11 July 2007

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

In light of the Bishop of Rome's latest (which should come as no surprise to a soul), the following from Piepkorn:

"The Lutheran Church does not equate any ecclesial community - its own, the Roman Catholic, or any other large or small - with the one holy catholic and apostolic church. It respects the right of the Roman Catholic Church to determine the canonical licitness of the ordinations performed within that communion and does not seek to impose Lutheran standards of canonical licitness upon the Roman Catholic community. By the same token it reserves to itself the right to establish its own standards of canonical licitness in the case of ordinations on those points where the divine law (jus divinum) makes no prescriptions and to reject those of other denominations as binding in matters that cannot be established as being of divine right." *The Church* p. 85

[The kicker in the quote is calling ROME an ecclesial community!]


Past Elder said...

That's the essence of it -- Roma maintains it IS part of the divine law, therefore binding and not merely a matter of canonical licitness. Our argument of course is that it is not, that it is a matter of canonical licitness elevated by a church body to a binding divine nature not given to it by Christ.

For a curious twist, though, this is why relations can sometimes be smoother between Rome and ecclesial unions that within itself. From a Roman point of view, we may believe in the Real Presence but we don't have it (or in other words, all Lutheran commnions are by lay administration since Holy Orders has been lost, so "dialogue" can begin with what the two do share, about which the papal statement also has much to say. The issue is Holy Orders, not canonical status.

The rift with the SSPX and the East, though, is a whole different thing. These are real priests, real bishops with real sacraments, from the Roman view, which means that canonical licitness is now an issue. It would not be re us, since we have (from their view) nothing to be canonically licit or illicit.

I like Pastor McCain's comment on his blog, that it's nice to hear a Catholic talk like a Catholic. We can disagree, but there's integrity there.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Anastasia, muttering to William under her breath, "...teach YOU to fall on your knees in tears, GRATEful for this pope's accession -- HA!"

I mean, is this statement any surprise? And what has it to do with Lutherans what Rome thinks? Why do Lutherans seem to care so very much? (To me this is an item of quite mild interest.) Do you still consider Rome your mother church?


William Weedon said...

Amen, Past Elder.

Anastasia, of course I am grateful for this man's being the Bishop of Rome. He is an honest and forthright theologian, but one whose theology is profoundly shaped by the liturgy.

Is Rome our "mother church"? No! She is our SISTER Church - we both descend from the same mother: the medieval Church of the West. She doesn't see it that way, but it is the way we see it. Rome after Trent was different, "reformed" from Rome prior to Trent.

But the see of St. Peter interests Lutherans particularly because we know that the path to unity in Christendom for our Church is intimately tied to Rome. And none can hope for the unity of Christians while cutting the largest segment of Christians out of the deal. Rome as she now stands, for better or for worse, has to be dealt with. And it is utterly refreshing when Rome is crystal clear about her own self-conception as well as how she views others. We don't and can't agree with her assessment, of course. But it is a point to begin discussions. Christopher Jones has some particularly striking points he makes about the difficulty of trying to say that this post-conciliar approach is the same as the pre-conciliar approach. It's the words about the East that simply are illogical.

William Weedon said...

Oh, and as to why Lutherans should bother with Rome, Piepkorn has the most wonderful essay in *The Church* dealing exactly with this.

Some of his points:

To be committed to the Augsburg Confession is to be commited to conversation with Rome.

There is so much we share in common: a shared history of 1,500 years: "everything that lies beyond Augsburg and Trent is common property."

We share with Rome the four great Creeds - the so called Catholic Creeds and the Te Deum.

We say the Nicene Creed the same way.

Our calendars disclose the same structure and by and large even have the same dates for commemorations (this was somewhat unsettled by Vatican II's reforms).

The Common Service of the Lutheran Church and the Mass of the Roman Church show profound kinship - in both ordinary and propers.

We share tons of hymnody together and continue to freely borrow from each other. Roman parishes sing "A Mighty Fortress" and Lutherans sing "Beautiful Savior." This really hit home for me watching EWTN's Ash Wednesday liturgy which began with a haunting rendition of Luther's "Aus Tiefer Not."

The writings of the fathers we share in common.

We both take history seriously - no attempt to "recreate" an apostolic church founded on the NT and ignoring the later developments.

There is "a common understanding of our Lord's incarnation by the Holy Spirit of the Blessed Virgin Mary is such that we see the world in which we live as sacramental, a world in which God operates through material means and physical persons."

Regarding the disagreements that persist, Piepkorn perceptively noted: "In the very nature of the situation, each of us can see the faults of the other better than our own."

And finally it is a task we MUST undertake:

"Humanly speaking, the credibility of the Gospel of God's grace in Christ that both Lutherans and Roman Catholics proclaim is involved. If we try to see our problems from God's side, none of us can believe that Christ wills his followers to be divided from one another by mutual acrimony and anathemas. Ultimately, of course, the solution must come from the divine side, but God will bring it about through Christians whom he summons and whom he has made ready to undertake it. As we respond to his call and to his grace, we must pray for the solution not only with our lips but also in our labors. The ancient ending of the collects that are part of our common tradition suggests both the pattern and the manner of the final fulfillment: through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You, O Father, in the oneness of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. Amen."

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

I was teasing you a bit there, William.

Yes, of course we must undertake to unite and/or reunite all who call themselves by Christ's name. I myself belong to a group of Catholics and Orthodox dedicated to that very goal. (Although I must admit my attendance record is abysmal.)

That said...when, in the Lutheran view, does a group cease to be the Church and become a heretical body instead? If it's when the Word is no longer rightly preached or the sacraments rightly administered, then how is it you still consider Rome a sister church?

Very few of the Orthodox do, the Balamand Agreement notwithstanding. Very few of us care what Rome thinks of us, either, except for the implications it has for our physical security. (We have frequently found ourselves in perils from popes.) Of course, we share a lot less with Rome than you do.

wm cwirla said...

Piepkorn never fails to amaze and delight. Would that we had an opportunity to study under him. Somehow he managed to remain Lutheran.

Past Elder said...

Perhaps Anastasia can confirm or correct me on this -- I have always had the sense from EO sources that the EO sees the Reformation as a distinctly Western event, inapplicable to Orthodxy; in other words, a Western attempt to address problems in the Western Rite that are not there in the Eastern Rites.

When I was a (preconciliar RC) kid, we were taught that what we may call in general usage the Reformation is more properly called the Protestant Revolt, and the real Reformation of the Church happened not with those who formed their own churches but at Trent and its reforms within the church formed by Christ -- that the Reformers pointed to real abuses but also fell into doctrinal error, so if there is blame it is with us for having gotten to such a point rather than with them for a misguided attempt to correct things.

So, while there was no lack of bigots before of the "Protestants wrecked the church and/or are going to hell" variety just as there is no lack of "it doesn't really matter since we all believe in Jesus and are going to the same place" now, I would say the fundamental approach IS the same pre and post council, the difference being a greater emphasis now on finding reconciliation where possible and understanding where not.

Or, as my mom used to recall about a boat journey she was on as a girl and a bad storm came up, all the Christians sang "The Old Rugged Cross" and nobody cared a snap about who was Catholic and who was Protestant or who wrote the hymn.

Bit the difference in thinking about what is and what isn't by divine law will make Roman efforts at ecumenism different toward the East and SSPX than toward us. A rupture in unity among those who otherwise have the full sacramental reality given by Christ is a more serious and pressing issue, or at least a different issue, than between those who have that reality and those who not only don't but don't think it exists. Which is why Rome says we are not properly called churches, which I find not offensive at all -- from their point of view, we not only do not have but do not even believe in some of the normative essential elements Christ gave to his church therefore we are not properly church, whereas the EO and SSPX do and are properly church in that sense therefore the division is all the more lamentable.

As to why a Lutheran would care what Rome says, I of course only speak for myself. Yes, we share a common heritage, what we may call the catholic church as distinct from the Catholic Church and far too often we mistake what is of the former as only of the latter. So anything that helps us understand what is catholic and therefore ours is good IMHO. But as to the rest, it's just numbers -- no less that when the Confessions were written, the Roman church has a size and influence beyond any other church body and it will have to be addressed. But as to unity, that will happen when the rest of them make the same profession I did in becoming Lutheran -- IMHO of course.

That the clerical priesthood (bishops in apostolic succession with validly ordained assistants, the priests and deacons) is of divine institution and not a corruption in later doctrine is a huge deal. Not just theologically, but experientially. I am convinced that sense of having discovered that it is of divine institution is what is at the heart of the Tiber swimmers and Bosporus swimmers alike. That there is a reality there that no amount of good liturgy and vestment and collar wearing can bring about; it's from Christ and not available any other way. I felt this pull in reverse early on as a Lutheran, when I would think sometimes that hey, this all looks real good but what if it's just dress up after all and these guys really aren't priests. Which leads, whichever way one is going with it, to the same question -- are these things matters of divine institution or are they not.

If your answer yes they are, there is only one course to take -- swim. If your answer is no they are not, there is also only one course to take -- don't, or if you're already on the Tiber or Bosphorus, swim out! That is my answer.

Carl Vehse said...

"To be committed to the Augsburg Confession is to be commited to conversation with Rome."

Well, they certainly need a good talking to. And here's some committed conversation from Martin Luther in his Smalcald Articles:

[Article IV: Of the Papacy, 14] ...Therefore, just as little as we can worship the devil himself as Lord and God, we can endure his apostle, the Pope, or Antichrist, in his rule as head or lord. For to lie and to kill, and to destroy body and soul eternally, that is wherein his papal government really consists, as I have very clearly shown in many books.

[Article XII: Of the Church, 1-3] We do not concede to them that they are the Church, and [in truth] they are not [the Church]; nor will we listen to those things which, under the name of Church, they enjoin or forbid. For, thank God, [to-day] a child seven years old knows what the Church is, namely, the holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd. For the children pray thus: I believe in one holy [catholic or] Christian Church. This holiness does not consist in albs, tonsures, long gowns, and other of their ceremonies devised by them beyond Holy Scripture, but in the Word of God and true faith.

and from Philipp Melanchthon in his Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope:

39] Now, it is manifest that the Roman pontiffs, with their adherents, defend [and practice] godless doctrines and godless services. And the marks [all the vices] of Antichrist plainly agree with the kingdom of the Pope and his adherents. For Paul, in describing Antichrist to the Thessalonians, calls him 2 Thess. 2, 3: an adversary of Christ, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God.

41] This being the case, all Christians ought to beware of becoming partakers of the godless doctrine, blasphemies, and unjust cruelty of the Pope. On this account they ought to desert and execrate the Pope with his adherents as the kingdom of Antichrist; just as Christ has commanded, Matt. 7, 15: Beware of false prophets. And Paul commands that godless teachers should be avoided and execrated as cursed, Gal. 1, 8; Titus 3, 10. And he says, 2 Cor. 6, 14: Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what communion hath light with darkness?

42] To dissent from the agreement of so many nations and to be called schismatics is a grave matter. But divine authority commands all not to be allies and defenders of impiety and unjust cruelty. On this account our consciences are sufficiently excused; for the errors of the kingdom of the Pope are manifest. And Scripture with its entire voice exclaims that these errors are a teaching of demons and of Antichrist.

Perhaps the delegates to the Missouri Synod convention in Houston next week will pass a resolution to fax PBXVI (fax +39.06.69885863) these conversations (or in German) by Luther and Melanchthon.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Past Elder wrote: "Perhaps Anastasia can confirm or correct me on this -- I have always had the sense from EO sources that the EO sees the Reformation as a distinctly Western event"

That's my sense, too. It is one of many phenomena that are distinctly Western, such as the whole Pelagian controversy, in which both sides rest upon presuppositions foreign to Orthodoxy. Also, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, so-called.


Paul T. McCain said...

The best refutation of the claim by the Bishop of Rome that he is, by divine right, over all bishops and pastors in the Church is still the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope.

Nothing better, frankly.

Philip Melanchthon thoroughly dismantles the Pope's claims.

You can read it here:


William Weedon said...

The Treatise is wonderful, BUT Melanchthon only sort of refers to the citations from the fathers or summarizes them. I'd encourage everyone to check them out in their original contexts - Melanchthon was dead right in how the fathers read the Petrine passage in Matthew.

Past Elder said...

Anastasia, perhaps you can help me with this -- what is the EO view of Anglican Communion clergy re apostolic succession? Or in other words, are they "real" priests and bishops with "real" sacraments in your view?

as a pre-conciliar RC kid, I was taught that they are not, but to refer to them as "Father" etc anyway as a mark of respect. As opposed to the Orthodox (there was a Greek Orthodox parish across the street) who we were taught had priests, bishops and sacraments every bit as valid as ours, and to call them "Father" not only as a mark of respect but because they really are "Father".

I've always thought the increasing coziness between the ELCA and the ECUSA is more or less to let apostolic succession in the back door of the "Lutheran Church", but from a Roman view, or at least the one I was taught, this would solve nothing as neither group has valid bishops.

I remember Bishop Sheen used to joke that an Episcopal bishop friend of his used to say "I can do everything you can do" to which he replied "I can kiss your wife". At least it was funny then, but neither the RC nor the Anglican Communion was anything like they are now!

Past Elder said...

PS -- if I were to join a church based on food, I'd be Greek Orthodox for sure! Man I love Greek food, which I had had before but really got to know in London years ago. As they said, where two or three Greeks are, there is a restaurant!

Of course the Germans set a pretty good table too. My first Lutheran (WELS) pastor joked that you're not a real Lutheran unless you keep plastic utensils on you at all times in case there's a pot luck. Now if we could only get some Chinese Lutherans I'd be all set, along with new country Midwestern steak cook outs. The English descended like me can stay Episcopal as far as food goes -- we never thought up much more than throw it all in a pot and boil it! And the Norwegians -- I am convinced the reason the Vikings went all over raiding stuff was to find a decent lunch! Glad I met a German Lutheran girl (with a little Cherokee thrown in).

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Well, for us, apostolic succession has to involve BOTH its internal and its external aspects. They are both indispensable. It's a question of passing down the true faith along with the office.

Enough said?


Past Elder said...

Enough said?

Yes and no.

By the criteria that both the internal and external aspects, the true faith as well as the office, must be present for apostolic succession to be present, my answer would be, the ECUSA having neither the true faith nor the office, it does not have apostolic succession.

But is that the EO answer?