Friday, October 31, 2003

Article XXI: Of the Worship of the Saints.

Of the Worship of Saints they teach that the memory of saints
may be set before us, that we may follow their faith and good
works, according to our calling, as the Emperor may follow the
example of David in making war to drive away the Turk from his
country; For both are kings. But the Scripture teaches not the
invocation of saints or to ask help of saints, since it sets
before us the one Christ as the Mediator, Propitiation, High
Priest, and Intercessor. He is to be prayed to, and has
promised that He will hear our prayer; and this worship He
approves above all, to wit, that in all afflictions He be
called upon, 1 John 2, 1: If any man sin, we have an Advocate
with the Father, etc.

And this from Melanchthon's apology:

"Granting that the blessed Mary prays for the Church, does she receive souls in death, does she conquer death [the great power of Satan], does she quicken? What does Christ do if the blessed Mary does these things? Although she is most worthy of the most ample honors, nevertheless she does not wish to be made equal to Christ, but rather wishes us to consider and follow her example [the example of her faith and her humility]."

It seems clear that the emphasis is on saints as examples. Saints do not propitiate for us, for this is the proper work solely of Christ. Although they may pray for us, we are not to invoke them because there is no command to do so. The problem, in essence, is that invocation for the saints immediately becomes confusion with looking to them as intercessors.

Another related question though, is this- where are the blessed saints? Melanchthon grants that the blessed Mary prays for us, which is no small thing to find its way into our confessional documents. It certainly seems to put her in a different place before God than those who have entered into sleep and are awakened at the resurrection. But here again, M.'s allowance is for the sake of lifting up Mary as a saint, not as a mediator. Her proper work is not to do Christ's work, but to point to Christ, in all humility. Our belief in her praying for us is not related to mediation, but rather is a model of the faith, that which the saints do before God, which is they pray to and through the one who hears us, Jesus Christ.

This doctrine of the church lacks some of the conceptual coherence of other doctrines, but rightly, because we speak of those things we see by faith and not by sight. Nevertheless, we can claim these things, quotes from my good friend and confessor, Greg:

Death cannot separate a community that has at its center one who has death in His past.

Clint, you and I will spend an eternity together in Christ.

And finally, an emphasis for preaching this week, when we forget about death and its coming, we forget also the one who died for us.

For the one who conquered death has indeed died, only then to be raised by the Father.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

[This exists as a comment to Clint's writing below; since I can post normally I thought I'd do that]

This fine paper, seen by this reader for the second time around (!), addresses many of the fundamental issues. However it lacks the following, which would augment the demand for the end to filioque:

1. Relations of origin. Persons in basic Eastern trinitarian theology are defined by whence they come. Thus the Son is so defined by being the Son of the Father and the Spirit likewise. This is a one way definition reflecting the majority report on the relationsihp between time and eternity. Filioque is part and parcel to this definition and does not, as Clint's essay suggests around the edges, view the Spirit's all together new role vis-a-vis the Father and Son. In other words, the action towards the other persons is not from eternity to eternity but from the eschatological life of the future of God. God has time and God has time as God the Spirit.

2. A one-sided objection to the filioque as an imposition on the East denies the truth it does have. Moltmann's formulation makes me unconfortable because it points to a way that the Son and the Spirit's eternal action is detached from the action and identity they have in time. In the biblical witness the Spirit is sent by Christ. Thus, there is no easy symmetrical order as Moltmann would wish. Rather, the diversity of actions and "sendings" should be respected. How could Moltmann understand the sending of the Spirit by the Son? Such an action in the economy does not correspond to an eternal action of God. After all, it is my convication that there is no divine being or action that is evangelically valuable (everything else is the hidden God) outside of the gospel action of the persons in the biblical witness and thereofre in history

Thus, even though the West's view is an innovation and should not have the sort of authority that the original creed does, the West's views should be valid local interpretation. Thus, the filioque is recognized and limited and expanded with thinking like Clint's view if my caveat is valid.

Monday, October 06, 2003

My internship congregation has this as one of their strategic plans, which I find appealing:

"Create a culture that fosters offerings of spiritual gifts."

Not to over-analyze it, but the way it is phrased is helpful. Often when we speak of the spiritual gifts, we get too much into how we are going to accomplish them, rather than seeing them as manifestations of the life of the Spirit in our midst, thus as gift. Creating a culture that fosters offerings of spiritual gifts simply means that the community will be open to the gifts that will inevitably come, that they will live in a culture that welcomes works of the spirit rather than works of the flesh.

the phrasing is also appreciated because, rather than taking an activist approach, like "we will manifest gifts of the spirit in our life together" or something legalistic like this, it waits hopefully and expectantly. It has an eschatoligical dimension, and puts the church in its proper place, as a community that is about the business of Hospitality (one can here see parallels with the visit of the three angels (Trinity) to Abraham).

Not to mention that it opens up space for gifts coming from all kinds of directions.