05 September 2007

An Interesting Choice of Words...

In reading the BOC today, came across this:

"However, *schisms* in matters of faith have also happened in our time. Therefore we regard as the unanimous consensus and declaration of our Christian faith and confession - especially against the papacy and its false worship, idolatry, superstition and against other sects - the first, unaltered Augsburg Confession. It is the symbol of our time...." (Ep Summary, Content, Rule IV)

What is striking in that passage - especially given the quite polemical assessment of the 16th century papacy - is the word *schism*. Although written in 1576 or so, the Epitome of the Formula, reproduces the same assumption that the AC concluded with in 1530:

"If they will not give anything up, it is for them [them being the Romanist bishops] to decide how they will give an account to God for causing *schism* by their stubbornness." (AC XXVIII:78)

And as the AC stated earlier:

"As can be seen there is nothing that varies from the Scriptures or from the Church universal, or from the Church of Rome, as known from its writers. Since this is the case, those who insist that our teachers are to be regarded as heretics are judging harshly. There is, however, disagreement on certain abuses that have crept into the Church without rightful authority. Even here, if there are some differences, the bishops should bear with us patiently because of the Confession we have just reviewed." (AC Summary of the Conflict, 1-2)

Nor is this only in the FC and AC; we find it also in the Tractatus:

"The impiety and tyranny of the bishops cause schism and discord." (par. 72)

Thus, while the Confessors were quite vigorous in their denunciation of Roman novelties that have served only to obscure the Gospel, they indicate that they regard Rome as being *in schism* for throwing out our teachers and churches. Now, that is not the usual take one hears from Rome OR from Lutherans, but it is worth thinking about.


Anonymous said...

Ah, well, Rome was already in schism from 1054 onwards.


Sch├╝tz said...

It is typical of schismatics to blame the schism on the body from which they split. "You didn't give us what we wanted, so we were left with no choice but to leave."

(It is interesting to note that in a recent column in the National Catholic Reporter, John L. Allen Jnr noted that "In a lecture delivered a decade ago, Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese laid out seven survival strategies for reform-minded Catholics in an era in which church leaders are increasingly closed to their agenda". One of these--the first one on top of the list--was: "Schism".)

In any case, schism cuts both ways. It doesn't do for either party to point the finger at the other and say "It was your fault--you fix it." This goes for both the Lutheran-Catholic and Orthodox-Catholic schisms.

I find it horrific that anyone should ever contemplate schism from communion with the lawful bishops of the Church for any reason whatsoever (keeping in mind that the Church can never become apostate: "The gates of Hell" etc).

It is just as horrific that we do not do all in our power to overcome the schisms that exist.

(BTW, I have blogged at last on your sanctification piece).

William Weedon said...

I'm not about to get between the two of you as you duke it out as to who is in schism from whom, but I DO agree that simply accepting schism as a state of affairs we can all live with is not an option. To cite the AC:

“...we on our part shall not omit doing anything, in so far as God and conscience allow, that may serve the cause of Christian unity." (Augsburg Confession, Preface, 13; Tappert, 26).

Speaking as a Lutheran and not for the other confessions, these words need to come alive again in our actions and prayers.

On this topic, did you happen to catch that Touchstone piece from the Jesuit that McCain posted a month or three ago? A very good article, that.

Past Elder said...

Bless us and save us, Mrs O'Davis.

The church can never become apostate indeed. The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it indeed.

And why is that? Because of the Rock on which she is built. And what is that Rock? The confession Peter offered when asked Who do you say that I am.

Go forth into all the world, teaching them to observe what I have commanded you. He who hears you, hears me.

When the confession is not the same as Peter's, when what is taught is not what he has commanded, then what is heard is not him.

What will not be prevailed against is not an institution but a confession, not a person or people but a message. Where that confession and message is, there is succession from the Apostles, not who possess the real estate and funny clothes.

The BOC goes to great length to establish that what it confesses is not some new private opinion, but the confession and message of the Christian faith. Maybe we're wrong about that. I don't think so. That's why I'm Lutheran, not Protestant, not Roman Catholic, and not Eastern Orthodox.

Schism is when one cuts oneself off from that confession and message, not an institution. It doesn't look that way when you're in that institution. It didn't to me. I didn't see it as faith in an institution because I saw the institution as part of the confession and message of Christ, therefore of Christ himself. I didn't see that it isn't that the institution guarantees the confession and the message, but the confession and the message guarantees the institution, and when an institution departs from that, cuts themselves off from that, either overtly or by laying all sorts of stuff over it to obscure it, this does not invalidate the confession or the message, which can never be invalidated, but the institution no longer built upon the Rock.

In Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, I submit, you have the old state religions of the Western and Eastern Roman Empire minus the empire. Ultimately, it is a faith in itself, though the original faith can be found within it, though usually with great difficulty. But again, it will not appear that way from the inside, as, again, when I was on the inside I saw it not as faith in an institution but an aspect of faith in Christ. I had the wrong Rock. Thanks be to God for the proclamation of the Rock in the Lutheran Reformation!

It's not at all that "you" didn't give "us" what "we" wanted, it's that you quit giving what you were sent to give and instead began giving it mixed with something else (in the case of Rome, twice now, the latest version being not quite half a century old, officially).

William Weedon said...


You said: "Thanks be to God for the proclamation of the Rock in the Lutheran Reformation!"

Amen to that, my friend!

An interesting idea about the survival of the old empire(s).

WM Cwirla said...

"Ah, well, Rome was already in schism from 1054 onwards."

You could see that one coming a mile away.

Randy Asburry said...

I'm not sure that we can rule out the schisms/divisions/quarrels that plagued Lutherans after Luther's death. Those seem to be very much in view in the articles of the Formula.

Also, I'm not so sure that trying to find a single source for the schisms is that beneficial either. After all, don't both sides contribute to the split and then lose out when there's a split? What did the East and the West each lose out on following the official split of 1054? What did the Roman Church lose out on and what did the Lutheran Church lose out on following the Reformation? Perhaps this would be a more fruitful way to come at the matter of "schism"?

Past Elder said...

There is a lengthy post about the idea of the Eastern and Western (read, Rome) Church being the religious image of the Empire on my blog. It all started with the recent fires in Greece, which did not destroy the old Olympic games site.

From this standpoint, 1054 was bound to happen sometime over something, and that's the real substance of it, not the specifics over when it actually did happen. If it wasn't that and then, it would have been something else some other time.

Also from this standpoint, the Lutheran Reformation, the reform of the church to her true self, had to happen outside the old Empire, and thus was not just a Western mistaken answer to a Western mistake.

Anonymous said...

As I recall, perhaps erroneously, Rome excommunicated Luther, who was not interested in breaking away.

Similarly, in 1054, it was the Cardinal who laid the bull of excommunication on the altar, although the Orthodox begged him with tears not to do this. The Patriarch then immediately retaliated.

Of course, both Luther and the Patriarch had fiery personalities, which definitely did not help matters. So there's fault on all sides. Still, it seems clear in both instances who broke ties with whom.


LPC said...


Mate, keeping in mind that the Church can never become apostate: "The gates of Hell" etc

That is kinda begging the question isn't?

If one's "church" is the church built by Jesus on the Rock, yep, the gates of hell will not prevail.

But if one's "church", is not the one built by Jesus on the Rock, sorry, the gates of Hell will prevail.

That is fair isn't it? Besides, Rev 2-3 says churches can go astray. What about Acts 20:29-31?


Anonymous said...

And since we are revisiting history let's also honestly admit that portions of Germany became Lutheran because the German princes claimed the right to determine the religion of their subjects.

Lutheranism became just as much of a "state" religion in Germany as Catholicism had been and to this day clergy salaries are subsidized by the Kirchensteuer.

William Weedon said...

Yup. Clinging in bed with the princes was just about the death of our churches.

Anonymous said...

I would also submit that the split of 1054 was the culmination of a long process of estrangement between the Greek East and Latin West that involved linguistic, liturgical, sacramental and cultural practices that developed over the centuries.

In fact, there were periods when the Latin Church actually called heretical Eastern bishops to task.

On Pope Benedict's reception in Turkey: “We are awaiting the Pope’s visit with fraternal love and great anticipation,” said Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, “it will be very important for our Country and Orthodox-Catholic Relations.”

Perhaps God has something else in mind from what is evident to our human perception.

As for Luther, it didn't take him long to turn from wrath at the Catholic Church, the peasants and the Jews to the radical wing of the Reformation.

It hardly brought about unity.

William Weedon said...

Just a caution: Luther is not the Lutheran Church. His words and opinions outside of those that were included in the Book of Concord are just his words and opinions - sometimes insightful, sometimes perplexing, sometimes outrageous and offensive.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Luther is not the "Lutheran Church" but by the time he wrote his tracts against the peasants he was very much a public figure and it had consequences, to wit:

In 1525 the princes and nobles crushed the revolt at a cost of an estimated 100,000 peasant lives. The surviving peasants considered Luther a false prophet. Many of them returned to Catholicism or turned to more radical forms of the Reformation.

Again, my prior point being that the Reformation did not bring about the unity that Luther had hoped for.

Past Elder said...

There are plenty of moral failings on all sides to point to, but the fact remains, who excommunicated whom is clear. Much as in our time, while all manner of "excess" was tolerated in the Roman church, the one thing not tolerated was loyalty to what the Roman church once said and did, which brought about the "excommunication" of the SSPX. Rome has a long history of throwing people out then blaming them for being out while allowing all manner of excesses that do not threaten its power, er, "unity". Yet again, it shows itself to be a faith primarily about itself.

Certainly lack of Christian unity is lamentable. But less so than false doctrine. And as long as we disagree on true and false doctrine, the lack of unity will continue.

LPC has it. We agree the Church is built on the Rock. We do not agree what the Rock is.

LPC said...

Past Elder,

Rome has a long history of throwing people out then blaming them for being out while allowing ll manner of excesses that do not threaten its power, er, "unity"

Now ain't that the truth? Absolutely!

They excommunicate you and then blame you. The church that can never go wrong, of course, has no need to repent.

Looks like just about every evil in this world could be pinned on Luther. I bet ya, he was responsible for Katrina, 9/11 and the Tsunami of 2006 too (as well as my toe wart).

In RC, there are all sorts of disunity within, they can criticize one another etc and so long as the criticism does not touch upon the Pope's all is well.

What was the criticism of SSPX and the Reformation folk? They charge that the establishment once asserted X. Then the establishment turns around now and asserts it is NOT X. They protest, "you are being inconsistent and contradictory".

They reply: naahh, why, NOT X is a further doctrinal development of X!

∀x.x=⊥ → y
(anything can be proven from a conttradition)


Past Elder said...

And let us not forget, before someone hops in on a bloody roo and says it, hermenuetic of continuity.

IOW, there must be continuity, therefore there is continuity.

Aggiornamento, doctrinal development, deepened understanding, mature reflexion -- or my favourite from the post council days, the understanding of the believing community. It's enough to make you haul out your Dutch Catechism! (Mine's in the garage.)

Bless us and save us, Mrs O'Davis!

Anonymous said...


Since you continue to bring up the SSPX you know very well that they continue to pray for the Pope and the Bishops. Commenting on the Motu Proprio, Bishop Bernard Fellay recently stated:

Also there is no doubt that this recognition of the right of the traditional Mass is the fruit of the vast number of rosaries offered up to Our Lady during our Rosary Crusade last October; let us not forget now to express to her our gratitude.

That's something that would even echo with many Vatican II Catholics, but certainly not with an LCMS Lutheran.

As far as a "hermeneutic of continuity" goes there is also very much a "hermeneutic of discontinuity" among many Protestants post-Reformation, including Lutherans (many of whom DO consider themselves Protestant even if that doesn't fit your agenda). The Lutheran Confessions/Westminster Catechism/Heidelberg Catechism have long ceased to be their point of reference and among Evangelicals the sacraments don't even exist. Luther, Calvin and Zwingli couldn't hold it together.

Regarding the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands:

Some are very traditional, others are more heavily influenced by contemporary evangelical practices. They have more contemporary forms of worship and have replaced the traditional Dutch organ music with praise bands. Also, the Netherlands Reformed Churches have allowed women to serve as deacons and elders. These variations have made contacts with other churches somewhat more complicated. Though there have been close contacts with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated), the widespread desire to be reunited to each other has been hampered by deep-running disagreements over both doctrine and practice.

Talk about a "hermeneutic of discontinuity" and they did it without the "Dutch Catechism" !!

LPC, as for criticizing the Pope – remember Catherine of Siena ?? Papal infallibility is very limited and has only been exercised on a few occasions, and the Pope gets criticized from all sides, especially in his refusal to ordain women, allow homosexual marriage and water down the teachings of Christ. For Catholics the Rock of Peter will endure until the end of the age.

I can still go to Mass and know exactly what to expect. I regularly hear pro-life and pro-marriage homilies at church and I am very proud of the tremendous amount of good that our parishes do in the surrouding communities in feeding and clothing the poor, educating children and providing medical care.

Rev. Paul T. McCain said...


Past Elder said...

Great Zeus Cloudgatherer!

So as not to clutter up Pastor's blog with this sort of stuff -- einmal.

What is demonstrated in pointing that most of the churches which have their historical roots in confessional documents such as the Westminster or Heidelberg Catechisms or for that matter the BOC no longer function with them as their point of reference, other than to point out that they no longer function with them as their point of reference? It is hardly news to confessional Lutheranism that churches exist that base themselves on something other than their true base, and Luther himself predicted this would happen to churches claiming to be "Lutheran".

LPC's point I believe was that the SSPX took the same point, though on different matters, with the Roman institution that the Reformers did -- you once taught X, now you teach not-X and claim it is still X. Of course the SSPX prays for the Pope -- they're Roman Catholic! They teach the X once taught to me and everyone else as X -- for which the Roman church now teaching not-X has persecuted them with a vengeance that makes their continued efforts to teach X and remain within the institution heroic and their ability to pray for their persecutors considerably beyond my present state of growth in grace, sanctification, or whatever term you like.

I could not, for two decades, fathom that this could happen, and ditched Christianity altogether. Thanks be to God that in his great mercy he finally showed me that it didn't, that Rome has done this before, that the X I was taught was itself once a not-X claimed to be X centuries before, and I could find X confessed in the BOC and in the fellowship of the evangelical Lutheran church -- which I find best realised in the LCMS, the worst synod in the world, except for all the others.

Hier, whoops, here I stand.

Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

The reality that eager-beaver converts simply do not want to face up to is that you can find every screw-ball theological deviancy under the sun in "Holy Mother Church" ... from New Age feminist wackos, to Pre-Tridentine Romanists, to...well, you name it.

So, all this talk of the great "unity" of the Roman Church is, in many cases, wishful thinking more than anything else.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Terry, the SSPX is Roman Catholic and continues to hold the current episcopacy valid. The day may yet come when they are again fully joined to the See of Peter.

Pastor Weedon, I apologize for having steered these posts into directions that have no applicability here. We have our theological differences but I appreciate the respect you show for the Roman tradition.

Past Elder said...

Well, perhaps the day will come when the See of Peter confesses the message of Peter.

Now there's something I can say both as an ex-Catholic and a Lutheran, though for different reasns.

Anonymous said...

The reality that eager-beaver converts simply do not want to face up to is that you can find every screw-ball theological deviancy under the sun in "Holy Mother Church" ... from New Age feminist wackos, to Pre-Tridentine Romanists, to...well, you name it.

So, all this talk of the great "unity" of the Roman Church is, in many cases, wishful thinking more than anything else.

Oh no, I just can't let this one go.

Nun muss ich wirklich lachen !!

Pastor McCain, you mean like the new age feminist wackos at Ebenezer Lutheran Church in San Francisco? Please don't say that they aren't Lutheran.

They would be very hurt!

One bread and one body. That's the Roman Catholic Church, my Mother.