Monday, January 26, 2004

One True Chruch?

This post by Chris asks whether this quote reflects confessional Lutheranism and secondly whether it is true to the confessions. Clint has responded in a comment. I think this is a good thread for us. We have discussed other things when we looked at Article VII the first time.

Given the development of this article I have two historical-theological remarks to make.

(1) First of all, the marks of the church here presented differ greatly from the marks given by Luther first in Concerning the Ministry (1521?). There he lists seven marks, many of which correspond in an evangelical fashion to the ancient four marks of holiness, unity, apostolicity, and catholicity. These marks do not replace the four marks, as Melanchthon did not understand the Lutheran Reformation to divide the church. They would, I suppose, be additions to the four fundamental marks unique to the sort of proposal the Lutheran Reformation was making for the reform of the Church Catholic.

(2) These marks in the history of subsequent Lutheranism replaced the four marks in Lutheran orthodoxy. Thus, preaching was interpreted more along the lines of "correct doctrine." This aspect surely plays a part of the original article and intent, given Melanchthon's presentation of the church as a school-house. But it neglects the massivedifference between right doctrine and right preaching. Later orthodoxy made many distinctions about doctrine, what is essential, what is most essential, and so on, but it did not retain the truly essential difference between doctrine and proclamation. Thus, some Lutherans today have a field day condemning what they take to be the more liberal Lutherans of the Lutheran World Federation because they do not "hold to pure doctrine" given by the simple fact that through the course of ecumenical dialogue there have been found to be no church-dividing differences between Lutherans and the Reformed, if there are certain compromises made liturgically by the Reformed. That, of course, is a far different post and I appreciate the points of view of Lutherans skeptical of such an ecumenical agreement.

This second step is the course of history that allows someone to make such a statement as that quoted above. It always strikes me strange that Lutherans in this line of history who make such claims obviously need the sort of opening to the world that the Second Vatican Council provided in allowing Catholics to see other Christians in some sense as Christians. When these marks are taken to be enough and doctrine is defined as what is in one Lutheran's head, this article of the Augsburg Confession has not been heeded.

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