" and turned them into other words that they digested.

Some heard me tell them "You are heterodox." Some heard me tell them "you have invested years, time and dollars in wrong beliefs." Some hear me say "you have endangered the eternal lives of your family and others in your care by settling for wrong beliefs." Some heard me say that "I am more spiritual than you, more holy."

When I no longer communed at the Lutheran table, my youngest son heard me say that "your Jesus isn't good enough for me."

In reality I only said I was leaving the Lutheran church. But some folks have a way of looking at the decisions of others as a judgment of themselves.

To be sure in my case a great many more said "I am so glad you found something that suits you"--which is actually not a reply I relished because of what *I* hear when someone says that...relativism.

Of course, that the Orthodox claim to be "the Church" does automatically put some things unspoken out there.

William Weedon said...

Dear Rose,

It is certainly the case that no one has ever said that to me in so many words. It does seem to be the implication, though, of your last point about the way the Orthodox teach that they and they alone are the Church. That leaves a Lutheran parishioner who had always been taught that baptism brought them into Christ's church and the preaching of the Gospel, the absolution, and the Holy Sacrament kept them in Christ's church, with the quesiton: "Am I in the Church or not?" And because Orthodoxy's answer (as we usually hear it) is: "We don't know about you; we do know about us." That comes across very much as "The Lutheran Church may not be Church at all, and you'd best forsake her and come over here where we know that there IS church." That's what I meant by the message we receive is "the Lutheran Church doesn't have the right to exist." Although it runs the risk of oversimplifying, I do think that it is basically a true statement: for Lutherans the sacraments guarantee the Church; for the Orthodox, the Church guarantees the sacraments.

fr john w fenton said...

Is there a difference between saying, "The Orthodox Church is the true visible Church" and "The Evangelical Lutheran Church is the true visible Church of God on earth"?*

Of course, I would argue that there is a difference--but not in terms of logic, or in terms of what is explicitly or implicitly asserted.

* See http://www.immanuel-gemeinde-steeden.de/doctrina2/1866elc.htm
* See also http://www.lutherantheology.com/pieper/tvcgod.html

Chris Jones said...

Past Elder,

I think you understand me correctly. But remember that I am ex-Orthodox, not Orthodox, so perhaps some Orthodox folks might not agree with everything that I have written. The general point, though, is valid: that you can't just take the RC system and overlay it on the Orthodox and have everything line up neatly. The two Church bodies are not the same.

On your point of clarification, I will agree that a Roman priest is not a free agent. He is, as he is in Orthodoxy, a representative of the bishop. The difference is that in Catholicism, the bishop is a free agent, in the sense that, if he goes into schism, all of his episcopal acts (ordinations and consecrations of new bishops) are considered "illicit but still valid". In Orthodoxy, a "renegade" bishop is not considered to be acting "in and for the Church", so those ordinations and consecrations would not be considered "valid". "Validity" is not a category for the Orthodox. It's either right (meaning, in communion with the Church and done according to the canons) or not right (apart from the Church and uncanonical). The idea that a bishop could leave the Church and still be a bishop and still have, in himself, the "power" to ordain, just makes no sense.

I part company with you, however, when you write:

... the question might be with regard to the Eastern [Church]: is orders a part of the faith of the Apostles. As far as I can tell, the Lutheran answer would still be no and for the same reason -- the priesthood belongs to all Christians, and what distinguishes those in the Office of Holy Ministry is a proper call to exercise the functions of that God given ... office.

That is, I do not think the Lutheran answer is "No". I think "orders" (i.e., the office of the Holy Ministry) is absolutely a part of the faith of the Apostles. The notion that the ministry of Word and Sacrament is held by all Christians, and that the rite vocatus is simply a delegation of that ministry to a particular individual, is wrong. I am not persuaded that the Scriptures teach that notion, and I am not persuaded that the Lutheran Confessions teach that notion.

The pastor's call comes through (not from) the Church, with both the local Church and the wider Church playing a role in exercising that call. But the call comes from God, not from the Church, and the ministry which he exercises and the office he fulfills come to him from God, not by delegation from the Church. He does not serve at the pleasure of the local congregation, nor does he "report to" or "work for" the congregation. He is answerable for the exercise of his ministry to Jesus Christ at His dread judgement-seat, because that is Who has called him to that office and bestowed on him the grace of priesthood. He is not answerable to the local congregation, as if they have "delegated" the ministry of Word and Sacrament to him.

Anonymous said...

Dixie,

You state on your own blog in response to John Fenton's post on Mark 9, that you did not know how to treat "non orthodox Christians" so you were avoiding "them." We aren't Lepers, we are not unbelievers. How would you feel if someone published a statement like that about you? I know you have been enlightened now by John Fenton, who abandoned his own parish for orthodoxy and left them on a life raft in a storm tossed ocean. Regardless of any comment made on this blog by the Grace of God the Lutheran Church does exist. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. Is The Orthodox church perfect? Absolutely not. You know why? Becuase we do have one thing in common, some of us by original sin and some of us have aquired sinfulness, but however we became that way we are all sinners in need of the Redeeming Grace of Jesus Christ. I am a Lutheran Confessional Orthodox Christian and Pastors leaving my parish to convert to orthodoxy and priest's who have converted and been ordained and still continue to rag on the Lutheran church cannot take that away from me. "Nothing can separate me from the love of Christ" Ironically, I am a Confessional Lutheran because of the man who finds the Lutheran Confessions deficint He taught me to believe the absolution, depite what I see or feel. He taught me the value of the Holy Sacraments, and the Gospel. He taught me to love the Mass for in the end that is where I receive everything I need to live and he taught me that LIFE HIMSELF has a hold of me.

dspeers said...

John Hogg writes

Pastor Speers,

When did I say anything about ascetical crosses? You seem to be answering a point that I didn't make.

John,

what did you mean, then, that the Lutheran variety of faith presented here is a crossless one.

pr david speers

dspeers said...

jwf writes

Is there a difference between saying, "The Orthodox Church is the true visible Church" and "The Evangelical Lutheran Church is the true visible Church of God on earth"?*

Of course, I would argue that there is a difference--but not in terms of logic, or in terms of what is explicitly or implicitly asserted.

John,

The difference is wrt the means of grace and in particular the Word. It disposes of the Roman notions that only in this ONE church, can one find salvation. For God works through the Word, when and where it pleases Him. And we do not see the effects, nor are we called to judge them. We are called to confess His faithful working in and through the means. Now, is there anything in EO that allows for the means to remain the means in the hands of God. Or are they dependent on the Church?

dspeers said...

William Weedon writes,

Pr. Speers,

I was thinking of how St. Paul could say in 1 Cor. 1:18: "But to us who are being saved it is the power of God." He could have written to us who have been saved, but he uses the present passive participle.

Speers responds,

William, notice the *passive*. That should answer your question. It is being done, we are not doing it.

Weedon writes
When Christopher uses the word "syngerism" he simply is using the same word via the Greek that the Formula uses in the Latin when it speaks of the new man's *cooperation* in all the works of the Holy Spirit. I think because Lutherans usually use the term "synergism" to refer to a human contribution to justification, we are not always careful to listen to how others use the term when they mean simply what the Formula itself freely grants - certainly no sort of "equal" cooperation, but a cooperation in great weakness that is fully the result of the Spirit's setting our will free in Holy Baptism.

Speers responds
the problem is the connection to the Means and what is effected by what? Lutherans are at pains to state that the effects are completely worked by the Spirit through the means. The confessions, even after quoting 2 Peter 1 speak about the fact beginning, middle and end of it all stands on the Word/faith. (rm 5:2; 11:20; col 1:22-23; 1peter 1:5, 9). The confessors write in FC SD IV 35 "It is clear from God's Word that faith is the only real means through which righteousness and salvation [note the connection here] not only are received but also are preserved by God."

An interesting point someone made is the notion that because we can fall, therefore, somehow, it must depend on us. Again, one finds here a serious flaw in that understanding of the means of Grace. Over and over again the scriptures remind us that we are kept by the Word.

Dixie said...

Dear Anon,

First of all I would like to extend my apologies for anything you might have read on my blog that offended you. Certainly that was never my wish or intention. I did originally start my blog by documenting some of the criticisms I had regarding Lutheranism but more recently I have come to blog about my struggles in learning to "be" an Orthodox Christian. In doing this I realize that I have not always been gracious in writing about my Lutheran past nor in the way I express my thanksgiving for my Orthodox present.

When I was chrismated in the Orthodox Church I acknowledged that the Orthodox Church was "the Church". The Orthodox understanding that the Orthodox Church is “the Church” is completely unambiguous. I abandoned my Lutheran definition of where the Gospel is rightly preached and the Sacraments rightly administered. What became more difficult for me was to understand was...what about all those other Christians who are not Orthodox…including my husband and two sons! Father Fenton's article helped me see this all in perspective. It helped me also see why my own priest so aptly navigates the waters with non-Orthodox Christians.

I certainly didn’t and don’t see all other Christians as lepers! I just didn’t know what to do, what to say…so rather than sending wrong signals (like “it’s all the same”)…it was easier to keep to myself and send no signals at all. I am not a theologian. I am just a regular person…a wife, a mother, an employee...needing all the help I can possibly get to persevere in this race.

As Pastor Weedon notes—the problem is the Orthodox understanding of “the Church”. But there is no getting ‘round that one. The Orthodox understanding is the Orthodox understanding and if the non-Orthodox find it offensive…well, my question would be “Why?” The non-Orthodox can either see the Orthodox view as correct and consider joining us or see it as an Orthodox error and be glad they are not Orthodox.

Anon…I am sorry for your loss. I truly am. But worse than losing a spiritual father to another confession is having a spiritual father who preaches and acts in conflict with what he believes. Little good and much damage to the soul comes from having to live that kind of lie.

Chris Jones said...

Pr Speers,

You said:

the problem is the connection to the Means and what is effected by what?

With respect, you are seeing a "problem" where there is no problem. I repeat my question from an earlier comment, which you have not answered:

where did I say that our ability to cooperate comes from anything other than the covenanted means of grace?

You are quick to say "they (the EO) do not understand" this or that, or that I myself "do not understand" the Lutheran Confessions. But you betray very little understanding of the "synergism" that you attack, if you think that cooperation with grace is in any way disconnected from the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church. Cooperation with grace is absolutely grounded in the believer's participation in objective means of grace. If you think otherwise, you are debating a straw man.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

How does it help the discussion to introduce the notion of Lutheranism's "right" to exist, as opposed to simply discussing whether Lutheranism is the Church? It seems to me these are two very different questions:

(a) "Is Lutheranism the Church?"

and

(b) "Does the Lutheran Church have a right to exist?"

Question (a) is a matter of fact; question (b) is a matter of warrant. Question (b) assumes a "yes" answer to (a), and so it cannot be the same question as (a). I have tried to address question (a), and that from the standpoint of the Lutheran Symbols themselves alone. I have no idea how one would answer (b).

As I understand Orthodox ecclesiology, we would say, "Lutheranism is not the Church." Note that this isn't a judgment about individuals or their salvation, but of the institution of Lutheranism. Concerning what relationship individual members of Lutheranism have with the saving grace of God, we would say "we do not know," for we know where the grace of God is operative, the Church, but we do not know where it is not operative. Nor would we say that belonging to the Orthodox Church guarantees one salvation, for it does not.

It would seem to me, further, that the Lutheran Symbols themselves would say, "Lutheranism is not the Church." For they say that the Church is the assembly of believers where the Gospel is preached in its purity, and the Sacraments are administered according to Christ's institution; and lay preaching/administration and disposable cups are *not* according to Christ's institution, to judge by those Symbols themselves; and both these happen all the time within Lutheranism. Nor can one escape the implication by saying that these things do not happen in his parish, for his parish is in communion fellowship with those who do these things.

If one wants to find a deficiency in the theological system of Lutheranism, one sets oneself a very difficult task. For Lutheranism is crystaline in its intellectual perfection, and there's always an answer here or there--chief of which is the so-called "invisibility" or "hiddenness" of the Church. (I know you tried to find a doctrinal deficiency in the system, Pastor Weedon, and that you thought you'd found one in the whole reconciliation doctrine.)

For me, the issue was much deeper and more existential than a particular dogmatic formulation: namely, does the Church described in the Augustana actually exist today in Lutheranism? It became clear to me that the answer was, "no." There are Lutheran parishes, more or less. There are Lutheran pastors, more or less. But there is no body, no "trans-parish ecclesial entity" which holds to the Lutheran symbols. When I became Orthodox, I did not leave one denomination for another. I left a school for the Church, a system of thought for the Body of Christ.

I understand that it must be painful for those who choose to remain within Lutheranism, to hear things like this. I get hurtful things tossed right back at me all the time--things about my person, not my position. But that's ok, and I can understand why--because Lutherans are hurting, and are afraid.

If you read what I say carefully, you will note that I am not judging any individual. I am judging an institution, and that by its own lights.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory

dspeers said...

Chris Jones writes

With respect, you are seeing a "problem" where there is no problem. I repeat my question from an earlier comment, which you have not answered:

Speers responds,

What is being effected by this *cooperation* you speak of, Chris? Please define it, explicitly.

Chris Jones writes,
You are quick to say "they (the EO) do not understand" this or that, or that I myself "do not understand" the Lutheran Confessions. But you betray very little understanding of the "synergism" that you attack, if you think that cooperation with grace is in any way disconnected from the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church. Cooperation with grace is absolutely grounded in the believer's participation in objective means of grace. If you think otherwise, you are debating a straw man.

No straw man, but as I mentioned above, a difference wrt our anthropology and doctrine of sin. The Orthodox, having a flawed understanding of sin, thereby attribute to man something that man cannot do. Sin requires that all of man' s works, even and especially his best and brightest, are mortal sins, if man rejects the sin inherent in them and so offers them to God as good. What purpose do our good works/our sanctification serve?

Chris Jones said...

Pr Speers,

The Orthodox, having a flawed understanding of sin, thereby attribute to man something that man cannot do.

This is simply not true. You have been misinformed.

Sin requires that all of man's works, even and especially his best and brightest, are mortal sins, if man rejects the sin inherent in them and so offers them to God as good.

We offer nothing of our own "as good". We render back to God that which He has freely bestowed upon us; for other than what He has given us, we have nothing that we could offer. Thine own, from Thine own, we offer unto Thee, on behalf of all and for all.

dspeers said...

Chris,

So you would agree with the Lutherans that the WHOLE of our being restored is God's Work through the means of grace and not something that we effect.

you write

We offer nothing of our own "as good". We render back to God that which He has freely bestowed upon us; for other than what He has given us, we have nothing that we could offer. Thine own, from Thine own, we offer unto Thee, on behalf of all and for all.

Again, you need to define this, as I asked you to do. Otherwise we will continue to talk past each other. What is it that we are offering? What is effected?

Chris Jones said...

So you would agree with the Lutherans that the WHOLE of our being restored is God's Work through the means of grace and not something that we effect.

Of course I agree with the Lutherans. I am a Lutheran. My quarrel is not with Lutheranism but with your inaccurate and tendentious caricature of Orthodoxy.

Of course "the whole of our being restored is God's work". Our cooperation is not so that we can "effect" our renewal, as if we could claim any merit for it. Our cooperation exists because that is the manner in which it has pleased God to effect our renewal (for it is God Who is at work within you, both to will and to work His good pleasure). It has pleased God to work within us and through us (once we have been born again through grace and through the means), and that means that we have the privilege and the responsibility, with our newly freed wills, to cooperate with His work. But it remains His work, even though we cooperate.

I fail to see what is un-Lutheran about that; and I know that it is not un-Orthodox.

Again, you need to define this, as I asked you to do.

I think I have defined it sufficiently. But I must ask you (for the third time) where did I say that our ability to cooperate comes from anything other than the covenanted means of grace? If you will not answer that, I can only conclude that you are debating not what I have said, but only what you presume or imagine that I believe.

dspeers said...

Chris Jones writes

Speers writes
The Orthodox, having a flawed understanding of sin, thereby attribute to man something that man cannot do.

Chris writes,
This is simply not true. You have been misinformed.

Speers responds,
Ok, I'll make an assertion now, no you are wrong. Please inform me with something more substantial than just your assertion. My sources which I use for our discussion are the simple interview of the spokesman for the OCA on Issues etc, and Bishop Jeremias in his writings to Lutherans, especially as both spoke about man's natural will. And yes, they both asserted that man's will is not dead. Please give me a source that the church recognizes and follows so that I am not further confused by what eg, you say about subject and what the priest, and the bishop say. Someone has got to be able to nail this matter of what man is capable of, because of sin. However, you do not agree with some folk in that church.... And after a bit of time on the Lutheran-Orthodox list I was told the there really isnt a dogmatics one could point to, a systematic theology etc, and so things remained vague, except the desire to assert some ambiguous form of synergism, that without really defining it.

Chris writes
We offer nothing of our own "as good". We render back to God that which He has freely bestowed upon us; for other than what He has given us, we have nothing that we could offer. Thine own, from Thine own, we offer unto Thee, on behalf of all and for all.

Speers responds,
We offer, what does that mean? Please explain yourself.

dspeers said...

Chris Jones writes,

My quarrel is not with Lutheranism but with your inaccurate and tendentious caricature of Orthodoxy.

Speers responds,
Ok, please give sources, your assertions are not enough. If I have caricatured Orthodoxy do a little more work that just making the assertion. For I could just as easily assert that you misrepresent it.

chris jones writes,
Of course "the whole of our being restored is God's work". Our cooperation is not so that we can "effect" our renewal, as if we could claim any merit for it. Our cooperation exists because that is the manner in which it has pleased God to effect our renewal (for it is God Who is at work within you, both to will and to work His good pleasure). It has pleased God to work within us and through us (once we have been born again through grace and through the means), and that means that we have the privilege and the responsibility, with our newly freed wills, to cooperate with His work. But it remains His work, even though we cooperate.

Speers responds,
Effect and merit are two different things. Nobody is asking anything about merit in this discussion. I am asking you to tell me just what your cooperation effects. We are having a problem here with the idea of synergism...If I effect nothing, but I work, but my work does nothing, adds nothing, accomplishes nothing, then can it be understood as work? To me it sounds more like nothing, or like Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 1-2, vanity. And this btw, is not the way God describes sanctification, but that is not a part of our salvation.

Chris Jones writes
I think I have defined it sufficiently. But I must ask you (for the third time) where did I say that our ability to cooperate comes from anything other than the covenanted means of grace?

Speers responds,
No, you have not defined anything, you have answered in a very ambiguous way. You wrote,

"These are not the words of a teacher who believes that one's salvation can never be at risk. We are given the "assurance of salvation" in the sense that we may always rely on the promises of Him Who won that salvation for us, but we are never to be complacent nor unwilling to run the race that is set before us."

Where are the means in this statement? Again, as I said in my response to this post, you noted this above, which is ambiguous to say the least, especially in light of what the writers to the Formula stated in the paragraphs that followed, in which they pressed home the fact that this whole business began, lives and ends in the means, NOT in our cooperation. As I wrote to Bill Weedon, "The confessors write in FC SD IV 35 "It is clear from God's Word that faith is the only real means through which righteousness and salvation [note the connection here] not only are received but also are preserved by God." Note, salvation is connected here to righteousness. Salvation is ONLY received and preserved through faith, not from fear of losing one's salvation...which is the text which you used to try to defend the statement from Hogg about not trusting ourselves. The point is that we do not doubt our salvation because it comes and remains ours through faith. It is a non sequitur to say that we should doubt our salvation because we are not trustworthy...that is a nonsequitur if one holds to a monergistic salvation.

Chris Jones said...

I wrote:

We are given the "assurance of salvation" in the sense that we may always rely on the promises of Him Who won that salvation for us, but we are never to be complacent nor unwilling to run the race that is set before us.

and you asked:

Where are the means in this statement?

"The promises of Him Who won our salvation" are the means. The proclamation of the Word is His promise of salvation; Holy Baptism is His promise of salvation; the Eucharist is His promise of salvation; Holy Absolution is His promise of salvation. His promises, proclaimed and enacted by the Apostolic Church which He commissioned and sent to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins in His name, effect the salvation which they promise.

That is where the means are in that statement.


you have answered in a very ambiguous way

The fact that you fail to understand what I have written does not mean that I am being ambiguous. It may mean that I have written poorly and unclearly; if so, I apologize, but I have honestly done my best and I do not believe that I can be any clearer. But it may mean that you do not want to understand, but only to condemn.

If I were being ambiguous, that would mean either that my understanding of the issues is so unclear and contradictory that I am unable to express it without ambiguity; or that I am being deliberately ambiguous with a view to dissembling or deceiving. The former is, I suppose, possible, although I doubt that it is the case. The latter would be a personal attack which I do not believe you mean to make, nor would you have any grounds to do so.

Pastor Speers, do you really want to understand what I am saying? or do you only want to prove that I am wrong?

Chris Jones said...

Please inform me with something more substantial than just your assertion.

I am not the one who started making assertions about the teachings of another confession; you were. And you have given no substantiation that your understanding of their teaching is correct.

My substantiation is the writings of St Maximos Confessor on the Monothelete controversy, in which he lays out the proper distinction between nature and person as it relates to the natural will and the personal, or gnomic, will; and in which he teaches the orthodox doctrine of the natural human will of our Lord Jesus Christ, and also applies that doctrine to anthropology and soteriology.

In brief, the "natural will" as discussed by St Maximos, and as used by Orthodox writers, does not refer to the will of the unregenerate, fallen person as opposed to the will of the regenerate, restored and aided by grace. It refers instead to the will that pertains to, and is part of, human nature as created by God -- as distinct from the manner in which the human person exercises that will (this is what St Maximos refers to as the "gnomic will"). For an Orthodox writer (following the terminology of St Maximos) to say that "the natural will is not dead" merely means that man retains the faculty to carry out that which he chooses; it does not mean that fallen man (who is in bondage to Satan through the fear of death (Hb 2.15)) is capable of freely choosing spiritual good. Freely to choose spiritual good (as opposed to civil righteousness) is possible only for the regenerate, and even then only when preceded, accompanied, and followed by grace. ( ... for the regenerated man to do spiritual good ... it is necessary that he be guided and prevented by grace, as has been said in treating of predestination; he is not able of himself to do any work worthy of a Christian life ... Decree XIV of the Orthodox Confession of Dositheos.)

To understand Orthodox anthropology, and to understand the Orthodox doctrine of sin, human will (both natural and personal), and grace, it is vitally important to be conversant with the thought of St Maximos Confessor. And of course, St Maximos's teachings are the basis of the decrees of the sixth ecumenical council, against Monotheletism. As such they are part of the theological heritage of Lutheranism just as much as they are of Orthodoxy.

Even so, the writings of St Maximos are not well-known in the West, and one could hardly be faulted for not knowing them (just as many Eastern theologians are not all that well-acquainted with St Augustine). But without being conversant with the thought of St Maximos, it is not possible to understand Orthodox anthropology and the teaching on sin well enough to condemn them.

dspeers said...

Chris,

This is my last bit on this, as I will be busy tomorrow and Friday.

I am going to make a few points about the context of this discussion. First, I responded to something that Hogg wrote to Cheryl. Now, it was the first time I have heard some EO do exactly what Cheryl heard them doing... "listen to individual EO question their salvation. You guys may think it's a mark of humility, but it's not. It's doubting the promises of God". Fr Gregory then stated that one does not want to doubt the promises (who would own this kind of statement), but one does not trust self. Now, in the context of that statement, one cannot hold to a monergistic teaching on salvation. The self is set on a par with the promises of God. One has to ask the question, so what does this mean? That one can only be certain about one's salvation when one can trust self? That God's promises, and here the better term is God's WORK through the means is not able to overcome and calm my concerns about my sinful nature? She saw that some apparently considers this as a mark of humility, a position Rome is also accused of holding on this point. She complained, and Hogg, instead of denying it, confirmed it in so many words. For they imply, as I just got done saying, that the means are not enough to overcome my sinful nature, and hence I am left with doubt. There is no other explanation.

Then you come along and state that Fr Hogg is right, there is no non sequitur. Now, Chris, that requires me to conclude that the grace/promises etc that you are speaking about are really a matter of infused grace, because of the inherent contradiction of Hogg's which you support, and then you go on to use the *warning* from Peter and essentially confirm that the doubt of self has some place, because we are not once saved, always saved. That even though we have these promises, implied is that we had better not refuse to take the road that God gives us, or....? We lose our salvation? (So are the promises of God, gratia infusa, which enable us to continue on the path, and here in the context of Peter, that must have been what you have in mind, for we are speaking of pure law...good works? Or is salvation completely monergistic, something you denied above, when you stated that the work of regeneration, which we cooperate in, is a synergism in matters of salvation.) Ok, now think about it for a moment, and quit trying to parse my words, while ignoring the context of your own. The confessions do not direct us to doubt the ability of God to overcome our sinful nature...this has NOTHING to do with irresistable grace or once saved, always saved. And we do not protect ourselves from these aberrations by pointing people to the law and doubt. We are never protected from falling by means of the law, fear, anxiety, or by doing good works etc. Even the quotation from the confessions directs us back to faith in the promises...faith in the article of sanctification, sanctification which is and always only will be an article of faith in the life of the believer. That is, we trust that God will produce these things in and through us.

Chris Jones said...

Dear Pr Speers,

Trust in the promises of God is not abstract nor only a mental act. We may say that we trust in God's work through the means; but if we truly trust in it, then we will actually participate in the means of grace so that God will work sanctification in us through those means. If I acknowledge that God does it all through the means, but I do not assemble with the saints and listen to the Word, nor receive the body and blood of the Saviour, nor seek and receive Holy Absolution, what good does it do me to "believe" that God does all through the means?

But if I truly believe that God works sanctification in me through the means of grace, then I will participate in those means of grace: hearing the proclamation of the Word, receiving Holy Absolution through the ministry of the Church, and receiving the body and blood of the Lord. And that, in turn, will colour my whole life and in fact become the foundation on which I engage in the spiritual struggle with the Old Adam day by day. In my prayers I will confess the Gospel that I have heard in the ministry of the Word; when temptation comes I will rely not on my own moral strength and "will power", but on the union with Christ that has been given to me in Holy Communion; when I fall into sin I will repent rather than despair, because of the promise of forgiveness of sins that has been given to me through the means of grace.

That is what I mean by "cooperation". It is firmly grounded in the means of grace; it makes the diligent use of the means of grace the foundation of one's spiritual life; and it involves nothing of our own that "effects" anything. Instead, it relies on God, through the means of grace, to effect everything. But it is an active reliance, not an abstract, notional acceptance.

Is that really un-Lutheran? Is this "infused grace"? (BTW, I don't really know what "infused grace" means, except that it is apparently a bad thing. It's a Catholic thing, and I've never been a Catholic. I should have thought that something has been "infused", since it is God Who is at work within us and it is no longer I who live but Christ Who lives in me; but apparently "infused grace" means something else.)

So what is wrong with the "cooperation" that I described above? Isn't that how we are supposed to live as Lutherans? I know you said that you've posted your last bit, but when you have a moment I would really like to know if I have got something wrong here.

Past Elder said...

Does the church desctibed in the Book of Concord exist? Yes and no, I'd say. No, in the sense of is there a synod (or a trans parish entity of some kind) that 100% exhibits fidelity to the BOC. I belong to my synod (LCMS) because it is the worst synod in the world except for all the others (stole that phrase from Chaz, I love it). But, the BOC is not a constitution or a charter, nor does it seek to be, nor does it hold out a visible institution as the "true" Church, not does it insist that the church is limited to "our" parishes. I don't think we hide behind anything with the invisible thing, if the church truly is invisible in terms of visible denominations.

We teach our kids that we do good works because we are saved, not to be saved. I guess that makes it clear enough for me too.

Earlier I offered the difference in what is said in the liturgy of the "apostolic" churches as contrasted with ours after the Confiteor as an example of the whole difference with us.

Funerals are like that too. My wife died the night before Thanksgiving 1997, and at her funeral the following Saturday the pastor ended the funeral sermon by saying that a few days ago most of us celebrated a thanksgiving that lasted one day, but Nancy began one that lasts an eternity. You could not leave that funeral not knowing that as far as we're concerned, the only dead people at the funeral were the ones who did not believe Jesus paid for their sins. At both my parents' funerals (RC) some years later, you got the idea that salvation was a possibility with Jesus having died and all, but the subjunctive "may God have mercy on us" coupled with prayers for a merciful judgement and remembering their good lives sure clouded the issue. You'd leave those funerals thinking Jesus was great and I hope I make it (read, live a good enough life) too.

I don't know if the difference is clear or will become clear as we slug our way through this conversation, but step into anything like a BOC type Lutheran church as opposed to any other, particularly those who claim an "apostolic" pedigree, and it's clear enough to me. What should be the most obvious thing about the church, is, in "our" parishes, in other places, it's in there but mixed in with all sorts of other stuff that makes it less than obvious.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Past Elder, you wrote,

"...the BOC is not a constitution or a charter, nor does it seek to be, nor does it hold out a visible institution as the "true" Church, not does it insist that the church is limited to "our" parishes. I don't think we hide behind anything with the invisible thing, if the church truly is invisible in terms of visible denominations."

But the BOC says:
AC Intro: "we offer, in this matter of religion, the Confession of our preachers and of ourselves, showing *what manner of doctrine from the Holy Scriptures and the pure Word of God has been up to this time set forth in our lands, dukedoms, dominions, and cities, and taught in our churches.*"

FC,SD Intro: "they clearly and plainly made *their Christian confession as to what was being held and taught in the Christian evangelical churches* concerning the chief articles, especially those in controversy between them and the Papists; and although this Confession was received with disfavor by their opponents, still, thank God, it remains to this day unrefuted and unoverthrown."

FC, SD Intro: "For the controversies which have occurred are not, as some would regard them, mere misunderstandings or disputes concerning words [as are apt to occur], one side not having sufficiently grasped the meaning of the other, and the difficulty lying thus in a few words which are not of great moment; but here *the subjects of controversy are important and great, and of such a nature that the opinion of the party in error cannot be tolerated in the Church of God, much less be excused or defended*."

The claim of the BOC is precisely that the things being done and said in their churches--as a matter of fact, not of aspiration--are correct. Nor did it have any notion of "denominations." There's a tendency for some to read the BOC as a kind of law, a prescription--to which, of course, everyone will say "we can't live up to it." But it was a *description*, not a prescription--it doesn't say, "We hope our churches will teach" but "Our churches teach." As recently as Walther and Pieper it was recognized that, not a body's official statements, but what was actually happening in its pulpits and classrooms, determined whether it was orthodox. Remember Pieper's words: "If anyone should prove against us that even one pastor preached false doctrine, or even one periodical stood in the service of false doctrine, and we did not eliminate this false doctrine, we would thereby have ceased to be an orthodox synod and would have become a unionistic fellowship. In short, the mark of an orthodox church body is that throughout that church the true doctrine alone prevails, not only officially and formally but also in actual reality."

And the "churches" spoken of in the BOC were not merely individual parishes, scattered here and there, or hidden things, only appearing at the time the Word was preached and the Sacraments administered (which amounts to ecclesiological Barthianism); they were territorial, trans-parish entities. The authors of the Confessions were making the claim that the teachings they set forth in their documents were the actual preachment and confession of a set of trans-parochial entities, territorial churches, and not merely ideals set forth in schools, or in scattered parishes. Such churches were, at the very least, a major part of what they meant when they spoke of church.

Today, there is no such trans-parochial entity, holding fast to and teaching all that the BOC teaches. In other words, in terms of the fullness of the ecclesiology assumed and taught by the BOC, there is no Lutheran Church.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Past Elder said...

You know what Father Hogg, if by "There is no Lutheran Church" one means "There is no trans-parochial entity holding fast to and teaching all that the BOC teaches" I'll buy that. Including my own synod, where contra the BOC as you cite and earlier leaders in that very synod you also cite, we are now told from the top, so to speak, we really ought to quit worrying about all this doctrinal purity and get the message out -- as if without doctrinal purity we even know what that message is, as if the Great Commission were just about being sent and don't worry about that teaching them everything I have commanded you thing.

I've made a Profession of Faith publically as a Lutheran twice, actually, once in WELS and once in LCMS. Neither time did I make any pledge about that particular trans parochial entity. Both times I did though, about Scripture as correctly taught in the BOC and something called the "evangelical Lutheran church".

Maybe the difference is in what Chris Jones laid out above -- that the orthodoxy or authenticity of what a church body does depends upon the orthodoxy of the church body itself. If that is true, then indeed as he says the idea of valid bishops validly functioning apart from the church body is wrong follows, as does your assertion (I think) that the absence of a visible church body that 100% holds to the BOC demonstrates that there is no Lutheran church and therefore the teaching of the BOC must be lacking too.

Somewhere years ago I read something from an Orthodox source that said there's a reason why the Reformation happened in the Western, not the Eastern, Church, the upshot being (if memory serves) that the Reformation addressed issues that would not have arisen were Rome not off the track in some areas to start with, so the Lutheran and all later Protestant churches derive from misconceptions themselves derived from misconceptions.

I am thinking that the visibility of a particular orthodox (small o) church body plays a role in EO notions of what constitues church and Christianity itself that it does not in the non Roman West. I hold to what I publicly professed twice, the evangelical Lutheran church, not WELS, not LCMS, nor any other particular church body, and I am in LCMS not because it IS the evangelical Lutheran church but because the evangelical Lutheran church is in it better than anywhere else. In the words I love so much, it's the worst synod in the world, except for all the others.

Drew said...

"If anyone should prove against us that even one pastor preached false doctrine, or even one periodical stood in the service of false doctrine, and we did not eliminate this false doctrine, we would thereby have ceased to be an orthodox synod and would have become a unionistic fellowship. In short, the mark of an orthodox church body is that throughout that church the true doctrine alone prevails, not only officially and formally but also in actual reality."

Fr. Hogg,

Do you have a citation for this? I'm curious as to where it came from.

Pr. Weedon et al,

Am I the only Lutheran that is troubled by Fr. Hogg's assessment of our synod? It seems to me like no one is really addressing his point, as seen in Past Elder's comments above. I've been following this issue for quite some time now (I remember it caused quite a stir on Pr. Petersen's blog a while back), and the only real response I hear from the confessional types is 'it doesn't really matter if our Lutheran fathers understood 'church' as a trans-parochial entity united in confession, Lutheran doctrine and practice is scriptural, so I'm staying put'. This answer only seems to skirt the issue. If Pieper and Walther accurately portray this same understanding of 'church' as our Lutheran fathers, then what does that mean for our synod today? How is it anything but heterodox, even according to our own standards?

Although, to be honest, I'm not so sure things are any better for the Orthodox (I could be wrong! if I am, please tell me). I am aware of the canonical mess, and from what I hear, those Athonite monks aren't too pleased with the state of present day Orthodoxy - if I'm not mistaken, they've gone so far as to call much of what happens in Orthodox churches today 'heterodox'.

So where does this leave us?

Chris Jones said...

Drew,

So where does this leave us?

It leaves us where we always have been: at the foot of the Cross, utterly dependent on the mercy of God in Christ Jesus.

I think it is fair to say that all of us are "troubled by Fr Hogg's assessment of our Synod". The problems in the Synod that Father cites are quite real, and none of us denies that.

But it is one thing to highlight the very real problems of the Synod, and quite another to conclude that those problems mean that there is no Lutheran Church. And we can acknowledge the reality and the seriousness of those problems without necessarily responding to those problems by following Fr Hogg Eastward.

The way that Fr Weedon and other confessional pastors are responding to those problems is to stay where they are and to keep on teaching the Catholic faith according to the Lutheran Confessions. Because this is where we are, and this is where we are called to be faithful.

So the answer is not just "Lutheranism is Scriptural, so I'm staying put". It's also, I'm not going to just bitch about heterodoxy; I'm going to be orthodox, according to the Confessions. If Lutheranism is to survive in the Synod (which Fr Hogg would deny, of course), it will be by teaching and practicing the Catholic faith, parish by parish and pastor by pastor. That's what the response of our confessional pastors is to Fr Hogg's criticisms, and I think it is an honorable one.

I don't fault Fr Hogg for leaving the Synod; his criticisms have much justice in them, and his leaving was understandable. But neither do I fault the men who are staying and striving to be orthodox in teaching and practice.

Drew said...

Chris,

Thanks for your comments.

What of this 'Barthian ecclesiology' that Fr. Hogg speaks of? That seems to strike a sensitive nerve of mine. I've heard my own pastor say that the Church comes into existence with the pure preaching of the Word and the right administration of the sacraments - as if the Church existed for an hour and a half on Sunday mornings, and that's it. That just seems wrong to me. If the Church is the Body of Christ, how can it exist in some sort of meta-reality, and not in flesh and blood reality throughout the ages? Or, to be more charitable, it exists in flesh and blood reality for a short period once a week.

What are your thoughts?

Chris Jones said...

Drew,

I must admit that there are gaping holes in my theological knowledge, and Barth is one of them. I've never read him, and I have only the vaguest idea of who he was. It is my understanding that he was a Reformed theologian who was something of a "neo-orthodox" in reaction to liberal tendencies in Protestantism. What he thought of ecclesiology I have no clue.

As for this notion that the Church is "created by the Word" as if it winks in and out of existence depending on whether the preaching is sufficiently orthodox -- I think that is complete and unadulterated nonsense. It is the Church which carries out the ministry of the Word and Sacrament, and if there is no Church, there is no Word and no Sacrament.

The Church is real, tangible, and concrete, not a Platonic ideal (as the Apology says). She is not invisible, and she is not hidden. The Church is not "created" by the preaching of the Word. She was "created" by the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, Who has not abandoned her. The holy Church remains forever.

Past Elder said...

I'm troubled indeed by Father Hogg's assessment of our synod because it's true, we as a whole do not teach and confess what is taught and confessed in the BOC. But the issue is, does that mean there is no Lutheran church as Chris Jones points out, or that LCMS is no church, or that what is taught and confessed in the BOC must be wanting or there would be a pure Lutheran church body.

Let me tell you, if the same criteria were applied to the church body I came from, then there is no Roman Catholic Church either. Twice over. In the RC church I grew up in, you could go anywhere in the world and know about what you were going to find. Now, to find that same thing you must step outside the boundaries of the Church as it recognises them. What's more, even if one accepted the Documents of Vatican II, you will from parish to parish find any number of things ascribed to the "spirit" of Vatican II but not one of them where the actual Documents are what happens in their totality.

For example, many watched the ceremonies of the recent papal installation. The Mass as conducted was thoroughly Vatican II, and also unlike anything I have ever seen in an RC parish other than in telecasts from Rome. And judging from the uniformly blank look on the faces in the crowd, neither has anyone else. So much for the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy which states that care should be taken that the faithful know in Latin those parts that pertain to them (Gloria, Credo, Sanctus etc). And from what I can tell less than 100% Orthodox teaching and practice is common in those churches too.

Consistency in the RC church before Vatican II did not make it right. Consistency or uniformity in what? The idea that a faultless church body authenticates what goes on in it strikes me as an ecclesiastical version of Donatism -- if the minister/church body is worthy then so is what he/it does.

All of us LCMS confessional Lutherans would love to see our synod uniformly teach and practice what the BOC does, but, the fact that it doesn't and in some quarters doesn't even care in no way shakes my belief in what the BOC holds forth, or my sense when in my parish that I am in no other church than I have always been, the only church there is, not the LCMS, WELS, RC, EO or whatever, but the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. Did not St Irenaeus write that where there is a pastor with his flock at the Eucharist, there is the whole/entire/universal church -- in the first known use of katholike to describe the church? DId not Luther write let each man stay in his own parish for there you find baptism, preaching, the sacrament and your neighbour, which is greater than all the saints in heaven who themselves were made saints by Word and Sacrament?

The faith of the BOC does not require a pure synod to validate it, and a pure synod would not prove the rightness of the faith it teaches. We profess our belief in what is taught in the BOC because it accurately teaches what is taught by Scripture, not by some trans parochial entity.

William Weedon said...

Drew,

No time to answer properly. Been running all day, and just stopping home for a few minutes right now. I agree with much that Past Elder and Chris Jones have written. I think you misunderstood what your pastor mean when he spoke of the church being brought into existence by the Word and Sacraments: I suspect he means, this is how the Holy Spirit gives the gift of faith which binds a person to Jesus Christ and makes him part of the Body. The Body persists, the believers who are united to the Savior in a living faith, drawing from Him life, salvation, forgiveness, every good thing. But the believers become believers, thus members of the Church, via the means of grace. Does that make sense?

More later, God willing. Right now, off to dinner and Trivia at our local Lutheran High.

Pax!

William Weedon said...

Oh, and obviously the believers persist as members of the Body only by their receiving the means of grac.e

Chris Jones said...

Father,

I think you misunderstood what your pastor meant when he spoke of the church being brought into existence by the Word and Sacraments

You are, as always, being charitable. But I have heard the language of "created by the Word" often enough, from those who insist on an "invisible Church", that I think that people do mean that the Church actually comes into being when the Word is preached. If, as you suggest, what they really mean is not that "the Church is created by the Word" but that "new believers are created by the Word", then they are using very sloppy and misleading language to say so.

There really are people who believe that in this life and on this earth there is only the Bible and the believer, and that "the Church" exists only in the eschaton. And I am afraid that more than a few of them are Missouri Lutherans.

Drew said...

Pr. Weedon,

Yes, Chris is right. I'm fairly certain that I understood him correctly. Now, to be fair, he also said that the 'invisible/visible' distinction is misleading and is to be avoided, but, for my money, I've never been able to see (no pun intended!) any concrete difference between the 'invisible/visible' distinction and the 'hidden/revealed' distinction. They seem to be saying the same thing, just in different terms. If a Church is hidden, that means you can't see it, so it's invisible. Right? Why is the Church not always revealed? I think it's because of what Chris said above - the 'created by the Word' talk leads inevitably to this distinction. If the Word's not being preached, there is no Church.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Drew: The citation is from Pieper, Franz, "Die Missouri-Synode und das General Council," Lehre und Wehre, Jahrgang 36, No. 8. (August, 1890), p.262.

Chris: I'd welcome your feedback on where you think the argument I'm making falls short.

Cordially,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Past Elder said...

I think the reason there is so much talk in Lutheran documents from the Confessions on about the invisiblity of the full church derives from maintaining that Rome is wrong both in their belief that there is a supposedly objective and apostolically descended visible church instituted by Christ and that they are it. In other words, Rome's claim that they are the visible reality of what we believe is invisible. Or in yet other words, we do not cease to be the church when what we do or believe is not sanctioned by or in accord with Rome. It is Rome that has gone beyond what is truly church, not us.

It is was a situation like this in which our Lutheran fathers lived. They even cited what is good in EO as examples of Roman authority and structure not defining church. I think it is a stretch to take the invisibility thing and either use it to justify our current turmoil within and among the various synods or to conclude that because the turmoil exists we are clearly not church and/or the faith we confess is not correct.

William Weedon said...

Drew et al.,

First, pardon the length of this message. My SIL rightly suggests that to keep blog conversations going, we should all limit our comments to one or two main points. But I was out all day yesterday and am trying to reply to a variety of comments, and besides, it's MY blog, dang it all! ;)

I'd encourage you to ASK your pastor whether the Church exists when not engaged in the Divine Service. I think he'd look at you curiously and say: "Well, of course it does!"

The key to the Lutheran use of the Church as "hidden" was simply the reality that not everyone who gathers in the assembly around Word and Sacrament and outwardly partakes of its inner life. Thus, as the Apology asserts: "The Church is not only the fellowship of outward objects and rites, *but at its core* it is a fellowship of faith and the Holy Spirit in hearts."

A friend of mine the other day quipped: "Is there a Lutheran Church? No, of course not! There is ONLY the only, holy catholic and apostolic Church of which our people and parishes are a part."

BINGO! Fr. Gregory's assertion that the Lutheran Church that spoke the Symbols no longer exists is in one sense utterly true. Those who so confessed and lived the grace of God in Christ in the configuration described in the Symbols have long gone to their eternal reward and entered the heavenly Church beyond all earthly divisions. But when we speak of the Churches of the Augsburg Confession we speak of those parishes and pastors who hold to the *doctrine* confessed in the Lutheran Symbols as the truth of God. We acknowledge that it is held in great weakness and in the Missouri Synod many have grave concern over the direction numerous parishes and pastors have taken of late - a direction that in the instances Father Gregory has pointed out set us as a Synod in variance with what we SAY that we believe, teach, and confess in our Symbols. This MUST be addressed by the call to repentance and a return to what the teaching of the Symbols themselves (which clearly proscribe DOCTRINALLY even the possibility of the lay celebration of the Eucharist - our Churches TEACH starts AC XIV).

To be a Lutheran Christian is not to live in the same polity under which our ancestors in the faith lived, for they in the very Symbols under confession, insist that that polity is NOT God-ordained. What IS God ordained is the congregation gathered around the Word and Sacraments administered by the Preaching Office. The congregation and the Predigtamt. These are divinely ordained. And where there is a congregation gathered around the purely preached Gospel and the Sacraments administered according to the Gospel, it is inevitable that they seek others who share their confession and seek to unite with them in the tasks Christ has laid upon His Church.

Hence Synods and such, which are never to be identified per se with the divinely created and sustained Church, but are confessed to be HUMAN arrangements that seek to support the work of preaching the gospel and administering the Sacraments. Where they cease to be of help to that, they also cease to be of any worth. Where they continue to assist in that, they have value. Usually in history they've been a mixed bag.

I remember when Fr. Gregory first observed to me that the "true visible Church" which Walther identifies as the "evangelical Lutheran Church" was by its very nature "invisible." What a shocker! Because Walther did not identify the "true visible Church," that is, "the evangelical Lutheran Church" with the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States.

But I think Fr. Gregory - and I, too, at the time - completely missed what Walther was thereby recognizing. He was saying: find a pastor and a parish where the doctrine contained in the Symbols is not merely given lip service, but is proclaimed and lived, and you will find yourself the true visible Church of God on earth. The "transparochial reality" that Fr. Gregory says we lack is simply not the case. It IS transparochial because parish after parish, pastor after pastor, is united in this confession of the saving Gospel that is contained in the Lutheran Symbols.

Are they yet all in fellowship with each other? NO! And that's an assignment for our parishes today and tomorrow. Do we have parishes practicing abominations within our koinonia? Obviously. May God grant us both grace and humility to call them back to the shared confession and to reorder our parish lives in such a way that we witness one and all to the world the good news of the redemption that came into the world through the Incarnation of the Eternal Word, through His suffering and death for our salvation, through His victorious resurrection and ascension and by the coming of the Holy Spirit, the comforter, through which alone we share in His divine life, in our Savior's body, which IS the Church, visible and yet hidden, present as a great reality in this world, and through whose glorious fellowship we reach the heavenly goal.

William Weedon said...

Dear Past Elder,

Thank you for sharing that. It really nails what needed to be said. And at the Table where the Lord gives His body and blood, you are not separated from your wife but joined with her in the unending praise of the Lamb once slain who lives forevermore with a life that He truly and surely imparts to His people! Glory to Him forever!

Past Elder said...

Thank you, Pastor.

My first year as a Lutheran was a whopper -- the pastor who led us through a year of instruction gets booted by the synod one month after we profess, four months later my pregnant wife is diagnosed with terminal cancer, six months after that she dies and I'm a single dad with a three month and a fifteen month old.

The real me would curse God, turn my face to the wall and die. That thing about faith being entirely the work of the Holy Spirit is for real, just like you said in the prior comment!

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pastor Weedon, you wrote:

BINGO! Fr. Gregory's assertion that the Lutheran Church that spoke the Symbols no longer exists is in one sense utterly true. Those who so confessed and lived the grace of God in Christ in the configuration described in the Symbols have long gone to their eternal reward and entered the heavenly Church beyond all earthly divisions. But when we speak of the Churches of the Augsburg Confession we speak of those parishes and pastors who hold to the *doctrine* confessed in the Lutheran Symbols as the truth of God.

Rx: This, of course, misses the point of what I’m saying when I say “There is no Lutheran Church.” You list three groups: (1) Those [individuals] who so confessed and lived in the grace of God—i.e. the blessed dead; (2) those parishes who hold to the doctrine of the Symbols; (3) those pastors who hold to the symbols. You fail to mention the trans-parochial realities which confessed the symbols, one of which, for example, Chemnitz served as a superintendent. Such trans-parish realities no longer exist. And they were certainly part of what the Symbols meant by “Church.”

WW:
We acknowledge that it is held in great weakness and in the Missouri Synod many have grave concern over the direction numerous parishes and pastors have taken of late - a direction that in the instances Father Gregory has pointed out set us as a Synod in variance with what we SAY that we believe, teach, and confess in our Symbols. This MUST be addressed by the call to repentance and a return to what the teaching of the Symbols themselves (which clearly proscribe DOCTRINALLY even the possibility of the lay celebration of the Eucharist - our Churches TEACH starts AC XIV).

Rx:
Here you set up the Symbols as a kind of ecclesiastical law, which succeeding generations of Lutherans more-or-less live(d) up to. But when Melancthon wrote, "No one ought to preach publicly or administer the sacraments unless he be rightly called," he was assuming that such a malady neither was the case with the evangelical churches, nor *could it be* a possibility. The trans-parochial churches of the Augustana would not have allowed lay preaching. But contemporary Lutheranism has allowed it. Hence, it is not the churches of the Augustana.

WW:
To be a Lutheran Christian is not to live in the same polity under which our ancestors in the faith lived, for they in the very Symbols under confession, insist that that polity is NOT God-ordained. What IS God ordained is the congregation gathered around the Word and Sacraments administered by the Preaching Office. The congregation and the Predigtamt. These are divinely ordained. And where there is a congregation gathered around the purely preached Gospel and the Sacraments administered according to the Gospel, it is inevitable that they seek others who share their confession and seek to unite with them in the tasks Christ has laid upon His Church.

Hence Synods and such, which are never to be identified per se with the divinely created and sustained Church, but are confessed to be HUMAN arrangements that seek to support the work of preaching the gospel and administering the Sacraments. Where they cease to be of help to that, they also cease to be of any worth. Where they continue to assist in that, they have value. Usually in history they've been a mixed bag.

Rx:
I’m not sure your first statement is quite accurate. The Symbols do say that the distinction between bishops and priests is de iure humano; is that the same as saying that polity itself is de iure humano?

Further, consider the words of Augustana 7: “1] Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered. 2] And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and 3] the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. 4] As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Eph. 4, 5. 6.
In your view, there are only two things called “Church” by divine right: the una sancta, and the local congregation with the office of the ministry. But here in AC 7.2 Melanchthon speaks of what is sufficient for the true unity of the Church. “Church” here can’t simply mean the una sancta, for the unity of the una sancta is for him a fact, a given which cannot be destroyed by anything we do. Nor can it be a local congregation, since by definition every congregation agrees with itself concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and administration of the Sacraments. It is greater than the local congregation, since he speaks of things not needing to be *everywhere* alike. It is not the same as the una sancta, since he notes in it the presence of human rites and ceremonies.

It is precisely with respect to this “Church,” which Melanchthon does not refer to as simply a human arrangement, but links together with the una sancta and the local congregation, that your notion of “Church” as (1) divine-right parish, (2) human-right synod, and (3)divine-right una sancta, departs from the teaching of the Lutheran Confessions themselves. But I understand the powerful motive underlying your deficient teaching of the Symbols. To admit they understood a trans-parochial, less-than-una-sancta reality (i.e., in their own case the territorial churches) as truly and fully "Church," would compel you to admit that there is no Lutheran Church.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gregory,

As I said above, I really have no intention to go through this whole thing again. We disagree on what CHURCH itself signifies, and so we'll continue to talk at cross purposes. As I always I wish you every good thing in our Savior.

For those who wish to read an interesting discussion of the question from the Lutheran side, I heartily recommend Dr. Marquart's book on *The Church* in the Confessional Lutheran Dogmatic Series. There you may find some fodder for your further rumination on the question of "church".

Pax!

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pastor Weedon,

You disagree not only with me as to what CHURCH itself signifies--as might be expected, I suppose--but also with the Lutheran Symbols as to what CHURCH signifies, given the statement in AC 7 discussed above. As I've noted before, your position will allow you to put up with virtually any degree of departure from those confessional statements.

But that is your right, I suppose.

Fr. Gregory Hogg

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gregory,

The discussion is bound to come up on the BOC blog when we get to article VII. If you are truly interested in pursuing the topic, maybe popping over there and reading the discussion would help in seeing another way of looking at what was at issue, what was being confessed, and what the Churches of the Augsburg Confession STILL confess about the unity of Christ's Church?

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pastor Weedon,

You spoke rightly when you said "reading the discussion." Pastor McCain, who moderates that blog, is not given to allow a free discussion of any issue--as you well know.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gregory,

Well, not quite. Any of the moderators (and there are quite a few) can leave messages; but other comments he monitors for relevance to the discussion at hand.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pastor Weedon,

You make my point yourself. Thank you.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

dspeers said...

Chris Jones writes,
That is what I mean by "cooperation". It is firmly grounded in the means of grace; it makes the diligent use of the means of grace the foundation of one's spiritual life; and it involves nothing of our own that "effects" anything. Instead, it relies on God, through the means of grace, to effect everything. But it is an active reliance, not an abstract, notional acceptance.

Speers responds,

Chris, I could not leave this blog at just 100 responses....

Seriously, I have to say that as I read what you write, I can't help but wonder if there is not a problem with the alternatives you set up. I think that this last message is a false alternative. Nobody, that I know, states that this whole matter is just a notional matter. However, as Luther said, we are beggars, indeed! We do not make the Word effective by our acting, doing, or even our presence. We come to the Word in faith, (and that created and animated entirely by the Word and Spirit), trusting that God will work. You seem to coordinate my part, coming, eating, drinking, and God's part, working, etc, in the means. This coordination is apparently a synergism, wrt the matters of salvation. This is not a biblical understanding of the means.

Chris Jones said...

This is not a biblical understanding of the means.

Then I might as well sleep in on Sunday mornings.

I can't help but wonder if there is not a problem with the alternatives you set up.

Perhaps so. Then what exactly is the problem with it?

What good does it do to "have faith in the means" if we do not participate in the means? And is that participation not a form of cooperation (though in great weakness)? And is it not just the sort of cooperation envisaged by FC SD II -- that is, the exercise by our liberated will of the new powers given to us by grace?

We do not make the Word effective by our acting, doing, or even our presence.

The Word is always effective. St Maximos Confessor says the Word of God, and God, always and in all things, wills to accomplish the mystery of His embodiment. But He is not effective for us if we refuse and reject Him; and that is what we are doing if we refuse to participate in His covenanted means of grace.

We come to the Word in faith, (and that created and animated entirely by the Word and Spirit), trusting that God will work.

Absolutely. We would not, could not, come to the Word without the faith given to us by grace. But having received that faith, and having been freed from bondage, we do come and we do trust. Grace restores our freedom, and that restored freedom is real.

You seem to coordinate my part, coming, eating, drinking, and God's part, working, etc, in the means. This coordination is apparently a synergism, wrt the matters of salvation. This is not a biblical understanding of the means.

Words like "seem to" and "apparently" suggest that you are not quite sure what I am saying. I, in turn, am not clear what you mean by "coordinate". If "coordinate" means "equate", then that is not what I am saying at all. Here is the "coordination": He gives; we receive. That is all.

Nathan said...

Chris Jones,

I am glad to see that this conversation is still going on.

Earlier on, I believe you talked about our cooperating in our regeneration, citing Article II of the Formula.

Could you verify this is what you said, and give me more direction as to exactly where in Article II this is (I will read the whole thing in context)?

I take "regeneration" to mean our initial conversion - ie, our initial coming to faith. I think one can talk about "continual conversion" as well, therefore the word "conversion" could, in some sense, be connected with our ongoing "continuous justification" (in the manner you are laying forth here), but the word "regeneration" probably should not be used this way.

Thanks Chris,
Nathan

Chris Jones said...

Nathan,

In the part of the Solid Declaration that I am referring to, "regeneration" is understood as more than initial conversion, but is seen to be "in progress" so long as we are in this life, still struggling with the Old Adam. So the cooperation the Confessors are speaking of is not in the initial conversion, but in that ongoing struggle.

The reference I usually give is FC SD II.65 and following; but it is perhaps better to consider a little wider context, say paragraphs 63 to 72:

But when man has been converted, and is thus enlightened, and his will is renewed, it is then that man wills what is good (so far as he is regenerate or a new man), and delights in the Law of God after the inward man (Ro 7.22), and henceforth does good to such an extent and as long as he is impelled by God's Spirit, as Paul says (Ro 8.14): For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. And this impulse of the Holy Ghost is not a coactio, or coercion, but the converted man does good spontaneously, as David says (Ps 110.4): Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power. And nevertheless that also [the strife of the flesh and spirit] remains in the regenerate of which St. Paul wrote (Ro 7.22f): For I delight in the Law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. Also, v. 25: So, then, with my mind I myself serve the Law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. Also, Gal 5.17: For the flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

From this, then, it follows that as soon as the Holy Ghost, as has been said, through the Word and holy Sacraments, has begun in us this His work of regeneration and renewal, it is certain that through the power of the Holy Ghost we can and should cooperate, although still in great weakness. But this [that we cooperate] does not occur from our carnal natural powers, but from the new powers and gifts which the Holy Ghost has begun in us in conversion, as St. Paul expressly and earnestly exhorts that as workers together with Him we receive not the grace of God in vain (2 Co 6.1). But this is to be understood in no other way than that the converted man does good to such an extent and so long as God by His Holy Spirit rules, guides, and leads him, and that as soon as God would withdraw His gracious hand from him, he could not for a moment persevere in obedience to God. But if this were understood thus [if any one would take the expression of St. Paul in this sense], that the converted man cooperates with the Holy Ghost in the manner as when two horses together draw a wagon, this could in no way be conceded without prejudice to the divine truth. (2 Co 6.1: Sunergou'te" parakalou'men: We who are servants or coworkers with God beseech you who are God's husbandry and God's building, 1 Co 3.9; to imitate our example, that the grace of God may not be among you in vain, 1 Co 15.10; but that ye may be the temple of God, living and dwelling in you, 2 Co 6.16.)

Therefore there is a great difference between baptized and unbaptized men. For since, according to the doctrine of St. Paul, (Gal. 3.27) all who have been baptized have put on Christ, and thus are truly regenerate, they have now arbitrium liberatum (a liberated will), that is, as Christ says, they have been made free again, John 8.36; whence they are able not only to hear the Word, but also to assent to it and accept it, although in great weakness.

For since we receive in this life only the first-fruits of the Spirit, and the new birth is not complete, but only begun in us, the combat and struggle of the flesh against the spirit remains even in the elect and truly regenerate men; for there is a great difference perceptible among Christians not only in this, that one is weak and another strong in the spirit, but each Christian, moreover, experiences in himself that at one time he is joyful in spirit, and at another fearful and alarmed; at one time ardent in love, strong in faith and hope, and at another cold and weak.

But when the baptized have acted against their conscience, allowed sin to rule in them, and thus have grieved and lost the Holy Ghost in them, they need not be rebaptized, but must be converted again, as has been sufficiently said before.

For this is certainly true that in genuine conversion a change, new emotion [renewal], and movement in the intellect, will, and heart must take place, namely, that the heart perceive sin, dread God's wrath, turn from sin, perceive and accept the promise of grace in Christ, have good spiritual thoughts, a Christian purpose and diligence, and strive against the flesh. For where none of these occurs or is present, there is also no true conversion. But since the question is de causa efficiente (concerning the efficient cause), that is, who works this in us, and whence man has this, and how he attains it, this doctrine informs us that, since the natural powers of man cannot do anything or help towards it (1 Co 2.14; 2 Co 3.5) God, out of His infinite goodness and mercy, comes first to us [precedes us], and causes His holy Gospel to be preached, whereby the Holy Ghost desires to work and accomplish in us this conversion and renewal, and through preaching and meditation upon His Word kindles in us faith and other godly virtues, so that they are gifts and operations of the Holy Ghost alone. This doctrine, therefore, directs us to the means whereby the Holy Ghost desires to begin and work this [which we have mentioned], also instructs us how those gifts are preserved, strengthened, and increased, and admonishes us that we should not let this grace of God be bestowed on us in vain, but diligently exercise it [those gifts], and ponder how grievous a sin it is to hinder and resist such operations of the Holy Ghost.


The last sentence of this excerpt clarifies the point which I have been trying to make with Pr Speers. The Confessors' doctrine does, as Pr Speers rightly insists, direct us to the means; but it goes on to say that the gifts which we receive through the means are to be preserved, strengthened, and increased, and to that end we are to diligently exercise those gifts, lest we hinder and resist such operations of the Holy Ghost. What the Confessors speak of as "diligently exercising" the gifts given to us through the means of grace, is the same thing that I mean by "cooperation".

The Confessors in FC SD II are not teaching synergy in initial conversion; and neither am I.

Chris Jones said...

Nathan,

One more thing.

You made a terminological point:

... the word "conversion" could, in some sense, be connected with our ongoing "continuous justification" (in the manner you are laying forth here), but the word "regeneration" probably should not be used this way.

The way many Christians speak and think today, they may not understand if we speak of "regeneration" this way. But that is because of a great over-emphasis on the dynamic of initial conversion (including, in some quarters, an insistence on a conscious and emotional "conversion experience", often associated with decision theology). This represents a loss of a Scriptural and patristic mind, and a weakening of the understanding of what regeneration is.

In any case, even if we think the word "regeneration" should not be used this way, the Confessors in the Solid Declaration did use it in that way:

For since we receive in this life only the first-fruits of the Spirit, and the new birth is not complete, but only begun in us, the combat and struggle of the flesh against the spirit remains even in the elect and truly regenerate men.

Nathan said...

Chris,

Thanks for this - will take a look at it.

Hey, I know that you defended Father Gregory when the issue of assurance came up on this thread.

Now that you are Lutheran and not Orthodox (I don't know many folks who have gone this way!) I am wondering what your response is to the following question which I asked him:

Finally, here is my big question. In the last thread, the issue of one's assurance of salvation came up (and this is the issue that actually got that last long thread rolling as well). You said that we are to trust God's promises, but not ourselves. I too, know that I cannot trust myself, for I walk in danger all the way, and I must flee from the sinful patterns of faith-destroying and doubt-inducing sin that lure and tempt me and run to Christ again and again and again - so that by His grace and power I may persevere in this looking towards Him always. But of course I understand this to mean persevering in faith - in simple trust in my good shepherd.

May you, as an Orthodox, have a sure and humble confidence right now (for now is what we are currently being given by our Lord) that you have a secure (saving) relationship with our Heavenly Father through His dear Son?

Again, I know that you do not trust yourself, and you do not want to speak about your final state (tomorrow), but I am asking you about this moment that God has given you - is God's promise reliable? Can you count on the promise in 1 John 5 that whoever believes HAS eternal life? Is this promise reliable for you right now, and if not, why not?

Chris Jones said...

Nathan,

I am sorry to disappoint you, but the topic of assurance holds very little interest for me. It seems to be that a preoccupation with assurance is subjective and not a little self-centered.

Subjectively, I do, in fact, feel confident that I have (in your words) "a secure (saving) relationship with our Heavenly Father through His dear Son". But my subjective feelings on that point don't prove anything, do they? My subjective feelings could easily be a spiritual delusion (what the Russians call prelest, or the Greek plani). There is nothing in my own inner state of mind that is to be relied upon.

The ground of our confidence comes from a concrete, objective connection to Jesus Christ, which comes to us through the Church's kerygma and her covenanted mysteries. Faith is not a feeling, such as a feeling of "confidence" or "assurance"; faith is that objective relationship to Christ which He establishes with us (not we with Him) through the ministry of His Church.

It is better to keep our eyes on Christ, and Him crucified, rather than on our wayward hearts, trying to summon up feelings of "assurance".

Nathan said...

Chris,

Thanks for the FC citations. I am still working through them and reflecting, but I think you have some good points.

I am curious - in your opinion is there a sense in which our continuing to avail ourselves of God's Word and Sacrament is a "good work" - even perhaps, a part of our sanctified life in Christ? I am unsure about what to say about this... I know some Lutherans have problems speaking this way.

I identify with your words about "assurance". I guess I am asking more about the utter reliability of God's Word. If He says: He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life (promise) I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life, it seems to me that he really would have us be confident of his grace and mercy towards us, and not unsure of how we stand with Him. I think about little children. It seems to me that when they feel estranged or distant from their fathers, this is damaging to them, and it shows in their lives. Likewise with God.

This is why I think it can indeed be a genuine problem when RC's, for example, talk about having "a certainty, a moral certainty, practical certainty" etc.

I totally agree with your last 2 paragraphs. I think keeping our eye on Christ crucified is the thing indeed. ...Luther believed... [that] doctrine is primarily a pledge – "an enacting word that works the certainty of salvation" (Gottfried Martens). It is this promise that brings certainty I think - and our personal reflection of that promise (assurance), if honest, is certain to be uncertain - which is I think that promise is important to us every moment.

~Nathan

Chris Jones said...

I am curious - in your opinion is there a sense in which our continuing to avail ourselves of God's Word and Sacrament is a "good work" - even perhaps, a part of our sanctified life in Christ?

It's certainly not a "good work" in the sense of being something by which we justify ourselves before God. We are not going to go before the dread judgement-seat of Christ and say "Lord, I was baptized and confirmed, I went to Church every week, heard the Word of God, and received the sacrament of the altar for three score years and ten; so you owe me big-time". That is just not how it works. No matter how faithful we have been in the diligent use of the means of grace, all we will be able to say is "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, the sinner".

But it's a "good work" in the simple sense that it is something that we choose to do, and it is a good thing. But it is a good work in which He works on us. His grace, not our effort, is what makes it "good".

(Of course, we can choose it only because our fallen wills have been freed by grace alone. We can perceive what is good and true because grace has illumined us to be able to see aright, and our redeemed natural will inclines naturally to what we can see is good. So yes, we choose it; but apart from grace we could neither see what is good nor would the natural will be free to follow what is good.)