30 September 2009

Some Walther that the COP Really Should Take to Heart...

“We are not insisting that there be uniformity in perception or feeling or taste among all believing Christians-neither dare anyone demand that all be minded as he. Nevertheless, it remains true that the Lutheran liturgy distinguishes Lutheran worship from the worship of other churches to such an extent that the houses of worship of the latter look like lecture halls in which the hearers are merely addressed or instructed, while our churches are in truth houses of prayer in which Christians serve the great God publicly before the world.

“Uniformity of ceremonies (perhaps according to the Saxon Church order published by the Synod, which is the simplest among the many Lutheran church orders) would be highly desirable because of its usefulness. A poor slave of the pope finds one and same form of service, no matter where he goes, by which he at once recognizes his church.

“With us it is different. Whoever comes from Germany without a true understanding of the doctrine often has to look for his church for a long time, and many have already been lost to our church because of this search. How different it would be if the entire Lutheran church had a uniform form of worship! This would, of course, first of all yield only an external advantage, however, one which is by no means unimportant. Has not many a Lutheran already kept his distance from the sects because he saw at the Lord's Supper they broke the bread instead of distributing wafers?

“The objection: "What would be the use of uniformity of ceremonies?" was answered with the counter question, "What is the use of a flag on the battlefield? Even though a soldier cannot defeat the enemy with it, he nevertheless sees by the flag where he belongs. We ought not to refuse to walk in the footsteps of our fathers. They were so far removed from being ashamed of the good ceremonies that they publicly confess in the passage quoted: "It is not true that we do away with all such external ornaments."”

From an editorial by Walther in Der Lutheraner, Vol. 9, No. 24, p. 163 (July 19, 1853)


Scott Larkins said...

"...A poor slave of the Pope..."


Have you seen the variety shows staged in Roman Churches. You never know what your going to get. Could be a Clown Mass. Could be a Latin Mass. Could be some
Holy Rollin' going on. It's up the whim of the Parish liturgy committee.

Sound familiar LCMS?

Phil said...

Pr. Weedon,

Your Patristic Quote of the Day is relevant here too--not only should we use the same words to mean the same thing in formal theology, our liturgical speech should be in unison too. To this same extent we should be content with the "forms we have hitherto used..."

Seeing liturgy and dogma as confession really has helped clear up a lot of the lex orandi, lex credendi confusion for me. They are not the same, but they are both the confession of the one truth, and as such they intersect at certain points. I think one could carefully see a "dogmatic analogy" of the liturgy and its role, and vice versa.

mlorfeld said...

I was recently listening to Catholic Radio on the way back from St. Louis and this very argument was being made by some Swedish converts to Rome. They mentioned that as they were in the process of discernment (their phrase) they travelled throughout Europe and found that no matter where they went, the Catholic Churches all had the same liturgy. They tried to go to a "Protestant Church" and it was completely unfamiliar (the husband was brought up and confirmed in the State (quasi-Lutheran) Church). Their argument was that this convinced them that Rome was the true Church because their worship was the same, and so their teaching must be the same.

Yet my parents, who are hardly the liturgical hardliners that yours truly is, have found that among our sister Church in Panama that even though they couldn't speak the language, the service was familiar and they were able to pray the liturgy. That's the thing, we could pretty much go to churches in Panama, the SELK, FELSISA, IELB (Brasil), or JLC (to name a few) and not only have a pretty good idea that the church we stepped into was Lutheran, but also be able to follow the liturgy. Yet in the US, we have a bunch of paper popes who essentially do what they wish in the name of freedom because the Gospel abolishes any sense of a need to care about what my brother's congregation is doing (no, we didn't get rid of Gospel reductionism in the 70s... it's now just the conservative American Evangelical flavor).

You are right on (or rather Walther was). But now instead of one Divine Service, we have 5... but in my opinion, if the kids in my congregation become at least familiar with 3 or 4 of these, when they go off on their own, they will hopefully find a congregation that feels like home.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

But Walther had no idea what it was like to be in an American surrounded by other popular faiths that did such different and seeker-friendly servi. . . oh, wait, he knew exactly.

Still. . . um. . . well. . . he's old. That means we in our wisdom of today ought simply ignore him no matter what.

(Does that work for a predicted response?)

William Weedon said...

Amen, Phil. So when Chemnitz in the Loci Theologici decides to give his final clincher, he delivers the liturgy: he refers to the Introit for Trinity Sunday and to the Church singing Kyrie, Fons Bonitatis.

Past Elder said...

Scott is right about the present situation in Rome, and the phenomenon to which Walther refers was more obvious in the Tridentine Rite of my youth.

However, it still applies. Post-conciliar Catholics would say that the previous Mass was really more a matter of universal unintelligibility. They would also point out that the universality is still seen in proper vernacular use of the novus ordo, there being one ordo, not many "settings", with several eucharistic prayers,and an extraordinary use that is just that, not ordinary.

Walther's words still stand, and amen, the COP should really take them to heart.

Maybe they don't or won't because we have already discarded them. Are they served where there are five "settings", two glorias, two paternosters, two wordings of absolution, two lectionaries, two calendars, etc, all between two covers for regular use?

Brian Yamabe said...

My predicted response:

All the reformers said that rites and ceremonies were not necessary for salvation.

Phil said...


...not necessary for salvation, just like good works, which is why we are free to do or not to do good works?

Doesn't seem like a wise road for them to go down.

Pr. Weedon:

Do you think that when people call confessional subscription "legalistic" (maybe not as popular in the LCMS today), the root problem is pretty much the same as when they call the idea of a synodical "church order" requiring a definite liturgy to be "legalistic"?

I'm trying to think with the liturgy-dogma-confession pattern here. I thought I remembered that the early Lutherans didn't mandate that all the churches accept the Formula of Concord, but they couldn't reject it either? Yet where it was subscribed to, it wasn't as if it became an option whether or not a pastor felt like subscribing to it in his ordination vows (at least not in the LCMS), right?