19 October 2007

Good Read

Now here's a fellow I'd like to meet someday!



Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post, filled with the utmost charity for other Lutheran bodies and other Christian communities (classic Lutheran graciousness).

I recognize much that is familiar from my own history and find it delightful that Father Neuhaus was of such timely assistance to an LCMS Lutheran.

LPC said...

Now this is amazing.

I studied Fr. Neuhaus' conversion from Lutheranism to RCsm (blogged about it too) in my blog and based on his own testimony, it was Piepkorn who helped him go back to Mother Church.

Sauer reads the same and it keeps him in LCMS.

Now what's up with that.


Past Elder said...

What's up with that indeed! Pastor Sauer finds von Schenk an inspiration, Pastor McCain finds him a loon.

How one comes to this issue is probably deeply influenced by one's personal history. Nietzsche, the only philosopher worth reading, said all philosophy is autobiography.

I grew up in, to borrow pastor's phrase, 1950s Roman Catholicism; everyone else was growing up in 1950s Lutheranism, apart from the Catholic kids and the Jewish family two doors down. Nobody ever heard the word ecumenism (what happy days). The Lutherans seemed to me to be basically real well intended people trying their darndest to be Catholic without being Catholic, so you give them E for effort and go on about playing to-gether! I was just happy to be in the real deal, even if the Lutherans had better food, except the Norwegians who had the worst food ever.

My wife on the other hand grew up LCMS and bailed in the Seminex years. She often summed up her position as, if you ever decide what you believe, call me, and don't bother until then.

We were a pair to draw to. I, in case you missed it, bailed after Vatican II much as she did after Seminex.

So for me, that there were faithful children of God in all church bodies was clear from the first, not something realised at the last, and moreover tied to me and the Church (read RC) by those elements of the Catholic Faith present in their churches. For me, years later, Augustana VII as not a statement of Protestant Church Number One but a confession of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, was not proof of something always assumed but a revelation of something entirely unsuspected! And, an answer to questions to which I had come to think the answer was Christianity in any form was just another of man's religions and there is no Christ per se.

Certainly I'm grateful if Neuhaus helped someone retain his Lutheran faith. Too bad he couldn't similarly help himself. Neuhaus, Pelikan and others were darlings to the "Catholic" clergy and professors who, to borrow another phrase, delivered a message to me other than the one I had received (and you recall the rest of that passage!) from the Roman Catholic Church. They have nothing, nothing, to say to me other than what they already have. I had my Valparaiso too. It just wasn't at Valparaiso.

So the path to Augustana VII or Augustana anything can take many forms, even opposite ones. The path is not the point. The faith of the Augustana, a true and accurate statement of the faith of Christ, is. Word and Sacrament, just as Pastor Sauer says, to which the Holy Spirit may draw a person in any number of ways.

Praise and thanks to God that he has shown me where true authority is! And praise and thanks to God that he has shown others the same thing, by whatever path, however different than my own! And prayers that this work will continue among the many now mired in the endless blind alleys the world offers, be it the traditions of men in the survivng state religions of the Roman Empire East and West, the prosperity gospel on TV and the megachurches, those hearing the Gospel and then being given Law to make a decision for it as if one could wake oneself from the dead (to borrow another phrase, this time from Walther), and on and on.

PS and God can do it too! If he can penetrate a Newman Center he can break through anything, even say Italian witchcraft (buon giorno, carissima Lucciola!) The last one I was in, which had discontinued the name, the last sermon I heard was on how the priest had informed his bishop of how he would live his life, and in the one before that, the last "liturgy" (one does not use the word Mass) I attended used a scene from an Ionesco play for the Epistle.

Timothy May said...

past elder,

I am no expert on philosophy, having but a little knowledge of many philosophers. Therefore, I am curious as to what specifically about Nietzsche makes him for you head above shoulders all of the others. Thanks!

William Weedon said...


Actually, Sauer's words make perfect sense to me! I have a very difficult time seeing Piepkorn countenancing Neuhaus' move to Rome, not because the good Dr. didn't understand Rome and was uncharitable toward her, but because he DID understand her and was quite charitable toward her. He was utterly committed to the Lutheran Symbols and thus to catholicity to which they bear witness, which catholicity I think he found to be impaired in Rome's confession of the faith, especially in light of Trent and Vatican I. He was 100% for Roman Catholics and Lutherans really talking together and exploring together both our shared history and seeking to understand each other where we've gone our separate ways. I'd highly recommend the book *The Sacred Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions* which gathers some of his essays and thoughts on this topic.

You can order it from:


That's Pastor Secker. He can give you the details. There are some shockers in the book, but overall it's just exactly what you expect of Piepkorn: scholarly, careful, and kindly articulated theology.

Anonymous said...

From what I've read, I'd call von Schenk an inspirational loon.

WM Cwirla said...

Here is a great quote from Sauer's post, worthy of all consideration:

"Authority located anywhere beyond Word and Sacrament, whether in an infallible hierarchy, infallible doctrinal resolutions, or an infallible inner voice leads to disappointment. Authority from anywhere else, whether real or imagined, is an uncertain authority at best.

The real challenge for the church is not to nail down some absolute authority that can answer each and every question of faith, but to learn to live in the ambiguity of the breadth and depth of the great diversity that gives the church her catholicity. Overcoming the temptation to draw borders and boundaries, or, conversely, to disregard them altogether, is the great task of each generation of Lutheran theologians. What is foundational? At the risk of stating the obvious—the Augustana provides the answer."

William Weedon said...

It is truly odd, William, how much we think alike. That is EXACTLY the passage that I most appreciated. It had a great ring of familiarity to it - someone else walked down that road too.

Anonymous said...

He was 100% for Roman Catholics and Lutherans really talking together and exploring together both our shared history and seeking to understand each other where we've gone our separate ways.

I couldn't agree more. My parents' Lutheran/Roman Catholic marriage (and one set of grandparents)was one of many. Lutheran/Roman Catholic unions are plentiful.

One very important reason we need to talk -- and walk -- together.

Anonymous said...

(one does not use the word Mass)

Oh dear dear me, I must tell Father Justin, the pastor at my parish, to take down the "Mass Times" on our sign outside and in the parish bulletin.


Past Elder, are you sure we're on the same planet?

Past Elder said...

Pastor May --

I think I would sum it up more than point to any specifics. Nietzsche seems to me the only philosopher who really engages what it is to philosophise without any recourse to presupposition. Most especially in his recognition that a philosophical term does not necessarily denote a reality.

Unfortunately, two things. His philosophy has been seized upon by many who twist it to their own purposes, the Drittes Reich being the biggest example, and equally misunderstood by those who do not get his distinction of category from reality, thinking he meant to embrace evil. The other thing is, it is really after reading all or at least many other philosophers that one comes to see how worthless they are next to him.

Ecce homo is an incredible book that leaves me trembling with the depth and foresight of this man.

Christine -- the reference was to that Newman Center, not wherever Father Justin serves. Nonetheless, from conciliar days until the time I left, one rarely heard the word Mass anywhere I went on two continents -- which oddly enough fit, because with the novus ordo one doesn't have it. North America and Europe still are on Earth as far as I know, though I am in the basement now and perhaps it changed while I wasn't looking. I'll click over to CNN or something to check it out, though not Fox "we've decided, we report" News.

Timothy May said...

past elder,

Thank you. Unfortunately, since I know so little of him, the first association that came to mind was the Third Reich (your post explains the reason for this). His views have been co-opted. Since then
I have had a chance to read a little more about him and find that he did not hold all of the views attributed to him. Someday I will have to read a bit more.

Anonymous said...

Okay, Past Elder, mea culpa on that, I missed the reference to the Newman Center.

Nonetheless, from conciliar days until the time I left,

That was then. You are still in a bit of a time warp, my friend.

As for the Drittes Reich, I have family who lived through it. The stories my mother told me . . .

Anonymous said...

Oh, one more thought for Past Elder who of course considers the Second Vatican Council as utterly invalid -- there's a fascinating discussion going on over at the Lutheran Forum by LCMS Pastor John Hannah regarding Evangelical Catholics titled "Wanted: Evangelical Catholics in Missouri." Here's a few snippets:

Where is the LCMS liturgically? Absent any statistically reliable study, I will venture a cautious guess based on my contacts throughout the synod in 42 years of ministry. My lens is the liturgical movement as understood by Arthur Carl Piepkorn. He was suspicious of the “dress makers” (as von Schenk called them) in the liturgical movement, although he did advocate historic vestments. He favored most of the Vatican II liturgical reforms that ultimately made their way into the LBW. Piepkorn was a confessionalist, first and last. He considered the restoration of the eucharist to American Lutheranism to be the primary need of modern Lutherans. As an example, he once told us that a congregation of soldiers in the mud or a rural congregation with a celebrant in coveralls celebrating Eucharist is ultimately more liturgical than Solemn Vespers beautifully sung in the most elegant gothic church with the finest vestments!

By Piepkorn’s sacramental measure, then, you should understand that there has been marked improvement since his death. When I was ordained in 1965, many in the synod were still talking about “quarterly communion.” It was an immediate memory for most, although I think by then a monthly celebration was more the norm. It would be my guess that it is now twice monthly for most LCMS congregations. And I would think that the number of congregations celebrating eucharist at every liturgy, every Sunday, has multiplied many times since 1965 (about 1% then). When I go back to Lake Wobegon for eucharist, I notice that most members of the congregations receive. That’s a significant change from my childhood with many deliberately “fasting” from the sacrament for fear of making it “too common.” Piepkorn would applaud the noticeable movement to more frequent communions by the baptized.

But there has always been another side to the story of Missouri’s apprehension of liturgy. The Augsburg Confession along with the lesser confessions give Lutherans a definite “liturgical home.” That home is the eucharistic liturgy of the west. By 1800, the erosion of theology and liturgy made that home unrecognizable. Lutherans discovered they would have to begin the difficult struggle to recover confessional liturgy. Martin Stephan, the founder of the Emigration Society that was to become the Missouri Synod, started us on the right track with confessionally sound theology and liturgy, but he had to be expelled (for reasons apart liturgy). We found ourselves far from our ethnic home as well as liturgical home with only a minority willing to enter the struggle to recovery.

Many anti-liturgical influences work to make your task difficult. Missouri still suffers from lingering pietism. “Faith” sometimes appears more important than the gift of the sacraments. (Witness the “Communion Statements” in many Sunday bulletins explicating in great detail the requirements for admission to the sacrament.) Rationalism can be seen in the constant effort to explain every mystery and the reluctance to let a mystery stand alone. Missouri never established any kind of “liturgical authority.” The rubrics are routinely ignored and the orders are “customized” to suit any whim. (That is why it is vain to blame elected officials who cannot change things.) Through years of Americanization, the Lutherans of the LCMS have built in their own unique “default ecumenical home.” This home is decidedly anti-Roman Catholic and decidedly pro-evangelical Protestant, and that stance has taken a toll liturgically. The expulsion of Piepkorn and the realignment that began in 1973 served to reinforce a strongly evangelical Protestant self-image. In 1817 the Prussian Union attempted to force Lutherans into replacing our liturgy with the Reformed version. Although the LCMS has been incredibly rigorous in guarding against unionism (the intrusion of Protestantism) at the front door, the enemy has come in disguise through the back door, a fundamental Bible firmly in hand. In some congregations we may be farther than Walther from our liturgical home—the catholic eucharistic liturgy. Yet many others are closer to great tradition than Walther.


Vatican II reforms can help us. Rome has been most successful in bringing the faithful to the table. The bit of whining that accompanied the Vatican II liturgical reforms was a small price to pay for a marvelous pastoral reform with the multiplication of people receiving the body and blood of Christ. We Lutherans should look at how they did it. They turned the altar to face the people, exactly as Luther recommended. They translated everything into vernacular English (or another appropriate language), also as did Luther. They distributed many roles (altar servers, lectors, prayer leaders, catechists, eucharistic ministers) to laypeople, all the while preserving the integrity of the ordained. The LSB readily admits to conducting the liturgy in the mode of the LBW (which is the Lutheran version of Vatican II liturgical reforms).

It's a very interesting discussion worthy of being read in its entirety.

How well I remember my Prussian Lutheran mother telling me that her congregation only received Communion quarterly because they were afraid of making it "too common."

Pastor Hannah knows his history well.

I've also been comparing the texts of the LSB to my old copy of the LBW. A great deal of overlap, liturgically speaking.

Past Elder said...

Pastor May -- my suggestion would be to start with Beyond Good and Evil, Kaufmann translation. If time allows, then Thus spoke Zoroaster, Twilight of the Idols, and Ecce Home. It may be worth remembering that Nietzsche was on his way to being a fourth generation Lutheran pastor when he lost his faith.

Christine -- I have no idea what I am supposed to conclude from this.

If I were still a Catholic, I would conclude from the infatuation with Vatican II found in some Lutheran circles two things: yet more evidence, as if more were needed, that Lutheranism is just trying to be Catholic without being Catholic; yet more evidence, as if more were needed, that the novus ordo is based on a thorough rejection of the Catholic understanding of the Mass, sad confirmation of the joke that went round among those trying to hold on the Catholicism after the Kristallnacht (let the reader understand) that was Vatican II -- we could have saved a lot of time and paper to just publish three words, Luther was right, and go home.

I first encountered the LBW when a copy was given to me by a pastor (now ELCA, but you'll find his name in the references for LCMS hymnals) for whose concert choir I wrote programme notes years ago. I thought if this is Lutheranism, why bother, stick with the post conciliar RC church where at least you have the originals -- ad fontes, so zu sagen.

Pastor Hannah recites the ongoing efforts of American Lutheranism to be truly Lutheran in the face of Pietism inherited from the old country and neo-Pietism accepted from American Protestantism. No news there.

What he misses is, for one thing the Roman church itself struggled to regain frequent communion, to the extent that it found it necessary to frame reception of Communion at least once a year as a commandment of the church, which I think is still on the books. For another, what Rome has really been successful at is emptying the pews, convents, seminaries and schools, isolated pockets notwithstanding.

That was then you say? It is still "then". Blogdom has brought an unfortunate re-acquaintance with some of the ebb and flow of Roman life to me. It's kind of like a soap opera -- you can tune in months and years later, same stuff. In this case, the spirit of Vatican II-ers who for nearly half a century now have been supposed to recede, and the real Vatican II-ers who are even worse, such as the putrid drivel on exhibition on EWTN or big deals from Rome as Catholic worship.

As a Lutheran, it looks to me like Rome is about five hundred years too late to the party. Vatican II reforms teach us nothing except how to be too little, too late. We are not about Vatican II. We are not about Trent. The Augustana holds out a church and a worship authenitcally catholic that predates either of these two, and when we try to "learn" from them we are doing nothing more than the current crowd trying at adapt "contemporary" worship style from a faith that is not ours but infuse a Lutheran content, except with smells and bells rather than praise bands and dancing acolytes. This is a unionism let in by the back door at least equal any other let in by front or back door.

Anonymous said...

Past Elder, here's what it sums up for me. As far as "frequent communion" goes history shows that the issue of infrequent communion was a problem on the part of the laity, who had come to feel unworthy to receive (and this is still a problem in some Orthodox circles, by the way). It's very easy for those of us looking back over the centuries to judge but in a Europe that was still more or less illiterate, plagued by wars, famine and disease it's not hard to understand how people saw this as the judgment of God and felt unworthy to receive. That clericalism was also a factor is not in dispute.

The Lutheran churches are still young. The Reformation came at a very auspicious time, as mass printing became available and Bibles were acquired by the laity. What I experience now in the parish environment where Holy Communion is readily received by the laity and they are actually showing up for Bible studies is very different from the milieu my cradle Catholic husband grew up on.

Let me also say this, I left the ELCA in great part over their social stands, not liturgical issues although as a Catholic I have recovered a part of the great Tradition that the Reformation jettisoned. In making a trip down memory lane before my reception into the Catholic Church I still remember some very, very fine pastors who came out of the SEMINEX era (particularly in the AELC before the ELCA merger) and congregations where the liturgy was beautifully and reverently celebrated in the ELCA out of the Lutheran Book of Worship. If you are reading the texts of the LBW yes, there is some common ground with Vatican II (praise God) but what is uniquely Lutheran is also there and if you can't see it perhaps you haven't been Lutheran long enough yet. I was proud to serve as a reader in the ELCA and the ministries called forth on the part of the laity made for some very vibrant and involved congregations who worshipped and lived their lives joyfully rooted in Jesus Christ.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that and I couldn't agree more with Piepkorn (who served on the Lutheran/Catholic dialogues) that with the reforms of Vatican II the Catholic and Lutheran churches have once again converged on worship as it was practiced in the early centuries of the Church. That you do not agree with this is your privilege but not my concern.

"Pietism" isn't the only issue Pastor Hannah is addressing. His view of "Catholicity" is one I readily share and I doubt very much that he is "missing" anything.

Past Elder said...

Actually, Christine, I have posted on several blogs, including this one I think, about some of the good features of the LBW even though it is essentially wannabeism.

The greatest example to me is in the restoration of something of the Greek sense of Kyrie. Whereas the novus ordo in typical fashion hatchets and bludgeons liturgy to death, here making the Kyrie do double duty as the Confiteor too, the LBW retains something of the First Litany in the Greek rite and does not confuse petitionary prayer with penitential prayer. This continues in the LSB.

The Orthodox, no less than Rome convinved of their apostolicity and catholicity, have been quite clear about the novus ordo as any convergence on authentic worship derived in organic development from the early Church. They're right, and if one has to have mitres and crosiers and a supposed succession to validate something, listen to them. They're right on this.

And it's no accident that Vatican II wannabeism has taken over the worship of all churches with a liturgical tradition right along with the social stands you mention, the RCC dragging its feet officially. Apostate worship for apostate churches, available in the flavour of your choice. We should have none of it.

Anonymous said...

Nope, Past Elder, not buying it. I don't doubt the catholicity of the Orthodox but the Roman Rite, which was always more "spare" than the liturgies of the East, is older. Orthodox worship drew on the trappings of the Imperial Byzantine Court just as the Latin West developed its own historical, cultural and liturgical ethos.

The LBW was not a matter of "wannabeism". Have you ever read Dr. Philip Pfatteicher's "Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship?" Dr. Pfatteicher ably traces the historical roots of the liturgy of the LBW with extensive background information.

I was using this book for a good ten years before you became Catholic and attended many ecumenical events (with my pastor) in Northeast Ohio.

I would also ask you to show some charity towards the many Lutherans in the ELCA who are still faithful to their roots. I still consider them my friends and brotheres and sisters in Christ. Every day more congregations are linking up with the orthodox WordAlone network. Perhaps they can turn things around (may God bless their efforts).

Oh, and since you consider the Novus Ordo to be "botched" liturgically, a couple more snippets from Pastor Hannah (who is rising equally in my estimation with Arthur Carl Piepkorn):

Closed communion is a tool of Calvinism. Keep it in your tool box until you need it. All the Calvinist and Anabaptist confessions have a prominent place for closed communion. The Lutheran confessions have none. Open communion for the unbaptized is not an option, but there are many, many degrees of closed communion. Pastors and congregations can work out a practice, but there is no need to make exclusion so prominent that it clouds the gift of communion for the faithful. We do not want the faithful to misconstrue the gift of communion and make it the exclusive privilege for the worthy elite (as seems to be the failing of Calvinism). What is communicated when a church looks and sounds like an airport invaded by Homeland Security? After all, how many are there out there on a given Sunday trying to cheat the church out of a proper communion? Missouri’s obsession with closed communion has seriously impeded the people’s appreciation for liturgy. As does our unique practice of “open absolution.”

Cease the practice of “open absolution.” Most of the arguments proffered against open communion actually do apply to the practice of open (or general) absolution. The ancient formula of absolution begins “I forgive you.” The “you” is always singular, as in the Small Catechism. Missouri stands alone in routinely pronouncing a general absolution (“you” becomes plural) for all present, including the unbaptized. If all are absolved, all should be admitted to eucharist. The closest parallel is Rome which permits it only in the gravest, life-threatening circumstances (such as before battle). Just use one of the declaration of grace formulae and begin to foster private absolution.

Anonymous said...

I was using this book for a good ten years before you became Catholic

Of course, I meant "Lutheran", not Catholic

Past Elder said...

Judas Christine, it's the same junk that was pedalled to me at the Abtie.

As to absolution, what nonsense. If this ain't your confession, you ain't absolved. In any case it's better than at Rome, where it isn't pronounced singular or plural but just hoped for that it happens (May almighty God indeed, he has, you pious idiot pseudo priests.)

As to the ELCA, as with the RCC, corporately is one thing. Whore of Babylon.

But that within either one there are Christians who are brothers in Christ and part of his holy Church there is no doubt, at least on my part, and the ECUSA too. I cannot imagine the pain of their struggle. Then again, yes I can. I was in the same situation for years in the RCC which is to Catholicism as the ELCA is to Lutheranism, the ECUSA to Episcopalianism, on and on, to the great pain of those within them trying to survive with their faith tradition.

Which is another way to express this: it amazes me that people convert to the RCC from other churches under assault from heterodox forces, then embrace these same forces in their RC version which have destroyed the very thing they think they have accepted no less than they did in their former churches.

Past Elder said...

And thank God for the Orthodox!

Anonymous said...

Since you are so fond of correcting others' linguistic foibles on various blogs, my "German-by-association" friend, its "ABTEI", not "ABTIE".

As for the rest of your post, hogwash. The Kyrie of the Roman Mass isn't replacing individual confession and absolution. It is simply an acknowledgement on the part of priest and people of their sinfulness and need of repentance at the beginning of the liturgy. At the pentitential services that take place in Lent and Advent there are always priests stationed to hear individual confessions after a period of scripture reading and prayer.

I've lost nothing in becoming Catholic and gained much. As to who is ultimately found faithful or not I will leave to the One who alone can make that judgment.

And yes, truly, thanks be to God for the Orthodox with whom I share the sacraments and the Holy Sacrifice.

Timothy May said...

Past Elder,
Thank you for the book recommendations. I will add these book titles to my overflowing reading list. Since my list is somewhat out of the bounds of reality I especially appreciate that these are recommendations from someone who is familiar with the material.

Past Elder said...

Hah. Well at least Pastor Weedon isn't the only one with typo problems. For that matter I blew it in Latin too -- Ecce Home rather than Ecce Homo.

I did not say the Kyrie of the Roman Rite replaces individual confession and absolution. I said the kyrie of the bogus, er, novus ordo -- For the times we have ..., Lord, have mercy -- confuses the petionary nature of the First Litany of the Greek Rite, of which only Lord have mercy survives in the West, with the penitential nature of the confession of sin, resulting in a hideous and grotesque hatchet job and complete falsification of both.

No wonder the Orthodox will have none of it. God bless them.

Pastor May -- Nietzsche is truly a tragic figure. Sometimes reading Ecce Homo, my reaction to which I have posted earlier, my other reaction is to think with tears in my eyes Fred, it didn't have to be this way. But if our Confessions are wrong, he has completely thought through the alternative.

Maybe that's what I should refer these Tiber swimmers to -- not SSPX, Mietzsche!

Past Elder said...

Gott hilf mir, I did it again!
Nietzsche. I thought a QWERTY keyboard was fixed. Mine keeps moving around.

Anonymous said...

Ecce Home

Well, at least you didn't make it "Ecce Homeboy".

As for Mietsche and your moving keyboard -- I wish I hadn't been drinking coffee when I read that one.

Thanks for the chuckle.

Now, as for the Kyrie -- when the Abbot comes from the Abtei to celebrate Mass at my parish he always uses the Kyrie and the Confiteor. I like it. It's very "Roman". And yes, the LBW retained Eastern influence in the litanies and the Phos Hilaron (as did the Book of Common Prayer).

If I want the full Greek Rite Kyrie I'll just hop on down to the Catholic Byzantine Rite Parish down the street, thank you.

If it ain't your confession you ain't absolved -- uhuh. But the problem is, there's been a definite progression in some church bodies where general confession, absolution and Holy Communion (in that order) have been extended to the unbaptized as well.

That's a very heavy divergence from historic Christian practice and there are LCMS congregations that commune non-LCMS members (and are challenging their pastors as to why they shouldn't).