03 February 2009

"What are you afraid of?"

That is a question that can often be quite telling. Judging from certain comments on various blog posts, I have heard several folks chime in in what sounds to me to be fear, that we may NOT appeal to private (or personal) judgment when we ask people to evaluate the claims of the Lutheran Symbols against the touchstone of the Sacred Scripture.

Why not? Are people afraid of what will be discovered if they read the Scriptures themselves with a prayer for the Holy Spirit to help them understand them aright and then diligently compare them to the Lutheran Symbols?

I will be honest: I think certain Christians communions DO fear that. For they know perfectly well that they hold to practices and doctrine which CANNOT be demonstrated from the Sacred Scriptures - not even by inference. Was it not at Augsburg that a Roman apologist confessed that he could not refute the Lutheran position on the basis of the Scripture alone and an irate Roman layman said: "Am I given to understand that the Lutherans sit within the Scriptures and we without?"

A Lutheran does not fear the question: "Where is this written?" Rather, a Lutheran trains up his children to ask it ever. Not that our Church tosses that which is harmonious with the Scriptures and drawn from inference from them, even while not explicit in them (we DO baptize children, after all), but we hold that the dogma of the Church, her saving doctrine, is to be drawn explicitly and clearly from the Divine Scriptures and that what cannot be so drawn, or shown to be harmonious with them, cannot be set forth before the people of God as that to which they must submit on the grounds of the Church's authority alone. We flat out deny that the Church HAS such authority. She is indeed "the pillar and ground of the truth," but she is such as she speaks her Shepherd's life-giving words after Him, and not as license to dream up notions of her own.

So, yes, as a Lutheran I'd say to anyone: Here is the Bible, please take it and read it. Begin with the NT. Pray for God's enlightenment as you read. Trust that He will grant it. Seek to practice what you read and your understanding will grow. And compare what you read here to what our Church confesses in the Augsburg Confession or in the Small Catechism. We'd love to have you as a Lutheran, but only if you have been convinced that our teaching accords fully with that written in the Sacred Scriptures under inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

P.S. If you come and live with us for a while, you can see how we seek to live out this faith, and you'll no doubt notice that we are very weak in our lives even when we are strong in our doctrine. Such we find to be the case of fallen human beings who are being healing by God's mercy and grace. We are but poor sinners, and we literally live from the saving mercy of our God in Christ Jesus. Thus we rejoice that "all the law and the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins in His name." Everyone. He means that. Glory to God in the highest!


Chris Jones said...

My friend, this is not worthy of you. To say that those who disagree with you do so only out of fear is certainly not "putting the best construction on things." To assert that entire Church bodies act as they do out of fear is ad hominem on a grand scale.

It is not fear; it is the conviction that this is not the way that the Scriptures are meant to be used. I may be mistaken, but I am not afraid, and I do not believe as I do out of fear.

dakotapastor said...

Paul had no fear when the Bereans searched the Scriptures....why should we? Nice post.

William Weedon said...


I do not say that all who disagree with me do so out of fear - and I'd certainly not ascribe such to anything you've ever written to me. Nevertheless, I do not apologize for the statement, for it is how the discussion has come across to me over all: as though people were afraid of saying to a Christian, take up your Bible and read, ask God the Spirit's guidance, and seek to discern the truth from the error. The royal priesthood of the baptized is treated as though it were anything but! Unlike St. Paul or our Lord, we are told "Don't judge; just accept." And accept whatever it is that a given ecclesiastical jurisdiction proclaims as truth. Am I to hold that the Lord whisked the 12 disciples back to the dying Mary (and was James raised from the dead to be there?) and hold this as a truth equal to the Sacred Scriptures? Christopher, you know it is not. And those who pretend that it is, can only do so by appealing to the authority of the Church OVER AGAINST the Sacred Scriptures. You know how that goes against the very heart-beat of the Church's interactions with the Divine Words.

William Weedon said...


Amen, and thank you.

Anonymous said...


I agree with Chris Jones. This is an utter ad hominem. You have met your match in MG, and you've resulted to name calling.

This is not worthy of you indeed.

Rev. James Leistico said...

I'll never forget a comment a few years back from an adult catecumen who said he'd been given a Small Catechism and came to the conclusion (before the class) that "This book teaches what the Bible teaches."

Elephantschild said...

To friends of mine who do not understand the concept of even having a Confession, I often say that if I find anything in the Confessions that contradicts the Bible, I'll leave the Lutheran church.

It's funny: a friend of mine who is quite creeped out by my BOC still has whole bookshelves full of "works of man" and "man-made theology."

William Weedon said...

Dear Anon,

MG, and not he alone but many of the wise posters here are MORE than my match anyday. Yet I do not see that this post results in "name calling."

MG has not shaken my conviction that he is reading Jerome and the other fathers through a lens that results in a dilution of what the fathers did in fact say, whenever that is perceived to go against the "infallible church" (which seems in his case to be the consensus of the current Orthodox).

The attacks on the idea of private judgment are an essential piece in allowing a person to become Orthodox: for you will have to accept on the Church's authority that which cannot be demonstrated from the Scriptures. There's an ad hominem there? Where? The argument that I heard made COUNTLESS times runs like this:

The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth.
The Church therefore cannot err.
The Orthodox ARE that Church.
Whatever is taught for a long time and widespread in Orthodoxy therefore MUST be true.
Surrender your private judgment to the Church.

Is that in anyway an unfair characterization? I don't think so. Compare it, however, to the Lutheran approach and you'll see why these conversations end up being so utterly fruitless:

The Lord has given the Sacred Scriptures to the Church to be the rule and judge of all doctrines and teachers.
Whenever she teaches according to them, she speaks a certain and joyful truth, and is to be obeyed.
Whenever she teaches contrary to them, or insists on a teaching or practice for which they give no grounds, she should not be heeded but rather called to repentance.
Both the royal priesthood of the baptized and the office of the holy ministry bear this responsibility.
Thus, not only the hierarchy, but each Christian is given the sacred duty of judging what he is taught on the basis of the divine Words, and accepting only that which accords with them, for the Apostle has urged him to "Test all things" and the Savior has warned him: "Beware false prophets."

We can talk till we're blue in the face (and probably will) but there's no bridging these two different approaches.

Chris Grindstaff said...

Dear Pr. Weedon,
Our Lord told us to judge a tree by its fruits. I have to ask: what has been the fruit of this "approach" that you so highly exalt? Look around you. How many churches of various "denominations" are found in your town ALONE! I'm sorry but the approach you espouse has led to nothing but schism.

What of those who claim to just "follow the Scriptures" yet disagree with your conclusions? Can they not read? Is their capcity to "reason" or understand not as advanced as that of a Lutheran? What of those who really may *not* be able to read or may have some mental deficiency that affects their ability to "reason?" How could they ever come to the Truth. What of a young child? Oh wait, your church effectively excommunicates them until they reach an age of "reason." Dear Pastor Weedon, faith is NOT an intellectual endeavor! I'm sure you know this.

Forgive me if my tone is harsh, but I felt compelled to write. I lived with the very real consequences of the "approach" you espouse for a long time.

Christine said...

Well, Chris Grindstaff is typical of those who have had very little grounding in the differences between the Lutheran Reformation and the "Radical" Reformation.

The Lutheran Church, in continuity with the catholic Church from Pentecost on, holds firmly to the truths espoused in Sacred Scripture, as regards Word and Sacrament. Where the purity of her teaching is upheld the Confessions clearly spell out what those truths are.

Instead of going into a lengthy tome, I would invite Chris to investigate the themes of Pietism, Rationalism and Deism and how they gave birth to the numerous denominations that inhabit the American landscape.

History clearly tells the story.

orrologion said...

There obviously seems to be a conversation going on that I am not privy to. It doesn't seem to be nice, so I am probably glad of my ignorance.

At least as far as this post is concerned, I would really just take issue with the term fear. I'm not afraid that some teaching or practice of my church - the Orthodox Church - is not to be found in Sacred Scriptures. If I were a Protestant or one with an unconsciously Protestant paradigm of religious truth, I would be afraid because that is, by definition, the only place that Truth is to be found. A similar assumption is made in Muslim countries regarding the Koran. That isn't a sleight, it's just that people go to a source they trust when they are asking big questions about religion.

I am not afraid because I don't see The Bible as holding the same place in Christianity. I wrote a whole big paper on it for the Colloquium in Detroit, so I won't rehash too much. Suffice it to say that a teaching being 'in the Bible' can mean a lot of different things. First, for the first few centuries, the Bible meant the Old Testament alone. Find infant baptism in the Old Testament alone or the Real Presence. One can, of course, but not by the typical, literal reading of the Bible 'as it is', which is the second point: 'in the Bible' for the early Church could mean the most allegorical and far-fatched pious musing - to we moderns of the post-Reformation age - on an abstruse piece of a psalm. Third, when a Father talks about something that sounds like sola Scriptura, he soon contradicts himself if we assume that he meant what we mean by sola Scriptura - this is shown by his writings, actions and life. Fourth, most of the Church did not have the same Bible, which (to me) is proof positive that The Bible as an enshrined document sufficient for all matters salvific is a more recent creation - the early Church (and most of the Church up until the Reformation) did not view The Bible in this way. I don't think they would be afraid either if someone couldn't point to the passage in the Bible defending chrismation / laying on of hands as necessary, of the established tripartite clergy, of prayer to the saints and veneration of relics, etc.

I'll leave it there because I didn't want to fall into the "my church is right because I've got more and better arguments with lots of footnotes and citations in old languages (which always mean something is true) so you should come to my church" kind of argument. It's fun to spar, of course, but such arguments are not the reason why you are a Lutheran, or I am Orthodox, or Prof. Tighe is Catholic. They are explanations and justifications and enunciations after the fact of faith - after a choice of a different kind has been made.

Of course, the difficulty is that unless all of us are correct (in which case we'd be some sort of Christian Hindus, or worse, 'spiritual, not religious') then such choices or actions of faith prior to argumentation are suspect. You believe, then you understand and justify. I do the same, as does Prof Tighe and my ex-girlfiend who is now a Jew. The 'faith' each of us has is now suspect, because the 'validity' of such an a priori claim is then put in question for all of us.

And yet, your arguments don't convince anyone to become Lutheran, neither do mine make anyone Orthodox. They may help people navigate specific intellectual or personal hurdles, but they are hurdles standing in the way of what they have already decided they would like to be (sometimes people decide what they don't want to be first, and then start looking around, but the criteria they used negatively already point to the kinds of faith they want to accept positively).

So, to tie it all up, if I were you, a Lutheran or a general Protestant, yes, I would be afraid if I couldn't easily see myself where in the Bible each bit of my church's faith and practice was to be found. I don't agree that that is the right criteria, however, and I believe history and the Fathers back me up. As a Lutheran, I was always afraid of history.

Chris Jones said...


I don't know whether you know Chris Grindstaff personally, but I do; and your characterization of him as typical of those who have had very little grounding in the differences between the Lutheran Reformation and the "Radical" Reformation is way off base.

Chris has been a member of two of the most solid, most confessional congregations there are in our Synod. If he could not get the "grounding" you accuse him of lacking in those parishes, then it is not to be had anywhere.

In any case, his point stands. You don't have to look outside of Lutheranism to see the sorts of doctrinal differences that occur when different individuals, honestly and in good faith, interpret "Scripture Alone."

Christine said...

Chris Jones,

My apologies to Chris Grindstaff if that is the case. I was engaged with the reference to Pastor Weedon as "your church", which led me to believe this person was not a member of the LCMS.

My viewpoint is very much shaped by the fact that I am European (specifically German) by birth and know the history of the Lutheran Church very intimately through my mother's Lutheran side (as well as the time I have spent in Europe).

I also am very well acquainted with the history of denominationalism, especially in its American form.

To be honest about my own bona fides, I spent most of my childhood and young adult life as a Lutheran (including some LCMS congregations) but have been a member of the Catholic church for the past ten years. Coming to the conclusion that the Catholic church is no longer the church she claims to be I am with a repentant heart going back to my Lutheran roots so that I may once again be truly "catholic."

Time and experience have shown me the tremendous gift that the Lutheran Confessions are.

orrologion said...

I should clarify a little about what I meant regarding my fear of history as a Lutheran.

The sheer fact of the Church and the number of teachings and practices that were accepted across centuries, cultures, languages, political empire and doctrinal boundaries (i.e., Chalcedonians, Monophysites and Nestorians agreeing) that were not accepted by the Lutheran church of my youth called into question either 1) the correctness of my specific denomination or 2) the assumption that there was a single, correct Church or set of teachings at all.

If one is not to fall into subjective religiosity or branch theory ecumenism and one believes that God was actually guiding the Church and protecting her - the Church, not just confederations of individual Christians - then you have to look at continuity as a hint at which church is The Church.

I am not afraid over whether Orthodoxy can prove its doctrines and practices in the Bible alone, because I don't see the sola Scriptura teachings and practices of the Lutheran church anywhere in history - except as snippeted pieces taken out of the context of the authors' own writings and life, and the Church of the time they served in. So, unless the doctrine upon which the Church stands or falls was held secretly and quietly for centuries without ever raising its head without leaving any trace of its existence... well, that's an argument for me that at least this form of sola Scriptura is not confirmed in the history of a Church guided by the Holy Spirit.

That drives one to the continuity and historic claims of Rome, the Orthodox, the Non-Chalcedonians or the Church of the East - if one is to remain a 'true Church' sort - or to the Anglicans or a whatever-it-doesn't-matter church that believes we're all basically the same.

Or, that has been my experience of fear and history, rather than fear and the Bible.

Chris Jones said...


Just to clarify: Chris was an LCMS Lutheran for many years, but is now Orthodox. That's why he used the "your Church" language. But given his long experience as a Lutheran, he knows the difference between orthodox Lutheranism and other varieties of Protestantism.

Paul McCain said...

Just an observation: anyone who, as a Lutheran, "was afraid of history" never was much of a Lutheran to begin with.

Chris Grindstaff said...

Chris Jones cleared up the fact that I am no longer Lutheran, and I thank him for that. I did not want to cause any confusion on that front. Also, I should say that my comment about "living with the consequences" of the private judgement approach was not directed exclusively at Lutheranism. I was raised in an evangelical, non-denom church, and my comment came as much from that experience as from my experience in Lutheranism.

I am aware that orthodox Lutherans (among whom I certainly consider Pr. Weedon) are not as radical in the Sola Scriptura/private judgement approach as many others. However, I do see the difference being only a matter of degree. I'm sure Pr. Weedon and others disagree with my assessment, but I do stand by it.

Past Elder said...

I remember when (spoiler warning: theology by anecdote ahead, pastors proceed at own discretion) my first Lutheran pastor began to examine the Catechism of the Catholic Church and was struck by how little of it cites Scripture for its basis. Leaving aside the points I am wont to make in other contexts, that it is neither a catechism nor particularly Catholic, I made much the same point as orrologion, that this would not constitute an objection at all in Catholicism, since Scripture is not the sole basis of doctrine but part of that which is, Apostolic Tradition, not to be confused with plain old tradition which is there too, therefore the citation of earlier definitive church documents and the Fathers is altogether to be expected.

I think we all amply illustrate that the prior question is not how one answers sola scripture, but how one answers "Sez who?" We do not have the same Who.

I would add two things, one being that the other Whos do not seem to bring about any more unity than the "Protestant" one, except that they all stay under the same roof, so to speak, rather than set up different ones. A visit to the nearest five parishes of my former church body, the RCC, will bring you easily as much diversity of self-understanding and practice as a visit to the nearest five "Protestant" parishes.

The other thing being, regardless of the Who one accepts, one accepts it by, well, private judgement.

Christine said...

I was raised in an evangelical, non-denom church, and my comment came as much from that experience as from my experience in Lutheranism.

Thanks for that clarification, Chris. Lutherans have always endeavored to hold on to the core of Word and Sacrament that defines them in the midst of a Protestant and Evangelical culture that is still infused with a lot of antisacramental "decision" theology, from the Prussian Union in Europe with its Reformed strain to the influence of the surrounding general Protestant culture in the U.S. With a Lutheran mother and Roman Catholic father historical Christianity was very important in my family.

m aware that orthodox Lutherans (among whom I certainly consider Pr. Weedon) are not as radical in the Sola Scriptura/private judgement approach as many others. However, I do see the difference being only a matter of degree. I'm sure Pr. Weedon and others disagree with my assessment, but I do stand by it.

I understand what you are saying even if I do not agree with your assessment.

orrologion said...

The 'private judgment' line of argument must be another something I've missed online. Anastasia has a little post on it on her blog:


I would use the 'personal' and 'private' distinction. There is no such thing as 'private' judgment since we don't live in a philosophical vacuum, but bring baggage and abilities both good and bad to the table. I can't empirically and objectively jduge for or against the BofC, Catholicism, Orthodoxy, etc. 'Personal' seems, to me, to allow for that growth in understanding we all experience in our lives of faith. That may deepen faith in one's own church, it may push one toward reform, or out the door and elsewhere. I think the same is true of the leaders in our churches and our various parishes/congregations. We are all at differing levels of 'maturity' and 'understanding' and this will of necessity be expressed outwardly. My 5 month old baby boy (tomorrow!) is as much a member of the family as am I and my wife and our parents, even though he is 'wrong' and 'immature' on a number of points (he can't roll over or crawl yet and hates 'real food'). So, too, can an 'immature' parish, bishop, priest, pastor, layman be a member of a larger organization that is itself far more 'mature' and perhaps consistent.

At least, that's how I try to think of 'inconsistencies' from parish to parish, jurisdiction to jurisdiction. As to whether I am in the mature or immature category... sinful, for sure.

As to the 'Who' in the Tradition/authority discussion, I would note the critique of the Roman Catholic view at Energetic Procession (interjected with my own annoying mix of crass irenicism):


While one could point to similarities, the Orthodox and RC ways of understanding authority and Tradition are different than those of Rome.

Jim said...

What I wonder about regarding the Krauth quotation (in your post from a couple of days ago) is the "rights talk" vis-a-vis private judgment. As in his repeated phrase that there is a "right to private judgment."

That is a very legal, abstract way of talking about personal knowledge, and the relationship of personal knowledge to public claims, and how personal knowledge develops. It is an especially American way of talking about such things.

But Krauth, quite sensibly, can't go all the way. So just as there is a "right" to private judgment in his system, so the the church has a "right" to limit the "abuse" of private judgment.

Well, shoot, where does that get us? A "right" is something one can do or use without imposition from another. If there is, in fact, an "ABSOLUTE right to private judgment" (which is what Krauth says) then there cannot be an ecclesial "right" to penalize the exercise of that right.

But if Krauth believes that there is a limit to the right of private judgment -- that is, that the right is not absolute -- then he should be able to specify what it is that distinguishes the sanctionable "abuse" of private judgment from permissible "use" of private judgment.

I think that Krauth's argument needs ma uch more carefully calibrated vocabulary than the blunt instruments of rights talk.

In any event, I don't fear Krauth's analysis -- I wonder at its internal coherence.

Past Elder said...

I quite happily would use "personal" for "private". Yes, too, there are differences between the EO and RC on Apostolic Tradition.

The point remains, Scripture in any of that is part of and not the whole of the authority one chooses to accept, therefore what is an issue in one may not be in the other.

Warnung! Mehr Anekdotetheologie!

For most of my life, I thought Lutheranism was simply a well intended but misguided effort to be Catholic without being Catholic, doomed like all Protestantism to be my, or someone else's I accept, personal judgement about faith.

So it was an eye opener indeed to see anything but, when actually reading the confessional documents of Lutheranism. Nothing whatever of the "If it ain't in the Bible we ain't doing it" or "If you've got the Bible you don't need all that dead church stuff".

Sola Scriptura is an ablative absolute -- a statement of the means by which an agent does an action, not a proposition of doctrine. It is not said in spite of the church, in place of the church, or in opposition to the church, but because of the church, for the sake of the church, to recall the church to fidelity to what it itself has said is faithful and upon which one can utterly rely.

Which in no way rejects the church or her history or traditions, which in fact we lovingly, even zealously accept, rejecting only not what isn't in the Bible, but what contradicts what is.

Big difference. Divine command isn't the only good reason for doing something, it's just the only good reason that is divine, which our other reasons may not contradict.

In that way too, my right to private or personal judgement is absolute. Personal judgement is, well, personal; it does not extend to the church body of which I am a member. The church in no way impedes my personal judgement when it says that is not what we as a church body uphold.

Even the RCC knows that! When a professor loses his right to teach, he may teach all he wants, but he may not teach in the name of or under the label of "the church".

William Weedon said...

No time to respond to all, just a few comments (I've been away from the computer all day):

1. Terry is bang on right.
2. I actually agree with Chris G. that it is a difference in degree - if I could put it so, it is what Krauth meant when he spoke about the two tendencies of the Reformation, where one leant more toward a "sole source" approach (Reformed) and one more toward a "sole norm" approach, which has inherent in it a greater openness to the exegetical, historical, and liturgical heritage of the previous centuries. The difference in degree, however, is marked, and the sad thing is when Lutherans slip over to the other side (as we see quite a bit of) and the "secondary characteristics" of Lutheranism are sacrificed and needlessly lost.
3. Jim, I think his use of the word "right" indicates that the individual may indeed absolutely exercise it. What he may not do is exercise it in such a way as to become something other than Lutheran in belief and yet wish to be called and remain Lutheran. Schmucker figures large in his context, recall, and he had to deal with something that called itself "Lutheran" and yet insisted that the right of private judgment allowed it depart whole-hog from the doctrine confessed in the Book of Concord. So just as a person has the right of judgment, so the congregation or Synod has the right of determining if that person's exercise of private judgment has resulted in a Lutheran confession or not.
4. Christopher, "snippets" can be rather a convenient way of dismissing what doesn't fit into one's overall schemata. Just for the record: I don't troll the net to gather up citations from the Fathers; the overwhelming majority of what I cite is taken from works that I have been reading and studying, and I am not aware in any case of pulling something "out of context." Rather, I'd say that the oft-quoted passage from St. Basil is one that is notoriously taken from its context in his total work (which tends to lean in the other direction over all). Also, the historical evidence is always more complex than ANY dogmatic schemata will ever make sense of, for none of us is party to the whole story.

That's it for comments for the moment.

William Weedon said...

Oops. Terry is PE.

William Weedon said...

P.S.S. Somewhere up there I remember a comment about "not an intellectual thing" or something like that. I couldn't agree more. For it is, to me, ultimately the matter of the most intense spiritual warfare. We know who it is who teaches us to ask: "Did God really say?" and to depart from His Word. When I am dying, when my parishioners are dying, and the last battle comes, and the memory of all the sins done are thrust at us by the demons in an attempt to drive us to utterly despair, at such a moment the Word of God is the weapon that MUST be at hand to fight them back. How well Giertz captured this in Hammer of God! How often I've been there, fighting the battle, side by side with my dying parishioners. It's a real battle where "well, the CHURCH says" doesn't cut it.

orrologion said...

BTW, Sorry for so many posts. I didn't read your 'rules' until after I had posted.

It's interesting you say that '"well, the CHURCH says" doesn't cut it.' For me it would be the exact opposite. "Well, the Bible says" has been so misused by so many, so often in just about every conversation I've had with every brand of Protestant (and others) that what that phrase means, to me, is: "I say the Bible says" or "Pastor _______ says".

I've also heard a friend cryptically say, "I can't imagine not being Orthodox after everything I have seen". I wonder if what we are also talking about here is within the context of an absence of corporate 'experience' - not feeling or 'enthusiasm' but the experience of vision (theoria), being taken up literally to the third heaven, literal miracle working, etc. If trustworthy holy ones cannot be found that ratify that the Church "cuts it", so to speak, then it makes perfect sense to default to the only sure patrimony left from the Apostles and Prophets: the Bible.

William Weedon said...


Have you really never had to do the battle with them where only the sword of the Spirit could silence and rout them?

Lord Jesus Christ, with us abide
For round us falls the eventide.
Oh let Your Word, that saving light,
Shine forth undimmed into the night.

May glorious truths that we have heard,
The bright sword of Your mighty Word,
Spurn Satan that Your church be strong,
Bold, unified in act and song.

Restrain, O Lord, the human pride
That seeks to thrust Your truth aside
And with some man-made thoughts or things
Would dim the words Your Spirit sings.

Stay with us, Lord, and keep us true;
Preserve our faith our whole life through --
Your Word alone our strong defense,
The Church's glorious confidence!

orrologion said...

No, that's why I find this a very interesting point. I don't think I ever did as a Lutheran either - though I was young, so...

Now, the words of Scripture often come to mind when I am struggling, but I do not place my hope in the surety of the words of Scripture, but in what I know of the Word testified to in the words of Scripture - AND in my experience of Him and/in His Church, in prayer, in the services, etc.

Knock wood, of course. :)

Even when I was seriously, painfully questioning the Orthodox Church, I wasn't questioning the grace to be found there, I wasn't questioning whether I could rely on its teaching, I wasn't grasping for surety of my salvation or that God loved me, I was questioning whether the Orthodox Church was in fact merely the local, ethnic churches meant to be in communion with Rome. The idea of returning to Protestantism (Lutheranism) leaves me almost no surety because no one can agree on what 'the Bible says' - even in the same denomination.

That is not a sword I want to go into battle with for fear it would break into a thousand bickering little swords each claiming to be... Seriously and honestly, I would find so little comfort in a pastor telling me I could trust in such and such promise 'because the Bible tells me so' - it would be nothing more than their opinion as a church-y kind of 'literary critic' telling me what the novel 'really meant'. Now, trusting in the Good God I have come to know in the Church, through the reading of the Gospel and other Scriptures, through the Sacraments, through the divine services and her hymns, the prayers, the practice of the tradition of prayer, the grace experienced in creative obedience to the Church's fasting and disciplines, etc. That is something I find 'sure'.

I'm sure you don't, but I think we have hit on something important here.

William Weedon said...

"I'm sure you don't." I'm not sure what you mean by that, Christopher, for it is in the Divine Service that I most intimately encounter that wonderful Word and above all the Body and Blood of the Word made flesh, giving into me a life stronger than death and a forgiveness greater than all my sin. The Divine Service provides me with something that is sure indeed. And many times in the demonic assaults, it is a word that struck home in the Divine Service which strengthens and sustains me and holds me fast. It's not as though there is no corporate experience of the Word of God, after all! It forms and shapes our liturgy and hymnody from start to finish. And there are times where the "form" of the Word I use in battle (quite often, actually) is hymnic rather than quoting verbatim the Scripture passage upon which it is based. The power of the Word as our sword is not confined to Bible reading, though it certainly includes that too.

orrologion said...

I guess I am getting at the difference in the qualifier to your comments re the services and sacraments: "...the Scripture passage upon which it is based" Also with your comment that "It's not as though there is no corporate experience of the Word of God, after all! It forms and shapes our liturgy and hymnody from start to finish." I know there is skittishness regarding neo-orthodoxy, but the Word of God is not primarily an it for me, but this is the primary basis upon which all this other 'stuff' is merely exposition - the Word itself is the only sure information or access we have to the Word Himself (the Sacraments being based on the It-Word's command and promise). I experience the Church as the Body of the Word. The Church is a revelation of the Him-Word and rely on that - not on the promises or surety of something in the It-Word, regardless of whether it is paraphrased. Likewise, my confidence in the grace-filled nature of the Sacraments is not based on the authority of the It-Word, but on the Body of the Word and my experience of Her and the grace in Her.

Gotta go see the baby, now, before the wife takes him to the country for the weekend.

Past Elder said...

Well, bang on right except for saying Ablative Absolute when I meant Ablative of Means. I thought Vista had a "I know what you mean not what you typed" function.

William Weedon said...

The reliability of the It-Word IS based on the reliability of the Him-Word, and of the Spirit-filled witnesses to the Him-Word. Your words strike me as though you would say:

Well, I trust you Bill, but trusting your words would be a different thing.

It leaves me scratching the old head...

Scott Larkins said...

A complex and difficult topic. One I have struggled with for years. No easy answers.

Adam Roe said...

I'm sure my comments are not worthy of the company I am keeping, so forgive me if they seem unfair and simple.

As a Lutheran what I was afraid of was the mental excommunication I had to perform on all of the Church Fathers that I was reading and quoting to others. Every time I quoted a Church Father to support one Lutheran practice, or the lack thereof, there were other practices that same Church Father engaged in that would have necessarily forced me from communion with him. I couldn't have communed with St. John Chrysostom, for he was a synergist who practiced invocation of the saints. Ignatius of Antioch...He was such a dogmatic advocate for the episcopacy that one can hardly imagine he would have communed with me, or I with him.

The list goes on, and at some point the weight of The Church's visible unity throughout the ages made it impossible for me to trust the Lutheran Reformation. The idea that the Lutheran symbols have no disparity with the Scriptures seems reassuring at first, but what to do with the likelihood that no Church Father I can think of would be communed at a catholic minded LCMS church?

Scott Larkins said...


William Weedon said...

Actually, not a touche. At least not to me. When I read the Church fathers I am not aware of great areas of contradiction with Lutheran doctrine. There are modes of expression employed before doctrinal clarity was reached on given topics that explain some otherwise difficult ways of putting things.

To the two instances you cite, Adam: St. Ireaneus describes a bishop who is the presiding minister (usually) at the local assembly of the Church. Do you really think he'd not be utterly befuddled about how your bishop can be your bishop and yet not preside over your Eucharist on a regular basis?

On St. John Chrysostom, he himself told St. Augustine that at times he spoke less than felicitously about matters due to his oratorical style, and I think that holds for the two references we have from him (that I've seen - thanks to Reader Christopher) on invocation. I cannot but contrast that with St. Augustine himself explicitly saying that we do NOT invoke the saints or martyrs in *City of God* (Book 22, Chapter 10) And he further opines that the dead, even the dead in Christ, have no knowledge of what happens upon earth in On the Care of the Dead (chapter 16).

So do you hold with Augustine or Chrysostom on the matter? Augustine holds that the dead are commemorated, but not invoked, at the Mass.

The writings of the Fathers is by no means a uniform statement of the current position of either Orthodoxy or Rome; so the argument that it's not a uniform statement of the current position of Lutheranism doesn't get you very far...

William Weedon said...

That was supposed to be St. Ignatius... But I'll bet you figured that out!

William Weedon said...


You might want to give an ear to St. John Chrysostom on your "it Word":

"I account you happy for the zeal, beloved, with which you flock into the Father's house. For from this zeal I have ground for feeling confidence about your health also with respect to the soul; for indeed the school of the Church is an admirable surgery— a surgery, not for bodies, but for souls. For it is spiritual, and sets right, not fleshly wounds, but errors of the mind, and of these errors and wounds the medicine is the word. This medicine is compounded, not from the herbs growing on the earth, but from the words proceeding from heaven— this no hands of physicians, but tongues of preachers have dispensed. On this account it lasts right through; and neither is its virtue impaired by length of time, nor defeated by any strength of diseases. For certainly the medicines of physicians have both these defects; for while they are fresh they display their proper strength, but when much time has passed; just as those bodies which have grown old; they become weaker; and often too the difficult character of maladies is wont to baffle them; since they are but human. Whereas the divine medicine is not such as this; but after much time has intervened, it still retains all its inherent virtue. Ever since at least Moses was born (for from thence dates the beginning of the Scripture) it has healed so many human beings; and not only has it not lost its proper power, but neither has any disease ever yet overcome it. This medicine it is not possible to get by payment of silver; but he who has displayed sincerity of purpose and disposition goes his way having it all." - Homily against publishing the errors of brothers

orrologion said...

Well, I trust you Bill, but trusting your words would be a different thing.

Yes, but it is possible to know you in ways beyond just your words. In fact, I know more about you than just your words, and I would bet that you would agree that your words alone do not give the fullest most accurate picture of who Bill is. So, I can trust your words, just not for everything - or even the most important things.

William Weedon said...

But would you say that of HIS words, Christopher?

Scott Larkins said...


orrologion said...

The writings of the Fathers is by no means a uniform statement of the current position of either Orthodoxy or Rome...

This is true only if you arbitrarily define the 'real Fathers' as being prior to x date. Are the Ante-Nicene, Nicene, Ephesian, Chalcedonian, dyphysite or iconodule era Fathers 'just like' modern day Orthodoxy? No. But, modern day Orthodoxy is not a 'recent' thing having essentially crystalized in its current form by around the time of Photios (apart from tweaks in liturgics that academics like to pretend are big deals (prokomide, some Holy Week traditions), changes in vestments (imperial regalia), or in the working out of already extant norms (presbyters served the 'home liturgy' whenever the bishop was away or ill: he served in the stead of the bishop who was/is always the 'true' minister of the Liturgies in his diocese whether he is there or not [see the Antimension]). That is a long time, and the changes prior to that aren't all that dramatic, really, when comparing it to modern day Orthodoxy as compared to even high church Protestantism today.

But, enough with the patristic and historic ordnance on what is still a Lutheran pastor's blog. You hit the practical nail on the head already: you don't see the weight of history and patristics as being so out of whack with Lutheran teaching and (at least your own and a few others') practice. We all have to judge for ourselves - personally, never privately. I thought the same once, too, as did Pelikan, Neuhaus, etc. A number of others have looked at the same data and stayed put. Glory to God for faithful men and women that take such questions and issues seriously - even if they're wrong. :)

orrologion said...

But would you say that of HIS words?

Yes, unless that were the only way to know anything of Him. Without the incarnation and without the Eucharist incorporating me into His Body, and perhaps with a clear witness in Scripture and history that sola Scriptura was the way the disciples and the heirs of the Apostles understood what our source of divine knowledge should be... I just don't see it, though.

Of course, this is not to say that we do not come to know Christ in the It-Word, just that it is not the sola source that norms all others.

William Weedon said...


You show me each day that you have become genuinely "Orthodox" - may the Lord bless and guide you and may you never forget the many things you did learn in your youth.

On these difficult and complex questions we must indeed commend one another into the hands of God. The answer is not found in winning an argument against each other, but in being united to the Word Made Flesh by the gift of His Spirit and thus defeating in ourselves the devil, the world and the flesh.

Pax Christi tecum!

bajaye said...

Well said.


Scott Larkins said...


bajaye said...

One final thought, at least for me. When ordained a priest my bishop said, at that moment immediately before the laying on of hands where the bishop quietly and privately speaks to one to be ordained, that I should not reject my past but rather give thanks for it. Others of the same pedigree have heard the same from other bishops. It is a healthy perspective.


Anonymous said...

Dear brother Wil,

I wonder if it bothers our Orthodox brothers that they are in full communion fellowship with people who practice this:


BTW, my congregation communes with the Fathers regularly. We confess it in the Liturgy every Divine Service.

Gotta run. My son Tad and I have a singing engagement. Ta ta for now.

The Rev. Fr. Michigan J. Frog

PS--I could have found a harder hitting and clearer explanation of what this river washing is really all about, but I'm trying to be gentle. We Lutherans are like that.

Chris Jones said...

Dear Fr Frog,

I wonder if it bothers our Orthodox brothers that they are in full communion fellowship with people who practice this ...

I don't think it bothers anyone that the Russians do the blessing of the waters on Theophany. All (Eastern-rite) Orthodox do that; it's in the service books.

What is odd, however, is this statement:

anyone who bathes in the ice hole is said to be cleansed of their sins.

It's been a long time since I've participated in the blessing of the waters, but I don't recall anything like this idea in the liturgy. I shouldn't be surprised if an over-active piety may have led to this remarkable practice; but I should be very surprised if there were any support for it either in the text of the liturgy or in the actual teaching of the Church.

I note that the reporter writes that "it is said" that this is so, but does not say "by whom." Let's not read too much into what "is said" anonymously.

Christine said...

<but I'm trying to be gentle. We Lutherans are like that.

Comes as a result of being "gracious" because of Him who is the giver of grace!

orrologion said...

First, the blessing of waters at Theophany is not a baptism.

Second, the custom's roots can be seen more readily in the Greek customs surrounding Theophany. The priest blesses the water by a series of prayers and with the Cross (tied to a long ribbon so as not to be lost), which he throws into the water of the ocean, lake, stream, etc. if these are available. The boys of the parish/village jump in after it to retrieve the Cross.

Now, one of the litany prayers for the Blessing of Waters asks of the Lord "For this water to become a gift of sanctification, a deliverance from sins, for healing of soul and body and for every suitable purpose, let us pray to the Lord." In one of the priest's prayer it also asks for "Therefore, O King, lover of mankind, be present now too through the visitation of your Holy Spirit, and sanctify this water. (x3) And give to it the grace of redemption and the blessing of Jordan. Make it a source of incorruption, a gift of sanctification, a deliverance from sins, an averting of diseases, unapproachable by hostile powers, filled with angelic strength. That all who draw from it and partake of it may have it for cleansing of souls and bodies, for healing of passions, for sanctification of homes, for every suitable purpose."

To a Lutheran that primarily (I think) believes Baptism is for the forgiveness of sins and that all sins are already forgiven with confession being merely a proclamation of that objective fact, well, this can sound scandalous. It isn't to me.

I ask myself what it means to 'bless water', to ask that the Lord "sanctify this water"? I ask how such "cleansing of souls" and "deliverance from sins" is related to all of the other things prayed for in that prayer and how that is tied in with a blessing of water, of turning the blessed water into the water of Jordan, etc. I think that context shows that what we are talking about is not 'just forgiveness of sins', but something far more.

To me the scandal you may be experiencing points to a real difference in the focus of Lutheran and Orthodox theology. Orthodoxy is not primarily focused on the forgiveness of sins, that is but a part, the start of our salvation. Healing of our entire being, re-formation into the likeness of Christ, etc. and all of the other things mentioned in the (very long) services of the Blessing of the Waters at Theophany (the Lesser Blessing is longer, actually, and held the day before Theophany proper) are part of the totality of salvation - not just debt consolidation and remission.

The entire service of the Great Blessing of Waters can be found here:


bajaye said...

Chris writes: "What is odd, however, is this statement, 'anyone who bathes in the ice hole is said to be cleansed of their sins.'"

It's safe to say that this is probably misguided piety on steroids. But obviously there is no support for it in Orthodox theology or in the Scriptures. Let's face it, some people do bizarre things and seek to justify them by reasoning that makes no sense.


orrologion said...

...anyone who bathes in the ice hole is said to be cleansed of their sins.

Oh, forgot my point on this.

It should simply be noted that the people are bathing in what is holy water. It's as if a giant pool of water were blessed in the church and people jumped into it rather than being sprinkled (as is normally done in parishes without 'living water' available easily).

One can do a quick Google search for local stories around the country and world regarding such local ceremonies held indoors and out. Here in Manhattan the Greek church under the WTC used to process to the Hudson River and bless the waters, an Old Calendarist Greek church in Queens does the same in the East River, still. The two Orthodox churches in my little PA home get together at the Greek church and process together down to the creek just off Main St and bless the waters together (no one jumps in, though, they pull the cross back out by the ribbon - those Russians are crazy!).

So, whatever one can say about holy water, in general, one can say about the blessed waters of a lake or river. I think this is where the reporter (and perhaps laity) get the inapt language used, which identified jumping in a little too closely with the actual Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Though, such identification is part of it in the way that we are all called to increase our likeness to He in Whose image we were created, and since liturgical celebrations (In Orthodoxy) are not merely remembrances of past events but entrances into them by anamnesis, it makes sense that people would ellide Jesus' Baptism together with their own immersion (baptism) to some degree.

(It should be noted, however, that the Sacrament of Holy Baptism is by triple immersion; anything less is officially 'invalid' except by economia, so this 'rite' is not as much like Orthodox Baptism as it looks to Western Christians - plus, there are no catechumen prayers, exorcisms, no oil, no chrismation, none of the proper prayers or hymns, no godparents, no circling the font, etc.)

William Weedon said...

But it would be a serious truncation of Lutheran theology and piety to assert that forgiveness of sins in Lutheranism does not embrace the "far more." For "where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation!" Hence forgiveness is God's own advent to us in mercy and not in judgment in order to rescue and deliver us from sin and to heal our human nature.

In the Baptismal prayer of the Lutheran liturgy, which growing up in WELS you might not be familiar with, we confess that: by the Baptism of Your beloved Son You consecrated the Jordan *and all water* to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin." We specifically ask God that by that blessed flood "all sin" "would be drowned and die" and that the baptized "be kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, being separated from the multitude of unbelievers" "serving Your name at all times with a fervent spirit and a joyful hope." FWIW.

orrologion said...

I guess the 'far more' was focusing more on those aspects of the prayers that would be considered sanctification in Lutheran parlance, but which is undistinguished in Orthodoxy.

Anonymous said...


Okay, I returned quite chastened. You guys are right. The press reports are not necessarily reliable. Ad Fontes, I say.
So I consulted a newsletter from an Orthodox Church. Once you scroll down past “Father Bob’s” initial comments and all the listings of the ecumenical services featuring Pastor Linda,et.al., you’ll see a little section on the healing powers of the blessed waters. Are you troubled to be in full communion fellowship with these guys? Check it out. And color me not only green, but confused.


The Rev. Fr. Michigan J. Frog

Jim Huffman said...

A quick thought: could it be that "anyone who bathes in the ice hole is said to be cleansed of their sins" means, "anyone who bathes in the in the water is one who is [continuing action] cleansed of their sins"? In other words, could it be that folks doing this view it as something that began in the past (in baptism), continues into the present, and this is an (as another put) anamnesis of baptism?

bajaye said...

Jim, that’s likely at the root of the practice. Whether those actually taking the plunge see it that way, well, who knows?


Past Elder said...

Lutherans are typically gentle and gracious. There's a few for whom Table Talk is mild conversation, kind of fun actually. That would be me.

So let's see, we got this visible church there all along with this unbroken chain of bishops or unbroken consensus back to the Gospel so it's clear what's what.

There's this Apostolic Holiness Church down the street, that's two out of four of the adjectives in the Creed -- nah.

Seems like something so clear and unbroken ought to be in the phone book so I can look them up. I'm English descent, American birth and nationality, here in Omaha, where do I go.

Let's see, churches, ton of those, hey here we go -- Churches-Anglican, St Vincent Antiochan Orthodox Church. Oh wait, Churches-Catholic, 55 or so of them and a cathedral to boot. No wait, Churches-Catholic Traditional (huh? thought they all were), 2 of those. Ah here, Churches-Catholic Ukrainian, 1 of those. Oh here we go, Churches-Orthodox Eastern, St Gabriel's no further word, St John the Baptist Greek Orthodox (like baklava but I ain't Greek), St Mary Orthodox Antiochan (ain't Antiochan either and one of those turned up under Anglican, huh?), St Nicholas Serbian Orthodox (ain't Serbian), St Vincent Antiochan, hey that IS the guys under Anglican! English dudes, let's go back, there's the Antiochan guys again, hey here's an Anglican Catholic, not just Anglican, meets at a Lutheran church's fitness centre, Churches-Episcopal, there we go, 9 of them and a cathedral too, yeah us English, oh wait here's Rev Judi at one of them and damn, here's this other being sued by the dudes in the cathdral for leaving and wanting to keep their church.

Man, the only guys with more different kinds of unbrokenness going back to Christ and the pure Gospel are Baptists!

orrologion said...

Rev. Frog, I'm not sure how the article in the parish bulletin is any different than the other news article you posted. This church merely reprinted (without attribution) a human interest piece from Pravda (http://newsfromrussia.com/main/2004/01/19/51948.html). It isn't as if Fr. Bob is explaining the religious meaning of the Theophany celebrations, he is merely sharing a news article on how people 'back home' celebrate the feast, for better or worse.

I find the ecumenical services to be odd, too, but we aren't really told what is going on there are we? Simply showing up is no sin, learning more about other churches and their beliefs aren't either, and since they aren't Orthodox churches it isn't as if they are actually doing anything 'real' there; as long as they aren't communing, I don't really see the problem. As to whether they are praying with them, that comes under the rubric of pastoral discretion. I pray before meals with my Lutheran parents when visiting them, but I don't pray when visiting other churches or when people take to a random, vague 'group prayer' before a meeting or event. Such things are notoriously difficult to navigate - even within the LCMS.

I am also a big fan of your song and dance act. You look great in a top hat.

Past Elder said...

One Froggy Evening! Oh yeah! The best!

orrologion said...

PE, you know that your impressive feat of typing really just boils down to 4 options: Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Oriental Orthodox (which you didn't mention).

There are a couple one offs splinter groups (often just parishes) here and there, but it's a free country and none of the names listed above is copyrighted, so anyone can use them. You could start your own St. Mary's Orthodox Catholic Episcopal Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) and not be affiliated with any of the churches that bear the names you have co-opted.

I don't think anyone here has pretended that there are not differences between these major groups all claiming to represent the true apostolic line.

Their commonalities with each other - and the presumed apostolic base - become much more clear when you remove the Protestant church that simply likes episcopal structures - I've left it in only since you mentioned it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the compliment, guys. You oughta see my son, Tad. He puts me to shame. He's got a lot of wiggle to him. I'm too old for that.

Now, who am I to believe? Do I believe what an Orthodox Priest in good standing, along with thousands upon thousands of Orthodox parishioners for hundreds of years have said AND practied(not to mention millions of Hindus with whom it appears the Orthodox have communio in sacris), or do I believe what a single Orthodox layperson on a blog site tells me?

Frankly, I find the Prophets and Apostles to be ever more so clear than the Orthodox Church. But then I'm a little slow.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I forgot my signature above.


The Rev. Fr. Michigan J. Frog

Past Elder said...

Yeah I know that. Does Joe the Pew Warmer?

The boys at the Purple Palace might have something to say about the "(Missouri Synod)" thing though in my new church.

God help me if I throw Ablaze! in there. That's got a (tm).

When I was a little kid I used to wonder wny so much stuff has my initials on it.

This visible unbroken thing is really only obvious if you can get the state to make it the official religion and shut down all the others.

Oh wait, they tried that.

orrologion said...

I think you would find that even Fr. Bob would give a similar answer to mine. Ask him. You are assuming Fr. Bob is saying this himself, as a priest, on behalf of the Orthodox Church, rather than him simply posting something written by a journalist.

"...along with thousands upon thousands of Orthodox parishioners for hundreds of years have said AND practied [sic]..." is rather a stretch, even for hyperbole.

I don't remember taking cheap shots at Lutheranism, so why comments like this? Any number of the pastors here could point to ministers and practices in the LCMS that they would not like to be associated with, or that are explained and described inaccurately by reporters and even misunderstood by their own faithful. And that here in the US in a relatively small, relatively homogeneous institution. Imagine, now, a Church just rising from the ashes or millions of martyrdoms, active persecution, etc. in a relatively poor country (in the main) where that Church is also part and parcel with their nation's cultural identity, and that has tens of millions of quite recent members across a dozen time zones trying to recapture their identity as Russians and Orthodox. I think some slack can be given if some of the laity aren't as well-versed on their faith as their priests and bishops - and smarty pants converts with easy access to primary texts - are.

Anonymous said...


You fellas might remember this guy:



The Rev. Fr. Michigan J. Frog

Christine said...

Here's a hymn I haven't sung in a very, very long time-:

Built on a rock the Church shall stand,
Even when steeples are falling;
Crumbled have spires in ev'ry land,
Bells still are chiming and calling
Calling the souls of those distressed,
Longing for life everlasting.

Not in our temples made with hands
God, the Almighty, is dwelling;
High in the heav'ns his temple stands,
All earthly temples excelling.
Yet he who dwells in heav'n above
Deins to abide with us in love
Making our bodies his temple

We are God's house of living stones,
Built for his own habitation;
He fills our hearts, his humble thrones
Granting us life and salvation.
Were two or three to seek his face,
He in their midst would show his grace,
Blessings upon them bestowing.

Yet in this house, an earthly frame,
Jesus the children is blessing;
Hither we come to praise his name,
Faith in our Savior confessing.
Jesus to us his Spirit sent,
Making with us his convenant,
Granting his children the kingdom.

Nicolai F.S. Grundtvig

On the foundation of Prophets and Apostles indeed . . . hier steh' ich!

orrologion said...

Frankly, I find the Prophets and Apostles to be ever more so clear than the Orthodox Church.

I won't presume to claim that you do not understand, but it should be noted that 'more clear' can simply mean 'more familiar to me', 'more comfortable' or 'what I understand', regardless of its accuracy.

This goes as much for Orthodoxy, mind you. There are many Orthodox who just find Lutheranism's preoccupations and preferred jargon to be incomprehensible, whereas what they grew up with is "ever more so clear" [sic].

It is a dangerous (and parochial) thing to assume that foreign and not easily or readily understood means something is wrong. However, this is a common failing of us all - you, me, everyone. God help us.

Brian P Westgate said...

Better yet, Built on THE Rock, Christ Himself, Christ crucified, the Church shall stand. Upon Him the Church stands, being built up upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Christ Himself being the capstone/cornerstone. He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Who bore the sins of the world.

Brian P Westgate said...

By the way, I'm not criticizing the lady who posted the hymn, but rather the translation, which I presume is from the new ELCA hymnal.

-C said...

Reader Christopher -
"Rejoice and be exceedingly glad..."

Anonymous said...

Pardon my grammar. Growing up in a swamp isn't conducive to clear communication.

BTW, I'm finding my son, Tad, isn't the only one with a good wiggle around here. :-) Just bustin' yo' chops a little, brothers. All in good fun.

I don't believe we need an ecumenical council to help us interpret Father Bob's informational blurb on Orthodox ritual bathing. But I'll let the reader make his own private judgement(!) on that.

We report. You decide.

From Father Bob, and I quote:
"Russians believe that holy water blessed on Epiphany has special healing qualities and
administer it to heal spiritual ailments. Many Russians store the water at home as a
relic for the year and it is customary to drink a little in the mornings on an empty
stomach. Priests recommend that the holy water be sprinkled on food products and
other household goods.
In addition to believers, many atheists acknowledge the healing powers of the blessed
water, the extremely long lines of people with bottles and jugs that form outside
church doors on the eve of Epiphany bear witness to this phenomenon.
Russia has traditionally celebrated Epiphany solemnly and extensively. It was
customary to carve a hole in the ice and to call it "Jordania" in memory of the river in
which Christ was baptized. On the feast day, clergy lead a procession to these holes or
to wells and bless the water, even in the biting cold. Some courageous people immerse
themselves in the icy water. Today this tradition has been revived, many natural
springs are once again being blessed, and many people seeking a cure for their
ailments are once again bathing in these waters.
Orthodox believers claim that the collected water does not spoil for an entire year and
in so doing surmounts the laws of nature. The words of a prayer, "Laws of nature are
conquered" are said repeatedly throughout the holiday service. On the day after the
holiday all water sources lose their special quality.
Orthodox faithful believe that the physical characteristics of the holy water cannot be
explained scientifically. They hold that the characteristics of the water cannot be
explained rationally. Christians believe that the holy water of Epiphany bears witness
to the unworldly nature of the Church, even in this world it is a part of the Heavenly

Believe me, I like water with the best of them. I'm a stinking frog, afterall. But isn't this going a little too far?

Gee, I hope noone here feels like they are being persecuted or anything. I'm a simple Lutheran commenting on a Lutheran blog in defense of Lutheran teachings. I've never visited Orthodox blogs and stirred up any muck, so to speak. Furthermore, I've felt this has been a rather friendly and lighthearted conversation, especially considering the gravity of the matter at hand. So please pardon me if I've been rude.


The Rev. Fr. Michigan J. Frog

orrologion said...

As I already noted, Fr. Bob did not write this. It is from the Russian news agency Pravda and can be seen here:


It is simply a journalist's take on the events, as was the BBC News article discussed previously and found here:


I'm not sure if I would see myself as 'stirring up any muck' and I welcome the kind of honest, intelligent, vigorous and respectful defense of Lutheran teachings that Pr. Weedon regularly provides. I consider him a friend, as I hope he does me.

Past Elder said...

Ever been to Lourdes, Pastor Frog?

Christine said...

Hi Brian!

No criticism taken from this lady who is solidly in sympathy with the LCMS!

Actually, Grundtvig, the Danish Lutheran, would surely agree with you. A little background:

Grundtvig's career was at times stormy and controversial. His theological positions were often challenged, but in spite of this, he was able to infuse new spiritual life into a spiritually depleted Church. Grundtvig's strongest hymns dealt with the Church and the Sacraments. He wrote primarily hymns of the Spirit which contained some of the most profound theological themes, yet possessed the most lovely lyrics. His hymns constantly emphasized the Word of God as the one and only rule and guide for the believer. Grundtvig's heaviest hymn-writing period was 1837 to 1860 as he wrote many hymns; publishing Sang-Værk til den Dansk Kirke. Two of his more well-known hymns are "Built On a Rock, the Church Doth Stand" and "God's Word is Our Great Heritage."

No ELCA for me, if you please, been there, done that (-:

Christine said...

Yikes, Brian, I've been away for too long. I forgot there's another version of the hymn:

Built on the Rock the Church doth stand,
Even when steeples are falling;
Crumbled have spires in every land,
Bells still are chiming and calling,
Calling the young and old to rest,
But above all the soul distrest,
Longing for rest everlasting.

2. Surely in temples made with hands,
God, the Most High, is not dwelling;
High above earth His temple stands,
All earthly temples excelling.
Yet He whom heavens cannot contain
Chose to abide on earth with men,
Built in our bodies His temple.

3. We are God’s house of living stones,
Builded for His habitation;
He through baptismal grace us owns
Heirs of His wondrous salvation.
Were we but two His name to tell,
Yet He would deign with us to dwell,
With all His grace and His favor.

4. Now we may gather with our King
E’en in the lowliest dwelling;
Praises to Him we there may bring,
His wondrous mercy forthtelling.
Jesus His grace to us accords;
Spirit and life are all His words;
His truth doth hallow the temple.

5. Still we our earthly temples rear
That we may herald His praises;
They are the homes where He draws near
And little children embraces.
Beautiful things in them are said;
God there with us His covenant made,
Making us heirs of His kingdom.

6. Here stands the font before our eyes
Telling how God did receive us;
The altar recalls Christ’s sacrifice
And what His table doth give us;
Here sounds the Word that doth proclaim
Christ yesterday, today, the same,
Yea, and for aye our Redeemer.

7. Grant then, O God, where’er men roam,
That, when the church-bells are ringing,
Many in saving faith may come
Where Christ His message is bringing:
“I know Mine own, Mine own know Me;
Ye, not the world, My face shall see.
My peace I leave with you.” Amen

Is this the one you were thinking of? I think it's the original and I like it much better (-:

Brian P Westgate said...

Yep, TLH (which has all the verses), and LSB (which I think has only 5).

Past Elder said...

Great Judas in a fireman's carry, here all you blackbirds are going on about water and all and I find out there's been a fire at Holy Name Cathedral where I was baptised.

Damn near dumped Lake Michigan into the joint, sounds like.

The building itself was built to replace ones that burned in the Great Fire a while back, which event gave origin to a rhyme a line from which I have once or twice quoted -- Bless us and save us Mrs O'Davis.

You guys are freaking me out. Or as we said back at die Abtei, ausgefreaking me. Now back to our regular programming.

Christine said...

Brian, thanks for bearing with me! Ironically, I have a copy of TLH at home. Perhaps that's where I remember seeing it!

I also recently acquired the LSB. My LCMS spiritual treasure chest is growing!

And now I'll go away for a while because I'm exceeding my posting limits!

Anonymous said...

I’m relieved orrologian isn’t upset by my commentary. I’m not upset with him, either. I assumed he felt persecuted due to what a certain “C” posted. I must have misinterpreted the comment. My bad. Please note, also, that I call him “brother.” I do consider him to be a member of the Church and a brother in Christ. I am wondering if he would extend that same courtesy to those of us who are members of the Lutheran Church. But I digress….

It seems to me there can only be a few options as we consider Fr. Bob’s posting of this blurb on Eastern Orthodox ritual bathing.

Either Father Bob,

a. Agrees with the practice of Orthodox ritual bathing as described, and commends it to his parishioners for their edification. This seems likely, since he chose to post it and offered no critical commentary.
b. Agrees with the practice of Orthodox ritual bathing as described by the blurb and is commending it to his parishioners, but is ignorant of the fact that it is an inaccurate take on ritual bathing in Eastern Orthodoxy.
c. Disagrees with the described practice of Orthodox ritual bathing and is using it as an example of what not to do, all the while recognizing it is done in some places.
d. Disagrees with the described practice and doesn’t believe it is an accurate description of Orthodox ritual bathing, yet he prints it just for fun.

To this hyper-literalistic fundamentalist Lutheran, none of the options listed above give me much confidence that experience is a good way to determine the Word and Will of God, as you contended in earlier comments.


The Rev. Fr. Michigan J. Frog
PS—PE: Oh, I’ve never been to Lourdes, but I kinda like the music…

Past Elder said...

Well, make that Lordes then.

Man, this blogging with blackbirds ain't for wusses. Gonna be a three dog night after this is over.

Anonymous said...

Reader Christopher, my dear brother in Christ,

I hope you haven't been upset with me. I know it sounds like I've been sticking my tongue out at you and the Orthodox Church. Hey, I'm a frog. That's just how we roll. No offense intended.

Please allow me to remove a sliver from your eye as a favor to you. I know what a favor this is as I rely on others to remove the logs from my own, and I have plenty of them. So please allow me to tell you in all candor that I think your defense of all things Eastern Orthodox is pathological. No good can come of it.

Hang on to the externum Verbum. The time between the Ascension and the Second Coming of our Lord is the time of hearing, not seeing. The blessed Gospel and Sacraments, which carry Christ and all his benefits, is all that will hold until then.

Pax tecum

The Rev. Fr. Michigan J. Frog

John Hogg said...

Dear Mr. Frog,

Your Word has no Flesh and your Christianity lacks virtue. What benefit do you hope to gain by snide remarks? Benefit to your own soul or that of those that you call brothers?

Rd. John Hogg

In all sincerity, I'm sorry that I was re-pointed in the direction of this blog.

Rd. Christopher, how is your son? :-)

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Hogg,

What do you think of being in full communion fellowship with Father Bob and the practitioners of ritual bathing as described in the newsletter from Holy Ghost Orthodox Church?

I tried to be humorous in order to take some of the sting out of my comments. I mean...really. Have you never seen any Michigan J. Frog cartoons? C'mon. Furthermore, Lord knows that the members of the Orthodox Church who openly state Lutherans are not "Church" and that it is doubtful if they are even Christian, certainly practice less charity than I have on this Lutheran blog post. I won't name any names. We Lutherans are too kind for that.

Again, as a Lutheran, I wonder what you think of being in full communion fellowship with those who openly practice what Fr. Bob apparently promotes? I don't know what is so insulting about that question. Why do you take offense at the question being pressed? If I were you, I'd take offense at the practice, instead. Then we'd be getting somewhere. Instead, I am answered with bobbing and weaving.

Let me add that the pressing of the question of being in full communion fellowship with less than stellar practices is one which I learned from my Orthodox brothers and sisters.

I'll take Yankee stadium, and you can have ritual bathing and Pastor Linda.

The Rev. Fr. Michigan J. Frog

Anonymous said...

Pardon my ongoing grammatical errors. We Lutherans aren't perfect, just forgiven.

I thought I'd throw a little Babtist at ya, just to yank your chain.

The Rev. Fr. Michigan J. Frog

William Weedon said...

Yikes, John. Better leave judging the faith of Christ's servants to the Lord Himself, don't you think? "Your Word has no flesh. Your Christianity lacks virtue." Wow. How sad, and how untrue!

-C said...

This whole discussion is sad, really. And it has degraded into something totally unworthy of this blog.

Lord, have mercy.

Past Elder said...

I liked the Beeb article. We used to do that all the time growing up in Minnesota. Called them Polar Bear Clubs. However, they are rather hard to find in Palestine, so I don't know about the 2000 thing.

A "Catholic" blog frequented by some here published a photo of some Finnish guys, but they seemed to be dunking crosses rather than themselves in the water. We used to do that too. Called it ice fishing, also hard to find in Palestine.

The only really bad thing that ever happens in Yankee Stadium is when the Sox don't beat the Yankees. Pastor/Father/Mother/Whatever Linda is probably a Yankee fan too.

Christine said...

Well, the last few posts have been a really illuminating for me. Freely admitting that as a Catholic I often came here and did my own share of badgering, I now repent and pray fervently that as a returning LCMS Lutheran I will not spend my time on Catholic blogs badgering Catholics as to why they aren't Lutheran.

For Orthodox (or other Christians) to come on a Lutheran blog and question Lutherans as to why they are LUTHERAN -- is a total mystery to me.

Father Frog, thanks for a great chuckle!

Past Elder, as a returning Lutheran recovering from the errors of Rome I still nonetheless probably have a small bottle of Lourdes water stashed away somewhere so watch yourself!!!

Past Elder said...

Well I hope it's from since the last plumbing overhaul. (1980) Otherwise, I'm fishing out my old scapular.

Anonymous said...


Let me again emphasize that this is a Lutheran blog. I am a Lutheran. You'll have to bear with me when I get a little "lathered up" when Orthodox priests and layfolk come to this Lutheran blog and hurl insult after insult at Lutheran teaching and practice. BTW, I was NOT the one who brought up doubts about Church based on communion fellowship. It was a couple of Orthodox men who did that, along with a snide "touche" or two, to boot. I wonder if "C" thinks that is sad? Anyway, I thought it was appropriate to give them a little taste of their own medicine, with a spoonful of humor to help it go down.

As for me? I think there is enough need for mercy to go around. Instead of attacking one another we ought to pray for one another. If we are REALLY concerned about the teachings of our respective communions, then let conversations begin at some official level. Otherwise, I have my suspicions about the goal of Orthodox priests and laypeople criticizing Lutheranism on Lutheran blog sites. Are they really trying to "help" us?

With all that said, I'm still confused as to why noone was able to answer my question.

BTW, if you are interested in why I sport my chosen moniker, simply cut and paste this:


It is a parable about those who would try to profit by making sport of little old Lutherans like me.

That's all, folks!

Or as the Orthodox like to say to us Lutherans: "Touche'"

The Rev. Fr. Michigan J. Frog

bajaye said...

If it is Pastor Weedon's intention that this merely be a blog for discussion among Lutherans or a discussion specifically of Lutheran theology, then that purpose ought to be respected by all others.

Fr Frog, I believe I am the only Orthodox priest to have posted on this thread (perhaps others have posted elsewhere on this blog)and I have insulted no one, nor have I criticized any Lutheran practice or confession.

Finally, for whatever it is worth, this is one of the better blogs out there. But for the sake of peace I will limit myself to only reading it.



orrologion said...

I guess, I too, will have to leave off having conversations with my friend Pr. Weedon here. It's a shame. While Pr. Weedon and I had what I thought was a very interesting conversation regarding issues we both find important, somehow others in the gang feel I'm not the right sort for this blog. I didn't feel insulted by Pr. Weedon, and I hope he didn't feel offended by anything I said in description and explanation of my way of seeing things. Other guests here seem to disagree. It feels a little like a movie about cliques where the a nerd/poor and a cool/rich kid get to be friendly, but their respective groups don't like it - think everything from Romeo & Juliet to a John Hughes film.

It's a shame that conversation and disagreement are taken as insult to be met with snidery.

I, too, for the sake of peace will refrain from posting here anymore unless I hear differently from Pr. Weedon. It seems that 'Weedon's Blog' is seen to be (and perhaps is) not merely the blog of an interesting man who is interested in patristics and liturgics and is a Lutheran pastor, but 'A Lutheran Blog' with all the territorial issues that go with such branding. Instead, I will invite him to (please) post on my own blog more often as I would miss his online friendship otherwise.

-C said...

Me, too.

Dixie said...

For the sake of accuracy...the "Touche" comment came from a Lutheran, Scott Larkins...although once he was Roman Catholic or considered Catholicism or is considering Catholicism. I think that's how it is for him although he can clarify for himself. Regardless...the comment was not from an Orthodox participant.

Baptist, Catholic or Orthodox...it's hard not to love Pastor Weedon. So we come and comment and defend what we believe in the process. I can surely cease and desist as well...although I will still love Pastor Weedon.

Chris Jones said...

Fr Frog,

insult after insult at Lutheran teaching and practice

Honest disagreement is not insult, whether it comes from non-Lutherans or Lutherans (such as myself).

I think we should let Fr Weedon police his own weblog. If he wants to exclude the Orthodox or any other non-Lutherans, that is his call.

William Weedon said...

Good gravy, you guys! I'm gone for a morning and look at this.

First, thank you Chris Jones, although I have no intention of "policing" my blog, I do appreciate the fundamental point you are making that it's up to me to rule comments in or out of place on my own blog. I've always taken a very liberal approach to that, and intend to continue in that vein.

Second, Fr. Brian, Christopher, C, Dixie and other Orthodox posters, by no means should you feel that you cannot post here. I do think Reader John's comment last night crossed the line, and I intimated as much in my reply. I've no complaint about any of the rest of the interaction here.

Third, Dixie, thank you for pointing out the touche is from still Lutheran (I think!) Scott Larkin.

Fourth, Fr. Frog's interactions have not been over the line, in my opinion, except for suggesting that the Orthodox visitors to the blog have hurled "insult after insult." I do not see such on this thread, saving Reader John's comments last night. To characterize that as interaction from all the Orthodox is unfair.

Fifth, I am sorry it took me so very long to get back to all this. Been battling migraine for a few days - seems to be letting up, Deo gratias!

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm back for a brief encore.

In no way do I intend to "police" Fr. Weedon's blog. Neither would I wish to silence any of our Orthodox brothers or sisters. It's just that I'm not going to dance to their tune, that's all. And if my comments become too abrasive and unkind, I'll rely on Fr. Weedon to correct or ban me.

As to the "insult after insult" comment....to say that is hyperbole is no hyperbole. Of course, we all like to speak about "context" and "history." Well, let's just say that there is a history of Orthodox commentary on this blog. My comments are to be taken in that context.

I only began to comment when an Orthodox layman called into question our communion fellowship with the Fathers. It's a moot point, since I commune with them regularly. I responded by asking a question about his communion fellowship with Father Bob of ritual bathing fame.

I really don't see why that question seems so unfair. Again, I'd be upset with the practice, not that person who questions the practice. The fact that the latter is the case puzzles me.

I must take my leave. My son, Tad, is acallin.

The Rev. Fr. Michigan J. Frog

PS---Please know that Fr. Weedon has no idea who I am. My comments do not necessarily his viewpoint.

orrologion said...

Well, I am glad to remain welcomed by our host. Please advise me if and when I cross a line. Apologies to any I may have offended. Please know nothing nefarious is being done on my part. I also welcome any and all to visit my own blog and comment. If you are in NYC or the Poconos, drop a line and we'll grab a coffee.

Past Elder said...

Poconos? I'm in -- heard there's this great singing frog act opening, and if he doesn't sing you get to throw stuff!

Anonymous said...

PE---I can get some backstage passes for you, if you'd like.

Fr. Weedon,

I have one final question. I ask this of you. I do not want to seem overly argumentative to our brothers in Christ in the Orthodox Church. So please feel free to delete this post if you find it in anyway inappropriate or unkind. I won't be at all upset if you do.

So here's the question, which is the elephant in the living room question: By what authority? By what authority does the Orthodox Church and her Priests promise their parishioners that if they jump into blessed ice water they will receive the forgiveness of sins, among many other things? By what authority?

Thanks for your help, Fr. Weedon. I'm trying to understand this practice, even if I completely disagree with it.


The Rev. Fr. Michigan J. Frog
PS---Orrologian, I apologize if I was a bit snarky to you. I do not withdraw the points I made, but I do apologize to you for occasional snarkiness.

Chris Jones said...

Fr Frog,

No promise was ever issued, so no authority was needed.

If you want the facts, then read the texts of the liturgy for the blessing of the waters on Theophany. Newspaper accounts of folk customs in other countries (even if they are re-printed in somebody's Church bulletin) are not a reliable guide to what a Church "promises" to her faithful.

Otherwise, it would appear that you are not interested in the facts, but are simply looking for a stick to beat the Orthodox with.

Scott Larkins said...


Yes. You will find me at a Lutheran altar on the Lord's Day. Although it is becoming increasingly difficult.

William Weedon said...

Fr. Frog,

I think Chris' point is an important one: we take the Orthodox seriously when we let them set their own standards. And their standard of lex credendi IS their lex orandi. Is there anything in the great blessing of water liturgy that holds out the promise that a use of water outside of Baptism itself grants forgiveness?

This prayer is offered at the sanctification of the water:

"That this water may be sanctified with the power, the effectiveness, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit... That there may be send down into it the grace of redemption and the blessing of the Jordan River.. That there may come upon this water the purifying operation of the super-substantial Trinity... That by the descent of the Holy Spirit we may be illumined with the light of understanding and piety... That this water may prove effective for the averting of every snare of enemies both visible and invisible... For those who drink therefrom, and take it with them for the sanctification of their homes... That it may be, for those who drink and receive it in faith, a purification unto their souls and bodies... That we may be worthy to be filled with sanctification as we receive this water, through the coming of the Holy Spirit in an invisible manner..."

So, though forgiveness is not named among the blessings they are asking, they are certainly asking for things from this blessed water that we would find troubling as lacking promises of God's Word. But they don't operate with the same approach as we do on such matters. In short, there is no promise for such things; but neither, I suspect, do they claim there is.

Anonymous said...

An interesting sermon by an Orthodox Archbishop about the use of water is found in the following link. This skates pretty close to what Father Bob published. Please note that it is a part of a sermon which an Orthodox Archbishop preached to his congregants during the Divine Liturgy.


Check out, also, the following link: http://www.byzantines.net/epiphany/water.htm#fn_02

Among other things, the above link contains this prayer:
Prayer of the Great Sanctification of Water:
For this reason, O King and lover of mankind, be present now through the descent of your Holy Spirit and sanctify this water! Grant it the grace of giving redemption and the sanctifying power of the River Jordan.Make it a font of incorruptibility, a gift of sanctification, A REDEMPTION FROM SINS, a healing potion for illness, destroyer of devils, make it hold backthe powers of the enemy, and fill it with the might of the angels, so thatall who drink and receive it may be blessed in their souls and bodies,healed in their sufferings, sanctified in their homes, and may receive every befitting grace. For You are our God, Who drowned sin in the waters at the time of Noah. You are our God, Who cleaved the rock in the wilderness,so that the waters gushed out and the valleys overflowed, and the people were satisfied. You are our God, Who, with fire and water and at the hands of Elias, delivered Israel from the errors of Baal."

Please note that the emphasis was mine.

I don't know why it is so upsetting to folks on this site for me to post these things. Honestly, I don't. But I do not find authority given for such a use of water in the Prophetic and Apostolic Scriptures. I'm wondering where the Orthodox CHurch gets her authority for preaching, praying, promising, and practicing such things. I simply cannot see why this is considered Orthodox bashing.

The Rev. Fr. Michigan J. Frog

orrologion said...

I believe I quoted sections of these prayers and also provided a link to the entirety of the service of the Great Blessing of Water.

Rev. Frog (I wish you - and others - wouldn't feel the need for anonymity, but...), your question gets at the idea of authority in the Church. As I'm sure you are aware, the Bible alone is not the sole or primary source of the Orthodox Church's teachings. The Orthodox view is also different from the two source theory of the Council of Trent. Insofar as the place of Scripture in the Orthodox Church is concerned, feel free to take a look at a piece I wrote on this topic:


I don't think it has been the questions you have asked that have been considered 'bashing' - your term, not mine. I answered many of these questions earlier in the conversation, I thought.

Anonymous said...


I am breaking a recent promise to Fr. Weedon that I would offer no further commentary on this post---a promise I made of my own volition. Yet I wish to answer you because I consider you intelligent, good-spirited, earnest, and I don't want you to think I'm ignoring you. But to let you and everyone else know, this is my final comment. I mean it this time. :-)

Clearly, "redemption from sins" among many other things, is part of the lex orandi of the Orthodox Church regarding jumping into blessed ice water on Epiphany. That's why I was having such trouble understanding why noone here would embrace that fact. Some folks even charged me with misrepresenting the facts in order to "beat" on the Orthodox. I won't wait for an apology.

I really didn't intend to engage in a long conversation about all of this. But I must say that I believe we've come full circle and are getting at some of the concerns Fr. Weedon posted about in the first place. I'll hold fire on that as it would be another 100 comment journey which I am not willing to make. No offense. Hopping around ain't for sissies.

I do desire to find the time to read your essay and I know I'll find it intelligent and engaging, even if I don't agree with it.

Let me conclude by saying, as you would expect from a Frog, water is a great blessing in many respects. But when it comes to redemption from sins, sanctification, deliverance from demons, etc... I'll stick with the waters of Holy Baptism as instituted by our Lord and witnessed to in the Apostolic Scriptures. Can you blame me?

Pax tecum

The Rev. Fr. Michigan J. Frog

Paul McCain said...


Somebody tell me when this over, I'm getting very sleepy.

William Weedon said...

In order to help put Paul to sleep soundly, let me add the comment that I offered to Fr. Frog privately (yes, he revealed himself to me and I'm not telling - but I was surprised!):

The reason that the query makes no sense to the Orthodox is because to them the Spirit that inspired the Scriptures is the very same Spirit that guides and directs the Body of Christ always. So when a practice is established within (as they see it) the Church, it is established by the very same Spirit who gave the Scriptures in the first place and thus derives from the same "authority" (though I think they'd be uncomfortable with the word "authority" in that connection).

For us Lutherans this is a quite different way of looking at Church and the Holy Spirit's role within it. What's clear, then, is that asking them the Lutheran question: "by what authority" and desiring a clear mandate and command of the Lord recorded in Scripture is simply a question that they don't grant the initial premise of.

Chris Jones said...

Fr Frog,

I did not accuse you of misrepresenting the facts. I suggested that you might not know the facts well enough to support your accusations against Orthodoxy, and in particular that you were looking for information in the wrong place.

However, I did insinuate that you were more interested in attacking the Orthodox than in understanding them. That was out of line, and for that I do apologize.

Chris Jones said...

A number of years ago, while I was still Orthodox, I completed a two-year program of "night-school seminary" (similar, perhaps, to DELTO in the LCMS). In one of our classes we had a long discussion about the great variety of blessings that are done in the Orthodox Church -- not only the blessing of waters at Theophany, but house blessings, car blessings, tractor blessings, you name it.

One of my fellow students asked our professor "what is the difference between all of these 'minor' blessings and the sacraments?" The professor's answer was this: when we bless water, our homes, and so forth, we pray that God will use these things for our benefit, but there is no guarantee, because there is no promise of God attached to it. We may receive what we pray for, or we may not. With the sacraments it is otherwise. We know that we receive the reality that the sacrament offers, because God has promised it. We receive the body and blood of the Lord in the Eucharist, and we can objectively know that this is so, because of the Lord's promise. There is no such promise attached to the Church's other blessings. We know from experience that such blessings are often of great benefit, but there is still no objective promise attached to them.

That's obviously not verbatim -- this conversation took place twenty years ago -- but that is the gist of it. That conversation is the basis of my assertion to Fr Frog that "no promise was ever issued, so no authority was needed."

orrologion said...

I think what people wanted to note about this practice is that it is not 'another' Baptism. The Sacrament of Holy Baptism is a one time, unrepeatable gift.

The lex orandi point is not just validity over what the Orthodox believe, it is also a source of what we believe. Christians were venerating Mary as Theotokos long before its implications were understood and enunciated with all its implications. That is, the prayers of the Church tell us what we are to believe, it is then our challenge to understand how, why and what for.

I hope you enjoy my little article. I'm always available if you have any questions.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Then there are these words from Luther's "flood prayer" in the order of Baptism:

"durch die Taufe deines
lieben Kindes, unsers Herrn Jesu Christi, den Jordan und aller Wasser zur seligen Sintfluth und reichlichen Abwaschung der Sünden geheiligt und eingesetzt..."

("who through the baptism of your dear Child, our Lord Jesus Christ, sanctified and ordained the Jordan and all waters as a saving flood and an abundant cleansing of sin...")

Note the "and all waters"...

William Weedon said...

They were referenced up the thread already; I cited them from the LSB rite.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...


Past Elder said...

Practices which are kind of like sacraments but have no specific promise of Christ are usually called sacramentals, at least in the West, not sure about the East.

There's a decent page about it on Wiki, with links to four more detailed articles.

If my "anonymity" is a problem to anyone, my name is Terry Maher and my 20 is Omaha NE.

Chris Jones said...

The East doesn't use the word "sacramentals" -- precisely to avoid confusing such things with actual sacraments -- but it seems to be the same category.

The conversation which I referred to above was touched off when one of the students asked "Father, does the Orthodox Church have 'sacramentals' like the Catholic Church has?" -- and then off we went for a couple of hours, talking about icons, relics, blessings great and small, monastic tonsure, and all manner of occasional ceremonies. The bottom line was, all of these things are fine in their place, and some of them are quite important; but none of them is a sacrament because there is no objective divine promise attached. So why confuse the matter by calling them "sacramentals"?

Christine said...

Oh yes, sacraments and sacramentals. Ive had a good ten years of sacramentals. The fact that the East doesn't use the Roman terminology is irrelevant. The problem is, sacramentals often lose their original intention in popular piety.

Signing oneself with holy water in remembrance of baptism is one thing. Using it to keep lightening away from the house is another.

Pastor McCain, as I earlier informed Past Elder, I am a returning LCMS Lutheran recovering from the errors of Rome but I'm pretty sure I still have some Lourdes water stashed away somewhere.

If his blog threatens to make you yawn more, I'll be happy to toss some your way to keep you awake (-:

Chris Jones said...

Perhaps I'd be more wary of abuses in popular piety if I had experienced them directly. ISTM that the last thing our culture is in danger of is credulity and an excess of piety. Skepticism and unbelief are far more dangerous.

Past Elder said...

It's not that we're in danger of an excess of piety, it's that there's danger in the piety of excess.

Paul McCain said...

Pr. Weedon, congratulations on crossing the magical "100 comment" mark and blowing through it now to 122, with this comment!

I am not making this up, but the word put up for "word verification" on this comment is:



orrologion said...

Why do you make comments like this. If you are "sleepy" and think the conversation is boring and a mess, then don't participate. I think Pr Weedon has made clear that he can police his own blog and that he is open to exactly this kind of conversation.